Seabourn Sojourn - My Virtual Cruise Oct 9... 21
I will be sailing on Seabourn for the first time - boarding Sojourn on Sunday in Quebec. I am looking forward to seeing what the world has been talking about for the last few years.
I will be sailing from Quebec up (North) or down (Stream) the St. Lawrence Seaway with stops in Halifax, BarHahbah (Maine), New York City, Norfolk VA, Charleston SC and landing in Fort Lauderdale.
This is the fall folliage itinerary - which I have always wanted to do. I hope the leaves are turning already.
And I will also get a chance to try out the iconic Seabourn food & service. Looking forward to it! Watch this space for my updates from the ship.
Have a Great Cruise Paul..... Looking forward to additions and pics you provide within this thread
We just got aboard Seabourn Sojourn. We are in Quebec which I always wanted to see. We got aboard the ship (checked in) and they invited us to wait in the lounge until the rooms were ready.
This is one aspect of cruising I am starting to think is silly. First of all, I don't want to check into a ship just to sit and wait for my stateroom to be ready. We had never seen Quebec, so we asked the person aiding us if he could put our bags (carry-ons) someplace while we went to see the city. He complied, which was very nice. We got off and saw a lot of beautiful Quebec.
When we got back we went to our stateroom. It is nice but not perfect. The table where I am sitting to type this only has one US and 1 European plug. They are so close to one another I can't use both at the same time.
I don't understand why they don't give more US plugs on cruise ships. especially now that everyone is so digital.
The room is pretty, but the TV is tiny. I made my wife take the "wrong" side of the bed just so I could see it. It is a 21-inch for an entire 300-sq ft suite. Anyway - just one of the very first things you notice, but on Silversea the same size suite has two 32-inch TVs.
You can't get in the front door if the bathroom door is open. The space between the bed and wall is very tight as well. Oh well, just first impressions - more later.
Uh oh.,.,.keep your chin up..things will certainly be fanatastic as the cruise goes on.....Have a ball & looking forward to seeing all your pictures....
Posting for Paul
Paul is having connectivity issues..so here is his latest posting.
I am thrilled to finally have my chance to experience what has been dubbed by many the finest cruise line in the world. Although the fact that I have to work while I am onboard makes it somewhat difficult for me to fully enjoy the experience as much as the regular passengers, it is still an impressive ship and I can tell the vast majority of passengers are pleased.
Starting with our stateroom, we are in a suite, although that is all the ship offers. We have a 300 sq. ft verandah suite located on the pool deck. It is nicely quiet and well appointed with a wonderfully comfortable King-size bed and separate seating area with a couch long enough for taking naps (something I sometimes enjoy using couches for) although it isn’t designed in such a way that your pillows will stay in place. So, in the end it seems we end up not using the couch much.
There is a dining height table in our stateroom with two chairs, perfect for having room service in your stateroom. The ship will deliver any meal from any restaurant to your room during dinner hour, a service I personally believe is one of the most civilized a ship can offer. This service is now usually available on most cruise lines of this caliber, and even slightly less expensive lines such as Azamara and Oceania.
We have now had three dinners onboard; the first was the best in a room called The Colonnade, which is essentially the buffet area although that name really does not apply on this ship. Although you can select certain items from the counters, most of the main courses are available from a menu and table service. That night we had “surf and turf,” which was a filet steak and a lobster tail. The steak was cooked to perfection. Oddly, the lobster was not served with butter but it was still sweet and prepared to near perfection.
Night number two we were invited to dine with the hotel manager, at a table of 10, so we did actually interact with him very closely. I get the feeling he has dined with a few too many passengers as he mostly appeared to be going through the motions of being a host. His conversation was so limited I can’t really even recall a single word he said, except “very good” as he nodded to the sommelier every time a new bottle of wine was open.
I was not impressed with the dinner in The Restaurant. The menu comes laid out with just two sections not counting dessert. There were “openers” and “main course.” (Most menus have three or four sections; soups and salads (sometimes these are separate), appetizers and main course. Most of the openers were very light; a small salad for example, so that only left the main course as your entire dinner.
I asked the waiter if people often order more than one “opener” and he replied with helpful specificity, three people here have done so, and five have not. I ordered two, because I was hungry. The first was a crab cake, delicious but tiny (two bites), next came a mesclun salad where the salad dressing was so thin and light I had to taste it to make sure it existed. It did, but was not exactly brimming with flavor. My main course was “open lobster ravioli.” No one at the table had any idea what that name suggested, so we all waited to see what I would get.
The dish was a sheet of cooked pasta (as in flat ravioli) made as a wrap with bites of lobster inside. It was satisfying in taste, but once again rather small. I am always wary of ships where I walk away from the dinner table still feeling hungry. But that would not happen here. It seems the grand plan on this ship is to reel in the accolades with a grand dessert. In my case it was a bourbon soufflé, in a tall, thick cup, practically the size of a coffee mug. The soufflé extended above the brim by a good ½ inch. The waiter subsequently made a hole in the top and poured the sauce in. It was delicious and filling, although I don’t think any dessert soufflé is supposed to have the unmistakable taste of cooked eggs.
