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TR: Seabourn 11-Day Mediterranean Islands Odyssey (May 2019)


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In less than a month, my wife and I will be going on our first Seabourn cruise, the 11-Day Mediterranean Islands Odyssey that sails from May 1 - May 12, 2019.
 
Our favorite cruise line is Crystal.  But Crystal didn't have an itinerary that we were interested in during the time frame we had to travel.  Seabourn did.  So we decided that this was a good time to try out Seabourn.
 

I've read a few posts here about Seabourn versus Crystal.  I'll be posting my own thoughts too.  I think the 2 experiences are bound to be different.  The Seabourn Odyssey is smaller than Crystal's Symphony and Serenity and that's got to affect things.  My wife and I are preparing ourselves for the differences, because we want to like Seabourn.  A big part of this cruise is checking out Seabourn.  It would be nice to have another go-to cruise line when we are picking itineraries in the future.

 

Our last cruise was last September, on Crystal's Serenity.  We had a great time as we traveled from Rome to Marseille.  But it was only 7 nights.  While 7 nights is fine for a Caribbean cruise, we decided it's not enough time for an European cruise.  So we decided never to do that again.

 

What we liked about this Seabourn itinerary is it's 11 days.  For where we are in life, that's about the perfect amount of time for a cruise.  Also, it will be our first time at many of the ports, so this is a great itinerary for us.

 

Our vacation will begin with a couple of short land tours in Brussels and Barcelona.  Then the cruise.  Here's the itinerary:

 
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Apparently there are some "formal" nights on this cruise.  Not sure what that means in today's "business casual" world. My wife and I talked about it.  We decided to get into the spirit!  So I'm bringing my tux (hopefully it still fits!) and she's bringing a couple of nice dresses.  It'll be fun to dress up!

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That’s a very nice itinerary.  We especially enjoyed Valencia, Majorca and Menorca.  Valletta is wonderful.  Formal nights usually mean cocktail dresses for ladies and suits for men but you will also see some long evening gowns and black ties.  Those who don’t wish to join in usually dine in the Colonnade or by the pool.

 

i hope you enjoy the cruise and look forward to your trip report.

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It is a really nice itinerary, and Seabourn aficionados will look forward to your reports and comparisons.

 

Few men will be wearing tuxes for the 'formal optional' nights; a jacket and tie if you like would suffice, but if you like dressing up then you will not be the only ones, just probably in the minority.

 

The weather should be perfect by then; not too hot.  Hope you enjoy it.

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Joolsverne and lincslady - Thanks for your posts.  After thinking about it last night, I think I'll scale back to a jacket and tie rather than the tux.  A jacket provides more options for the other nights and will help save space in the suitcase. 

 

My wife and I collect wine, so we plan to bring a few bottles to drink.  We'll sample the included wines too, but it's fun drinking our own wine at the fancy dinners.  We've done the same thing on Crystal cruises we've been on (although not the short one we went on last year).  My point being, we'll be lugging around a box of wine with us as we go to Brussells -> Barcelona -> the Odyssey, so the less other luggage we have to bring, the better.

Edited by n2wdw
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Drink Menus

 

Here's a picture of my wife (Jennifer) and I from our Crystal Cruise last year.  One of the main reasons we picked that cruise is because it went to the Cinque Terre, a place we went to during one of our first trips to Europe.  This is us in Vernazza after hiking from Monterosso. 

 

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As I mentioned, I'm planning to compare Seabourn to Crystal in this TR.  I'm planning to do this in a positive way.  I'm not going to bash either company. 

 

One thing I'm interested in are the drink menus in Seabourn's bars.  On our Crystal cruise last year, I think Crystal put together some interesting drink menus.  They had a whole menu of Manhattans and another of martinis (pics of Crystal's menus are below).  I'll be interested to see if Seabourn has something similar.  Or different.  Either way, it's fun.

 

(As an aside, something I find fascinating about cruising is the culture that develops on the ship.  An example is the bars.  If you go to a given bar at a given time (like, pre-dinner), you will often see the same regulars.  I've seen this across cruise lines and ships.  I suppose it's human nature.  On our last Crystal cruise, a couple of guys in one of the groups told us they had tried every one of the Manhattans on the list.  I was surprised by that -- it was only a 7 day cruise.  They said it was no big deal though, and they might even get through the martini list before the cruise ended.)

 

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Edited by n2wdw
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  • 3 weeks later...

One thing -- Seabourn was running some kind of promotion.  My wife was all over that.  So even though we had bought our tickets a long time ago, she was able to get us upgraded to a balcony room for free. 

 

It took a while for Seabourn to assign us a cabin.  Then just last week they assigned us to an accessible cabin with a balcony.

 

We're happy to have this of course (as we get the balcony), but we wished it was just a normal room.  We don't need an accessible room -- we'd rather give it to someone who does -- and what we lose is a bathtub.  We like to take baths, even in the small tubs on ships.  Oh well.  We got the balcony for free so we can't really complain.

