The Line in a Nutshell
Genteel and refined, these small megayachts are intimate, quiet, and very comfortable, lavishing guests with personal attention and very fine cuisine. Sails to: Caribbean, Central America, New England/Canada, Panama Canal (plus Africa, Asia, Mediterranean, Middle East).
Strictly upper-crust Seabourn caters to guests who are well mannered and prefer their fellow vacationers to be the same. Generally, they aren't into pool games and deck parties, preferring a good book and cocktail chatter, or a taste of the line's special complimentary goodies, such as free mini-massages on deck and soothing eucalyptus-oil baths drawn in suites upon request.
Due to the ships' small sizes, guests mingle easily and enjoy mellow pursuits such as trivia games and presentations by guest lecturers. An extremely high passenger/crew ratio and a high standard of training ensure that service is both personal and top-notch. Staff members greet you by name from the moment you check in, and your wish is their command.
Seabourn's guests are well-traveled, mature adults mostly in their 50s, 60s, and 70s and used to the five-star treatment. Many are current or former executives, lawyers, investment bankers, and so on, and have a lot of zeros on their bank balance. The majority of passengers are couples, but there's usually a handful of singles as well, usually widows or widowers. Though most passengers are American and British, guests from Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and elsewhere sometimes spice up the mix. Families with children are a rarity, and only occasionally appear during the holidays and summers. These ships do not cater to kids at all, and Seabourn passengers prefer it that way.
Seabourn was established in 1987 when luxury-cruise patriarch Warren Titus and Norwegian shipping mogul Atle Brynestad commissioned a trio of ultra-upscale 10,000-ton vessels from a north German shipyard. They sold the line to industry giant Carnival Corporation in 1991 and eventually transferred the ships' registries from Oslo to The Bahamas, but the ships' captains are still Norwegian, their decor is very Scandinavian, and you may still find your suite minibar stocked with bottles of Norwegian Ringnes Pilsener.
Today, the Yachts of Seabourn (as the line officially calls itself) operates its original three vessels plus two larger newcomers, and focuses on doting, personalized service, fine food and wine, and the ability to venture into exotic harbors where megaships can't go.
Seabourn's cuisine remains one of the line's strong points.
Traditional -- Aboard both the older and newer ships, the main restaurant serves dinner in a single open seating for all guests, who can sit where and with whom they want, and wander in anytime between about 7 and 10pm. Dinner service is high style, with waiters dramatically lifting silver lids off dishes in unison and almost running at a trot through the elaborate, multicourse meals. Service is attentive and unobtrusive, and the waitstaff is programmed to please. Celebrity restaurateur Charlie Palmer, of New York's Aureole and Astra fame, is behind the ships' menus, and the ships' chefs are trained at Palmer's shore-side restaurants.
Appetizers may include such dishes as citrus-marinated fluke, iced Russian Malossol caviar, sautéed escallope of foie gras, and eggplant relish and hummus. Five entrees change nightly and may include such dishes as pink-roasted rack of veal, rosemary-grilled double-cut lamb chops, roast prime rib, pan-fried sea bass, whole pan-fried Dover sole, scallops wrapped in smoked bacon, and, of course, lobster. Vegetarian entrees might include toasted angel-hair pasta with black trumpet mushrooms and a stew of braised artichokes, with white beans, thyme roasted tomatoes, and diced saffron potatoes. A number of classics are always on the menu (think baked filet of salmon, grilled New York sirloin, filet mignon, and Caesar salad), as are a number of lighter-choice options. If nothing on the menu appeals to you, just ask for something you'd prefer and the galley will do its best to whip it up. Decadent desserts include the likes of three-chocolate crème brûlée and hot Grand Marnier soufflé, plus ice creams, sorbets, frozen yogurt, and a selection of international cheeses.
Formal nights (one per weeklong cruise) are very formal, with virtually every gentleman aboard wearing a tuxedo and ladies dressed in sequins and gowns. On other nights, things have relaxed somewhat as Seabourn focuses on attracting a younger crowd (younger as in 40- and 50-somethings), so ties are not required. Regardless, passengers always look very pulled together.
Complimentary wines (about 18 vintages on any given cruise, including champagne) are served not only at lunch and dinner, but basically any time and place you want them. Ditto for spirits and soft drinks. An extensive list of extra-cost vintages is also available, including a collection called Vintage Seabourn. For $225, guests can choose three bottles from a list of six premium whites and six premium reds, or you can choose six bottles from a larger menu for $450.
Formal restaurants also serve traditional breakfast and lunch daily.
Specialty -- All Seabourn ships have a specialty option called Restaurant 2, which features multicourse tasting menus for up to 72 guests per night (reservations suggested). A pair of chefs prepares an array of small plates typically served two to a course during the five- to six-course meals. Expect such dishes as artichoke salad, cured and roasted duck breast, crispy sea bass, and barbecue-glazed short ribs. Your meal might end with something like a "sweet coffee sandwich" with sea-salt caramel ice cream and hazelnut foam. The ambience is more casual here than at the Restaurant, with a "jackets but no ties" rule for men on formal nights. Aboard Legend, Spirit, and Pride, the Restaurant 2 experience is presented at the indoor/outdoor Veranda Café. Aboard Odyssey and Sojourn, it's a dedicated space done up in high style.
