Does Seabourn Still Rank Among the World's "Top Four" Cruise Lines?

01 Jan

My wife and I have sailed on all the luxury cruise lines multiple times. The lines that inhabit this space are Seabourn, Silverseas, Regent and Crystal. I would rate Oceania, Windstar, and Azamara as being -- despite their lower prices -- not too far behind. Based on our 40+ cruises on these ships, I'm crazy about all these lines, but Seabourn is ranked by many as being possibly the best.

We are booked on Seabourn's newest ship, the Seabourn Ovation, for the January 19 cruise that starts in Singapore and proceeds to ports in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. This 14-day cruise is less expensive than it would be on most of its rivals, and first signs are promising that Seabourn will maintain its position as the one of the top dogs in the true-luxury cruise market.

The Ovation is, along with the Encore, Seabourn's newest ship. Although it is bit larger in size than the Odyssey or the Sojourn, it carries fewer passengers, has no staterooms withouts verandas,  and offers more dining choices. I'm especially interested in their Thomas Keller labelled-restaurant since I never got a chance to eat at his French Laundry. Seabourn clearly intends the Ovation and the Encore to maintain its status as one of the finest English-speaking ships in the world. It will have to contend with recently launched, or soon-to-be launched, ships from Silverseas, Regent, Crystal, Ritz Carleton  and Scenic that will lay claim for this honor. Among the features that some of these rivals enjoy are ice-breaker hulls able to go anywhere; mini-submarines and helicopters that are carried onboard; and crew-to-guest ratios that exceed one crew member for every guest.

A small-but-telling example the way that Seabourn trying to stay ahead, is that  unlike most other cruise lines under the thumb of the bean counters, Seabourn does not require guests to print out online their own cruise documents and luggage tags. It provides a custom-printed booklet for each stateroom that contains the guests' cruise docs, airline reservations, excursions and spa appointments. The booklet comes in a luxury case that fits most iPads perfectly. I grabbed it for my iPad Pro before my wife could claim it for her iPad. 

Evan more telling, rather than force you Scotch-tape luggage tags you print yourself onto the handles of your bags, Seabourn sends you beautiful metal luggage tags inside of which you can place your business card. This used to be a common practice, but it's now relatively rare.  Also rare is that conversations with their telephone service center has been pleasant, unhurried, informative and courteous; something which newer rivals claiming to offer a luxury-experience haven't mastered. Also because they own a caviar farm in Uruguay, caviar is available for free 24-hours a day in your stateroom.

Detractors will point out that Seabourn is owned by Carnival Cruises whose sister lines are Cunard, Princess, Holland America and MSC. Defenders will note that all of the other true-luxury lines have been swallowed up by publicly-traded corporations such as such as Carnival, Norwegian or Royal Caribbean; or are owned by by private investment groups that have more resources to build new ships and provide them with costly toys.

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