It does not take long to realize you are in for something very special when you board the Seabourn Legend. We just completed our fourth voyage on the Legend and I have no question there will be more. You walk up the gangway and enter the Reception area, where you are promptly handed a chilled flute of champagne. An attentive crew member has already insisted on carrying all your bags as he escorts you into the King Olaf Lounge for registration. You have two free hands and tell the young man that you're perfectly capable of helping carry your own things. But he will not hear of it, so we proceed to the Lounge, your hands swinging free, the young crew member laden down like a camel. At registration, as in everything on Seabourn, there is no wait. Within minutes of entering the lounge, you are registered and your picture IDs and room card keys handed over to you. The young man carrying your bags suggests you have a bite to eat before he brings you to your suite, so you hit the table with finger sandwiches, cookies, pastries andall kinds of beverages. Champagne, soft drinks, and iced tea are there on the table, while a strolling waiter serves rum punches from a tray. When you are ready, and there is never any hurry, the young man brings you to your suite.
A short stroll down an ornate circular staircase brings you to your suite, an elegantly appointed oasis that you figure you will have no problems calling home. All Legend suites are ocean view, some with "balconies." While the balcony suites allow you to open the windows and enjoy the sea breezes, the balconies are really more like French windows. There are no chairs, nor room to put one. Our suite has a large picture window, refrigerator, flat screen TV, CD and DVD players, walk in closet, and a marble appointed bathroom. The suites have all the bells and whistles one could reasonably hope for. The refrigerator is stocked with the beer, soft drinks, bottled water and mixers you had requested on your pre-cruise order form. Each suite is entitled to two liters of the alcohol of your choice and they will be dropped off in your suite the first evening. Of course, there is no charge for any of this, as it is all included in your fare. Above the refrigerator is a glass cabinet with beautiful crystal glasses; champagne flutes, wine glasses, rocks glasses, etc. It is almost a shame to pour a Diet Coke into this beautiful crystal, but I got over it. Soon, there is a gentle tapping at the door, then shortly after, another. The first is the arrival of your check-in luggage, faster than I've ever had it happen anywhere. The second knock is your Cabin Stewardess who has come to introduce herself. She has brought fresh canapés to go with the iced champagne sitting in a bucket in your sitting room, along with a bowl of fresh fruit. She also has brought a tray of toiletries for you to select your soaps and shampoos. The soaps are L'Occitane, the other toiletries Moulton & Brown of London; very nice stuff. Get a good look at your cabin girl, because chances are you will not see her in your cabin again. These girls are masters at seeing to every possible need you could possibly have and keeping the suite turned down, made up and spotless without ever actually being spotted in the suite. To say they are not intrusive is an understatement. They are like ghosts; very competent ghosts. We take a few minutes to unpack and hang up our clothing and it is off to the top deck Sky Bar to meet our fellow passengers as we prepare to sail out of St. Thomas harbor.
The typical Seabourn passenger is successful, affluent, well-educated and well-travelled. Most of the people you speak with are returning guests like ourselves, and usually we know at least a few of the guests from previous cruises. Seabourn passengers are very loyal to the brand, so if you travel with Seabourn often enough, there are familiar faces and sometimes, old friends from prior voyages. But this time, so far, we have not seen anyone we know. But just as we are preparing to sail, a couple from Ohio comes out on deck who we had gotten to know and like very much on another cruise line several years ago. We see each other, our jaws drop and a friendship rekindled. That's how it works on the smaller ships. It is a pretty small fraternity. As we pull out to sea, my Wife Susie and I run down to the well-stocked library to pick out some books to read and head back to our suite for a short nap before showering for Dinner.
Conde Nast Traveler's latest Reader's Poll named Seabourn Legend's cuisine the best at sea. All the Seabourn vessels were rated at or near the top, but the Legend the very best. Seabourn's menu and recipes are created by famed Chef Charlie Palmer, and dining is a big reason we are aboard the Legend for the fourth time. The food and service are sensational, and the servings modest enough that it is possible to try every course and leave the Dining Room content but not bloated. While the Dining Room is consistently wonderful, try the reservations-required specialty Restaurant "2" at least once on your trip. The theme changes every night. The night we were able to get a reservation, it was a French Bistro theme, and the meal was possibly the finest I have had at sea in 89 cruises. A tip: put yourself on the waiting list for"2" every night. The place is very small and difficult to get in. Most of the passengers seem to like the Veranda Restaurant for breakfast and lunch. You can eat inside or outside and enjoy the sea air. My Wife and I like to go to the Dining Room for both meals. At breakfast it is virtually empty, which suits me fine as I like to have my coffee and look at the paper in peace. I was a morning person most of my life, but since retiring, I like to ease into the day. The solitude of the Dining Room in the mornings accommodates this. For lunch, it is nice to get out of the sun for a few minutes and have a real meal. I do not like to eat hamburgers and other things I have at home when cruising, particularly on the Legend. There is a culinary treat waiting around every corner; try things you don't get at home. One story occurs to me that exemplifies the Seabourn approach. One evening, the Chef came out of the Kitchen to go from table to table asking if everything was satisfactory. My Wife Sue mentioned that the chocolate chip cookies that had been put out that day at afternoon tea were the best she had ever had. The Chef did not ask our names or suite number, but every evening for the rest of the voyage, when we returned to our suite in the evening, there was a plate of chocolate chip cookies and two tall glasses of milk. That is how Seabourn does things.