On Legend, Pride, and Spirit, the outdoor Sky Bar on Deck 8 is transformed into the Sky Grill dining alternative a couple of nights per cruise, weather permitting. It serves freshly grilled seafood and sizzling steak dinners for about 40 guests, by reservation only.
All specialty dining aboard Seabourn is included in the cruise fare.
Casual -- The indoor/outdoor casual restaurants on all five Seabourn ships offer a combination buffet and table-service menu at breakfast and lunch. At breakfast, omelets are made to your specifications, and there's also an impressive fresh fruit selection along with the usual breakfast spread. At lunch, you'll find salads, sandwich makings, fresh pasta, and maybe jumbo shrimp, smoked salmon, and smoked oysters, plus hot sliced roast beef, duck, and ham on the carving board. On Odyssey and Sojourn, a casual restaurant, the Colonnade, has an open kitchen and themed evening meals in addition to breakfast and lunch.
One night on each warm-weather itinerary has a festive buffet dinner served by the pool.
Snacks & Extras -- Daily afternoon tea service includes a slew of exotic teas, freshly loose brewed to order. Room service is available 24 hours a day on all ships. During normal lunch or dinner hours, your private multicourse meal can mirror the dining room service, right down to the silver, crystal, and porcelain. Don't expect the same level of service you get in the restaurants, but do expect a very cushy, lazy way of "ordering in" one night, with meals served course by course. Outside of mealtimes, the room-service menu is more limited, though you can order treats such as gourmet pizza (topped with garlic rock shrimp, cherry tomatoes, and a basil-and-goat-cheese crumble) and crudités served with tzatziki dip, along with the more humdrum burgers, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and so on. In-cabin breakfasts are popular, and you can have your eggs prepared any way you like them.
In the Caribbean, Seabourn's ships have a once-per-cruise Champagne and Caviar in the Surf beach barbecue at places like Prickly Pear Island (British Virgin Islands), Mayreau (Grenadines), and Hunting Caye (in Belize's barrier islands). In the morning, crewmembers go ashore and set up a grill, shaded beach chairs, a full bar, and tables with fine china and silver service. Guests step from the landing boats onto a red carpet laid across the sand and find galley staff preparing steaks, jumbo shrimp, grilled local seafood, and other meats, plus a huge selection of antipasti, salads, soup, breads, and desserts. Pastas are prepared to order at a flambé trolley. If you want to swim, you won't miss much: At some point, a uniformed waiter will wade out waist-deep to serve you iced champagne and caviar from a custom life-ring or surfboard.
Seabourn's staff is one of its most valuable assets, with service that's friendly, courteous, discreet, and highly competent. Most of the staff is European, and most have gained experience at fine European hotels. The cabin staff is all female. All gratuities are included in the rates.
Each ship has a small business center with computers for e-mail and Internet access. Wi-Fi connections are also available everywhere aboard for people who bring their own laptops.
Laundry and dry cleaning are available, and there are also complimentary self-service laundry rooms.
The small size of Seabourn's ships contributes to a generally sociable atmosphere, but otherwise the line keeps things quiet, completely eschewing the kind of in-your-face, "rah-rah" activities you find on many mainstream ships. Public announcements are few, and, for the most part, passengers are left alone to enjoy conversation and pursue their personal peace. Such organized activities as there are may include trivia contests, galley tours, computer classes, wine tastings, bridge tournaments, exercise classes, and makeover demonstrations. Many cruises feature noted guest lecturers, who might be well-known chefs, scientists, historians, authors, diplomats, wine connoisseurs, and TV directors. Recent-release movies are available for viewing in cabins, and movies are sometimes shown out on deck as well, with popcorn.
All Seabourn ships have retractable watersports marinas that unfold from their stern, allowing passengers direct access to the sea for water-skiing, windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling, banana-boat riding, kayaking, and swimming. It's used, weather and sea conditions permitting, on special "marina days" when at anchor, and during beach parties ashore on select cruises.
Due to the ships' small size, there are no elaborate, splashy production shows such as you sometimes find on the larger luxe ships of Regent and Crystal. Instead, a variety of smaller entertainment is offered each night, with dancing and cabaret in the main lounge (the former accompanied by a band, the latter often featuring comedians, puppeteers, and so on), dancing to a duo before and after dinner in the Club, and a late-night DJ for dancing. There's quiet guitar or piano music in the observation lounge, and gambling at each ship's small casino.
Seabourn is an adult line, and has no special programs, menus, or playrooms for kids. If you do bring a kid aboard (minimum age 1 year, please), you may be able to arrange for an available crewmember to provide babysitting service.