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7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
My wife and I have done more than our share of Seabourn cruises. If you check my Cruise Critic history, you'll find a less than enthusiastic review of our last Seabourn cruise aboard the Odyssey last November. This cruise was ... Read More
My wife and I have done more than our share of Seabourn cruises. If you check my Cruise Critic history, you'll find a less than enthusiastic review of our last Seabourn cruise aboard the Odyssey last November. This cruise was entirely the opposite. Three years ago we chose a Norway cruise in late June. The weather was OK but we were a little tentative about heading that far north that late in the season (departure Sept. 1), but we decided to give it a go with the new Ovation. From the moment we arrived we realized that Seabourn had gotten things correct. The ship is brand new and service was excellent. We had not a single service exception whereas we experienced many last November aboard Odyssey. Our cabin was excellent. It was indistinguishable from the standard veranda suites on the older Odyssey class ships. We booked a V1 and ended up with a V5. There is absolutely no difference between the standard staterooms other than floor location, with the exception of the 5th deck rooms not having a full glass view below the railing on the veranda. I would never recommend paying for a different standard suite as they are all entirely the same with the curtains drawn. Seabourn will charge up to 2 to 4 thousand PP additional for a V6 vs a V1 on the average 2 week cruise. Clearly not worth it as it doesn't provide any additional benefits other than location. We found the food to be excellent. Jacques was great on all fronts, but we weren't left wanting more nights as other venues did such a good job. Up to this cruise (well over 100 nights) we had never dined in the Colonnade for dinner on any Seabourn ship. We tried that on several nights including one special Colonnade night where they featured Ribs by Thomas Keller. One word to the wise - reservations are required on the special evenings. We almost didn't get in as we didn't realize (our fault for not reading the instructions) that these occasional special evenings required it. Seabourn deserves credit for another new touch since our last cruise. On return from tours in Alesund, a large percentage of the crew, lead by the captain, were out to greet all returning passengers. The music played contemporary, upbeat music, and the crew applauded the returning passengers as they walked between lines of the crew. Champagne and hot chocolate toddys were available and every guest had a big smile from a special event that must be a real pain for the crew members to put on. Our captain was far more than a safety specialist and ship driver. He regularly interacted with passengers and was eager to hear about experiences. On that note, our staff captain recognized my wife and I as soon as we boarded., (staff captains, AKA 1st officer,) are not known for being passenger oriented, but Stefan sought us out and even invited us to dinner one night. Norway is an excellent location for a cruise. You are not greeted by hoards of locals trying to sell you a tour or a trinket. In my opinion, the scenery is better than Alaska, where I lived for 2 years. Several highlights stick out: Trollfjord is truly amazing. The ship enters a 1-2 mile fjord that looks way too small for the ship to fit into. It does fit and the entry is timed during cocktail hour providing an experience that is almost worth the price of the cruise. Weather towards the top of Norway was beyond Excellent. In Tromso, we experienced a chamber of commerce day with warm temperatures and blue skies. That night as, promised, the captain woke the ship around midnight to alert everyone of the presence of northern lights. We were forewarned of the coming announcement and we never heard a single complaint as everyone wanted to see the northern lights. In Honnisvagg (Nordcap) we had a clear day again. We were told that this was the first day in 3 weeks that they had seen the sun. We took an excursion to Nordcap which was great given the weather. Interestingly, Seabourn organized a crew excursion with several buses of crew. Crew members were obviously appreciative for their time out and many greeted us by name, even though they were on their own time. My guess is that this is how they get employees with positive attitudes. The rain did arrive by the time we got to southern Norway but we knew we had to pay the piper at some point. Seas were calm crossing the North Sea and arrival into Dover was uneventful. If I had to voice one complaint (obviously for corporate) it would be with the suite allocation of the new Encore class ships. My wife and I previously booked or upgraded to a Penthouse suite. The new ships have fewer of these larger rooms than do the smaller ships. At the same time they rose prices on the premium suites to an exorbitant level. On our cruise, the Penthouse, with 50% more square footage cost 3.5 times what we paid for our V1 (remember all V suites are essentially the same). These price increases had the net effect of driving us back downstairs as the standard suites are just fine with around 300 square feet. Read Less
23 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
Captain Geirg Arne Thue Nilsen Cruise Director Handre Potgieter Guest entertainers Neal Austin (magician-comedian), Stevie Jo (comedian) and Paul Emmanuel (singer) Executive Chef Andreas Lang This was my third SB cruise (I had ... Read More
Captain Geirg Arne Thue Nilsen Cruise Director Handre Potgieter Guest entertainers Neal Austin (magician-comedian), Stevie Jo (comedian) and Paul Emmanuel (singer) Executive Chef Andreas Lang This was my third SB cruise (I had two prior, BTB, on the Odyssey in September 2015) and DH’s first. We have only done about a dozen cruises, mostly on luxury lines, so the review below compares this cruise with our prior composite and limited experiences. Overall we were both pleased with our experiences on the Quest in this cool, mostly gray, green, and white hauntingly beautiful part of the world. However, there is some room for improvement in food and service on the Quest (especially food). We rate it a 4.3 overall on a scale of 1 to 5, (and thus round down to 4 on the overall scale). EMBARKATION: very smooth and easy, no waiting, friendly welcoming personnel in Copenhagen, to whom we surrendered our larger bags. Arrived shortly after 12 PM and then went to a a welcoming buffet at the Colonnade indoor/outdoor dining venue. Sat outside with a view of the harbor in comfortable chairs, ordered our drinks, and by the time we came back from the buffet with our first plates, the drinks were there. At 2PM overhead notice informed us that suites were ready. All our luggage was in the suite and the mini-bar was accurately stocked with what we had pre-ordered. I had also pre-ordered a foam topper for the mattress (confirmed 3 times in advance), anticipating the bed would be too hard, like it was on the Odyssey. It was not there initially, but was put on that evening. It was only a 1-inch thick irregular foam piece, so it was good that the mattress was not as hard as it was on the Odyssey or it would not have been enough cushion, and more negotiations would have been required. Our stewardess “Danielle" was welcoming and efficient without being falsely friendly. She took notes regarding our basic requests for the journey and consistently honored them. GENERAL ATMOSPHERE : Relaxing overall. The ship was well-maintained and very clean, nothing was broken, though a lot of the furniture, just like on the Odyssey, although stylish, is uncomfortable for me (stiff main entertainment lounge/Grand Salon chairs, and mostly stiff observation lounge and MDR chairs). Overall, with some exceptions, there was an unhurried atmosphere. There were no to few lines the entire cruise, other than occasional short lines at the buffets or for tenders. Sometimes the Colonnade and MDR had slower than ideal table service at peak hours, and table availability at peak hours was sometimes scarce, with matching service problems, but generally we were not negatively conditioned to anticipate space stress