We stayed in the lowest-price cabin on board, and that was over $20,000 with airfare. This review is written with that in mind; this was not a $4,000 Princess cruise and my expectations, and this review, are calibrated accordingly. I ... Read More
We stayed in the lowest-price cabin on board, and that was over $20,000 with airfare. This review is written with that in mind; this was not a $4,000 Princess cruise and my expectations, and this review, are calibrated accordingly. I should point out that even though the fare and port fees were over $18,000, this was the cheapest cabin on board.
First, let's get out in the open the main reason for the poor overall rating. For years we had wanted to visit Saba. As an aside, we had once missed the opportunity to dine at The Beach House at the southern tip of St. Kitts (we drove all the way there only to find they had closed unexpectedly) and we once attempted to climb to the top of Mount Nevis only to be stymied by No Trespassing signs, learning later that having a guide is a must to complete that climb. So we were thrilled to find a luxury cruise--ahem, I mean "yacht"--that was going to stop at all three of those places, plus visits to Montserrat and St. Barts, both our to-visit list. Expensive? You bet--but worth it to us to visit so many places on our bucket list all in one shot.
Or so we thought. Shortly after we boarded the Seadream II, we were handed a new itinerary announcing we'd be skipping Saba entirely. Seems that the seas had been too rough over the past several weeks, so they rearranged the ports of call. St. Kitts was out, too.
We were devastated. But hold on, surely I'm not expressing sour grapes over a decision made for the safety of the ship?
Ah, but here's the thing: to be absolutely certain that nothing kept us from keeping a $20,000 appointment, we flew into our departure port (St. Martin) four days early. We had plenty of time to visit Saba for a day or two, there are air and ship ferries daily from St. Martin and St. Marteen to Saba, and we could have easily taken one: all it needed was an email, and we were of course checking messages several times a day. Seadream management simply did not bother.
I should add that at least we still got on the boat; our traveling companions almost weren't so lucky. They had missed a connection and did not know if they were going to make it to St. Martin in time, and almost changed their flight to meet the Seadream the next day in St. Barts. Good thing they didn't, because St. Barts was moved--without announcement--from the first day (Sunday) to the fifth day. They were told that was in order to visit while the shops were open, but that explanation does not stand up to close examination: the shops were closed on Sunday back when the itinerary was first announced. They almost lost five-sevenths of their entire trip, and that they did not was due to sheer luck and not to any foresight or effort on Seadream's part. The courtesy of a simple email would have prevented this near-catastrophe.
Nor was this the only failing on the part of the captain and company management to communicate important issues to the guests. We left Anguilla (added at the last moment) Sunday and ran into fairly heavy seas, with the result that a number of passengers (myself included) got seasick. I later discovered that the Concierge stocks Dramamine, but that's not mentioned in the cabin literature and wasn't part of the departure briefing (which consists almost entirely of sales pitches for shore excursions--more about those later in the Port descriptions--and future sailings). The ship made a high-speed run for Montserrat, which made the heaving unbearable. Seeing as how the Seadream lacks stabilizers, there were a lot of toilets flushing that night. Around 2AM, the ship suddenly became quiet and steady, and we arrived at Montserrat later that morning without further incident. But here's the thing: in the stairway is a computer screen showing the ship's progress and the times at which Seadream arrived and departed. Upon checking the display, I noticed that we HAD in fact stopped at St. Kitts (which had been scratched from the itinerary, along with our hopes of visiting The Beach House) after all, no doubt to shelter from the punishing waves. The real irony of this came on the last day at Nevis, when we were docked within sight--almost within swimming distance, in fact--of The Beach House on neighboring St. Kitts.
Two nights later, the captain came on the public address to announce that we would be running into heavy seas again. "If you are sensitive," he said, "you will be feeling it." Thanks for the warning, captain; but why did you wait until we were actually pulling up anchor to tell the passengers, instead of giving them some advance notice so they could take medicine to combat the symptoms (it takes an hour or two for Dramamine to take effect). Hint: get your physician to prescribe a Scopolamine patch, several passengers had them and swore by them. Speaking of physicians, the ship's doctor was worse than useless--on boarding, my companion informed him that she had a sinus infection and had lost her Amoxicillin; he promised to provide some tablets, and then was never seen nor heard from again for the remainder of the trip. The medical office is open a total of two hours a day, one before lunch and one after. What exactly does the doctor get paid for?
We were very interested in the "massage on the beach" offered on the final day as part of the beach splash party. But nowhere could we find where they were set up, and we left somewhat saddened-and tenser--without a massage. Back on board, we were told that they had decided to move it from the beach to the back of the hotel located there. But once again, they did not bother to communicate this to the passengers.