Coming back to the room my wife took a bath. Seabourn provides a selection of bath salts; one for calming and another for cleansing. This is a nice touch, unfortunately they are in short supply and the cleaning one is not available on this trip. The bathroom is very spacious with also a separate shower. The room stewardess brings a selection of three different soaps for you to choose from on the first day. My wife took a creamy one while I took one with loofah ingredients to give your skin more of a scrub.
One of the only negatives I have with this stateroom is the size and position of the television. This is a brand new ship, launched in 2011. But the flat-screen TV is not more than 22-inches, tiny. And it is set on stand where you cannot even fully tilt it for viewing from both sides of the bed - as there is only one TV to serve the entire suite.
The enrichment lectures are very good, and if you look long enough you will find them on the T.V. in your room. We went to the actual theater to listen to one lecture on the history of Nova Scotia, and right now I have another one on my stateroom television that is being broadcast from the theater live. You can also find all of the lectures recorded on the television in your stateroom. I have to give Seabourn a LOT of credit here; because although I have been on many ships where they claim to have the ability to do this, many of the ships somehow never follow through with executing the process of recording the shows and making them available in your room. Even better, they are available on demand, so you can call up any lecture you may have missed, or may want to review, at any time.
Last night’s “formal dress suggested” stage show featured four singers who were all talented, and of course they could do decent dance choreography as well. There was an additional dance team (usually called the adagio in entertainment circles). They danced to music from “Footloose,” and they were very good, but their entire time on stage amounted to only five minutes. I hope to see more of them later in the cruise.
In the end, I have to say this ship just seems to have a very good “energy.” We feel good just walking around. The best way to describe it is “low stress.” We felt unwound on the first day, and we find ourselves sleeping as late as 9:30 a.m. by the second when we have been waking up at 5:00 a.m. at home. The room is quiet and the drapes are very effective at keeping out the light.
Oct 14 Spa Day…
Yesterday we had a stop in Bar Harbor. Now, I fully understand that I am not like most avid cruisers who love days at sea. I enjoy a day at sea, but I won’t fly halfway across the world to join a cruise ship just to spend 90% of my vacation stuck on a cruise ship - I don’t care how nice it is.
This is a very nice ship. As I said previously it just has a very serene atmosphere and the service is impeccable.
But two days ago we had a stop in Halifax, and we were only there from 2:00 to 5:00 - three hours. Now, in truth we had enough time to see everything we wanted to see, and we got back to the ship before “last call.” The same was true of Bar harbor, Maine, where we were there from 1:45 TO 5:30 (TIMES ARE ROUGH), and once again we saw all we cared to see and we got back barely before “last call.”
But here is the thing - those stays in port are too short. Why would I say this if we saw everything and even got back early? We only saw everything because we rushed the entire time. It was “go, go, go.” From the time we walked off to the time we got back. We walked fast, left the church early, skipped going inside the Citadel, didn’t browse for bargains, didn’t eat a local lunch, etc.
In Bar Harbor I had some of the best fresh Maine Lobster ever - but I wasn’t as hungry as I wanted to be when I found the perfect place because I had just eaten lunch. Given a longer day, I would not have eaten lunch and I would have enjoyed that lobster twice as much.
Here is another weird thing - we tendered from so far out you literally could not see the ship in the fog. Meanwhile, Celebrity Summit was also in town and it was anchored just about three minutes away by tender (we were about 15 minutes). The itinerary did not show this as a tender port, meaning that if you have tender issues and you booked this cruise for Bar Harbor, you would have been sadly disappointed.
So far we have spent a LOT of time on this ship, and it has a tiny casino, almost no shopping, very little nighttime entertainment, etc.
The best thing about this ship is the comfortable staterooms. There are FREE recent release movies on demand. Even better they actually tape each lecture and you can call it up in your stateroom with Video on Demand at any time. THAT is state of the art technology better than any other cruise ship I have been on. I still have to curse about the tiny TV set. For my wife, laying 15 feet away at the far side of the bed, with the TV set so you can’t even turn it hard enough for straight viewing for either of us, let along her side of the bed, it is a nightmare. I have a 60-inch HDTV at home 10 feet away directly in front of me, why would I pay $500/day to watch a movie under these conditions?
Another big disappointment - we went to the spa today to partake in the “thermal suite.” This is something we do on most cruise ships - you get access to the a thelassotherapy pool, scented rain showers, hot and dry saunas and great heated ceramic beds that warm up your body to the bone. These last things are the most important part of the thermal suite - and then the thelassotherapy. Well, the thermal suite has not only no thelassotherapy, it doesn’t even have a hot tub. There is one close by you can share with the public, but it was raining today (useless to us), and it’s up a set of stairs on an upper deck. Even worse, this thermal suite has no ceramic beds. All it has is teak ones. They heat up (barely) but only to about 30% the average ceramic ones. Not even really worth the effort. While we were in there a waiter came by and asked if we wanted drinks. I asked for a cup of the herbal tea they have right there in the spa. He said “OK” and never returned. Whatever. This cost us $30 apiece… about 150% what is normal, and you get far less. Not a good deal.
As far as food, I have had lobster every day on this trip. I like it, but I would like more variety. The “buffet” on this ship is good but it has a theme every day, and if you don’t like the theme (so far for me there have been two days when I didn’t) you are out of luck.