in the overall spacious public venues. Passengers were generally pleasant and well-mannered, with a few notable and crude exceptions (e.g., there were some pushy, inconsiderate and domineering people, e.g., with intrusive selfie sticks, and/or who either repeatedly inserted themselves into the front disability seats on the excursions buses though they were very clearly not disabled, or who otherwise made a point of asserting their alpha-importance and “control" as much as possible, in loud voices) . The nationality breakdown on the distributed guest list reported 243 Americans, 55 from UK, 55 from Australia, 13 from Belgium, 8 from Canada, and other nationalities were in single digits. Average age seemed to be in the early 60’s, give or take a few years depending on plastic surgery status, almost no children. Pax were mostly well-off do-everything-together couples, or couples traveling with other couples, and a couple families. Most pax were reasonably mobile, though given our ages, it was not surprising that many casually complained about assorted health issue trials and tribulations and discomforts, while others appeared to cope with their apparent health demons in silence. It was hard to spot a solo traveler (which is not surprising as SB pricing is not solo-friendly), but there appeared to be a few. DRESS CODE: Pax usually followed the designated dress codes (usually “elegant casual”, though there were a couple “formal” nights with jacket required on which most pax wore suits and ties rather than tuxedos). There were some rare pax who occasionally showed up in ugly baggy blue jeans, workout fleece sweatshirts, thick down vests, thongs, T-shirts with writing, or a backwards baseball hat at the “elegant casual” dinners. FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Food opinions are subjective, of course, but overall we found the food on this cruise good though not outstanding, and definitely good enough to do a SB cruise again, though the food and included wines were not as good as on my Odyssey BTB last September. I would not sail again on this ship primarily for the food experience. The food quality and variety also did not come close to the food on Hapag Lloyd’s Europa 2 a few months ago (see my separate review on that, Cape Town to Cape Town). Every night dinner personnel tried to push an included sauvignon blanc or equivalent as the white of the day, not our favorites, but we knew enough to decline and were able to find both white and red included acceptable wines that were usually drinkable though not particularly interesting. There was also a decently priced special order wine list, though sometimes there were significant delays and confusion in securing our non-included choices. I did not see many pax ordering for-pay wines at dinners. Included champagne was Nicholas Feuillatte brut reserve. We ate at The Grill restaurant the first night where they served the new highly touted Thomas Keller (TK) menu, included in the fare. It was fine, but nothing spectacular. First came celery sticks with radishes and cucumber pieces and green goddess dressing, all fresh but not unique celestial, we can get these at home. Our baby asparagus appetizer with hollandaise sauce was next, delicate and subtle, fine. Our rack of lamb for two, with creamy mashed potatoes, was large and very fatty and was ok for us, but a couple Brits we met did not care for it and referred to it distastefully as “mutton”. Loud and annoying music pulsated overhead, apparently to create a 50’s and 60’s cool diner vibe and atmosphere (we asked to turn it down, and they did, a little). I had no desire to return. I regretted that the delightful and unique old R2 small-plates-with-pairings restaurant has been discontinued. The food in the MDR was usually prettily plated, but not spectacular in taste, and there were very limited choices with variable quality. All the fish dishes except for the excellent tender salmon options tasted mostly the same to me from day to day, bland, watery and salty (though I like salt). A few nights the MDR had a TK menu insert option for appetizer, main and dessert. The caviar special on the TK menu was not to my liking at all, bland, and the TK appetizer with firm spinach gnocchi and a soft-boiled egg on top with a cheese sauce and a strip of bacon did not do much for me either, nor did the TK watery chocolate dessert. However, the Siberian caviar served on sail-away one evening was terrific, though tightly rationed as people obediently lined up to get their little bites. Sometimes there were odd ingredient combinations, e.g., lemon and thyme mousse for dessert, that just did not work for us. I had a very good cauliflower potage a couple times, and generally the cream soups offered were all good, though usually served lukewarm. There were also TK offerings on a few nights in the Colonnade, by reservation only, with only one entree offering per night, e.g., fried chicken or clam bake. People we met during the cruise who had done the “family style” TK in the Colonnade one night complained that the amount of salad offered for six people was woefully small, and required great efforts by pax and waiter to expand portions. Our own experience in the Colonnade at the “Ad Hoc” TK event was ok though underwhelming: a giant “gem lettuce salad" with slow baked beets, radish, fried capers, and chopped egg was presented in one bowl family style to six people, but with only a couple tablespoons of the green goddess dressing in two separate containers (requests to replentish the dressing in adequate amounts were not totally successful). Main course was tender “hickory smoked BBQ ribs” with braised greens, baked beans, corn pone, and whipped honey butter; then came “cabot clothbound cheddar” with maldon flat bread and blue apron ale mustard; and dessert was “potted cheesecake” with poached blueberries and vanilla chantilly. All this basic "comfort food" was good though I’m not sure it was worth all the fuss. Servers wore jeans, and poured generic white or red wine into stemless glasses. With some difficulty, we ordered off the wine list to get something that could stand up to the ribs. Hip music blared over our heads, and the friendly though a little confused personnel were unable or unwilling to do anything about the sunlight that started glaring in from the window and baking us. We like trying a little bit of many things, so our favorite venue was the Colonnade, on non-TK nights, and for lunch. There was a different theme in the Colonnade each day, e.g., French, German, Japanese, Tuscan Market, pasta, etc. , mostly decent, except for “Baltic” day where waiters greeted us with the mantra “Welcome to Russia” and wore fake fur Russian-style hats, some with a Soviet red star, one hat was hot pink, another zebra-colored. The hats were as silly as the imitation and failed “Russian" food offerings (which did not include caviar), including the lukewarm borscht and non-Kiev "chicken Kiev". Japanese night offerings in the Colonnade were the most disappointing (though we are picky as we live in a neighborhood resplendent with terrific Japanese cuisine). Miso soup tasted like plain beef broth, the tempura on the lobster “tempura” appetizer resembled the coating used on KFC extra-crispy chicken placed on rubbery lobster, beef teriyaki was just a slab of beef with soy sauce, and the grilled shrimp in red sauce were like those in a reheated mail-order frozen dinner. Breakfast buffet was o.k. for filling the stomachs of people with usual American tastes, nothing special was offered on the basic uninteresting breads, cheeses (2), or meats (3), and 1 fish (smoked salmon) that were offered, but there was Greek yoghurt and there were made-to-order options for table service basic omelettes, pancakes and waffles. The eggs benedict were forgettable (they were much better on the Odyssey). I also had lunch in the MDR once (open for an hour each day every day this cruise) which was very relaxing, with mostly attentive service once they noticed me (seafood chowder, juicy Swedish meatballs, strawberry Napoleon), compared with the always hectic and at times somewhat understaffed prime-time Colonnade. We tried the TK “Napa Burger” at the Patio Grill, which was very juicy, with quality meat, properly cooked, good fries to go with