Finally, because of the way in which the itinerary was rearranged, we spent two full days traveling back and forth between the northern and central Antilles instead of hitting them in order. The consequence of this was while we gained a stop at Anguilla, we actually lost three ports. None of this was explained. So in short, communications to the passengers from the bridge, and from Seadream management, were terrible. Just a few words would have made the voyage so much more enjoyable.
This, then, is the major beef we had: poor and thoughtless communications from ship management largely negating the otherwise excellent service from the line staff. For most cruises most of this would never have come up, but the true measure of any service organization is not how it handles things when they go right but how they communicate when things go wrong; and Seadream falls far short of the mark here. For a $2,000 cruise this lack of communications would be annoying; for $20,000 it is unforgivable.And with that...on to the rest of the review.
From this point on, I will provide some comparisons with Seven Seas, a roughly equivalent top-drawer luxury cruise line; specifically, the Navigator, with around 450 passengers compared to Seadream's 110. Seven Seas provides at least SOME free Internet, one hour if I recall correctly; l enough for you to get some emails and in particular to arrange, confirm, and if necessary rearrange travel. Seadream charges you for every second; not what I'd expect if I was a guest on someone's private yacht, and I certainly would not have expected to be nickled-and-dimed on a $20,000 to $60,000 cruise. That was just insulting.
Exercise room was well equipped and appointed, at least as large and as modern as the considerably larger Seven Seas Navigator. It is combined with the spa area, which my companion found excellent.
The best food on Seven Seas outshines the best food on the Seadream. Having said that, there's a very big caveat: the best on Seven Seas, or any other line I have been on, means their premier select restaurant; and you'll be lucky to eat there once during your cruise. Seadream does not have any exclusive eatery; instead, their "ordinary" is extraordinary. Chef Thomasz was brilliant and amazing, even making small batches of exquisite cultural specialties for the various nationalities (my companion and several other passengers were Polish, so some nights we had perogies or galumpki--not on the menu, simply upon request...and sometimes, without even requesting. The wait staff was flawless, but the food runners consistently made mistakes - bacon not Canadian bacon, mixing up who got what dish. Not a problem but surprising for such a high-end presentation. Special commendations to Sommelier Pablo, with whom I often disagreed with his choices of wine and was patient, flexible, and eager to please. I learned a lot about wine form him, and I daresay he learned a few things from me as well. He would catch me at lunch to go over his dinner choices, never said no, and in a few times convinced me that his choice was the better one--and he was usually (but not always) right. I don't want an expert to say yes to everything I say, I want to get the benefit of their knowledge--I am very grateful for the experience with Pablo.
I read several reviewers who claimed that everyone (and in one review, re-stressed: but EVERYBODY) knows your name. That's a bit of hyperbole. However, most of the customer-facing staff that you see every day does: concierge, maitre-d'hotel, stewardess (Rayn was fantastic, by the way), wait staff, bartenders, activities director all had it by the third day. Oddly, most of them never did learn my companion's name and would just defer to me. Anyway, this intimate knowledge of passengers, while perhaps not as uiversal as advertised, is unheard of on the other cruises I've taken, and even on Seven Seas most of the staff, even bar staff, had at best a rudimentary command of English.
Speaking of odd, the reason why they ask you what name you go by as part of registration isn't because that's the name they will call you; it's rather the name that will be printed on your complementary pajamas. A nice touch, to be sure, but only available in medium, large, and extra-large so if you are big like me or particularly petite, somewhat embarrassing.
We did not get to sleep outdoors on the Balinese beds--too windy, and the night we had one scheduled (the big one in the bow!) was the night I got seasick. But they sure looked comfy. The water toys platform is a great gimmick, I do wish they'd have them available more hours (since we were always ashore doing things) but it was a great differentiation from Seven Seas.
See the Deck Plans section for my comments on the cabin.
My final comparison to Seven Seas: on all other cruises I've been on, whether luxury boats or giant mass-market megaships, most excursions are free. As I'll explain further in my port descriptions, none of the excursions on Seadream--at least, not on my particular voyage--were included, and they were nothing you could not have made better arrangements on your own, or frankly in both of our cases, being on our own for free. In St. Barts, we boarded a snorkeling catamaran that took us right back out to the Seadream (we could have kayaked for three minutes and done the same excursion on our own); at Nevis, not only did our hiking tour cover the exact same ground as we had done on our own five years ago (i.e. there was no need to have a "guide" along at all), and not only did the guide's contribution consist of showing us pictures in a book, but the trail was washed out and we turned around well before reaching the top--a fact that was withheld from us until we reached the turnaround. In short, don't book Seadream for the excursions! Read Less