We chose this cruise as we had always wanted to see Australia and New Zealand and this seemed the ideal opportunity to do so on board the new Seabourn flagship, Encore.
The embarkation process was very efficient and first impressions of her were very positive. The public areas, the dining rooms and bars and the facilities on board looked great.
However, and this is a big one, there is NO guest laundry on board this ship. As we had arrived in Sydney 5 days prior to boarding, we had hoped to use this facility which is available on the Odyssey class vessels. As Silver Members, we had one free bag of laundry which was stuffed to the very limit. After that, it would be $50 for each full bag of laundry. Needless to say, we did not use this facility. I would not like to have been on board for any greater length of time.
The food in the Colonnade (for breakfast and lunch) and the main restaurant was of an exceptionally high standard, much better than I remember from previous Seabourn cruises.However, I did not like the buffet style approach to dinner in the Colonnade and we only dined here once as guests of the cruise director. A big selling point is the Thomas Keller grill, exclusive to Seabourn. We dined twice there but have to say we were not very impressed. The staff seemed disorganised - the greeter also cleared and reset tables, thereby leaving other arriving diners to wait - the service was variable and the choice of main meals did not change at all during the cruise. Also, the portion sizes were too large - this was not 'fine dining' by European standards. The steak was fantastic but it would have fed a family of 4!!
We were also disappointed by the selection of complimentary wines on board. We were sailing into two of the great wine producing areas of the world but there was hardly an Australian or New Zealand wine to be seen. The so-called specialty wines (for which a supplement was charged) were really what you might buy at home for a good Sunday dinner - but you were charged a lot of money for them. When we asked for a dessert wine, we were told there was none on board. Really, on a 6 star luxury cruise ship? Poor service there although this was eventually provided.
The entertainment was of a really high standard with a variety to suit most tastes and this cannot be faulted. Activities were very limited, with few opportunities for guests and staff to interact e.g golf competition etc. I was not impressed by the quality or the content of the lectures provided. There was little in the way of the enrichment promised by the company. We had three consecutive sea days with little to provide distraction from the crossing of the Tasman Sea.
Service was very hit and miss. The Square is where all guest enquiries are dealt with. Given that we had 582 guests on board, to have only 3 (and usually only 2) people dealing with all enquiries - destinations, internet, shore excursions, purser issues etc- is ridiculous. Also, the design of the guest services area is poor. Basically, they sit at desks which are at 90 degrees to each other. There was no obvious system for queueing and service was tardy.
Given that this is supposed to be a luxury experience, why do you have to pay for internet access? Both Regent and Silversea (with whom we have sailed) both now have free internet access across the fleet. Seabourn must address this issue or risk losing our custom. There was also the issue of privacy as, when using the ship's 3 public computers, anyone passing could see your on-line activities. There was no dedicated printer so anything you did print off, guess what, you had to join the queue at guest services for them to collect it from 'the behind the scenes' printer.
Service in the restaurant was also of variable. Some were excellent and very attentive whilst at other stations, you had to go in search of your waiter. We did complain and the issue was addressed but I fear other guests were then put at the stations about which we had concerns.
The itinerary matched all our expectations and the ports of call were really interesting. However, the Seabourn excursions were not value for money in that the tour descriptor did not match the reality (it is like reading the description of a house you are trying to sell and wonder why you would ever want to leave it since it is so good) and the destinations manager seemed quite disinterested. For example, we went on an excursion to Christchurch. We had to be in the Grand Salon at 09.00. You were not allowed to take any food off the ship (due to strict bio-security laws -no issue with that). However, it was almost 13.30 before we had the opportunity to eat and that was only achieved by abandoning the double-decker bus tour of the city. This is not the quality of service I expect from this company.
Our previous sailings with Seabourn had always left us wanting to come back for more. After this experience, I would seriously doubt if I will be taking another Seabourn cruise in the foreseeable future.
Our overall experience was summed up by my wife who said that 'Encore was a ship obviously designed by a man'!
The suite was beautifully appointed and there were some innovative features such as low level lighting in the bathroom for use at night. The bathroom facilities were excellent although there did seem to be a cut-back on the provision of luxury toilet items, compared with previous cruises.
There was ample storage space for all of our clothes etc.Our suite stewardess was very helpful and attentive and nothing was too much trouble for her.
The catalogue states that you will be offered a choice of pillows bt our stewardess had to hunt high and low for orthopedic pillows despite this being requested prior to embarkation.
However, there is no longer the docking facility for your IPod which is available on the Odyssey class ships. Also, unless it was an open address from the bridge, you could not tune into bridge announcements on the tv as is possible on the other ships. To have to open your suite door to hear what is being said is not good enough!
Excellent private tour with my wife and our driver.
Tour of the city and its environs and a tour of the coast.
Terrible guide who talked incessantly about his own personal life.
Had to wait nearly 5 hours before we could get something to eat.
Dreadful experienceView All 44 Christchurch City Tour Reviews
Excellent tour of the city with our guide Tim, my wife and myself.
A lovely little town easily accessible on foot and to independent exploration
Worthwhile to see but not in the same league as Iceland.
We had 4 days in Sydney prior to embarkation to explore the city independently.