it, great service. I am not sure why the room service burgers are not also “Napa Burger” quality. Room service offerings were basic and arrived on time and as expected (caesar salad, grilled NY cut sirloin, club sandwich, hamburgers, creamy tomato soup, etc). Breakfast and SB Square pastries and breads in general on board were so-so (other than on the few days when French baguettes were baked for dinner ) as was the very light ice cream, which was nothing like the daily to-die-for Italian ice cream specials with whipped cream options on the Europa 2. Snacks and coffees at Seabourn Square varied in quality, e.g., not uncommonly the espresso drinks were given to me lukewarm, though always with a friendly smile, and I definitely appreciated having these between-meal options available. I was happy to see that the calm Observation Bar also starts offering self-serve coffee (variable quality), tea bags, OJ and little pre-made breakfast pastries at 6:15, for those of us who do not wish to communicate with humans until we have been caffeinated. Observation bar snacks we tried before dinner twice were meager and uninteresting, e.g., little chunks of cheese in oil, pieces of ham, nuts, so we did not go back for them. Tea choices at tea-time were limited to about a dozen (compared with >30 mostly loose-leaf on the Europa 2), regular coffee was generally drinkable though often weak. Sweets at tea-time were generally on the dry side, sandwiches were plain, scones with clotted cream and jam were ok. I had several very good Irish coffees prepared for me in various venues. SERVICE The best way to describe SB service is that it is generally efficient and unobtrusive, and I did not often find myself getting annoyed with service deficiencies (exceptions noted). The stewardesses and eating venues personnel seemed generally well-trained, well-organized and attentive without being intrusive, and did not appear exhausted, except at peak hours when they sometimes struggled to keep up with wine refills and plate clearings, and typically did not check if we liked our entrees or had issues with the food until it was time for dessert, i.e., when too late, as they just did not have time. We had no difficulty communicating in English with the mostly hard-working and responsive primarily European and South American front-line personnel in the various venues (many from eastern Europe). The “do not disturb” sign on the cabin door was always respected (unlike some experiences we had on Silver Sea). My experiences in the bars when I went to imbibe by myself a few times were unfortunately not optimal, e.g., I watched one bartender (apparently beloved by others, so YMMV) rush together my Cosmo drink so quickly that it was not at all cold when served and was underdosed on the eye-balled alcohol. When he served DH and me in the Colonnade, he acted equally rushed and careless with our wines. In the Observation Lounge I was kept waiting for my drink for over 15 minutes one afternoon before dinner, and when I finally asked about it the confused waiter briefly left, came back and then smiled, stating “it is ready now”, when it was clear they had not even started on it, instead of saying they had just forgotten and apologizing. On another day, during afternoon tea, it was also a bit of a battle for my good-natured but persistent dining companion from the UK to receive his desired scones. It also appeared that it would have been useful to be a “regular” known to, and on first name basis with, the bartenders and some service personnel, but this is the case on all luxury lines which deal with frequent cruisers, as opposed to newbies. Fresh fruit was initially brought to our room daily, though we did not ask for it, and for a while it continued to come in large quantities even when we told personnel we did not need anymore bananas or apples. A couple we met, however, reported they were struggling to get fruit. Laundry and dry cleaning services are available on board ($50 per stuffed laundry bag, 2 day service, 50% uncharge for same-day service on items), nothing was permanently lost or transformed into a child’s size. There is also a launderette for self-serve we did not use, and a clothes-line is available over the tub for drying your own items. I asked to always have six bath towels and four wash rags in the bathroom, without need to change them daily, and they were always reliably there, no fuss. SB Square personnel appeared competent and helpful and professional, no complaints, but we also did not have any major issues to resolve. SPA, EXERCISE AREA, AND POOLS: as is all the rage on ships, loud and pulsating music was playing not just in the exercise area, but also in the manicure/pedicure/hair care area, which was not very relaxing. One lady working there was clearly very unhappy with her position and looking forward to leaving, but still did a very good job on the service I asked for. DH enjoyed his massages, but not the hard-sell on products (e.g., $179 for 10 packages of bath salts). DH also repeatedly enjoyed the relatively private hot tub in the bow on deck 6 (which was actually HOT, unlike on the Europa 2, where it was deliberately kept just luke-warm below body temperature), which appeared to be oddly popular with doctor cruisers on board (one night he met a radiologist in the tub, the next an ophthalmologist, the third an oncologist, the fourth a cardiologist, and I know there was a dermatologist on board too though she did not make it to the tub to meet DH). There were also four other hot tubs (two in the very public area near the main pool, and two more near the smaller pool on Deck 5 aft outside the Club lounge). The pool was nicely heated but not used much, presumably because this cruise the weather was cool. Music at the pool area was subdued and unintrusive. I toured the “serene” area of the spa area but did not find the rock hard loungers at all serene for my sore muscles, so I did not use it. DH used the fitness center, it was fine, usually uncrowded, with an ocean view. ENTERTAINMENT: Generally overall not to my taste this cruise. There was no classical music featured on any night. There was a British comedian-magician named Neal Austin who fancied himself to be comedically outrageous, but whom I did not find amusing, nor did I find the British comedian Stevie Jo generally amusing (though I admit I chuckled a few times). Most other nights offered assorted forgettable pop and crooner music by SB singers who attempted to sing Elton John, Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder songs but somehow could not convey the correct emotions with their voices and styles. Their best performance was “Crossroads”, a blend of country and rock/pop. There were, however, plenty of “lounge lizard” musical offerings in the lounges, per usual on luxury cruise lines that cater to older people. Silver Sea, Regent, and Crystal had better main stage entertainment for our tastes, in our limited experience, and the Europa 2 absolutely did. In-room TV satellite service was unavailable much of the cruise as we were in the fjords with limited reception, which helped enforce the escapist nature of cruising. There were dozens of free in-room movies, however, with something for everyone, unless one desired something adult or X rated which we did not. The one TV in our basic suite was unfortunately very small, and in the middle of the room, presumably so you could see it from both the bed and the rock-hard sofa, but the view was always just from the side. There were also other activities, e.g., trivia, and a cooking demo, which we did not attend. A bridge tour was offered for free, but DH got there 2 minutes after departure time so he missed it. There were a couple “shopping with the chef” days posted in the Herald, but we did not attend. A galley tour was offered for free, we missed it. There were a couple uninspired lectures, e.g., about Norway scenery and birds and about the excursion basics, also available on the room TVs, but I am not sure that paying the guest lecturers for free cruises (with their partners) can be justified for what little they did here. One evening at 6PM there was a “meet your neighbors in the hall” event (we stayed in our suite, I was taking an enjoyable bubble bath using the ship’s very nice Molton Brown