This is a very good review and many want information about the new Seabourn ship so I thought I would post it. This is a wondeful couple that have many years of cruising on all the luxury lines. It is interesting how some of his perceptions were different from mine and I think that makes this even more valuable. We all see things differently.
The Seabourn Sojourn
Summarized below are our impressions of the new Seabourn Sojourn. Comparisons are made to the Regent ships, particularly the Voyager, since these are the ships we will be considering for our future travels.
We feel that Seabourn made a brilliant decision is using the same architects to create a “grown-up” version of the Pride, Spirit and Legend. The architecture is good looking, they look like ships and not floating apartment buildings and it gives the Seabourn ships a unique identity – a signature of their brand. The size of the ship, 32,000 tons carrying 450 passengers is good – large enough for long cruises but still small enough to dock close the to the center of many ports as was demonstrated at Stockholm and St. Petersburg on our voyage. The interior design of the ship is most attractive using lots of marble and polished granite accompanied by wood panels and composition panels. The furniture in the public rooms has been well chosen - comfortable and attractive – and complimented by attractive art work. There is a very effective center atrium running from deck 4 to deck 8 (pool deck) with a continuous double spiral staircase topped by a sloped skylight. The ship is clearly designed for warm, good weather with exterior accommodations on decks 8, 9, 10 and 11. There are two miniscule swimming pools one each on deck 8 and deck 5. Two large whirlpool baths are on the pool deck. Deck 10 is the game deck with the usual assortment of golf, tennis and shuffleboard. We did not see the marina but from pictures and diagrams it appears to be a larger version of the marina facilities on the smaller ships.
The public rooms include lounges; the Observation Lounge on deck 10 and the Club on deck 5; restaurants – the Restaurant on deck 4, the Colonnade on deck 8, Restaurant 2 also located on deck 8 and the Patio Grill located in the pool area on deck 8. The main dining room is bright and contemporary using white back lighted glass panels and divided into sections some having elevated ceilings. The effect is quite attractive and the divisions keep the noise level down as do the areas with the high ceilings. It is comfortable and we found the food selections and quality very good. The Colonnade serves as a buffet restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast and lunch and then converts into a full restaurant in the evening having a different menu each evening accompanied but a list of “classic” dishes available at all times. We felt it worked very well in the evening compared to La Veranda while not being quite as effective as a buffet for the other meals. The Patio Grill is very successful in good weather offering a fairly complete dinner menu and good selections for lunch. Restaurant 2 is the feature restaurant available by reservation. It is small – 48 chairs mostly arranged in tables for 6 and 2. Reservations are available 48 hours in advance and require calling promptly at 6:30 PM to make a reservation. We did not have any problems getting reservations and really prefer this to the idea of making reservations weeks in advance. It serves a tasters menu of 7 courses, each small and for the most part quite tasty although some of the dishes seemed a bit out in left field. Very nouvelle cuisine and something we would select only occasionally. The food and menu selections were very good proving you can get past the effusive Charlie Palmer B.S. descriptions – drunken this, kissed that, Etc.
The lounges are both well located and serve much the same purpose as the ones on the smaller ships and on the Voyager. They are nice size and The Club is well arranged for its several activities and attractively furnished. The Observation Room has great views from deck 10 but they have made several ridiculous mistakes in the furnishing of the room. Instead of vertical blinds, the windows are served by draw draperies which cover about 40 linear feet of the windows and, to make matters worst, there are fixed tables with two very large leather covered chairs located behind the draperies which completely block the view. Most people rearranged the furniture creating some traffic problems and, on busy days, lots of chaos. We were also disappointed that the hours of operation were limited to an early morning coffee, juice and roll service from 6:30 to 8 AM and then not until 6 PM.
A new feature was the Seabourn Square where the library, computer, reading, reception, tour office and cruise consultant were located. In place of the typical Reception
Counter this function is served by four desks set is a separate room in the square. The area was served by a manned counter offering all types of exotic coffee drinks, some light breakfast rolls early and sandwiches later and a limited bar service. It is an attractive space and during good weather it works well but when the weather is not good and the outside facilities are not usable, it can become quite crowded and the service can be slow. There are 8 computers and one was generally available whenever I wished to use one. They are primarily for sending and receiving e-mail messages since the cost is too high for web surfing and while they have Microsoft’s Word, there is no way to preserve the document since memory sticks cannot be used and the document is erased as soon as you end your session. Documents can be produced and printed only. This would be a real negative on a long cruise.
The theater is located on deck 4 on a single level. It has all the same problems with over amplification that we experience on all ships at this time. The hearing aid business will be a good investment! We also had some problems with the flood lights which were right in your eyes on the sides if you were sitting down near the front. Not the best design.
