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The TK Experience on Seabourn

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as Roxburgh wisely wrote: "There are plenty of other cruise lines to choose from. "  No product is perfect, no matter the price paid or reputation.  If you are really not happy about some aspect then try another line.  We have north of 330 days on Seabourn and while not every thing is always perfect at the end of each and every one of our cruises we wanted to return, and have.  (Another 2 already booked for 48 days in total, we love Seabourn, and find the product and experience to be very much to our liking.)  Every line will have it's pro's & con's so if you don't like Seabourn there are many other options, and with many more ships coming on-line over the next couple of years for you to try something else.  

 

So far we have always enjoyed our meals in the TK Grill, and have dined there many times - and were on board for the original roll out of the TK nights in the Colonnade .  The issue I have w/ the chicken is the "vegetables" they bring out on the plate showing you the bird they are going to serve are not actually part of the meal (probably plastic or …) Those onions look good to me.  For me chicken was one and done, I prefer the other choices.  We have had over-salted dishes on occasion in the MDR and always make it a point to send them back, followed with a word w/ the appropriate person, usually restaurant or F&B manager.

 

A few months ago we went "off the reservation" and did a Crystal River cruise (river ships not being an option w/ Seabourn and I hope they never get into that market as it is way over populated and went with what we thought would be the best of the best river cruises).   We very much enjoyed that experience, but it was totally different from an ocean cruise experience.  Due to low water levels and our original itinerary being changed Crystal gave us a large credit towards a future cruise, so out of intellectual curiosity (and not turning down free $) we will try a Crystal ocean cruise at some point.  You can't compare river to ocean (apples to lemons) but I will say on the few things one can compare, I was impressed with the food and complimentary wines we enjoyed on the Crystal river ship (Mahler).  But the number of complimentary wines available was much smaller than Seabourn, but not unexpected and of course what I like might not appeal to another guest.  And the choices of spirits was, while high quality, not as extensive as Seabourn. (Although the included Tequila, my favorite spirit was far superior on Crystal, I never understand why it is that Seabourn can not get a decent Anejo on the complimentary offering). 

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13 hours ago, rols said:

 

At the risk of going further off the reservation, can you share a bit more about how much you enjoyed the river cruise with Crystal? If you've already posted please point me there. We've been very tempted by river cruising, either out here in Asia with Ama or Europe with probably Crystal. The rooms look absolutely tiny, but we're tidy people and could probably make it work. It feels that if you don't get off the boat every day and do the tour, you have a pretty drab day, but perhaps it is quite fun to spend a day on board now and then. It seems it would be quite a different dynamic, floating down the Danube in a pencil case but, from a regular ocean-going Seanbourn'er it would be very helpful to know what you loved and what you didn't love so much about river cruising. 

By going off the reservation I meant not sailing on Seabourn, for the first time of any cruise we have taken...  But to answer your questions, it was something we had thought about for the past several years, and had enticed friends who never did any type of cruise to join us.  Crystal seemed to have the best offerings in a lot of ways. The original itinerary was very interesting but due to low water levels it was changed less than 2 weeks prior to the cruise - or at least that was when Crystal let us know.  To their credit you could either cancel - as our friends did - and get a future credit or go on the changed itinerary and get a substantial future credit, which we took as the changed ports were not places we had been to.  If you took the cruise they would cover up to $1000 of airfare changes - although we have yet to get that even though we filed ASAP. Not too happy w/ Crystal shore side so far.

 

Once we got to the ship, the service from start to finish was top notch.  But I need to qualify this, the ship can hold 106 pax, we only had 44. (I wrote a very extensive analysis for some friends of mine who are long time Seabourn cruisers comparing it to Seabourn, but it is not apples to apples).   We had a butler who basically was useless, canapes delivered to the room each afternoon, 1/2 the time after we had left to go to the bar.  Never offered to pack or unpack for us.  Nice guy, but one less crew they need to pay, IMO. 

 

There is only 1 bar on the ship, excluding the pop-up where only one day was anyone actually working there (the hard working bar waiters always went down one level to the main bar and back up).  Given the less than 1/2 occupancy the bar area was nice but if at full capacity not sure how easy to get a seat if one arrived late.  The entertainment was varied, when we had over nights they brought on some very talented local singers / musicians.  When sailing (is that the right term on the river??) we had the on-board entertainer, who was interesting but more than a few nights we had karaoke with a few drunk pax and the problem is, this is the only bar on the ship so deal with it or go to your room, or to the top deck depending on the weather.    

 

On the ship there are different categories of rooms, unlike on Seabourn that all are basically alike just the deck level determines the category (and deck 5 veranda differences).  So I can only speak to what we had, deck 2 not the most expensive. The room was about 200 sq, so 1/3 smaller than Seabourn suites.  No walk-in closet, a single sink, but shower was bigger than on Seabourn, but no tub.   WiFi is free for all, as are the tours at each port, some worthwhile, others Mhh.  No veranda.  Window comes 1/2 way down and a screen goes up.  Not that useful.  

 

The top deck is spacious with a lot of comfortable seating and not on top of each other.  They have a unique popup bar - although rarely used, that can go down to deck level when the ship passes under low bridges.    All the deck rails on the top deck can also be taken down - as happened one day when we passed under a very low bridge.  The crew who run the ship details really work hard, especially when things like having to take down all the rails, which was not expected and then put them back up after we cleared the bridge.  Interestingly their title is "Sailor".  

 

As far as river ships go, we thought the Mahler was the best looking one we saw - and we saw quite a few at different ports - and especially how the top deck was laid out.  

 

Service was exceptional, but again it is hard to objectively judge since there were only 44 of us.  I never waited more than 2 minutes at the one and only bar to have someone appear to take my order.  Restaurants we had good service - and friendly, sometimes too friendly, OK I'd like to eat my food now please while it is hot as much as I enjoy hearing your life story - and what we liked was each night the chef prepared a local dish.  We thought the included wines were pretty good.  They brought on more wines as the cruise went along.

 

To your question regarding "if you don't get off the boat", let me say up front we love sea days.  With a river cruise you mostly do not have any, but might have a late morning arrival or early afternoon departure.  With Crystal there are multiple included tours in each port, but one day there was only one tour and the drop off was different from the pickup port, we and 8 others opted to stay on the ship - the same day we passed under that low bridge.   The scenery that day was amazing and we were glad to have seen that instead of going on the tour.  The rivers are scenic (well in Germany & Netherlands - which was where we mostly were)  and well worth being on deck when you can view them, so many vineyards   That said, we found the every day your are in XXX port and need to see YYY a bit tiring, this is not the fault of Crystal rather we prefer to be able to relax on any cruise not have to be sticking to a schedule.  Of course you can opt out and just stay on the ship.

 

In summary it is a totally different experience from an ocean cruise, and as we are loyal - only because we find the total experience to be consistently very good - Seabourn cruisers we very much enjoyed the Crystal river experience.  And if we do another river cruise it most likely will be on Crystal.  We will try a Crystal ocean as we have a big credit but there are a lot of things about Crystal ocean that we are wary of, starting with suite size along w/ pax load.  But one has to go into it with an open mind otherwise you never have a chance of having a good time.  

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Very much looking forward to trying TK on our upcoming Quest cruise.  We are Northern Californians who have long read and heard of the expertise of Thomas Keller, but have never been able to dine at the French Laundry due to the formidable drill required to get a reservation.  Not to mention the high prices.  So it will be fun to try out his cuisine while we are a captive audience on board the Quest.  Roast chicken, eggplant parm, Napa burger?  It all sounds good to me.  We enjoyed the old R2 concept, but found it somewhat unrealized, and a bit too precious, so we welcome the change and hope to report our experience somewhere down the road.

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6 hours ago, tv24 said:

Very much looking forward to trying TK on our upcoming Quest cruise.  We are Northern Californians who have long read and heard of the expertise of Thomas Keller, but have never been able to dine at the French Laundry due to the formidable drill required to get a reservation.  Not to mention the high prices.  So it will be fun to try out his cuisine while we are a captive audience on board the Quest.  Roast chicken, eggplant parm, Napa burger?  It all sounds good to me.  We enjoyed the old R2 concept, but found it somewhat unrealized, and a bit too precious, so we welcome the change and hope to report our experience somewhere down the road.

