How much champagne can a girl drink? Apparently lots!
I recently cruised aboard the Seabourn Odyssey with my mother. And if it’s hard to keep straight which cruise line is what, just remember that champagne and Seabourn go hand-in-hand. So I’m starting my Seabourn Odyssey review with a tip of my glass to Seabourn’s signature champagne-and-caviar treats.
Seabourn Odyssey review
But first, a little background…
Seabourn Cruises has five ultra-luxury ships. The Seabourn Odyssey is the first of a trio of (virtually identical) intimate 458-passenger vessels in the fleet.
She set sail in 2009, followed by Seabourn Sojourn in 2010 and Seabourn Quest in 2011. She was refurbished in 2017.
The two newest Seabourn ships (Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation) are slightly larger, carrying 600 passengers.
While this Seabourn Cruises review is a review of the Seabourn Odyssey in particular, many aspects apply to all Seabourn ships.
What makes Seabourn Cruises special?
Unlimited complimentary champagne:
Yes, that’s right! Real French bubbly flows freely and often. Which brings me back to my starting point about the champagne…
When you board, you’ll find a welcome bottle chilling on ice in your suite. (You can also ask for free replacement bottles of champagne for your mini-bar.) And it’s poured liberally at sail-away parties.
You can ask for champagne whenever you want – at the bar, in the restaurants, by the pool.
It’s complimentary too. (Well, sort of. All beer, cocktails, champagne, hard liquor and most wines, except for a few premium wines, are included in the cruise rates – but you do pay more than a few dollars for a Seabourn cruise.)
Along with unlimited champagne, there’s unlimited caviar.
I cottoned on to this pretty quickly and started ordering the delicacy in the main restaurant as my starter. One couple told me they’d get their fish egg fix on the balcony of their suite by ordering room service champagne and caviar every afternoon.
And when the ship visits beach destinations, it offers a caviar-in-the-surf event.
Waiters and officers in full uniform (some in tuxedos) wade into the sea and invite you to join them for iced champagne and caviar at floating, tablecloth-covered surfboard bars.
Seabourn block party:
Want to meet your neighbors? The neighborhood “block party” is a short fun event scheduled just before dinner, early in the itinerary on longer cruises.
You’re invited to come as you are and mingle in the central corridor outside your suite, while the captain and cruise director make the rounds and champagne and nibblies are served. It’s a great opportunity to break the ice and get to know some of your fellow cruisers in a casual setting.
I’d heard that “come as you are” means you can open your door in your dressing gown if you’re still getting ready for dinner. But all our neighbors were already dressed, perfumed and bejeweled. My mother and I had been hanging out late by the pool, and we felt a bit sheepish in wet, wind-blown hair and bathing suit cover-ups. Needless to say, we scuttled through the corridor as quickly and politely as we could to return to our suites and ready ourselves for dinner.
But we couldn’t escape before being handed glasses of champagne by our suite stewardess!
“Chef’s Market” lunch extravaganza:
For lunch on one sea day, the galley was opened up to guests and set up as a lavish buffet.
We were welcomed into the dining room with Campari-and-champagne cocktails.
Then we walked into the shiny stainless-steel galley, where a red carpet had been thrown on the floor for the occasion.
Singing chefs carved slabs of roast beef and stirred pans of linguine carbonara.
Trays of fresh sushi begged to be eaten. And mini-desserts promised sweet satisfaction.
It was fun and festive – and interesting to see the working kitchen where the ship’s meals are prepared.
Check any Seabourn Odyssey reviews (or reviews of Seabourn Cruises for that matter), and you’ll find mention of the Seabourn Square.
You know how on most cruise ships you have to trek to the reception desk and stand in line if you have a question?
Not so here.
The heart of the ship is Seabourn Square.
Guest services and shore excursions are found in this large open room, surrounded by lounge chairs, the library, computers, newspaper services and a very popular cappuccino bar. And when you’re discussing your question – be it restaurant reservations, getting a replacement room key for the one you’ve lost, what to do on shore, etc. – you’re seated on a comfy leather chair opposite the staff member helping you (rather than standing up as is usual on other cruise line ships).
It’s a convivial space, and a brilliant but simple concept to have all services in a central hub – where you can sip a latte (complimentary) while waiting.
