Looking Deeper, We Find Gold On Seabourn

Overnighting in Livorno, Italy on the Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise, passengers had a chance to break from the normal port-a-day routine and fully explore Florence, Pisa and other attractions in the area, at their leisure. In their absence, crewmembers, officers and celebrity chefs on board for the themed sailing took advantage of that extra time to set up unique events. Each has been executed with such grace that it is easy to forget the fact that there is also a normal hotel and marine operation going on here. Today we start taking a look at how that is possible.

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My suite on Seabourn Sojourn as she was docked at the port of Livorno, happened to be on the side of the ship without a view, staring directly at what looked to this Kansas-raised traveler as a grain elevator, albeit a really old one.


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But on closer look, architectural details revealed a renaissance of the structure; an ongoing effort to restore it to what it once had been. This is no new sight to anyone who has traveled in or through historic parts of Europe; it seems something is always being restored.


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In this case, I had to look beyond the “thing that was blocking my view” to see that someone, somewhere thought enough of it to undertake a major reconstruction effort that could take years to complete.


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Looking past the cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, lectures and other culinary content of the Seabourn Food And Wine Cruise, its easy to note that a tremendous amount of effort has gone into planning and executing what we have seen.


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Granting me unprecedented behind the scenes access, I am seeing a thoughtfully hard working bunch of people, layering Food and Wine content on top of what they already do on board, seamlessly. Case in point: Getting ready for dinner in The Restaurant, the Seabourn equivalent of a main dining room.


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An open seating venue, service begins at 7:00 sharp, every night, 365 days a year. But the process that leads to opening the dining room doors at seven begins much earlier in the day, culminating with a flurry of activity in The Restaurant that begins at 6:00.

SEA Food - 023That’s when Executive Chef Neil and his staff bring plated menu items into the dining room to preview with waiters; insuring that they have the knowledge necessary to do their jobs. We were invited to stop by and capture images of menu items each night, in their most pristine form, and stay for the briefing. Tonight would be different though.

Due to high winds and what looked to be rough seas ahead as we sailed away from Livorno an event titled Officers On Deck, where passengers join officers to explore epicurean delights, had to be moved inside. Because of that move, the menu briefing would be a shortened version; time remaining until when the dining room opened simply did not allow the full version.

And that’s when it came to me: Nothing stands in the way of guest experience here.

They could have rescheduled the Officers On Deck event for another time and passengers surely would have understood: The ship was already rocking and rolling to 12-foot seas. Instead, Seabourn had a backup plan in place and moved it to another venue, this one inside the ship and away from high winds.

As I write this (I swear), we are about to dock at Ajaccio, Corsica, France. Seabourn Sojourn is feet away from the pier and a number of passengers are surveying the scene, taking photos and wondering if the clouds we see will burn off in time for plans later in the day. Then the first in a series of emergency blasts on the ship’s horn, followed by an announcement tell us something is wrong, but no action is required at this time.


A few minutes later, Cruise Director Jan announces that a fire has been detected in the mooring area of deck one and that an emergency response team is surveying the scene. Ten minutes pass. Cruise Director Jan comes back on the ship’s loudspeaker system to let us know that the issue was not a fire but some equipment that had overheated and all is well.

Good to know, but more importantly: I was not concerned because I have seen these people in action, am confident that they have a backup plan for everything and a system in place to execute that plan when needed. It did not take an emergency announcement to figure that out. Still, faced with a potential fire, one of the most serious issues on a ship at sea, that the system Seabourn has in place worked marvelously highlights just how good they are at what they do. That’s the gold that goes beyond the beautiful cruise ship and exotic ports of call.


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