This voyage is a Caribbean sailing out of St. Thomas, calling on St. John, St. Barth's, St. Maarten, Antigua, Jost Van Dyke, St. Kitts and Prickly Pear Island, which is off Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, before returning to St. Thomas. We are beach and sun people, and Caribbean cruises have become our most frequent voyages due to the laid-back nature of the itinerary. We have done more Caribbean cruises than I can count in our 89 cruises, and thus have seen just about every island most ships call upon. This removes all the urgency about rushing off the ship in every port, since we've seen all the islands many times. On European cruises, the pace was very different, as there were so many things we wanted to see ashore. But we have cruised extensively, and been all over the world, and the Caribbean seems to fit our current mindset. On this cruise, we did not even get off the ship in St. Maarten and St. John. We find lying on deck and taking dips in the pool while most of the other passengers are ashore to be very relaxing. And the Seabourn staff onboard takes very good care of you. As I stretch out on my chaise lounge, one waiter comes by with a refill of my favorite sunning libation, an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade). Another comes by to spritz your baking body with a mist of cold spring water while offering a choice of sunscreens. The Spa sends out a girl for complimentary Massage Moments on deck. The Water Sports Marina at the stern is opened up for sailing, kayaking and a swim in the ocean. I awaken from a nap to find another waiter handing me a goblet of fabulous raspberry sorbet topped with a dash of champagne. It is a rugged existence, but sometimes you have to take one for the team.
The Beach Barbecue
On all Seabourn cruises, there is a unique event scheduled which varies according to where in the World you happen to be. On Mediterranean cruises, for instance, there is a private classical music concert among the ancient Roman ruins at Ephesus. On Caribbean sailings like ours, there is the Beach Barbecue featuring Caviar in the Surf held on Prickly Pear Island. The Maitre'D and the restaurant staff, wearing their dress whites, go waist deep in the surf to serve caviar with all the trimmings and champagne from what appears to be a surfboard, or the body of a Sunfish.
The barbecue is not your usual beach fare, either. Served off porcelain Dinner plates with linen napkins and real silverware, you are treated to steaks, barbecued ribs, lobster tails, a whole sucking pig and a potpourri of salads, fruits and desserts. Strolling waiters serve trays of beers, cocktails of all descriptions and soft drinks. There is a banana boat and water skiing, as well as an outdoor massage salon and live music. It is quite a party and Prickly Pear has a lovely white sand beach for swimming.
The Yachts of Seabourn is the Carnival Corporation's entry in the ultra-luxury cruise category. Before you think Carnival Cruise lines, understand it is the same parent company but a very different product. Carnival Corp. owns Seabourn, Princess, Holland America, Cunard, Carnival Cruises and Costa, as well as a host of lesser-known, fast-growing cruise lines all over the world. As such, Carnival Corporation transports almost half of the world's recreational cruise passengers. The Seabourn Legend and her two small sister ships, the Seabourn Pride and Seabourn Spirit sail all over the World, carrying 210 passengers and 200 crew. Seabourn has recently introduced three stunning new ships which carry 460 passengers and around 400 crew. The Seabourn Odyssey and Sojourn are already in service, while the brand new Quest is due to make her maiden voyage in May, 2011. If there is virtually any place on Earth you want to sail, Seabourn can take you there is the lap of luxury. Well, maybe not anywhere. I think Yemen, Libya and Somalia may have been given a "time out." But take a moment, and do your research, as this is a must do travel experience. We think Seabourn is as good as cruising gets.
Embarkation was in Civitavecchia announced at 3 pm but passengers were already allowed on board a lot earlier and seated in the lounge where cold drinks, coffee and refreshments were served. Friendly staff did escort us to the cabin - another welcome by the stewardess introducing herself and offered (French) Champagne and canapes , and some luxury soaps. A complimentary bootle of Champagne, a fully stocked bar, fresh fruit and some flowers all made it great.
The service on board was great: the 3 barmen were fulfilling every wish.
