One of the world’s preeminent luxury cruise brands, Seabourn, prides itself on two things – service and consistency of service. Amid a significant period of expansion, the line has before it a number of changes in the pipeline which may challenge this code of consistency.
Over the next two years, two brand new ships will enter service. The first of which, Seabourn Encore, leaves its Italian shipyard in December bound for Singapore where an official christening ceremony will take place on 07 January 2017 under the watch of sister ship Seabourn Sojourn. The line has complete control of the Marina Bay Sands Cruise Terminal for the day. What is most exciting though is that once christened, Encore will turn south and head to Australia, a glowing endorsement of its third largest market. An identical sister ship – Seabourn Ovation – will follow around 18 months later.
During a recent visit to Australia, Seabourn’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing John Delaney outlined some of the exciting changes coming to its passenger experience, both onboard and onshore.
Service is ingrained in the Seabourn existential ethos. In the past, passengers booked in high-end suites and penthouses have requested minor refurbishments be made to heighten their comfort levels, which have been willingly accommodated. Another example saw one of Seabourn’s guests witness her wedding ring roll into the water while applying sunscreen during a recent stop in Mykonos. After calming her down and heading off on her shore tour, the line hired divers to scour areas near where the ring was lost for three hours. On her return, the lady was presented with her wedding band by the Captain himself.
“Our crew do things like that all the time, every day in simple ways,” Delaney said.
Seabourn Encore will remain consistent to this service culture, however will be slightly longer and wider than the existing fleet, built also with an extra deck. This will allow for suites to be a little larger and for a few extra amenities to be added, largely centred around food & wine.
A recent partnership with the Culinary Institute of America, which Delaney described as “the Harvard of cooking schools” is coming onboard to look at menu refinement, supply chains of ingredients and just generally to provide its expertise in shining up onboard dining. Perhaps the finest addition comes in the form of a collaboration with renowned American Michelin three-star chef Thomas Keller – the brains behind award-winning farm-to-table concepts in US restaurants Per Se (in New York City) and French Laundry (in Northern California).
Through the tie-up, dedicated Thomas Keller restaurants (at which a sitting will average US$400 per person) will be opened, beginning later this year on Seabourn Quest and gradually being expanded to the entire fleet. Perhaps best of all though, meals here will be complimentary and included in cruise fares. A separate sushi restaurant will also feature on Encore on its debut in January.
“When you think about the fact it is free and included on Seabourn it speaks back to that value proposition and how we attract that very affluent traveller who might not have thought about cruising before but they love food and they eat in the best restaurants in the world.”
Beverages have not been overlooked either. On Thomas Keller’s recommendation, his former Per Se mixologist Brian Van Flandern has been hired to create a new range of high-end cocktails and train staff to deliver a higher standard of service around a new collection of colourful alcoholic beverages. House champagne will also be upgraded to “a well known global brand” to be formally announced shortly, Delaney said.
For food connoisseurs, Seabourn is set to expand its ‘Shopping with the Chef’ program, which allows guests to visit markets with the ship’s head chef, learning more about food purchase protocols and joining in as a region’s finest produce is purchased for guests to eventually enjoy in their favourite dishes. This experience will expand to the wine cellar, allowing guests to spend their day ‘Shopping with the Sommerlier’, exploring destinations known for their wine production and helping the ship’s wine expert source the region’s best bottles & blends.
At the other end of the day, mornings will smell a lot better at a redesigned Seabourn Square casual eatery on Encore. The ship will feature a pastry oven, churning out batches of yummy pastries and finger sandwiches for guests to grab on their way off the ship for their day. The aroma of fresh coffee will fill the ship too, with beans to be roasted and ground on the ship.
Spa treatments will be boosted with a new partnership to be unveiled soon, while a tie-up with Molton Brown will see the development of a custom line of in-suite amenities which guests will begin seeing onboard ships from June.
Seabourn is stepping up its game in the entertainment sphere via a three-pronged attack. While it doesn’t have a dedicated name for it, a new concert series will see world-famous musicians and artists signed to perform for guests onboard. The ‘Seabourn Conversations’ program has proven to be popular and will be continued, with identities such as publisher Steve Forbes & Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak among those who have participated so far.
Delaney said guests were lapping up the newly launched ‘Ventures by Seabourn’ immersive shore excursion program, which fosters in-depth exploration of a region via zodiac boats, kayaks and other watercraft. The onboard expedition team of naturalists, botanists, wildlife and floral experts were being expanded to more than 20 people to allow for more guests to enjoy experiences such as landing in the Polar Regions.
“It feels like an intimate field trip,” Delaney said. “You’re out there with these people in the zodiacs doing the wildlife viewing, having the time onshore and it’s been incredibly popular. So we thought – we’ve got the zodiacs onboard, why don’t we do this in more parts of the world?”
This approach saw ‘Ventures by Seabourn’ expanded significantly last year, from Antarctica and the Arctic region into the Norwegian Fjords including Iceland and Greenland. Kayaking is now part of the Antarctic experience and every tour taking place on these itineraries has sold out. But as Delaney detailed, the Polar Regions are literally just the tip of the iceberg.
The program will roll out from next month on voyages in South America’s Amazon River and later this year in Northern Great Britain. Next year, Australia & New Zealand will see Ventures excursions added, along with Micronesia, Indonesia, and upon Seabourn’s return in the middle of 2017, the Inside Passage of Alaska. After that, 2018 will see the program roll out on voyages in the Mediterranean and on Asian sailings in Japan and China.
“One of the things that is most important to us is to make sure that we are delivering the destinations as much as we are delivering the onboard product,” Delaney said.
Changes are also being made to passenger suites themselves, headlined by brand new bedding being installed across the fleet. The ‘Seabourn Serenity’ ensemble will include new mattresses, sheets and linens and will be fitted first on Seabourn Quest from June and expanding across the rest of the fleet immediately afterward.
Seabourn is currently selling itineraries through to October 2017 and will soon release its schedules for as far ahead as April 2018.