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  1. Pleasure. I know it’s off topic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hapag Lloyd pedals back on ‘international’ marketing to non-Germanic speakers post-Covid. Our Greek Islands cruise in early September was cancelled, but surprisingly Europa 2 was repositioned to Hamburg in August and began a series of cruises around the Baltic, available only to (I believe) German, Swiss and Austrian passengers. It’s currently skirting the beautiful Swedish island of Gotland. It would be fascinating to know how those cruises are going - they are at reduced capacity. Here’s to news of Seabourn returning!
  2. Ah cruising...those were the days. Our only experiences have been European cruises on Seabourn, Crystal and Hapag Lloyd (the ultimate...if you are happy being the odd ones out!). We were going to try out Viking this year (and another Europa 2 cruise with Hapag Lloyd) but, hopefully like all of you, are just happy to be here and make ourselves content by toasting our cruise credit vouchers with a G&T. We hope to dust the cobwebs off them next year to make bookings as far into the future as possible. OK, so Seabourn -v- Crystal. Our experience with Crystal (on the Serenity) was that it ticked very many positive boxes in principle, but the full experience didn’t compare to Seabourn (Odyssey and Ovation), which for us had more of a personalised ‘family’ feeling and better hospitality in the true sense of the word. Crystal’s theatre productions were glitzier, it’s lecturers on a par, its port lectures better. We never went on a Crystal excursion as we normally like independence on shore so can’t comment on those. As an aside, Hapag Lloyd excursions are great and usually members of the hospitality team accompany you to make sure they are running smoothly! You’re able to get a butler in upscale cabins on Crystal (only the second time we have had one) and it does make a difference compared to Seabourn, but not a huge one. Though I think without the amazing personalised service of our Serenity butler, Crystal would have seemed a very different experience indeed. The captain and crew on the ship were invisible and the hospitality staff were patchy, but with some standout efforts. Seabourn seems to have got the training right - there is a high level of service and passenger engagement throughout and a very visible and friendly crew. It was nice having a promenade deck but the Serenity didn’t flow in the way the Seabourn ships do. The decor for most public areas on Serenity was tired and how we imagine Las Vegas hotels looked in the early 1990s. The Ovation is modern yet classic and luxurious in a far more civilised way. Last time we were on Odyssey it looked a bit tired by comparison with Ovation, but it had at least aged gracefully. The pool area seems much better thought out and utilised on Seabourn. We didn’t check out the standard Crystal cabin as we had a penthouse suite with them, but the standard Seabourn suite was great for us. Food standards on Seabourn are slightly better, though Crystal has more choice and the Nobu food is standout. But the decor!!! Frankly we love eating outside and always enjoy Thomas Keller nights at the Colonnade on Seabourn. Sometimes lack of choice is relaxing and you can always get a seat outside on balmy evenings: no-one else seems to appreciate them. Earth Wind and Fire (as we like to call it) by the pool is a nice change too. Crystal’s cigar bar is absolutely amazing if you like to partake like me, but probably alienating if you don’t (as, not being a gambler, I found the Serenity Casino). Caviar is a big treat on Seabourn and lifts the spirits after a hard day out, but then the Crystal canapés and cucumber sandwiches are first class. Passengers we found to be more of a mix of nationalities on Crystal, with lots of Chinese on our cruise, I guess reflecting Genting ownership. Seabourn mainly US, Aus/NZ and UK and seemed to have more repeat cruisers. In the end, it’s horses for courses. We’d go back on Crystal if the itinerary and price were right, but our preference in a straight head-to-head on the same trip would be Seabourn. Let’s face it, though, to be on either at the moment would be a blessing and our thoughts go out to the poor souls who were stranded on those ships for many months at sea.
  3. Slightly off point, but last year on the Athens to Athens Greek Odyssey cruise we went down to the MDR one morning for breakfast at 8.30am. Surprised it was open as it hadn’t been on a Venice to Athens Cruise the year before. Terrible experience. We weren’t served our hot (by then cold and rubbery) food until 9.20am. This was despite being the only people in the MDR apart from one other couple and chasing waiters - plating up for lunch - repeatedly. Never again! By contrast Europa 2 Weltemeere and Crystal Serenity Waterside are well used by passengers and terrific for breakfast with fast and efficient service. Seabourn needs to get off the fence on MDR use. If it’s always available and properly staffed, people will use it. An MDR is a very nice civilised alternative from breakfast buffet hell if the cruise line takes passenger choice seriously and provides sensible hours.
  4. We’ve just disembarked from a short Crystal Serenity Rome to Rome cruise. This was our first experience of Crystal after being on Seabourn Odyssey twice and we’re trying out Ovation later in the year. Plenty of areas where Crystal scored highly for us but overall we think we prefer Seabourn. Where Crystal beat Seabourn to my mind was: Quality of dining. Waterside has in our view better cooking, choice and service than Seabourn’s MDR. The wines felt better too. Entertainment. Much higher standard shows than on Seabourn and a better theatre. Brilliant band. Port talks. Butler service in Penthouse and Penthouse Suites. Ours, Richard, was a star and it was amazing to be served food and wine in our cabin from Umi Uma after a tiring day ashore. Where we preferred Seabourn: Staff and crew engagement with passengers. This was very hit and miss on Crystal, with some staff excellent, others grumpy and crew not visible. Some maitre d’s at restaurants on Crystal not very visible, but they were wonderful at Prego and Umi Uma. Layout and decor of ship. Serenity doesn’t seem to flow...the spa and gym are hard to access on the top deck. Umi Uma has wonderful food but looks like an old tired restaurant...no sense of occasion like The Grill. Pool area with pool bars. Seabourn feels like outside spaces are better thought out. Special party nights...there weren’t any we noticed on Crystal but it was a 6 day cruise. Colonnade much better in terms of outside space and choice than Crystal buffet, which we avoided. Better breakfast choices at Colonnade than with the Crystal buffet. Overall we felt Seabourn had much more of a fun holiday feeling, but we may return to Crystal if the itinerary is right! And we missed Seabourn Square.
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