I found this site when I was researching SD and found some great tips and insight here. I have never posted here but since I enjoyed reading others trip reports I thought I would share my experience on my first SD cruise.
We left St Thomas on 03-29 and sailed for 9 days on SD1. I can honestly say that this was the most fun I have ever had on a vacation. Even though I had a good idea of what to expect, the level of service and extraordinary ability of the staff to to make you feel welcome and comfortable was mind blowing.
I know the staff has extensive training in recognition but how they were able to call me by name within hours of embarking is a mystery to me! Also, there can be a fine line between excellent service and 'stuffiness', and these guys are masters. They seemed to know when and with whom they could be more playful as opposed to being in '5 star mode'. I am amazed that one company could find so many highly skilled and yet warm and friendly servers. They truly made this cruise a unique and wonderful experience. Without exception.
The cuisine was jaw dropping. My companion and I are both 'foodies' and know our way around fine dining, but I have never taken a picture of my plate until now...and I think I took 20 pics of the meals! Gorgeously presented, and layers of flavors and textures that will curl your toes, every time! Wow. Just, wow. I asked the chef if we could tour the galley and he agreed. He took a group of us (champagne and caviar in hand) through the kitchen and gave us an incredibly interesting look at the workings of the SD galley--including things I had never thought of, such as how the dishware has to be secured in cages so as not to fly about during swells, and how the garbage is a very big deal since they can't unload waste at our ports of call. Really interesting! I also loved that they provided copies of the menus (signed by the chef and sommelier) for anyone who was interested at the end of the trip.
Capt. Valter Berg is great. He pops up periodically to check on your dinner or to say hello poolside. He also moved the ship to open water one evening because there were 'too many bugs' in the harbor. Seriously? Hard to beat that kind of service!
Richard was our tour director and is also awesome. Along with his wife he made sure everyone had a great time on the excursions. He played a great practical joke on us for April Fools. He came on the intercom during breakfast and announced that a school of flying fish had hit the ship over night and some of them had landed in the pool...hurry if you wanted to see them as the staff was draining the pool! Well, all hell broke loose as we all grabbed our cameras and stampeded to the pool deck only to see one very confused looking passenger sitting by the pool looking up at us. That was hysterical. What a bunch of dufus's!
One note, however--I asked the concierge to remind the ladies that it often rains in the rainforest! (speaking of dufus's) Therefore, do not wear a thin, white t-shirt for the two hour hike through the jungle? I know, that was pretty dumb of me.
The ports of call were interesting and fun. We often found beaches on our own instead of taking an excursion, although with the exception of the rainforest fiasco all of the excursions were a blast. Especially Montserrat--the devastion caused by the volcano is truly chilling; that was a really unique experience.
That said, I think the most fun I had on ship was with the water toys. The jet ski was a blast. The banana boat was so fun I was hoarse for a few days from screaming my head off. And the kayak and water trampoline and free swims...oh, my! Sigh...and their attention to safety was appreciated. We wore helmets for the banana boat and there was always a watchful crewmember in the zodiac when passengers were in the water.
I asked if we could tour the bridge and it was arranged promptly...while sailing, to boot! That was pretty interesting. While the guys were checking out the equipment I noticed the video monitor trained on the pool...hmm. I asked the chief officer if he was keeping up with the latest trends in bikini's? He immediately changed the view back to the side of the ship and said "No this is for docking and lowering the tender and so forth".
Riiiight. (LOL--after 4 months at sea who could blame them for that? I would have it trained on the pool, too!)
When researching this ship I thought the day beds would be a dream come true, especially since I love to sleep with fresh air and under the stars. Not so good. That mattress is rock hard. The hair blowing on my face was annoying and the 2 am sudden downpour put a (ahem) damper on things. I limped back to my room in the middle of the night and resigned myself to being rocked to sleep by the gentle swells in my nice, dry, Belgian linen. A few of us mentioned this to the Capt. and we suggested a yoga mat or something would be helpful for the overnighters. We'll see!
Bartenders--Alex is a rockstar. He put on a stellar bottle tossing show for us poolside during "Caribbean Night'. All of the bartenders were great. I learned to ask them to 'fix me something fun' and had some great new cocktails I would never have discovered on my own.
Our Sommelier, Michael, was my personal favorite, and not just because he is a fellow Canadian. He spent a lot of time with us helping to discern our taste and answering our questions. One afternoon he even caught up with me to preview the dinner menu so he could offer the perfect wines for our dinner with the Captain. When I told him I had a friend who would love to bend his ear about his job he did not hesitate to offer his e-mail address so he could answer her questions regarding this career. What a sweetheart!
The other passengers really made this trip, as well. It seemed everyone was happy and relaxed and having a great time. People seemed to settle in to their own comfort zone, whether dining in intimate parties of two or four or gathering in a large table of new friends every night. The crew seemed very tuned to everyone's preferences and asked how we preferred to be seated every night. I am glad that we chose a 9 day cruise. It really took a few days to meet everyone and develop friends and 'acclimate' to the ship...I remember thinking on day 5 that I would be really upset if we had to leave now that we had just found all these great people! I definately recommend the 9 days if you can swing it.
In the end, I told SD in my comment card that I have been ruined for any other cruise line. Why would anyone choose a ship where you have to fight for a chair by the pool and where you are told when and with whom you are going to dine? Where you are herded like sheep on and off the ship? Where the officers are invisible and you have to take a taxi from one end of the ship to the other? Yuck! Never again!
I have never in my life felt so pampered and yet without snobbery. It was fantastic. From the little table with white linen and drinks/fruit that greeted us on the tender dock to the quaint gifts left on our bed every night, the details made me feel like a princess.
It was very hard to come home and pick up dog turds.
Thanks for listening. It's an honour and great pleasure to be a new member of the SeaDream Yachter's Club!