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n2wdw

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

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Great blog - love the photos - thanks for taking the time from your vacation to share with us

 

Realy looking forward to your thoughts on Seabourn compared to Crystal

 

We’re Crystal regulars and tried Seabourn Encore last December - we are back on Crystal Symphony next week 

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Thank you for sharing your trip with everyone here at Cruise Critic. My husband and I have been on many cruises but our favorites have been on SilverSea, from Southampton, England to New York in conjunction with the Orient Express from Venice to London, Uniworld river/wine cruise of Bordeaux,  and Crystal Mozart, Rhine river cruise this past September. We are currently booked on Crystal’s Symphony  from Barcelona to Venice in September, 2020. We are looking forward to visiting Barcelona which is one of the reasons we are enjoying your travel blog. We will be reading your posts as you embark on your Seabourn cruise and are especially interested in your comparison of Crystal and Seabourn.

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22 hours ago, n2wdw said:

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.

 

Hi there! I tried to DM you but apparently that isn't a thing on Cruise Critic. I've been looking through the boards to find somebody who was able to watch GoT at sea, and you're the first I found! We are boarding a cruise in Denmark the day of the finale. Could you please let me know which program you were able to use on your wife's iPad?

 

Your pics look great - hope you are having a blast!!

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You have to download Ivacy.  https://www.ivacy.com/blog/watch-game-of-thrones-outside-us/

 

It costs about $10 per month.  We plan to cancel once we get back from the cruise, so we'd have paid a total of $10 for it.  After you pay, you'll be able to download it.  Make sure you download it to all your devices, as in the end we watched it on my wife's iPad instead of my PC.

 

Ivacy tricks HBO to think you're located in the US.  It runs in the background on your device.  So with Ivacy running in the background, you go to whatever app you would normally run in the US to watch Game of Thrones.  You have to play around with it.  We use Direct TV to subscribe to HBO Go in the US.  I couldn't get it to work on my PC or iPhone, but my wife was able to get it to work on her iPad. 

 

(Ivacy will ask you what country you're in.  I entered Spain, since that's where we are.  But my wife figured out you have to tell Ivacy what country you want HBO to think you're in.  So she entered United States and it worked.  I tried it this morning on my PC, and it worked for me too.  So make sure to key in United States when Ivacy asks.)

Edited by n2wdw

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n2wdw, thanks for the description of your food tours, even though they are making us hungry.  When you get a chance, could you tell us the name of the tapas tour company you used in Barcelona?

 

Enjoy your cruise.  We thought that itinerary looked good.

 

Thanks.

Edited by FlyingScotSailors

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55 minutes ago, FlyingScotSailors said:

n2wdw, thanks for the description of your food tours, even though they are making us hungry.  When you get a chance, could you tell us the name of the tapas tour company you used in Barcelona?

 

Enjoy your cruise.  We thought that itinerary looked good.

 

Thanks.

 

We used Devour Tours.  https://devourtours.com/

 

We also went with them in Madrid.  They are great.  You'll go away with a full stomach and a lot of history in your head (and a few adult beverages too).

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6 hours ago, Kittykat52 said:

Thank you for sharing your trip with everyone here at Cruise Critic. My husband and I have been on many cruises but our favorites have been on SilverSea, from Southampton, England to New York in conjunction with the Orient Express from Venice to London, Uniworld river/wine cruise of Bordeaux,  and Crystal Mozart, Rhine river cruise this past September. We are currently booked on Crystal’s Symphony  from Barcelona to Venice in September, 2020. We are looking forward to visiting Barcelona which is one of the reasons we are enjoying your travel blog. We will be reading your posts as you embark on your Seabourn cruise and are especially interested in your comparison of Crystal and Seabourn.

