The lead of this story is that Seabourn is back!!!!
As frequent Seabourn travelers the past 5 years on over a dozen voyages on all three of the Odyssey class 450 passenger ships, my wife and I saw some noticeable slippage on our last ... Read More
The lead of this story is that Seabourn is back!!!!
As frequent Seabourn travelers the past 5 years on over a dozen voyages on all three of the Odyssey class 450 passenger ships, my wife and I saw some noticeable slippage on our last few cruises in 2017. Service, food and overall Seabourn standards in a number of areas had taken a few steps backwards as the result of the 2016 Encore introduction and the consequent unfortunate compromising of the traditional Seabourn standards for passengers on the rest of the fleet.
Many old hands saw the same thing and complained among ourselves on board, as passengers frequently compare notes, and to management. And complaints were documented on the pages of CruiseCritic by other old Seabourn hands, who noticed the same thing, and reported their own unhappy experiences. We were concerned since we had made several future bookings. Whereas before Seabourn never got bad reviews, now some were appearing.
We were concerned that taking another Seabourn voyage would be a big disappointment. Yet we could not easily leave to go to another luxury competitor, because our loyalty and hopes were still with Seabourn and its product after all these years and money spent. Plus, we had left Silversea 8 or 9 years ago when things really took a sharp downturn with their brand. And shortly after we discovered Seabourn, and then loved it. Crystal too big. Totally, we have been on a great many ocean cruises over the past 25 years, mostly on the so called luxury branded ships, but more on Seabourn than any of the others we have sailed, including Oceania, Crystal, Regent and Cunard. So..... we have been around. We have seen a few things.
Well, we are very happy to report that the slippage of the past is gone. The concerns we had are now over. I am here to tell all readers, based on our recent August Odyssey voyage in the Eastern Med, that Seabourn has regained, in our estimation, the top luxury cruise status and ratings it once enjoyed. The corporate effort to MSGA has worked!! Seabourn is back, and my wife and I are very happy about this.
Seabourn's introduction of Ovation into the fleet this past May has been much more successful in terms of any adverse impact on the rest of the fleet and its passengers than had happened with Encore. And this is the reason Seabourn is back. On this August Odyssey cruise just completed, we did not see or experience any diminution of Seabourn's previously high standards in any functional area of the ship. Training of new crew I am guessing was highly intensified as the result of Encore. We saw evidence of that training effort on board, with a new training officer.
The Odyssey staff throughout could not have been any better trained and experienced. For instance, the food coming out of the kitchens under Head Chef Lindsay is back to its former high quality, variety, innovation, plated appearance and tastiness. Service, and courteous, competent service at that, is first rate throughout the various dining and bar venues. Our individual waiting team in the Restaurant lead by Phillipe was just glorious, and managed well by Oskars the excellent Restaurant manager. The same high level of competence was true of the other areas of the ship like Guest Relations and Destinations, plus housekeeping. Our housekeeper was excellent. Overall, we could not have been any happier.
And it must be mentioned that the personalized service and passenger interaction/ recognition emphasis throughout the 450 passenger ship that is so critical to a successful cruise experience was first rate. It is a hallmark of a Seabourn voyage experience from the beginning thirty years ago. Odysseys' staff is given the names and I think the photos of all passengers at boarding. They are told to learn and be able to identify and address people by name. After a few days, or less, one is greeted by name pretty much on a regular basis by many of the crew. Perhaps for us as frequent Seabourn sailors, it was a bit easier, and crew members from prior cruises frequently came up to us and greeted us by name and welcomed us back on board. But we always go out of our way to talk to the crew, as passengers must if they want a special experience.
I am going to start with the caviar, which admittedly is not everyone's taste. It is an excellent, high end sturgeon variety from California waters, and this was a pleasant surprise. Always available, Seabourn is the last of the luxury cruise lines that offers caviar to its passengers without any premium. Any problems of the past with the quality of the caviar have been properly and well addressed by Seabourn management. Bravo Seabourn.
We prefer the main Restaurant. Its menus are always varied, considerably better than in the recent past, and always classic Seabourn dishes like salmon, steak and lamb chops are available to order if the night's dinner menu offerings are not sufficient for one's taste. In fourteen days, there was no menu repetition. Nice dishes, creative, well prepared and tasty. Excellent quality of the products themselves, although more local products would have been appreciated. The Restaurant is also open for quiet breakfast and lunch, which we prefer rather than the busy buffet offerings elsewhere. Highly trained and knowledgable waiting staff. Very friendly and pleasant. The food coming-out to the kitchen is very good, and attractively plated, like it was in the past. Portion size is very adequate, and second offerings are always available. And the service is quick, especially if one gets to the Restaurant shortly after it opens at 7p. The head Chef Lindsay makes quite a difference. He is not one who hides in the kitchen, coming out each night to talk to his guests about the meals, taking comments and special requests.