The food was very good, only the very talented chef Michael Batoux was a little bid limited as he had to follow recipes of Charlie Palmer. It is urgent time Seabourn ends his cooperation with Palmer and give full freedom to his own chefs!
The service in the dining room was supervised by a great maitre dé Luca and 4 assistants.
On the itinerary only North Sardinia was borrying and could be replaced by Cagliari.
The people at the reception desk were very friendly and helpful at all times.
Due to a medical emmergency the captain did not hesitate to go back to Civitavecchia but he didreach Nice just on time : all passengers were pleased by his prompt and attentive action.
Entertainment was decent - a small ship is not the place where you can expect flashing shows.
Caldera, Costa Rica to Ft. Lauderdale - Dec. 5 - 19, 2004
How beautiful the country of Costa Rica is with its green foliage and mountains.
To find that we had been given a balcony suite on the highest deck (Deck 6.)
To find that there were only 190 passengers on board.
There is just nothing major that I can write about for this cruise.
We were met at the San Jose airport by the Seaborn representatives and escorted to a waiting minibus for the ride through the mountains to the port of Caldera. It was an air conditioned small bus that on this trip only had four Seaborn passengers to transport. The country side was beautiful although the roads were rather primative and filled with many pot holes. On arrival at the ship the check-in procedure was done on board in the Lounge and the champaigne began to flow imediately on going aboard. This is being written on the ninth day of the cruise and the drinks have never stopped flowing. At any meal, at any bar, at anyplace on board one can order any drink desired; plus extra bottles of favoritesfor the suite as well as a constantly, fully stocked refrigerator with soft drinks and beer of your choosing. At meals the wines flow freely and are all of excellent quality. We have had French, Italian, Chile, Californian, and many other countrie's wines as well. We have yet to find any of the wines that did not appeal to us. Any cocktail desired is also promptly brought to your table if requested.
The entertainment has been on a smaller scale than on the large ships but they are well attended and very enjoyable and relaxing. There is never any feeling of crowding on this ship and we have always had no problem with finding seating in any of the lounges or shows in the evening. The dress on this ship is a bit more formal than we had expected. The dress of the evening is given each day and most all of the passengers are quite happy with the results. The only comment that can be said in this regard is that there has been few occasions to go to the Restaurant in casul clothing. The very first time aboard was one occasion so far to be in casual attire during the evening and probably the very last night as well might be the same. Tonight there is to be a declared casual night as it will be dining under the stars on the open deck for a barbeque dinner. So far we have had two formal nights and there will be another before the cruise is over. The rest of the time it has all been "Casual Elegant" which means jacket and trousers with dressy shirt for the gentlemen and similar evening attire for the ladies. The Veranda Restaurant is available for those who have a different definition of casual clothing or formal attire. As a rule, this is a cruise line for those who prefer to dress for the evening in their fine attire and most of the men are in tuxedos.
The food on this ship is among the best we have experienced aboard any other line. Most notable is the daily fare to be found on the buffet at the Veranda Restaurant. As for the food in the Restaurant, it is sometimes a bit too fancy for us but the chef will prepare anything one would like from the alternate menu or any other thought for any course of the meal. Like any good restaurant all food is prepared to your order. If you find anything wrong with any item is will be prepared all over for you from the beginning. One thing of special note is the bakery aboard this ship. Breads are baked twice daily and are the freshest and best I have found on any other ship. At every meal there are always four or five different types of bread to choose from and the assorted Danish pastries just melt in your mouth. As you can tell, we love our breads.
We have found no flaws with the service aboard this ship. The staff will do anything in their power to see that you are being well served. We have never experienced such devotion to service on any other ship on which we have sailed to date. This covers the suite stewardess' as well as the restaurant staffing. It is no wonder that there is such a repeat rate of cruisers favoring the Seabourn Yachts. Our suite is very well designed and we think it is the largest that we have occupied on any ship. With all of our belongings that we brought along we have not been able to fill all of the various storage places and drawer space provided.
Our cruise is truly an international one. With the money exchange rate in their favor, there are many Europeans aboard. We have 30 from Luxembourg and 29 from Germany. Other European countries are also represented. In fact, on this cruise I believe the U. S. natives are possibly outnumbered. Most of on the service personnel on board are bi-lingual and most of these passengers are as well. All passengers are very friendly and no language problems have presented themselves to us at all. In fact, some of our most stimulating conversations have been with those from other countries.
The ship personnel, as well as the guest lecturers, host large tables at each evening meal in the Restaurant. Each table holds about ten people and are a very nice touch for this ship. So far we have been invited to join hosts at their table on four different occasions. Seating is assigned by name plate and no one is seated with their mate. Instead, seats are assigned at the table alternately male and female which quickly begins to get one acquainted with other passengers aboard. A complete passenger listing is provided to each cabin which also aids in remembering newly made friends at these Restaurant meals.