 

Wow, was that a single continuous trip?  We also have done a Bordeaux river cruise, on Crystal.  If we had to do it again, we'd do a land tour.  Not because of Crystal, the ship and crew were great.  But Bordeaux is such a small area we ended up having to take a lot of buses, and the ship didn't really go any where -- I don't think there is any way of getting around that due to the area and location of the ports.  It would have been better if we did a land tour and stayed at a couple of hotels as home bases.  But that's just our experience.

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Day 4 - Barcelona - Castell de Montjuic

 

Today we hiked up to Barcelona's local castle, Castell de Montjuic.  Round trip from our hotel in La Rambla to the castle was 7 miles with a portion of that up somewhat steep hills and stairs, so it was a nice workout.  Our goal is to not gain weight on the cruise, so walks like this will help.

 

We went to this castle in 2012 when we cruised on the Crystal Symphony from Barcelona to London.  What's nice about this castle is its expansive view of the port and all the cruise ships.  Although, today there weren't many ships docked, and none that we recognized.  The Odyssey wasn't there yet; my wife said it's probably arriving tomorrow morning.  (I guess I could check the itinerary but I'm too lazy.)

 

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Castell de Montjuic is interesting but we didn't pay to get in.  We did last time and I'm glad we did, but castles kind of all look the same after a while.  And the landscaping outside the castle is beautiful enough to warrant the visit.

 

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Here's a sign we saw walking around the castle (alarming for small dog owners like us).  Watch your lap dog or it'll be attacked by predatory foxes! 

 

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After the castle, we walked back to La Rambla and ate at one of those tourist traps along the center concourse.  It was as you'd expect.  The beers were very large and refreshing.  The pizza looked better than it tasted.  The ham was just ham, like the kind you get in plastic boxes at the Giant back home, not prosciutto or jamon, which was disappointing being that we're in Spain.  The paella was pretty good.  Maybe we'll get something even better in Valencia, one of the ports of the cruise.

 

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Barcelona - Ciutat Comtal

 

One more post from Barcelona before we board the ship.  Last night we went to a tapas restaurant, Ciutat Comtal.  We have been to Barcelona 3 times, and each time we have made a point to go there.  It's packed with both tourists and locals.  Here's how it looked at about 830pm last night.  It was about as crowded when we left around 1030pm.  And this on a Tuesday!

 

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It's first-come first-served to sit at the bar, and we did that during our first 2 visits.  This time the bar seats were all taken with people waiting 2 or 3 deep, so we put our name on the list for a table.  Despite the crowd, it only took 30 minutes to get seated.

 

This tapas restaurant is very easy for non-Spanish speakers, as the menu is in both Spanish and English.  Our first course was "chips with scrambled eggs and jabugo ham."  It was delicious.  The chips were thin crispy fries and the egg was actually over easy rather than scrambled. 

 

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We then got razor clams and shrimp in garlic.  Both were great, the clams better than the shrimp.

 

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We ordered a little open faced sandwich called a montaditos.  This one had salmon and a prawn on top of cream cheese.  We saw other people getting it at the bar.  It was kind of like sushi but with bread instead of rice.

 

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Finally we got padron peppers.  They say every 5th or 10th padron is spicy hot.  I think that's marketing, because in my 57 years I've probably had close to 1000 of these peppers and I've never eaten a spicy one.  But I guess the marketing works as I usually order them whenever I see them on the menu.

 

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We were stuffed after these 5 small courses.  They were all delicious, and the restaurant is inexpensive.  Even with a bottle of wine, the total bill was only 66 euros.

 

In my next post, we'll be on the ship.  One thing we're worried about is the limited WIFI.  I think each cabin only gets 300 minutes.  After that you have to buy a plan.  That's my first comparison of Seabourn and Crystal, as with Crystal it's unlimited free WIFI. 

 

We'll see how it goes though.  While in port we'll be able to use cellular.  And I haven't looked yet to see how much Seabourn's WIFI packages cost.