The dress code for men in the Restaurant has become more informal than I prefer, but I wear a sports jacket nevertheless at dinner and most men on board for this cruise did not. One unsatisfactory change from our 2015 beginnings. Two formal nights, with mixed formal attire.
Despite what was erroneously reported by one CruiseCritic reviewer, Seabourn HAS NOT gotten rid of its wine sommeliers. They are well trained and free wines flow freely. The complimentary wines range from decent to good if not great, and very nice white Pinots Grigios like Santa Margharita and very good French Nicholas Feuillatte champagne always available. Of course one can always pay extra for more select wines if one chooses to do so. But we never felt the need, and we are knowledgeable wine people with a collection at home. Always a sufficient choice capable of being found, with the help of the sommelier, something very decent. Alcohol drinks also available throughout the ship at all times at all bars. And cabins stocked with alcohol of one's choice.
The Patio restaurant at poolside is very convenient and serves at lunch basic patio type, well prepared grilled foods like burgers, fish and chicken, and salads plus some nice pizzas each day. At night Seabourn is trying a new concept of dining here. We did not try it, but others did and liked it very much. The Colonade is the buffet breakfast and lunch restaurant. Food is varied and very good. Also open for more casual dinner with waiter service. Varied cuisines each night.
The Thomas Keller Grill speciality restaurant is, for us, just OK. Some nice dishes, like the steak and the grilled Dover sole that are very good. And deserts. People on board are of mixed feelings about the value of having the Grill. Some like it a lot, others don't, although very few have ever heard of chef Thomas Keller. On the other hand, some of the Keller inspired dishes in the Restaurant every other night proved a quite nice addition to the traditional menu choices.
Still very nice and comfortable, and well maintained after nine years of service. Odyssey we heard is scheduled to go into dry dock in early 2019 for a retrofit and bit of update. Decor of staterooms could use a little bit of sprucing up. At 365 sq feet with veranda, the basic cabin is very good sized indeed. Double sinked bathrooms and both shower and tub, which tub in nearly 30 years of sailing we have not used on any of the forty cruises we have been on across all cruise lines. It is very good however to store cans and bottles of cold beer on ice for the length of the voyage. Nice walk in closet with safe and plenty of storage space in the cabin. Very quiet between cabins walls. Nice sized, teak deck verandas. Stocked refrigerators with choice of alcoholic beverages.
The ship itself sails very smoothly, with the captain engaging the stabilizers to keep the ship sailing the best it can when the August Greek waters got a little too rough. Never a rough night affecting sleep. Tendering operations daily, though, sometimes a little difficult with the winds of the Islands waters. At 450 passengers, the physical footprint and size of this ship are just right for us. Not interested in any larger body count vessels. Public rooms and areas very comfortable. Pool deck comfortable and not crowded.
The Captain and his chief executive staff are excellent. Very approachable and friendly. A hallmark of Seabourn. Hotel Director Stratos Mylokos - the man in charge of all F&B and most other ship functions except the navigation - is among the best we have ever experienced at sea. Very knowledgeable, hands-on, effective, pleasant and sociable in his dealings with passengers.
Ship has some very good, talented performers among the ship's regular cast, in search though of better production material. Four singers and two very talented dancers. But I have to say the Tim Rice special is overhyped and is getting a little long of tooth for us frequent Seabourners. Time to say goodbye to Tim. Some of the other production show material could stand with a little updating and variation to make the production numbers more interesting, as we recall they once were. The ad hoc comedians and magicians and other assorted artists and guest lecturers brought on board are ok representatives as members of their professions one always finds on board cruise ships.
The Cruise Director Chelsea is a real gem. Not only is she a very talented singer, who performs from time to time, classically trained in opera, and having performed on the opera stage in many venues, she is very passenger friendly, highly organized, energized and effective.
The Greek Islands all very interesting. Such beautiful blue waters. Personally, we could do without Mykonos and Santorini, because they are too crowded and too touristy, but the smaller islands we visited are very interesting, particularly when your ship is the only ship in the harbor or anchored. Authentic Greece. Without the ten thousand or more other ship passengers that descend on some of the islands - Caribbean style. Greek Taverna food at family run restaurants so good at these ports for lunch. We could eat a real greek salad and fresh, grilled fish or squid every day in these ports.
The same we have experienced before on Seabourn and every other cruise line. Largely overpriced but of interest to visitors never expecting to return to these places. Thank God for well air conditioned busses. The full day excursion to the ruins of Crete and very good local lunch with authentic Greek dancing especially noteworthy.
Seabourn has regained for us the status and quality we once experienced. Its small size and personalized service make it stand out. It listens to its passengers comments and is constantly striving to be the best there is. From our point of view, it is the leader in its class. We look forward to the future bookings we have made. Read Less