As a guest of the cruise line, I do not make unnecessary special requests, and I am always considerate to the staff. I tipped my stewardess in private on shore, I gave our sommelier the bulk of the fine bottle of wine we got for our anniversary, I did not complain about the late room service, etc.
But there were some glitches that I felt needed attention because if they affected me, they would also affect regular passengers. This is especially important on a luxury ship where top-notch personalized service is a hallmark asset.
The first problem had to do with my wife’s diet. Her doctor put her on a restrictive vegetarian diet due to a serious medical condition. Pre-cruise in the online registration, I specified a dairy and gluten-free vegetarian diet for her.
My wife asked me a dozen times before we sailed, "they know about my diet, right?" I assured her they did, and that she would love the food. I had seen the written Seabourn promise to accommodate any diet. But when we got onboard, no one had any knowledge of her dietary request.
At our first dinner in the Colonnade she said to our waiter, "My name is Lou Ann Motter, and my husband specified a certain diet for me before the cruise." The waiter had no idea what to do with that information. She recommended that my wife look at the vegetarian entrée. But as we asked about specific ingredients, the waiter had to go ask the chef, and that night every dish of anything that looked promising was made with dairy (butter, cream or cheese), even when the menu said "vegetarian." On Seabourn, vegetarian means "without meat," and nothing else. Dairy-free, or vegan, is not something they do onboard, although they certainly promise it on the web site.
Still, my wife made do for five nights. Some nights her dinner was a baked potato with olive oil. Some nights she waited while the chef steamed vegetables. That was nice, but time consuming. She spent most of her dinners watching the rest of us eat. Some nights she "cheated," because it was easier, but not for lack of desire to do the right thing. The second night we had a discussion with the restaurant manager about her diet, and here is what she was served for her main course the third night...
I will be honest and say this is pretty much what she asked for, but that was after three days of talking to different chefs, maitre d’s and the restaurant manager about what she could eat. We suggested lentil, tomato and vegetable soup, a baked regular or sweet potato, any kind of cooked beans, with onions and chili peppers, steamed carrots, asparagus, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, etc. How about brown rice? What about avocado?
We never got a definite answer to any of those suggestions. Frustrated with the uncertainty, she said, "Well, can you just serve me a salad with nothing but raw vegetables?" and they did, as you see above. I think that picture would be an embarrassment for any cruise line, but Seabourn? Of course, this is my wife, and husbands understand being protective.
Finally, for our pre-arranged anniversary meal in Restaurant 2, she got her first palatable presentation at the same time I did – an entire plate of lovely cooked vegetables. See how happy she is?
They also made us a beautiful, gluten-free cake with tons of fresh fruit on top. The next day she left.
I won't go into what she ate night after night. But I believe that when a person wants a certain diet for any reason – doctor-ordered, religious or moral (I won't eat anything with a face) – it should be respected by the people you trust to make your food. The chef proved to me he is an ingredient genius, like a chemist, so I don’t understand why they didn’t do it.
To be clear, we were invited to the same area in the dining room each night. And each night our plates had name tags. So it is not as if they didn’t know who or where she was.
Missing the chef’s dinner was the other pivotal event where I still feel let down. The oversight in not telling everyone onboard about the chef’s dinner makes no sense to me. I had traveled 3,000 miles, and the primary reason I wanted to come to Maine was to eat fresh, same-day Maine lobster. They served it on the ship one night, and I missed it – it was the night we had our anniversary dinner in Restaurant 2. No one warned us what we were missing; we heard about it as we were checking into Restaurant 2. The hostess said, “you’re lucky no one is here; they’re all downstairs eating the lobster.” Nice, thank you.
I never got a meaningful apology. I made my disappointment known at guest services in a nice way – possibly too nice considering they did not offer to make me a later lobster dinner, nor did they say “we’re sorry, but we can’t make you a lobster dinner.” They said nothing; like my wife’s dietary request, it was basically just brushed off.
In both cases I never mentioned that I was there to review the ship – until the last days, when I spoke to the restaurant manager on another matter. I don’t know whether or not they knew. I can live with this personally, but my job requires judging the service given to passengers like myself.
Summing Up My Seabourn Cruise
By the way – for anyone wondering, there is extensive information about staterooms, dining hours, dress codes, included services and other matters under the Seabourn cruise line and ship reviews. Janice Wald Henderson gave us a thorough review of the Seabourn cuisine earlier (and for the record, she liked it quite a bit).
My role here is to summarize the rest of the trip. I wrote a great deal in part one about the appeal of Seabourn to a certain group of people. I also compared it to other luxury cruise lines like Crystal and Regent. I want to thank Seabourn for their hospitality, and I hope this and other articles we have on Seabourn convey the right message to the people who want to know about the line.
I feel that Seabourn is a cruise line where you make your own experience, and that is the way Seabourn cruisers like it. The service is non-intrusive yet attentive. The cuisine is distinctly gourmet but not pretentious.
Most of all, if you discovered Seabourn through its smaller ships and you are wondering if the new, bigger ships are for you, I believe the bigger ships offer very much the same style of cruising as the smaller ones. The experience felt like a small ship to me. Keep in mind it is actually a bigger ship so you may have to try a bit harder to get personalized service, but if you try, you should be successful – at least that appears to be the honest intention of Seabourn, minus a few glitches, as I experienced it.
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