In the second in my series of exclusive insider tips on cruising with Seabourn, I interview Marc Thompson, the Cruise Sales Specialist on board Seabourn Sojourn. He spoke about the destinations, types of cruises, booking and tips on choosing the right cruise.
Tips for Travellers: Can you tell me about the Seabourn fleet and the main destinations that Seabourn covers?
Marc: We have a fleet of 3 ships sailing from April 2015. We actually cover worldwide destinations, so we have the traditional cruising around the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Asia and Canada. The great thing is because we have smaller ships is that we actually explore smaller ports of call. So we go into both the great places around the world that people know and love, but we also visit the smaller, more undiscovered places as well.
For example, in Asia we have the ports of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, but we’re going to South Korea and Taiwan, which is exciting for us. With the Caribbean we visit undiscovered Caribbean ports. Although you have the convenience of sailing from Fort Lauderdale, you can actually see some of the real Caribbean islands that are less spoiled, less commercialized as well as some of the bigger known islands that most guests would be familiar with and may have travelled to before.
Tips for Travellers: Talking about the smaller ships, how many passengers does the biggest ship have on at the moment?
Marc: Currently our biggest ship sails with 400, up to 450 guests. We will launch another ship in 2016 and go slightly larger, up to 600 guests, but in terms of industry standards that’s still a small ship. The great thing is that only do we have a few guests, but the ship size is generous in relation to public space and size of the suites as well. Our guests can really enjoy private time out on deck while stay in spacious, luxurious suite accommodation.
Tips for Travellers: Are there specific destinations that you recommend to different types of passengers?
Marc: In my role as a cruise sale specialist I have the luxury of being able to spend a lot of time talking and getting to know our guests and understanding what they particularly enjoy. Most importantly, what they want to explore in the future. The first question I ask is what type of holiday do they enjoy? For a first time cruise they often will have more questions than some of our more seasoned travellers.
I like to understand what parts of the world they’ve enjoyed visiting before and then from there I base the recommendation on where to go to. My advice would differ depending on if it’s an older couple that maybe less mobile this time in life all the way through to a younger family, which is more rare for us to have at Seabourn.
We often will in the summer months, July and August, have couples that will travel with younger children. For them I would suggest Mediterranean or Caribbean cruises where we don’t have as much time at sea, because if you’re entertaining younger ones or if you’re a particularly active person and enjoy really seeing and doing something every day, then sea days are not particularly something that guests enjoy as much over the opportunity to explore ports of call.
On the flip side, we do have a lot happening on sea days as well. Some of our guests really cruise for the luxury experience that we have at sea. Often I help guests plan either trans-Atlantic crossings or to other parts of the world where there’s a good ratio of ports to see with sea days in between. This allows them to have the down time that a lot of people need if they’re leaving a work environment or a challenging life at home.
Tips for Travellers: Does Seabourn do world cruises? If someone wanted to go on a classic three-month world cruises, can they do that with Seabourn?
Marc: With Seabourn we actually have taken it beyond the level of the world cruise, which a lot of our competitors do. We have what we call “extended explorations”, which actually gives you a great depth of experience in a particular part of the world. For our 2014 and 2015 calendar, for example, we travelled with greater depth around South Africa and Asia. Guests get to enjoy two or three days in some ports of call. We also elevate our on board product with regionally themed menus and local speakers.
You have greater exposure to a certain part of the world and not ultimately just paying lip service in one or two ports of call and the ship quickly moving on, which ultimately that’s what it has to do to get around the world.
In 2016 we have extended exploration sailing from the US all the way down to Australia, but with a great opportunity to experience French Polynesia and South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. That’s a 77-day round trip opportunity, but like all our Seabourn cruises you have the flexibility to have a shorter snapshot of time. If you have commitments and you can only sail for say 15 days you can.
Tips for Travellers: Why should people book with you on board? What are the advantages of working with you and not just doing it back home?
Marc: On board we have the wider suite selection, so we can really sit down with the guests and understand their preference with accommodation. Once you’re on board a ship, the great thing with Seabourn ships is the blueprint is the same across the three of the ships within the fleet. You can book with confidence knowing where your suite’s going to be.
I also arrange opportunities for suite viewings, so literally guests will be able to come with me at the start or end of the cruise and actually have a look at potential rooms if they’re looking to upgrade in the future. They really can make an informed choice about what they’re booking. In addition to that are financial savings. By booking on board you save 5%, but the great part about booking on board is you still get to work with your own travel agent at home. The booking is handed straight back to your preferred travel agent who gets full credit for that booking, so it’s great for him or her at home to continue to give you those services or amenities that you become used to and you’ve enjoyed. Booking on the ship gives people the benefit of really planning their vacation while they’re here in the environment and can ask all the questions that they want to know.
Tips for Travellers: With all your experience and years at sea, what tips would you have for a first-time Seabourn cruiser to give the most out of their cruise?
Marc: For me, for any guest who’s new on board I would really encourage them to read. Read the information that comes to their suite. We have a great daily Seabourn Herald, it all the concise information they need in one daily sheet. It’s delivered to the suite each evening and it’s there to help guests make the most of their next day in port.
There are factors such as the weather or the ship departure times that are essential to know, and it also helps you make the most of the dining experience on board. It will announce other activities from a religious service to bridge instructor days. I know it’s not always great to start reading too much when you’re on vacation, but just to take a few moments to really look at it each night before you go to bed. Then you’ll certainly make the most of everything that the port and ship have to offer.
Tips for Traveller: Any other last thoughts you have for anyone who’s not sure they should come on Seabourn and are still to make up their mind finally?
Tips for Travellers: I’m fortunate in that I’ve worked in over 20 ships over a 10-year career in the cruise industry and I’ve saved the best until last. The Seabourn experience is very special indeed and yes, there are many beautiful ships out there and there are also many ships going to similar ports of call and the same countries around the world, but Seabourn is very special. It’s more than the beautiful ships and the places we visit. It’s the people on board and that’s really what makes the difference. Do try Seabourn. I know for a fact people won’t be disappointed, because it is a very special sailing experience and the crew that we employ are very unique in relation to their guest service skills and their interaction with guests.
Seabourn has a great commitment to training on board. We have a dedicated full-time training manager and I believe that’s one of the key factors that’s helping each head of department to make sure they get the best out of their team, because a happy crew certainly leads to a very well, very happy, satisfied guest.
Read all my Insider Tips and Advice: Exclusive Interviews with the Crew series: