New to cruising and new to Bolsover Cruise Club – our new Marketing Manager, Danny, was invited aboard the ultra-luxury Seabourn Ovation to discover the gems of the Greek Isles. Did he find them? Read on to find out…
Day 1 – Embarkation, Athens
Having been sailing safely for a few months already, Seabourn’s thorough ‘Travel Safe’ precautions were clearly effective, and I was keen to experience it all first-hand. Prior to travelling, all passengers had to be double vaccinated and provide a negative PCR test within a specified timeframe. Then, upon arrival at the embarkation terminal in Athens, my wife and I also had to undergo a lateral flow test, all performed by their on-hand team of expert testers. Within minutes of arriving, we were personally escorted to each of the testing zones and then on to the waiting area for our all-important results. Whilst we waited in the air-conditioned marquee, we chatted with fellow guests, were calmed by the mellowing background music and served ice cold bottles of water… we hadn’t even boarded yet, but I thought that this was a good sign of things to come.
Sure enough, our negative test results were efficiently provided, we were through the seamless security process and swiftly boarded the ship.
Opening the door to our suite was the first of many ‘wow’ moments during our week. The Veranda Suite, our home for the next seven nights, wasn’t vast but had everything you could ever need… and probably a little more. It had a particularly spacious marble bathroom with double vanities, a full bathtub, shower, and luxury products featuring an exclusive signature scent created for Seabourn by Molton Brown of London.
The room itself boasted the comfiest bed I have ever slept in, accompanied by a menu of pillows to choose from, a private veranda, dining table for two, walk-in wardrobe, interactive flat screen TV, fully stocked bar and more storage than we were physically able to make use of. In addition to this we were also welcomed with complimentary bottles our favourite spirits, canapés, and the signature bottle of champagne on ice. Yes, we’d arrived onboard, but such a welcome made us feel like we’d really arrived on a grander level!
That evening we enjoyed a gold standard three-course meal in The Restaurant, Ovation’s largest dining option on board, and then straight onto a roof-top cocktail party in the exclusive area known as The Retreat. Here, we drank cocktails spanning all the colours of the rainbow whilst surrounded by elaborate greenery and cosy cabanas, soothed by the gentle bubbling of the whirlpool, which acts as the centrepiece to this lavish enclave.
Day 2 – Patmos, Greece
As basic as it might sound, waking up and peeling back the curtains after my first ever night’s sleep on a cruise ship is a moment I’ll never forget. The anticipation of what I would be presented with was a moment of genuine intrigue and excitement, and the idyllic island of Patmos certainly didn’t disappoint. Famed for its biblical importance and sitting under perfect blue skies, it proved to be a quintessential Greek island. Wandering around the picturesque small town, exploring the quaint harbour and all whilst basking in the warm sunshine – it really was the perfect start to our trip.
Back onboard and that evening we enjoyed a meal at The Colonade, opting to sit outside on deck at the back of the ship. The sun setting and soothing sounds of the sea were the perfect backdrop to what was yet another unforgettable three-course meal. The French theme for that evening provided my wife with the best French Onion Soup, Chateaubriand and Crème Brûlée she has ever tasted… in fact this was her favourite meal during the week, which was quite a statement given the other options we enjoyed whilst on board.
Day 3 – At Sea
With so much to enjoy on board, a day at sea allowed the opportunity to explore the ship’s bountiful facilities and make the most of the renowned ‘Seabourn Difference’… not just being catered to but being truly cared for. Sure enough, they lived up to – and even exceeded – my already high expectations with this claim. From breakfast being set up for us on our balcony to signature cocktails and refreshing cold towels delivered with a smile to our sun loungers, you really couldn’t want for more. In fact, the service is so good and the staff so attentive that they’re somehow able to anticipate what you yourself didn’t know you wanted! “Ice-cold kiwi sorbet in a glass of prosecco, sir…you looked a little parched.” Wow, yes please!
Exploring the ship further, I was amazed to find a spa and fully equipped fitness centre, cards room, casino, club and sushi restaurant, as well as sampling all of the three main on-deck areas, all of which boast whirlpools and two with swimming pools to boot.
In the afternoon we sampled the delights from the onboard coffee shop, where we were presented with freshly made cookies, cakes, sandwiches and quite simply the best caffe latte that I have ever had. Sure enough, this caffeine-seeking pilgrimage would have to become a regular feature during our stay.
Day 4 – Paphos, Cyprus
Another day, another curtain opening moment to remember! This time it was Paphos in Cyprus and the sun was really at work here – it was to prove the hottest day of our trip at 26° and that being in early October!
We hired sunbeds on the beach, swam in the cobalt clear seas and browsed the local shops. On the way back to the tender, there was a family of turtles frequenting the harbour which was a really special sight to sign off on.