Edited by n2wdw

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14 hours ago, n2wdw said:

 

Wow, was that a single continuous trip?  We also have done a Bordeaux river cruise, on Crystal.  If we had to do it again, we'd do a land tour.  Not because of Crystal, the ship and crew were great.  But Bordeaux is such a small area we ended up having to take a lot of buses, and the ship didn't really go any where -- I don't think there is any way of getting around that due to the area and location of the ports.  It would have been better if we did a land tour and stayed at a couple of hotels as home bases.  But that's just our experience.

 Hi,  wife here...our Bordeaux river cruise was on Uniworld. We did a Danube River Cruise on Crystal. And yeah, Uniworld was great...but I hated all of the long bus rides. (We joke that when an excursion says “panoramic tour of” we know it is a bus tour...and we avoid it like the plague. Would do a land tour next time. 

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Day 5 - Embarkation in Barcelona

 

Embarkation was fast and easy.  We arrived at the port at noon and after an easy check-in, we were on the ship 10 minutes later.  Seabourn does not have a sit down menu lunch on embarkation like Crystal.  Instead you're routed upstairs to the pool deck for a buffet lunch.  That's actually my preference, but it might disappoint some.

 

The buffet was smaller than on Crystal.  It had probably as many selections, but it didn't have 2 serving sides like on Crystal (given the smaller number of guests).  The food seemed just as good, but it's hard to tell based on this one meal.

 

Here are some pictures of the buffet.  Noon seemed to be a good time to board the ship.  We didn't have to wait at all to board after checking in, and the buffet seemed to have just opened based on how the food looked.

 

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At the buffet, you can also order a few items:

 

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There's also a grill next to the pool:

 

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Here's the bar next to the pool:

 

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Edited by n2wdw

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Caviar!

 

We've been on the ship for about an hour and had our first caviar!  We're sitting by the pool.  For those who wonder how long it takes (I had a question about that), it took less than 10 minutes from ordering to service.  We're not caviar experts -- although we've had the good stuff sometimes on holidays -- and from what we can tell, the caviar is very good, to our taste comparable to the caviar you get on Crystal.  (The picture shows a single serving.  My wife also got a serving.)

 

(I also wanted to mention there were other hot food items at the buffet -- about 6 -- that I didn't get pictures of.)

 

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Edited by n2wdw

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We love caviar! Actually the first time I tried it was on the Crystal Debussy. It was served during cocktail hour-unlimited servings!

 

I have to make a correction to my first post. Our Rhine River cruise this past year was on the Crystal Debussy, not the Mozart. The ship was beautiful and everything was brand new.

 

I agree with the previous comments about our experience on the Uniworld Bordeaux River cruise. We spent most of our time on busses. It became tiresome to load onto busses every day to visit wineries. I was hoping for more of a River cruise experience. Unfortunately our Rhine cruise was abbreviated due to low water levels, but Crystal did a fine job accommodating us. However, we were disappointed to miss the upper Rhine and the castles.

 

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Bathrooms, Electrical Outlets and WIFI

 

A lot happened last night.  As I mentioned before, Seabourn ran a promotion about a month before the cruise, essentially giving balcony rooms for the price of a non-balcony.  Although we had purchased the cruise long ago, Seabourn (working through our TA) honored this for us, so we got a balcony room. 

 

As it turned out, though, Seabourn assigned us to an accessible room.  So we got a balcony but lost the bathtub.  But it seemed like a good trade.  It was like a free upgrade, right?

 

Then we got into the room yesterday afternoon and we saw the bathroom.  It had a tiny shower -- the kind you'd expect on a cruise ship -- but also shower curtains.  In a normal hotel shower, you can get away with a shower curtain as the shower is big.  On a cruise ship, it's almost impossible to not touch the curtain.  We don't like that, as it's gross to touch the shower curtain while taking a shower.  At least that's how we feel. 

 

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So we were bummed out.  We were especially bummed when we got a look at what the normal bathrooms looked like.  They're pretty impressive.

