This was our first cruise on Seabourn - we have mostly cruised Celebrity. Overall the Seabourn experience is spectacular and we would recommend it to anyone. You simply cannot be more pampered anywhere - even in the world's most luxurious hotels.
SHIP: The ship is simply beautiful with ample public space, deck chairs, etc for all. The show lounge and restaurant accommodate all passengers at one sitting if necessary, but they were never full as guests enjoyed other venues for meals (verandah café, barbecue and theme lunch buffets on deck, in-suite full-course dinners, or 24 hrs room service). The Club is an elegant bar for cocktails before dinner. The casino was never full. The library is extensive for a ship off this size and newspapers/magazines are brought aboard in port. 24 hr movie selection is good, though we never watched a one. Never used the internet lounge either but fellow passengers were happy with it, except perhaps cost of e-mailing. Workout facilities are magnificent - just upgraded - 5 treadmills, 4 exercise bikes, free weights, and at least ten weight machines. Plus 3 jacuzzis, and steam and sauna facilities for both men and women.
The only thing about the treadmills is ceilings are low (throughout ship) and if you are much over 5'11" jogging is difficult without bumping your head because treadmill is nearly 12" off the floor. Elsewhere in the ship I was comfortable even at 6'3". Average age on this cruise was about 60 so the sporting facilities and jacuzzis were never full. Oh, and if you want, you can have caviar and champagne in the Jacuzzi. Spa treatments are a bit costly ($179/1.5 hr massage) but very good. My wife is a massage therapist and she has been disappointed on other ships. In contrast the boutique is unbelievably affordable and has many very nice, high quality items at reasonable prices so do leave some room in your luggage. The one thing you do find out is the smaller ship has more movement at sea and is more likely to have to cancel a port due to sea conditions. Another excellent feature is a free launderette which also has an ironing board if you need to touch up a shirt. The on-board pressing and dry cleaning service is also more reasonable than a hotel ($3.75 to press a pair of tuxedo slacks).
SERVICE: With 208 passengers and 160 crew there is always someone to take care of you. Staff quickly learns passenger names. They are genuinely interested in your happiness. We only saw one unhappy crewmember on the cruise and it was only because she had not been off the ship for a couple of weeks. Our cabin stewardess was so wonderfully unobtrusive and yet attentive. With a no-tipping policy all you can do is thank them profusely by name. This cruise was the first for Legend after the transatlantic before which most of the crew changed out so the restaurant staff were still honing their teamwork and there were a few mix-ups with orders and rotation of waiters between tables, but these were cheerfully fixed. Even when an over-exuberant flambé of crepes suzette caused the sprinkler system to go off over the captain's table on formal night, most tried to see the humor in the situation though it took some time to stem the flow of water. by the way, you can special order anything imaginable (like crepes suzette) and they will have it for you in 24hrs. German Chef Ralf Zillger is simply outstanding and I know several other renowned chefs. He even gave us some of his recipes. He also hosts cooking demos in the kitchen and a wonderful international buffet lunch which you help yourself to in the expansive kitchen and then your plate is whisked off to the table for you by your waiter.
FOOD: In a word SPECTACULAR. The most exotic and inventive gourmet stuff coupled with elegant classics. So many choices from all over the world - all of it beyond fresh. Best fish we've ever had; better filet steaks than Ruth Chris; homemade sorbets and desserts; pounds and pounds of lobster, shrimp, caviar. Delicious salads and every condiment known to man. They are unflappable: English or Canadian bacon - no problem; matzo crackers - no problem. Only occasionally in 6-star hotels or Michelin star restaurants have we had food this good. Even the hamburgers are special. And the best news: nice small portions so you can enjoy several courses (or have more of the same if you like). This is refined eating - no monster buffets here. In addition to nice touches like champagne and canapés on arrival, chocolate truffles, and decadent cookies, Seabourn puts a snack tray in your suite if your excursion returns outside mealtimes. My only complaints - too much mayonnaise on sandwiches, especially at teatime and the broths and consommés are very, very rich. I lost 5 lbs in 11 days (no desserts or potatoes helped) - and that's definitely a first. Clearly, along with service, cuisine is the strongest attribute of this line.
ENTERTAINMENT: Nothing glitzy here, but good singers and piano or quartet music. Relaxing stuff with good dance tunes. Dancing in the club very popular. Sean O'Shea does a superb Elvis show and James Barr sings and plays wonderfully, especially Elton John and Billy Joel. Nice casino. Popular cruise-long trivia contest. Well-led exercise, yoga, and stretching classes are usually only 2-5 persons. Interesting lectures on history of destinations and their cultures/religions. But, on Seabourn the most popular entertainment is relaxing in the sun or lounge or your suite with a good read.