Each Seabourn cruise offers one Exclusive Seabourn Experience. For this cruise it was to spend a major portion of the day at the Gamboa Rain Forest Resort in the Panama Canal Zone. This unique and luxuious resort was the former Officer's Club during the American administration of the Canal. It is located in a Rain Forest and a highlight of the visit was an aerial tram ride in gondolas to the height of a mountain top; gliding over the canopy of the trees of the forest. No animals were spotted by us except for one large iguana but the different foliage and flowers were described by the guides who traveled with the guests in each gondola. As guests we were permitted to use any of the resort's facilities and some took advantage of the beautiful pool. An elaborate luncheon was provided for us in the grand ballroom and native Panamanian dancers and musicians provided the entertainment. After their tradition dances many of the cruise guests were "drafted" to join in the dancing with both the men and ladies of the dance troupe. As the beer and wine was flowing, a good time was had by all.
We have come to the opinion that this cruise line is now offering the most value for the money of any cruise we have taken. When you factor in all that is offered and experienced on these ships, it is not difficult to see why Seabourn has won so many acculades and awards. We have met many on board who will not cruise with any other cruise line and we can now follow their reasoning. We look forward already to another Seabourn cruise; even before this one has reached its final docking in Ft. Lauderdale. In fact, we, like many others on this cruise have now place an Open Booking with Seabourn for a future cruise.
Postscript: All good things must end eventually. Tomorrow morning we must depart this wonderful ship as we arrive in Ft. Lauderdale. New friends met, nostalgic goodbyes, and a last grand banquet in the Restaurant - a fitting end to the best form of vacation ever.
Having cruised Seabourn Legend previously in February, I was pleased to see that the carpet had been replaced and CD players had been installed in the suites. The ship sparkled! The crew worked diligently to keep the ship looking its best at all times.
The staff and crew on Seabourn are some of the best at sea. They go out of their way to make sure the guest is always happy and satisfied, and strive to call you by name at all times. Please notice I used the word "guest," not "passenger." On the Legend, you feel like you belong to the Seabourn family. This is an edge that Seabourn has enjoyed over its competition. You cannot put a value on the special feeling that Seabourn conveys to its guests.
The entertainment staffers, including Dan Hodge (Cruise Director), Helen and Amanda (Assistant Cruise Directors), are some of the best at sea. They complement each other, whether performing, hosting trivia, golf, etc., or mingling with the guests. The other musicians were excellent. The only weak link, in my opinion, was Leonard, the Club piano player/singer. He wasn't able to play severalstandard requests, and his voice was a bit weak. He also didn't interact with the guests very much. Bruce Tilden (the previous piano entertainer) was missed.
The crew was as professional as always. Captain Gier-Arne Thue Nilsen is always a pleasure to sail with. He is very approachable, and has a tremendous sense of humor. Hotel Manager Guenter Steinbrunner seemed to have the ship's guests at the top of his priority list. He can be described as professional, approachable and very capable of his varied duties. The Maitre D'Hotel, Gerald Hauswirth, did need some improvement on his communication skills. The first night, we arrived at dinner with our traveling companions, a party of six, and were asked if we had reservations. We were told we must have reservations for a party of five or more. This was a first on Seabourn. Later in the cruise, he explained that he wanted only to make sure a table would be ready for a large party. I understood, and we agreed that there was a misunderstanding at the offset. All is good.
The Dining Room and Verandah Experience
The Verandah for breakfast and lunch was always a pleasure. The wait staffers -- especially Allison, Leon, Curtis, Robert and Lucca - were the best. They aimed to please. The food in the Verandah was always hot and excellent. I can't say enough about Seabourn's offering of soup during lunch. Fantastic! Wine flows flawlessly.
I did not experience the Dining Room for breakfast. Only at the galley tour did I experience the Dining Room for lunch. At dinner, during the beginning of the cruise, the service was a bit slow and spotty. This problem seemed to iron itself out as the cruise continued. The food, however, was usually excellent. The only constructive criticism I have is that the food was too salty. This was a sentiment many guests conveyed. I find European chefs tend to over-salt. Wine was excellent, and other than our initial experience with our party of six, tables were ready for us when we arrived.
Cabin Service and Suite
Our cabin Stewardess, Jenny, was lovely. (I think "lovely" is a prerequisite to working as a stewardess on Seabourn.) She did a beautiful, thorough job. In the past, our suite was always made up during breakfast. On this cruise, sometimes we would wait until almost noon. Not a big deal, just different from past cruises.
