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Cruise Ship Review

Seabourn Sojourn - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

Seabourn Sojourn is the closest thing that luxury cruising has to a land-based stay at an exotic but comfortable boutique hotel. The 32,000-ton, 450-passenger vessel, a sister to Seabourn's Odyssey and Quest, debuted in 2010 and offers superbly comfortable cabins, the largest luxe spa at sea, an in-stern marina replete with kayaks and speed boats, and an onboard ambience that's cultured yet also blessedly informal.

While largely identical to Odyssey (the first in Seabourn's newly designed trio) and identical to Quest (launched in 2011), Sojourn is the cruise line's improvement on an already-outstanding concept. It achieved the feat simply by tweaking bits and pieces. The spa was the biggest beneficiary of the line's experience with the first ship, with an additional spa sun deck area replacing some of the pretentiously expensive private villa spaces. In The Restaurant, the ship's elegant main venue, an experiment with communal tables -- intended to foster sociability -- has not been replicated on either Sojourn or Quest. However, the group bar-height seating concept is available in its more casual Colonnade. Otherwise, Seabourn got almost everything right the first time.

Whether you're a longtime fan of Seabourn's older, more intimate 208-passenger ships or a newcomer to the cruise line (or to upscale cruising in its own right), it's hard not to find this ship utterly charming. We love the features -- such as the glorious Colonnade restaurant with its wraparound terrace and alfresco dining, the homey Seabourn Square, its coffee bar/Internet cafe/library and the fact that 90 percent of all cabins (oops, we mean suites) have balconies -- offered on this more contemporary series of Seabourn ships. In fact, the cabins themselves, starting at 300 square feet, are marvelously designed and a destination in their own right. Even standard accommodations have distinct living and sleeping areas, flat-screen televisions with a vast range of entertainment options, balconies with dining tables and marble bathrooms with separate showers and bathtubs.

Another plus? We can't think of another luxury cruise ship that has as much space dedicated to outdoor lounging, whether it's the convivial main pool area or the numerous more secluded nooks and crannies, many of which have their own pools (mini or otherwise). And Seabourn's reputation for providing superb cuisine and service lives on through Sojourn.

Dining

Seabourn Sojourn offers four places to eat, as well as course-by-course room service upon request (at lunch and dinner), which you can have on your balcony if you wish. (All balconies are big enough for a table and two chairs.)

Celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, the line's culinary consultant, has created the menus for Sojourn in the same vein as those for Odyssey and Quest. In The Restaurant on Deck 4, expect fairly dainty portions and fusion style, blending Asian, modern American and Mediterranean themes. Various wines are served every night as part of the all-inclusive offering. There is some flexibility with different wines by the glass. (For instance, if you prefer chardonnay and the day's pick is a pinot grigio, your request can usually be accommodated.) There's also an extra-fee premium wine list.

The Restaurant is a stunning space done out in a cream-and-white color scheme with lavish textures of leather, crystal and soft gauze. There are plenty of tables for two, as well as larger setups for more social meals.

Dining is open-seating at all meals, and The Restaurant is large enough that all 450 passengers can be accommodated at once.

Restaurant 2 is Seabourn's nod to tapas. You'll taste some 11 or so courses (and, oddly enough, won't feel terribly stuffed) that emphasize Mediterranean flavors. The decor -- a spiky, lacquered, red-and-black palette that's reminiscent of a 1970's-era Chinese restaurant -- feels out of place with Sojourn's otherwise earthy palate, but the experience is entertaining if not wholly satisfying.

There are only a handful of tables for two, so be prepared to be asked to dine with others at the larger tables.

The Colonnade is cruising's best casual dining venue, bar none. More a chic bistro than a buffet, its butterscotch leather chairs and heavy, shot-silk drapes in chocolate brown (chocolate is a big color on this ship) create a luxurious feel. The arrangement of dishes on small, marble islands serves two purposes: reducing lines and presenting food on dainty platters, which takes away any feeling of mass-catering. Breakfast alone is superb; it includes eggs any way you want, fresh strawberries, cereals, pastries, smoked salmon and specialty coffees. There's plenty of seating outside, aft and along the starboard deck.

Lunch is also a great opportunity for grazing, with an impressive variety of salads and hot dishes, cold cuts and bite-sized desserts that are small enough to justify indulging in more than one.

At both meals, you can order from a set menu, pick your own from the buffet or even combine the two.

The Colonnade becomes a touch more formal in the evenings, with theme dinners ranging from French to Italian and Indian.

Meanwhile, there are other opportunities for snacking. The Patio Grill, which is open for breakfast and lunch (and dinner on occasion), serves burgers, fries, pizza, salads and, in the morning, pastries. Seabourn Square is a great spot for a light nosh. In the morning, you'll find sweet pastries and croissants, and in the afternoon, there are tea sandwiches and (again) decadent pastries. Coffee, wine and spirits are offered throughout the day. The venue typically closes at 6 p.m.

Afternoon tea is served in the Observation lounge.

Superb room service is available 24 hours a day. At 3 a.m., for instance, you might order a Caesar salad, baked salmon, sauteed spinach and a cheese plate. The room-service menu doesn't vary much; you can order hot breakfasts and a range of staples, such as steaks, chicken, burgers and surprisingly good pizza. During dinner, you can order off The Restaurant's menu, and the food is served course by course.

As Seabourn is one of cruising's more inclusive lines, most beverages, from cappuccino and house wines to martinis and soda, are complimentary. Plus, stewards will stock each cabin with two complimentary bottles of liquor that you choose from a menu. If you want a special wine or after-dinner drink, waiters and bartenders will add it to your tab.

Public Rooms

Sojourn's size is deceptively massive -- well, relatively speaking, since we're comparing it with Seabourn's smaller ships and not cruising's mega-sized vessels -- because Interiors and deck spaces are designed to feel intimate and sociable. You might spend a week on the ship and never get around to exploring it all, as there are plenty of nooks and crannies that make perfect reading, chatting or sunbathing spots. We're thinking of the fantastic hideaways around the whirlpool at the bow on Deck 6, the pool area at the aft end on Deck 5, the small sitting area on Deck 10 overlooking the main pool and the Sun Terrace on Deck 11. There's also a lovely deck area, with wicker couches and dining tables, just off Seabourn Square.

By the way, Seabourn Square on Deck 7, new to the Odyssey series, is a terrific idea, as it replaces the traditional reception area with a warm and comfortable meeting place for coffee, pastries, library books and computer use. It also houses a quiet space for the ship's concierge. We especially appreciated using Seabourn Square to connect with local tourism people who were available -- with maps and excursion ideas -- for at least an hour or two after the ship pulled into ports. This was a helpful service for passengers who hadn't signed up for shore excursions and wanted to roam about on their own.

Cabins

Seabourn Sojourn has 225 cabins and suites. All face outside and share a restful color scheme: chocolate brown, cream, crimson and gold. Amenities in each living area include a couch, desk, flat-screen TV with interactive entertainment system (and a superb list of movies and music from which to choose), iPod docks and Wi-Fi. There's a beverage center with a fridge stocked with preferred beverages, too. Beds can be configured as twins or queens. All have walk-in closets with safes and plenty of storage, and marble bathrooms feature separate tubs and showers. Toiletries include Molton Brown goodies. You're also welcomed, on arrival, with an additional choice of soaps that range from Hermes to L'Occitane.

The most economical accommodations are the 300-square-foot cabins on Deck 4, which have picture windows instead of verandahs. Otherwise, 197 of the ship's 225 cabins and suites have balconies. Note, though, that those on Deck 5, Categories V1 and V2, have verandahs enclosed by knee-high steel plates as well as glass-and-teak railings, which is reflected in the price (lower). (The view when you are seated on the balcony is still unobstructed.) Cabins in the remaining V grades on Decks 6, 7 and 8 are differentiated only by location.

The Veranda Suites are a generous 300 square feet, which doesn't include the extra 65 square feet of balcony. These are each outfitted with mesh/steel adjustable chairs and a table just big enough for intimate dining.

Beyond the standard cabins, Seabourn Sojourn's even more luxurious accommodations include its penthouses (436 square feet), which have sleeping areas separated from the living space by decorated glass panels. This creates a nifty room-within-a-room that can be screened off by heavy, chocolate-colored silk curtains if you're entertaining guests or if one wants to sleep and the other wishes to watch TV.

The forward-facing Signature and Owner's Suites have huge wraparound balconies. (Warning: They're windy when the ship is at sea.) Meanwhile, the Signature Suites are the most spacious for entertaining in terms of indoor and outdoor space.

The ship's biggest and most luxurious accommodations are the two Wintergarden Suites (1,182 square feet), and these are among the most lavish afloat. They feature vast living room/dining room combos with a table for six and a massive bathroom with separate shower and whirlpool tub for four. (Seriously, it's that big.) Beyond that, what really sets these suites apart -- not just from other cabins on Seabourn, but from any other deluxe suite at sea -- are the conservatory-like, glass-enclosed, egg-shaped baths overlooked by potted plants and cozy divans. It's just … marvelous.

