We are pretty experienced small ship cruisers and we’ve cruised with Seabourn just 3 times before – Odyssey & Sojourn – and thought that everything about those ships was absolutely great – the best designed ships we’ve been on – great food – great service - pretty much everything great. So our expectation for the much heralded Seabourn Encore was pretty high – the reality was a big disappointment
With a change in size from 450 guests on the smaller ships to 600 guests we were expecting everything to be scaled up accordingly but that is not what they have done. Unfortunately the statistics don’t tell the whole story as even though the quoted space per passenger is not that different the ship is a lot busier and seems much more crowded that the smaller ships. I think it's down to the layout with some areas being underutilised and if they were to exclude the space of the extra cost & hardly used Retreat the space per passenger figure would tell a different story. I can’t find any figures but staffing levels must be different as the service levels are noticeably worse than the smaller ships - OK in the restaurants but particularly noticeable in the public areas including the pool deck. No longer that feeling of luxury as waiters drift around taking orders – it was up to the bar myself on several occasions!
Dining is generally good although service was patchy and inconsistent. We tried all venues with the most disappointing (in the context of the billing) being the Thomas Keller Grill – it’s a nice room and the service is pretty good, but it’s a very ordinary grill and having dined at Thomas Keller’s restaurants we were expecting something special. That said some great Thomas Keller dishes were an option from time to time in The Restaurant. Limiting guests to one reservation in The Grill on a cruise trying to create an air of exclusivity is a bit of a nonsense as twice we saw people turn up without a reservation being shown immediately to a table. We enjoyed Sushi very much – small venue so sometimes a wait, but worth it. We struggled with The Colonnade as at times it became overcrowded. That was mainly an issue at breakfast when the weather meant the outside tables weren’t usable. Even though there’s a Maitre D’ you are left to your own devices to find a table on this ship making it all a bit unseemly in the scramble when busy. Bizarrely, on such days, The Restaurant, also open for breakfast, is not geared for more than a few tables so we found the wait there even longer. We did enjoy dinner on the pool deck
The entertainment is good but quite a big change with 2 shows a night as the theatre is too small for the number of guests. The theatre uses the space of 1 deck (rather than 2 decks on other cruise lines) so to give any sort of rake in the seating it ends up as small compared to the number of guests. So that changes the dynamics of the evening. If you dine as a couple then starting early you can make the first show but for a large group or for a later dinner it’s the later show, too late for many
We certainly won’t be travelling on Encore again. Our bigger concern is that the approach adopted on Encore will permeate to the small ships that we love. I think we’re safer looking elsewhere