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CruiseReportSeaDream Yacht Club SeaDream I5A cruise review of SeaDream Yacht Club SeaDream I in Mediterranean
 
 
by C. Dikmen and
R. Richardson
 
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  SeaDream I Editorial
 
A Greek Isles Dream
 
August 2013
 
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
 
Itinerary: Athens, Itea (Delphi), Sarande (Butrint), Katakolon (Olympia), Gythion, Monemvasia, Piraeus (Athens)

My first memory of SeaDream Yacht Club is from January of 2003. We boarded SeaDream II in St. Thomas and it was our first small ship experience. To say the least, we were apprehensive. I can still remember at the cocktail reception on the first night, Captain Dahl rode into the lounge on a Segway wearing a Viking helmet! It was an image I will never forget. Captain Dahl was larger than life, and he is missed by all who knew him. SeaDream was a young cruise line and there were only 34 guests on that sailing. Imagine a crew of 90 serving 34 guests! Our first small ship, or yacht, experience became one of our most memorable trips ever.

Since that first cruise, we have sailed with SeaDream a total of five times, and each time has been something special. You may wonder why a cruise journalist would go back on the same cruise line, or ship, multiple times. Things can change over time. There can be staff changes, ownership changes, changes in the company policies and product and of course, ships do get older. It is important for our consumer audience to know about the changes over time, good or bad.


The Greek Isles is the perfect destination to explore on SeaDream

So after ten years, how has SeaDream changed? Is it better? Is the SeaDream experience the same today as it was in 2003? The answers is not a simple one. Actually, yes and no. Captain Dahl has passed on and that is a loss. The unlimited tins of caviar that were served every night at the cocktail reception have been scaled back to a couple of times during a 7-night cruise. The signature Pomeroy champagne has been replaced with a lesser-known brand. And, there seems to be a little more emphasis on generating revenue on board than there was back in the day. But, the important characteristics that make this a 5-star cruise line, and consistently one of our picks as Editor's Choice, remain. Many of the staff and crew are the same people that were sailing when the cruise line started. The attention to service and guest satisfaction is unmatched in the industry. And, the quality of food remains extremely high.

One big thing that SeaDream has now that it did not have ten years ago is a large (and growing) loyal customer base. Nearly half of the 104 guests on our cruise had sailed with SeaDream before, and some had hundreds of nights sailing with SeaDream. Nothing says more about a cruise line than loyal clientele, and SeaDream has a foundation of true believers in the brand.

SEADREAM I



SeaDream Yacht Club operates two identical 112-guest yachts. The yachts themselves have a glorious history starting in the 80’s when they were first built as the Sea Goddess I and Sea Goddess II. Later, the ships were acquired by Cunard and then by sister company Seabourn before being sold in 2001 to SeaDream Yacht Club. SeaDream re-designed the ships to look and feel more like yachts by increasing the amount of open deck spaces. Good move. The result is vessels that are ideally suited for sailing the warm waters of the Caribbean in the winter months and the Mediterranean in the summer. Both ships feature lots of open teak deck space, cushioned lounge chairs, and those wonderful Balinese DreamBeds.

Because of their size and configuration, the yachts are well-suited to the charter market. Large companies and even families will charter the yacht(s) for private sailings. It is a profitable business that has earned SeaDream quite a reputation, and no doubt helps to keep the small company afloat (no pun intended).

Other than some minor refurbishments a few years ago (new fabrics and carpet), and a small boutique on Deck 4 being converted into an Admiral's Suite, the yachts have pretty much remained unchanged since our first sailing. The overall design of the yachts is great and they are very comfortable. However, some areas are beginning to look tired and are showing their age. The suites are large and comfortable, but the cabinets are starting to look dated. Also, with some minor changes, the suites could benefit from additional storage space. The mattresses in our suite seemed to be at the end of their life cycle, as well. However, all of the linens were very high quality and comfortable. Re-furnishing staterooms takes a lot of money and I am sure investing heavily in 30+ year-old hardware may not be the wisest business decision. Rumors have been flying around that the company may have plans to build a new, larger yacht, but I have been unable to confirm this.

In spite of some areas showing signs of age, the yachts have tons of character and a "soul" that cannot be matched by a brand-new vessel. Make no mistake, these yachts still deliver a 5-star experience which is the envy of many competitors.

The Yacht Experience



SeaDream Yacht Club would have you believe that yachting is different from cruising, and there is certainly a noticeable difference. For one thing, the feel is casual and relaxed, just like it would be if you were on a friend's yacht, a very rich friend. And, like on a yacht, there are virtually NO public announcements to interrupt your leisure. The crewmembers call you by name and never fail to offer a smile and a friendly "hello". Breakfast, lunch and, weather permitting, dinner are served on deck, al fresco, in the Topside Restaurant. When weather makes dining outdoors a bad idea, dinner is served in the Dining Salon on Deck 2, a well-appointed and elegant dining room. When you dine aboard a SeaDream yacht, you do so when and with whom you choose. There are no assigned seatings or strict dining times. There are no formal nights and “yacht casual,”
meaning no shorts or jeans, is the dress code around the ship after 6pm.

