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


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Thanks everyone for your kind words and thoughts.  Now that we are back home, I'll complete the trip report over the next few days.  Then at the end I'll provide final thoughts on the cruise, and our comparisons of Seabourn and Crystal.

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Day 8 - Mahon (day 4 of cruise) - continued


First I'll circle back to Day 8, when we were in Mahon.  We found out about the death in the family while on the Mahon tapas tour.  At that point, we left the tour to contact family back home.  Also once back on the ship, we let Seabourn know that we would have to leave the ship early.


Seabourn was great.  They offered to let us use the ship phone to call home.  They gave me and my wife 1000 minutes each of WIFI so we could keep in contact with home.  They helped with the logistics of trying to fly home from a small island off Spain (which seems daunting when first faced with the prospect, but turns out to be not so hard, just time consuming).  So Seabourn was great in every way.


Our new friends that we met on the ship were all very supportive too.


I'll also mention that United Airlines was great too.  They changed our flights at no cost.


As things worked out with the timing back home, we didn't have to leave the ship for 2 days (which was day 6 of the cruise).  So we took advantage of this time to the extent possible given what had happened.


Caviar Sail Away Party


As you can probably tell by now from this report, my wife and I like caviar.  We don't often get it because of the price -- maybe once a year, if that -- so to us, the fact you can order caviar (that's pretty good caviar) any time you want on Seabourn is a big plus to us.


We ordered caviar at least once each day of the cruise, usually sitting by the pool, but sometimes via room service or at dinner.  We didn't see many other people ordering caviar outside of when it was on the menu at dinner, so this may not be a big factor for other people.  But this is such a big advantage for us, that (all else being equal) we would probably pick Seabourn over Crystal.


Seabourn also has fun events involving caviar, like this sail away event from Mahon.




This event was very well attended.  The Seabourn singers sang opera during the event.  My wife and I both thought the singers were excellent, and added a special ambience to the event.










Even though the event was crowded, the caviar line never got long -- at most, maybe 5 or 6 people, and eventually there was no line.  So you could just walk up and get more caviar.  In fact, towards the end of the event, I found out they were serving caviar upstairs too, and there were even shorter lines there.





And at the end, the crew just left the caviar there for anyone to take.





I went kind of overboard with going back for seconds.  For fun, I took a picture of each of my caviar servings during the sail away event:





My wife and I thought this was a great event.  As I mentioned, the singers were great and made it special.  Here's a video of them as the ship sailed away from Mahon.  (By the way, what is the name of this song?)



Edited by n2wdw
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That evening after the caviar sail away party, they served a clam bake in the Colonnade.  Seabourn writes:  "At The Colonnade, special theme nights feature Chef Keller-influenced dinners that pay homage to his American childhood. His interpretations of classic comfort dishes, such as Clam Bake and BBQ Ribs will be served family-style on platters to complement the essence of sharing in a relaxed spirit of fun and togetherness."


Because of the events of the day, we asked if we could get this as room service.  We just felt like crashing in the room.  As I mentioned, Seabourn was great, and they served it in our room (I didn't ask if this was special, or if they would do this for anyone who asked).  We ate dinner with the bottle of champagne they gave on embarkation.


The salad and dessert were good.  The clam bake was a basic clam bake.  I feel kind of ungrateful given how great Seabourn was and the fact they served it via room service, but I want to provide my honest thoughts, and I'll tell you that this is one dinner you can skip and instead go to one of the other restaurants (IMHO).









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5 minutes ago, Isklaar said:

The song is "Time to say goodbye",  the version that I am most familiar with is by Andrea Bocelli (sp?) and Sarah Brightman.



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Day 9 - Valetta (day 5 of cruise) - Breakfast from the Menu


At the breakfast at the Colonnades, you have the buffet, and you can also order from a menu.  Here's the menu:




Today I decided to order from the menu and get the steak and eggs (and a side of grits).


A couple of observations.  My wife and I prefer Diet Coke (or Coke Zero) for breakfast, rather than juice or coffee.  For some reason, it took forever to get a soda during breakfast.  At lunch it was instant.  But for some reason, it took forever to get a Diet Coke at breakfast.  The workaround is to bring a soda from your cabin refrigerator to breakfast, and that's what we ended up doing. 


It also took a long time to place our order from the menu, and to get the food.  Probably about 15 minutes.  Now, everything is relative.  In a standard restaurant on land, 15 minutes is maybe reasonable.  But when you're trying to eat breakfast and then hurry off to your excursion, 15 minutes seemed like an eternity.


Here are pictures of my breakfast.  The steak was good.  But the yolks of my over easy eggs were hard.  So, this was not a good showing for Seabourn.  But we did have a better "ordering off the menu" breakfast experience later, which I'll write about in a subsequent post.









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Day 9 - Valetta (day 5 of cruise) - Walking Tour of Valetta and Mdina


Our TA comped us an 8 hour walking tour of Valetta and Mdina.  The guide was incredibly knowledgeable.  Here are a few highlights of the tour.