 

It was totally our fault, as we were the ones who made the switch in the first place.  My wife and I started really debating whether a balcony was worth it.  

 

We went to see the Seabourn person who handles room changes.  We weren't optimistic about being able to change rooms, as the ship is full.  We finally caught up with him after muster, so it must've been around 445pm.

 

Seabourn was great.  He understood our issue, and immediately started working it.  We could tell he was trying hard.  So, even if it turned out we couldn't change rooms, we would have felt good about Seabourn's service.

 

By 630pm -- less than 2 hours later and just as the shipping was pulling away from the dock -- the Seabourn rep called with the good news.  He was able to get us into a standard bathroom cabin!  And this one had a balcony too!

 

The bathroom has both a shower and a very big tub -- like a normal size tub in a hotel.  The bathroom is at least as good as Crystal, and maybe better.

 

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And, as everyone else says, the size of the room is bigger than Crystal's.  To me that's not a big deal -- on cruises, I prefer to be out of the room than in.  But my wife likes bigger cabins, as I'm sure other people do too.

 

A negative about the room though -- it only has 2 electrical outlets.  We're used to that on cruises though, whether it's Crystal, Disney and now Seabourn.  Some ships have more, but they never seem to have enough.  The work around is easy though.  You just have to make sure you bring a multi-outlet extension cord.  My wife has something that we call the "octopus" where we can connect about 10 USB cords.

 

Another Seabourn negative -- the WIFI sucks.  It's truly terrible.  My wife and I each got 300 free minutes, and I was planning to buy a 7 day unlimited plan (for $240) when that ran out, as I need connectivity for work.  (A picture of all their plans is below.)  But I'm rethinking that, given how non-functional the WIFI is.  We're in port now so I may just have to rely on cellular. 

 

We'll see.  We've been on the ship only a day.  On Crystal last year, the WIFI wasn't much better, at least in the room.  I remember it being better outside on the pool deck.  So maybe I just need to find the sweet spots for Seabourn's WIFI.

 

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Edited by n2wdw

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Thomas Keller's Grill

 

Last night we went to the Grill.  I've read mixed reviews from people here.  Our experience was excellent.

 

The tone of the evening was set by walking by this wine display on the way to our table. 

 

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I started with their Rye Manhattan (their Boulevardier).  My wife got a glass of the Schramsberg sparkling rose.

 

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The waiter brought by a tray of Crudités and bread.  I liked the salt.  For some reason, I never eat bread with butter and salt, except on vacations.

 

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For the appetizer, I got the caesar salad.  The table side presentation was fun and it tasted good.

 

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My wife got the Maryland style jumbo lump crab cake.  Since we're from the Maryland area, we know the only place you can get good Maryland crab cakes is in Maryland (or close by in VA or Delaware).  But we tried it.  It was okay, it tasted good.  But it wasn't a Maryland style jumbo lump crab cake.  If anything, it tasted more like a Dungeness crab cake you'd get in San Francisco.

 

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For her entree, my wife got the Dover sole, because she likes sole, and it gets high reviews here.  Again, the table side presentation was fun, and it was also delicious.

 

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I got the chicken.  I've read mixed reviews of this, often reading that it's too salty or dry.  I thought it was great!  First, I didn't realize it was a whole chicken, and they show it to you before cutting it up.  It was perfectly seasoned and juicy throughout, even the breast portions.  By the way, they list it as an entree for 2, but they don't hesitate to serve it to just one person.

 

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As sides, we got the mac and cheese and mushrooms.  Both were great, especially the mac and cheese.

 

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So comparing Seabourn to Crystal, I'd say that both the Grill and Prego are special dining experiences.  If I had to pick one, it would probably be Prego, but that's because we like Italian over steakhouse.  I think we'll try to go to the Grill again, as I'd like to try their ribeye.

 

Edited by n2wdw

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Day 6 - Valencia

 

I took many pictures of Seabourn's breakfast buffet.  I won't post them (except for a few) unless someone asks.  Suffice it to say, there were a lot of choices, and they would special order pancakes, eggs, steak, omelettes, lamb chops, etc. 

