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It’s not very often, if ever, that food can be described as transcendent, but one renowned chef manages it time and time again on Seabourn Cruise Line. At The Grill by Thomas Keller, it only takes a single spoonful of New England clam chowder to be transported somewhere else. Its balanced savory notes of potato, bacon, celery, cracker and titular mollusk will sing in the lucky diner’s mouth.
The culinary artist’s cuisine continues to astound palates on the newest Seabourn Ovation thanks to his exclusive partnership with the luxury line. And that’s just the opening number for this magnificent ship.
Fans of Seabourn Encore will recognize it as a mostly identical sister with some subtle changes. There’s a newly opened-up layout for the aforementioned restaurant, with its entry wine tower removed in favor of display refrigerators lined off to the side. The signature dining venue is available to all guests onboard without any surcharge — just one of the benefits of the ship’s all-inclusive nature — but reservations are required and limited to one per cruise. Also, the Club Bar adjacent to the Casino has been restyled without a background of backlit bottles.
Plus, The Retreat now features six cabanas with rear shutters that open to sea views. This venue represents the only one that is exclusive and priced accordingly — but it’s well worth it. A total of 15 cabanas are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s advisable to arrive in the morning for a cabana with outer vistas. Otherwise, the cocoons face inward toward a large central whirlpool that soothes aching muscles under a partially shaded canopy. Each private space features a couch, a stocked refrigerator, a television (with wireless headsets so as not to disturb others), an iPad, a dining table and a pair of loungers. Occupants are further pampered with included food and drinks that are not found on any other onboard menu, as well as the option for alfresco massages.
Elsewhere, Seabourn’s attentive service extends from Spa & Wellness to the suites. The Dr. Andrew Weil-branded facility highlights another collaboration between Weil and spa company Steiner that applies their combined knowhow to bodily bliss. My aroma-stone therapy massage was a delightful treatment with a choice of scents and a dark chocolate to finish. Weil’s books are also available to peruse from Seabourn Square’s library while sipping on a fine coffee made from freshly roasted Guatemalan Arabica beans.
Accommodations are just as nice with separate bedrooms and living rooms in Veranda Suites up to the most palatial Grand Wintergarden Suites. Several selections of toiletries from Seabourn-exclusive Molton Brown to L’Occitane are heavenly, as is the plush bedding, but the line needs to reconsider the nearly unusable trash receptacles and their constricted caps.
Food heavily highlights Keller, as it should, with additional Keller-focused nights in The Colonnade buffet, inspired courses in The Restaurant, a Napa Burger at The Patio and even his cobranded chocolates at turndown. Of course, cuisine beyond Keller’s is still wonderful. To start, try the ship’s legendary breadsticks and homemade gelato.
The entertainment is also a standout despite the ship’s and Grand Salon’s intimate sizes. From Belinda King Creative Productions are four new shows just for the Ovation in addition to “An Evening with Tim Rice,” which is common across the fleet. On our sailing, “Hollywood Ovation” and “21st Century Songbook” were full of great sequences including the first’s show-stopping “Another Day of Sun” from the musical “La La Land.”
The Encore must also be applauded for continuing to feature an Observation Bar. The classic scenic venue is a dying breed that is finally making a comeback, so it’s always welcome to see it crowning a cruise ship. Kudos Seabourn for all; please feel free to take a standing Ovation.