products ) and on the rainy day morning sail-in at Bergen, there was a “come in your bathrobe to the bow of deck 6 for mimosas and coffee" (I came for the coffee, in a warm down coat, only 1 person was there in a robe). In Eidfjord some cute Norwegian folk dancers also came on board wearing their $4000 folk dress costumes to dance and play fiddle and accordion for about 45 minutes and talk about Norwegian music history, this was interesting, followed by gravlax and caviar in the Bar. We had brought plenty of kindle/ipad books and had no problem finding things to do in between ports. INTERNET ship wifi was usually slow, sometimes non-existent, as is the case on all cruise lines I have been on, neither worse nor better, but generally was good enough to at least sometimes check messages, on-line newspapers, and work issues back home, and was faster during times when people were either asleep or in port on excursions and less people were trying to get on the ship’s wifi. We opted for the unlimited plan for $399 for the 12 days of the cruise to avoid the stress of sensing the clock ticking and price rising while on-line with a slow connection, but only one person in the suite could be on at a time. PORTS AND EXCURSIONS Weather was variable on this cruise and involved a lot of rain. Anyone coming to Scandinavia should anticipate at least some rain, if not a lot of it, and the excursions will thus not all look like on postcards you see. But even with rainy weather, excursions were enjoyable. We spent 4 nights pre-cruise in sunny Copenhagen at the Marriott Copenhagen (one of two SB’s choice hotels) and easily could have spent more to see this lovely city. The Marriott (executive floor) is not perfect but was adequate, comfortable. Highly recommended off the beaten path things to do beyond the usual obvious city tour sites you cannot miss with Hop-On and Hop-off buses, or a basic private tour which we did, are the Hirschsprung Museum (private collection of striking, mostly dark, brooding 18th century Danish art with an excellent self-audioguide); the Louisiana Museum of art outside Copenhagen (modern, beautiful oceanside venue with sculpture gardens and with an excellent view smorgasbord area); and Fredericksburg castle (many old portraits and tapestries). On the funky Christianshaven island part of Copenhagen, we had a special meal at the "56-degrees" restaurant (fixed menu with wine pairings, beautiful outdoor dining venue and service, it was an easy cab ride from the Marriott). We also toured the Carlsberg Brewery which has a giant beer bottle collection, and a collection of historic buildings. We did a lot of SB-organized excursions, despite high cost, to save organizational stresses and time figuring out what to do in places we have never been. I received 10% off the excursions as a SB “silver.” Excursions with SB were primarily on generally comfortable and clean buses with reclining seats and WC, usually limited to about 26 people per bus (only one half-day excursion had 36 pax in the bus). We noted the usual reluctance of European bus drivers to run AC or open doors and windows to allow air to circulate while waiting to depart. Guide quality varied, and surprisingly many were not Norwegian-born (we had Spanish, Italian, and American ex-pats on various tours). ALBORG, Denmark — we did the SB excursion "Back to the Vikings", on which we saw a Viking grave site and museum (Lindholm), learned about the various slaves Vikings had, and sampled little Viking snacks including ham, pork rinds, excellent herring sampler (I could have made a meal of it), and local honey on bread. 4/5 stars for the tour. FLAM — this was a tender port for us (Tenders on the Quest are loud and have uncomfortable seating, compared with the Odyssey). We did the early morning Flam Railway — comfortable train chairs, WC on board; we stopped at a waterfall (Kjosfossen) half-way up and while in a big crowd of people, watched a young lady “troll” (who looked like a bored teen with a summer job) sing and dance. Then we headed higher up and had sugary cake and coffee at the historic inn at the top (Vatnahalsen Mountain Hotel), with a little extra time to walk around. In crowded Flam itself back at the bottom one could buy various street vendor sausages (elk, whale, goat, etc.). or dine in one of the tourist restaurants. 4/5 stars for the excursion. ALESUND, Norway — "The Islands of Giske and Godoy" excursion. We saw many bridges and tunnels that are engineering marvels. Best part was the Giske church and cemetery from 1150, which the dark, overcast day highlighted well. We had a sugary pancake and cream cake with coffee at the under-renovation lighthouse near Alnes, (no forks) and unfortunately also endured the company of some aggressive fellow-cruisers who demanded to buy “one of each” of the available cakes (which required purchase of the entire cakes) because they did not like what was served for the SB group. However, after insisting on buying the entire cakes, they then haggled with the hapless waitress about $1.50 extra on the final price tag,loudly insisting they should get more than “crumbs” for their high cost. 3/5 stars for the tour overall, (4/5 for the scenery and sites, 2/5 for the excursion guide who spoke so slooowly that she put people to sleep, 1/5 for the fellow cruisers for embarrassing behavior). There are clearly both advantages and disadvantages to being thrust together with strangers on cruise excursions. MOLDE, Norway — "The Atlantic Ocean Road and Haholmen Island” excursion. Excellent 5/5 half-day tour of local islands and archipelago, made better by great weather to accompany our “Viking ship” open air trip to Goat Island (Geitoya), which had a replica of the famous Saga Siglar environmental-message ship. We saw a movie about the ship’s construction and eco-sailings, (and its demise at sea), then had a 2 cubic-inch piece of very sweet cake and coffee (again, oddly no forks), returned around 1:30PM to the Quest, which was late for lunch so one has to plan ahead if one gets hungry easily, as the Colonnade closes for lunch at 2 and personnel there always make a point of clearing away the buffets right on time. GEIRANGER, Norway — "The Best of Geirangerfjord", 8.5 hours. This was a long bus trip over twisty mountain roads, with classic hairpin turns, to assorted scenic vistas, some quite high up above the timber zone (bring a warm jacket and hat). +WC on the bus. Lunch around 12:30 was at a very nice upscale tourist hotel where everyone en-masse was served lukewarm but flavorful cream of white asparagus soup, cod in a cream sauce, and low-fat vanilla ice cream with generic chocolate sauce, then stroll time, over the course of 1 hour and 20 minutes. The day culminated in a scenic 3-language one-hour ferry ride back to Geirangen, with many waterfalls and scenes of old abandoned cliffside farms where one could sit on the open deck or indoors in comfortable chairs. 4/5 tour. MOLDE, Norway — DH did the SB sponsored “Hike to Briksdal Glacier” (rated 3 little men in strenuousness on a scale of 1 to 3) which he enjoyed, 5/5 quality, while I vegged out in town and for 20 Euros rode for 1 hour and 10 minutes around the lake on the tame “Olden Sightseeing” Disneyland-like little train car that waited outside the quay soliciting customers (the people recruiting for the ride will inevitably tell you it is leaving in “a couple minutes”, even though it may not leave for a half hour, depending on how full it is). BERGEN, Norway — we did not do any excursions on this mostly rainy Sunday, just walked this charming town on our own past the colorful fresh fish market (which had a variety of fresh crabs, fish, paella, fish and chips, as well as more whale and goat smoked sausage) and past the old fire-prone downtown buildings, then up to the university district where we had a pleasant light lunch of grilled tender fresh Norwegian salmon with cucumber and young potatoes with yoghurt sauce at a comfortable outdoor but covered centrally located casual restaurant called Loge Haven, where we listened to a street band play international tunes, and people-watched. We also spent a lot of time in the Konde 3 museum which has a good-sized provocative Monch collection, with a very interesting short guided tour (in English at 12 PM and 2PM). Did not have time to make it to the unusual leprosy museum we’d read about, or the museum about the Norwegian resistance v. Germans in WW2, or any of the other many museums you can immerse yourself in here. SB offered a hiking trip (in the rain) as well as an excursion up the funicular, which you could also do on your own, though there were not many views available with the cloudy weather. Eidfjord, Norway — “Scenic Fossil and Voringsfoss Waterall” excursion, 3 hours. 