This was our first experience with Seabourn, but it won’t be our last. Our inexperienced impression of luxury lines was that that might feel stuffy and that the activities and entertainment might not keep us engaged. We found just the opposite on board. The activities and entertainment were some of the most fun and engaging and the fellow guests and staff were anything but stuffy. So I’ll start the review with a little bit about the logistics and then fully review the ship, amenities, and activities on board.
Pre-Cruise Covid Testing Logistics, Protocols, and Hotel Stay
We were a little intimidated by the Barbados entry and testing requirements, but it turned out to be much easier than we expected. We did choose to go to Phoenix two nights early so that we could be tested on Tuesday afternoon with a full PCR test Administered by a Technician with expedited results. Barbados does not accept Rapid-PCR or Rapid Antigen Tests, so we had to find a location that specialized in a travel test that could turn around a full PCR test in 24 -36 hours so that we would have our results before we boarded our flight to Miami. This meant that we had to do the test on Tuesday to make sure we had the negative results by Thursday for our midnight redeye flight to Miami. We could have done a flight out Thursday morning and done a 19 hour layover in Miami, but with the timing of the tests we needed to be sure that we had our Tuesday test results back before we boarded our flight to Miami. Once in Miami, we had a few hours layover and then boarded our flight to Barbados. We used the BIM-Safe (Barbados Tourism App) and Verifly to pre-upload all our test results and required vaccination information.
Once we arrived in Barbados, we presented both our negative test result print out and our vaccination cards. We were given a color coded wrist band that some how represented our status, but I am not sure what the color exactly meant. Then we went to another area where we were given another, as expected, our arrival PCR test. From there the taxi system was all part of the safety corridor where masks are worn and the drivers are only allowed to take guests to the hotel, with no stops along the way. We were “quarantined” at our hotel until the results were back. That meant we could dine at the restaurants, use the pool, and walk around the facilities with a mask on, but we couldn’t leave the property or go on the beach until we had our results back. We both got our results via email by 11 am the next morning and then we were able to visit the front desk and have our green wrist band removed and have them replaced with a purple wrist band issued by the front desk of the hotel. Barbados Tourism, Barbados Health and the Hotels all worked together to ensure that everyone is safe and healthy. There was an 11 pm curfew, but that really didn’t affect us either. On the day that I got my wristband I was able to book a snorkel excursion at the hotel that took us to the same beach where I had snorkeled a few years before. The beaches and waters of Barbados are beautiful, and I definitely recommend getting in the water when you visit.
Arrival at the Ship
Again we took a public taxis where the drivers are observing all the local health and safety protocols from the hotel to the ship. We were greeted at the pier where we dropped off our luggage and then took another shuttle to the embarkation terminal. We were met by the ship’s medical staff who reviewed our vaccination cards, asked us a few questions and then took us over to the testing area. We were seated separated by over 6 feet from other guests and wearing masks, then taken as a couple to the testing area where they administered a rapid Antigen test. Then we sat in a holding area wearing masks while we awaited our test. Once the results were back in 15 minutes we completed our check-in and were good to board. There were only about 60 guests joining the ship that day, with 26 continuing from the last voyage. So that meant a total of 86 guests aboard the ship or about 18% capacity. I thought we might have less than the full experience, but they put on the full cruise for us. More on that later.
The Look and Feel of the Ship
One of the cabin attendants helped carry our suitcases up the boarding ramp, where we checked in at the main dining room Muster station, then headed up to our room where are we were allowed to drop off our carry on bags. We were pleased that with so few guests aboard they had been able to upgrade us from a part metal part glass balcony suite on deck 5 to a full glass railing balcony suite on deck 6.
The ship is laid out like many luxury lines, cabins mid ship and forward on most decks, and public areas aft: theater, night club, square, restaurants, and gym/spa located aft. The main dining room, simply called “The Restaurant” is located mid ship with the galley behind it. Forward on the ship is a nice observation lounge with piano music and a lounging/sports deck. The Pool, The Patio (al fresco dining) and Grill by Thomas Keller were all mid ship on Deck 8. There was a small casino just outside the Club. There was an aft facing deck right outside the club with a plunge pool and two hot tubs. The main theater was just down the all from our cabin on deck 6. Everything was only steps away from everything else on the ship, making it a breeze to get from one part of the ship to another. For those who like bells and whistles like water slides, ice rinks, go carts, arcades, and other over the top amusement type experiences, that was no where to be found on this ship, nor the families and crowds that make the economies of scale work in favor of those amenities. This ship offered simple cruising, with attentive service, quality entertainment, engaging staff, and fine dining.