In St. John's Co-Cathedral, we saw this incredible painting by Caravaggio.




We walked up the baloncy (45 steps) and got this great view:





And we took a selfie:




Later in the Museum of Archaeology, we got to see the Sleeping Lady (from 3000 BC!):





In the Mdina Cathedral Museum, we saw these incredible engravings by Durer.  He's described as "the most famous artist of the Renaissance in Northern Europe."  I have to admit, I never heard of him before prior to this visit.  I guess I've spent too much of my life watching football.






Many movies and TV shows are filmed in Valetta and Mdina.  Including the Game of Thrones.




The above courtyard is where Jaime Lannister ambushed Ned Stark (see the below scene from GOT).




Here's a miscellaneous picture from walking around Valetta.  I have seen something similar in many places in Europe.  But so far (from what I've seen), only in Venice do they make a spritz with an olive at the end of a stick as a mixer.




For lunch I had rabbit, a local specialty of Valetta.  The guide told us the locals eat rabbit with their hands, and I did so (after all, what would you think of a person eating KFC with a knife and folk?).  I can't remember the last time I had rabbit.  My thought -- it was tasty, but had a lot of little bones.




Edited by n2wdw
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Day At Sea - Dinner at Earth & Ocean


I've mixed things up.  Before Valetta, we had a sea day. 




That evening, we had dinner at Earth & Ocean, which is outside on the pool deck.


Beforehand, we had drinks at the Observation Bar.  This became our go to bar for pre-dinner drinks.  It was always crowded with a lot of energy.  One time we went to the Club, the bar by the casino, but it was dead.  So then we went to the Observation bar.


I acquired a taste for Seabourn's Vesper.  But I switched from a lemon twist to olives.  The olives made it much better.




Here's the menu from Earth & Ocean. 




We were incredibly impressed by this restaurant.  For us, this was the best dining experience during our cruise.


The presentation was excellent.  For example, here's the bread service:




But on top of that, they brought out this glass box full of smoke:




Inside, they have a smoked chicken salad for the bread - the bottom thing in this picture:




And this presentation of the short ribs:







Everything looked good.  We ended up ordering everything on the menu.  But just one of each, so we shared everything.


They were also pouring this delicious 2015 Bordeaux.  We planned to drink a Kosta Brown pinot that we brought onto the ship, but we liked the Bordeaux so much we just had that.  We told the waiter how much we liked it, and he delivered a full bottle to our room!  Again, the Seabourn service was excellent.





Our advice is, don't overlook Earth & Ocean.  This could be the best restaurant on the ship.


For dessert, we got caviar via room service:








Edited by n2wdw
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This was our last day on the cruise.  We had to depart before sail away (by 5pm), so we decided to just stay on the ship and enjoy the amenities.


We decided to go to the Colonnade and try ordering from the menu again.  I ordered the lamp chops and poached eggs, and my wife ordered the eggs benedict.  This time, the service was fast and the food was excellent.








We did bring our own sodas from our cabin to breakfast, so we didn't have to wait for them.  Since our stewardess was great at filling our refrig with Coke Zero, so this was an easy way to ensure we had our beverage of choice at breakfast.




Since this was our last day on the ship, I walked around and did a final tour of the ship.  I discovered the top deck with this golf stuff.  We're not golfers, but I heard from others who enjoyed using these facilities.






I took a few pictures of the Grill.  Next time on Seabourn, I'm definitely getting the rib eye.








At 5pm, we departed the ship for the airport.  As it happened, we ran into our new friends Kevin and Lisa as we left.  This is the last picture that I took.  Ah, sad, but that's life.





Because of the way the flights lined up, we had to flight to Zurich and spend the night for our flight the next day back to the USA.  I took this picture of the flight map as it showed us flying from Syracuse.







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Final Thoughts and Comparing Seabourn and Crystal


So at the end of the day, we left the ship about 4 1/2 days early, and didn't get to see Golfo, Calvi, Marseille and Monte Carlo. 




We accomplished one of our main goals, to see if we could add Seabourn as a go to cruise line.  The answer is absolutely YES.  The 2 cruise lines (Crystal and Seabourn) are definitely peers, and I think whether a person prefers one over the other is just personal preference.


Here are our personal comparisons of Seabourn to Crystal:


Overall ship amenities:  We liked the Odyssey, but I think this one goes to Crystal.  Just because Crystal's ships are bigger, so they have more.  More bars, a big dedicated movie theater, more stores, more restaurants, the big spiral staircase.  For shorter cruises (like this one), I don't think this factor is very important.  The Odyssey has more than enough.  But for longer cruises -- like over a month, or a world cruise -- I think I'd want the bigger Crystal ships.


Food:  I'll break this one into a number of subcategories.