SUITE: We booked Cat A suite guarantee which proved to be a very smart move as we were upgraded five categories to B3 suite with French doors and balcony. This was very nice for letting in sea breezes (when we were at sea). While we were probably unusually fortunate to get such a wonderful upgrade, you will likely enjoy a good chance of an upgrade since many of the Cat A cabins are filled with non-rev cruisers (priest, rabbi, lecturer, guest entertainer, doctor, etc). We received the only Cat A guarantee quote (which was also the best quote) from Michael T. Bruciak, Cruise Planners, Inc., 301-912-3140, 800-552-3118 (toll-free); firstname.lastname@example.org , so he deserves a plug. We received our travels documents 60 days in advance and only 30 days after booking. The suite is just wonderful no matter where you get it. Super comfortable beds, duvets, marble bath, walk-in closet, best terry robes anywhere, bar stocked to order (didn't even get half way through it in 11 days), TV/VCR, and new CD players. Comfortable seating, although rough seas may send you looking for another place to relax with your book (we found the best was supine in a deck chair). Coffee table turns into nice dinner table for two. Fruit basket (which we never touched because we were never hungry). We had a room in a Lisbon 5-star which was not as nice and cost 575 euro per night.
ITINERARY/EXCURSIONS: We spent 2 days in Lisbon before embarkation and would recommend Lisbon - beautiful, clean, and scenic city. Itinerary was 11 days Lisbon to Lisbon and was supposed to include Madeira, Las Palmas, Fuerteventura, Agadir, Casablanca, and Seville. Madeira was beautiful, but I would not recommend this itinerary in April. Seabourn planners put the captain in an extremely tough position when a rather routine Atlantic low pressure area trapped us in Las Palmas and we lost ports of Fuerteventura, Agadir, Casablanca, and Seville (due to tides on the river there). Several couples left the ship in Las Palmas and flew to Seville or elsewhere (cost no object for some Seabourn cruisers). The captain did a great job of keeping everyone informed and had the safety and comfort of the passengers and crew always as the priority; but, at the end of the day, Seabourn planners have to accept some of the responsibility for the trashed itinerary because the captain had no flexibility to go elsewhere, so we sat in port. At least we were not all in 20 foot seas feeling poorly and not being able to enjoy the wonderful cuisine!! When it looked like we might be doomed to go from Las Palmas directly back to Lisbon, the captain, navigator, and the rest of the bridge crew did a magnificent job of replanning to at least get us to North Africa and Spain. Shipping ports of Cueta (Spanish North Africa) and Cadiz, Spain were substituted. The ship is so gorgeous, but when you are on sky deck with champagne and diesel, sandwiched between a container ship and an oiler it just takes away some of the atmosphere of 6-star cruising. Substitute ports were a long way from anything interesting (2 hrs+ Cadiz to Seville). We did not go on this cruise for long, 8 hour excursions, so we preferred to stay aboard and relax or just take a taxi or walk around. The Seabourn excursions are nice and we took two, but things move as slow as the slowest person and generally have an hour pad built in to allow for that which means you are invariably done and wishing you could be on the ship instead of waiting for the bus. Lesson learned: better to stay inside the Med until after 1 May.
COST: Very nice not to pay for drinks or tips. Premium brands (Tanqueray, Stolichnaya Crystal, Makers Mark, etc served), champagne anywhere, anytime, stocked in-suite bar. I think when you consider what is included these cruises, they are not a bad value at about $300-350 per person per day with value pricing. You would certainly pay close to the same at a 6-star European hotel (often $500-600+ per night plus food and drinks). We cruised the Med in a similar suite on Millennium in 1999 and paid about $1,500 per person less than this cruise for the same 11 days. Consider the following expenses we had with Celebrity: Olympic restaurant ($50); 1 bottle champagne ($30); 16 bottles of wine/11 days ($480 + $72 tip); 40 cocktails/11 days ($250+$38 tip); soft drinks ($100 +$15 tip); staff tips $440/11days. That already adds up to the $1500 difference for one of us and does not include the difference in quality (Seabourn is better than eating at Olympic restaurant every night), level of service, and all the other incidentals such as room service tips, etc with other lines. Not to mention the amenities, coziness of small ship, etc. I believe if you buy at a good price (and you are not a teetotaler) our Seabourn cruise was only about 20% more than Celebrity - and I am a Captains Club member who never would have believed that beforehand. Try it.