The cabin was the standard Seabourn suite, with amenities like a stocked mini-bar/refrigerator, CD player with a complimentary Seabourn CD (offering a collection of jazz tunes), and a variety of soaps and bath items. It is always a pleasure to sail in a Seabourn suite. Our friends enjoyed one of the Owner's Suites. It was beautifully appointed with a separate bedroom, dining area, living room and deck. We took advantage of their suite, and hosted a party on the first formal night.
The evening under the stars was magnificent. The food was excellent, and the service was exquisite. by that time, we had made so many friends that the waiters put six tables together on the upper deck, and we all socialized and watched the show below. The galley tour was disappointing. by the time trivia was over, the food seemed to be picked over, and the servers in the galley were sparse. Some of our favorites were not offered (fondue especially).
Dan Hodge hosted the well-attended putting contests by the Sky Bar. The staff and crew had a tug-of-war on deck (fun). Trivia, by far, was the most fun on board. It seemed like half the ship participated. We all took it a bit too seriously, which made the competition fierce. Everyone "won" a prize the last day. It was by far the best trivia competition ever on Seabourn.
The Spa, Gym and Boutique
Although I did not use the Spa services, several friends said they were pleased with most of the offerings. I used the sauna and steam room, which were adequate for a small ship. The gym boasted several new weight machines. I work out on a very regular basis, and was glad to see the upgraded gym equipment.
The boutique had a very limited selection of offerings. Gone were casual t-shirts with the Seabourn logo (very much missed). A friend and I both decided on a crystal statue, only to find that just one was available. I understand that the boutique is being run by a new concession to please more people. If that is the case, the stock must be available on board, throughout the cruise.
Every cruise is different. The cruise line can do everything in its power to make the cruise special, but in the end, the mix of passengers can make or break the experience. This cruise had a magical mix of people. It felt like so many of us were on a family reunion. This being my third transatlantic cruise, it was so nice to see so many friends on board. There was so much camaraderie. Finding an interesting person(s) to talk to was never a problem. I brought books to read, but never even opened them. I only wish that every cruise in the future could have such great people aboard.
This cruise was truly magical -- old and new friends, great staff and crew, and truly outstanding memories. I have never had a bad Seabourn cruise (this was my eighth). This cruise, however, was right up there at the top.
This was our first cruise on Seabourn - we have mostly cruised Celebrity. Overall the Seabourn experience is spectacular and we would recommend it to anyone. You simply cannot be more pampered anywhere - even in the world's most luxurious hotels.
SHIP: The ship is simply beautiful with ample public space, deck chairs, etc for all. The show lounge and restaurant accommodate all passengers at one sitting if necessary, but they were never full as guests enjoyed other venues for meals (verandah café, barbecue and theme lunch buffets on deck, in-suite full-course dinners, or 24 hrs room service). The Club is an elegant bar for cocktails before dinner. The casino was never full. The library is extensive for a ship off this size and newspapers/magazines are brought aboard in port. 24 hr movie selection is good, though we never watched a one. Never used the internet lounge either but fellow passengers were happy with it, except perhaps cost of e-mailing. Workout facilities are magnificent - just upgraded - 5 treadmills, 4 exercise bikes, free weights, and at least ten weight machines. Plus 3 jacuzzis, and steam and sauna facilities for both men andwomen.
The only thing about the treadmills is ceilings are low (throughout ship) and if you are much over 5'11" jogging is difficult without bumping your head because treadmill is nearly 12" off the floor. Elsewhere in the ship I was comfortable even at 6'3". Average age on this cruise was about 60 so the sporting facilities and jacuzzis were never full. Oh, and if you want, you can have caviar and champagne in the Jacuzzi. Spa treatments are a bit costly ($179/1.5 hr massage) but very good. My wife is a massage therapist and she has been disappointed on other ships. In contrast the boutique is unbelievably affordable and has many very nice, high quality items at reasonable prices so do leave some room in your luggage. The one thing you do find out is the smaller ship has more movement at sea and is more likely to have to cancel a port due to sea conditions. Another excellent feature is a free launderette which also has an ironing board if you need to touch up a shirt. The on-board pressing and dry cleaning service is also more reasonable than a hotel ($3.75 to press a pair of tuxedo slacks).