My only niggling grumble is that guests had to wait, sometimes up to 15 minutes, to talk to a staff member at the beginning of the cruise.
Seabourn Odyssey suites
All 229 staterooms are suites. And all but a few on the lowest deck (Deck 4) have verandas.
Seabourn Odyssey veranda suites:
The most common category is the “veranda suite.” (I stayed in one on Deck 7.) These suites average 365 square feet in size, which includes the teak veranda with glass railing.
I use the term “suite” loosely here, as that’s how the line describes their Seabourn Odyssey cabins.
There’s no actual wall dividing the living room area from the bed in the veranda suites; instead, heavy bronze silk curtains do the job (they’re tied back with gold tassels). If you want a proper two-room design, you need to choose one of the larger suites – and there are several of those!
I think Seabourn’s designers did a marvelous job with Seabourn’s veranda suites.
Pleasing in décor, they’re furnished with blonde wood cabinets, a loveseat and two camel leather chairs around a dining-cum-work table (so you can comfortably dine in your suite if you wish). And there’s sufficient room to comfortably move around, without bumping and bruising your arms or legs on any corners.
The queen-size bed was probably the most plush and comfortable of all ship beds I’ve slept on (and I’ve taken at least 50 cruises by now); there was even a pillow menu (I could choose between down or foam). And I loved the walk-in closet with more than enough hangers and drawers to stow away a huge suitcase worth of clothes for a two-week cruise.
The spacious marble bathroom was a particular delight. It had two sinks, a proper bathtub and a separate glass shower with strong water pressure.
Molton Brown bath products in large tubes (no small dinky bottles) were a pleasure to use.
Indeed, every time I returned to my suite, it was an “ahhhhh…” moment – where I felt I’d entered my own soothing cocoon of calm and quiet.
Seabourn vs. Silversea veranda suites:
Over dinner one night, we got into a discussion with a British couple about competitor Silversea Cruises.
Our new friends were avid repeat Seabourn guests, and on the Seabourn vs. Silversea topic, they told us Seabourn’s veranda suites are larger than Silversea’s veranda suites.
(I checked, and veranda suites are indeed smaller on four Silversea ships: 295 square feet on Silver Cloud and Silver Wind, and 345 square feet on Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper. But they’re a little bigger at 376 square feet on Silver Spirit.)
Seabourn Odyssey deck plan
Suites are found on seven decks. See this interactive deck plan of the Seabourn Odyssey.
Most veranda suites are located on Decks 5 to 8.
There are four main dining venues on Seabourn Odyssey (and sister ships Sojourn and Quest):
- The Restaurant
- The Grill by Thomas Keller
- The Colonnade
- The Patio
As well, you can order around-the-clock from an extensive room service menu.
And if you desire dinner in your PJs – but also want the full meal deal – you can order from The Restaurant’s menu, and it will be served, course by course, in your suite or on your veranda. (Now that’s true room service!)
The Restaurant is the ship’s main restaurant.
It’s typically open from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Come when you want; sit where you want. The seating hostess will guide you to your preferred table. She knew we liked to meet other guests over dinner, so she’d send us an invitation in the afternoon to join a group table that evening, hosted by an officer, the ship’s lecturer or the cruise director.
The Seabourn Odyssey menu changes each night.
First course? Perhaps truffle poached egg with mesclun greens and corn puree, or panko-crusted jumbo shrimps with fennel slaw and Romesco sauce. Then roasted eggplant soup with garbanzo fritters, or seafood tournado with lobster sauce for the second course.
This is followed by a main course – maybe roasted lamb loin with eggplant puree, or crisp soft shell crab with asparagus risotto and lobster foam.
And for the best part, hot dark chocolate soufflé with mint anglaise or ginger cheesecake or strawberry romanoff sundae.
There’s also a classic menu, always available – steak, rack of lamb and so on.
Sounds good, right? It is. Seabourn’s food is absolutely delicious, and the cruise line is noted for its excellent dining.
(See this complete sample of one of the Seabourn menus.)
The Grill by Thomas Keller:
This is the “it” specialty restaurant on Seabourn Odyssey. Reservations are needed, but there’s no extra charge.
Thomas Keller is an American, 3-Michelin star chef who runs well-known restaurants such as The French Laundry (in Napa Valley), Ad Hoc and Bouchon.