3/5 overall. This involved a short ride to a major local dam, then to a hotel where we had coffee and more uninspiring Norwegian sugary cake at the old family hotel that is right above a magnificent and powerful very inspiring waterfall, then back to the ship. Construction is going on right now, so that in the future one will be able to walk over the waterfall on a glass floor. Stavanger, Norway — “Old and new Stavanger” excursion took us around the town in a bus and to an interesting open air exhibit of pre-Viking Iron Age life, then on to the fascinating Petroleum Museum where you could easily spend several hours on the exhibits and simulated oil drilling platforms, great for kids and techies. We then had a short guided walk through old Stavanger where one can also easily walk around oneself and tour cute shops and restaurants not far from the ship. 4/5 tour. IN SUMMARY, we enjoyed the cruise, the itinerary, and generally very good SB service, but were just a bit disappointed in the uninspired food offerings. But we realize no cruise is perfect, and were impressed enough that we will be keeping our SB Quest cruise booking in the spring of 2017, hoping food quality improves. We have posted some pictures of the cruise and the ports in this wonderful area. Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: July 2016
We booked the Baltic and the Fjords on what has been the best we've sailed on and therefore our favorite. Seabourn did not disappoint us. First time on the Quest, but we have sailed before on the identical sister ships the Odyssey and ... Read More
We booked the Baltic and the Fjords on what has been the best we've sailed on and therefore our favorite. Seabourn did not disappoint us. First time on the Quest, but we have sailed before on the identical sister ships the Odyssey and the Sojourn, as well on the baby sister, now sold, the beloved Spirit. The ship is only a few years old, beautifully designed and kept in prime condition inside and out. This was our tenth Seabourn cruise. Of course, we have also sailed over the years on Oceania, Silversea, Regent, HA, Celebrity, Cunard, Crystal and even once on Princess. Seabourn is the best by far we have ever experienced in so many critical areas of comparison with the luxury lines. This is the perfect size ship for us at 450 passengers capacity. Not at all like the behemoths and monsters so common on the seas today - that ruin visits for many to numerous ports. With spacious cabins and generous and inviting pubic areas. This ship's physical layout is perfect in every way. We start as we must, because that is where it all begins, with the crew, which is so hard working, efficient, pleasant and welcoming. Multi countries from around the world represented onboard. But all with excellent English language skills. How does Seabourn manage to hire such uniformly excellent people time after time, in all categories, we keep asking ourselves. After a day or two of our 19 day cruise( we took back to backs), most of the crew we encountered already identified us on sight and by name. This makes cruising with Seabourn especially inviting, and we love to engage individual crew members whenever we can, with great reciprocation. The basic cabins are first rate, at over 350 sq ft (365?), with generous bathrooms having double sinks and a spacious veranda. Large walk in closet. No noise from adjoining cabins. Heat and air-conditioning working perfectly. Nicely decorated and comfortable, with plenty of storage space. Stocked with selected alcoholic beverages.The verandas are now even more welcoming, with Seabourn just announcing its new, no smoking on the verandas policy - something long overdue, to make it even more of a complete no smoking ship. The food is first rate throughout the ship. We note that some prior reviews comment that the MDR menu is more limited. We did not find it that way. On a few nights yes there seemed to be a main course item or two lacking, but the Thomas Keller special dishes now added in the MDR most nights make up for perhaps fewer regular selection choices. These Keller dishes with a special touch, like the lobster dish, are a welcome addition to the MDR offerings. Most nights the food choices has what I would call a "continental" appeal, with French and Italian influence. But also steak and lamb available every night from its "classic" menu. The quality of the meats and fish and seafood offerings is very high. Very tender veal for example. The meals in the MDR were served by an excellent waiting staff working in teams, quick, efficient and very pleasant. Most of the time we had to ask the waiters to slow down the service between courses, it was that quick. The DR management would go out of their way to prepare some special dishes that my wife and I adore, and they do this so graciously on a day or two notice. The menu rotation is also very long, so very few times in our nineteen days did we have a repeat menu. The quality of the dishes in the MDR in our estimation is the equal in many dishes that the chefs prepare to Michelin starred restaurants cuisine. Nicely prepared, very tasty and attractively plated, which takes some extra time and effort. The F& B manager Enes and the B manager Jovan are to be commended. Their skills, ambience and team leadership abilities are quite obvious and the whole DR and kitchen staff under them is simply first rate. The caviar available is of top quality from a special purveyor in Uruguay and served on demand, with toast and lovely accompaniments. This feature formerly so common on many upper end cruise lines has slowly disappeared, but not on Seabourn. Excellent cheese course, with the selection varying each night. The new Thomas Keller experience in the renamed Grill was OK, but in our judgment needs some fine-tuning to make it a spectacular alternative dining experience. The room design is beautiful, but the room is restricted in its physical footprint. The food and service were fine, but the food not all that special as promoted and expected. I guess we just prefer the spaciousness, ambience, friendliness and quality of the food in the MDR night after night. The Colonnade, in the aft of the ship on deck 8, with great views, self service but waiter assisted hot and cold buffet at breakfast and lunch, and table service at dinner, is very good too. But we prefer the more relaxed atmosphere of the MDR even for breakfast and lunches, when there is time to enjoy. The quality and selection of the food offerings on the buffets is very high end, not like we have experienced on a number of other cruise lines. The outdoor grill on the pool deck is great for a quick hamburger or more involved selection from their limited buffet, but the weather must be fairly warm to enjoy this experience. We did have a number of days particularly before we got into the more northern fjord waters where we could enjoy this experience, particularly when we got back late from excursions and the Colonade had already closed. The pool itself, not used on this trip by anyone we saw, is lovely, fairly large for a ship this size, with wonderful lounge chair areas spread around in both exposed sun and shaded locations. Seabourn Square on Deck 7 is a unique concept for just sitting around, reading the morning papers like the WSJ and NYT or Financial Times that are taken down by the satellite system and printed onboard, meeting people, and having an expresso and piece of pastry or light sandwich, pretty much all day long. The bars are very nice and most of the time we got our drinks rapidly. One or two exceptions on a nineteen day cruise when the bars were especially busy is nothing to get excited about. Wonderful cosmos and mojhitos. Not an easy drink to make right!! Very comfortable seating. Marvelous entertainment from the Darlene and Raleigh duo, solid pros and