You definitely want to try the Napa burger, and I hear the Yountwurst is great too but somehow we missed that one. TK grill itself is the most consistently good dining venue on the ship but I doubt, not having been, that it's quite the quality of the land-based restaurants. It's quite large portions so you want to plan your visits there. 

 

We loved R2, perhaps initially because it was a carryover from the little ships 'restaurant 2' and partly because it had great tasting menus. Where it failed in my mind was they rolled it out and ... that was it. The decor stayed the same, the menus stayed the same, the presentation stayed the same. They could have rolled new menus out every 2 years and updated the furnishings every 5 and kept a restaurant which was 100% Seabourn, didn't need a celebrity chef and was a place new and seasoned cruisers alike could have enjoyed. 

 

We always felt that R2 was like the Patio Grill at night, or even the Colonnade, another dining venue you could choose on a whim, all of which were just as good as one another, just different. TK grill has that air of 'once a cruise' about it and that it's 'better' than the other venues. I'll give them credit that it doesn't have a surcharge to dine there, but I feel a bit like, if you can serve that food in TK grill, why can't you serve it in the MDR. It's not impossible to wonder if the TK experience diverts funding from the rest of the ship's dining facilities. 

 

Little gripes. Enjoy the burger and wurst and the Dover Sole and steak are to die for in TK. Wash your caviar down with a glass of the bubbly which I still enjoy, life could be harder. 

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If you are a sports lover, you learn to live with regret. When the great team is assembled and wins the Super Bowl or the World Series or the World Cup, you are there rooting for your players and feel part of the game. Then comes the off season and you learn that one or more of your favorite (and essential) players have traded in glory for cash and have moved to a different team. 

 

Its the same with fine restaurants. A place can exceed expectations and do everything right and for a time the reservations are hard to come by. Then chefs move because they become mini-stars. It’s not to say the restaurant isn’t still good or great even. But one can spend lots of time following the gastronomic trends and, after a few years, the customer feels a bit jaded. Good food is always good food and even with a few misses here and there, you can tell when you are in the dugout with a Major League player. 

 

I live in Northern California and so names like Alice Waters and Thomas Keller (or the newer crop) are known to the extent one knows the other when one happens to be standing next to a movie star or famous politician. If we want to be the first to call early in the morning three months out we can be honored with a reservation though it’s often pot luck whether what’s on offer that night is something to your liking. I cancelled such a reservation when the menu was to emphasize eggplant. 

 

After an initial cruise on an older (at that time) Royal Caribbean ship 30 years ago, I was able to coax my bride onto a modern cruise ship in 2017. We ended up on the Odyssey for a 19 day sojourn in the Caribbean. A bit too long for a first cruise but I absolutely loved the ship, the crew, the days at sea, and to a lesser extent, the islands. The food was excellent In every venue, but I especially loved the tasting menu of R2.

 

That fall I coaxed her onto a 10 day Seabourn cruise from Boston to Montreal and by then the TK Grill had emerged. It was fine. I missed the different tastes of R2 but TK was fine. I just don’t quite get the marketing. An evening with Tim Rice. That was nice, interesting, like watching a special on PBS. Or the Andrew Weil connection — I’ve heard him speak, he’s smart, brilliant, but you are not getting Andrew or Tim or Thomas. You are asked to join into a group symbiosis and become a groupie or fanboy or fan girl. 

 

Oceania has such a relationship with a famous chef and for all I know so do the other lines. As I have said, I am a newbie cruiser. I am planning another Seabourn cruise in late January, and another after than in late August. My wife is less enamored with cruising than I am and has suggested she will go on one per year with me, but I can go with someone else if I want to take another; the conversations around who that other can be were interesting. The notion of the incredible costs of the single supplement were quite a surprise. 

 

I think we all make make too much of the branding of TK vs whatever. The food on Seabourn is excellent. My brother in law sails often on Oceania and says their food is excellent but he laments the extra costs and beverage packages. I watch YouTube video tours of other ships and am thankful that the first cruise after that 30 year gap was on Seabourn so my somewhat cruise-averse bride doesn’t have more ammunition against going at all. 