His Grill on Seabourn Odyssey takes you back to the 50s and 60s, dishing up iconic American favorites like specialty martinis, Caesar salad prepared table-side, lobster thermidor and best of all, perfectly-seared premium steaks. (I don’t often get served a rib-eye steak with Hollandaise sauce, done just the way I like it!)
Seabourn’s Thomas Keller specialty restaurant is popular, but even though our ship was full, we still managed to dine there three times during our cruise.
What’s more, if you can’t get into The Grill, you can still take advantage of an additional Thomas Keller inspired menu in The Restaurant (which changes nightly), for example, king salmon with citrus sauce, creamed spinach and red rice porridge.
Many evenings, it was balmy enough to sit outside for dinner. That’s when my mother and I would head to the Colonnade.
Seabourn makes dining alfresco a pleasure.
With the Colonnade at the stern, all except tables on either side are protected from the wind. And overhead heat lamps and orange mohair blankets kept the chill at bay for us when the sun set.
Sometimes bountiful buffets were set up inside (servers carry your plates out for you though). Other times, themed Chinese, French and other dinners were served.
Seabourn dress code
Most nights, the Seabourn dress code is “elegant casual” after 6:00 pm. Jeans may be worn during the day, but not in The Restaurant at night. On our cruise, men typically wore casual jackets, shirts and pants for dinner, while ladies wore everything from dressy pants or capris to cocktail dresses.
As well, there were two formal nights during our two-week cruise. (There’s one formal evening on cruises up to 13 days; cruises of 14 to 20 days have two formal evenings.) An opportunity to get gussied up!
(See Seabourn’s guide for what to pack and wear.)
Spa, pools and gym
The main pool has plenty of loungers on either side, and umbrellas provide shade. There are also two whirlpools. It’s a sociable place to be.
But I preferred the privacy and quiet (no music) of the aft pool and whirlpools on Deck 5.
The overhanging deck above offers lots of shade, but there are still sunny spots for getting some Vitamin D. The few other guests that occasionally found their way here usually napped or read quietly. Sometimes, a server would stroll about offering beverages.
Another “secret” spot is the whirlpool at the bow of the ship on Deck 6. While this spot has lounge chairs, you won’t find any umbrellas or shade.
I’m not usually motivated to work out when traveling. (I like to think that walking is “exercise”!) But with so much sinfully good food on this cruise, I simply had to follow in the footsteps of the 60-something couples who, bouncing with energy after their workouts, would dash into the Colonnade as breakfast was ending, for one last cup of coffee or piece of fruit.
Thankfully, the gym on the Seabourn Odyssey is as inviting as cruise ship gyms can be.
It’s very large and completely stocked with fancy new ellipticals, bicycles and other equipment. And with towels, water bottles and good, strong air-conditioning, you can sweat in comfort.
I didn’t use the spa, but the newly-expanded 8,800-square-foot space looked attractive. And it was popular.
The entertainment onboard is more sophisticated and of a higher quality than what I’ve experienced on bigger ships. Usually I beg off watching ship entertainment, preferring to read a book after dinner. But on this cruise, my mother and I enjoyed several performances.
Don’t miss “An Evening With Sir Tim Rice.”
Rice is an award-winning British lyricist who collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber to create Jesus Christ, Super Star and Evita. He also worked with Elton John on songs for The Lion King.
Seabourn singers and dancers, dressed all in black, perform against a film backdrop, where Rice narrates introductions to various songs he wrote, like “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”
Another evening, we listened to a wonderful classical piano performance – romantic pieces from Chopin, Liszt and others – by talented concert pianist Naomi Edemariam.
On what cruise ship have you returned from a full-day’s shore excursion to find your bathtub filled with scented hot water, sprinkled with rose petals?
Jen, a single traveler we met, told us she returned to find a freshly-drawn bath waiting for her after being away all day, along with a personal note from her suite stewardess saying “Welcome back! I thought you’d like this after your long day out.”
Jen is just one guest who speaks so highly of the Seabourn customer service.
Virtually all Seabourn Cruises reviews point out that the service is quite extraordinary.
