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SeaDream II
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SeaDream Yacht Club Review  
Good Things In Small Packages  

 
by Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson
November 2011
 
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SeaDream II
Reviewed by Chris Dikmen and Rickee Richardson
7-night Caribbean: San Juan, Culebra/Culebrita, Vieques, Sandy Ground, St. Barts, Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke, St. Thomas

We are a "bigger is better" society. Americans especially place a high value on "big". We like big cars, trucks, homes, etc. We want our burgers super-sized and what would a buffet be if it were not "all-you-can-eat"? But, remember when you were little your Mom telling you that "good things come in small packages"? Mom might have known what she was talking about. When it comes to a cruise vacation, most people instinctively think "big ship". After all, the "big box" cruise lines spend millions on advertising images of their floating mega-resorts. Only a relative handful of people have stumbled upon cruising's best kept secret: small ship cruising.



Looking back, our very first "small ship" experience was in 2003 when Rickee and I first were introduced to SeaDream Yacht Club. SeaDream was a new company back then and nobody quite knew what to expect. After SeaDream acquired Sea Goddess I and II from Seabourn, they immediately refitted them with a "yacht-like" feel. The company continues to emphasize that the experience is "yachting, not cruising". And, it really is more than just a tag line. There is a difference.

YACHTING, NOT CRUISING


The SeaDream experience is significantly different than what you would expect from a cruise vacation. It is so different that it is virtually impossible to compare a SeaDream vacation with other cruise lines using criteria designed for the "big ship" experience. A SeaDream yacht is not simply a small cruise ship; it is more accurately a mega-yacht. So, let's say you have a billionaire friend who invites you to his private yacht for a week, along with perhaps 80 to 90 other friends. That would be a more accurate analogy to what you can expect to experience on SeaDream.

SeaDream immerses you in relaxation rather than regimentation. A cruise, while an excellent vacation, can leave you exhausted at the end of the week. There can be so many things going on and so many announcements that you are literally "going" from sunrise to way past midnight. On SeaDream, there aren't too many onboard activities and you rarely, if ever, hear an announcement over the PA (other than to announce the arrival in port). Entertainment is limited to a guitar or piano player in the lounge each evening, or maybe even a big screen movie in the lounge or on deck. The lack of entertainment and constant activities might cause some to conclude that a SeaDream sailing could be"boring". Well, to me, that type of "boring" is what relaxation feels like. Many people have forgotten what a luxury it is to just relax.

Now this is not to suggest that there is nothing to do on board a SeaDream yacht. In fact, the yachts are quite well equipped to facilitate whatever form of relaxation you might enjoy. There is a lot of open deck space for enjoying sunny Caribbean days (or Mediterranean, depending on the time of the year). You will never have to fight for a deck chair as there are plenty. And, while you are enjoying your favorite book, or just basking away in the sun, SeaDream's excellent crew will make sure that you want for nothing. When was the last time you were lounging by the pool and someone came by to mist you with a spray bottle full of cold water just to cool you off, or brought you a skewer of fresh, cool fruit to enjoy or some ice cream sandwiched between two delicious cookies? When was the last time someone offered to clean your sunglasses while you lounged in the sun? Probably the last time you were on SeaDream. And, if you want something to drink or eat while you relax, just ask. A cheese plate by the pool perhaps? No problem.

The crew really pampers you and always addresses you by name from the moment you step on board a SeaDream yacht. We were delighted to see some familiar faces on the crew with whom we had sailed several times. One, Peter, was a waiter when we first sailed with him but now is Hotel Manager on SeaDream II. Werner (pronounced 'verner') is still making guests feel comfortable in the Topside restaurant each morning and afternoon. The crew are amazing and make the voyage special for everyone.

The SeaDream experience is an inclusive one. All of your gratuities are included in your cruise fare as is liquor, beer, wine, soft drinks and bottled water. Use of the yacht's water toys from the marina (located aft) and mountain bikes when in port are also complimentary.

Embarkation in San Juan consisted of sending bags through the x-ray machine and walking through a metal detector in the terminal. A short walk up the gangway to be greeted by the Captain and Hotel Manager. As you walk around the pool and into the Main Salon, the beautiful Spa attendants greet you with a bow and welcome you on board. You sit down and are served champagne and invited to partake of the snacks. When they are ready for you, a crew member will escort you to the Reception area where you are checked in, picture snapped, credit card number taken and passport surrendered. You then get your room key/ID card and your cabin stewardess takes you to your stateroom where your luggage already awaits. Simple! Our stewardess, Rowena, was a gem. She kept our room spotless and took care of anything we asked of her. And she was always smiling!

