Thoughtful Surprises: A Big Part Of The Seabourn Experience


Taking a break from the sea and overnighting in Livorno, Italy offered travelers on the Seabourn Food and Wine Cruise some distinct advantages. A long shore excursion would not dominate the call; at about midway through the journey, a break is nice; those wishing to enjoy the nightlife in the area can surely do so and the extra time in port enabled Seabourn to blow away their guests with some thoughtful surprises.

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Arriving early, the port of Livorno caught the morning sun in a familiar way. One of the largest seaports in the Mediterranean, we have been here a number of times during the inaugural season of several Carnival Corporation vessels.

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First thought that always comes to mind here: ‘Oh yes, there is really nothing at the port’, requiring further travel inland to see Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Those with a short stay in the mostly-commercial port of Livorno just can’t see much of it.   A must-see attraction in the area, the famous leaning tower in Pisa, can take up most of the day too.

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So off on tour went many passengers, early in the morning. Nevertheless, the Food and Wine content continued, offering an optional winery tour with Sommelier Sebastian, skipped in favor of a Burger Tasting Event at Seabourn Sojourn’s Patio Grill.

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Given a choice of two different mini-burgers, passengers were asked to vote on which one had the best flavor, the only difference being in the meat used to make them. The winner would be given careful consideration for a signature burger that would appear on menus fleet-wide.

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Tagged only ‘pink’ and ‘white’, both shared a drinkable-quality sauce that might make something not so good, excellent. Both using high-quality meat, one (pink) contained a bit of venison, the only difference between it and the other (white) one. I picked pink, white won. My thought: Where was Guy Fieri when I needed him?

 

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Throughout the afternoon, those who stayed on Seabourn Sojourn enjoyed time on deck during an unusually warm November day, disappeared to their suites to relax or waited for friends on tour to return. Behind the scenes, Seabourn was in the process of modifying a traditional event that they do whenever tour groups return to the ship.

 

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On any other sailing of any other Seabourn ship, including this one, when guests return from a long excursion they are welcomed back to the ship in style. A big “Welcome Home” banner is displayed, the Captain himself and many of the crew members are on hand; welcoming each passenger back on board. Nice. Appreciated.  Today would be different.

It does not take long on board a Seabourn ship to figure out that they are really into exceeding the expectations of their guests. No, that’s not it. Forget that last sentence.
Every business from cruise lines to hotels, restaurants, dry cleaners and car washes want to ‘exceed expectations’.   It’s the box they hope you check on a survey received after doing business with them.
Seabourn likes to surprise their guests and blow them away, regardless of the amount of time and effort required to do so.
Yes, that’s it…and today we saw a perfect example of how they go about it.

 

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Remember, there is little of value for a non-commercial ship at the Port of Livorno, merely a hopping off place to go see other attractions. Everyone knows that. Seabourn knew that. But Seabourn also looked a bit deeper and found some interesting history there that dated back to the 15th century; a castle.

 

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Actually a fortification structure like we see in so many European cities that border large bodies of water or rivers, the “Old Fortress” as it is commonly called, was used to protect the city from invaders in ancient times.

 

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After over 7,000 emails back and forth between the cruise line and the port authority, Seabourn arranged to hold their Welcome Home event in that castle, complete with local live music, local vendors of fine food and wine and more.

 

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It had never been done before, but made perfect sense. The port authority liked the idea of getting a little attention for being something other than the largest commercial port in Italy.

 

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Local merchants, vendors, musicians liked the idea because no one had ever tried it before. The idea of opening up the port to visitors who would do more than take a few steps to a waiting tour bus then leave was appealing too.

 

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Seabourn guests, their tour busses diverted from dropping them off in front of the ship to the castle, were blown away. Again.

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On hand were the highly visible Captain and Cruise Director, who also walked guests who had not gone on tour back and forth from the ship’s docking position a few minutes away.

 

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An unusual sight on other cruise ships, Seabourn Sojourn’s Captain Karlo Buer always seems to have time to chat with passengers on the ship, and now off the ship.

 

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Dressed in period costume, locals greeted guests while inside, more surprises were in store for those who stopped by.

 

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In addition to probably becoming a standard Welcome Home event for other Seabourn ships calling at the Port of Livorno, on hand were merchants with local food and wine to sample or buy.

 

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Returning to the ship, passengers were greeted in their suites with an assortment of delicacies that had been available for sale in the castle.

 

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As if that little snack were not enough, another one came reflective of the culinary skills of the Celebrity Chefs on board, taking those local ingredients to a new level.  “Now they’re just showing off”, was my thought as each little creation was inhaled.

The food and wine content continued into the evening with a Taste of Tuscany Market Dinner in Seabourn Sojourn’s open-seating Colonade restaurant and an Italian Desserts Under The Stars event.  We stopped by the ships main dining venue, The Restaurant, just before serving time to capture images of menu items that would be discussed with the dining room staff prior to serving.  See our Live Instagram Feed for photos and descriptions.

Taking you inside cruise vacations as we do here, tomorrow we will be on hand just before dinner as the ship’s culinary team briefs the dining room staff.  Over the next few days, we’ll go behind the scenes in other areas too,  touring the kitchen, bridge, engine room and other areas of Seabourn Sojourn not normally seen by passengers.  We’ll talk to the people that work there and carry out the choreography of onboard programming that looks to be a lifetime quality travel memory.  Stay tuned.

 

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