Seabourn Small Ship Cruising on the Seabourn Sojourn. Observations and thoughts
Watch my tips for travellers video tour of the ship:
This article shares my observations, and thoughts, about Seabourn Cruises, and their ship the Seabourn Sojourn. It is based on a visit I made to the ship when it was docked at the London Cruise Terminal in Tilbury. Watch my video tour of the ship at the bottom of this article.
Seabourn is a small ship cruise line that is part of the huge Carnival Cruise Organization. It is the brand in their portfolio that offers passengers a more intimate and luxurious cruise alternative. An alternative to the large ships that are used by most of Carnival’s other cruise brands including Carnival, Cunard, P&O, Princess and Costa.
The Seabourn line likes to call itself the “World’s Best Small Ship Cruise Line”. Is it?
They seem to have some justification for that bold claim as they list a long stream of awards that they have won in both passenger choice and industry awards, including the premium Conde Nast Magazine Awards. The Seabourn Team talk about offering “Six Star Service” and this, along with the small ship experience, is what everyone I met on Seabourn kept stressing.
Personalised and high service is what they say makes them different to other lines. The fact that they have at most 420 passengers (so about 210 couples) and 330 crew on-board makes it more possible.
The smaller ship size means that they can visit destinations that large cruise ships cannot get into and visit. So, for example, they are able to come right up the Thames into Central London at times, and they tour small Greek Islands or visit towns on the islands that usually are only accessible to private yachts.
Higher fares than bigger lines for similar routes? Or are they?
What are my tips for travellers when comparing fares on Seabourn versus other cruise lines?
Although the price, at first glance, of a Seabourn cruise looks higher than bigger cruise lines for similar routes, there are a number of factors that passengers need to look at when comparing the fares – before dismissing the line as too costly for them.
Most cruise lines today are aggressively discounting headlines fares, and then work to make up revenue through on-board extras and spending. This is not quite the same on Seabourn, which is more “all inclusive” and so the following is included in the fare:
- All suite cabins. Only one grade does not have a balcony. So you need to be looking at the equivalent style of cabin when comparing. Even the smaller suites are over 450 square feet, so you are getting large cabins. There are no inside cabins.
- All drinks are included, even all spirits, wines and champagne. If you are a total wine geek, they do have very posh wines that you could seek out and pay for on-board. But they use branded and premium names for the drinks included in your fare. Every in-room bar is stocked with your choice of drinks before you board, and refreshed through the cruise at no charge.
- Gratuities are not “expected or required”. This is something really stressed. You should not feel any need to add in tips to your budget. This is unlike most lines where it is now added onto your bill most times.
- There is no charge for specialty dining. The 7-course Taster Menu restaurant (Restaurant 2 has no surcharge but you do need to make a booking as there is limited space each evening. In addition to 24 Hour Room service, there are 3 other places to eat. Dining in your room seems popular and all suites, even the regular “Penthouse Suites”, have dining set ups.
- No set dining times and seating. All passengers have “free seating”, which means you can eat whenever and wherever you want (when they are open of course!).
- Caviar is free and available too – to everyone.
- Off menu dining is open to everyone, as long as you give 24 hour notice. This is something usually only for the most premium grades on some cruise lines (e.g. Cunard Queens Grill).
- Activities. Although shore excursions are charged for, there are some free activities like the off the back of the ship marina which has watersports when docked in suitable regions. There are some off ship island meals and occasional special events on land, like music, included.
Small ship means very small choice of places and things to do?
One of the things that surprised me about the ship was that the smaller ship than I am used to cruising with did not mean less choice. This is something the Seabourn Team stressed a lot. Small ship does not mean lack of choice. For example:
- 4 restaurants to chose from: Main Dining Room (“The Restaurant”), The Colonnade (more casual and self service), Patio Grill and the “Restaurant 2” (Taster Menu).
- A spa, which also has treatments, hair salon and full fitness centre.
- 2 swimming pools, also with decks for quiet sunbathing and a retreat with “Crazy Golf”.
- Casino (with blackjack, roulette, poker and slots) and shops.
- 6 bars and lounges, including the Seabourn Square (a popular hub with library, computer centre, concierge, tour office and coffee shop), Observation Bar up on deck 10 and “The Club” where live music is available at night.
- Entertainment. There is a Grand Salon which hosts shows by the 4 on-board singers doing small production shows (produced by the same company that does Cunard shows I noted!), guest artists they bring on-board and a Dance Couple that perform and teach ballroom dancing. They also have guest speakers talking about destinations, current affairs and other educational topics
- The back of ship marina and watersports.
Seabourn Sojourn Spa
What are my tips for what type of passengers should consider Seabourn?
Seabourn have a high repeat rate, which they feel is based on appealing to people looking for a very personalised service which is just not possible on large cruise lines. Everyone I met had stories about how the individual quirks and needs of passengers are met on a regular basis. Be it ensuring a certain type of stuffed olive, through to searching Vietnam for Guinness or helping look after a care dog that helps one of their regular passengers manage her illness.
- Seabourn feel that travellers that enjoy staying at boutique and prestige Five Star Hotels will enjoy the line, as they offer the kind of service those hotels do.
- The profile overall is slightly older (over 45) and tends to be more couples. They do not have a major child club, although in the middle of summer apparently they do bring some resources on-board to help entertain children. However, I think there are cruise lines that are much better suited to children – and I also suspect the passengers would prefer it to be less kid busy!
- I think the feel, design and nature of Seabourn being smaller and more intimate makes it a more sedate and calm experience, I do not think party going types looking to party all night long would find it a line for them at all.
- Linked to that and due to the intimate nature of the line, and its size, it appeals a lot to Honeymoon couples when in warmer areas like the Caribbean looking for a special pampered holiday.
- It is also a good line for solo travellers both due to the size, which will make it easier to meet and engage with people, but also they make a point of welcoming solo travellers. For example, Senior Crew host tables every night in the main dining room to ensure solo travellers will have people to join and eat with.
- The line is very popular with American passengers, and you are most likely going to find that is the main population on-board. Of course, when the ships are in Europe in the Summer they attract an increasing UK and, of course, other European travellers. I noted quite a good mix of Asian cruisers too when I was visiting.
It is about a more refined and calm service environment. It strikes me as a line for people who want to be recognised and engage with both other passengers and the crew.
I was impressed, and excited, by the Small Ship Experience. Much more than I thought I would be! I realised that you do not have to compromise the choice you get on bigger ships as there is still choice. The venues are smaller but still you have options. The routes look interesting, especially as the big ports are starting to get very frantic with cruise ships and thousands of passengers often in port on the same day. The focus on service seems a real passion based on what I heard.
The next key is to go on a cruise with them now, of course, and experience it all in depth to be able to report more and give more tips.
Have you been on Seabourn and the Seabourn Sojourn? What were your thoughts ?
Links and further reading:
- Tips for Travellers Seabourn Pictures on Flickr
- Tips for Travellers Seabourn Pinterest Board
- Tips for Travellers Seabourn Page (All my Seabourn articles, resources etc)
- Tips for Travellers on Cruising (all my cruise articles and resources)
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