 

Its hard to get the the band back together. Or the team. It’s unwise to get too fixated. I’m extroverted so on these two cruises I asked dozens of people about their experience cruising and found many, many people who (like most on Cruise Critic boards) have cruised a whole lot. To say one line is better than another seems impossible because there are so many preferences that make up the composite conclusion. Yet, a very few lines kept coming up again and again. I suspect Seabourn has a good pulse on their target market and I for one am glad for that. 

Edited by Tom504

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The best thing about the TK restaurant (On Quest) were the cocktails. A lot more skilfully prepared than in the other venues. The food was ok, but not spectacularly so. I don't understand people having palpitations about eating there.  We did not find the food (old fashioned) to be significantly better than in the main dining room. Portions are more than generous.

Some dishes are just plain silly. "SUPER CHILLED salad" whooptidoo. A ice cream Sundae is just weird. They roll up with a gueridon (side table) and a few bits of silverware, and one would expect something exciting to happen. But no. Scoop of ice cream plonked into a dish, poor on some sauce, place one cherry. Show over. Pfffffff.

And staff seems miffed if you don't order from the special wine list.

Ho-hum

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buchhalm, I think the idea of the TK Grill is that of a New American Steakhouse.  At least that is what I've read.  And the ice cream sundae would be something that would be served at an American steakhouse.  The preparing it table side is just a bit of showmanship.  I agree with you. I don't really need that part.  I feel the same way about how the Dover Sole is served.  Just bring me the fish all deboned!  I don't have to watch you do it.  But, some people probably find this a treat--and a sign that the food is being especially prepared just for them.  

 

On the Ovation and Encore, the ambience of the TK Grill is nice.  It IS better if you have a table for more than two.  I don't exactly love sitting on the banquette right next to someone I've never met.  (Unless the person is friendly and wants to chat---but chatting with new people may not be what you would expect going to the ship's premiere restaurant.  But--sitting SO CLOSE to someone makes for an awkward dinner unless there is conversation.)  

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We have made comments on this topic previously since TK's introduction and our opinion has not changed.

It was dreadful during the roll out phase and now that it has been bedded in, "ordinary" would be our best description. We used to go once or twice a cruise as it was the done thing, but no more. We prefer more interesting food (salt/no salt doesn't worry us) The down home TK concept doesn't do it for us - it's a lot of fluff about a roast chicken, a grilled steak or a clambake which aren't even on par with the best we have had. We think it belongs on a classics menu in the MDR, not as a specialty restaurant or specialty night at the Colonnade. 

 

Yes food is very subjective. We normally cruise with friends in groups of up to 10 in ages ranging from 50 to 70, are all diamond members and share the same views about TK. So we do vote with our feet and don't go now. We wouldn't bother to gripe given it's subjective nature, but it is the knock on effect of TK that really ticks us off. The MDR and Colonnade menus have been dumbed down and narrowed as a consequence, while waitstaff seem to be either overworked and frantic in the MDR or swanning around at the TK Grill. I'm hoping we can wait this fad out! How long was his contact??

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On 10/25/2018 at 5:41 AM, buchhalm said:

The best thing about the TK restaurant (On Quest) were the cocktails. A lot more skilfully prepared than in the other venues.

 

When TK Grill started rolling out I heard a lot of comments that the cocktails were the best part!  Any specific recommendations or examples of TK Grill-specific cocktails?  

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We have really enjoyed the TK Grill Bar, but, as far as I know, there is no menu or list of their cocktails?  If anyone knows of one, will they tell us about it?

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If it’s the same menu you get when you sit down to dinner, it is fairly large.   I believe a lot of the wines and some cocktails were at an extra cost.    They were disappointed when we ordered our regular drinks.    I am surprised that they served ice cream sundays in Dallas steak houses.   I thought that was only on First and Business Class on U.S. airlines where they think you will be delighted by this dessert.    I used to prefer a good New York cheesecake but that was when I didn’t worry about sugar and calories.   I now love the fruit desserts on Seabourn, especially the raspberries.

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Ice Cream Sundaes have always been very popular in Dallas restaurants.  No one is forced to order them. 

