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While we waited to board, the woman next to me said, “It will never work. 450 people is too big — it just won’t be the same.”
Heads nodded all around. This was one of Seabourn Odyssey’s first cruises, with a group of fanatically loyal repeat cruisers. Seabourn Cruise Line had established its reputation on 208-passenger ships with unique service and style — caviar in the surf was just one of its signature experiences — and skepticism ran high.
By dinner the same day, the woman and her husband were converts, already planning their next cruise on Odyssey along with two other former head nodders.
With its two sisterships, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest, the Odyssey class has brought in such a successful new era for the line that, in 2013, Seabourn sold its three original smaller ships to Windstar Cruises. And this December, the company will introduce the next generation of this class with the 604-passenger Seabourn Encore, which will be about 26 percent larger with an additional deck. Encore will be followed in 2018 by Seabourn Ovation.
Signature features will be expanded, such as the central Seabourn Square, which will have a round design with a bigger cafe area. But this is by no means a larger cookie-cutter ship. Not only will the familiar elements be transformed, but there will be new features — impressive contributions from designer Adam D. Tihany, integrative medicine superstar Dr. Andrew Weil and Michelin-star chef Thomas Keller, who will offer a new incarnation of the chophouse concept with The Grill.
The interior design will be a departure for Seabourn. The line commissioned Adam D. Tihany, whose work includes The Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., and Holland America Line’s Koningsdam. His focus on Encore was to surprise and delight guests with subtle elements they can discover as they sail.
The new Retreat on Encore will be a peaceful space with a flower-shaped canopy to shelter guests from sun and wind. Sun loungers will be grouped around a central whirlpool, and there will be a bar and tables where drinks and spa menu dishes are available. A spa cabana will offer treatments, and guests will find premium sun lotions, plush towels and personalized bathrobes, with a dedicated Retreat Concierge available for other requests. The quiet haven will feature 15 private cabanas with large HD-television screens and individually stocked refrigerators. Rates will start at $350 per couple, per day.
Suite sizes will range from 300 square feet for the standard veranda suite to more than 1,300 square feet for the Wintergarden Suite, with balconies varying from 74 to 200 square feet. Suites will have walk-in closets and marble bathrooms with a separate tub and shower. In Penthouse suites, a glass wall can be activated to separate the bedroom from the living area, and the Owner’s Suite and Signature Suite will have a whirlpool tub and a pantry with a wet bar, while the Wintergarden suite will have a glass-enclosed solarium with its own tub and daybed.
Encore could easily be sold as a spa at sea. The line has partnered with Weil for its new wellness program. A certified yoga and meditation practitioner will act as a Wellness Guide, with the mission to educate guests through complimentary classes and gatherings. For example, daily yoga classes will focus on themes such as healing back and joint pain and enhancing creativity, mental focus and happiness.
Weil will sail on Encore’s inaugural cruise and on a different Seabourn vessel each year, offering an hourlong lecture and group discussions. The program will be rolled out throughout the existing fleet next year and continue on Ovation.
Travelers can book Encore in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and it will move into the Mediterranean in the spring.