Today it was “British fare,” the choices being shephard’s pie and cottage pie (or something); one is mashed potatoes with minced beef, the other is the same with minced lamb. You get the picture? On seafood day, it was just seafood - nothing else. On Asian day it was all Asian - nothing else.
The regular restaurant has been unimpressive to me each night. My fish was dry and chewy. The salad is just lettuce and such little dressing you can barely see it. The bread with dinner are a few nice pieces of chewy French bread, but the rest is pasty white bread and white ciabatta, - basic white bread (wonder bread?) - no roles, no whole grain, nothing seeded. It comes with a teaspoon of olive oil (we have to ask for more nightly).
The “name entertainment” aside from the regular stage shows has been pianist Eliot Finkel (I worked with him on Holland America in 1993 - every cruiser knows him), followed by his brother Ira Finkel. Then the third night it was “Elliot and Ira Finkel Together,” - that’s it.
In any case - I know a certain person who would tell me, “You just don’t understand luxury cruising.” (I do, believe me. I was reared working for Royal Viking Line). This person says it’s all about the service. That the trick is to ask for what you want and then to watch them enjoy pleasing you. The service is great here - my wife’s dietary requirements have been met nightly. But I personally do not enjoy having to direct people on what I want night after night (which is what was required although before the cruise we filled in the “dietary requirements” section of the web site - no sugar, gluten-free, vegetarian. When we got on board there was NO mention of the fact that we had specified that in our check-in. We had to discuss it with three different chefs, one for each restaurant, and each one had a different interpretation).
So - you can say I “don’t get” luxury cruising, but I prefer it when they get it. Not when I have to accept what they give me, and I am supposed to think that is “great.”
Still, I have to say that most people here love this cruise line, and I can’t argue with that. I will say everyone is very friendly, the food is mostly very good and the staff is very accommodating. But I also have to say the average age is probably over 60, and the sidewalks are rolled up at 10:00. This is a very quiet cruise. Part of it may be this itinerary (but my gut tells me that is not so much of a factor).
A lot of people stay on for several cruises in a row - mostly the very elderly. I only see them at mealtimes. We have met a few somewhat “wild” people, and also a few pompous asses who mention where they are from with every breath they take (as if we care).
Would I take Seabourn again? If I saw a port-intensive itinerary I would certainly consider it. But I would not come for the food or the entertainment. The service is excellent, but I don’t cruise for service, I cruise to travel.
Last night we ate in Restaurant 2 - What an excellent meal that was. Another thing I have noticed is that the wine is exquisite with every meal - far more so that with other lines where the wine has been included with dinner. The whites are always just the right touch on the tongue. But the reds are exquisite - with the perfect texture and never an afterbite.
Restaurant 2 is a tasting menu with about 20 different things, coming in sets of three or four items at a time. I will get into more detail about this later, as we are just now pulling into NY City and I want to get this posted before my day in Manhattan begins.
Hi Paul, reading your report with "interest". I dont think any of us are at all surprised that you have a very negative approach to Seabourn. As you know, I am at the moment on Seabourn Pride, and if anyone reads both your report and mine, they would be like chalk and cheese. I pretty well stayed out of the disagreements between you and Eric, but some of the statements you have made about your current cruise and Seabourn in general, are really really weird!
QUOTE: " I won’t fly halfway across the world to join a cruise ship just to spend 90% of my vacation stuck on a cruise ship - I don’t care how nice it is."
The only cruises that would spend 90% of their time "stuck" on a ship would be a TA Crossing. A crossing is a very small part of Seabourns itinerary. For you flying halfway across the World, would be Europe? Most European itineraries are very port intensive.
QUOTE: "that if you have tender issues and you booked this cruise for Bar Harbor, you would have been sadly disappointed."
Its always sad to have to miss a Port you have been looking forward to, but anyone who would book an entire cruise to just see one particular port, is only setting themselves up for disappointment anyway. There can always be changes to any itineray due to weather etc.....we still could have changes to our itinerary concerning Egypt etc...yes we will be disappointed, but its not the end of the World!
There are many points so far in your report, that I could argue about, but dont suppose I should say too much in "your" thread. I dont know if you have been reading my blog on Erics site, but I emailed you the link before we left home. Just thought if anyone was at all interested in reading "the other side to the Seabourn story", they can have a look in the "Cruise Review" section of the following site.
The Gold Standard Luxury Travel Forum • Index page
I completely understand your feeling about sea days. My first priority when booking a vacation (sea or land) is the date and a close second priority is what I will visit.
I did find that my last Seabourn cruise, despite a heavy itinerary, I spent less time than I would have liked to in some of our stops. I often felt rushed and that cruise excursions seemed to go on longer than were necessary (bus trips that seemed to circle the port for the remaining 30 minutes included in price) and that left us with little to no free time before being sent back on board.
I have to agree that for some the entertainment and activities onboard aren't as exciting as relaxing after a full day of touring. There is no mystery as to why some staff called me a 'suite potato' . For me, vacation means new sights, education, and catching up on rest. I feel no shame.
Thank you for your thoughts on your cruise.
