Seabourn Ovation - First look at this new luxury cruise ship
Seabourn have just launched their second ship in their Encore class, Seabourn Ovation, and I was one of a select few UK travel agents to be invited on the VIP preview (or shakedown) voyage as she sailed from Fincantieri ship yard, in Genoa for the first time.
A shakedown is the first voyage a ship commences on, and is designed as a “dress rehearsal” for all the staff, cabin stewards and waiters, and to test all the systems and plumbing are working and in order. It’s also a great opportunity for the ships management to see how the ship operates with a complement of guests before the fare-paying clients embark for the inaugural cruise.
It was with great excitement when our coach arrived at Fincantieri shipyard and we saw Seabourn Ovation for the first time, looking sleek and yacht like in her freshly painted white hull and sweeping bow. Seabourn Ovation is a sister ship to Seabourn Encore that was launched last year in Singapore, with a few minor changes.
Slightly larger than the Odyssey class of Seabourn ships at 40,350 grt and 600 guests (Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest are 32,000 grt with 458 guests) the increased amount of space on Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation means extra suites and public spaces, however the design and layout will feel very familiar to those guests travelling from Odyssey class to Encore class.
After embarkation and a glass of welcoming champagne, I began exploring the ship.
The Restaurant on Seabourn Ovation
Seabourn Ovation Deck 4
On deck 4 is the main dining room called The Restaurant. Beautifully designed by hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany, the large room is divided up by soaring white pillars that come together in a central focus point, reminding me of branches of a tree. At the fulcrum is a beautiful blue glass chandelier that draws the eye upwards to a vaulted ceiling. The blue glass light fittings accent other parts of the dining room, with smaller lights placed around the room. The tables and chairs are decorated in monochromatic tones and add a touch of sophisticated elegance to this large space, with blue glassware complementing the colour of the lights.
The Restaurant operates an open sitting policy, so no need to pre-book, and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I dined here twice on my six night preview voyage, and enjoyed fare such as warm potato ravioli, oak leaf and three pea salad, pan fried tournedos of sea scallops, prime rib of beef, crispy seared salmon, a trilogy of chocolate and a ginger cheesecake. Suffice to say you won’t go hungry!
Outside the entrance of the Restaurant is the bottom of a stunning atrium, that soars all the way to deck 10. Designed by Adam D. Tihany, the spiral staircase winds its way through the ship and connects all the floors with graceful elegance.
The Club on Seabourn Ovation
Seabourn Ovation Deck 5
On deck 5 is The Club, the Casino and an open deck area with a small pool and whirlpools. The Club operates as a relaxing lounge during the day, and we had a Seabourn Conversation talk here on our trip about the unique collaboration between Seabourn and UNESCO, which allows Seabourn guests insider access and behind the scenes visits to many of the UNESCO world heritage sites that feature on Seabourns carefully curated itineraries. Seabourn support UNESCO by giving money generated from the sale of tours to UNESCO sites back to them, to help support all the World Heritage Sites.
The Club features a dance floor and small stage for a band, and this area really comes alive at night, with two different bands performing, to really get the party started. There is no DJ, just live music, which creates a great atmosphere. The singer, Grace, was a great vocalist lending her talents to a myriad of different musical styles. And I can confirm that the bartender makes the best dark and stormy cocktails on the high seas!
The Casino is the right size for the ship, with a bank of slots, a blackjack table and a roulette table.
Aft of The Club is an open deck area looking out over the stern and the wake of the ship. There is a pool here and two whirlpools, and is a hidden area, out of the wind, and perfect for lounging around on a sea day, and my top tip for some quiet sunbathing.
The talented cast performing Hollywood Ovation
Seabourn Ovation Deck 6
On deck 6 is the Grand Salon, the main show lounge on Seabourn Ovation. Slightly tiered with comfortable seats, sofas and tables, the lounge operates as a tour disembarkation point during port days, a venue for Seabourn Conversations and of course the evening shows. The production company, Belinda King Creative Productions, has developed five new shows for Seabourn Ovation. We saw two of these new shows, “An Evening with Tim Rice” and “Hollywood Ovation”. The first show was designed in collaboration with Tim Rice, and featured video footage of him displayed on the hi-tech LED screens, introducing the songs along with some insider background information on how he came about to write the songs and his collaborations with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus from ABBA, Elton John and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The cast of four singers and two dancers were of West End and Broadway standard, with some incredible vocals from all the cast. Hollywood Ovation featured music and songs from the movies and was a refreshing take on a typical cruise ship show, with some stunning vocals from the talented cast.
Seabourn Ovation Deck 7
Deck 7 features the popular Seabourn Square, the multi-function space that debuted on the Odyssey class of ship. However on Seabourn Ovation, it is larger, round(!) and with more staff on hand. This space has service desks surrounding the centre, with each desk manned by a multi-functional staff member, who can handle tour bookings, restaurant reservations, customer service and the usual purser’s office questions. This works really well and is a great change from having to queue at different desks.