I’m sure that’s partly because Seabourn has a very high crew-to-passenger ratio. The Seabourn Odyssey passenger capacity is 450, and the ship has 330 crew – so almost one crew member for every passenger. (Larger cruise ships like those by Carnival, Princess and NCL have much lower crew-to-passenger ratios, ranging from one crew member for every two to three passengers.)
I found my suite stewardess absolutely delightful.
Most nights, she left little gifts on the bed, like a small bottle of Madeira wine after we left Madeira and packages of fresh spices after we visited Morocco.
And the Colonnade staff knew I liked to start breakfast with an extra-hot, skim milk, half-shot latte, which they’d bring within minutes of my sitting down. (How’s that for princess service?)
No reasonable request was too difficult to fulfill, and staff never said “no.”
Seabourn internet packages
Seabourn WiFi isn’t free. (Most cruise lines charge.) But I found it good and fast (not the painfully slow internet I’m used to on other ships). I could get WiFi everywhere on the ship, even in my suite.
You can choose from different Seabourn internet packages, starting at 40 cents a minute. For two-week cruises, the cost is $399 USD for unlimited internet. (And I could switch this between my phone and laptop.)
Seabourn Odyssey itinerary
Seabourn Cruises sail the world, from Alaska to Cuba, from Australia to the Med. Seabourn itineraries range from 7-night cruises to a new 2020 world cruise of up to 145 nights (visiting 62 ports in 36 nations, including “hidden gems” like Mindelo, Lanai and Hamilton Island).
Our Seabourn Odyssey itinerary was quite unique – from Lisbon to Barcelona, visiting Madeira, the Canary Islands and Morocco along the way.
You can also read about our Canary Islands cruise in my travel article published in Islands.com.
Seabourn shore excursions
We went on a few Seabourn excursions – and they were good and well-organized, with knowledgeable local guides.
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Hard to refuse buying local textiles from this kindly vendor! The medina in Tetouan, Morocco (a UNESCO site) is a colorful get-lost labyrinth of narrow alleys and streets stuffed with 40,000 shops. Not the biggest medina in Morocco — but very authentic! (Especially if you want to buy a goat head for dinner ☺) Our two-day visit to Morocco was short. But we’re glad we got a taste of the country on our “Seabourn Odyssey” cruise! (And, no, we didn’t get served goat heads for dinner that night on the ship.)
In addition to the usual shore excursions you can typically book on a cruise, Seabourn also offers the option to reserve a private car and driver/guide for a half- or full-day. And many passengers took advantage of this. We noticed at least a dozen black Mercedes and other luxury vehicles lined up at each port, with uniformed chauffeurs waiting for their guests.
I did, however, miss being greeted with a “Welcome Back!” and warm (or cold) facecloths for our hands upon returning from the excursions, like some other luxury cruise lines do.
The port talks the afternoon before each port also weren’t as informative as we would have liked – we were hoping for more than maps and printed sheets on the top port attractions.
In fairness, the port talk staff did admit that as the ship only visits the Canary Islands a few times a year, they weren’t familiar with the destination and hadn’t visited before. This didn’t bother us, as I’d researched in advance what to do for places we wanted to explore on our own (e.g., where the closest tourist office was located, how to catch the local bus or tram to a nearby town). But a couple of other guests who were relying on the ship’s staff for recommendations and suggestions were disappointed.
I expect this let-down doesn’t happen often though, and you won’t find many complaints in other reviews of Seabourn Cruises, given the exceedingly high standards in all other Seabourn departments.
Ranking among luxury cruise lines
In a nutshell?
Seabourn is one of the best luxury cruise lines in the world.
And the Seabourn Odyssey is one of the finest small luxury cruise ships I’ve sailed on.
Seabourn Cruise Line: What’s on the horizon?
Stay tuned for two posh, new, expedition-style ships, ordered by Seabourn, to debut in 2021 and 2022. As well as Zodiac boats and kayaks, they’ll carry two submarines.
Adventure cruising in the Arctic and Antarctica will be a whole lot more comfortable than when my mother and I cruised Antarctica years ago!
Photos 6 – 8, 14 – 15, 18 – 20 © Janice Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Other photos courtesy Seabourn
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I sailed as a media guest on this Seabourn cruise. But as a professional travel writer, I’m always free to write what I want, based on my own experience, for the travel articles I contribute to magazines and newspapers, as well as for posts and reviews on this blog.