I have been having trouble posting on CM from the ship, which I don't think is the ship's fault. So, I really plan to do a more well-rounded report after the cruise.
I just want to say a few things regarding what I write - what I say is fact-based, I didn't set the schedule for the times in port, nor did I decided where the ship should anchor in Bar Harbor.
For some reason the remainder of ports on this cruise spend far more time ashore. Yesterday we were in NY City for 15 hours, and I had a fantastic time. I will be seeing Williamsburg on an 8-hour tour, and in Charleston for 8 or 9 hours.
But since this was sold as a "Fall Folliage" cruise I have to be honest and say (as an Arizonan who was really looking forward to seeing that aspect) that we didn't get much of that experience. Part of it is weather related - a late fall. But the short port times also played a part.
I do believe my reports are unbiased, and no cruise line should be an exception. I do not put myself in the usual Seabourn demographic. The people who are onboard seem to enjoy it a lot.
But I have to say this - I don't do this to put my personal opinion on any cruise line in the public eye - I do it to report what I see - no opinions attached. If you choose to focus solely on the negative things I mention that is up to you. I think I am pointing out both positive and negative aspects of the cruise.
I will have more later, I wanted to jot a quick answer to the above messages.
I think the really important factor to point out here is that there will be some people on every cruise line who get used to how that cruise line works and they will adapt to it when they get onboard.
Coming onboard a cruise line the first time, and not knowing what they have to offer is a completely different story, and I have to say at the prices Seabourn charges I expect better communication between the staff and a first-time Seabourn cruiser like myself.
But no one knows better than myself how insular every job on a cruise ship can be. The land people rarely communicate with the ship staff, and when new people are on board they are often learning on the job.
FWIW: as a cruise reviewer my LEAST favorite thing is to have to bring up negative points about a cruise line, especially one with a stellar reputation, but at the same time, if I am not honest about my experience then I am only giving my readers fluff, and I would rather disappoint a cruise line than my readers.
Here is another experience I have to relate - and I want to say one thing. I tried for FIVE YEARS to get Seabourn to bring me on a ship with a PR representative so the following types of snafus would not happen. Call it arrogance, over-confidence, whatever, Seabourn doesn't "do" press trips.
In my opinion, according to what I see, this is a cruise line that coasts on the idea that people will be afraid to say negative things about it for fear they will look uninformed. I disagree. I believe a cruise line owes the guest a munimum experience and NO learning curve to enjoy the high dollar they pay for this vacation...
Here is what happened...
As my Fox News editor pointed out to me, my audience (and I also feel the same way about CruiseMates because only 17% of America has ever been on a cruise) is not just the experienced cruiser. When I come on a ship part of my job is to ascertain how well the ship communicates with the guests - to assume the guest knows anything is a mistake by the cruise staff in my opinion.
Friday was our wedding anniversary. My wife and I chose to celebrate it in Restaurant 2. The staff in there was extraordinarily nice, and the food and especially the wine were both fantastic. This is a real treat and I highly recommend it.
But here is the downside. I made those reservations the night before. Now, at first they tried to talk us out of it because of my wife’s special diet. They said, “It’s a pre-set tasting menu…” I said, “Okay, I understand, if you prefer that we not have our anniversary in there we won’t do it.” But the person we spoke with (in Seabourn Square the equivalent of the front desk) said, “No, no. Let me talk to the Maitre D’, and I will let you know.” In the end they called back and said, “we can get you in but it has to be 8:00.” We said, “Thank you so much,” and we had a lovely meal.
But what they didn’t tell me was that the same night we were in Restaurant 2 was also held the once-per-cruise “Chef’s Dinner” in the regular dining room. The ship had gone ashore and picked up 450 fresh Maine lobsters to serve FRESH to the entire ship in the main dining room that night.
The question is “why didn’t I know?”
This “Chef’s Dinner” information was NOT conveyed to the guests in any special way at all. Arguably, it was not conveyed at all. First, you have to understand this is the most important meal of the cruise in terms of the actual chef showing off his best. He designs the menu and supervises everything. I just talked to this chef, Andrew Soddy, and he said that it’s the hardest meal of the cruise, which is why the galley staff celebrates afterwards.
I just found this out this morning. I heard reference to it during the cooking demonstration, and so I checked the daily programs for Thursday. Nowhere was “Chef’s Dinner,” even mentioned. There was no article about it in the daily Herald, no description of what it is, why it exists, etc.
Friday afternoon we got a call saying, “You can come in to Restaurant 2 earlier tonight if you want - we only have 7 reservations for the whole night.” I said, “thank you,” but I didn’t think to ask why nor did the caller volunteer. When we got to Restaurant 2 at 7:45 she said, “Yes, we are empty tonight because everyone's at the Chef’s Dinner in the dining room tonight eating the fresh lobster we brought onboard.”
My mouth fell to the floor. This was the first I had heard of it. I am from Arizona, and eating fresh Maine lobster is something I have dreamed about for decades.
This morning, curious how I could have missed this, I checked Friday’s Herald and the menu for Friday night. (I keep everything when I research a cruise). Friday’s Herald said nothing at all - except under the hours for the main restaurant, in literally the smallest type possible, it had the two words “Chef’s Dinner.”