Leaving the ship at the end of the cruise in St. Thomas was simple (but we didn't want to go!) Each guest picked up his/her passport from the Purser and cleared Customs in the Main Salon at 7:30am. Unlike most ships, SeaDream allows guests to remain on board until 10am! This is a great feature if you have a flight departing in the late afternoon like we did. You can enjoy breakfast at the Topside Restaurant without having to rush.
A copy of your bill was slipped under your door sometime during the night. Luggage had to be outside of your cabin no later than 1:00am on departure morning. The crew would help you with your carry-on bags down the gangway steps. Captain Lund was at the bottom of the gangway to bid you farewell just as he was there to welcome you on the first day! Open-air taxis were available right outside the port gates.

ACCOMMODATIONS

SeaDream Yacht Club staterooms have not changed very much since our first sailing back in 2003. New bedding was added somewhere along the way, as well as flat screen televisions. Everything else is pretty much like it was back in 2003
when we took our first SeaDream voyage. In fact, the staterooms are starting to look a little tired and in need of a refresh. These yachts were built back before balconies were all the rage, so your view of the ocean from your stateroom is limited to a large rectangular window. In fairness, the lack of balconies is not that big of a deal on a yacht. After all, you are never more than a few steps from expansive, open deck space. And, with a maximum guest capacity of 112, there is plenty of space to find your favorite spot.

Marble-clad bathrooms are tiny with the majority of space used for a nice-sized shower stall with two body-spray jets and an excellent shower head. The vanity is small and has two small glass shelves attached to the wall to use for your incidentals. Bvlgari shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and soap are provided and replenished as needed. Soft, thick Turkish towels complete the bathroom amenities.
Robes and slippers are provided. Each standard stateroom has a separate seating area with sofa, sofa table and chair. A desk/entertainment center is on the opposite wall which houses an electronic safe and a mini-bar/fridge stocked with complimentary soft drinks and beer (or whatever you want). A floor-to-ceiling curtain separates the seating area from the sleeping area. The queen-sized bed is very comfortable and the linens are top-quality.  A nightstand with two drawers flanks each side of the bed and lamps are attached to the nightstand's top. Reading lights are attached to the headboard. There is a vanity opposite the foot of the bed complete with a lighted magnifying makeup mirror and small vanity stool..This is where you find the hair dryer. The wall above the vanity is mirrored. A clock is mounted on the wall at the far end of the vanity. We found this to be quite a useful feature. Plenty of closet and drawer/storage space is available. The closet doors are mirrored which helps to make the room appear larger. Two hooks on the wall near the couch come in quite handy.

One thing that we would like to see is the addition of more power outlets. There was a US-type outlet and a European-type outlet at the desk and two European-type outlets below the vanity which would require an adapter to use with US-type appliances; however, the provided hair dryer's plug fit there. A Wi-Fi Internet connection is available for a fee in each stateroom and in most public areas.

You can even sleep out on deck if you desire! Just let the Concierge know a day or so in advance, and one of
the comfy Balinese Dream Beds on deck will be outfitted with sheets, duvets and pillows. It was not unusual to see couples, wearing their signature monogrammed SeaDream pajamas, coming down the stairs in the morning after a night sleeping under the stars. Yes, on the first night on board at turndown, your cabin stewardess delivers wonderfully comfortable SeaDream pajamas, complete with your name monogrammed on the pajama top. Wonderful!

There are larger accommodations onboard if you need more space. The Owner’s Suite, with 447 elegantly appointed square feet, features a private master bedroom and bathroom suite with a soaking tub and a living and dining room area with a guest bath providing extra comfort for private entertaining. The Admiral Suite provides a gracious 375 square feet, is casually elegant in design, and features a separate living and dining area, master bedroom suite and 1 1/2 baths The Commodore Suite is two Yacht Club staterooms combined into one with a living area on one side and sleeping area on the other. This means two bathrooms and two closets!