  • Buffets:  I'd say Seabourn and Crystal are tied here.  Buffets, by their nature, can only be so good.  The breakfasts and lunches of both lines are good.  Not everything is good, but there's enough tasty selections to be happy (at least for us).
  • Pool eateries:  Here I'm referring to the places to get food around the pool.  Crystal wins here, with more choices.  Seabourn's made-to-order cheeseburgers are pretty awesome though. (No one beats Disney's chicken tenders though.)
  • Main Dining Room:  I think this is a tie.  Both are good.  If pushed, I'd rank Crystal a little higher -- partly because they might have more menu selections (at least it seemed that way to me) -- but practically I think they are tied for high quality and high service.
  • Specialty Restaurants:  Crystal wins here since they have Prego and the sushi place (I can't remember what they call it now).  We liked the TK Grill though.  Again, I think if it's a shorter cruise, just having the TK Grill is good enough, especially if you like America steakhouse fare.  For longer cruises, I'd rather be on Crystal as far as this category goes.
  • Other restaurants:  Probably Crystal wins here, because it has more choices.  But we really liked Earth and Ocean on the Odyssey.
  • Room Service:  Room service was mixed for us on Seabourn.  So I give this one to Crystal.
  • Other:  Seabourn's caviar service is a really big factor for us.  You can order caviar any time you want, and it's usually served in under 15 minutes.  Seabourn wins hands down here.
  • Overall food ranking:  Tied (since we like caviar so much). 

Entertainment.  Crystal has more options since they have bigger ships. But I think Seabourn's performers were better than those on our last Crystal cruise last September.  Also, Seabourn's sail away caviar party with the opera singers was more creative and better than anything we have ever experienced on Crystal.  So I'd say this is a tie, with a nudge towards Seabourn.


Service.  It's hard to beat perfection, and that's how I'd rank Seabourn on our cruise.  But we've been on many more Crystal cruises, and have always been happy with their service.  So I'd say this is a tie.


Cabin.  Seabourn wins this one with the larger cabins, and the bathrooms are better than Crystal's.  Unless you need an accessible bathroom, do not allow them to put you in an accessible cabin because you will be disappointed with the bathroom.


Wines:  I'd say this is a tie.  I think the secret for both cruise lines is to find out what complimentary wines are available that are not on the menu.  If you just look at the wine list on the Seabourn website, you will get the impression that Seabourn's wines suck, but in reality they pour many more wines on the ship.


Spirits.  My impression is Crystal had more selections of complimentary spirits.  Also, they offered pages of Manhattans, martinis, beers, etc.  So Crystal wins here.  But, this is not a big factor for us.  Seabourn has more than enough selections to keep you well toasted.  I mean, this is not like an all inclusive in Cancun with bottles of bright blue tequila. And do you really know what labels are in that Mudslide anyway?


Would we pick Crystal or Seabourn?  So in summary, I think we'd go on either cruise line, and our decision will be based on itinerary and cost for the time we wish to cruise.  But that's not the fun question.  The fun question is, all else being equal, which would we pick?


Personally, I'd probably go with Crystal.  The ships are bigger so there's more to do.  Something I missed on the Odyssey was a deck that you could walk all the way around the ship.


We like Prego more than the Grill (since we prefer Italian over steak), and Crystal has the sushi place too. 


Seabourn has bigger cabins but that's not a major factor for us. 


Also while the caviar on Seabourn is important for us, I bet if you told the Crystal waiter on the first day of the cruise that you would like caviar as an appetizer each night of the cruise, they'd probably make it happen. 


And even though I discounted it above, I like the creativity of Crystal's menus of Manhattans and Martinis.  It just makes things fun. 


But, as I said, I think both Crystal and Seabourn are very high quality, and it's probably just personal preference if you like one over the other.


Edited by n2wdw
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n2wdw, Thank you for your comparison.  Very well and thoughtfully done.  i have a question.  You didn't mention that there are many more passengers on Crystal than on Seabourn.  Did this factor affect your comparison?  Or does the experience feel similar to you even though Crystal has many more passengers.  


We are getting ready to embark on our third SB cruise tomorrow.  This will be our first time on the one of the smaller SB ships--and it is a longer cruise--23 days.  We have loved our SB cruises, but have to admit that we are tempted to try Crystal.  

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SLSD - We have been on many Crystal cruises, and I can't remember even once that it felt crowded.  And the same was true of the Seabourn cruise we were just on.  So I guess I'd say the size of the ships fit the number of passengers on both.


I forgot to mention something, and it might be relevant to the ship sizes.  For a couple day/nights, the sea was very rough, and we really felt the waves on the Odyssey.  I can't remember feeling that on the Crystal ships.  So I wonder if the smaller ships are more prone to that.  I'd be interested in hearing from others on this.


Something positive about the smaller SB ships -- it seemed like wherever we went, the crew knew our names.  We never felt that way on Crystal.


Enjoy your SB cruise!  I would definitely recommend Crystal in the future, I think you'd enjoy it, if you like SB.

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