 

They had a interesting take on corned beef hash, and they served brats along with link sausages.

 

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Our excursion today was a walking tour of Valencia.  The highlights were going to the food market (apparently the largest in Europe) and getting fresh squeezed Valencia orange juice.  There's clearly a difference in taste.

 

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Also seeing what used to be the thinnest building in Europe.

 

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And taking a picture with Dobby from Harry Potter.

 

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I am enjoying your review, brings back nice memories, especially photos.

I flagged it for the specific food tour references.

 

A couple points:

1.  I am surprised there was only a buffet on the pool deck on embarkation.  Of the six SB cruises I have done, including four months ago on the Odyssey, they all offered a sit down lunch ( can order to table by waiter or select buffet or both) in the Colonade, which always told us the cruise had really started and we could relax outside seated with that first glass of champagne before getting food. I hope pool deck buffets alone are not a new trend. No MDR lunch, however, which Crystal had.

 

2.  I found the best wifi connectivity is at SB Square, either inside or on the outside couches. The unlimited plan is less frustrating, as then when it is slow, you do not see the money being charged for no to slow service 🙂

Try it there, and early morning or  evening when people are sleeping or eating is best if you must get on.

 

I have yet to be on a cruise ship where I loved the wifi, but I have not been on Carnaval, where it is supposed to be great, but no thanks.

 

You could also try running a hot spot off your cellular service, for work on your computer when you are close to port and when other pax overwhelm wifi.  But sometimes cellular also gets overwhelmed if many ships are in port.

 

 

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1.Apologies for my confusion on the prior post, on second look it appears you were in the Colonnade after all ( I had misinterpreted your “pool deck buffet  lunch” comment to mean it was buffet only at the pool area, where food like burgers and hot dogs or themed buffet are often served.

 

The Colonnade offerings are huge, compared with the Crystal embarkation lunch, I had had a couple years ago, however, where there was no view either.  Note there is NO requirment you get up from your pleasant patio shadedtable once seated — the waiter will bring you anything you want, in addition to ordered selections from the menu, anything from the buffet, or from off the buffet.

Do not hesitate to customize requests!

 

2. 

You also wrote . . 
“. . . .

A negative about the room though -- it only has 2 electrical outlets.  We're used to that on cruises though, whether it's Crystal, Disney and now Seabourn.  Some ships have more, but they never seem to have enough.  The work around is easy though.  You just have to make sure you bring a multi-outlet extension cord.  My wife has something that we call the "octopus" where we can connect about 10 USB cords.”

 

Somewhat lighter weight then an octupus, and available to switch back and forth between 110 and 220, is this thing I now use for low-outlet areas, Syncwire, four ports in a handy little adapter:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Catlover54 said:

I am enjoying your review, brings back nice memories, especially photos.

I flagged it for the specific food tour references.

 

A couple points:

1.  I am surprised there was only a buffet on the pool deck on embarkation.  Of the six SB cruises I have done, including four months ago on the Odyssey, they all offered a sit down lunch ( can order to table by waiter or select buffet or both) in the Colonade, which always told us the cruise had really started and we could relax outside seated with that first glass of champagne before getting food. I hope pool deck buffets alone are not a new trend. No MDR lunch, however, which Crystal had.

 

2.  I found the best wifi connectivity is at SB Square, either inside or on the outside couches. The unlimited plan is less frustrating, as then when it is slow, you do not see the money being charged for no to slow service 🙂

Try it there, and early morning or  evening when people are sleeping or eating is best if you must get on.

 

I have yet to be on a cruise ship where I loved the wifi, but I have not been on Carnaval, where it is supposed to be great, but no thanks.

 

You could also try running a hot spot off your cellular service, for work on your computer when you are close to port and when other pax overwhelm wifi.  But sometimes cellular also gets overwhelmed if many ships are in port.