a joy to listen to. The complimentary offering of liquors, wines and champagne throughout the ship in all bars and restaurants was mostly fine with us. Although a few nights and lunches we had to search a little more from the complimentary offerings to find the ones we would enjoy the most. We appreciate fine wines a great deal dining on the road at restaurants and at home, and although the comp wines are not of the same quality, they were more than sufficient. A premium wine list is there for those who choose to go that route, which we did not feel necessary. Nicolas Feuillette French champagne as the house champagne is very lovely. The Captain from our first cruise, the Baltic, Captain Larsen, is the best we have ever experienced in our many sailings. Something so unique and special about this man. Beloved by his crew, he and the Captain of the second cruise, Captain Nilsen, and their executive staffs were very open and welcoming to all guests. The main theater nighttime entertainment needs some work. We do not expect a performing troupe the size and quality of the behemoths and monsters, but a little more spice and better product would be a welcome addition. The group is a half dozen enthusiastic, young performers who mostly sing and not dance, and the performances we saw were not all that entertaining. Vet comedian we have seen before ( he will not like that jest !!) Jeff Stephenson is a very funny man with a great routine. We seem to recall a somewhat bigger troupe on our Odyssey and Sojourn sails, with some better production numbers, dancing, and even a piece or two of scenery and professional costuming. Cruise Director Handre is a real gem, the best we have ever encountered. Also a talented composer and pianist. He does great job. One additional thought about the internet available. We bought the package, and we were connected most of the time of our nineteen days, but in the northern Norwegian fjord waters for a few days towards the end of the cruise there was very tough reception because of the surrounding mountains and high cliffs blocking satellite signals for TV and internet. Not surprising, but we were forewarned. Once again, Seabourn proved itself to be the best there is. We are booked for both next year and 2018. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We chose to sail on the Quest to Norway having had a fantastic cruise on the Quest in the fall of 2015 through Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. That cruise was awesome, and we loved the ship, the crew, the guests and the dining. The ... Read More
We chose to sail on the Quest to Norway having had a fantastic cruise on the Quest in the fall of 2015 through Maine and the Canadian Maritimes. That cruise was awesome, and we loved the ship, the crew, the guests and the dining. The Quest is a beautiful ship, and easy to call it home for our trip. The cabin, however, was not thoroughly cleaned when we embarked. Our stewardess on this trip spoke poor English, and was difficult to communicate with. This was one of the reasons we are not giving this cruise 5 stars. But we were very cozy after settling in. The weather was still cold as this cruise went above the Arctic Circle to the North Cape, so we had brought along extra blankets and needed them. Still, we were able to use the balcony many days, and enjoyed the fantastic scenery and the Midnight Sun. We were not happy with the changes in the dining aboard the Quest with the new Thomas Keller menus. We did not mind the change from Restaurant 2 to the TK Grill, but did not like the changes in the Restaurant and the Colonnade. In the Colonnade there were four Thomas Keller nights serving meals such as ribs and fried chicken. We vastly preferred the regular Colonnade menus and felt cheated out of the local seafood that we expected on a cruise through Scandinavia. If you like French Haute Cuisine and foie gras you may like the other TK menus, but we did not. We found the dining options more restricted and stressful. There was also not the seamless service in the dining areas that we had had before. We will be watching to see how Seabourn handles the TK menus, especially in the Colonnade, before we book another Seabourn cruise. Still, we had many wonderful evenings in the Restaurant and the Colonnade, and many good options for breakfast including coffee and pastries in the Seabourn Square. The itinerary and shore excursions were fantastic. Our Captain was very experienced and hailed from Denmark. One of the reasons we like Seabourn is their Scandinavian captains. We really loved seeing Arctic Norway, and had three wonderful days in Copenhagen!! Read Less
13 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
This is the second time we have sailed on Seabourn. We sailed the first time on the smaller ship The Legend, which is now owned by Windstar. We were little apprehensive sailing on The Quest which is twice the size of The legend but to be ... Read More
This is the second time we have sailed on Seabourn. We sailed the first time on the smaller ship The Legend, which is now owned by Windstar. We were little apprehensive sailing on The Quest which is twice the size of The legend but to be honest we were not disappointed and in fact preferred The Quest which has lots of extra space and facilities. There were 450 guests on board and never did I feel that our own personal space was restricted. The Quest is a beautiful maintained ship and has the feel of a luxury floating hotel. The Staff were all young and enthusatic whilst led by senior’s who led by example, assisting where necessary and during special onboard events would serve food and drinks to the guests. The Captain was outstanding and was always visible and approachable. His officers were equally visible and they all worked together as one multicultural family. The seniors called us by name after day two and although the majority of staff didnt they always remembered our drink preference’s both in the bar and restaurant’s. 'No' is not a word you will ever hear on Seabourn. If they haven’t got what you would like in one restaurant they will find it from elsewhere or make sure that it is available the next day for you. We were sad to leave the ship which after two weeks had become like a second home. One place that we partically loved was sitting in The Square. They have leather reclining chairs which had great views from the aft of the ship. We did not pay for internet but were pleasantly surprised that portable Ipads were available loaded with a selection of newspapers for all nationalites. I have never seen this facility available before on other cruise lines so was a very pleasant surprise. I was able to read my daily newspaper in comfort of a reclining chair at The Square whilst sipping a freshly brewed coffee from The Square Barista. Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
We look for open seating dining, great service, and exceptional cuisine as well as a small ship. We enjoy good shows, but, shows and a large casino are not a major criteria when choosing a cruise line. At this point, we have found that ... Read More
We look for open seating dining, great service, and exceptional cuisine as well as a small ship. We enjoy good shows, but, shows and a large casino are not a major criteria when choosing a cruise line. At this point, we have found that Seabourn and Silversea are the two lines that best meet our criteria best. The Norwegian fjord cruise was excellent. Seabourn has a marina and offers a series of zodiac an kiak tours which was a great addition to the normal tours on the itinerary. All in all, a great cruise experience. The staff was very attentive and the restaurants each had themes every night making for interesting dining. The Thomas Keller Grill was an exceptional dining experience. Suites were comfortable and there was more than enough storage space. Little things like fresh fruit brought to the room every day adds a lot to the overall experience. Read Less
29 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2015
We just completed our first cruise on Seabourn -- a 14 day Norwegian fjords journey on the Quest which gave us a good mix of sightseeing and sea days. We were extremely happy with our first Seabourn experience, from the ship itself, the ... Read More