SERVICE: With 208 passengers and 160 crew there is always someone to take care of you. Staff quickly learns passenger names. They are genuinely interested in your happiness. We only saw one unhappy crewmember on the cruise and it was only because she had not been off the ship for a couple of weeks. Our cabin stewardess was so wonderfully unobtrusive and yet attentive. With a no-tipping policy all you can do is thank them profusely by name. This cruise was the first for Legend after the transatlantic before which most of the crew changed out so the restaurant staff were still honing their teamwork and there were a few mix-ups with orders and rotation of waiters between tables, but these were cheerfully fixed. Even when an over-exuberant flambé of crepes suzette caused the sprinkler system to go off over the captain's table on formal night, most tried to see the humor in the situation though it took some time to stem the flow of water. by the way, you can special order anything imaginable (like crepes suzette) and they will have it for you in 24hrs. German Chef Ralf Zillger is simply outstanding and I know several other renowned chefs. He even gave us some of his recipes. He also hosts cooking demos in the kitchen and a wonderful international buffet lunch which you help yourself to in the expansive kitchen and then your plate is whisked off to the table for you by your waiter.
FOOD: In a word SPECTACULAR. The most exotic and inventive gourmet stuff coupled with elegant classics. So many choices from all over the world - all of it beyond fresh. Best fish we've ever had; better filet steaks than Ruth Chris; homemade sorbets and desserts; pounds and pounds of lobster, shrimp, caviar. Delicious salads and every condiment known to man. They are unflappable: English or Canadian bacon - no problem; matzo crackers - no problem. Only occasionally in 6-star hotels or Michelin star restaurants have we had food this good. Even the hamburgers are special. And the best news: nice small portions so you can enjoy several courses (or have more of the same if you like). This is refined eating - no monster buffets here. In addition to nice touches like champagne and canapés on arrival, chocolate truffles, and decadent cookies, Seabourn puts a snack tray in your suite if your excursion returns outside mealtimes. My only complaints - too much mayonnaise on sandwiches, especially at teatime and the broths and consommés are very, very rich. I lost 5 lbs in 11 days (no desserts or potatoes helped) - and that's definitely a first. Clearly, along with service, cuisine is the strongest attribute of this line.
ENTERTAINMENT: Nothing glitzy here, but good singers and piano or quartet music. Relaxing stuff with good dance tunes. Dancing in the club very popular. Sean O'Shea does a superb Elvis show and James Barr sings and plays wonderfully, especially Elton John and Billy Joel. Nice casino. Popular cruise-long trivia contest. Well-led exercise, yoga, and stretching classes are usually only 2-5 persons. Interesting lectures on history of destinations and their cultures/religions. But, on Seabourn the most popular entertainment is relaxing in the sun or lounge or your suite with a good read.
SUITE: We booked Cat A suite guarantee which proved to be a very smart move as we were upgraded five categories to B3 suite with French doors and balcony. This was very nice for letting in sea breezes (when we were at sea). While we were probably unusually fortunate to get such a wonderful upgrade, you will likely enjoy a good chance of an upgrade since many of the Cat A cabins are filled with non-rev cruisers (priest, rabbi, lecturer, guest entertainer, doctor, etc). We received the only Cat A guarantee quote (which was also the best quote) from Michael T. Bruciak, Cruise Planners, Inc., 301-912-3140, 800-552-3118 (toll-free); firstname.lastname@example.org , so he deserves a plug. We received our travels documents 60 days in advance and only 30 days after booking. The suite is just wonderful no matter where you get it. Super comfortable beds, duvets, marble bath, walk-in closet, best terry robes anywhere, bar stocked to order (didn't even get half way through it in 11 days), TV/VCR, and new CD players. Comfortable seating, although rough seas may send you looking for another place to relax with your book (we found the best was supine in a deck chair). Coffee table turns into nice dinner table for two. Fruit basket (which we never touched because we were never hungry). We had a room in a Lisbon 5-star which was not as nice and cost 575 euro per night.
ITINERARY/EXCURSIONS: We spent 2 days in Lisbon before embarkation and would recommend Lisbon - beautiful, clean, and scenic city. Itinerary was 11 days Lisbon to Lisbon and was supposed to include Madeira, Las Palmas, Fuerteventura, Agadir, Casablanca, and Seville. Madeira was beautiful, but I would not recommend this itinerary in April. Seabourn planners put the captain in an extremely tough position when a rather routine Atlantic low pressure area trapped us in Las Palmas and we lost ports of Fuerteventura, Agadir, Casablanca, and Seville (due to tides on the river there). Several couples left the ship in Las Palmas and flew to Seville or elsewhere (cost no object for some Seabourn cruisers). The captain did a great job of keeping everyone informed and had the safety and comfort of the passengers and crew always as the priority; but, at the end of the day, Seabourn planners have to accept some of the responsibility for the trashed itinerary because the captain had no flexibility to go elsewhere, so we sat in port. At least we were not all in 20 foot seas feeling poorly and not being able to enjoy the wonderful cuisine!! When it looked like we might be doomed to go from Las Palmas directly back to Lisbon, the captain, navigator, and the rest of the bridge crew did a magnificent job of replanning to at least get us to North Africa and Spain. Shipping ports of Cueta (Spanish North Africa) and Cadiz, Spain were substituted. The ship is so gorgeous, but when you are on sky deck with champagne and diesel, sandwiched between a container ship and an oiler it just takes away some of the atmosphere of 6-star cruising. Substitute ports were a long way from anything interesting (2 hrs+ Cadiz to Seville). We did not go on this cruise for long, 8 hour excursions, so we preferred to stay aboard and relax or just take a taxi or walk around. The Seabourn excursions are nice and we took two, but things move as slow as the slowest person and generally have an hour pad built in to allow for that which means you are invariably done and wishing you could be on the ship instead of waiting for the bus. Lesson learned: better to stay inside the Med until after 1 May.
