Seabourn Ovation Upholds Tradition Of Intuitive, Exceptional Service
by Vanessa Lee
In suite champagne welcome
The new bar area at Thomas Keller
A day on the Shetland Isles with ponies
My suite doorbell rang. It was the assistant housekeeper who came to personally greet me and ensure all was well in my lavishly appointed suite.
And it was.
She brought a glass of champagne, some hors d’oeuvres and a tray of soaps so that I might choose one I preferred – of the four choices. And she offered to show me my suite and ensure I was happy with everything.
And I was.
The suites are extremely comfortable, well designed and have lots of clever storage. I like the fact that I have a bar in my room with a fridge stocked with my preference of wine, alcohol, mix and water and I can order whatever I want – all included. The walk-in closet has ample hangers and lots of drawer space too and all-in-all, I must say it is one of my preferred spaces at sea. Never mind the choice of six comfy pillows on the bed!
This is a typical welcome aboard on Seabourn and in this instance I was sailing on the newest ship in the fleet, the Seabourn Ovation, cruising from Edinburgh to Copenhagen.
I had already been warmly greeted by the Hotel Manager, the Guest Services Manager, the Cruise Director and several of the charming and very efficient young people in Seabourn Square (which is one of the best spots on the ship) who checked me in and organized my Wi-Fi.
I enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate because “aye, lassie, it was a wee bit chilly out there today,” a few tasty sandwiches and some cake. Being quite sated after a long and stressful day of travel I felt I had “come home” and now it was time to draw a warm bath in my large and well-appointed bathroom, followed by ordering room service, sipping more champagne and possibly a glass of red wine, both of which greeted me in my suite on arrival.
And this is the way all of the other guests (the ship holds 600 of we happy folk) were greeted as they boarded last week in Copenhagen. Typically I cannot be on for the whole voyage but was able to spend 8 nights on this quite heavenly ship which launched in May and is a sister to the ‘absolutely fabulous dahling’ Seabourn Encore on which I sailed last spring.
Here’s another instance of that renowned attitude and service ethic. At the end of a long day on one of the lovely Shetland Isles, exploring and driving and finding as many ponies to hug as possible, and after an early dinner, I arrived back at my suite to settle in for the night.
I found my stewardess had drawn me a hot bubble bath, arranged for champagne (yes, more!) in an ice bucket and also set out an array of chocolate covered strawberries. She knew the schedule was rather hectic and I simply needed some pampering.
This is what separates a great cruise line from an average one – an exceptional focus on detail and the intuitive service level that is a Seabourn hallmark. The staff always put the music channel on in the suite when they provide the turn-down service and as an example of the way they do things – on the day we lost Aretha Franklin, the music in the suite was playing her songs. A small point perhaps, but yet another indicator of greatness.
And everything happens without pretension and seemingly as a matter of course – the service is endearing and it is kind. Seabourn staff are trained to understand each guest’s needs, preferences and desires -- and they invariably get it right. It’s something everyone on board appreciates and no doubt one of the reasons for such loyal guests – about 50% are repeaters.
I love this class of ship and both the Encore and the Ovation are absolutely stunning. They are virtually twins with the exception of a few minor tweaks on the second ship as is customary.
The bar in The Club has been redesigned and is much more open and beckoning and works better overall with the design of the room. Another notable change from the Encore to the Ovation is in the bar area of the Thomas Keller restaurant. This is one of my favourite spots on board and they have opened it up by moving the glass-enclosed wine case further into the restaurant and expanding the seating area. Also, in the Retreat the cabanas are now outward-facing – a logical and thoughtful move.
There is also a wonderful new dining concept which debuted on the Ovation. Dubbed Earth and Ocean, it is available on deck, weather-permitting, for a casual dinner option and is a big winner. More on that in my next column where I will delve into the dining and cuisine on Seabourn – another of its hallmarks.
Seabourn Ovationis a great addition to the fabulous Seabourn fleet and I am excited to see what will be unveiled when the line’s two just-ordered Expedition ships arrive on the scene in a few years.
Vanessa Lee Columnist
An internationally-known luxury cruise expert, Vanessa is publisher and editor of Cruise and Travel Lifestyles magazine. She appears with Nina on the bi-monthly video Cruise Factor.