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N2wdw..... good call on ditching the tux for the wine.   We did not see many tuxedos on Seabourn Encore during that same time last May.....Athens to Barcelona.  My husband wore a suit one night.....opted for the jacket on some nights & a nice sweater on the others.   This May.....no suit.....just a nice blazer.   If we chose to dine in MDR on “formal night”.....he will wear a tie.  We ladies have it so easy with dress pants & pretty top or casual dress.   I did not pack a cocktail dress but opted for more casual knit dresses....easy & appropriate.   By the way....the weather was perfect.  We were on the newer and slightly bigger Encore and sail Ovation this May.   We are big fans of our only Seabourn cruise to date.  We sail SilverSea Muse later this year.  I think you are in for a treat.  Great ports.....we did a land tour of Sicily a few years back and were blown away by Siracusa etc.   Valletta was one of our fav ports on Seabourn.  The sail in party was so much fun.  Happy Travels!  

Edited by cece50
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4 hours ago, koalapanda said:

n2wdw it is good to read your excitement leading up to your beautiful destination cruise. From the moment you embark the gorgeous Odyssey just be in the moment as you cruise , don't make comparisons, enjoy.

 

Koalapanda, you must have spent time with the meditation coach onboard Odyssey 😁

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Flying To Brussels

 

Our trip began on Thursday as we flew to Brussels.  We picked Brussels rather than Frankfurt, because there's a better chance of getting an upgrade through Brussels.  And it worked!

 

An extra nice thing about getting upgraded is you can then get into the United Club for free.  Although, United clubs pale in comparison to those in Europe.  Just some cheese and dips (although with a full bar).  Still, can't complain about free.

 

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Personally, I'll never pay for business class, as I'd rather fly twice to Europe than just once.  But getting upgraded is a treat.  United's Polaris lie flat seats are like little apartments.

 

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Here are a couple of pictures of my service of the flight -- my pre-dinner drink, and then cheese, sundae and port at the end of dinner.  After that the Ambien kicked in and I slept the rest of the flight.  My wife was already asleep.  She ranks sleeping higher than the service, but I enjoy the amenities of the flight over.

 

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Edited by n2wdw
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Day 1 - Brussels

 

The first day after arriving in Europe, my wife and I always try to do something active to help stay away.  The last few times we've gone on bike tours, and we did that again this trip.

 

We met the tour group at the Grand Place.

 

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The first thing we did was go see the Manneken-Pis.  This has got to be one of the most overrated sights in the world.  Still, there's something charming about it, and it's always crowded.  On this day, like most days, he was dressed up and the center of some celebration.

 

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This is our second trip to Brussels.  The first time, my wife and I brought home a Manneken-Pis.  We display souvenirs from our travels on our porch, and we set up the Manneken-Pis as a tacky fountain.  After 6 years though, it was broken.  So one of the goals of this trip was to get a replacement.  We got one, plus a replacement for the replacement.

 

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As part of the tour we stopped to get frites.  We went to Maison Antoine.  We went here on our first visit to Brussels too.  I think all the tours and tour books suggest this place.  Probably because President Obama got frites here during one of his visits.

 

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After the tour, we stopped at a hole-in-the wall bar for a drink.  I got my first Duvel of the trip.  We were also reminded that in European bars, they give you chips instead of nuts.

 

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For dinner we got what you've got to get when in Brussels, moules and frites, and a bottle of rose.

 

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Edited by n2wdw
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On 4/25/2019 at 6:35 PM, n2wdw said:

It took a while for Seabourn to assign us a cabin.  Then just last week they assigned us to an accessible cabin with a balcony.

 

We’ve only been assigned an accessible room once and the bathtub was was we missed most.  The shower makes up for it though... it’s huge!

 

I like the usual walk-in closet but my husband liked the long wardrobe better.  The only design issue is that the sliding doors are very heavy.  Ask your suite stewardess to remove the center  one... it’s a very common request apparently (ours suggested it to us)... they’ll come in and take it away for the duration of the cruise.

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Day 2 - Brussels

 

Our favorite thing to do is walk around a city.  My wife and I think walking is the best way to see a foreign town.  We also like to try local foods, as we think food is an important window into understanding a place.  So something my wife and I like to do are walking food tours.  That's what we did today, and this tour had 10 tastes.  Ten!   Here are what we got:

 

Taste 1 - Frites

 

Our first stop was for frites.  By default it came with mayonnaise, and even though we don't like it we went with it and just ate around it.  We've been to Brussels twice and in my tourist view of the city, Brussels has 5 iconic foods.  Frites is one of them.

 

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Taste 2 - Beer

 

Beer is big in Brussels, and this is another one of their iconic foods.  Our guide took us down this old alley to what she said was the oldest bar in Brussels.  (By the way, having beer as the 2nd stop on the tour kinda guaranteed it was a fun tour.)

 

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The guide suggested we get Westvletteren XIII -- apparently, it's made at an abbey and they only make about 4000 bottles a year.  I'm not sure if that's true, but it was good beer.

 

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Taste 3 - Snails

 

Next the guide took us to a fish market where we had snail soup.  I've had snails before, but never snail soup.  I've never associated snails with Brussels.  It was good though -- even my wife tried it. 

