We have just finished our "Capetown to Singapore" part of the Sojourn World Cruise.
My wife and I used to be died-in-the-wool Seabourn fans and have Diamond (250+ days) status. We loved the experience. That all fell apart on a cruise in 2016 when they were introducing Thomas Keller (but before they had the separate TK Grill). The quality and variety of food dropped so bad that we started doing a lot of Silversea and Regent. We did not regret changing cruise line.
But rather than be dogmatic, we decided destinations were the most important criterion, and we booked the above cruise on Seabourn as the great majority of the destinations were new to us. And who knows - maybe the food quality was again as good as the brochure says. It is fair to say that we got onboard with an attitude "This is Seabourn's last chance".
Well? They blew it, and our next cruises are now booked on Silversea and Regent (presumably delayed now). We are departing with a few $1,000 Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that we will not be using.
My review and comments follow. The elephant in the room was the Corona virus effect with cancelled ports and final destination changes. It is important to note that we had formed the "They Blew It" opinion BEFORE the massive port disruptions, and our decision was based on food quality; MDR & TK. Seabourn's handling of the port disruptions only reinforced our "Never Again" decision.
The MDR certainly serves great quality 3-star restaurant food and wine. But we booked and expected 6-star, as it used to be. The dishes were unimaginative. The prawns and scallops were tasteless (too watery). The beef was not as tender or tasty as it should been.
The Thomas Keller Grill was disappointing. Service was average. Food was better than the MDR - but presentation was disappointing. Have a look at the (delicious) cakes in the photo: This presentation is worthy of a cafeteria; not a 6-star restaurant. Maybe that is how Thomas Keller was served cake in his childhood, but I don't care.
The wine was average at best, unless you sprang for 'Revenue' wines. Long gone are the days when they happily served Sancerre, Chateau Neuf du Pape, ...
Through no fault of Seabourn, what we got was a lot different from what we paid for.
Cancelled Ports: Mombasa, Maldives, Colombo, Hambantota, Chennai, Sabang, Phuket, Langkawi, Penang, KL, Singapore
Added Ports: Fremantle (Perth)
The cruise was basically cancelled, and we were re-routed to Fremantle (Perth)/Australia and disembarked 4 days before the scheduled end of the original cruise. [Note: Glad they did get us off early as around this time, borders started to shut rapidly.]
1) USD500 pp (Refundable, onboard credit) for Mombasa which was cancelled for safety/security reasons. [I am OK with this as it is fair.]
2) If we stayed on until Perth: 25% of our 'fare paid' for the port disruptions. This as a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that must be booked within 12 months. We chose this option.
3) If we disembarked in Seychelles: 100% FCC of the unsailed days, but must be sailed within 12 months.
Later - when the cruise was cut short by 4 days, we were offered an extra 4 days compensation, on a pro-rata basis of the cruise fare paid, as
> 100% as refund , or
> 125% as FCC
There were many things we did like on this cruise.
THE GUESTS: Many interesting, charming, interesting people with whom to have dinner.
THE LECTURERS: Seabourn often gets great lecturers. [I have problem calling a 1-way interaction a 'Conversation']. This cruise was no exception. The stand out was Richard Stone ('Royal Portrait Painter') who had both fascinating content to pass on, but a wonderful method of delivery.
THE COLONNADE FOOD: Excellent variety each day. All well done and tasty. Themed meals such as: French, American, Indonesian, Italian, ...
WAIT-STAFF: Most were great. Some (including MDR) are clearly in the wrong job and way beyond their level of competence. This was a surprise as in the past Seabourn has stood out with its consistently good service.
THE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES: Under the pretense of being environmentally responsible, SB has banished single-use water bottles. OK, I get it. But the replacements are an epic fail for a number of reasons.
1) For reasons I don't understand, 90% of them have had the 'O-ring' seal in the cap removed. No problem if you keep them vertical. But no fun when you return from an excursion to find the bottom of your bag wet. [After a few days we worked out the problem and commandeered some with O-rings.]
2) They are stored in the cabinet above the room fridge. So water always 'warm'. [Yes - I know you can store them elsewhere. We did.]
3) The water used to fill them is generated onboard. Not necessarily a problem ... but for a few days the taste was terrible! It later improved, Wonder what we were drinking? BTW - same water served at dining venues. We started asking for Evian for a few days, simply as the onboard water tasted bad.
THE MDR: Both food and service notably below par. See comments above. This straw broke the camel's back for me. SB needs to wake up and realize their competition beats them on food and wine.
COFFEE IN THE SQUARE: Why is the line so long at times? Why don't they add a self-serve, automatic machine as an OPTION for those not wanting to wait?
THOMAS KELLER GRILL: Hits and Misses. They should all be hits. Glad this is free, as some plates I would not pay for. Presentation also poor overall. The decor is more laminex train carriage than high end restaurant.
PORT DISRUPTION HANDLING: I have no complaint at all with the fact that Seabourn had to re-route us as we were sailing during the great cruise industry shutdown of 2020. The 2nd leg of the cruise transformed to one with 16 days at sea with zero ports of call (except the embarkation and disembarkation ports). Again - no complaint there.
We booked a 2-leg part of the World Cruise: Capetown-Seychelles, and Seychelles-Singapore. I have no complaints about the 1st leg ports/routing. But - and this is a big but - during the 2nd leg we were not given full information and if we had received that information, we would have flown home from the Seychelles, avoiding 16 days at sea.
Let me explain:
> 22-Feb: We are advised of some itinerary changes with final destination changed from Singapore to Fremantle. Male/Maldives not cancelled on this new itinerary. If we disembarked in Seychelles, offered 100% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) of the un-sailed days on any sailing before 22-Feb-2021. As we wanted to see The Maldives and Sri Lanka, we made the decision to stay onboard.
> 26-Feb: Male/Maldives announced publicly that they had closed the port to cruise ships.
> 27-Feb: Male/Maldives closure known to Seabourn/Seattle. Seabourn started negotiations with The Maldives to get exemption to dock in the port. This was ultimately unsuccessful. Passengers not told of this (yet).
> 1-March: While in the Seychelles, we went on a full day tour. Came back to the ship about 2 hrs before departure, and found a letter in the room announcing the Maldives port cancellation. At this point, simply impossible to pack, disembark, book hotel & air, etc.
If Seabourn had told us on, or about, 27-Feb that "the current situation is that we can not dock in The Maldves, but we are trying to change that", then we would have absolutely disembarked and taken the 100% FCC.
In a crisis, communication is critical. We were kept in the dark way too much.
When the (overworked) Seabourn Square staff fielded the many questions from the guests, they did an outstanding job, but their hands were tied and all they could say is we will pass your concerns onto Seattle. They also said that you will not get a reply until AFTER YOU DISEMBARK. Excuse me!? As I write this (1 week after disembarking) have yet to receive even an acknowledgement that they have received the complaint email we send while onboard, let alone an answer.
We booked Capetown->Singapore (2 segments, back-to-back) and here is the exact text we were given in a letter on 22-February giving us the option of getting off in The Seychelles and claiming a credit:
"In recognition of these significant changes to your voyage, you will receive a Future Cruise Credit of 25% of the cruise fare paid for the 12-day portion of your cruise that has been revised".
Importantly, Seabourn did not do the 25% calculation for us and different guests had different understandings of what this meant. Different interpretations included:
> A 3-day credit (25% of 12-days)?
> 25% of the full Capetown-Singapore fare paid?
> 25% of the Seychelles-Singapore fare?
When I forced them to give me a dollar figure, it turns out the correct interpretation was (2) above, even though 12 days represents 31% of the 39 cruise-nights. Why is this important? Because guests were making Get-Off/Stay-On decisions based on this letter. Again - poor (and confusing) communication.
BTW - as I write this, if my wife or I login to our seabourn.com acct, there is no FCC shown at all. Again, poor communication.
Sorry Seabourn. You blew it. We will wave at you from our future suites on Silversea/Regent as you go past.
We actually had 2 cabins.
Leg 1 = V6 (924)
Leg 2 = PH (1024). Glad we upgraded on 2nd leg as there were no port stops.
While the extra space in a PH is great ... there is one amazing flaw with the PH rooms. If one guest likes to get up early (yours truely) and the other likes to sleep a bit longer, the regular suites are ideal as there is a heavy curtain to separate the two people. But not in the PH rooms: There as a glass door to the bedroom that can not be blocked off... so any light streams in.
Liked the port. Private guide