April 25 - May 3, 2009
Small ship cruising - It is not usually one’s first shipboard experience, as most of us have our first experience on one of the very large “it’s Tuesday, must be St Thomas” ships, but once you try it, you will certainly understand the appeal. I recently had the pleasure of cruising on the Seabourn, Legend. The itinerary is called the Yachtsman’s Riviera. She sailed from Barcelona to Monte Carlo. I thought that with the recession in full swing, the ship would probably not be full. Boy, was I wrong. I found out onboard that Seabourn had actually had to buy passengers off of the ship because it was oversold.
What a fantastic experience. From the moment we stepped onboard, the open bar was truly wide open. From the welcome glass of bubbly – to the bottle of champagne in the suite – to the well stocked complementary ensuite bar - the alcohol was flowing! It was comforting to know that because Seabourn is all-inclusive, my onboard tab would not exceed the price of the cruise this time!! I think many people eat enough caviar alone to more than pay for the trip!
Most of the ports were very small and not accessible by the larger cruise ships, so we had much more of an intimate feel to our journey, being early in the season, and seemingly, the only tourists in town.
The Legend holds 208 guests and has almost a one to one ratio of staff to guests. This helps to make her crew amazingly personable. Very quickly, you are known on a personal level by most of the crew, and your every wish is almost anticipated and certainly accommodated. I don’t think I have ever had a more attentive or amazing experience with staff.
Our cabin stewardess, Elsje, was absolutely lovely. She was always pleasant and attentive and a joy to talk to. She was interested in anything she could do to make our stay better. The dining room staff knew us by name after the first evening, which certainly helps contribute to the family feel of the ship.
I was also extremely impressed at how hard everyone works to make the guests stay as memorable as possible. Cruise staff members have very little time off as it is and work extremely long hours. The entertainment staff on the Legend spent several days working out new choreography and songs to accommodate a sick colleague. I was extremely impressed with their work ethic as well as talent.
I think the staff and small ship were fantastic, but I must say the best thing about Seabourn is probably the clientel. Many of these folks have cruised with Seabourn for hundreds of days total. I know there is even a woman that spends eight months out of the year onboard. The guests all seem to be very interesting and friendly people. They seem to make friends for life and continue to sail together.
We met an especially cute older gentleman from England that had an interesting idea of using copper to help animals in the same way it can help humans. While this theory may not be scientifically tested, after talking to him I was anxious to try it. His wife told me about their older dog that had hip problems and limped more and more as it aged. He put a small piece of copper in the dog’s collar and within a week, it stopped limping and never had problems with its hips again. Subsequently, he put copper into all of his dogs collars beginning when they were just puppies, and none of them ever had any joint problems. He was later on several TV shows in Britain presenting this theory and had his “fifteen minutes” of fame that he giggles about still. I, as the very proud mother of Molly, a small chihuahua with definite future knee dysplasia possibilities according to Dr Rossiter, was very interested. A couple of weeks later an envelope arrived from England with a small piece of thin copper enclosed and an explanation of how to insert and secure it. Molly, is now sporting copper in her collar, and let’s hope it keeps her knees nimble forever!!!
At Port Vendres we took a trip to Ceret to see the Modern Museum of Art. This town was home to many of the modern artists of the 20th century such as Picasso, Gris and Braque, and the museum is quickly rising as one of the best in the area. I will say I enjoyed much of the art, such as most of the impressionist works as well as some ceramics made by Picasso, but some of it was a bit “out there” for me. If this is your thing, fantastic, but I have a hard time seeing the “art” in shredded plywood painted black, or a net hanging from the ceiling. I also enjoyed meandering through this lovely little village.
The whole coastal area is so beautiful. They offered many shore excursions into wineries or little towns throughout Provence for the day. There is so much history and culture here, one could truly spend weeks just exploring with your senses as you travel slowly through the area. There is simply too much to see, smell, taste, hear and touch.
Marsailles was another fantastic place to simply get lost in the crowds. With Notre Dame standing guard at the top of the hill, this port city is rich in history, not to mention the fantastic people watching!
On the last evening we had a barbecue dinner on deck overlooking St. Tropez. I truly had to stop and just take it in. This was hands down one of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed. This amazing port, full of all the spectacular yachts and beautiful people, was our backdrop for dinner as the sun set. It was truly magical.
With all of the travel bargains out there right now, this ultra luxury experience isn’t out of reach anymore for most people, but be warned, once you experience what Seabourn offers and the way you are pampered, it will be extremely hard if not impossible to go back to anything less!!!