The suites' main balconies, cantilevered over the side of the ship, are outfitted with wicker-style chaises, and there are full dining sets that seat four. These suites can also be booked as a one-bedroom. (The small second bedroom, with its own balcony, can be accessed through the suite or via the hallway.)

Seven suites -- in the Seabourn, Veranda and Penthouse categories -- are wheelchair accessible. At least two suites on every deck can be connected. Beware of cabins that have connecting doors (unless you are traveling with family or friends); they're not the least bit sound-proofed.

Entertainment

On most evenings, passengers have three entertainment sources: piano music before and after dinner in the Observation Bar, dancing in The Club with several alternating singers and the ship band and a show in the Grand Salon, which may be a Broadway revue or consist of variety acts, a magician, a comedy set or a classical music performance.

The Grand Salon shows were hit-and-miss; the best of them were the most simple. (The occasional over-the-top musicals with resident singers and dancers seem better suited to big-ship, mass-market lines.)

Daytime offerings were minimal -- and a line with exotic itineraries that markets to high-fare-paying passengers simply should do a better job with enrichment. Offerings were pretty tired for such a dynamic ship. They included shuffleboard, bridge, trivia, dance classes, cooking demonstrations, Wii games, golf putting and occasional lectures focusing on the ship's itinerary or on history, art and culture.

Shore tours, unless you opt for pricey, customized outings, will be ho-hum; you'll find the same offerings on sister line Holland America and other cruise lines.

Fitness and Recreation

Sojourn's lovely main pool area is a vast improvement over the line's older trio of ships. The pool, with attendant twin whirlpools, is graced with wicker-style chaises and loveseats. Because it's ringed by two decks, there's plenty of room for all.

There's another small pool on the stern -- it's the quieter of the two -- just off The Club. And a third spot worth checking out is a large whirlpool on Deck 6, all the way forward. On Deck 11, all the way forward, is a lovely sun deck (no pool); just behind it is a golfer's onboard paradise, with mini-putting and a golf cage for driving.

The Spa at Seabourn covers two decks. On Deck 9, you'll find a small but efficient fitness club, along with a separate room for Kinesis wall training and classes in yoga and Pilates. You'll pay extra for private lessons and sessions with a trainer. There, you'll also find the Kneipp pool, with its varying hot- and cold-water temperatures; it's the centerpiece of Sojourn's relaxation area. Treatment rooms are located off this area, as are the basic locker rooms, where you'll find showers and saunas.

Our favorite hideaway on Sojourn is its Deck 10 spa deck space. One part of it is roped off for a private villa experience (essentially an al fresco cabin, available for rent by the hour, half-day or day, which includes lounging, dining and bathing areas). The other part is a generous sun deck with a whirlpool, all facing aft.

One popular Seabourn trademark that's retained here is a fantastic water sports marina on Deck 2. Typically open one day per voyage (weather permitting and only when the ship is anchored, not docked), it offers an array of toys, such as a banana boat, kayaks and pedal boats. Passengers can water ski or try a most confounding contraption called the "donut," an inner tube in which you sit while being pulled along by a speedboat.

Family

Seabourn's ships are not designed with families in mind, but having said that, they do carry families in summer and during other holiday periods, particularly as the trend for multigenerational cruising grows. Seabourn takes the attitude that it's better to acknowledge and entertain the children onboard, rather than ignore them and have their presence upset other passengers. So the line has hired staff to arrange games and other distractions for children during peak family travel times.

Some 18 cabins and suites have interconnecting doors and can be used by families, while several have the option of making up a third bed.

Fellow Passengers

Because their itineraries are generally shorter (ranging from seven to 10 days) and less exotic than those offered on Seabourn's older trio of ships, the line's newer triplets tend to attract travelers younger than 60, who are more active and hail from English-speaking countries like Canada, the United States, Australia and the U.K.

Dress Code

Daytime wear is casual, but what Seabourn considers casual is more up-market than big-ship dress codes. It's truly a country club-style of dress (loungewear at the pool, rather than shorts and T-shirts, for instance).

After 6 p.m., Seabourn recommends one of three categories for evening attire: formal optional, elegantly casual and resort casual.

Formal optional, which is typically suggested once every seven days, is for passengers who want to dress up -- think tuxedos or dark business suits with ties for men and cocktail dresses or formal apparel for women. Other passengers are asked to wear clothes considered elegantly casual. The typical dress most nights on Seabourn Sojourn is slacks and jackets over sweaters or collared shirts for men and dresses, skirts or slacks with sweaters or blouses for women.

Gratuity

Tipping is neither required nor expected.

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