Friday’s menu did say “Fresh Maine Lobster” for Friday night. But we already had made reservations in Restaurant 2 the night before, so why would I read the dinner menu in the main restaurant for Friday night? Bottom line, the most important meal of the cruise had no public announcement, no special article in the daily schedule, and it was not mentioned to me by the ship’s staff when I asked for reservations in Restaurant 2 the night before.
My point is this - I had no idea what I was missing until it was too late, so this was not my fault - and I am from Arizona - the chance of me ever getting a fresh Maine Lobster directly from the sea ever again in my lifetime is next to zero.
I am onboard as a reporter. I conveyed to Seabourn several times that I prefer to go on hosted press trips so I don’t miss important things, but “they don’t do that.” Because they don’t do that, I missed out on one of their best offerings and an experience of a lifetime for me.
Being very honest, if I was onboard as a regular guest who had paid full fare for this Fall Foliage cruise as a chance to experience New England/Canada in all its glory - and fresh Maine lobster was at the VERY TOP of that list, I would be frankly extremely upset right now.
I have spoken to the staff about this in great detail. They all agree the special meal should have been conveyed better, that they need to work on that internally. I have no idea how many other people missed it, probably not that many - as we were told about it the second we walked into Restaurant 2, (so if people walked into another restaurant they were likely told as well), the problem was we had already arranged a special anniversary meal; cake, low carb salad, etc. for my wife in the top alternative restaurant (not the buffet area); Restaurant 2 - we could not just get up and walk out.
Its really very simple........every night, the Herald is delivered to your suite. First thing I do, is always check the menu for the next night, to see what Restaurant I want to dine in......the menu for both restaurants is printed and distributed 24 hours in advance......we never miss anything.....
That's good Granny, really. But I think you may have missed my point. I was never advised on what the "Chef's Dinner" is - what sort of special event it comprises, because the Herald said nothing about it.
I am havibg trouble posting pictures (I tried last night), but I will show the Herald said NOTHING in detail about the chef's dinner. And as I said, I consulted with the cruise staff, and they admitted this is a big mistake on their part. Afterwards I interviewed the chef. I think that if he knew they dont tell the guests about his big dinner he would be crushed.
You are an experienced Seabourn cruisers, so you know many things the rest of us don't know. When I leave here I will also be an experienced Seabourn cruiser. I can write my article along the lines of "watch for this..."
But I would rather be writing my article from the aspect of - "This is a great experience I had," than the way it happened.
Anyway - FWIW: I talked to some peole who were at the dinner, and they said the lobster was not that impressive anyway. I had pictured a 1.25 lb Maine Lobster cut in half. They said all they got was the tail, and it was tiny. The person I spoke with is an experienced yachtsman, and he said, "I didn't think you could legally take them that small."
Just repeating what I am hearing. I also hope you realize I say things in this message board I wouldn't say in a larger feature article, mostly because this is just day by day happenings.
Today we are in Norfolk from 8 a.m. to 6:00 pm - a nice change from the short port stays we had early on in the cruise.
We had a magician show last night. He had the crowd enthralled. He mostly did card tricks. He is very good at memorizing cards - I wouldn't want to play blackjack against him.
Thank you Paul for posting your fair and honest review. I will be anticipating future installments!
New York City
Okay… travel is the reason I take cruises, and today we were in New York City. We docked at 8:00, and we are staying until 11:00 pm. I know one day does not seem like a long time, but it really is if you do all you can in one day, as I just did.
I started out in Times Square area. I continued walking down Broadway past Macys and the Flat Iron building. At that corner in a public park was a huge Halloween fair for kids, “so New York.” Before long I was at Union Square. I looked at the stalls of fresh farm food brought in by the Amish and other farmers. It was just as I remembered it from the 90s when I lived there.
I continued along Broadway to 8th St. where I cut east in the East Village. On my former street; 6th St. at 3rd Avenue by Cooper Union, I saw some amazing new architecture, there, especially the new Cooper’s Union and the new hotel just built on 4th avenue in the Bowery - modern and elite - unbelievable. I walked past the former Fillmore East and Electric Circus, and I realize there is nothing of that movement left here anymore. But my corner has been renamed Bill Graham Ave.
I continued walking, though China Town and Little Italy and I approached the Wall Street Area, and there they were - the “Occupy Wall Street Movement.” It was SO 60s, just like our anti Viet Nam protest. I can’t say I blame them for wanting to make some noise.
I saw people sleeping in sleeping bags, eating a meal of donated oatmeal, hummus, fruit loops and cole slaw, and all holding signs saying Socialism.com and other such subjects.
I watched these people assembling in times square just before I came back to the ship, and at the time the NYPD was assembling several “paddy-wagon” vans, ambulances, police on horses, barricades and otherwise. It didn’t look good for the protestors but I don’t know because I left, not because I had to, but just because I was so exhausted from seeing so much of Manhattan that day.
As I said before, I love to “travel” by cruise ship. We just had a great shore excursion in Norfolk, VA. Now, aside from the fact that it is hard to suppress a giggle everytime someone says “Norfolk” - because of the way it is normally pronounced, the fact is that there are truly amazing things to see in this city - means I never knew how cool it is. And isn’t that what makes travel so great in the first place?
