Seabourn celebrates 30 years of ultra-luxury cruising this year, just as ‘Seabourn Ovation’ was launched in April 2018, with Elaine Paige as godmother. She is a sister ship to ‘Seabourn Encore’ and although both still boast many of the features of the 3 smaller ‘Odyssey’ class ships, they are bigger – 40,350 tonnes and carry 600 passengers each. ‘Encore’ and ‘Ovation’ not only have an additional passenger deck, but they are also a bit wider than the other ships. They also feature ‘The Retreat’ and ‘Sushi’ (restaurant), not found on the older ships.
During my recent ship visit in Liverpool, I was able to revisit some of the Seabourn signature features aboard as well as the new initiatives, so this report should be read in conjunction with my previous article ‘What Is Ultra Luxury?’.
‘Seabourn Ovation’ was designed by Adam D Tihany, who also designed The Four Seasons Hotel in Dubai. It can be described as an all verandah suite, floating boutique hotel and its understated ambience starts on embarkation – not undertaken in a Cruise Terminal, but on board with a welcoming glass of champagne and canapés in the multi-functional, unique Seabourn Square (one of my favourite areas on a Seabourn ship). The ship has 6 categories of suites: the smallest measures 246 sq ft with a 68 sq ft balcony and the largest, the Wintergarden Suite, a whopping 989 sq ft with a 197 sq ft balcony (which is larger than many actual cabins on mainstream cruise ships). There are 6 outdoor whirlpools and 2 swimming pools, as well as nooks and crannies both on deck and inside, for more private time.
The Retreat which is only found on ‘Encore’ and ‘Ovation’, is a canopy covered relaxation area forward on deck 12. It has 15 private cabanas, designed as luxury living rooms (which can be curtained off), circling a raised whirlpool. Each cabana has a sofa, large HD flat screen TV, Bluetooth headphones, newspaper loaded iPads and charging points, a bottle of Bollinger and a dining table and chairs. There is one cabana set up for spa treatments, a sun terrace area further forward with double sun loungers and amenities like fresh fruit baskets, Evian mist sprays, custom created cocktails and a healthy spa menu. This all comes at a current additional cost of £299 pp (on port days, but more when at sea).
The Observation Bar (also forward on the ship and a deck below The Retreat) has a semi-circular painted fresco on the ceiling, which is reflected in the mirror opposite and creates the illusion of a full circle in what is a lovely light airy room. The blue shapes in the fresco (whether you describe them as feathers or waves) feature on the front of the Seabourn 2019/20 Cruise Collection brochure. Early riser’s coffee and tea, as well as afternoon tea is served here. Although there is a piano in situ, this tends to be one of the quieter bars on board.
There are only 2 alternate restaurants on board ‘Seabourn Ovation’:
The Grill by Thomas Keller – a stunning dining venue set out in red velvet and with a huge wine cellar for pairing with different dishes. The décor is inspired by the classic American chophouse and the menus, which change every 4 days or so, focus on updated versions of iconic dishes, like classic Caesar salad and New England clam chowder, lobster thermidor and thick cut prime New York strip steak, lemon meringue tart and dark chocolate layer cake.
In the same area of deck 8 is Sushi, open for lunch and dinner, it is a compact area set around an open kitchen, serving Bento boxes (meat, seafood or vegetarian), sushi, sashimi and Japanese beers at lunchtime and kaiseki ryori (a traditional multi course Japanese dinner) at night. Ingredients are regularly shipped in from Japan for authenticity.
Also on deck 8 is the multi-functional Card Room – used for card games, religious services and dependent on numbers, home to a small Kids Club (there needs to be 4 or more children on board, for this to operate).
The Colonade is split over 2 decks on ‘Ovation’ (and ‘Encore’) and serves buffet breakfasts and lunches, as well as themed and waiter served bistro style dinners each evening. When I was on board this menu included a selection of Thomas Keller dishes paying homage to his childhood. For guests preferring a lighter lunch, but to be served at table, the Classic Menu is available in both the Colonade and The Restaurant venues at lunchtimes.
Seabourn offers a consistency of product across its fleet, but is always adding other features to its enrichment programmes. In addition to its tie ups with UNESCO, Seabourn Conversations and Seabourn Ventures (a programme which is now 2 years old and utilises the marina for launching waterborne activities, accessed by The Club area on deck 5 on ‘Seabourn Ovation’. A 3 hour kayaking trip – no experience required, costs $120 pp), there are also Seabourn Journeys – pre and post-cruise land based, fully escorted tour options, usually to destinations inaccessible on a single day’s shore excursion. Typically of 5-6 days duration in groups of 2 – 10 guests, they are offered in 10 iconic destinations worldwide, Moulton Brown continues to provide in house toiletries, Brian van Flanden is still the mixologist, Thomas Keller now offers six flavours of turn down chocolates. The spa is under the guidance of Wellness guru Dr Andrew Weill offering a mindful living programme integrating physical, social and spiritual aspects. There are complimentary Pilates, yoga and tai chi classes every day as well as seminars and meditation classes. The usual range of spa treatments are on offer, while access to the Serenity Suite is $25 pp per day, but complimentary with a treatment. The newest feature is an entertainment tie up with Sir Tim Rice: a musical journey through his life and works via a combination of videoed interviews and live musical numbers.
‘Ovation’ is the third Seabourn ship, I have been lucky enough to have looked around and I was again impressed by the décor (including the largely unnamed pieces of art) and restful ease engineered by the cruise line. Every member of staff I passed, unfailingly spoke to me with an air of friendliness and helpfulness, reinforced by the thoughtful positioning of amenities to increase personal comfort like the coolers filled with soft drinks dotted about the ship, a choice of worldwide newspapers in Seabourn Square, wipes for glasses and sun cream sachets on deck bar counters and complimentary combs in vanity baskets in the spa. These ships offer the best of both worlds – a small ship size wise (so able to perfectly access smaller and more remote ports of call) but with a big ship feel (plenty of space, a large theatre (able to seat the full complement of guests at any one time) and casino, multiple dining venues, including in suite, as well as stupendous teak decks). What is there not to like?