 

I just don't recall the cocktails on the TK Grill Menu, probably because we start out in the TK Grill Bar and have already had our pre dinner drink. .  And, we have never been given a menu in the TK Grill Bar--which we have visited numerous times.  We'll ask next time.   But, since only Encore and Ovation have the TK Grill Bar, we'll have to wait until we sail one of the other  ships --we'll be on the Sojourn this coming May. 

 

Edited by SLSD

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5 hours ago, SLSD said:

We have really enjoyed the TK Grill Bar, but, as far as I know, there is no menu or list of their cocktails?  If anyone knows of one, will they tell us about it?

We liked a cocktail called "The old Cuban ". Rum,  lime,  champagne etc.

Very refreshing 

 

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buchhalm, The Old Cuban does sound good to me.  I did ask my husband and he doesn't remember a drink menu from the TK Grill either!  We'll have to pay more attention.  

 

I am interested in seeing the TK Grill on the Sojourn as we have only experienced it on the Encore and the Ovation.  I know it will be different.  

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4 hours ago, buchhalm said:

We liked a cocktail called "The old Cuban ". Rum,  lime,  champagne etc.

Very refreshing 

 

Is this cocktail included or part of the extra cost wine menu?

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44 minutes ago, texanaust said:

Is this cocktail included or part of the extra cost wine menu?

 

 

It's included 

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On the big ships, do you give your order in the bar at TK Grill or do they take you to your table and take your order there?

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We had an absolutely wonderful dinner at TKG on Quest this past Sunday and are looking forward to going back tomorrow night.  Overall, the food on this cruise, across all dining venues, has been outstanding. 

 

On Monday, we joined the last ever dinner at the Patio Grill and on Wednesday we attended the official opening night of Earth & Ocean, which was fabulous.

 

We count ourselves very fortunate to be part of the 'lucky few' in this world who are able to experience all this.  To us, a lot of the above commentary reads like first world problems, but to each his/her own I guess. 

 

Cheers from Quest, at sea, of the coast of Novia Scotia, Canada - 

Floris

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I totally agree with you florisdekort--first world problems indeed. 

 

I finally figured out why we did not see the drinks menu.  We were not planning on ordering premium wines with dinner and the complimentary drinks menu is on the same page as the premium wines and liqueurs and we just didn't look at it.  Next time we will!

 

So glad to hear that you have enjoyed the TK Grill and all the other food on your current cruise.  We agree---Earth and Ocean is fabulous!

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5 hours ago, florisdekort said:

On Monday, we joined the last ever dinner at the Patio Grill and on Wednesday we attended the official opening night of Earth & Ocean, which was fabulous.
 

 

I'm so excited to follow along with you. We board in Buenos Aires on Dec. 20th. Is that where you'll disembark? Also very glad to hear that Earth & Ocean has been implemented. Looking forward to enjoying that venue. If you can, please share details as to what crew we can expect. We traveled with Jan in Alaska summer before last and I believe she was on Quest for the Baltic cruises earlier this year. Wondering if she will be off before we join. Thanks so much for any info!

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11 minutes ago, mamapirk said:

 

I'm so excited to follow along with you. We board in Buenos Aires on Dec. 20th. Is that where you'll disembark? Also very glad to hear that Earth & Ocean has been implemented. Looking forward to enjoying that venue. If you can, please share details as to what crew we can expect. We traveled with Jan in Alaska summer before last and I believe she was on Quest for the Baltic cruises earlier this year. Wondering if she will be off before we join. Thanks so much for any info!

 

You booked the best cruise 🙂👍🏻 Yes we disembark December 20th. Jan Stearman will be your Cruise Director. There are 5 Antarctica cruises this season -a Seabourn first- and Jan is on the first 3. Ross is on the final 2. 

 

Cheers,

Floris

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1 minute ago, florisdekort said:

 

You booked the best cruise 🙂👍🏻 Yes we disembark December 20th. Jan Stearman will be your Cruise Director. There are 5 Antarctica cruises this season -a Seabourn first- and Jan is on the first 3. Ross is on the final 2. 

 

Cheers,

Floris

 

I will give you a wave. I might have to be where I can watch the sail-in. 🙂

One more question...who will be our Captain? Color me curious. Thanks!

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