Norfolk has the largest Naval Base in the world - so there are aircraft carriers and battleships here. It is also close to nearby Williamsburg, the colonial capital of Virginia up until 1780. Okay, I know some people are yawning, but putting this into perspective - it was the capital of the largest state in the “Union” during the Revolutionary War.
In fact, as the home of Thomas Jefferson and other leaders, it was the city that first proposed splitting with England, and was one of the first to drive the British governor out (within days of the Boston Tea Party). The city of Williamsburg was largely abandoned (but not destroyed) in 1780 when the state capital was moved to Richmond (for better proximity to New York, Philly and the upcoming District of Columbia), and it was an idle small town, with many historic buildings in use as private homes, etc, until 1920 when it was rescued by John D Rockefeller who quietly bought up the entire town and restored it.
The town now works as a “living museum,” with many original buildings and some beautiful perfect restorations; where people in period costume live on site and “act” as if they are in 1776. If you talk to them they will reply to you as if they are in the historic period. It is all very interesting.
In addition, Norfolk is the home of the CIA training facility, the training center for the Navy Seals including team 6 which got Osama Bin Laden, and a beautiful harbor which we are about to sail from - and I intend to watch.
My day in New York City, and this day, has made this cruise very special now. I am seeing things I have never seen before, and that is why I cruise, in all truth. Our next stop, after a day at sea, is Charleston, SC, where I plan to do some research on the big cruise controversy down there. I know one of the merchants on King’s Road, there, the owner of the Audubon Gallery, and we are going to explore why the city is currently adverse to cruise ships.
I have to guve major Kudos to Seabourn here. This shore excursion was not cheap ($189 pp for a day in Williamsburg) but it was an extensive tour with an exceptional guide, one of the best I have ever had. She was knowledgable, did not act bored or talk down to us (as so many foreign guides do to American cruisers, of course she was also American).
After Williamsburg she made sure to use every available minute she had to show us Norfolk, the new downtown, to musuem locations, the waterfront. I rarely actually say this, but this is one place I really do want to come back to someday. In addition to Williamsburg it also is the location of Jamestown, the first settlement in America (remember Pocohantas?). Then there is Yorktown, the battle that ended the Revolutionary war when Lafayette showed up with the French. All in this area.
The ships I was stationed on were home ported at Norfolk Naval Station. I always liked the area and felt it had an undeserved bad reputation. I easily could have stayed there after I left the Navy, had my nuclear power career not taken me to Alabama.
Tidewater has great seafood, very temperate weather, and lots of things to do. Many are surprised to learn the Chrysler Museum Of Art is in Norfolk, for example.
Your stop at Virginia sounds very interesting. I'd love to see some of America's earliest history with a visit myself someday. Thanks for sharing, Paul!
Having read Pauls report I feel like I'm reading about a first time cruiser with no manners. As to the size of the portions if they are small ask for a larger one. The menu is always posted in the herald 24hours before and leaves you time to make your decision to were yo want to eat. He sounds like sour grapes to me.
If you are referring to the Chef's Dinner. I can't imagine explaining any more thoroughly how that was not advertised or highlighted for anyone at all.
Regular Seabourn cruisers knew what the "Chef's Dinner" is - but there was NO explanation of it at all, nor any mention that the fresh lobster had been brought aboard - until the day of the event. I had made my reservations in a different restuarant the day before (while they were getting the lobster).
You are incorrect - menus and programs do NOT come out 24 hours in advance - they are left in your stateroom for you to read after you nighttime activities; dinner, show, etc. And you are assuming I would read a menu for a restuarant I already knew I was not dining in - or that the words "Chef's Dinner" in the smallest type possible placed under "regular restuarant hours" would catch my attention.
I also said the staff admitted they should have told me what I was missing. Three different staff members, including the person who lays out the Herald told me this, and apologized. Case closed.
I am actually amazed how many people don't "get" what I am saying here. Blaming me as if Seabourn couldn't possibly make a mistake only reinforces my resolve to prove mistakes were made. But only to the pinheads who keep trying to make this look like my personal fault.
Seabourn was at least classy enough to admit the mistake and apologize.
This is my last post on this topic.... I have not had time to post but I am now in FLL waiting for my flight home. I will have much more to say.
The last few days ended smoothly enough. There were no events to speak of. The ride to FLL from Norfolk was fairly rough but not enough for me to get seasick.
I can easliy see how many people would have some problems with these smaller ships.
Although beef is not featured on the menu as an entree option much at all (if ever), I did see several people ordering steaks every night, and so I started doing the same. The beef is delicious, tender and a "melt in your mouth."
The entertainment was very predictable - small ship stage shows. I spent most of my nights in my stateroom watching the movies on demand.
The stops in NY City, Norfolk and Charleston were all wonderfully long days (9:00 to 5:00) giving me plenty of time to see the sights. I spent a day walking all over Charleston, starting at the visitors center. I can see what the problem with cruise ships is in that city, but I wasn't fully able to distill my thoughts until I tried writing the article - hence look for an article on that coming soon.
