Last time it was the Odyssey. This time the Encore, the new gal on the waves with an extra deck. Which means a few more passengers, but they thoughtfully put in more delightful places to go and more delightful crew to help you there.
When our Seabourn folder arrived, positively throbbing with possibilities,we started planning so we would be ready to grab every minute when we boarded in a few weeks’ time.
There were a few substantial steps in between. Flying halfway round the world. Spending some time with old friends in a pastoral paradise we had not seen before. Catching up with old haunts and reaching out to new ones in our favourite Eternal City.
But the day arrived. A rollicking cab ride from Trastevere to Civitavecchia and there she was.
Encore means one more time. But better
There are obvious themes in the Seabourn fleet. The striking features and stylish comforts of Odyssey are carried through to Encore, perhaps a touch more elegant and rounded.
The verandah suites are so generous. Bathroom with separate shower, bath and double basin. Walk in robe. Huge bed. And TV. Bar, lounge, desk and dining table. Glass fronted balcony with comfortable chairs and table.
Where to settle to enjoy your first champagne and caviar?
This time it was mostly about the food.
Seabourn service is legendary and their food offerings are truly world class.
They have their main restaurant down below where all may dine in splendid white-clothed comfort. Then there is the Colonnade, the preferred breakfast and relaxed dinner option, high above the waves, partly open to catch the vista and the breeze of the ocean.
Poolside cafe for daytime grazing? That would be the Patio. The Sushi Restaurant for super Japanese. And The Grill by Thomas Keller overseen by the legendary Californian chef of the famed French Laundry.
Here is magnificent dining, with many American classics, some side-table prepared in the traditional way, properly formal and a must-book extra experience for guests. Glass-fronted wine shelves as you enter are a breathtaking window shop for lovers of the world’s finest bottles.
An exclusive tour of the Galley
TML was invited to pop down to the galley.
We had Executive Chef de Cuisine David Rodriguez all to ourselves.
It was late in the afternoon, a comparatively quiet time for this normally buzzing hub. Everywhere is gleaming stainless steel in every possible purposeful shape. The only signs of activity were in the dessert section where the evening’s sweets were being prepared for the restaurants and for those who choose to dine in their suites.
David is originally from Toulon, trained in France and now lives in Nice. He has been at the chief’s desk in Seabourn for 3 years.
He works an 11 hour day, scheduling all menus 3 days ahead. He has 63 chefs across his five restaurants. He must satisfy the hunger of 600 guests and 450 crew with not just sustenance but elegance.
Of the guests on board, around 100 regularly want breakfast in-suite. That requires its own small kitchen with two chefs.
Not your average kitchen
Here we go. The appliances crowding around us are amazing. Bread ovens going 21 hours a day. Glass washers with multiple swirling vertical mops (imagine the number used each day for over 1000 people). The cutlery polisher with the burnishing sand changed every couple of days.
All the chefs are rostered all around the galley so in time everyone knows each station. During our visit there is hardly any food to be seen. It’s all in chillers and larders, awaiting its evening performance due to start soon. Around 7 to 8pm, David will be a dazzling conductor of a sixty piece orchestra.
We noticed one long stainless steel bench is covered in immaculate white paper.
David explains. When service starts, each dish after it is plated is placed on the paper. Any dribbles, spills or smears that mark the paper ensures that dish is remade. Not good enough for our man.
Quite a bit of juggling, but necessary. More impressive when David tells us plates leaving the kitchen for distant tables are too hot to touch with bare hands.
Strict adherence to highest standards is key. The bakery items are discarded if unserved after four hours.
We tried and tried to try everything
Over the course of our much too short cruise we gave it a really good go to sample everything, including The Grill and the special event nights in the Colonnade. (Read all about our Spanish experience in our next piece).
From crunchy crusted sourdough at breakfast, to a Napa burger at The Patio, to the bravura performance of The Grill we tested the chefs mercilessly at every eating opportunity as long as we were on board. Flying colours is the phrase that comes to mind.
Thanks David, thanks all. Hi again.
You can almost taste it all if you go to Seabourn
And stir your cursor around the food pages. Bon appetit!