Seabourn's Quest For Flawless Execution
Even under the most trying circumstances

by Vanessa Lee

Even under the most trying circumstances and in stormy weather…

Empty champagne bottles

Observation Bar

Preparing for Vodka tasting with caviar

I recently enjoyed a brief fall colours sojourn on the 450-guest Seabourn Quest, one of the three stunning Odyssey Class vessels that arrived in succession in 2009/10/11. In my last Splash article, I sent a few notes from the ship. 

We were sailing part of a Canada & New England cruise which unfortunately was caught in the tail end of yet another tropical storm causing massive itinerary issues.

To make a long story short, the ship had to miss a few ports (Bar Harbor actually closed its port to all shipping) as the seas were rough and the winds strong. As the captain so charmingly put it, "the seas are confused today."

This is where a well-run ship and a great (nay, superb) hotel manager -- the admirable Peppi --and the guest services team along with the ship’s crew, stepped up to constantly make things right. 

On one day, there were three different schedule changes. Staying, going, maybe staying. The next port of call changed twice. The line went to great lengths to keep guests happy, even flying in new entertainers to refresh the onboard program and keep the guests occupied in a forced port day in a Canadian city we should have left the day before.

This ship and her staff were severely tested and they passed with flying colours. We were informed, staff were engaged and everyone kept a smile on. It was no easy task.

They plyed us all with lots of delish caviar and Champagne -- just look at that pic of only about one-fifth of the bottles we went through in less than an hour!

Flawless execution is a Seabourn specialty. This was exemplified again in the service, food prep and terrific attention to detail at The Grill by Thomas Keller.

Seabourn’s new culinary partner, American Chef Keller is world-renowned and his team is beyond impressive. The Grill now occupies the space where Restaurant 2 used to be on Deck 8. It’s a reservations-only venue but there’s often a line-up at the door of guests living in hope that they can slide in later in the evening.

Every dish is placed just so. Every piece of cutlery is polished to within an inch of its life. The “TK” team takes enormous pride in its work. The menu is full of American classics, with artisanal ingredients and delightful, personalized table-side service. 

Chef Michael, who was on board for our sailing, is one of Thomas Keller’s Culinary Ambassadors. He made us a superb Caesar Salad in a garlic-rubbed wooden bowl, just like steak houses used to do in years gone by. An egg, mustard and anchovy paste, old parmesan grated on top -- it was one of the best Caesars I have ever enjoyed anywhere. 

Then there was Kelly, heralding from Canada and Seabourn’s corporate sommelier who entertained us at a wine-tasting with his knowledge and wit. For a cost of $75 US pp we tasted a Brut Champagne, two whites, two reds and then a mystery wine. Which remained a mystery to most of us including Kelly, who readily admits that with a blind tasting he gets about 40% right. The guests loved the hour-long homage to both old and new wines and learning more about regions and terroirs. It was a home run. 

And kudos to Tammy, a charming mixologist who showed us how to make some fab cocktails one evening in the Observation Bar high up on the ship. A sexy bar, a pianist tinkling the ivories, fun guest interaction – a lovely end to a great night.

And if you think this is mostly about food, wine, liquor and great service, you're right! When the weather isn’t cooperating, then it’s time to stay inside, hunker down and let a ship and her crew shine. 

Guests took to the ever-popular Seabourn Square for internet access, reading in comfy loungers and tasting coffees and treats (I had a glass of champers in there every day). They partook of wonderful spa treatments in Seabourn Spa and some of the recently introduced therapies by Dr. Andrew Weil. 

And they dined on great food, enjoyed a variety of libations and made the best of it. And Seabourn shone as it always does. It was an impressive demonstration of a well-oiled onboard machine and a cruise line at the top of its game.

Vanessa Lee

Vanessa Lee Columnist

An internationally-known luxury cruise expert, Vanessa is publisher and editor of Cruise and Travel Lifestyles magazine. She contributes a column every other Friday for OJ’s Splash News and appears with Nina on the bi-monthly video Cruise Factor.

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