The Elegance of Another Era: Cruising with Seabourn

16 Sep 2016

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We’re wallowing in a Jacuzzi tucked away in Seabourn Odyssey’s bow, weary after a forest hike through the heat and humidity of Komodo Island. Beyond our decadent hangout, Balinese fishing boats slowly putter past on their way home from a day’s fishing, and the sun slowly slips towards the glassy waterline below through a swathe of vibrant red and yellow streaked clouds.

From the deck above, one of the ship’s roving bar staff spots us, and mimes the question: do you want champagne? The thumbs up is given, and minutes later he returns with two freshly chilled glasses. It’s nothing unusual, just a routine part of the silver service aboard one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships, and a decadent way to end a day of cruising.

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Staff hands woman towel on deck of cruise ship Seabourn Odyssey
Staff are always on hand to provide the luxury minutiae. Photo: Seabourn

Far from ordinary

Seabourn Odyssey was our home for a leisurely two week voyage through the Australian tropics from Sydney to Bali, and as cruise ships go she’s far from ordinary. The first of three highly acclaimed Odyssey Class ships launching in 2009, she is larger than the company’s original fleet, carrying 450 guests in 225 glamorous suites. Seabourn also raised the bar with Odyssey’s design; she has one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea, and launched with new features including the largest spa on a luxury ship, private verandas on 90 per cent of her suites, and a choice of four fine dining venues.

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Seabourn Odyssey cruise ship sails past Sydney opera house
The Odyssey boasts one of the highest space-to-guest ratios at see. Photo: Seabourn

High seas experience with a difference

In a world where expectations are rarely met, much less exceeded, Seabourn’s loyal clientele have always aimed high, having been pampered since the company debuted in 1998 with Seabourn Pride. The elegant 208-guest, all-suite ship yacht was instantly dubbed by a cruise expert as in “a class by itself”, and ever since the company has worked hard to retain its reputation as a high seas experience with a difference. It’s luxurious yet relaxed, casual yet elegant, sumptuous yet understated; while also egalitarian and all-inclusive without the formality of the typical tux-and-tiara set who tend to flock to smaller ships.

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Luxury cruise ship deck with pool and deck chairs
Enjoy a design that embraces the elegance of another era. Photo: Seabourn

The elegance of another era

Design wise, Seabourn Odyssey also veered away from traditional cruise ship style. She’s the elegance of another era fused with a distinctly modern edge, described by Pamela Conover, the company’s president and CEO at the time of her launch, as “a yacht on steroids”. The ship has a subtle décor highlighted by marble finishings, soft lighting, and understated colours, all of which fuse to create a welcoming and sophisticated atmosphere.

The main dining room, for example, is called The Restaurant, and has the atmosphere of a Hollywood supper club complete with billowing white curtains. And there’s Seabourn Square, a social hub where service desks are concealed for aesthetics, and where guests gather around the café’s Art Deco mahogany bar, sipping cappuccinos and chatting about the next port of call. The ship’s accommodations are also more spacious than ever, with even the lowest category of stateroom possessing a separate living area and bedroom, a granite bathroom with a separate tub, shower and dual sinks, and an interactive entertainment system loaded with movies, TV programs and music.

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Group dines on board a luxury cruise ship
An intimate cruising experience invites you to get to know your fellow guests. Photo: Seabourn

The epitome of luxury

And at a time when the word “luxury” has been practically vilified, Odyssey is a ship which embraces it. There are Hermès soaps in your bathroom, personalised stationery on your writing desk, champagne on demand, caviar parties, and on deck during a a hot day cruising the tropics, mini massages, chilled towels, and freshly cut fruits at your disposal.


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On a ship this intimate you get to know your fellow guests quickly. On our cruise they were an international bunch of well-heeled fun seekers, from the retired Concorde captain and his wife hailing from the UK, to the North American vineyard owners, the South American hotelier, and the Australian banker.

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Sunrise over beautiful tropical island in Indonesia
Komodo Island and National Park, one of many unforgettable stops. Photo: Getty Images

Unforgettable ports of call

For many seasoned cruisers, however, the ship is only part of the cruise experience. Seabourn prides itself on whisking guests away to far flung ports of call, but even though we were following a well-trodden path along the Australian east coast through tropical North Queensland and Indonesia, there were still surprises. The first week offered the opportunity of experiencing the best of Australia’s wildlife and diverse landscapes, with a shore trip to the Australia Zoo in Brisbane, private snorkelling off Hamilton Island, exploring the reef and rainforest from Cairns, and going outback in Darwin.

A major highlight for everyone, however, was the Indonesian island of Komodo, famous for huge dragons that inhabit the forest. We willingly left our floating palace for a long hike of the park with local guides Marsel and Tamlan, and no sooner had we set out than a large Komodo appeared on the pathway. The three-metre 25-year old reptile, called Warren, strutted past, growling gently as a warning and was one of no less than a dozen animals we spotted that day.

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Couple is served drinks by a waiter on board luxury Seabourn cruise vessel
Exceptional service is a keystone of the Seabourn culture. Photo: Seabourn

Silver service

Another reason why people choose a Seabourn cruise is undoubtedly the service. The majority of guests on our cruise had travelled many times before, one couple even admitting to losing count, and they all agreed that the staff not only know your names from embarkation, but by cocktail time they also know your favourite tipple. As the retired Concorde captain told me: “Great service is no accident, it is part of the Seabourn culture and that’s why we cruise with them”.

Joanna Hall

Joanna is the publisher and co-editor of the luxury travel website, UltimateTravelMagazine.com. She is a cruise and luxury travel specialist, and also widely published as a health and lifestyle writer. Joanna co-wrote the 2009 book Cruising (New Holland) with her husband Ben.