By Simon & Susan Veness
Back in 1987, a group of Norwegian investors decided that the future of cruising was small – as in small ships. Headed by visionary industrialist Atle Brynestad, they conjured up the recipe for a deluxe new cruise brand that made its debut a year later.
Their first ship was the chic, boutique Seabourn Pride, and Seabourn Cruise Line was off and running (having first had to change its name from the original Signet Cruise Line after the Signet Oil company raised trademark objections).
Their initial 10,000-ton trio are now all sailing under the Windstar Cruises brand, but Brynestad’s brainchild has gone from strength to strength. True, there was a brief dalliance with the much larger former Royal Viking Sun (now sailing for German travel agency Phoenix), and the pint-sized Sea Goddess duo (now with SeaDream Yacht Club), but, by and large, Seabourn stuck to heir tried and trusted inaugural formula.
Until 2009, that is. Perhaps encouraged by the plus-size success of six-star rivals Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, Seabourn decided the bigger-can-be-better formula would work for them, too, and the impressive Seabourn Odyssey burst on to the scene with no diminution of quality.
At 32,346 tons, it gave the line a much more expansive feel, increasing the dining options and adding a second pool, full show lounge and Spa. It increased the space ratio by three times but only doubled the passenger capacity, ensuring plenty of the individual attention for which Seabourn had justly become renowned.
Two sister ships, Sojourn and Quest, followed in the next two years, and that successful blueprint was enhanced still further with Seabourn Encore and Ovation, boosting capacity to 604 passengers and 41,865 tons but, more importantly, adding even more amenities and options.
Now with five ships (and a pair of expedition vessels on order for 2021 and ’22), the company has established a rich heritage of high-quality maritime meandering, and we thought we’d highlight 10 reasons to cruise with Seabourn.
1. The Suites
With 1,287 suites spread through the five-ship fleet, there genuinely isn’t a bad one to be found. All boast glorious sea views, and the vast majority have the benefit of a veranda (100 per cent on Encore and Ovation) as well as a walk-in closet and gorgeous, marble bathrooms with double vanity. A complimentary, personalised in-suite bar is another high-quality feature, as are Italian cotton linens and custom-built mattresses. A good night’s sleep is absolutely guaranteed.
2. The Small Touches
Bath amenities custom-produced by Molton Brown; a World Atlas in every suite; a free PressReader App for your favourite mobile device; Spa excursions as well as treatments; and an overall attention to upscale, relaxed elegance ensure the little things add up to a lot on a Seabourn cruise.
3. Ventures by Seabourn
When it comes to getting under the skin of many of the line’s destinations, this adventurous programme of shore excursions is another clever touch, providing exciting expedition-type options to get up close and personal in areas such as Alaska, North Europe, Australia and the Amazon. Using Zodiac inflatable boats and sea kayaks launching directly from the ship, this is a genuine opportunity to experience natural wonders that are usually the preserve of adventure-cruise vessels.
4. No Tipping
As it should be at this level of cruise experience, gratuities are neither required nor expected, and the service never flags as a result.
5. Complimentary Premium Spirits
While some lines stock their bars with mainstream, everyday products, you’ll find a far more, ahem, spirited approach to all the drinks on board – and there is never a bill at the end of the day. Classic Old-World wines rub shoulders with some of the best from New Zealand, South America and South Africa, while Tito’s Vodka, Ketel One, Tanqueray Ten gin, Martell Cordon Bleu Cognac and Herradura Blanco tequila are all freely available, along with a cocktail list prepared by worldwide master mixologist Brian Van Flandern. Expect a wide range of 10-15 international beers, too.
6. Seabourn Square
This featured space on all five ships is a wonderful communal area that is part coffee shop, part social centre and part living room that replaces the traditional reception area with something far more organic and natural.
7. Spa & Wellness
Introduced in the last few years, Spa & Wellness with Dr Andrew Weil is a highly imaginative healthy living programme that aims to take all the bliss of the ships’ exquisite thermal spa and provide practical ways to take a slice of that mental and physical well-being home with you. It involves yoga, sound bath therapy and meditation – among other elements – and each Spa now has a Wellness Coach to ensure you feel the full benefit of this innovative approach from the world’s leading practitioner of integrative medicine.
8. Delectable Dining
There’s no doubt that Seabourn has seriously raised its game with the arrival of their new ships, and the choice of six different dining venues (seven on Encore and Ovation with the addition of the super-chic Sushi on both vessels) is ample evidence of this devotion to gourmet meal-times. Seabourn is a member of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, one of the world’s most prestigious gastronomic societies devoted to the art of fine dining, while a partnership with Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller ensures their premium steakhouse venue, The Grill, is a distinct cut above most restaurants you’ll find on land.
9. The Fleet
This is simply the youngest and most dazzling fleet of all the six-star cruise lines. Odyssey is the oldest at just 10 years old, while the most recent duo (2016 and ’18) still have that ‘new car’ smell that marks them out as some of the latest hardware in the business.
10. The Service
Finally, Seabourn set out their stall right from the start to deliver an unimpeachable level of distinguished, discreet service, and that still remains their proud hallmark today. When it comes to all the deluxe lines, a level of significant individual attention is guaranteed, but Seabourn simply takes it to the nth degree to ensure everyone is cosseted in the kind of swish service that only the very best hotels can compete with.
Have you cruised with Seabourn before? What was your experience and highlights of the cruise? Tell us your opinion in the Comments section below.