FOOD AND DINING

The yachting lifestyle extends to SeaDream's dining as well. Breakfast and lunch are served al fresco each day at the Topside Restaurant on Deck 5. The restaurant on Deck 2 is reserved for evening dining, and even dinner is served "under the stars" at Topside when the weather permits, which was the case most nights on our voyage. Food quality and preparation are certainly at the top-end of the cruise industry. And the service is crisp and professional yet friendly.

On most nights for dinner, a "raw" menu was offered along with the other items on the menu. A waiter told Rickee that the addition of the raw menu was the idea of the cruise line owner who has children who have sensitivities to gluten and dairy. Rickee ordered from the raw menu on two nights and the food was delicious. Most of the time, raw food items were puréed and served in some type of glass for you to drink the contents.


One day at lunch, Chris ordered fried onion rings. He was served three delicious, perfectly-prepared rings along with an explanation that the kitchen had "run out of onion rings." We asked if the chef could create some onion rings since they apparently had onions and batter. Our waiter, Jay, who is from England and a complete delight, went to the galley to make the inquiry. He came back after a while with some fresh homemade onion rings.  All we had to do was ask for them and the galley went to the trouble of preparing a batter and frying some onion rings! That's just one example of the level of service on board a SeaDream yacht. Anything is possible!  All the waiters provide excellent and attentive service without "hovering."

The hors d’oeuvres served each evening before dinner are plentiful and delicious and range from egg rolls to burritos to sushi and everything in between. On some nights, caviar is served.

You can get food brought to your cabin by ordering from the "Small Bites" menu. Offerings include lighter fare such as hamburgers, salads, sandwiches, cheese platter, popcorn, soup and a few desserts. And speaking of desserts, the ice cream and sorbets made on the ship were absolutely delicious!

Sandwiches and cookies were available at the pool after lunch. The formal tea service no longer takes place, but if you want tea, it is as simple as asking for it. You definitely will never go hungry on a SeaDream yacht. Or thirsty. Franck, the head wine steward, chooses a red and white wine to be served with lunch and dinner each day. If you want a different variety, just ask. Roland and Zoltan, at the Top of the Yacht Bar, remember what your favorite drink is and keep your glass filled.

SeaDream refers to their food as "Dream Cuisine". We tend to agree. Executive Chef, Ondrej Havlicek, and his capable galley crew created wonderful food both on the ship and on the shore at the beach barbeque.


ACTIVITIES

SeaDream I and SeaDream II feature a large retractable water sports Marina providing a variety of water sports opportunities such as glass bottom kayaks, water skiing, banana boat, tubing or boarding, snorkeling, sailing on a Sunfish®, swimming and snorkeling or lounging on the floating island.  And, you always have the assistance of the yacht’s Marina staff. Jet skis are available if local regulations allow them to be used. We were able to use them in two ports on our itinerary. We also took out one of the kayaks and paddled around a bit. You have to sign a waiver, and get a paper bracelet indicating you have done so, before you can use the Marina.

Each morning, yoga and Tai-chi classes were offered. At several ports, the Club Director, Adrienn Godo, or Captain Torbjorn Lund, would host a "Crew Shoreside Casual" where they would lead a hike or bike trip on shore and invite the guests to come along. One day, the crew held a "Showcase Event" in the Main Salon where different departments demonstrated their "wares" including a cooking demonstration by the chef, wine tasting with the sommelier, towel-folding creations, blackjack lessons, napkin folding, and spa products and mini massages. One evening before dinner, we were treated to a fashion show featuring some of the crew modeling apparel that could be purchased in the onboard boutique.

The Fitness Center is open daily from 7:00am to 8:00pm. Guests may arrange for times outside of these hours upon request. In the Fitness Center you will find 4 treadmills, 1 elliptical machine, 2 recumbent bikes (
all with flat screen TVs and DVD players), and free weights . Cool towels and refrigerated bottled water are also available. A golf simulator is located on Deck 6 forward and allows you to play several famous courses. Clubs and balls are furnished.

The Casino on SeaDream II consists of one blackjack table. The Piano Bar is steps away and features evening piano  entertainment.

On clear nights after dinner you can enjoy a concert or movie on the pool deck with a starry sky and your port of call as the backdrop. Popcorn and a drink of choice are available for the asking. On evenings when the weather is not perfect, the event is hosted in the Main Salon. We had several opportunities on our voyage to enjoy an outdoor movie or concert. DVDs are available from the Concierge at the front desk and can be checked out and viewed on the DVD player in your stateroom. Ipods are available for guests to use and you can check out a laptop if you need one. There are four movie channels on which movies play continuously and one concert channel available on your stateroom TV. Movie selection changes each day.

