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First Cruise? Start small…but at the top.

Every month seems to bring the announcement of another super cruise liner. Bigger in the eyes of many is better.

We certainly admire the design and construction of ships that can give their passengers waterfalls, forests, wave surfing, water slides and tennis courts. What next? Football fields, baseball parks?

But we have a soft spot for the small.

Just big enough to present a stable and luxurious platform for a manageable number of guests matched equally by pleasant and professional crew. All we ask is a stateroom of excellent appointments with a breeze-brushed verandah, a modest pool in attentively serviced decks, a spa, a gym, a couple of shops, nightclub, gaming room. Obviously a choice of cafes, restaurants, lounges and bars, intimately proportioned but world-beating in quality and service. A luxury world where my wallet stays in the safe. That’ll do. We’re easy to please.

Cruise This Magnificent Life Seabourn

Therefore we were most interested to hear the reactions of some colleagues who only recently took their first cruise. Badgered by friends who had collectively sailed almost every ship on every sea, they did their research and finally booked. They chose from the top shelf with a brief but scenic and romantic itinerary.

The Seabourn Odyssey from Athens to Istanbul. Over seven days they experienced very little open ocean adventure, their focus was on the ship. The sea was something that slipped silently by the keel at night. Every morning brought a new view to the balcony. As they had spent time in Greece previously, every island was not necessarily a must see. They skipped a couple this time around, toasting remembered white houses with champagne from their deck lounges.

An evening by the spa pool awaits.

It says something when a pool deck has more appeal than a Greek island.

One day featured a trip inland from the Turkish port of Kusadasi for an exploration of the fascinating ruins and excavations of ancient Ephesus. They wondered if St Paul had ever heard back from the Ephesians.

In the evening they returned ashore for musical performance in front of the amphitheatre. In the meantime the Odyssey team had set up white-clothed tables around a stage; food and wine were abundant as the Aegean Strings charmed the twilight with the classics.

Later, as they dismounted from the buses at the dock, they could see lights at the gangway and two rows of uniformed crew dancing and singing to some much more modern music.

How good was that! Who’s going to bed now? Not me. The bars were bopping long into the night.

Just like home,. Except the sea is bit closer.

They had a chat to Cruise Director David Greene and asked him how he ensured the kind of voyage they were enjoying; the kind of experiences commented on by fellow guests at every turn.

“Our ships are small enough for us to make everything personable. We can almost share with people one on one. We’ve found people appreciate when you approach them and suggest possibilities. Very soon they begin to open up to fellow guests and we see strangers chatting all the time. You rarely see that in a big hotel.”

He pointed to the return from Ephesus as an example. “We do that whenever the majority of the guests go ashore. They return tired and looking for comfort so we lift their spirits by sending out the ship’s family to say welcome home.”

Our friends summed it up their way.

“The boat was beautiful, the scenery was spectacular, but the service was … just extraordinary. We’d go again tomorrow.”

The Seabourn fleet, small in size and number … Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest have just 229 suites… is coming to a port near you in the next couple of years. Or you can fly to meet them on the sea of your choice.

Greek Cruise
Decisions. Decisions. Go Ashore or stay on deck.

The next years will also be bringing you two new ships, the Seabourn Encore in 2016 and the Ovation in 2018. Just one deck taller with a commensurate increase in crew numbers and public space.

Don’t spend you life wondering what a top level cruise can do for your soul.

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Ian MacTavish

Mr MacTavish is a celebrated writer and one of Australia's more respected Wine reviewers, appearing regularly in national magazines, in print and on line. So far, he has never been heard to say 'no' to a wee dram.


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