Service has been a hallmark of the Seabourn Pride (and sister ships Seabourn Legend and Seabourn Spirit) and we're happy to report that, on our sailing, it was superb. You'll feel like Norm on "Cheers" -- everyone knows your name (though of course the crew will address you properly, not by your first name but by Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms.). Everyone has a friendly smile and is ready to offer a helpful hand, or arm (women are escorted to their seats in the dining room on the arms of particularly handsome waiters).
Request a double espresso one night, and you'll get one every night, even if you change tables. Request a certain brand of vodka, and the bartender is likely to remember your preference. In fact, guests get such a high level of European-style service on this 208-passenger ultra-luxury ship that the somewhat rare complaint might strike you as surreal: Huffed one passenger sitting in the Veranda Cafe on our cruise, "the coffee pot is constantly there after you take a sip or two!"
As well, the crew exhibits a delightful sense of humor and a real sense of pride. Our traveler took a pre-dinner bath without requesting one of the line's complimentary specialty aromatherapy bath products. When she returned to her cabin after dinner a bottle of fancy bubble bath was propped on her pillow as a reminder.
And when the crew does make a mistake -- dessert service ran into showtime for one table on our cruise -- the hotel director is likely to go out of his way to make it up to the passengers (in this case serving dessert to the passengers in the show lounge and then sending a bottle of good champagne and an elaborate letter of apology to the passengers' cabins).
Beyond service, the ambiance is classically elegant on Seabourn Pride -- much more "old money" than "Hollywood flash." All cabins are comfortable and sedate suites. Public rooms are comfortably elegant but not terribly memorable. Onboard activities are very limited, so passengers entertain themselves with quiet pursuits. Conversation is very easily a highlight; since these passengers tend to be a well-traveled bunch, topics come easily.
Other highlights of the Seabourn experience? The champagne flows freely and caviar is on the house (though portions have gotten smaller, so if you're big on caviar, ask for double). It's one of cruising's most all-inclusive experiences, with freebies like a welcome bottle of champagne, an in-suite bar set up (with full bottles of your pre-selected booze), and nearly all drinks (you pay extra only for premium brands). You also get decent wines with lunch and dinner, and tips for the crew are included in your cruise fare. Free mini massages are offered poolside on sunny days and there's no extra fee for a Pilates class or wine-tasting seminar.
If there's a downside to the Seabourn experience (all three ships in the fleet are virtually identical) -- and a possible hindrance to competing with other five-star lines that have more recently built ships -- it would be the onboard decor. Public rooms, such as The Club, the ship's main gathering spot, are simply bland. Staterooms are comfortable but lack more -- and increasingly important -- contemporary amenities, such as bathrooms with separate tub and shower.
However, the ambiance is so comfortable -- and the service so spectacular -- that you really won't notice decor all that much.
Dinner is a nightly event, served with much pomp and circumstance in The Restaurant, the ship's main venue. The decor is simple, but you hardly notice when you get wrapped up in conversations and enjoy the sometimes-extraordinary cuisine. The style is open seating -- you can dine with whomever you choose or ask the maitre d' to choose your companions for the evening (a big bonus for single travelers; you'll always have someone to dine with). Each night, several tables are hosted by senior officers or other top crew members (if you sit with the Norwegian captain be prepared to do shots of aquavit and to shout "Skoal!"). Complimentary wine is poured freely (if you're not a big drinker, watch out as the waiters tend to fill your glass when you're not looking).
Multi-course menus feature both old favorites and the types of creative items you might see whipped up on "Iron Chef." You might start with a mousseline of chicken liver with sauterne jelly, grilled pear salad and toasted brioche; follow that with duck confit and frisee salad with sherry shallot dressing; enjoy an entree of cumin-and-coriander-crusted grouper with sweet carrot juice and Chinese parsley; then top that off with some lavish dessert (ice cream is homemade), and post-dessert Petit Fours. More care seemed to go into appetizers and desserts than entrees on sailing -- but if something is not to your liking feel free to send it back. The menu always includes a chef's selection, a lighter fare offering, and a vegetarian option. For those who prefer simpler fare, a "Classic Menu," available nightly, offers steaks, chops and an excellent Caesar salad.