The service was so good that we didn’t even notice it. In the dining rooms, if we glanced the other direction our water or wine glass was refilled. They would always have a open white, rose, and red wine of the day, but if you wanted something different than what was on their regular menu of wine, all you had to do was ask for it. One day I took a plunge in the pool and moved over to the hot tub where the bar waiter met me with a plastic glass of ice water. I finished it and set it down be hind me, turned around argain, and it was magically full again.
I’ll have another full blog page with dining reviews, but in terms of service and attention, everything was fantastic on this ship. Every one on the ship was vaccinated and tested. The crew did have to wear masks some times but they were allowed to pull them down for a picture, or when they were having meals with guests.
Engaging Crew and Staff
One of the things we liked most about this ship was how engaging the crew and staff were with guests. Guests are sometimes invited to dine with either the entertainment staff or the officers. We enjoyed two meals with the singers from the ship. Ellie Smith who was Miss Nevada 2014 and won the talent portion of the subsequent Miss America competition, hosted us the first night we were onboard the ship. This was a great way for us to learn a little more about the ship and the upcoming performances which we should not miss. Ellie told us that her favorite was the Thomas Keller Grill, but as crew they can only dine there by invitation of guests, so we arranged to have dinner with Ellie and another one of the cast members on Tuesday night at the Grill by Thomas Keller. This was a fun night for the 4 of us to talk about travel and music. This was our official on board retirement celebration, so they brought us a cake and even had wine and chocolate covered strawberries in the room for us that night. We were able to have dinner there two more times during the cruise due to the reduced capacity on the ship. On another night, we had dinner with the featured special guest singer Nicholas Rodriguez. On the last night of the cruise, we had dinner with the first officer, who is 4th in command on the ship. He was a nice young man from Romania and we were joined by another couple who were on my Trivia team through out the week. I’ll have more details on the dining on my full dining review post.
We attended the welcome aboard party where we met the charming Cruise Director Robert, who had started as a production singer years before and rose up to cruise director. The assistant cruise director, Matthew as also so friendly and greeted us with charm and personality.
The cruise director and assistant cruise director also hosted daily team trivia – “The Blood Sport of Cruising”. This was a great way to meet fellow guests as the more diverse a team, the better the chance of winning. Our team covered about a 25 year age span and included guests from the the US and the UK. This gave us a huge advantage and help us win 6 out of 7 challenges. Every day the crew had fresh trivia and prizes, and they have completely different questions from cruise to cruise, so that even people who do back to back to back won’t know the answers a head of time.
There were three events where the crew really stood out. First, on the morning of Marina Day, the officers decided to give the crew some fun. With only 86 passengers on board, they could easily complete all their duties and engage in a little friendly competition in the form of Banana Boat Races. The crew formed teams of 6 from each department: Engineering, House Keeping, Dining, Entertainment etc. and then got on the Marina Day banana boats with paddles and had races from the back of the ship to the front. They had the bar manager doing a Wide World of Sports type narration, and guests were encouraged to come cheer on their favorite teams. It was silly and fun and helped to show our appreciating for all the hard work they had been doing for the guests all week long.
The next area where the crew really stood out was the implementation of the Marina Day activities for guests that afternoon. They had the banana boats tied up to the Zodiacs and took us for rides along the bay, as well as Stand Up Paddle boards, Kayaks, other tow-able watercraft. This was well organized, and the crew made sure that all the guests had a great time enjoying the bay.
Finally, the area where the entire crew really stood out was the beach day in St. Kitts, which featured “Caviar in the Surf”. The crew bring in a surfboard with a white table cloth, set it up in about 3 ft. deep water with full Caviar and Crackers set up then the Captain and the cruise director come in on a zodiac with the caviar and multiple cases of Montadon champagne. All guests are given plastic champagne flutes and a can come up to the surfboard for a taste of caviar all while having their champagne flutes generously filled and refilled with bubbly delights. I am not sure if they have sparking cider for non-drinkers, but I would think that all you would have to do is ask for it ahead of time and they would have it there for you. The whole thing was just a fun time for both crew and guests.
