In this article step on board the ultra-luxury Seabourn Sojourn cruise ship as I bring you the first a series of exclusive insider insights and tips about cruising with the line.
As I sailed around the Mediterranean on the 450-passenger ship I interviewed some of the key crew. I got behind the scenes to look at what makes Seabourn different, the experience and I found out more about what passengers should expect if they travel with them. I also asked all of them for their tips to help guests get the most out of cruising with Seabourn.
In this first part you can read my interview with Karl Eckel, Hotel Director, and Colleen Ellis, Guest Services Manager, who talk about the Seabourn experience, type of people the line is suited for and their tips for first time Seabourn travellers.
Tips for Travellers: How would you describe the Seabourn experience? There’s lots of choice in the cruise industry, so how do you see it as being different?
Karl: I think that Seabourn experience is customized. If guests open up to us and let us know what they like and dislike, we can get to know them personally and add in small touches and little surprises. It’s what makes the Seabourn experience, as they it can be customized.
Colleen: We’ve got a big focus on special requests. As we find out what guests like, we take note of those and hopefully whenever our guests sail, we know those preferences and ensure they feel comfortable as soon as they get on board because we know what they like. As Karl said the special touches, and then interaction with the crew, is what we hear guests like a lot. Fantastic food, service and all of that we have, but it’s the unique interaction with the crew and those special moments that guests say make us different.
Tips for Travellers: What type of people do you think Seabourn is best suited for?
Karl: Guests on Seabourn are here to relax. It’s not a fast-paced environment. It is a relaxed environment. The majority of them are well travelled and experienced.
Colleen: I would definitely agree with that and say it is for those with a refined taste for excellent food and elegant service.
Tips for Travellers: In terms of nationalities and age ranges, what type of people do you normally have on Seabourn cruises – and does it differ by destination?
Colleen: During the summer season, in July and August, we often have a slightly younger demographic, more families and so forth. To cater for that, we run a Youth Program for them. On longer voyages, and especially the extended voyages, we have some guests that spend four months on board with us and so generally they would be retired. Otherwise we have guests that are able to work away and so might spend a month or two months with us doing different segments. The majority market is from the US and UK. We have a growing market in Australia and a mix of European guests.
Karl: Guests come from all over the world, Asia, New Zealand, South Africa, South America, but our main market is USA and UK since we are an English-speaking ship, meaning that everything on board is in English. The crew do speak several languages, but the language on board and all the information is in English. Therefore the English-speaking markets are those that we as a company at this point in time have as our main focus and the clientele come from.
Tips for Travellers: If someone is coming onto Seabourn for the first time, what tips do you have for getting the most out of the Seabourn experience? Both of you spoke a lot about the importance of asking and letting you know their preferences, but what other tips do you have?
Karl: The secret to an enjoyable cruise is to talk to us. There is one thing we’re very bad at and it’s reading minds! If we don’t have what a guest wants on board we will try and find it shore side. It doesn’t help the guest if they come on board and spend seven, ten or fourteen days with us and we don’t know what they like and dislike. Then they go home and say it wasn’t for me. Just because of the simple fact we didn’t know, and we couldn’t provide it. It is a two-way street on board, and as I said before, there are no limitations.
For example, two cruises ago we had guests on their 35th wedding anniversary and they spoke about how on their honeymoon that they had these beautiful desserts in Paris. As we didn’t have it on board we found out what the dessert was, went online, got the recipe and two days later we served it to them as a surprise. These are these little surprises. That’s why for me, it is crucial that we talk to the guests.
We don’t want to hear that everything’s fantastic. We want to hear what we can do to make their experience on board better and exceed expectations.
Colleen: I’d also encourage guests that are coming for the first time, or even our repeat guests, to participate in all the programs that we put on. We always like everybody to get involved in the operation and see the galley tours and we offer a bridge tour. Go to the special events that we have, like the party we had up on deck a couple of nights ago. We just like to get everybody involved and try to give a broad spectrum of different kinds of entertainment and events to do.
I also wanted to mention when we are talking about the difference and different things we have, the Seabourn Square area as a very nice addition. Guests really love that, the fact that we have an area which is kind of a reception area providing a personal service, but you’ve also got the coffee bar, which has an array of different items, the library and an area to relax. You could see today how popular it is, especially on a sea day or if there’s any kind of inclement weather it’s a very nice area to relax.
Tips for Travellers: If anyone’s holding back coming on Seabourn, any last thoughts you would have to convince them to make the leap and come?
Karl: If you are looking for the best of the best and something unique, this is the right place to travel with.
Colleen: Absolutely, I agree with that. I’d say if you’re looking for something different, very personalized and something that you’ll probably remember and definitely want to try again, Seabourn is what I’d recommend.
Read all my Insider Tips and Advice: Exclusive Interviews with the Crew series: