Seabourn Sojourn Review
Luxurious, spacious, and uncrowded. Considering the excellent food and sumptuous decor, it’s a ship we would happily sail with again.
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There were four dedicated bars on Seabourn Sojourn, though drinks could also be ordered at the restaurants, and servers would check in on the Grand Salon, the Aft Pool and the Forward Whirlpool. There is a serviceable list of complimentary wines, and most spirits and mixed drinks are complimentary. For the few special wines and spirits that carried a surcharge, no additional service charge was assessed.
Beer & Wine
The selection of complimentary wines available at both the ship’s bars and restaurants encompassed about 30 different options. Seabourn describes this list as “fine wines,” but that’s an exaggeration (wine snob alert: even Beringer white zinfandel found a place on the list). Still, a little prying allowed us to discover a number of good bottles that retail for $15 to $20 at home, along with a number that were unfamiliar. Among the standouts were Santa Margharita pinot grigio, Louis Latour Grand Ardeche chardonnay and the Château Saint Amand sauternes from Bordeaux. The house Champagne was Nicolas Feuillatte brut, though a prosecco was also available. When we got wines we didn’t care for, servers had alternatives close at hand.
For those with more refined wine tastes, the selection was excellent. About a third of the list of more than 100 premium bottles was devoted to France, a quarter to California and the rest was a mix of old and new world options. Many were available in multiple vintages, and among the headier choices were Château Margaux 1-Cru Classe 2000 ($1700), Château Petrus Pomerol 1999 ($2700), Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, Bertani 2001 ($162), Opus One 2003/2004 ($240), Penfolds Grange shiraz 2001/2003 ($550), Joseph Phelps Insignia cabernet sauvignon ($250) and Louis Roederer Cristal rosé 2002 ($600).
Those bottles aren’t representative of the whole list. Premium wines started at about $29 for Saint Martin Domaine Laroche Chablis (2009), $32 for Coyam (a biodynamic red from Chile), and $45 for non-vintage Piper-Heidsieck or Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut.
Seemingly any mixed drink we could name could be crafted by the bartenders. Spirits included all of the top mainstream labels—Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Ketel One, Absolut, Jack Daniel’s, Knob Creek, Johnny Walker (red and black), Mount Gay, etc. At the pool, servers often carried around small pours of frozen drinks for us to try.
All drinks were complimentary except for premium spirits. Premium encompassed such pours as Johnny Walker Blue Label, Laphroaig 10-year single malt and Courvoisier Napoleon.
For connoisseurs there were two wine packages available worth investigating. The selection for the Silver Menu—three bottles for $225—included Cakebread chardonnay, Château Suduiraut sauternes, Northstar merlot and Château La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The Gold Menu—six bottles for $450—added a few more selections to the list, including Hanzell chardonnay, Penfolds St. Henri shiraz and Grigich Hills cabernet sauvignon.
The Spa at Seabourn
This is one of the most attractive and elegant spa facilities we've seen at sea, with quite a generous amount of space allotted (considering there are only 450 passengers on the ship). The facilities were cast in cream tones, with lovely wood and stone accents throughout. The spa was managed by Steiner Leisure, which handles spa services on most cruise lines. The spa included a fin sauna, changing rooms for men and women with lockers and showers, and a private aft deck with its own whirlpool tub and sunning area amid billowing white curtains.
At the salon, the roster of services included hair treatments (style, coloring), nails and waxing. Massage treatments, body therapies, and facials included the usual services, though there was one we hadn't heard of—the Seabourn 24-Karat Gold Facial, a 75-minute treatment involving a gold leaf mask, for $325. The boss said no.
Also here was a Thermal Suite Lounge, a mild sauna experience with heated loungers and the Kneipp Walk, a water therapy through basins of cold and warm water with reflexology massage features. A day pass was $30, or $180 for the length of the cruise.
One quibble: We found the plastic plants ornamenting the spa a bit tacky—do real plants need so much care that they can't be maintained on a ship?
There was also a private spa villa that could be rented for a few hours, with a soaking tub for two, daybed, private shower, and many spa treatments.
Even compared to the luxury cruise competition, Seabourn has a high level of staffing. With a crew of 342 aboard on our cruise, there were 1.3 passengers for each crewmember; by contrast, typical in the industry for ships of this size and larger is 2 to 2.5 passengers for each crewmember. But sheer quantity of staff wasn’t enough to overcome a few issues.
Guests were regularly invited to join one of the senior crew for dinner at a table with other guests. This is a pleasant way to get to know other passengers (and it made use of the larger tables at The Restaurant), but we were told we were under no obligation to join in if we preferred to dine on our own.
In addition to dry cleaning services (for a fee), there is a complimentary launderette—washers, dryers, laundry soap, ironing—located on Deck 5 mid-ship.
There are six types of cabins available on Seabourn Sojourn, all of which are called suites. While we might quibble with the use of that term, there’s no questioning that—starting at 295 square feet—they’re larger than conventional cabins on almost all other cruise lines, creating a genuinely comfortable and refined retreat.
That least-expensive option is the Ocean-View Suite (there are no inside cabins on Seabourn Sojourn) and even here you’ll find a generous bathroom with separate shower and full-size tub and a living area that is quite adequate for enjoying an in-room meal at a proper dining table. Ocean-View cabins represent just 10 percent of the cabins onboard Sojourn, while the primary category is the Verandah Suite which we stayed in; these rooms are essentially identical to the Ocean-View category, but add a balcony. Four different categories of (true) suites round out the options.
An intimate, 450-passenger vessel catering to well-heeled travelers, Seabourn Sojourn arrived on the scene in 2010, making it the second youngest in Seabourn’s fleet of six small ships. According to Seabourn, the Sojourn is nearly identical to sisters Seabourn Oddysey and Seabourn Quest (launched in 2009 and 2011 respectively), and the ships spend the year exploring fairly exotic ports of call, many of which aren’t found on the itineraries of the bigger lines. The staff to guest ratio is quite high—just 1.3 passengers for each crewmember on our cruise—and the ship also offers more space per passenger than other luxury lines.
Although Seabourn and its culinary consultant chef Charlie Palmer parted ways in late 2011, we found the food still quite good. For a smaller vessel, Seabourn Sojourn offered fairly diverse dining options, from the intimate and adventurous Restaurant 2 to the casual al fresco Patio Grill. The ship’s main dining room, The Restaurant, was a showy space that most guests dressed up for, but there were no set seating times and reservations weren’t necessary. The Colonnade was more informal, and offered both buffet and à la carte selections, with themed meals most nights. Elegant, modern stemware by Schott was used throughout the ship, even at the Patio Grill (the kind of place most ships would stock with plastic stemware). Seabourn is a member of the gastronomic society Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.
One aspect we particularly appreciated: At all four dining venues there was a sufficient number of two-top tables so that we never had to share with other guests—except when we wanted to.
Our Cabin: Verandah Suite
With a big bathtub, a walk-in closet and a living area roomy enough to dine in, the Verandah Suite is a big step up from what we normally cruise in. This type of cabin represents almost three-quarters of the ship’s accommodations. Fittings and finishes are of superior quality, and a floor-to-ceiling glass door leads to the balcony. When we arrived, tiny canapés and a full chilled bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne were waiting for us. We restrained ourselves till we had all our notes in order.
The queen-size bed was great—we slept wonderfully on the plush mattress (actually two mattresses pushed together), which was covered in fine linens and big fat pillows. Each side of the bed had a nice, bright lamp plus an adjustable reading light, and there were also built-in ceiling lights above. A curtain could be pulled that separated the bedroom from the living area.
For a “standard” cabin our bathroom was excellent, tiled in marble and primped with quality amenities and swank fixtures. There were twin sinks, a makeup mirror, a jar of cotton balls and swabs, and a 120/230-volt outlet.
The bathtub was large enough for proper bubble baths. The separate shower stall was a compact triangle, but still larger than we usually find on cruise ships, with a powerful showerhead. Towels were thick and fluffy. A card with Seabourn’s “environmental statement” invited us to reduce unnecessary laundering by hanging used towels up for re-use—despite doing so, our cabin steward replaced them at least once daily anyway.
Our balcony wasn't exactly large, but more than sufficient for a couple (and adequate for dining al fresco). The two steel mesh chairs were loungers of a sort, with a modest sized metal table. The surfaces were sticky with sea spray from the previous journey, and left unaddressed until the fifth day when all of the ship’s verandahs were sprayed down—just as we were looking forward to a sunset cocktail on the balcony at sail-away.
The walk-in closet offered plenty of storage, in addition to the safe, life jackets, bathrobes, slippers, wool blanket, sewing kit, shoe polish and umbrella. Other storage included a dresser by the bed, and two cabinets between the bedroom and living area. One held the minibar (all contents complimentary), a fruit plate (replenished regularly), and stemware; the other had the TV, an atlas, a book of short stories, and personalized stationery in a leather-bound folder.
The TV provided a good picture, but the tinny, shallow speakers were poor. The couch was large, but a bit firm—not a spot we’d stretch out on for a nap. A small sitting area outside the bathroom featured a large mirror and outlets—good for last-minute preparations.
The dining table was amply sized for two to enjoy a full meal, with comfy chairs. In fact, between the couch, chairs and balcony, one could easily host an intimate in-room cocktail party.
At check-in we were offered a choice of hand soap: Molton Brown, L’Occitane, or Hermes. We couldn’t decide, so the attendant simply left one of each so we could try them all. Also provided were two spirits of our choice. When these were delivered just after embarkation we were quite surprised to discover they were full 1-liter bottles.
Opening off Seabourn Square, this was the spot for logo merchandize, including T-shirts, caps, pens and champagne glasses emblazened with the Seabourn logo.
We also found sundries such as toothpaste, razors, deodorant, feminine products and various candies.
Seabourn Sojourn's jewelry boutique was pretty impressive.
We found jewelry by Chopard, H Stern and others, right up to a gorgeous gold and diamond necklace carrying a six-figure price tag. We admired—from afar.
For a smaller ship, Seabourn’s main shop carried a pretty diverse collection of quality goods, well beyond what the average cruise ships sell.
On the shelves were handbags by Chopard, men’s clothing by Ralph Lauren, Douglas & Grahame and Henri Lloyd, women’s clothing by Joseph Ribkoff along with more casual items. There was jewelry by Antica Murrina and Swarovski, handbags by Spartina and Mary Frances, and watches by Hermes, Tag Heuer and Citizen. Fragrances included most of the major names, Chanel, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent, Hugo Boss and skin care products by La Prairie.
The gym was nicely appointed, using the latest models of Technogym machines (including several of those stylish Kinesis walls), all in excellent shape. There were ample treadmills and bikes, and very few people in the gym at any given time.
Complimentary yoga, pilates, tai chi and group Kinesis sessions were available, and one-on-one personal training could be arranged ($100 for 60 minutes).
Overlooking the main pool, the open-air Sky Bar had most of the ship’s compliment of spirits and wines. What wasn’t on the shelf was retrieved quickly by the upbeat, good-humored staff. The Sky Bar was a great spot for people watching. Note, the starboard side of the bar was open to smoking.
On one afternoon, the Sky Bar was the location for a “caviar sail-away,” replete with champagne and live music.
The Restaurant is an elegant dining room that seats about 270 guests. It’s the ship’s dressiest option, though reservations aren’t required unless you want a specific table. The food is fairly refined, and most evenings the menu was comprised of about seven starters followed by five entrées. Portions were not large, so ordering a pair of appetizers made sense. On the Formal (optional) evening, the menu was greatly streamlined, but still very satisfying. The full dinner menu from The Restaurant was also available for in-room dining.
The Restaurant is also open for breakfast, but we found it surprisingly empty the two mornings we dined here—it’s a good option if the clamor of the Colonnade is too much.
On the Formal (Optional) evening the menu came rolled with a ribbon and started with a course of game terrine or white tomato soup with basil foam, and moved on to beer battered cod with minted pea puree and tartar sauce. A glass of Pimms sorbet with a halo of cucumber foam was a refreshing palate cleanser. For entrée we opted for the butter poached halibut which sat on wilted spinach and a casserole of tomatoes and mussels—a fine dish. The other entrée this evening was a slow roasted beef tenderloin and mushroom pie, easily washed down with a glass of satisfying pinot noir. Dessert was a trio of rhubarb preparations—a crumble, a cheesecake and a sherbet.
Another evening we dined here we enjoyed the chicken liver parfait served with caramelized figs, toasted hazelnuts and brioche toast, while the potato leek soup was excellent, spiked with lobster croutons (that’s a recipe we’d like). The seared dorade was delicious, served skin-on with a garnish of garlic slivers, green beans and an unadvertised strip of bacon. We also tried the marinated grilled strip steak, but we found the cut to be leathery and unsatisfying, one of the ship’s few misses.
Breakfast was straightforward and more-or-less duplicated the room service options. A broader selection was available at the Colonnade.
Breakfast and dinner are offered daily; lunch may be conducted here on some sea days, but it wasn’t during our cruise.
About Our Cruise
Our cruise on Seabourn Sojourn landed us in the lap of luxury, a world defined by graces great and small. Along with siblings Seabourn Oddysey and Seabourn Quest, the ship boasts the highest passenger-space ratio in the industry and, except for a few meals at The Colonnade, public areas never felt remotely crowded, even around the pool on sunny sea days. There were plush carpets in wide hallways to silence any hint of noise, while our oversized cabin’s crisp marble bathroom was lavish, with fine bath products, twin sinks and a full-size tub.
The design-forward ship is beautifully conceived, looking a bit like the outsized yacht of a seafaring billionaire. The 20th-century art decorating the common areas sets the refined mood—Joan Miro, Paul Klee, Vassily Kandinsky and a trio of Marilyns by Warhol, though all are reproductions. We liked the striking natural scenics by contemporary photographers. There’s just one central corridor through most of the ship (and no interior cabins); the restaurants and social areas are all positioned in the center or aft of the ship, allowing the forward section to be devoted exclusively to accommodations.
Mealtime was well above average for the cruise industry. While not every dish was letter-perfect, the good far outweighed the middling, and several items were truly outstanding—even meals at the Patio Grill were more satisfying than most specialty venues on other cruise lines. And in-room dining isn’t usually something we look forward to on other cruise ships; on Sojourn it was a treat.
Seabourn’s all-inclusive pricing model meant we didn’t worry about bar bills adding up. Most of the complimentary wine selection was sufficient that we always found a good pour and spirits included all of the top mainstream labels; the bartenders got to know our tastes, and by the end of the cruise our favorite drink was prepared without asking.
This soothing space offers a broad, near-180 degree forward panorama from just above the bridge. During the day the venue was untended, but afternoon tea was served from 4 to 5 p.m. An excellent pianist played here during afternoon tea, and from 6:30 nightly, on a gleaming white piano. The acoustics in the room were superb—the music perfectly audible but unobtrusive from any seat.
During tea, a wonderful spread of sweet and savory goodies emerged. Finger sandwiches (avocado and bacon; roast beef, remoulade and cornichon), chips with salsa and guacamole, and small desserts (including the ever-popular grandma’s cake) were among the offerings, which changed daily.
Note: The starboard side of this enclosed room was open to smoking, though we found very few engaged.
The buffet selection at this popular spot was augmented by a short dinner menu, usually three appetizers, three entrees and a couple desserts, a selection that changed nightly. On some evenings there was a theme—steak night on one evening, French another; the Tuscany Market evening was especially popular.
At a few points during our cruise we found The Colonnade to be quite bustling. Although it can be crowded around the buffet lines it is well staffed and we never had to wait for a table, though we might have been lucky. Most of the tables are indoors, but a couple dozen are located on the stern deck, a nice perch when the conditions were good (when the weather turned, plush orange blankets emerged without our asking). At all meals, whether we chose to graze at the buffet or select from the short printed menu, a waiter would attend the table, bringing drinks or anything else we requested. Waiters would usually offer to hand-carry our plates of food from the buffet to the table, and when the buffet was about to close servers would subtly pass the word.
Dinner would begin with a basket of bread, accompanied by a tray of spreads—whipped butter and olive oil, and a rotating third choice (butter with roasted garlic one night, herb cream cheese another). Typical appetizers we found were shrimp cocktail with avocado, a crab cake with a salad of fennel, red onion, arugula and truffle rémoulade, and roasted garlic soup with chive Chantilly and crunchy rosemary brioche. Entrées we enjoyed included a surf and turf of beef tenderloin and Nigerian shrimp (a tasty crayfish-like stand-in for lobster). The beef was a great cut of meat, well-seasoned and cooked exactly to request (medium-rare).
There were also a nightly vegetarian offering, though not usually listed on the menu for some reason. One evening an entrée of house-made ravioli filled with beetroot and goat cheese was delicate and refined, floating on a sage and garlic nage and accented with pine nuts. On the steak house evening, mains included a cowboy steak, fillet of beef tenderloin, veal chops, and fillet of fresh salmon. The Mediterranean evening featured pan-seared sea bass or roast rack of lamb Provencale. Desserts could be chosen from the buffet, with a couple items off the menu each night, including roasted apples served with frozen yogurt and an almond crisp, milk chocolate and coffee mousse, and marinated strawberries with mascarpone ice cream and orange biscotti.
Lunch was generally quite good, again with a selection from the buffet along with a short list of à la carte items. One item we enjoyed was the pan-seared fillet of plaice served with green pea and mushroom risotto. Lunches were sometimes themed around a certain cuisine—less successfully with Mexican, but the Greek buffet rang true (the dense, moist baklava rivaled the one we grew up with—sorry, mom).
As with the other meals, the breakfast menu of items cooked to order was short, but there was plenty at the buffet tables, including various breads, rolls and pastries, a spread of cold cuts and cheeses, a great selection of sliced fruit (including papaya, strawberries and plums), At the buffet there was a daily egg special each morning, delivered to our table.
Staff & Ship Policies
For the most part, the crew aboard Seabourn Sojourn did a good job. They should: The ship’s very high staff to guest ratio means they have the manpower to take care of everything from the smallest niceties to the most indulgent whims.
However, we didn’t find the crew significantly more polished than those on some less expensive mainstream cruise lines, which surprised us. They were not at the level of, for instance, staff at a typical Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resort, much less that of a top-flight hotel in Europe or Asia. Part of that might be the Seabourn culture—a bit more relaxed, less pretentious than expected. But some of it seemed to be simply inadequate training, such as some of the restaurant and bar staff, who were not always familiar with what they were serving (with thousand-dollar bottles on the premium wine list, passengers deserve sommeliers with a level of savvy).
Seabourn builds tips into their prices, a feature we appreciated. The line says “Tipping is neither required nor expected,” although we suspect a number of guests chose to leave an additional tip for their room attendant and perhaps bartenders or waiters.
Dress Codes and Alcohol Policy
For most evenings the dress code was either Resort Casual or Elegantly Casual. Resort Casual involved slacks and a sweater or shirt for men; slacks with a sweater or sleeveless blouse for women. Elegant Casual meant slacks with a jacket over a sweater or collared shirt for men; slacks or skirt with a blouse, or pantsuit or dress for women. Jeans were “not appropriate” while dining in The Restaurant. Casual, well-chosen attire was the rule for most guests during the evening.
One night of our cruise was designated Formal, but “optional.” For men, this meant a tuxedo or dark suit; for ladies, evening dress or appropriate formal attire. The vast majority of guests were well dressed on this evening, though tuxes were few and far between. Note that the Patio Grill, the ship’s most casual dining venue, was closed on the Formal evening.
Guests are welcome to bring their own alcohol onboard. A corkage fee is not usually assessed.
Seabourn has long had one of the more generous frequent-cruiser programs and Seabourn Club was further enhanced in May 2012. Each day sailed with Seabourn continues to earn credit towards Milestone Cruise Awards. After 140 days, a complimentary cruise (up to 7 days) is awarded; after 250 days receive another free cruise (up to 14 days). A memento from Tiffany & Co. is also awarded after 100 sailed days (as well as at the 200- and 500-day levels).
Additionally, you’ll accrue Seabourn Club Points—one day sailed equals one point, with additional points earned for premium cabin bookings, on-board spending, and shore excursions. Passengers become members of the club after their first cruise and graduate to Silver Level at 20 points.
Benefits at the Silver Level include a choice of one of the following: 10 percent off shore excursions, 10 percent off premium wine purchases, two hours of complimentary internet, 20 minutes of complimentary phone service, a complimentary massage, a day in the spa’s Serene Area, or a complimentary bag of laundry (per seven-day cruise). With 70 point passengers become Gold Level members and receive two of the above benefits and additional perks. At 140 points members attain Platinum Level and receive three of the above, and at 250 points there is a Diamond Level.
Decks and Sun Areas
Although there was no real true promenade deck, outdoor sunning space was extensive and varied, with plentiful loungers and attendants. The ship’s pool deck was a popular retreat, but there were a few choice hideaways, as well.
The Main Pool
Located mid-ship on Deck 8, this was a great place for laps and lounging, a decent sized pool for a ship of this size, flanked by two whirlpool tubs and a couple dozen loungers. There are also round day beds big enough for two and a few couches with overstuffed pillows near the corners of the sunken space. We thought there might not be enough loungers but everyone seemed to have the seat they needed and attendants were at the ready with towels and anything else we needed.
Bar (and food) service is available from the Patio Grill, and servers sometimes carried around trays of frozen drinks we could try.
Much less used than the Main Pool, this smaller, square pool on Deck 5 also had a pair of whirlpool tubs and a couple dozen loungers. Depending on the ship's position it was often less sunny than the Main Pool, but we didn't encounter more than four or five people here at any given time, making it a good spot for quiet. Smokers were more common here, but we weren't clear if this was condoned by the ship.
Bar servers came through, but it was on more of an as-needed basis.
This was one of our favorite places on Seabourn Sojourn, a whirlpool tucked into the nose of the ship, accessed by a door at the forward end of the corridor on Deck 6. Strangely, most passengers missed this spot, and there were times when we had this prime perch at sunset all to ourselves.
In addition to the whirlpool—big enough for just three or four—there was about a dozen loungers set up on the broad deck. The space was sporadically attended by a server, who manned a cart of soft drinks. Other drinks could also be ordered. Note that two of the ship's suites directly face this deck, so it's not 100-percent private.
This deck serves little purpose other than for sunning or enjoying the view, but it’s a great spot we found ourselves enjoying a number of times during our cruise, especially when sailing away from ports of call. There were plenty of loungers and good people-watching, too, as this deck overlooks the Main Pool. Drink service was available from the Sky Bar.
Tucked into a sheltered spot on Deck 12, this was the highest public space on the ship, with rows of loungers waiting for us when the weather was right. We always found at least a few available, and the deck was fairly sheltered from the breeze. There was a cart with soft drinks, and attendants came through occasionally to see what might be needed.
We found a few holes of mini-golf at this sundeck. It was nicely sheltered from the breeze, so it was a good place for lounging as well.
"All Ocean-view Suites feature a large comfortable living area, queen-size bed or two twin beds, dining table for two, walk-in closet, interactive flat-screen television with music and movies, fully stocked bar and refrigerator, makeup vanity, spacious bathroom with separate tub and shower. Approximately 295 sq. ft."
"All Penthouse Suite feature dining table for two to four and separate bedroom. Glass door to veranda, two flat-screen TVs, fully stocked bar, spacious bathroom with tub, shower and large vanity. Approximately 534 sq. ft."
"Owner’s Suites feature full length window and glass door to private veranda, dining for four, separate bedroom, guest bath, two flat-screen TVs, pantry with wet bar, convertible sofa for one and whirlpool bath. Complimentary internet/Wi-Fi service. Approximately 760 sq. ft."
"Signature Suites feature expansive ocean views, forward-facing windows, dining for four to six, bathroom with whirlpool bathtub, guest bath, pantry with wet bar, and two flat-screen TVs. Complimentary Internet/Wi-Fi service. Approximately 1352 sq. ft."
"Wintergarden Suites feature large windows with ocean views, dining for six, bathroom with whirlpool bathtub, guest bath, Glass-enclosed solarium with tub and day bed, pantry with wet bar, and two flat-screen TVs. Complimentary Internet/Wi-Fi service. Approximately 1097 sq. ft."
Although our experience overall was excellent, we wouldn’t call it faultless. Service standards were generally high, but not consistently so. Some of the crew was less polished, and a few incidents—such as one audible verbal altercation between two servers during dinner—did not meet the yardstick we think Seabourn aspires to. Our cabin steward had 10 cabins to oversee (15 to 20 is common on most ships), and cleaning of our cabin took upwards of 30 minutes each morning, with a thorough refresh each evening. However we were vexed when, one day following lunch midway through our cruise, we discovered that our steward had just started a “deep clean” of our cabin; this procedure made our room unavailable for more than three hours one afternoon at sea. While the steward offered to vacate the cabin if we needed it, a better solution would have been to advise us the day before. We were surprised that our balcony was sticky with sea salt for the first five days of the cruise, especially given the spic-and-span quality of the ship’s interior.
Because the ship is a small vessel by today’s cruising standards, naturally it didn’t have all the amenities of a big vessel. There’s no kid’s program, no Bingo sessions, no basketball court and ship photographers weren’t waiting for us around every bend (we don’t care for paparazzi, don’t you know). These privations didn’t bother us, but cruisers shouldn’t sign up for the Seabourn experience expecting activities and entertainment at all waking hours (pack an extra book!). Still, the limited on-board enrichment programs that were offered should have been a standout for Seabourn Sojourn; our guest lecturer was pretentious and dull. Staged entertainment was by the book, unoriginal.
This venue didn’t open till 6:30, and some guests congregated for pre-dinner drinks, usually with a live guitarist playing easy melodies in the background. But with its modest-sized wooden dance floor, the Club also served as Seabourn Sojourn’s de facto disco. On a couple nights of our cruise a good beat pumped when the Sojourn Orchestra let loose with the usual 80s standards.
Traveling with Seabourn is more expensive than sailing with the mainstream lines. Per-day rates for an Ocean-View cabin—Seabourn Sojourn’s least expensive category—typically run $500 or more (per person) on the most desirable sailings. But when a specific itinerary isn’t selling, rates can drop to $350 per day, not counting on-board credits and other incentives. If destination and travel dates are not a priority, once tips and drinks are factored in, a Verandah Suite with Seabourn might not cost much more than a cabin with balcony on one of the mid-priced cruise lines.
But the atmosphere aboard Seabourn Sojourn is not for everyone. Children may well feel lost in the crowd. Though ages of guests on our cruise ranged from early-30s on up, they’re a well-traveled bunch. They tended to be self-starters who don’t care to be led by the nose to on-board activities (the few that there are). We didn’t spot many tuxes on formal night—instead, this coiffed and manicured crowd displayed individualized elegance. And the workhorse itineraries in Europe, Alaska and the Caribbean are the exception, not the rule; unusual ports of call with minimal cruise infrastructure are not uncommon.
But for our taste, Seabourn Sojourn delivered a classy cruise, highlighted by a beautiful cabin and fine food. It’s a ship we would happily sail with again.
Straddling Seabourn Square, the nerve center of the ship for guests, this spot was a welcome refuge when we awakened ahead of the restaurants, serving coffee and espresso each morning starting at 6:15 a.m. The spot was closed during the dinner hours but reopened at 9 p.m. for night owls.
There was a selection of tasty pastries, cakes and cookies through much of the day, followed by small pre-made sandwiches in the afternoon. The counter included an ice cream freezer, too. We were sated.
This is what would classify as the “specialty” restaurant on most cruise ships. But there are two big differences: Meals on Seabourn Sojourn are already a cut above what most cruise ship specialty venues serve, and there’s no surcharge to dine here. The menu at Restaurant 2 is fixed, changing every few days, and there’s a license for real inspiration on both the culinary and presentational fronts. While restaurant creativity on cruise ships is all the rage these days, a lot of it places gimmicks ahead of satisfying dining. Not here.
One note: We went to book dinner here just 36 hours after setting sail and were surprised to find out that all seatings were taken except for the final night of our cruise. This was no problem for us, but if you want to try Restaurant 2 during your cruise, book it the first day. On a seven-day itinerary the venue does not have enough seats to accommodate everyone on-board.
Because each plate comes with two or three distinct but complimentary dishes, the end result is a meal of about a dozen total different preparations. Our meal began with the bread, a Spanish-inspired batch with corn meal and queso blanco—we want this recipe. The chef’s cocktail—poached shrimp served over lettuce and jellied Balsalmic vinegar and topped with a split saffron vinaigrette—was a bracing opening act that awakened our palates.
The next plate was a rich tribute to duck: a foie gras crème brûlée, crisp duck confit filo with navy bean cassoulet, and carpaccio of smoked duck with foie gras. An unpredictable trifecta followed—shellfish cappuccino, a seared beef crostini, and a lobster herb ravioli that basked in a soup of lobster and lemongrass. Each of the dishes so far were only a bit larger than bite-size, but all packed a punch.
Portions increased somewhat when the main course arrived in a bra-shaped dish: a duo of roasted dorade served atop potatoes, leek ragout and bacon jus, and in the right-hand “cup” was pan seared quail breast over porcini risotto in a tarn of port wine reduction. Not quite a D cup in size, but very satisfying.
The dessert involved white chocolate mousse, a plum compote with almond foam, and pistachio crackers to dig into a passion fruit sorbet. It wasn’t a decadent finish, but given the range of taste sensations we had already sampled, it was a subtle and suitable end to our wonderful meal.
We found all the usual goods we expect, but quite a few extras, such as an umbrella, woolen throw, sewing kit, shoe polish, and personalized stationery. There was a stem of orchid blossoms and a small plate of fruit that was replenished as needed. Ahead of our cruise, leather luggage tags and a document folder were delivered with our cruise documents.
Health & Safety
A Muster Drill was held prior to initial embarkation. Names of all guests present were recorded and one couple did not show up for the drill; they were paged repeatedly while guests waited. We were later told that it turned out they were not actually on Seabourn Sojourn, having been delayed en route to the ship. If so, cooling our jets in The Restaurant and a subsequent tardy departure (more than 20 minutes) may have been caused—at least in part—by a bookkeeping error on the part of the Seabourn Sojourn crew.
A Medical Facility is located on Deck 3. It was staffed 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., and 5 to 6 p.m. daily.
Most public areas of the ship were designated as smoke-free. Cigarette smoking was allowed on the starboard side of the Observation Bar, the Sky Bar, and the outside deck of Seabourn Square (the latter was the only area where cigar and pipe smoking was permitted). Cigarette smoking in cabins and on verandahs was also allowed.
Seabourn Sojourn’s theatre made the most of its vertically challenged space, with plush velvet seating in an arc around the stage.
This was the place for the ship’s main shows, but a bit more imagination could have been accorded when developing the entertainment. The four singers, two dancers and the live orchestra were all pretty solid, but the shows were unexciting. On other nights there a magician and a decent comedian performed here.
The Grand Salon was also used for a movie on one night of our cruise. Presentation standards were very poor—we’ve had better showmanship at our local third-run house with the sticky floors and leaky roof. No wonder not one guest stayed in their seat—the theatre was literally empty for most of the film’s duration.
Also disappointing was the un-engaging guest lecturer who pontificated about our ports of call. We learned little.
Patio Grill and Patio Bar
Though not much more ambitious than a good golf club house restaurant, this pool-side venue delivered solid meals from the grill and a small buffet that features simple salads, pizza and breads. The setting was mostly guarded from the wind and window-side tables were a great spot for enjoying the scenery.
One night we had papardelle with short ribs, a hearty entrée with the sheets of pasta embracing pearl onions, peas, whole peppercorns and melt-in-your-mouth beef; broad panes of parmesan added the final touch. The less-than-prime lamb chops were thin—not enough fat enveloped them to prevent them from getting overcooked—but our ribeye was a very good cut of meat, accompanied by white and green asparagus. The Grill’s truffled French fries accompanied the dish (some guests swore by these, but we got a bit tired of them after our third meal here).
The pizzas at lunch (served by the slice) were a great snack, and we loved having smoked fish and shrimp cocktail at the ready. The burger and grilled salmon we had were tasty, and there was a well-stocked ice cream freezer for dessert, along with various pastries.
A door tag was available to order breakfast the night before, and delivery times offered were 15-minute blocks between 7 and 10 a.m. Menu items mirrored most of what was available at The Restaurant and the Colonnade: A large selection of juices, fresh fruits (including assorted berries), cold cereals, hot cereals, yogurts, various compotes and plates of smoked salmon and cream cheese, assorted cold cuts and cheeses. The hot offerings included various omelets, eggs any style (including eggs Benedict or with salmon), sides of meat, hash browns, corned beef hash or grilled tomato, French toast, pancakes and waffles. All the ship’s breads and pastries were available, along with various spreads.
The 24-hour Room Service menu presented a selection that included such starters as roasted tomato soup, chilled shrimp cocktail and prosciutto and melon with bread sticks and parmesan. Entrée items included Caesar salad with grilled chicken or garlic shrimp, pan sautéed salmon, rosemary roasted chicken breast, grilled New York sirloin, and club sandwich; most of these came with vegetables and fries. Desserts included white and dark chocolate mousse, ice cream, fruit plate, cheese plate or home made cookies.
But wait, there's more: Each evening, that night’s menu from The Restaurant was available, the same hours the venue was open (7 to 9 p.m. on our cruise). This encompassed a list of seven starters and five entrées that changed nightly, plus desserts.
Our meals were brought into the cabin on an oversized tray, and the server quickly set up the table, covering it with linen. Large plates were used for most items, covered in plastic lids for delivery. Salt and pepper was in grinders, milk for coffee was in a pitcher, preserves for toast in jars—all fairly classy.
Breakfasts were delivered right at the requested times, and exactly as ordered. Coffee was hot and strong, the bacon juicy and not too crisp, the omelet was hot, and poached eggs on toast were delicious, the yolks mostly firm but still runny. A fruit plate was ripe and beautifully presented, with a few items we don’t usually see on most cruise ships: blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.
Dinner was a treat, ordered off the menu from The Restaurant one evening when we didn’t feel like dolling up. The time from order (by phone) to knock on the door delivery of the meal took just 21 minutes. As an appetizer we ordered the salad of confit duck and frisee, a scrumptious, light starter with the slivers of duck woven into the greens with nuggets of preserved apricots and pistachios. Our entrée was the pan sautéed port tenderloin, and this too was spot-on: a modest cut of meat, perfectly done with just a hint of pink, served on green apple coulis with braised red cabbage, green beans and roasted potatoes. All in all, a fine repast in the privacy and quiet of our cabin.
Our minibar was pre-stocked with Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Club Soda, Tonic Water and a couple Becks beers in cans—all were restocked as needed. But we were also offered a pair of spirits when we first boarded, 1-liter bottles we never opened. And when we ordered dinner in we were asked what kind of wine we wanted; a full bottle was delivered from the list of complimentary wines.
This multi-purpose venue acted as lobby, library, and computer station, and provided the guest services, shore excursions and future cruise desks. It was the nerve center of the ship, and we could get a good cup of coffee, too.
The selection of books in the library wasn’t expansive, but contained a fairly current collection of travel guides for the area we found ourselves cruising. There was also a collection of full newspapers to supplement the daily news digest that arrived in our room each morning. There was also a solid array of recent magazines to peruse, ranging from Vogue and Esquire to Time and The New Yorker.
There were eight Dell computers available for use, and WiFi was accessible throughout the ship. Internet rates were .40 cents a minute, which is the lowest we’ve seen on cruise ships in the last year. Packages brought the price down further—two hours for $19.95, etc. (i.e., less than .17 cents per minute). We also appreciated that the first minute was free, in the event of connectivity issues (also not typical of other cruise lines). There was also a seven-day unlimited-access package that provided access throughout the cruise and worked out to less than $35 a day. Documents could be printed from the computers in Seabourn Square for .50 cents per page.
Little-used during our cruise, this was the spot where players could meet for un-hosted games of Bridge, Scrabble and Mah-Jong, times announced in the daily newsletter. The venue could also be used for social functions of groups on-board.
By today's cruise ship standards, Seabourn Sojourn's casino was...well, dinky. There were a dozen slot machines lining one wall, plus tables for Black Jack, Three Card Poker and Roulette.
Depending on what was going on (as well as port departure times) the casino was open very limited hours. Generally, the 12 slot machines opened soon after departure, while table games commenced anywhere between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. on our cruise.
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