The red coffee roaster at Seabourn Square
There is also a coffee bar here, serving freshly roasted coffee from Seabourns own in-house roasting machine, proudly on display behind the counter. Top tip – if you love your cup of Joe – then ensure you get your coffee from here as this is the only venue using the freshly roasted coffee beans.
Light snacks, both savoury and sweet, are also served, plus the famous gelato, handmade on board from local ingredients, think lemons from Sorrento, pistachios from Greece and vanilla pods from Madagascar. All of which is complimentary of course.
Also in Seabourn Square are plenty of books, tables and chairs, iPads with newspapers pre-loaded on and magazines – it’s the hub of the ship, and yet quiet and relaxing.
Adjacent to the Seabourn Square are the shops, selling high end jewellery, sundry items and of course the exclusive Molton Brown selection of lotions and potions with the specially created fragrance for Seabourn.
Aft of the square is another sunbathing deck area.
Deck 7 Forward Sun Deck
A hidden gem of an area is all the way forward on deck 7, past all the guest suites, and through a door that looks like you shouldn’t open it! But you’ll be glad you did, as it opens on to an expansive forward deck space just under the ships bridge that features comfy sun loungers and a whirlpool. A great little retreat and it was deserted on my voyage. Worth noting for uninterrupted views as you come into port, you really can’t get any further forward!
The Grill by Thomas Keller and bar area
Seabourn Ovation Deck 8
Deck 8 features the two new alternative restaurants on board, “Sushi” and “The Grill by Thomas Keller”.
Sushi is open for lunch and dinner and is a compact dining area decorated in oranges with statement pendant lights. No surprise as to the cuisine served, think Bento boxes at lunchtime, sushi, sashimi, Japanese beers and in the evening a kaiseki ryori which is a traditional multi course Japanese dinner, consisting of sakizuke, mukozuke, nigiri, maki rolls, sashimi. I dined here at lunch and had the salmon Bento box that came with soup, rice and a selection of sushi, all washed down with ashaki beer! The staff here are Japanese and it was fun practicing my limited Japanese with them. You can also watch the master Chefs prepare the food which adds to the experience. No bookings required and no additional charges here.
The Grill by Thomas Keller is a partnership between American chef Keller and Seabourn, serving cuisine based on classic American dishes with a modern French-American twist. Chef Keller has multiple restaurants such as the French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon , Bouchon Bakery, and Per Se. He is the first and only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide, as well as the first male American chef to be named a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, the most illustrious decoration in France. The grill is a new culinary concept focusing on updated versions of iconic dishes. Guests on board can enjoy table side preparation of Caesar salads and the carving of whole roast chickens. Other fare includes Gulf Prawn Cocktail, Maryland Style Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, New England clam chowder, Lobster Thermidor and more. We dined on a table of six and couldn’t decide which desert to have, so had them all and tried a forkful of each! My favourite was the lemon meringue tart...or was it the dark chocolate layer cake? Choices, choices! Dinner reservations are needed for this venue, but there is no additional charge.
This area also features the TK Bar, with a slightly different configuration than the similar version on the Encore as the large wine tower has been moved to the side to create more room. The area is furnished with comfy sofas and armchairs, and they serve specialty cocktails here like a Flame of Love martini, The Old Cuban (my favourite) and the jauntily named Boulevardier, a rye whiskey and Campari concoction.
Seabourn Ovation Deck 9
Deck nine features the pool deck and patio, patio bar and grill. Further aft is The Colonnade, the casual buffet style eatery that’s open for breakfast and lunch, and in the evening turns into special theme nights featuring Chef Keller’s dishes. We had sharing plates of Rib Eye Chop, that started with a delicious Waldorf Salad, grilled RR Ranch rib chop, followed by Cyprus Grove Farm’s Humboldt Fog cheese served with farm honey and grilled country bread. The main course of the ranch chop came with blistered broccoli, which was so delicious we wanted another serving. As we were chatting to our charming waitress, we mentioned about how delicious the broccoli was, and she said she would get some more. Then as if by magic, before she even left the table, another portion arrived! Talk about intuitive service - a Seabourn moment for sure. The meal was delicious, of course!
We had a few breakfasts and lunches here at The Colonnade, with plenty of space inside and out for those that like to dine al fresco. As it was early May, it was quite chilly out on the deck; however Seabourn have heaters in the ceiling so you can still dine outside and stay warm!
In the evening the patio transforms into “Earth and Ocean at the Patio Grill”, an a la carte open-air dinner venue developed by consulting Chef Anton Egger. There is a touch of theatre as various dishes are served, and there is a different Moroccan dish served in a traditional tagine every night. I had Gumbo Shrimps and Wagyu Beef Cheeks which were incredible. No cover charge here either, and I would certainly recommend you try this dining venue.