Passengers tend to dress up a little for dinner (and lavishly on formal nights); Seabourn, aware that some people don't want to do that, now offers alternative dining nightly in the reservations-required Veranda Cafe. The meals here are either themed (such as French, Mediterranean, and Surf-and-Turf) or small-plates tasting menus and are less fussy than what's served in the dining room (although still very satisfying). For the ultimate in romance (or seclusion, depending on how you look at it), passengers can order in-cabin dinner from The Restaurant menu. A waiter will bring what you order, course by course.
Breakfast and lunch are available from room service, in The Restaurant and at the Veranda Cafe. Compared to dinner they are pretty standard affairs. While the Cafe used to operate like a buffet, Seabourn is moving away from that. There is a small fixed menu and a buffet-like display of items (such as a variety of meats and salads at lunch). The way it works now, you order off the menu or go to the display and point, and the waiters serve you. A true high point at lunch is the burgers, really the best at sea. We asked what kind of beef they use and were told ground filet. No wonder they're so yummy! And the fries are pretty good too.
For those who aren't napping, a scrumptious afternoon tea is served each day in the Constellation Lounge.
The Pride is a comfortable vessel, small enough that you get to know every nook and cranny. But don't go looking for anything exciting. The Club is the one place where people really hang out at night (the small casino is in a walled-off area adjacent).
The Constellation Lounge is your typical observation lounge with floor-to-ceiling, forward-facing windows. The space is underused (it is open for Early Risers breakfast, afternoon tea and the occasional activity, but is usually closed at night), but is a nice space when you want to go and stare at the sea. The Show Lounge is big enough to hold all passengers at once and has tables for drinks. The ship also has a small computer room with e-mail access, card room, small boutique (more utilitarian than enticing) and a small library/video room with music CD's and books-on-disk. Public bathrooms have cloth towels, a nice touch.
All cabins are suites and offer ocean views, mostly through picture windows. French balconies on 36 suites have glass doors that open, so you can let in the fresh air (you can also step out about a foot and a half).
Standard suites are a generous 277 square ft. and have small walk-in closets, large marble bathrooms with double sinks and a tub/shower, hair dryers, lighted vanities, terry robes and slippers, personalized stationary, a bottle of champagne on arrival, a complimentary bar setup, fresh fruit (replenished daily), a small sofa, a coffee table, which can be raised for in-suite dining, and beds, which convert from twin to queen and are covered with light fluffy down duvets and pillows.
There are also six larger classic suites and owners' suites with small private verandahs (the owners' suites also come with dining rooms and powder rooms). And there are four suites that can be combined to make two doubles.
The decor is simple; some might say boring. Blues and tans dominate, and there are lots of mirrors and lots of lights (which can be annoying if you can't find the right switch). Little surprises make the experience special, though, in our case chocolates left at turndown along with roses, rose petals, towels shaped like animals (did Seabourn learn this from Carnival?) and other surprises.
Toiletries are the very exquisite, British-based Molton Brown, but if that's not good enough passengers can choose from a selection of additional designer soaps. You can also choose from a menu of aromatherapy bath salts and bubble baths, and have your room steward draw you a bath (it will make you feel like a millionaire).
All suites now have flat screen televisions and DVD players. On television, channels include a couple of in-house movie channels (the schedule is printed in your daily bulletin), a channel replaying shipboard lectures, CNN, and whatever can be picked up locally.
You can listen to CD's on your cabin's Bose Wave sound system (although don't trust the clocks on the Bose units, as due to fluctuation's in the ship's electrical current the time is almost always off; there are printed notes in the cabin warning of this).
Some people like to entertain in their cabins (you already have the bar set up, after all), and room service is happy to provide canapes and/or caviar.
Warning: Seabourn has a bit of a soundproofing problem. The cabin, closet and bathroom doors tend to slam and you may hear your neighbor open and close his or her drawers too. Annoying to some, we've heard reports of fistfights breaking out over slammed doors. That's why several times during your cruise you may receive a note reminding you to slowly and quietly open doors and drawers.
