With Seabourn's luxury cruise ship Encore in port in Auckland as part of her season in the South Pacific, Seabourn's New Zealand based representatives invited Fine Travel onboard for a tour.
What Makes Seabourn Different
Having attended cruise line presentations, ship inspections and spent evenings thumbing through glossy brochures, it feels almost impossible to come across a unique explanation of what makes a particular luxury cruise line different. Despite the desire to present a luxurious nautical experience, it seems that once this passion is parsed by the marketing and legal teams, the claims become generic, meaningless and interchangeable with one of its competitors.
The notable exception to this was in May 2019 when I attended the New Zealand launch of Seabourn's expedition ship Seabourn Venture. During the presentation the Seabourn Sales Manager shared that before each voyage, guest facing crew commit time to learning the names and faces of up to 80 guests. For a cruise line with one of the highest repeat cruise rate, that prides itself on the relationship between its guests and crew, this insight spoke volumes.
A Smaller Ship Designed for Subtle Luxury
While exploring Seabourn Encore, you cannot lose site of the fact that you are onboard a ship and will be at sea. This may seem trite, but many cruise ships lose that nautical feeling with designs that suggest "Westfield", rather than the work of a famed cruise ship designer like Adam Tihany who is responsible for Encore's interior. He has adopted what I felt was a subtle communication of luxurious surroundings - an approach consistent with Seabourn's overall philosophy.
You will get a good feeling for what it's like onboard Seabourn Encore from the images in this article, however it was through a discussion with our host, Seabourn's onboard Sales Manager, that I received a special insight. After discussing the number of cruise ships that had visited Auckland this summer, and sharing that I had the opportunity to review the Viking Sun recently, she was quick to acknowledge that they are quite different ships:
"We may not be as flashy as a ship like that, but our guests don't want a chair that looks like something else. They want a chair, that looks like a chair, and is comfortable when you sit in it. They want the basics done right."
This is where we get to the heart of the Seabourn experience - good old fashioned service. Remembering guests names and preferences. Not trying to "wow" guests with flashy trinkets and accessories - focusing instead on doing things right.
As it was a turnaround day we had access to all suites onboard, other than the Wintergarden (the top suite onboard). Seabourn Encore is a 300 suite ship (allowing a maximum of 600 guests onboard).
The entry level suite is the Veranda (above) and it is spacious. Although the bedroom and living areas are not separated by a wall, for a shorter cruise, or if you find that you generally spend little time in your suite when cruising, the Veranda is more than adequate.
For a longer voyage, or if you generally find that you like to retire to your suite or hotel room when travelling, the Penthouse Suites and above offer bedrooms that are separated from the living areas (above). The bathrooms and wardrobes are generous, with a bath and separate shower included with a walk in / through wardrobe.
The design of the suites is identical between ships so a Seabourn guest who enjoys the suite style on one ship can feel comfortable joining another voyage onboard another Seabourn ship.
Restaurants onboard Seabourn Encore
As an all inclusive cruise experience, there is no additional charge for eating in any of the five restaurants onboard Seabourn Encore. Drinks are also included.
The dress code in all restaurants is smart casual. Jackets are only required for men on the optional formal night in the Restaurant and jeans are not allowed in The Grill. The Colonnade is the primary casual dining location - technically it offers a buffet style, but it is certainly set at a quality consistent with a luxury dining experience.
The Grill by Thomas Keller (above) is the only restaurant onboard where a reservation is required and guests are guaranteed one reservation a week (and potentially more depending on availability). With a design based on a 1950's New York Chop House, the experience created by America's only three Michelin Star chef is vibrant and generous. Far from a petite gastronomic experience, past guests have recalled "rolling out of the restaurant".
The Seabourn Square
One of the design features that caught me off guard was that on boarding, we were greeted by a spiral staircase and two banks of elevators. A corridor then then leads you forward and aft on each deck (as there are no interior cabins each suite is either on the port or starboard side of the ship). Rather than a grand foyer to welcome guests onboard, Seabourn offers the very appealingly designed Seabourn Square.
The Seabourn Square has a quiet buzz about it and you could immediately see how guests could say: "Let's meet at the Square before heading out today". Whether you want to talk to the crew, grab a cup of coffee, take advantage of an onboard discount and book your next cruise, or just work on a puzzle, the Seabourn Square is enticing.
How to Find Out More About a Seabourn Cruise
Fine Travel has a close working relationship with Seabourn's representatives in New Zealand. This allows our clients to ask any specific questions about an itinerary, ship or suite. Depending on where a potential guest is located in New Zealand, and the circumstances, we can also arrange for a meeting over a coffee or a phone call with Seabourn.