Seabourn Ovation Deck 10
On deck 10 the spa and gym, and the mezzanine outside deck looking down over the pool deck and patio. In the spa they offer new mindful services and life force treatments, such as a mineral charged mindful massage that uses crystals placed on your chakras, and a quartz and amber mindful facial that uses a blend of quartz, amber, zinc and copper along with crystal therapy. Prices for these are $217 for 90 minutes. There is the usual array of treatment rooms and gym equipment, plus sauna and steam room, that I was surprised to learn were being charged for.
Seabourn have a partnership with Dr. Andrew Weil, offering a fleet-wide mindful living program providing guests holistic spa and wellness experiences integrating physical, social, environmental and spiritual well-being. Certified Wellness Guides conduct complimentary sessions in Mindful Meditation and yoga during the cruise, all based on the groundbreaking insights gained from Dr. Weil’s extensive research.
Seabourn Ovation Deck 11
Forward on deck 11is the Observation Lounge used for cocktail parties and of course a great spot when coming into port. They also serve tapas in the early evening and have a charming musical duo performing at cocktail hour. The ceiling it has a semi-circle painted fresco that is neatly reflected in an opposite mirror to create the illusion of a full circle that bounces light into the room.
The Retreat on Seabourn Ovation
Seabourn Ovation Deck 12
Up on deck 12 is the luxury cherry on this 6-star cake - The Retreat. This area has a large whirlpool at its centre, surrounded by spacious private cabanas that you can hire for the day. In each cabana is a sofa, TV, Bluetooth headphones, cabinets with charging points and an iPad with the latest newspapers pre-loaded. You also get a private dining table and chairs, and two sun loungers. When I arrived I was supplied with a fruit bowl and the offer of a glass of Bollinger champagne, which I dutifully accepted. I then had the caviar presentation that came with chopped egg, onions and all the usual accompaniments - absolute luxury! After a dip in the whirlpool, I ordered one of the special cocktails from an exclusive menu created by the Seabourn mixologists and relaxed in the sun. The retreat has a flower shaped mesh canopy that shields you from direct sunlight, but you still tan and it provides some welcome shade. It was soon time for lunch, and Retreat guests can order from a special menu; I indulged in American shrimp cocktail, and a prime beef burger, that came with the most delicious triple cooked fries served in a cute paper bag! You could also order char broiled NY steak, grilled Branzino fish, and plenty of other helathier treats. The dedicated Retreat Concierges kept topping me up with Bollinger, cocktails and even the smoothie of the day. You can also have a massage here in a Spa Treatment cabana.
Forward of The Retreat is the Sun Terrace, an open air sun bathing area furnished with comfy sun loungers.
So that’s the ship tour of the public rooms and restaurants. For a shakedown cruise, I can’t believe how finished everything was, there was no last minute carpet laying or painting going on which is testament to Fincantieri craftsmanship and the Seabourn management.
The service on board was some of the best I have experienced at sea, with a truly multinational staff all having been trained for two weeks at Seabourn school prior to joining the ship. We met staff and crew from the UK and Europe, and from South Africa and Asia - Seabourn must have the most international crew!
Suites on board Seabourn Ovation
I was in a V6 suite on deck 10. All the Veranda grades are the same size, V1 through to V6, and are some 300 sq. ft. with a 65 sq. ft. veranda. The white marble bathroom is spacious with a bath tub, separate shower cubicle and twin sinks. The room has a large walk in closet, large queen size bed, living area, dining table for two, interactive flat screen TV, fully stocked bar and fridge. We were welcomed with a bottle of champagne and a bottle of rum that I had requested on my pre-registration form. The bed was super comfortable and the pillow felt like sleeping on clouds! We had a choice of luxury soap and of course the bathroom was well stocked with the signature Molton Brown toiletries.
At turn-down in the evening a delicious K+M chocolate is left on the pillow. K+M Chocolate is the work of Chef Thomas Keller and Italian olive oil producer Armando Manni, who teamed up to develop the world’s highest quality chocolate. Flavours include Hazelnut, Blood Orange, Sea Salt and Cherry.
Seabourn Ovation cruise summary
Seabourn Ovation is an evolution of its smaller fleet-sister ships but retains the look, feel and familiar layout. The extra space generated by being larger affords the excellent Retreat and alternative dining options that I certainly enjoyed. Seabourn have maintained their high levels of service whilst still creating the atmosphere of a luxury boutique hotel that happens to be at sea. I was also impressed with the different artworks decorating the walls of the corridors – from vintage postcards to photography and paintings. I would recommend Seabourn Ovation for modern luxury lovers, who enjoy a casual atmosphere on board, and who maybe enjoy boutique land holidays at exclusive resorts.