The SeaDream Spa offers an extensive range of spa favorites such as massage and facials, manicures and pedicures . Weather permitting, you can schedule your treatment outside in an open-air private massage area. On beach barbeque day, the spa staff set up a tent on the beach to perform "Massage Under the Palms".

The Library, found on Deck 4, has a large selection of books to borrow and two computers connected to the Internet. There are comfortable couches and chairs where you can relax and read a magazine or newspaper or play cards.

A wide range of brands and products at tax-free rates are available at the SeaDream Boutique. Items include apparel, beach and swimwear, headwear, bags, jewelry and accessories and logo wear. I looked at a ladies' SeaDream logo polo-style tee-shirt made by Tommy Hilfiger for $80! Notice I said "looked" and not "bought". The Boutique, set up in the Reception area, was open several times during our voyage so you could shop if you desired.

SeaDream offered shore excursions for each port, including scuba opportunities, but the favorite activity seemed to be relaxing on the deck while being pampered by the crew. All of our ports of call, except for San Juan and St. Thomas which had docking piers, required taking a tender to shore. Taking a tender on SeaDream is nothing like taking a tender on a big ship. We never had to wait in line to get on a tender and on shore, when the people who were waiting were on board the tender, the tender left! There was no waiting around in case more people showed up later. In most locations on shore, SeaDream had water, tea, juice and cookies available where you board the tender.


ITINERARY

Our 7-night Caribbean itinerary started in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and ended in St. Thomas.

San Juan - SeaDream II was docked at Pier 1 East in Old San Juan, a beautiful 475-year-old neighborhood which was originally home to the entire population of Puerto Rico.. You can't embark until 2:00pm, so we arrived early and dropped our bags off in the terminal and went to explore Old San Juan on foot. It is easy to walk around the old town and a visit to El Morro Fort is a must. We even sampled some of the local food from a food truck parked near the port.

Culebrita Island & Esperanza (Vieques Island) - The Club Director, Adrienn, took a group hiking on Culebrita.  It is a small island with a couple of nice beaches. At noon, the ship moves to Esperanza on Vieques Island. We tender ashore to Esperanza and walk along the seafront promenade but don't see much to warrant staying there for long. There are some open-air bars and restaurants and a few shops selling souvenir-type items. Lots of people took mountain bikes on the tender to ride on the island. You could rent scooters or jet skis there. I think we mainly stopped here to have access to the nearby bioluminescent Mosquito Bay, to which SeaDream offered an after-dark excursion.

Sandy Ground, Anguilla
- Here, Captain Lund takes a group on an 18-mile bicycle ride around the island!  I later hear that only two guests were able to complete the entire ride. We took the tender to shore and started to walk to what we thought was town, but clouds gathered and rain started to fall before we got too far. We had a map provided by the ship, but we really weren't too sure how far we would have to walk to get to town. Many people from the ship were taking taxis to a beach or just setting out to explore. We saw absolutely nothing except some chickens running around the road! When the rain started, we took the tender back to the ship.

Gustavia, St. Barts - We overnighted here so we had two days to explore St. Barts. We have been here several times before and have always found the island to be pretty but crowded and expensive. This visit was no different! Azamara Journey was also here on the first day which added more people to the mix. The traffic on the street along the waterfront is insane! There are cars and scooters and ATVs all vying for space on the narrow street. Luckily there are sidewalks for the pedestrians! However, crossing the street is at your own risk. We tendered to shore to try to find the ATV rental place to inquire about renting and ATV to drive around. The more we observed the heavy traffic, the more we thought an ATV was a bad idea. Then it started to lightly rain so we changed our minds about the ATV. The ship offered an ATV excursion for $179 per vehicle for two hours. On the second day here, Holland America's Prinsendam was in port which added to the crowd on shore. We tendered in and walked around to the back part of the bay and explored. It is difficult to leave the comfort and pampering on the ship, especially when you have visited a port before. Club Director, Adrienn, took a group hiking to the Fort Karl ruins and Shell Beach.

