Seabourn has been a leading luxury cruise line for decades but what most impresses is that it just keeps getting better. When, a few years ago, the all-inclusive line started calling itself “ultraluxury,” it was not just marketing babble but actually a well-deserved description. It does not get much better than this brand on the high seas.
A lot of the improvements are thanks to smart partnerships. The line tapped noted hospitality designer Adam Tihany to work on its fleet of three 458-passenger and two 600-passenger ships, which shows. A new ultraluxury polar-class expedition ship, the 264-passenger Seabourn Venture, is on its way in 2021, and will also bear the Tihany design stamp.
The latest two ships, the 600-passenger sisters Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, are pure Tihany with their sleek yacht design and sophisticated styling. Tihany calls them “sexy” ships, and if he means sexy in terms of a feeling of exclusivity and every detail carefully conceived and carried out, he’s spot-on. When you come on a Seabourn ship you are enveloped in sophisticated luxury but it’s a new luxury. Nothing is stuffy, everything is superb.
Another winner is the partnership with Thomas Keller. Keller is arguably America’s top chef with restaurants that include The French Laundry and Per Se. Seabourn convinced him to venture to sea. On the ships, he has an eponymous, retro steakhouse where the menu includes such indulgences as lobster thermidor, impressive rib-eye and astounding roast chicken. Keller creates memorable dishes using fine ingredients in the ships’ main restaurants as well.
Thomas Keller also gets playful in The Colonnade, the ships’ casual eatery. One night each cruise there’s a Keller barbeque dinner during which you can indulge in his ribs and saucy beans while listening to a carefully planned soundtrack of classic hits such as “Louie Louie” and “Me and Julio Down by Schoolyard.” It’s a sophisticated approach to, well, BBQ.
A similarly friendly approach applies to the ship’s entertainment. In addition to intimate cabaret productions is a show featuring legendary lyricist Sir Tim Rice, or at least his hologram. He appears in “An Evening with Tim Rice,” telling stories about working with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Elton John while the ship’s singers perform hits from Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Lion King and others among his hit musicals.
In the spas on Seabourn ships you can get a well-delivered massage and work out with a personal trainer in the gym. A partnership with wellness guru Dr. Andrew Weil brings onboard such New Age options as a Crystal Sound Bath, where you snuggle beneath a blanket on a yoga mat, close your eyes and take in the hums produced by a therapist rubbing soft mallets on amethyst crystal bowls. The idea is getting your chakra balanced, though snoozing is okay too.
If you are hankering for a craft cocktail from the open bar, enticing selections are created by noted mixologist Brian van Flandern. Depending on your cruise, you’ll also find familiar names – authors, historians, diplomats – among the roster of Seabourn Conversations guest speakers offering lectures throughout your sailing. Seabourn has a sponsoring partnership with UNESCO, and some of the lecturers come via that affiliation.
The line has always delivered excellent service, the kind that the crew can intuit to your needs. They’ll remember your name and are not shy about making suggestions. A bartender, for instance, might pull down a special bottle of bourbon for you to try as an option to your typical order. Room service may remember you like the complimentary (order any time) Regiis Ova caviar served with potato chips.
A few years ago Seabourn transformed its Seabourn Quest into an ice-class vessel, for sailings in Antarctica, Alaska and beyond. The line hired experienced expedition guides to lead excursions, creating a program called Ventures by Seabourn. The program has grown to include more adventurous shore excursion options – exploring via kayaks and inflatable Zodiacs, for instance – on other itineraries as well. Seabourn Venture will further the adventure side, with optional experiences that include exploring under the sea in the ship’s submarine.
All guests stay in contemporary suites, most with verandas (on Encore and Ovation all suites have verandas). Bathrooms are sparkling marble, closets walk-in, and your private bar stocked with your choice of premium beverages. The line has its own botanical products created by Molton Brown. Extravagant suite categories include Wintergarden suites with glass-enclosed, ocean-view tubs and daybeds and big Signature Suites with expansive outdoor space.
The ships do itineraries all around the world, and attract curious, well-heeled travelers. A new option is that the cruise line can book private air to get you to the ship. While some guests dress up for formal nights, the ships are casual by day and most nights men might put on a jacket, sans tie. It’s a well-traveled, cultured, and often fun-loving group, folks who at night might dance around the resort-like pool deck to classic rock tunes and who view daily trivia contests as a competitive sport.
Check out our Seabourn Review