It is an historic treasure, and one that needs ships stopping there for port visits, but have Carnival Fantasy doing turn-arounds at the downtown terminal does the city almost no good at all. That seems to be what they need to figure out in my opinion.
I waited the entire cruise to see some kind of Seabourn caviar experience. After all, they are famous for their trademarked ads showing butlers wading into tropical waters with trays of caviar for people swimming.
We weren't swimming anywwhere, so that wouldn't happen, but I did expect to see some kind of caviar event onboard. It never happened.
But I did ask the Restaurant manager and he said I could order caviar from room service, so I do so, and it was delicious. It showed up with a nice dollop of mallosol caviar and onions, eggs and sour cream. There were no blinis - just hardened slices of French Bread. Still delicious, though.
Special bath products - the line advertises special bathtub soaks available - herbal soaks, etc. They are essentially bubble baths for the tub. They listed three different options. We were able to get one bottle of one, two samples of another and no samples of the last one. No explanation except "they ran out."
Meals were nice, the sommellier starts each mean with a white wine and changes to the red when the entrees come out. One night I was in the mood for red to start out, and so I asked for this. The sommellier became quite rude, as if I was breaking a rule. She got me the wine, but the attitude was a little unnerving.
At this point I started to think of my fellow cruisers as something like "the choir" you preach to. The principle is that if you pay enough for something you are going to like it, even when something goes wrong. That is what I felt about many of my cruisers - either that or the crew was singling me out as not being their favorite (anything is possible) - but I doubt that.
More later - my flight leaves soon
Your experience onboard reminds me of my impressions of the Celebrity Century. The most important meal of the cruise is a once per week Brunch, which is barley mentioned in the cruise compass. Also just because something is perceived as more prestigious, does not make it better for you the individual. As you may have noticed on this blog, Seabourn (like Crystal, as I am led to understand) has a VERY loyal following, that is often quite insular. I guess you either belong or not (odd, the comments shown here, given that this is your profession) in some ways this reminds me of my time with high end casino players: everyone knows each other, understands the procedures, extremely loyal to the product, and does not understand how outsiders would view their experience. For what it is worth, I have met many people whom have had the same experience in the mainstream line, Holland America. For many it is the tradition of Holland/Cunard or nothing at all.
I think this blog really is useful to your readers, there are places we fit in and others we don't. It's not even just price points, I learned this with NCL; with their "free style" concept. While I understand that Seabourn may not be the right choice for me, but through my travels Cunard is something I really want to try. Most of the British I have met at sea, are a true joy and I would enjoy traveling on Britain's Premier Line & the Grandest Liner in the World, the QM2!!
My take on it is that tribal knowledge is a part of the Seabourn culture. Guests are simply expected to know certain things, such as at a private club.
Ironically, while I was flipping through a travel magazine yesterday I came upon a Seabourn advertisement. It said 'clairvoyance is a job requirement' over a photo of some crew members.
Yes, this was why I told Seabourn I really prefer to go with a group instead of on my own.
Or if a person had a good travel agent, like Eric Goldring, then he could have cooked up some organized activities for the people like me and kept me in the loop
Look - I fully realize it is possible for a person to pre-plan a cruise, do all the research and know everything there is to know before you go. But that would have only changed some of the experiences I had (not the less than stellar service aspects, etc., the fact that my room steward barely ever spoke to me, and other things I may or may not mention in my final article).
It's too bad Eric decided to leave this board, as I now write for FoxNews and not FoxBusiness, 32,000,000 readers/month, and this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to give his agency incredibly valuable publicity. His guided groups would be just the kind of thing a person like me would need. Alas- I had no travel agent at all, and really no guidance at all from the company on what to expect.
Of course, this is always a valid way to approach a story - from the aspect of a complete outsider coming into it from the cold to see how well the staff communicates to the first time user. Believe it or not, that is how MANY FIRST TIME cruisers go, most people have not heard of us, cruise critic or other places to really bone up on a cruise first. They go in like I did. It just isn't the way I "prefer" to approach a story.
But that will be the point of my article, when I write it - to save the people who go in "cold" from making the mistakes I made, and also giving them a more realistic view that you are going to be a little bit more on your own than you may expect compared to other cruise lines. The fact that Seabourn makes no announcements, doesn't have a port lecturer, and things like that.
Of course the intiatated Seabourn cruiser already knows a lot more than the first time one. I think I have been making that clear.
I also want to reiterate that I put a lot of things into this message board, thoughts as they come up, that I wouldn't go into detail about in a major publication article. I hope people are respecting the fact that I am just being candid with my thoughts here - I am not "blogging" right now. Just conversing with some people who read this board.
Too bad Cunard is becoming slightly less British soon, changing their registry from British to Bermuda. They say they are doing it because they want to be able to do weddings at sea and other such ideas. I have a feeling the reasons may be slightly more political than that with the British government now starting to lean on cruise lines a bit more than in the past.
Yes, the Seabourn loyalty group is unusually loyal, which has served Seabourn very well. I met some fine people on that cruise, but also some people where I wondered why they were on that cruise. There was one couple from Australia who were onboard because they wanted to sail with their friends, but they said they would have preferred more ports of call - obviously because they traveled so far.