The basic deluxe suite is nice size – 300 sq. ft. about the same as the suites on the Voyager but, unfortunately, the space is not wisely used in our opinion. The bath includes both a tub and shower, a bit smaller that the one on the Voyager and the walk in closet is definitely smaller. The problems we found were with a row of low cabinets located between the end of the bed in the wall making the passage there very restricted and creating traffic jams if one is trying the get to the closet while the other is removing something from the cabinets. The latter are low and difficult to access. Another major problem for us was the absence of a desk and in its place, a large table. The table is fine if you are taking many meals in the suite but just in the way for most everything else. There is no convenient place to set up a laptop and the desk area in the Voyager suite provides quite a bit of cabinet space as well. The cabinets do not have knobs or pulls – they are opened by hitting a panel on the front. Mary, especially, did not like this feature and it seemed more cutesy than practical. The faucets also had different features using a lever to control both the temperature and volume. It took some getting used to but, once we understood how to use them, we liked the system. Sometimes old dogs can learn new tricks!
We looked also at the Penthouse Suites and here we found one of the best designed suites we have ever seen on a ship. They are large, 436 sq. ft., and ingeniously designed to provide separate dressing, bath, sleeping and lounging areas. The bed room is separated by glass panels with draw draperies but also providing clear views from the bed to the sea. The dressing areas, bath and closets, are accessible both from the bed room and from the entry corridor. There is a separate room housing the toilet and a wash basin with access from both the corridor and the rest of the bath room. The sitting area is spacious and includes comfortable chairs, a couch and a full table for dining. A large flat panel TV is in this room and a smaller one in the bedroom. The veranda is large and nicely furnished with comfortable and practical chairs and tables as was the veranda in the basic Deluxe Suite.
It was excellent! – In every way. For the most part the staff, waiters and stewardesses, were either from Europe, mostly Eastern Europe or South Africa. We love the Philippine and Balinese on the Voyager but these were equally good and very, very well trained. This is particularly impressive considering it is a new ship with lots of new people. They quickly learn your name and use it, seem to thoroughly enjoy their jobs and finding ways to better serve you. This has always been a strong point with Seabourn and they are as good as ever.
The Entertainment was more extensive than we had expected with a team of four singers, really excellent young, attractive performers, staging four programs each well designed and accompanied by a truly remarkable 5 piece orchestral group that, sometimes , came across as a full orchestra. There were the typical cruise ship feature performers, flautist, guitar, magician and comedian. One these ships the Cruise Director performed only once on each segment – quite different from the smaller ships where he/she is the principal entertainer. We had an excellent pianist, vocalist who entertained both at the cocktail hour and after dinner in the Observation Lounge. The lecturers were competent and the subjects both typical and appropriate.
The Dress Code is now much like the code on the Voyager – Optional Formal on two nights in a typical 14 day cruise, Elegant Casual (jacket required) on most other nights and casual on the first and last nights. The code is enforced in the Restaurant only. On the first segment of our cruise most people dressed carefully and nicely. The second was sold out at bargain prices, primarily in England, and it showed. Maybe we were born a generation too late or have lived too long because the casual to sloppy dress, particularly during the day is becoming the norm.
Smoking is permitted in restricted areas in the lounges and when they are full, it can be objectionable throughout the entire lounge. Smoking is also permitted in the suites which are equipped with ask trays. Big plus for Regent who does not allow smoking in either public rooms or in suites including verandas.
The overall operation of the ship was mixed. We have known the Captain, Carlo Bruer, since 1992 when he was the new man on the block. He is now the Senior Captain of Seabourn. We like him very much; he does a fine job and is very comfortable to be with. The only objection we found with the operation of the ship is that the schedule was too rigid and not modified when needed to meet the problems associated with cold, rainy weather which, unfortunately, we had a lot of in the latter part of the cruise. For example, the Patio Bar remained open while the enclosed Observation Lounge was closed. We asked that this be changed in our comment cards and in conversation with the staff but with no results. This remains a correctable problem but, nevertheless, a problem that detracts from the overall experience.
The rewards program on Seabourn is quite different from Regent’s. Here you earn complimentary cruises after sailing for a specified number of days. In past years this has been a 14 day cruise after 140 days which equates to a 10% discount. This was reduced last year to 7 days for each 140 days sailed or a 5% discount – cut in half! By contrast the Regent program increases by steps up to the Titanium level with many meaningful plusses that are available on each cruise on a current basis. Combined with the Regent complimentary tour program, Seabourn is clearly non-competitive in this respect and the two lines appear to be going in opposite directions to attract repeat customers with Regent’s programs becoming more attractive while Seabourn has cut theirs in half.
The Sojourn is, in the overall, a fine new ship with several excellent features but it is not without some problems. Some are easily correctible such as the operating hours of the various facilities and some are not, like the design problems in the Deluxe Suite. We will consider the Sojourn and its sisters in the future if the itinerary and prices are attractive but we would only book a Penthouse Suite.