Spanish Town & North Sound, Virgin Gorda
- SeaDream II anchors off Spanish Town to facilitate an excursion to the Baths. Next, the ship moves to North Sound and anchors just off the Bitter End Yacht Club. Again, Adrienn takes a group hiking around North Sound for about 90 minutes up steep hills. We decide to take the tender to shore and explore the Bitter End. We have been here before so we know what to expect. We buy a few souvenirs then walk along the pathway to the end of the area admiring the pretty flowers, turn around and walk back. We thought about eating on shore but decided to go back to the ship where we know the food is good. It took a while for the tender to pick us up because it had to go pick up the people who had taken the excursion to the Baths and take them to the ship. When we got back to the ship, we decided to take advantage of the Marina and use one of the inflatable kayaks. It was a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon in the Caribbean!

White Bay, Jost Van Dyke - This is the location for the famous Champagne & Caviar Splash and beach barbeque! Adrienn takes a group on a hike to Foxy's at Great Harbour in the morning. At 11:00am, zodiacs start transporting people to the beautiful beach which has been set up with lounge chairs and tables for dining. As you exit the zodiac, you are offered champagne or a "Painkiller" cocktail. Around noon, the ship's whistle blows and a surfboard loaded with caviar is floated out waist deep in the water. Waiters serve champagne to you while standing in the ocean! It is great fun and something you must experience for yourself. This is followed by an elaborate barbeque with all the trimmings. When you have enough sun and food and drink, you can take the zodiac back to the ship. What a wonderful way to spend a SeaDream afternoon!

Bringing Liquor Home
You can get some very good prices on liquor in St. Thomas. However, the problem is getting it home. With new airline/TSA regulations, we were certain that all we could bring home was one bottle packed in our checked luggage. A helpful rep at A.H. RIISE Liquor Store in St. Thomas informed us that American Airlines, US Air and Delta will allow one case of liquor per passenger as a checked package at no charge!
Crown Bay, St. Thomas - This is where we disembark SeaDream II. A lot of buildings have been built since we were last at this port. Open-air taxis are waiting outside the port area to take guests to the airport or to town or to the Emerald Bay hotel where you can hang out if you have a late flight if you buy a drink or a meal. We opted to take the taxi into Charlotte-Amalie to do some shopping. When we went down the gangway to claim our luggage, we found that, at some point after we turned our luggage over to the ship, the handle was broken completely off of our large red suitcase. This meant we had to carry it instead of roll it, which was a major inconvenience.

SUMMARY

Over the past 10 years we have been fortunate enough to sail with SeaDream Yacht Club on a few occasions and each one has been a pleasure.  We are always amazed at the impeccable service offered by such a friendly crew who always know each passenger's name and use it. A SeaDream voyage is such a relaxing experience. Yacht-casual is the dress code and jackets and ties are the exception rather than the norm. If you enjoy relaxing and being pampered and waited on hand and foot, you will love SeaDream Yacht Club!









It is common in the travel industry for journalists to be provided with complimentary cruise accommodations, and in some cases, hotel accommodations, for the purpose of a review. While it has not influenced this review, CruiseReport.com adheres to a strict policy of full disclosure to all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, please refer to our Ethics Guidelines
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4 Comments
TERRY S
Joe, you are RIGHT ON. I read a lot of non-journalist cruise reviews and most are either all-glowing or just complaint letters. I would rather read what 'professionals' who do this for a living have to say. Some are better than others. We have found CruiseReport to be one of the best over the years.
Sunday, April 01, 2012 2:19 AM  
JOSEPH GRANT
Mike, sorry to disagree. I like the detail and found there to be a lot of substance in this article. All journalists get comped for their trips, otherwise, how could they afford to do their job? Some are better than others and you can tell when the reviews are whitewashed. I have found Cruise Report to be the most honest of the bunch.
Sunday, March 25, 2012 7:00 AM  
CRUISEREPORT.COM EDITOR
@Mike, The raw menu changed every day and there were multiple items each day. Some consisted of pureed vegetables served in small shot-like glasses. There were too many items to list in the review and, most likely, they would change from one sailing to the next. As for cabin sq ft. that information is readily available from SeaDream. Not really fair to compare to Silversea or Seabourn since there are no verandah staterooms. Service levels, however, are comparable. Silversea, Searbourn and SeaDream will not disappoint.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 9:49 PM  
MIKE WEBB
Too wordy without subatance. What specifically was served on the Raw menu, how big was the cabin, comparison to Silversea, Sabourn, value, etc. How can you not be affected by a free cruise? Especially if you wanted to repeat?
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 7:36 PM  
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