We just completed our first cruise on Seabourn -- a 14 day Norwegian fjords journey on the Quest which gave us a good mix of sightseeing and sea days. We were extremely happy with our first Seabourn experience, from the ship itself, the food & drink, the staff, and the destination. For a point of reference, we've traveled on Regent for half a dozen cruises previously, and in the review I'll touch on a few points of comparison with Regent for others who might be considering either of these lines. We've always enjoyed Regent for the same reasons so many Seabourn cruisers love this line: the size of the ship, the quality of service, the quality of food and drink. It's been a few years since our last Regent cruise, but my feeling on our last Regent cruise was that the quality of food and service on Regent had slipped a little since our earliest experiences (back when it was Radisson). So we were eager to see how we liked Seabourn, and whether the nearly-uniform positive comments on the Cruise Critic Seabourn forum could measure up. The answer: We enjoyed almost everything about Seabourn and the Quest. We thought the food was excellent throughout. The staff was exceptional: friendly, getting to know our names (even when we never identified ourselves) and our preferences. The ship seemed in perfect condition. We found the Quest very much on a par with the Regent Voyager and Mariner; we felt "at home" almost immediately, despite never having been on a Seabourn ship before. Of course, the Seabourn ships are smaller -- 450 passengers versus 700 on the Regent ships -- but the overall feel is the same. (That's a credit to Regent, that 50% more passengers doesn't feel more crowded.) The larger Regent ships definitely have a nicer theater, and they have a grand atrium that the Seabourn Quest lacks -- but those differences were pretty inconsequential in terms of enjoyment of the ship. (The pillars in the Quest's theater are a minor annoyance.) Seabourn Square -- the area with customer service and excursions staff, as well as the espresso bar, library, and many seating areas -- beats the Coffee Conection on the Regent ships. Overall, we found the Quest very comparable in most respects with what we have experienced on the Regent ships. The staterooms were very comparable to the Regent ships. I appreciated the larger-than-average safe in the closet on the Quest; the Regent Voyager has a slightly larger walk-in closet, but we found the Quest closet big enough to meet our needs (and we had a LOT of clothing since we were traveling to the Arctic). I liked the the sizable bathroom on the Quest, but wished I could trade the space of the tub -- which we don't use -- for a larger-than-tiny shower; the shower was adequate, but small. We ate lunch most days in the Colonnade or Patio Grill, and dinner most nights in the Restaurant, and found the food quite uniformly good -- very good to outstanding at every meal, with no clunkers. Some of the daily fresh fish lunch specials at the Patio Grill were every bit as excellent as main courses at dinner in The Restaurant. Restaurant 2, the high-end alternative restaurant, is a nice, intimate, alternative to the main dining room, but it does have a somewhat quirky concept of multiple small portions paired for each course. I had read that many Seabourn regulars aren't keen about Restaurant 2 for this reason, and seeing the menus, I now understand. It's worth going to Seabourn Square on the first day of a cruise to get a list of the different Restaurant 2 menus offered on your cruise -- they have 5 or 6 that rotate, usually a two-day intervals. Some were rather unappealing to us. If you see a "Signatures" day listed, that's their "best of the best" menu (although it's not detailed on the printed menu), and we ended up choosing one of those nights to dine at Restaurant 2 -- and thoroughly enjoyed it. This may all be moot by next year, when Seabourn's announced partnership with chef Thomas Keller is anticipated to bring about a change to the Restaurant 2 menus. It's certainly worth trying on at least one night if you're new to Seabourn, and try to reserve for a day with the Signatures menu unless one of the other ones really appeals to you. We got to experience a "galley lunch" near the end of our cruise, and that was fantastic. The food staff turns the main dining room PLUS the entire galley into an amazingly beautiful and bountiful buffet with virtually everything in the ship's repertoire out for dining. I know some people don't like buffet dining, but this is an EXPERIENCE not to be missed. They don't do this every cruise -- I think only on 10+ day cruises with a sea day towards the end of the cruise -- but if you're on a Seabourn cruise that offers a galley lunch, don't miss it! Another Seabourn specialty is "Shopping with the Chef", where a small group of passengers goes with the Executive Chef to a food market in a port to obtain some local specialities. Since only about 16 people can get on one of these outings, it's popular and hard to get on. In our case, they apparently filled the quota with Seabourn regulars and never advertised it in the daily program (that was one of the only slips in service we experienced from Seabourn on this cruise), but because we had attended a cooking demonstration with the chef earlier in the cruise, we knew it was coming when we were in Bergen. We had gone off the ship on our own and were wandering in the city's fish market when we saw Executive Chef Jes, in his full chef's whites, and several crew members and fellow passengers come up along side us -- so we tagged along (trying to stay unobtrusively in the back to not interfere with the passengers that we officially part of the experience). Jess smiled at us and allowed us to follow them into several stores, as he picked out local seafood to buy, and got the merchants to offer free tastes to us Seabourners. If you're on a Seabourn cruise and get an opportunity to go Shopping With the Chef, do it. (And if your Executive Chef is Jes, he is truly a rock star and a blast to be around!) I had been prepared to be a little disappointed with the included wines based on reading comments on the Cruise Critic Seabourn forum in the months leading up to our cruise months, but we found we could easily find both white and red wines we quite enjoyed. If I didn't particularly enjoy the wine they were pouring at lunch or dinner, I just asked for an alternate wine and they always obliged. Once I knew certain wines I particularly liked, I could mention them by name and they would fetch them. (This is typical of Seabourn service. One day we were eating lunch at the Patio Grill and a couple next to us was asking about British porter beers other than the Guiness they have at all the ship's bars; after saying they don't stock other porters, the waiter went off for awhile and returned with two bottles from a different bar somewhere on the ship, and told them of some other beer they could get them the next day. The couple asked if they could get a few bottles for their room -- and the reply was "of course!" Impressive.) We enjoyed having an Expeditions staff aboard, as they did a number of interesting lectures, and we went on one of their new "Ventures" expeditions by zodiac, which was a blast. (An expensive blast! But it proved worthwhile. More on that below.) They also pretty much sold us on an Antartica trip in our future! We enjoyed the shows by the Seabourn singers; apparently they're new shows and a new formula -- six singers, lots of tight harmonies -- instead of a mix of singer and dancers. Good choice to trade dancers for more/better singers, in my opinion. We also enjoyed talking with the singers and a member of the band in The Club after the shows at night. The guest entertainers on other nights were a mixed bag; one comedian we liked a lot, one singer/comedienne not so much. Most of the ship's passengers called it a night after the shows (or before!); we usually retired to The Club for a nightcap, and we were two of only about 20 people there. We're perhaps a little younger than the average Seaboard passengers, and we were in "the land of the midnight sun", so we enjoyed staying until the end around midnight or 12:30 most nights. Because the sun set late, or for several days not at all, the views were frequently