Tips are included in the cost of the cruise.
|Fitness and Recreation|
Like its sister ships, the Seabourn Pride is fitted with a water sports marina that can be lowered when the ship is at anchor and is equipped with windsurfers, sail boats, Zodiacs, water skis, a banana boat and snorkeling equipment. In the center of the marina is a steel mesh cage that forms a swimming pool.
The ship also has a small, oddly placed swimming pool on its top deck (it is in a shaded area in the center of the ship and there is no seating around it) as well as three whirlpools (including one hidden in the prow that couples can reserve for a romantic evening complete with champagne and caviar). Via the line's "Massage Moments" program, free mini-massages are sometimes available on the Sun Deck.
The Sun Deck is separate from the pool, but there are plenty of cushioned deck chairs there and they are popular on sunny days. Fitness facilities include workout, steam and treatment rooms, and a beauty salon. Because space is tight in the gym, exercise classes are held in The Club. Fitness classes not only include the now-typical Yoga, Pilates, and Stronger Abs but also the Chinese body movements known as Chi Kung (which literally means "energy work").
Seabourn Pride is more appropriate for adults than families. However, the increased number of one-week cruises and a spate of discounts have attracted a younger crowd including families (sometimes multi-generational). The cruise staff tries to accommodate kids by arranging a least a few activities when there are a number onboard, such as a treasure hunt or group showing of a kids' movie. Still, we wouldn't recommend the vessel for any but the best-behaved kids (and having the nanny along is probably a good idea).
Mostly American, wealthy, well-mannered and well traveled. The average age depends on the cruising region but usually ranges from late 40s to late 60s (shorter, sunnier cruises get younger passengers, longer, cold-weather cruises get older passengers). This is not a party-hearty crowd, and late night bar goers will really get to know each other because there aren't that many of us. Passengers tend to be loyal to Seabourn; half may be repeaters.
Seabourn passengers generally like to dress up. There are two formal nights on weeklong cruises and three on 14-day sailings. On these nights, many men wear tuxedos, but dark suits are acceptable. Women wear fancy cocktail dresses or ball gowns. Other nights are casually elegant (jacket for men, but tie optional; nice outfit for women), or casual (no jacket for men; sundress or slacks for women). For those who don't like formal nights, the Veranda Cafe offers a casually elegant alternative.
Seabourn has made efforts to improve entertainment and it shows. The stage in the show lounge is small, but just right for big voices, and you can expect resident singers (one doubling as the cruise director) performing solo cabaret acts and Broadway show tunes there. The line is investing in visiting performers too. A our sailing featured Dale Gonyea, a Grammy nominated comedian/songwriter, and magician Craig Diamond. Also onboard were a four-piece orchestra/dance band and a piano player/singer duo.
On select Mediterranean cruises the line is introducing opera, to be performed by the U.K.'s Reduced Opera Company. Other offerings included movie afternoons and nights, and game show events ("Name That Tune" and "Liar's Club" were big hits with the playfully competitive crowd).
During the day, most passengers are happy to entertain themselves with a good book or conversation, and on port days they want to be out exploring. But there are a few scheduled activities on sea days, including talks by guest lecturers (professors, statesmen, authors or stars of stage and screen). Cooking demonstrations, sometimes with visiting chefs, are quite popular, and there are also wine tastings, bridge play, team Trivial Pursuit contests and golf putting competitions.
Shore excursions offered by the ship tended toward the pricey but were way beyond average. On our voyage, a U.S. (eastern) coastal voyage, a low-country food expert took guests around Charleston, and an expert on shrimp offered a tour from Port Canaveral that was one of the most fascinating we've experienced.
Seabourn also offers a complimentary shore excursion program, with one free shore-side event on each sailing; you have to sign up and get tickets. These events are often a highlight of the cruise, and have included, for example, a visit to a private villa in Malta, a glass-roofed canal boat ride in Amsterdam or an outdoor folkloric dance performance in Nafplion, Greece.
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