Known for its all-inclusive luxury, Seabourn Cruises has a reputation for providing top-notch service and differentiated itineraries. As a first-timer on board Seabourn, this legacy loomed large when I boarded Seabourn Encore in Athens for a seven-night cruise to Venice.
Could it be the formal, tuxedoed and stuffy experience I assumed for such a luxury brand? Or would it be more of a relaxed experience with a friendly vibe. Without revealing everything at once, it was the latter.
My image of Seabourn is the famous “caviar in the surf” experience that is often used in brand advertising. This is a formally dressed staff wading in the pool or ocean to serve champagne and caviar (or other beverages) to guests.
It may sound extravagant, but if there’s one word to describe the staff at Seabourn, it’s unpretentious. During my browsing, bartenders regularly waded into the pool fully dressed to deliver drinks to the applause of guests all around.
While the ship is just as elegant and refined as I imagined, the atmosphere on board has a more laid back air, with guests mingling and making friends. At the end of the navigation, many people were exchanging e-mails and nicknames on social networks; it is the sign of a good experience.
Seabourn’s penchant for service with a relaxed feel is about to get more exciting now that he’s launched his first expedition vessel, the Seabourn Venture. His next routes were the buzz of the ship; they include sailing around the two poles as well as adventure destinations like the South American and African coasts.
Ruins in Olympia, Greece, seat of the ancient Olympic Games. Photo credit: Ramsey Qubein
Top notch food
But the Seabourn Encore deserves its own praise. To start, the food was outstanding. Not one for formal evening dining, I often found myself eating sushi at one of the specialty restaurants where the staff prepared my favorite rolls and waited for them. La Colonnade, a breakfast and lunch buffet venue, was another highlight, especially since you could dine alfresco. The quality, range of choices, and made-to-order stations drew me to meals that fit my preferred schedule and routine. Regularly the staff would venture away from the restaurant to find my drink of choice (believe it or not it’s V8 juice).
The main dining room was impressive in its design, with pastel-hued chandeliers and tables set for every possible setup. Foodies will find the steakhouse menu from French Laundry and Michelin-star chef Thomas Keller a highlight.
And about that formal dinner outfit: there were a few formal nights out, but khakis and a blazer worked great in most restaurants, even when there were bow ties and evening dresses in sight .
Everything is all-inclusive, from the extensive drinks list with Champagne Montaudon pours a standard and plenty of wines, beers, and colorful cocktails. Also included are specialty restaurants and any gratuities associated with the cruise. Once on board, the only thing you pay extra for are spa services (well worth it for Dr. Andrew Weil’s wellness partnership) and destination excursions.
After food and service, what really sets Seabourn ships apart is their size. Most accommodate around 450 passengers on average, although the Seabourn Encore is the largest with space for 600 guests. No matter the Seabourn vessel, their compact size means they can navigate smaller ports.
As a travel writer, I’m lucky to have visited 166 countries. This itinerary introduced me to four new destinations: Brindisi, in Italy, and the Greek ports of Monemvasia, Katakolo (the gateway to Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games) and Nydri on the island of Lefkada. There were also two Croatian ports and a final day in Venice.
The ancient village of Monemvasia, Greece, seen from the Seabourn Encore. Photo credit: Ramsey Qubein
As all accommodations are suites, you can’t go wrong. Mine was spacious and modern with a walk-in closet, a huge marble bathroom with a separate tub and glass shower enclosure, a vanity stocked with Molton Brown toiletries and large bars of handmade Turkish soap. . The furnished balcony is something I enjoyed every day.
I quickly made friends with the attendants assigned to my room; they restocked my minibar with everything I wanted (yes, more V8s). In fact, when I called the free room service each morning, the staff had memorized my order after the third day. #SpoiledBySeabourn should become a trending hashtag, in my opinion.
Turndown service is standard, though I wasn’t a fan of the fact that the printed daily itinerary is completely digital (a move made by many cruise lines). I like to review the upcoming calendar without having to navigate through different screens. Even so, the free WiFi on board was super-fast and easy to use. Working remotely from a Seabourn ship is simply heavenly, and I did it daily.
Ruins of the Roman forum and 9th century Church of St. Donatus in Zadar, Croatia. Photo credit: Ramsey Qubein
Entertainment included musical revue-style shows and poolside bands. There were often two performances each evening, which seemed to be well attended.
During my navigation, the majority of passengers were American and British, but it was the age group that surprised me. At that price, I (wrongly) assumed the guest list would be older, but there were a handful of families with college-aged kids, young couples, and those in their 40s and 50s made up the majority. It was clear that the pandemic pause has encouraged people to splurge on the kind of high-end experiences that matter most to people, and that includes travel.
The Seabourn Encore offered something for all ages, interests, appetites and personalities.
Maybe I should be among the first to have this trending hashtag?
#Enjoying #relaxed #elegance #Seabourn #Encore #sail #Travel #Weekly