great even at midnight. I often popped out the door of the Club to the aft deck for picture-taking. Meanwhile, the bar staff in the Club had few people to serve, so our glasses never emptied until we begged them to stop. And because we were "regulars", by about the third day, they knew what we were drinking after dinner, and our drinks were often at our table literally within seconds of us sitting down. Talk about being spoiled! Passengers on our Norway cruise were about half American, one-quarter Australian, and one-quarter mixed among 20 other nationalities. We met some nice folks -- and none who were annoying or unhappy. In the end, we felt this was probably a half-notch better than our most recent Regent cruises -- not by much, but in some small ways (uniformly good food quality and friendliness of staff, especially), and at this point, I think I'd look to Seabourn first when we're ready for our next cruise. That's my wrap up on Seabourn and the Quest, but for anyone considering a Norwegian fjords cruise, I'll conclude this review with a description of what we did in the various ports. By far my favorite port day was our day in the small town of SVOLVAER. The town itself is nothing exceptional, but if you are game for it, and you have favorable weather as we did, rent a car for the day in the Lofoten Islands. The scenery here was SPECTACULAR, among the best scenic driving we've experienced anywhere. It's like driving in the Rocky Mountains or Alps -- with ocean all around! And you won't believe the sand beaches and turquoise color of the water. Google "Lofoten Islands images" to get an idea how great it is. The ship offers a tour to the Viking museum, which covers the first part of the islands, but the scenery gets significantly better as you drive further south. There are basically just two roads which run along the eastern and western sides of the first island, and then they merge together further south, so you really can't get lost. Depending how many stops you make along the way, you can hopefully get down to the little town of Reine (I can't paste a link here, but Google Reine to see how pretty it is), or 10 km further to the end of the road in the town of A (which we didn't make it to because I had to turn around and head back). Driving straight through, it's about 2 hours down to A and 2 hours back -- but if you stop to take pictures every mile or so, it's slower going! (Our car had a GPS in it, which made it foolproof, and it was good for helping me calculate when we had to turn around to get back to the ship in time; we had to head back after reaching Reine to not cut it too close.) There's not much traffic on the roads, so it's very easy driving. I reserved in advance from Hertz, but there was a local company with cars to rent at the dock if you want to leave it to chance when you arrive. The rental car cost about $125, so even with expensive gas, it cost less for four of us than an excursion from the ship for one of us. This was by far my favorite sightseeing day of the trip. I only wish the ship was in port a little longer on this day so we had more time to enjoy the scenery. Of course, everything is weather dependent -- we had great weather this day, and not-so-great weather on two of our other top sightseeing days. (If you do this, you can request box lunches by calling room service the day before. It's a simple sandwich, cookie and fruit, but it saved us the time of stopping somewhere for lunch.) In OLDEN, we took the 8-hour "Geiranger and the Roof of Norway" excursion, and I highly recommend it. The day was broken up enough that it didn't feel like a typical 8-hour bus trip, which I know many of us aren't too keen on. The hour-long ferry ride through Geirangerfjord is spectacular, but we unfortunately had a very cloudy day and didn't quite get the stunning views I had hoped for. (I'm not sure why they couldn't improvise a bit instead of sending the bus up to the top Mount Dalsnibba when it was apparent to all that the top of the mountain was well into the clouds; we got there, turned around and came back down. I guess the is the nature of planned excursions.) But this trip was still worth it -- and if you're lucky enough to have good weather, it's a can't-miss excursion. We didn't do an excursion in BERGEN. It's a very walkable city. We walked to see the fish market, and then took the funicular up to Mount Floien. If you feel like stretching your legs a bit, there's a nice park at the top of the funicular, where you can walk along smooth trails for a short or long hike. (There's a pretty little mountain lake less than a 10-minute walk from the funicular station.) Since it supposedly rains 310 days a year in Bergen, we were happy to have one of the rare days without any rain... and even sun at times. In FLAM, we did the "Mountains and Valleys By Train" excursion. The Flamsbana train is definitely worth seeing -- although I felt it wasn't as special a train trip as several we've been on in the US (like the White Pass & Yukon in Alaska or the Durango & Silverton in Colorado). Maybe I'd feel differently if we had a bright sunny day here, but it was another cloudy one. In ALESUND, we didn't do a ship's tour, and just walked around the pretty town. And climbed the 418 steps of Mount Aksla for a wonderful panoramic view of the town and surrounding islands on a beautiful, clear day. We also walked in TROMSO -- across the bridge to the Arctic Cathedral (we took a city bus back because it was raining off-and-on). This was probably my least-favorite port call; not bad, but not special -- again, perhaps due to the weather. In HONNINGSVAG, the main thing to do is to go to the North Cape (Nordkapp). It's a bit of a tourist trap, but how often will you get to the top of the world? My parents, who we traveled with, took the bus trip; my wife and I opted to take the "Ventures by Seabourn" zodiac trip. We had some trepidation about being out on the open sea early in the morning and being cold and wet, but it was really great even though we did have some occasional light rain. We saw an astounding number of birds. Most of our group did the hike up to the top of Nordkapp, but it was a strenuous hike up a narrow path with some slippery rocks. My wife started out hiking but was slipping on the rocks and decided to go back to the ship via the zodiacs. (I know the Expeditions crew learned a bit on our trip, since this was brand new for Seabourn, so I expect they'll do a few things differently with the landing spot and the description of the hike for future cruises.) I enjoyed the hike, but some passengers felt it was tougher than advertised. The good thing is that they were happy to take back anyone on the zodiacs who decided the hike was too strenuous; they staff took great care of everyone, and my wife had the sun come out and got some spectacular views from the water going back while the rest of us were huffing and puffing up the side of the mountain. We both ended up very glad we did this excursion instead of the basic bus trip to the visitor center. (Although it was gray and cloudy when we were at Nordkapp, in the evening when the ship left Honningsvag, the captain sailed out and around Nordkapp; the skies were clear and we got absolutely spectacular views, as the captain paused and did a 360 degree circle with the ship. They let us know this was unusual weather for the North Cape, but it was awesome to see it in the sun after being so cloudy earlier in the day.) In STAVANGER, we did the Lysefjord Cruise to Pulpit Rock. Had this been a sunny day, it would have been truly spectacular. Unfortunately, this day was cloudy as well, so it dulled the beauty a bit. We briefly saw the top of Pulpit Rock at the base of the clouds. The boat for this trip is a very nice, smooth, modern catamaran, and it picks you up right next to where the ship is docked. This is also a very nice, walkable city; make sure you take a short walk from where the ship is docked to the old part of the city for a short walk along Ovrestrandgate to see some very pretty houses and gardens. We were extremely happy with our Seabourn experience, with the Quest, and with the itinerary cruising the Norwegian fjords. I highly recommend it to anyone considering it. Read Less
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