The ship provided nightly entertainment in multiple venues. We were perhaps most impressed with their production singers and dancers. They had some of the best voices at sea, which is sometimes hard to find as the big ships will try to fit a square peg into a round whole by having a Broadway singer try to sing rock, or rock singer try to sing Broadway, but this cast was, well, perfectly cast. My favorite show was “An Evening With Sir Tim Rice” which featured both his Broadway and Oscar Winning hit songs. They featured songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess, Aladdin, Lion King and the movie version of Evita. The show was wonderfully sung and orchestrated, and even featured a projection of Sir Tim Rice himself introducing the songs. The production crew also did a Latin themed pop show which strongly featured the ballroom dance duo performing several different styles of Latin ballroom while the featured singers kept things going with hits from Ricky Martin and Jenifer Lopez. The final show was up on deck one night and featured classical and pop-opera selections. Even the Cruise Director and the Assistant Cruise director joined in on this one for a couple great songs.
We were equally impressed with the two party bands that they had. One was a trio that played a variety of songs and featured a very good female vocalist Chelsea. They hailed from the UK and were on a contract together as a trio. The other band was the orchestra/party band. Led by Alex, a very accomplished saxophone and flute player, the band played live in the production shows and then and fronted by Kacey played late night in the disco at the parties. There was hardly a song they didn’t know, but when they asked for request and my husband and I half jokingly requested George Strait, they didn’t know any of his songs. The second time we made that joke, Alex said “Wait, he sings All My Exes Live in Texas, I’ll have that one for you by the end of the week.” Sure enough on Thursday night when we requested George Strait, the band went straight into the song with Alex singing lead. Another favorite that they played as Careless Whisper with Alex jamming on the Sax. We even had a guest on board who had just retired and bought him self a big gold 1972 Cadillac convertible and the band played the Bruce Springsteen song that was also a Natalie Cole hit “Pink Cadillac” but changed the worlds to Gold Cadillac just for him. We often found it difficult to go off to bed as we didn’t want leave the bands when they were performing so well and putting out such great music. I love to dance and my husband doesn’t so it was usually me and the officers and a few guests boogieing the night away.
Last but not least they had a great guest Broadway performer, Nicholas Rodriguez, who performed songs from several Movies/Broadway shows including Phantom of the Opera, Tarzan by Phil Collins, Guys and Dolls and More! Great voice and were super impressed with his stage presence too. The next day we were invited to have dinner with him in The Restaurant, where we were joined by another couple with a music background. I asked him where he studied musical theater, and to my surprise, well really not given his great voice, he responded that he had studied classical voice and vocal physiology. We talked to him about what the theme of the next show was and when he told us it was the 70’s we are kind of surprised that he would choose that given he was born in the 80’s. However, we loved that show just as much as it featured both rock, pop and folks songs from the Seventies like Whiter Shade of Pale, Rollerskates by Melanie, Leaving on a Jet Plane by Peter Paul and Mary. He even quoted me in the show saying that “Suzanne asked me what I knew about he 70’s”. I was joking around with him when I said that, but he explained that he loved listening to his parents and family’s records that were from the 70’s when he grew up in the 80’s. Fun show, and again another great voice. At the end of the show he played Last Dance by Donna Summer, a favorite from my childhood, and even had me join him on stage for some disco moves.
Seabourn puts out a first class first rate cruise product that succeeds in making the cruise experience a fun social experience where everyone is relaxed and pampered. We always found interesting people to talk to, and they weren’t stuffy either, many had fun loving humorous personalities. We got to know folks so that mid week we had inside jokes and lots of laughter. From the crew, there is never an up sell, or contrived event to get you to purchase something, never a tip to pay, never a drink to purchase, and no big bill at the end of the cruise. Even the small intimate restaurant The Grill by Thomas Keller is included in the price. The Marina Day and Caviar on the Beach day were included “excursions” at no charge. The only extras you might spend on board the ship are spa treatments, connoisseur wines (which were reasonably priced) and the rest of your shore excursions. Everything else was hassle free and included. There was nothing that you could want for during the onboard experience. For anyone looking for that next step up from a premium cruise line or an experience that is more similar to a river cruise on the ocean, I highly recommend Seaborne.