November 18, 2021 | By Dean Kato
The world continues to open for travelers, and although there are still challenges and procedures that must be followed, many are finding that this is a good time to explore. Cruise lines are still limiting capacity, and this provides for an even higher level of attentive service than we have been accustomed to. Ship’s crews are excited to be back on the water as are passengers.
I’ve had the privilege of going on two cruises this fall, and both sailed well under full capacity, but with a full complement of crew. In the case of my cruise last week on the Seabourn Odyssey, this meant an almost 1.5:1 ratio of crew to passengers and raised the bar beyond what is already known to be an exemplary level of service.
Covid procedures are changing almost daily. Barbados made changes to our arrival and embarkation process just two days before arriving, making it a little easier to get to the ship. Seabourn provided us with an almost private greet staff getting off the plane, and while other passengers got in long arrivals lines we were shepherded quickly through the airport and to our transfer in a “skip the line” fashion, even after the late arrival of our flight.
A “while you wait” test was done at the ship and check-in and boarding were otherwise a breeze. Seabourn’s small ships provide an embarkation experience that can’t be matched by ships that sail with thousands of passengers. Guest Services advised us that, since restarting this year, Seabourn has not had any reported Covid cases on any of their sailings.
Odyssey has a total of 229 suites, and this creates an intimate environment where the crew is providing very personalized service. Drink orders are remembered, wait staff knows your preferences, and the minibar is stocked with your desired drinks. All suites are very large, with double vanities and separate shower/tub, walk-in closets, and most with a large veranda. There are several choices on board for those who prefer even more luxurious penthouse and owner’s suites.
I took full advantage of the well-stocked and maintained fitness room with weights and cardio machines. However, I did not take advantage of the spa, although they have a full menu of services.
There are many options for entertainment on the ship. There is a small casino. There’s live music by a great trio at several lounge locations. There’s a nightly stage show which changes venue based on the night and weather – several presentations were on deck around the pool.
There are four great options for meals, plus 24 hours day room service. You can even have dinner served in your suite in multiple courses, just as it’s served in The Restaurant. Grilled meals are available around the pool at the Patio during the day (one of the best custom burgers I’ve had), which converts to the Earth and Ocean serving fresh, eclectic dishes at night. The Restaurant is their classic main dining room, serving meals that other cruises would reserve for specialty restaurants. The Colonnade is open throughout the day with inside and outdoor seating and a buffet that is unmatched. The Grill by Thomas Keller is Seabourn’s classic specialty restaurant, with over-the-top service and tableside preparation. All are inclusive.
Our itinerary included Barbados, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Sint Maarten, and Saint Kitts. One limitation that we had, which should be changing in the coming weeks, was that only cruise line-sponsored shore excursions were allowed to maintain a “bubble” of crew and passengers. All operations both aboard Odyssey and onshore were conducted with passenger safety in mind. Shore excursions are well-curated and kept to smaller groups. Seabourn is known for its “Caviar in the Surf” event. On our cruise, this happened at Carambola beach on St. Kitts. Two tenders full of food and equipment are sent to this beach resort to pamper passengers with an afternoon of barbecue, with ship’s officers in full uniform serving champagne and caviar to passengers on the beach. The afternoon is rounded out by an open bar, live music, and water toys, all of which are inclusive.
I experienced several examples of service that I would consider “above and beyond” in any circumstance. Our airport arrival was one. Lucia in guest services made several trips to our suite to make sure that she correctly made modifications to allow us to use our TV as a computer monitor. Being from Seattle, it was impressive that Bojan in the coffee bar always knew when we’d be showing up and had our espresso drinks memorized.
Overall, we had a great experience on the Seabourn Odyssey. The crew and level of service really make for a memorable experience.
I’m already looking forward to my next Seabourn cruise!