Certain travel experiences come with exceptionally polished service, an authentic and endearing sense of comfort and above all, a sense of being enveloped in such a way as to ensure a captivating time. This invariably leads to a promise to oneself to return again and again.
And so it is for me when I cruise on Seabourn – a long-standing favourite cruise line for a variety of reasons. Ultimately it is the care and attention of every staff member, the nuanced, thoughtful and kind interaction with guests that seems to make the difference. It’s often just a notch above any other luxury experience I might enjoy and to be welcomed back into such a familiar and charming embrace is just a delight. I always know that my cruise experience will be impeccable, I will relish the company of my fellow travellers and ultimately, I’ll have an experience on land which will be interesting, inspiring and totally enjoyable.
On a cruise late last summer, I joined the stunning, newly launched Seabourn Ovation for a cruise in northern waters, roundtrip from Copenhagen, visiting Sweden, Norway, England, Scotland and Germany. It was a bit nippy at times and the weather was not completely our friend, but the cooler climes gave way to a warmth generated by the social aspects of the cruise and the onboard sense of family and camaraderie. There’s always a special feeling on a smaller ship – just 600 guests all enjoying the same marvellous ports of call and experiences, visiting some lesser-known spots along with some of Europe’s finest cities and country capitals.
Gothenburg, located on Sweden’s beautiful west coast, is a cultural surprise with a revitalized core full of art galleries, breweries and a host of trendsetting boutiques. We also loved Oslo and Norway’s awe-inspiring and stunning scenery. Our call at the picturesque, quaint village of Arendal was a true delight with its historic and colourful buildings – a place one might not visit other than by ship. We sailed on to England and Scotland and enjoyed a special event with tickets to the Edinburgh Festival Tattoo, and a shipboard overnight in this historic city with ample time for exploration. We gazed at the spectacular backdrop of Scotland’s great castles and lochs – including Loch Ness of course – and finally walked in the somber path of painful clan history at the thought-provoking Culloden battlefield. Scotland’s National Trust has done a great job of curating artefacts from the harrowing battle of 1746 and this part of the country, north of Invergordon, is very beautiful and highly recommended.
The colourful and historic city of Arendal, Norway.
In a first for me, we paid a visit to the incomparably wild and wonderful Shetland Islands, where we rented a car and explored the heather-clad moors, rolling farmland and craggy hills. And we found a few, adorable Shetland ponies to visit with along the way!
During all these excursions and days “out and about”, enjoying all manner of different ports and places, we gladly returned at the end of each day to the charming ministrations of our crew and staff. Each evening, we enjoyed time to relax and savour a pre-dinner aperitif in the Club or the Observation Bar, with great views from high up in the ship – always the place to be for sail away. And then, of courses, there would be yet another delightful dinner.
The Observation Bar.
Seabourn offers an expansive choice of wonderful, light and tasty bites in the Observation Bar every evening to the accompaniment of live music from a talented duo; indeed, one could almost make a meal of the bountiful lineup. And of course, all drinks, wine and liquor, as well as Champagne is included in your cruise fare along with gratuities for the staff, ensuring a very relaxed onboard feel with never a need to sign a check. It’s a feature I truly enjoy and one that assures a convivial onboard atmosphere.
We always had a choice of where to dine; one evening we reserved a table at the Grill by Thomas Keller, the renowned American chef who partners with Seabourn in this alternative restaurant option inspired by a classic American chophouse. And at no additional charge. We also frequented the adjacent piano bar, listening to favourite tunes from the talented chanteuse while sipping a nightcap.
The pool deck.
Sometimes we were in the mood for a casual meal and headed to the Colonnade where al fresco dining on the aft deck was a wonderful option if the weather obliges. There is a theme every evening – perhaps a clam bake or BBQ rib night, Old England cuisine – roast beef and Yorkshire pudding – or an Indian market dinner. For lunch or dinner, we occasionally had a craving for some Asian cuisine or sushi and went to the small beautiful Sushi dining spot with just 24 seats. Naturally we could dine any evening at the time of our choice in the main restaurant, perhaps inviting newfound friends to join us. There are ample dining choices on Seabourn, including in-suite options from the main restaurant menu and one that had just debuted on the ship which we really loved – Earth & Ocean at the Patio.
On the balmier evenings of our cruise, Earth & Ocean at The Patio was packed with diners checking out this new poolside option. Seabourn has gone to great lengths to design a full dining experience commencing with the music, candlelight, style of menu, earthen dinnerware, napkins and delicious condiments. It is a full presentation from start to finish and palate-pleasing with choices from both earth and ocean as one might imagine. Open, weather permitting, each evening from 7.30 to 9.30 pm there are such choices as Burrata with heirloom tomatoes, garlic sautéed shrimp, seabass, beef short ribs, or a lamb shank, and the menu changes daily. Simple yet creatively and imaginatively presented food, one dish always in a tangine, with a variety of other innovative cooking methods, Earth & Ocean at the Patio is a delicious culinary offering and already very popular.
Dessert and a latte at Seabourn Square.
With its sublime décor and design, casually elegant lifestyle, polished service and spacious, comfortable suites and public rooms, including the heart of the ship, Seabourn Square, Seabourn Ovation is a truly luxurious cruise experience. With the range of dining choices and those renowned Seabourn moments such as the caviar and vodka sail away, the Officers on Deck party and numerous other thoughtfully presented occasions that guests adore, the ship is the epitome of excellence. Add the exceptional partnerships with Michelin-starred Chef Thomas Keller, Dr Andrew Weil in the realm of Wellness and Sir Tim Rice in entertainment, and the Ovation becomes a lustrous jewel, brightly burnished. She has a distinctive style and that certain something – that je ne sais quoi – a magical, and much-admired ingredient – the best way I know to surrender to the siren call of the sea.
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Written by Vanessa Lee for Cruise & Travel Lifestyles (Summer 2019)