The sail-away that afternoon was quite the occasion, with the in-house band celebrating the timeless hits of ABBA around the main pool area whilst an abundant supply of champagne and caviar was served by the ever-assisting staff.
That evening provided a particularly unique culinary experience, The Grill by world-renowned American chef, Thomas Keller. Reminiscent of the classic American restaurants from the 1950s and 60s, and exclusive to Seabourn, The Grill focuses on updated versions of iconic dishes. The Caesar salad was prepared right in front of us and was a culinary demonstration like no other. If that much goes into preparing a salad, what could they possibly do with my main of Lobster Thermidor? Needless to say, the food was out of this world, with wines to match and the general atmosphere and service at the consistently high Seabourn standard I’d started to become accustomed to.
Day 5 – Rhodes, Greece
I really didn’t know what to expect from Rhodes, having never been before, but I was really taken aback by it. It was one of my favourite places of the whole trip – all ancient statues, marble crests, fountains, the Street of the Knights, the Palace of the Grand Masters and then cobbled streets full of local market stalls, cafés and restaurants. It was a hive of activity and culture, and I already can’t wait to go back.
After shopping until we almost dropped, the ship’s afternoon tea was just the boost we needed. Offering 270° views, The Observation Bar was a real treat for the eyes whilst the array of sandwiches, cakes and refreshing tea was a real treat for the mouth as well. A set of sand tea-timers are provided to help you brew the perfect cuppa – whether you’re drinking green, white or black tea. Whilst providing me with much entertainment, true to its purpose, it also provided a fantastic cup of tea!
Much is spoken about each guest’s unique Seabourn moment and the evening’s entertainment provided mine. Direct from London’s West End, Seabourn had flown in The Barricade Boys – the UK’s most exciting theatrical vocal group. They performed several of the iconic tracks from Les Misérables alongside some Motown and classic rock anthems, and as they did, I sat there with my wife, enjoying ice cold champagne on board the most wonderful ship with the sun setting in the background. If I had to describe perfection, I think that would be it.
Day 6 – Santorini, Greece
How do you follow a day-to-remember like we had the day prior? Easy – next up was the island of Santorini!
Docking in the port of Thira and swiftly making our way over to the main island town of Oia, it wasn’t long before our jaws were dropping to the iconic views of blue domed churches nestled amongst a sea of cliff-hugging whitewashed buildings. My expectations were high of Santorini, given it’s the classic postcard image for so many a Mediterranean holiday, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. My wife and I enjoyed visiting the boutique shops and stalls, and also enjoyed a refreshing drink at a cliff-top café. The best drink of the day, perhaps of all time, was drinking in the amazing views which seemed to be over every hill and around every corner – being there and seeing it all in the flesh really is a sight to behold.
After such a feast for the eyes, we were pleased to make it back to the ship later that afternoon and indulge in a poolside feast of our own at The Patio. Here the vibe is very relaxed, as you can well imagine, but the food options are still pushing the boundaries. I enjoyed the signature Napa Burger, another Thomas Keller exclusive for Seabourn, and yes, you’ve guessed it, it was the best burger I have ever had in my life!
Day 7 – Monemvasia, Greece
This was our last day but there was still time for one last treat. Whilst the scheduled Marina Day had to be cancelled due to poor weather, we were able to swap ambitions of jet skis and banana boat rides for discovering the intriguing town of Monemvasia. Originally constructed into the cliffside to be invisible from the mainland, a path now reveals its secret… and what a secret it is! Even as you approach the high walls and main gate, you’re completely unaware of what may be lurking the other side. To my complete amazement, those walls were hiding a hustling and bustling medieval castle town. A walk around the cobbled stone streets is like a trip back in time – it has a grand square, churches, boutique market stalls and an array of quaint eateries.
Our last night on the ship saw us enjoy one of Seabourn’s signature events – the officers on deck and team member salute. Needless to say, the champagne was flowing once again and there was a smorgasbord of chef-manned canapé stands surrounding the main pool area. The band were in full swing as they played Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’ and we were introduced to, and showed our appreciation for, all of the ship’s staff and the full complement of officers. It was a really special moment for everyone and one that received the most applause and support during all of the entertainment laid on that week.
Much is made of the Seabourn Difference and, whilst researching this at length prior to my stay with them, I didn’t feel I’d quite grasped exactly what that was. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone can until you’ve experienced it for yourself. Whenever the captain would provide us with sailing updates, he’d remind us that this ship was our home away from home. Those words are easy to say, but to deliver that environment onboard is a challenge on another level… that said, Seabourn have cracked it.
They have set themselves the highest standards, deliver guests impeccable service, provide industry-leading facilities and world-beating culinary delights, all set within a ‘home away from home’ environment. If there’s anyone reading this that is considering treating themselves or their loved ones, please do it – you won’t regret it and after the year or two we’ve all had it’s the perfect time to push the six-star boat out!