27 Feb REVIEW: CRUISE ON SEABOURN ODYSSEY
Taking a cruise for the first time is somewhat of a milestone for any traveller. As someone who enjoys some adventure in their travels, I had been debating whether to take a cruise for a very long time and finally decided to take the plunge last February. I signed up for a 7-day Caribbean Harbors cruise with Seabourn which a cruise-fanatic friend of mine had described as the “Four Seasons of the cruise world”. With such high expectations I was very excited about the cruise and thankfully, it did not fail to deliver! So let’s see why:
The boat left from Barbados and getting to the port was pretty easy. We had found a local driver who picked us up from the airport and drove us to the port (roughly 25-30′) for about US$25. Once there, you will find a dedicated Seabourn check-in counter where they take your details and tag your bags. The bags are then left with them and are delivered to the room (that did take a little while so we had to make a few phone calls to the concierge). A small van transfers the passengers from the terminal to the boat where your passport is processed and taken away. It was interesting that we didn’t use our passport throughout the entire cruise. Processing at each port is done by the boat staff in collaboration with the local port authorities and you don’t get your passport back until the very end of the cruise. Unfortunately, you don’t get any passport stamps for each island you visit 🙁
We had a veranda suite on level 8 of the deck, close to the main pool area, and we couldn’t be happier with our room. I would definitely recommend getting a room that has a veranda as I think it makes a big difference in terms of the overall experience. Sure, there’s plenty of public deck space to enjoy the sea from but there was nothing like ordering room service and watching the sunset from your own private veranda. The room was quite big, considering we were on a cruise ship, and very tastefully done. From the super comfortable bed to the marble top bathroom every single detail had been thought through. I was particularly impressed with the walk-in closet as I’m always used to taking clothes straight out of my suitcase and never unpacking when I travel! Having a proper walk-in closet and being able to hang all of the clothes without making the room messy felt like such a luxury. All rooms also have a living room area and a mini bar which is stocked with anything you ask for, from champagne to Diet Coke, at no extra cost (except for specialty wines). The bathroom comes with luxury amenities from Molton Brown and has both a walk-in shower and a bathtub which for me was probably an overkill as I would have been just as happy with the shower.
This was definitely my favorite part of the cruise! The ship has a total of 4 restaurants: The Patio (casual, on deck), the Colonnade (slightly more formal, on deck and indoors), the Grill by Thomas Keller (formal, indoors) and the Restaurant (formal, indoors). We had meals in all but the Patio and thoroughly enjoyed every single meal! The menu changes every day but there are typically some dishes in every restaurant that remain the same throughout the cruise so you can mix and match. What is amazing about this cruise is that it’s “all-inclusive” without ever feeling that way. In other words, you can order whatever you want from the menu and in whichever order and it never feels “cheap” or “mass produced”. The boat can carry a total of about 400 passengers and has about 250 staff so you never have to wait in line and service is absolutely impeccable. The staff truly go out of their way to please you, they are all exceptionally trained and have a very service-oriented mindset. I was blown away by the fact that they always remembered our names and quickly picked up on our general preferences. They always seemed to be one step ahead and anticipate your needs (for example, they would re-fill your wine glass before you even had to ask for it). The food is, overall, of very high quality though there were obviously some dishes we liked more and others we didn’t particularly care for. It’s worth mentioning that the Thomas Keller restaurant is the only one you will definitely need a reservation for as it’s small and by far, the most popular one on the ship. Apparently, you can pre-book it up to two weeks before the cruise after which you can only make a booking once you are on the boat. Try to get in at least once so you can experience it but after that, you’ll be just as happy eating in the other restaurants. My only complaint is that the food does not incorporate in any way the local cuisine of the places we visited. I understand that getting supplies on a boat is very difficult but I would have liked to see even small touches, such as local exotic fruit or maybe one local dish per menu to celebrate the destination. Other than that though, the food and the service were top-notch everywhere!
Throughout the day there were many activities to partake in: from decadent lobster lunches by the pool, to stand-up comedy, singing, dancing and more. Sure, the activities were geared towards an older crowd but they were still fun. Otherwise, you could just lounge by the pool and sip champagne all day 🙂 At each port, the boat had a set of arranged group activities that you could buy. The activities ranged from pretty low-key, such as snorkeling, to much more action-packed such as hiking and 4×4 tropical jungle drives. Prices were also pretty good (average maybe about US$70-80 pp). Just remember that all excursions had a group limit (so sign up early if there’s one you really want!) and had to be cancelled at least 48 hrs prior to avoid any charges. We tried the snorkeling, which was nice but I would definitely recommend looking for local guides on trip advisor and Viator and planning your own thing if you really want to explore the islands and get more value for your money. Just remember that if you do your own tour then you have to be back on the boat by the designated time otherwise the boat will not wait for you 🙂
The main entertainment venue
The boat is quite big without though feeling chaotic so it’s fairly easy to find you way around after the first day or so. The different areas are best explained through the pictures:
Pool, Jacuzzi and sunbed areas
Indoor and outdoor bars
Mini-golf and other games
I was quite skeptical about this but I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised! The Seabourn Odyssey is definitely a very high class boat and feels very personalized without any of the agoraphobia that comes with some of the bigger, mainstream cruise lines. Will I do another cruise again? Sure but probably not in the immediate future as I do think it’s for a much older clientele (I’m 33 after all!) and I also get a bit sea-sick. I would definitely do another cruise to a destination with lots of natural beauty that I would otherwise not be able to visit, such as Alaska, Antarctica and the Norwegian fiords.