The Yachts of Seabourn: The Best Things in Small Packages

25, 2006

(Deborah Natansohn wrote this article for CruiseMates on September 25, 2006. We had asked her to contribute an article for us as the first in a series of articles we plan to run for selected cruise lines. Sadly and untimely, Deborah passed away on Oct. 24, 2006. We present the unedited article for you below. Job well done, Deborah.)

My name is Deborah Natansohn and I am the president and chief operating officer of Seabourn Cruise Line. Seabourn is a small company, with three intimate ships, each of which carries a maximum of 208 guests, serving the smallest, ultra luxury segment of the business. Because most of our guests are referred either by their travel agents or their friends and families, we don't do a lot of advertising, and so if you don't know someone who has sailed on Seabourn, or aren't all that familiar with the cruise business, you may not know very much about us. I'd like to thank CruiseMates' readers for the opportunity to lay out some of the key features that make our line different from others. A great deal of what makes Seabourn Seabourn derives from the size and guest capacity of our ships. They are unique in the cruise industry.

Sincere, yet professional service: The one thing you should know about Seabourn, even if you forget all the rest, is that each ship's 208 guests are served by 165 of the very best hospitality professionals the world has to offer. That crew-to-guest ratio is the highest in the industry, and it allows our staff to provide personalized attention second to none. I have been in the travel business for over twenty years, and I have never seen anything else like it. Our guests tell me in no uncertain terms that the staff and crew are what makes Seabourn Seabourn.

"I have never been more impressed in my 60 years than the last 2 weeks-unbelievable!"- Mr. & Mrs. C. They use words like "skilled," "dedicated" and-especially, "sincere." The service style is relaxing and un-intimidating-- not stiff or formal.

"Your team is cheerful, considerate and efficient to the highest degree, which is why we have had five Seabourn cruises and why we have signed for three more."- Mr. & Mrs. T. This is not a happy accident, nor is it magic (despite how it feels.) It is the result of our baseline company philosophy that dictates hiring, training and management policies focused intensively on anticipating and satisfying guests' desires. The prevailing attitude on board is "Of course!" These people don't provide service for tips. They are caring, career professionals who find challenge and satisfaction in our onboard work environment. On a typical cruise, about half of the guests are returning Seabourn alumni, and they tell me that they think of the crew as family. "Your ability to create a sense of 'family' environment segregates you from all."- Mr. & Mrs. L.

Society: Seabourn guests are generally friendly, curious, and not at all stuffy. They are very social and they don't spend a lot of time sequestered in their suites. They enjoy traveling, each others' company and conversation. Each Seabourn yacht has just 104 ocean-view suites, so most cruises, figuring single travelers on board, will be enjoyed by about 200 guests. That provides a nice-sized social pool, like a large wedding party. You'll definitely find people you'll really like, and you'll get the chance to know them.

"I met many more of my fellow passengers than one does on a large ship, and was able to talk to them in greater depth. I found people to be more open, better educated and more interesting than the usual cruise passengers." Dr. S., M.D. Because nearly all of the suites are pretty much the same, it fosters an un-pretentious, one-class camaraderie. The complimentary open bars add to this club-like atmosphere, and open seating dining encourages spontaneous sociability. If you meet someone in the lounge and decide to dine together, the Maitre d' sets it up-"Of course!" Single travelers tell us they're welcomed into the social life and never get "lost in the crowd" as they can on larger ships. As a result of more 7-day cruises, Seabourn's guests are younger than in the past. What Seabourn guests have in common is more psychographic than demographic. They are affluent, educated, appreciate the finer things in life and-- when they find real value-- are willing to spend to enjoy them. On lots of cruises, two-thirds of the group range in age from their 40s to 60s and the other third are mixed on either side of that-and they all get along famously.

Size and Suites: Seabourn's ships are virtually identical: 439 feet long with six passenger decks. It's a wonderfully relaxing, un-intimidating size. New guests quickly get familiar with the arrangement, and even if you turn the wrong way, you really can't get lost. Nothing is terribly far from where you are. Seabourn suites are comfortable, spacious and well-appointed for vacation living. "The roomy suites and good-sized bathroom are indeed more comfortable than comparable suites on other deluxe ships."- Mr. P. Most (98 of the 104) are identical in size, 277 square feet. The differences are just the location, and whether they have a five-foot picture window or a Seabourn balcony. Seabourn's balconies are not sit-out-on verandas (each ship does have six larger suites, which do have private verandas). A full-length sliding glass door opens onto a narrow ledge protected by a clear glass panel capped with a teak rail. This provides panoramic views, fresh air and sunshine, and a place to lean out and look along the side of the ship. With the door open, you can sit in the seating area of your suite, and enjoy greater privacy and comfort than you would on a veranda separated from your neighbors by a partition.

"We have had large balconies on many cruises with (other lines). We loved our balconies on the Spirit…It gave us the feeling of having the sea right in our suite. On the other balcony suites we had to leave our room to enjoy the balcony edge and often it was windy and exposed."- a New Zealand Cruiser Some guests prefer the picture window, which has a nice window-seat feature.

Shore: Seabourn is an innovator in creating shore excursions offering unique and memorable experiences. These include privileged access to sites that other travelers never see, or private entries when sites are closed to the general public. People-to-people experiences are another strong point for Seabourn. On every cruise, we invite all guests to a complimentary Exclusively Seabourn event in one port of call, created just for us and unavailable to anyone else. We take guests into the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey at night after it closes, and do a candlelight cocktail reception at the Library of Celsus with a string quartet. In warm-water areas, we cater a linen-and-silver beach barbecue on a private beach and the waiters serve champagne and caviar to guests waist-deep in the surf. Seabourn has lots of active tours involving cycling, hiking, rafting, horseback riding, walking and even canyoning excursions for those seeking a more physical shoreside experience. For guests who prefer to design their own shore programs, our onboard Concierge office can arrange everything from a private car and guide to our unique Personal Shopper services in ports of call around the world.

"On our return to the ship from a day in Venice, we found a wonderful welcome home banner, a band playing, the staff lined up to greet us, and in our suite, a plate of fruit and sandwiches. A perfect day." - Mrs. E.

Seabourn fares are among the highest in the industry, but then we also provide more for your fare. If you like intimate resorts, clubs or hotels, and if you like fine dining, friendly people and being personally pampered, I know you'll quickly feel right at home.

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