The same with another couple I met who said they tried to book the same cruise (NE/Canada) on Regent but that ship was waitlisted and they couldn't get on, so they were trying Seabourn for the first time. They also said they would have preferred more ports of call, and he was the yachtsman who pointed out how slow we were going between Norfolk and Charleston. You really don't need a day at sea in there. We could have added Boston earlier, for example, which I would have loved.
But as one lady said to me "You're a young whippersnapper with the git up 'n go to see all these places. For us this pace is just right. We needed a day at sea after Williamsburg."
In all fairness to Paul, his posts are right on the money. Surely, there are Seabourn "traditions" that are apparent to the line's loyalists, but for those new to the line, certain events need to be posted more clearly. That's not to say they need to be intrusively shouted out loud, but something more apparent than fine print would go a long way. Remember that Seabourn advertises to attract new passengers just as any other cruise line. As such, they are concerned with attracting new clientele, not just their loyal return customers. To cater to all of their passengers, they need to be mindful of cruisers new to cruising in general and those familiar with the ways of other lines as well.
I just want to make something clear to the readers here...
I use these message boards to think out loud. This is not an article or even my "blog." I could very well say something in here one day and completely contradict myself the next day - and I would expect you to understand that I have the right to change my mind, or that I may be speaking from a mood or stream of thought.
I am expected to post to these message boards as part of my job. If I cannot say things here that are just my momentary thoughts then I would not be able to post here. That is why I constantly say THIS IS NOT AN ARTICLE OF RECORD - these are my random thoughts. That is why I have a disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
By the way - the first part of my Seabourn review is up here:
First-time Seabourn Cruiser (Part 1) - Page 1
Please read it and feel free to make comments here. I was hoping to have a follow-up to this today, but in all honesty I could not focus this weekend - the travel and then the concentrated writing I did on part one wore me out.
I will continue on when I have had a chance to chillax (is that really what they say these days, or am I just an old fogey sounding like I want to be cool but really have no idea)
Speaking of changing my mind.... I wrote this about Charleston
"It is an historic treasure, and one that needs ships stopping there for port visits, but have Carnival Fantasy doing turn-arounds at the downtown terminal does the city almost no good at all. That seems to be what they need to figure out in my opinion. "
I want to clarify what I learned. The turnarounds do the city plenty of good, but the location of the downtown terminal for a ship doing turnarounds in Charleston does not do them much good. They could do them in another place, disrupt the city less, and still get the benefits of having visitors spending money there.
There is a cargo terminal up the bay that does 96% of the shipping commerce in Chaston. If the cruise operations could go in there the city would have all the benefits and none of the disruption.
However, I am just justifying what I said. In fact, Chaston has had cruise turnarounds downtown since 2003, consistently. Carnival Fantasy is nothing new. NCL was there for 5 years followed by Celebrity for a year before Carnival.
The new cruise terminal will be located closer to the cargo terminal, and it will have more parking, etc. The benefits of the new terminal to the city are there. But opponents are just tired of cruise ships, they don't want them doing turnarounds. But it sure is nice when they stop there.
The city fathers want the cruise business - and they floated a bond to pay for the new cruise terminal (not a taxpayer expense). But I do see how the residents could oppose the cruise ships. They do not add that much good, since the city already has a very strong tourist business. Cruisers only account for 5% of the tourism business there. So, for 5% of the business they have to see a big cruise ship that should be cold ironing but isn't sitting there every five days.
Thanks for the candid review
Thanks for your insightful comments. We are taking a first cruise with Seabourn this summer, to the Baltic. I chose the 7 day cruise for the 3 days in St. Petersburg, since we, like you, cruise for the ports, not the ship. That's only a "floating hotel" to us.
We recently completed a 2 week Western Med, and west coast of Europe cruise on Oceania. The ship carried 700 passengers, and was much larger than we prefer. However, they did a nice job, the ship Insignia was beautiful, the food was excellent, the best we've had on a cruise line to date. We've cruised multiple times on Windstar (our favorite,) on Holland American (decent but ships way too big,) and have done river cruises, barge cruises, and special interest cruises on smaller vessels. So we have a pretty wide basis for comparison. Food and wine are very important to us. I don't care if house wines are "included," I will gladly pay for a good label of my choosing or pay for corkage for local wines we bring on board. We don't drink hard liquor, so the choices there are unimportant.
I am an active 60 year old, and don't need someone grabbing my elbow to to to the ladies, and actually prefer not to see service staff about unless I want something. We'll see how "unobtrusive" Seabourn service is.
When on board, we typically spend the time in our cabin, watching a movie or reading, or enjoying sea views. We never go to shows, the casino, the spa, pool or bars. Will use the gym if equipment is available. My husband will be disappointed about the TV set up.
During the day, we are off ship for the full time in all ports, usually arranging an excursion of some type. I'm working on that right now. On the Oceania cruise, I met many cruisers on line before the cruise and arranged shared tours in all 12 ports (including an overnight in Bordeaux where we were fortunate enough to join a tour of Chateau Lafite, the highlight of the stop.) I am not hearing back from any Seabourn cruisers yet, but hope that changes.
Your comments regarding your cruise were very enlightening, and I believe will help temper our expectations.
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