 

 

We had a very different experience getting on Crystal (Miami). After waiting in a snake line for an hour (probably the port’s, not Crystal’s fault) we were finally processed and sent to the ship. They were vague about where to go, once on board, but apparently the dining room.  Which was apparently full.  They sent us away without specifying other options. Not a very welcoming approach.

 

We finally found some coffee and cheese at that little café. Then realized we had to go somewhere else to get our card keys. Again, no help was offered. We eventually wandered up to “tastes” but it was a very limited menu and not much of a sense of can do, more indifference.

 

 The rest of the trip (Panama canal) was ok but we were not impressed after being spoiled on SB. The bathroom was ok, though not as nice as SB, the room was cramped.  No space for room service breakfast and closet was hard to access. ( I know, these petty things should be the worst problems, just making a comparison. ) They do have wonderful self serve laundries though. Since everyone seems to go to bed at 9 ( 🙂 ) it was easy to access. Also liked the magic show and the iMovie classes. Meh trivia but better prizes (casino gift certificates). 

 

Seabourn does open up the main dining room for embarkation lunch when the weather is bad. Though I think it was set up as buffet. (Kobe, May 2017). 

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On 5/1/2019 at 4:49 AM, n2wdw said:

Last night we went to a tapas restaurant, Ciutat Comtal.  We have been to Barcelona 3 times, and each time we have made a point to go there.  It's packed with both tourists and locals. 

———————————————

Finally we got padron peppers.  They say every 5th or 10th padron is spicy hot.  I think that's marketing, because in my 57 years I've probably had close to 1000 of these peppers and I've never eaten a spicy one.  But I guess the marketing works as I usually order them whenever I see them on the menu.

 

Glad to see a mention of Ciutat Comtal - that place is fabulous!  The Obama bar around the corner is a good place to wait out the crowds.

 

And you’ve been incredibly lucky with the padrons.  I’ve had an occasional hot one and they do burn!  🥵 

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8 hours ago, jenidallas said:

 

Glad to see a mention of Ciutat Comtal - that place is fabulous!  The Obama bar around the corner is a good place to wait out the crowds.

 

 

Yes, we saw that bar on the way to Ciutat. I wished we stopped for a drink.

 

1D0C8AAD-FAFE-48BE-A5C0-6254168CFEF0.thumb.jpeg.0c273e09c94d88d2b1a734750bdbdde3.jpeg

 

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20 hours ago, jozi said:

We had a very different experience getting on Crystal (Miami). After waiting in a snake line for an hour (probably the port’s, not Crystal’s fault) we were finally processed and sent to the ship. They were vague about where to go, once on board, but apparently the dining room.  Which was apparently full.  They sent us away without specifying other options. Not a very welcoming approach.

 

We finally found some coffee and cheese at that little café. Then realized we had to go somewhere else to get our card keys. Again, no help was offered. We eventually wandered up to “tastes” but it was a very limited menu and not much of a sense of can do, more indifference.

 

 The rest of the trip (Panama canal) was ok but we were not impressed after being spoiled on SB. The bathroom was ok, though not as nice as SB, the room was cramped.  No space for room service breakfast and closet was hard to access. ( I know, these petty things should be the worst problems, just making a comparison. ) They do have wonderful self serve laundries though. Since everyone seems to go to bed at 9 ( 🙂 ) it was easy to access. Also liked the magic show and the iMovie classes. Meh trivia but better prizes (casino gift certificates). 

 

Seabourn does open up the main dining room for embarkation lunch when the weather is bad. Though I think it was set up as buffet. (Kobe, May 2017). 

 

Sorry to hear about your experience.  We've always been happy with Crystal's service.  And, so far, we are just as happy and impressed with Seabourn's.

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n2wdw, thank you for your postings. We haven't sailed on Odyssey for awhile but will this Summer so I am enjoying your thoughts and photos.

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