COST: Very nice not to pay for drinks or tips. Premium brands (Tanqueray, Stolichnaya Crystal, Makers Mark, etc served), champagne anywhere, anytime, stocked in-suite bar. I think when you consider what is included these cruises, they are not a bad value at about $300-350 per person per day with value pricing. You would certainly pay close to the same at a 6-star European hotel (often $500-600+ per night plus food and drinks). We cruised the Med in a similar suite on Millennium in 1999 and paid about $1,500 per person less than this cruise for the same 11 days. Consider the following expenses we had with Celebrity: Olympic restaurant ($50); 1 bottle champagne ($30); 16 bottles of wine/11 days ($480 + $72 tip); 40 cocktails/11 days ($250+$38 tip); soft drinks ($100 +$15 tip); staff tips $440/11days. That already adds up to the $1500 difference for one of us and does not include the difference in quality (Seabourn is better than eating at Olympic restaurant every night), level of service, and all the other incidentals such as room service tips, etc with other lines. Not to mention the amenities, coziness of small ship, etc. I believe if you buy at a good price (and you are not a teetotaler) our Seabourn cruise was only about 20% more than Celebrity - and I am a Captains Club member who never would have believed that beforehand. Try it.
Seabourn has always been my preferred cruise line. I've sailed on Seabourn Goddess II, now Seadream II; and Seabourn Sun, formerly the Royal Viking Sun and now the Holland America Ship Prinsendam. This was my fifth Seabourn Legend cruise, and this ship is by far my favorite!
I disembarked my last Seabourn Legend cruise on December 5, 2002. The ship was scheduled for a two-week dry dock, then to resume its Caribbean and Panama Canal itineraries. We were told at the time that new CD players were being installed in the suites, new carpeting throughout (in dire need) and several bars were going to have new upholstery on the furniture. I was anticipating a fresh "new" Legend. Although the ship was sparkling clean, and maintained beautifully by the hard-working staff, it lacked what was promised. No CD players, no new upholstery (personally, I didn't think that was necessary) and the carpeting was not replaced. We were told the Pride beat the Legend on the carpeting delivery and installation. Hopefully in the next dry dock, these things will be completed.
At every port, the maintenance staff was hard at work painting the exterior,re-varnishing the teak rails, and polishing brass. The dining room was always in perfect condition. Although the ship was built a decade ago, it has a timeless charm, elegance and sophistication. I would rate the condition of the ship at 90% given that some regular maintenance and updating is still required.
I can't say enough good things about the hard-working staff on the Legend. I enjoyed seeing familiar faces, and met some new friends. They immediately called me by name, offered assistance in any way possible, and anticipated every need. The Cruise Director, Dan Hodge, was pleasant, passenger friendly and professional. I give him a near perfect score. The assistant cruise directors were Gina Pontone and Helen Kitching, both were a joy to sail with. Gina offered true "star" quality with her over-the-top performances and sparkling friendliness and energy. Helen offered the true "nice girl next door" type with a voice of an angel. They both are fairly new to Seabourn, and I hope to sail with them often in the future. Bruce Tilden, the Club entertainer, has always been a favorite of mine. He went out of his way several times to make sure each passenger was happy with the music selections. His beaming personality was apparent every night. This is truly a talented piano player and singer.
The Captain was Karlo Buer. I have never sailed with him, and found him to be a bit stand-offish for a Seabourn Captain. He rarely hosted a table and was not visible to passengers during the day. He did, however, get us to all the ports safely and on time. Hotel Manager Guenter Steinbrunner was excellent interacting with the passengers and running a smooth ship.
My stewardess, Anna (or China, as I liked to call her), was beautiful and brilliant. She went out of her way to make my sailing as comfortable as possible. I can't say enough about her. She is a true 100%
As I mentioned, Dan, Gina, Helen and Bruce are true professionals. They provide fantastic entertainment that goes far beyond most cruise ships. They don't do the glitzy, showy stuff you might experience on a large ship, just the basic good music and showmanship. The guest entertainers consisted of Graham Scott, a brilliant concert pianist; and Joe Monti, a magician/comedian. I preferred the former to the latter. During the day the staff provided entertainment in the form of trivia challenge (a personal favorite), putting tournaments, spa lectures, and wine and spirit tasting. For a small ship, the entertainment and staff is first class: 98% rating.