 

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Tastes 4 and 5 - Cheese and Blood Sausage

 

The cheese was made from beer, and the sausage was blood sausage.  Both were good with the mustard.

 

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Taste 6 - Speculoos

 

With taste 6 we transitioned from savory to sweet.  Speculoos is a local cookie.  It's like a gingerbread cookie and is traditionally baked for St. Nicholas day in Belgium.

 

The guide told us that this bakery invented speculoos cookies:

 

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Taste 7 - Chocolate

 

Another iconic food of Brussels is chocolate.  Anyone who has ever been to Brussels has probably been down this alleyway that's lined with chocolate stores.  The guide took us to Mary, which is the oldest chocolatier in Brussels.  We tasted their 1919 chocolates, named after the year they were founded.

 

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Tastes 8 and 9 (and 10):

 

We got coffee and a waffle for tastes 8 and 9.  (With waffles being another iconic food of Brussels.)  Something I didn't know, there are 2 kinds of waffles in Brussels.  The kind you buy on the street, with all the topping choices (like ice cream, strawberries, etc.) are called Liege waffles.  They are softer and easy to eat while walking.

 

The second kind are called Brussels waffles.  These are more crispy and are traditionally eaten with just powdered sugar.

 

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The tour ended with the coffee and waffle.  So where was taste 10?  Looking back, we realized it was with the cheese and sausage, as there we also got another beer!

 

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After dinner last night (our last night in Brussels), we took one last picture with Pee Boy. 

 

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Then we got a waffle with ice cream and shared it in the Grand Place. 

 

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Day 3 - Barcelona

 

This morning we flew to Barcelona.  We'll be here 2 nights before boarding the ship.

 

Our main goal this morning was to somehow watch Ep. 3 of Game of Thrones that aired last night (Sunday).  HBO doesn't work outside the US.  So before the trip, we downloaded some software to trick our devices to think we were in the US.  I couldn't get it to work on my PC or phone, but my wife was able to get it work on her iPad.

 

Before watching GOT, we went to the La Boqueria food market in Las Ramblas, to get some takeaway lunch.

 

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We also stopped for a quick bite of oysters and ham croquettes before going back to our room to watch GOT.

 

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After watching GOT, we took a nap as we're still trying to get on European time.  Later tonight we're going on a tapas food tour of Barcelona.

 

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Walking Food Tour in Barcelona

 

Our food tour included 3 tapas bars and a history of Barcelona.  The guide showed us this old Roman stronghold.  They positioned it here because it was the highest point above sea level at the time, at 16.9 meters.

 

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The guide showed us this sculpture: 

 

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The sculpture is a dedication to the Catalonian tradition of making human towers, which apparently has become a competitive event here.

 

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The guide explained how much of the world's trade was centered around Barcelona, back around the time of Ferdinand and Isabella (and Columbus).  As it turns out, the itinerary of our cruise follows some of this path.

 

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All 3 bars were tiny and off narrow alleyways.  You'd easily miss them if you didn't know about them (which added to the charm of going there).  In the first one, La Pineda, we were served tomato bread and charcuterie.  I love the tomato bread.  I've tried making it at home and even though the recipe is simple, I've never been able to get close to what they serve in Spain.

 

We also got a glass of vermouth.  We learned that the Spanish vermouth that they serve in bars is not the vermouth you get in the US (for mixing in Manhattans and Martinis).  Instead, the Spanish vermouth starts from a fortified wine (like port) and then is seasoned with various ingredients.

 

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The next bar was La Plata.  This place was a true hole in the wall, and incredibly packed with people standing outside with their drinks.  Here's how it looked as we left (what you see from the picture is essentially the entire inside of the bar).

 

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By the way, all 3 bars served wine (and vermouth) from casks.  No fancy bottles or corkscrews here.  But they were all delicious, and very cheap (a few euros for a half bottle). 

 

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This place had 5 tapas on the menu.  Our guide explained that locals would meet here, have a drink and share a tapas, and then go off to dinner.

 

Below's the food we had.  The tomatoes, onions and olives drizzled with olive oil were the best.  It's amazing how something so simply can be so delicious (of course, everything taste better in a tapas bar in Barcelona).

 

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This bar was our favorite of the 3, because Anthony Bourdain used to come here.

 

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The last bar was Bodega la Palma.  The guide said Picasso used to come here.  He was poor so he traded his paintings for wine.  I'm not sure if that's true or legend.  I've heard the same story -- Picasso trading art for wine -- in a few places across Spain, Italy and France; which, actually, makes it sound more true than legend to me.

 

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The wine here was another poured out of the barrel.  It was 100% syrah, which kind of surprised us for Spain.  It was light, refreshing and delicious.  This stop also included a glass of prosecco with dessert. 

 

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After the tour, we were stuffed and exhausted.  So, of course, rather than going to sleep, we stopped at the hotel bar for another drink (somehow that made sense at the time).

 

My wife got a Moscow Mule.  I got a James Bond martini (a Vesper made with Gordon's gin, vodka and Lillet).  And of course some chips.

 

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