Our itinerary started in Caldera, Costa Rica and ended in Ft. Lauderdale. We stopped in three ports in Costa Rica -- Playa Flamingo and Puerto Quepos on the Pacific side, and Puerto Moen on the Atlantic side. We sailed through the Panama Canal with a stop in Fuerto Amador near Panama City. There was one stop in Roatan, Honduras, and two in Belize -- Hunting Cay and Belize City. These were interesting ports that I had not experienced. We had five relaxing sea days. I would rate the itinerary at 95%.
The Shore Excursions
I experienced four exciting shore excursions. At the first port I tried Tree Canopy Jumping. I am fearful of heights, but felt I would never have the opportunity to do it again! This excursion took participants up to 150 feet in the air, sliding from one taught steel cable through the trees to platforms. It was very exciting, and safe, as you were harnessed with mountain climbing gear. This is an excursion NOT to be missed!
The next excursion was the complimentary Seabourn Experience at the Gamboa Rain Forest Resort in Panama. We were treated to a cable car ride through the forest treetops, a festive show with buffet lunch, and swimming at the resort -- a very nice experience.
In Roatan, Honduras, I experienced a Dolphin Encounter. I met my trainer at beach side, and was able to touch and interact with "Gracie" the dolphin! The dolphins put on quite a show for us, and interacted with each passenger. The photo opportunities were awesome. The trip was overbooked, so half the participants left for the excursion an hour later and missed some valuable beach time. The dolphin encounter should not to be missed.
The last excursion was Cave Tubing in Belize. After a two-hour bumpy ride to the Jaguar Paw resort, we set off on our adventure. Only 13 guests participated in the excursion, so a comfortable van was provided. To our shock, when we arrived, we learned of three mega-ships docked nearby and droves of tourists. Our guide suggested we take an alternative route to the river, hiking up and over mountainous terrain. We were in for a surprise! The path consisted of very steep upward and downward climbs and slippery surfaces. As our group had fitness in our favor, no one was injured and we all arrived at the river in one piece. We boarded our inner tubes, and set off through three caves. Because it was so dark inside each cave, they provided us all with miner's lanterns to wear on our heads. I think tour operators come up with these gadgets to make us all look silly! After two hours of tubing, a nice lunch was provided, and we made it back to the ship. This excursion was another success.
Ellie Szollosy does a great job as Travel Manager, and I give her excursion adventures a 99%.
The average age of the passengers was about 45 to 50 years of age. They ranged from well-heeled veteran cruisers to first-time passengers. This particular crowd seemed a bit more quiet and reserved than the usual Seabourn passenger. Usually there are several "characters" on board, and a very lively late night crowd. This was not the case. The casino only enjoyed a few busy evenings, and typically the Club closed between midnight and 1 a.m. Everyone seemed to have a great time. I don't rate passengers.
The Food and Drink
Hands down, Seabourn provides the best food afloat. Chef Pascal DePortemont prepares innovative dishes and special requests. Seabourn has retained Chef Charlie Palmer as the inspiration on board, but Chef Pascal's interpretations of the recipes are truly divine. The soups are the best I ever tasted, and the French fries and wine for lunch is truly Nirvana. The bar service is wonderful. A personal favorite, Christian, manned the Sky bar. Another pro, Michael, manned the Observation bar. A newcomer, Jacques, manned the Club. Jacques was the only weak link, and his inexperience showed. Hopefully he will improve, or be assigned another position on board. Seabourn excels in the food and beverage department. My rating is 98%
Seabourn did it again. They provided excellent service, accompanied with a smile, from the initial glass of champagne after embarkation to final good-byes. New friends and memories were made, in a first class style. Although I lost five days because of illness, I still rate this trip at 95%. Thanks again, Seabourn, the cruise line whose motto is "What is it about 'Yes' you don't understand?"
Our 14 day cruise aboard the Seabourn Legend couldn't have been more spectacular. The ship is in superb shape and the feeling onboard is warm, friendly and sincere.
The food was the best I have ever had. Seabourn had 8 chefs onboard, as they were training the staff of all Seabourn ships to implement chef Charlie Palmer's new menues and cuisine. It was a gastronomical experience. The resturant wait staff made each dinning expeience a true delight.
We were so impressed that we signed up for another Seabourn cruise while onboard. I hope everyone has an opportunity to experience the excellence of Seabourn.