Days are typically spent on the yacht’s outer deck areas or on shore. The disproportionately large pool deck (Deck 3 aft) is a great place for sun worshippers to work on that Caribbean or Mediterranean tan. SeaDream crew are always nearby with your favorite beverage. Often, your lounging will be enhanced by a smiling deck steward offering to spritz you with cool water, or bring you fresh fruit or ice cream. A favorite place of ours is the Top of the Yacht Bar on Deck 6 which is also where you will find
the unique Balinese DreamBeds. The Balinese beds, which flank the yacht’s exhaust stack (aft), are large, plush and the perfect way for two people to share sun time together. For more privacy, there are DreamBeds on Deck 6 forward, as well. Upon request, the DreamBeds can be reserved for sleeping "under the stars" out on deck. Stewards will make up the beds with quality linens and pillows for your comfort.

With the exception of incidentals and shore excursions, your cruise fare includes just about everything. The open-bar policy onboard means all soft drinks, beer, wine and cocktails are included with only premium brands being the exception. A variety of salon and spa treatments and massages are available from the yacht’s spa for an additional charge as are dry cleaning and laundry service. Gratuities are included in the price of the cruise. All of this combines to create a very high value for your luxury travel dollar compared with some other ultra-luxury cruise lines.

ACCOMMODATIONS



At 195 sq. ft., the Yacht Club Staterooms are cozy, efficient and comfortable. There is ample closet space with plenty of hangers, and dresser storage for at least 14 days of yacht attire. However, the bathrooms, which are slathered in marble and appointed with Bvlgari products, are tiny and cramped. Gone are the plush Turkish cotton towels that impressed us so much on our first sailing that we tracked down the supplier and bought them for our own home. There is a sink with small marble vanity and one glass shelf for your personal items. In contrast, the nearly full-sized shower stall features a multiple jet system for a full-body water experience. The water pressure was always great and we never lacked for hot water. The edge of the toilet is uncomfortably close to the bathroom door making for some interesting maneuvers when the need arises.

The taupe, cream and pale blue fabrics used in the stateroom, along with the light-colored woods, create a relaxing atmosphere. A curtain can be pulled to separate the sitting area from the sleeping area. The sitting area is furnished with an uncomfortably firm couch with lots of throw pillows, a coffee table and a side chair. The bedroom has a queen-sized bed with lots of pillows, two side tables and a mirrored sit-down vanity complete with stool. As stated earlier, the mattress in our suite is probably in need of replacement and has developed a large dip on both sides from use. A lighted magnifying makeup mirror and hand-held hair dryer are nice amenities. Each stateroom has a telephone and individually controlled air conditioning that will freeze you out if you let it. A mini-refrigerator is fully stocked with bottled water, soft drinks, beer and wine and is replenished as needed. Cotton robes and slippers are furnished for wear while onboard and a programmable safe is found in a compartment next to the closet. The safe in our suite was not mounted to the cabinet, so offered little real security. Someone could have easily just pulled the safe out and walked off with it. I am positive that had we reported it to Concierge, it would have been secured. Much to Rickee's chagrin, the signature SeaDream monogrammed cotton pajamas were not delivered to our suite on this sailing. We were told that the pajama shipment did not arrive in time for our cruise.

All staterooms include flat screen televisions with DVD players (complimentary DVD movies are available at the Concierge desk), MP3 connections and a CD stereo system. There are two movie channels and CNN International news as well as a couple of closed circuit stations playing SeaDream promotional videos and a bridge cam. Both 120 and 220-volt outlets are available, but only one of each. There is also an iPod docking station.

SeaDream offers a Commodore Suite which is basically two Yacht Club Staterooms joined together. We were fortunate enough to occupy one of these on a previous sailing and really loved the layout. One side of the Commodore houses the bed while the other has a dining table that seats four. Both sides have bathrooms, closets and sofas. It sounds sort of strange, but it works. If you are traveling with kids, the Commodore is the way to go. And, for all-out extravagance, there is a spacious Owner’s Suite with 450 sq. ft. There are no balconies, but what yacht has balconies? Besides, you are never more than a few steps from a spacious outer deck.

All carpets and fabrics throughout the vessel were replaced in 2011.

ENTERTAINMENT



Typical of other small ships, SeaDream’s entertainment is limited. Evenings onboard usually begin with the daily cocktail party at 6:30pm held in the ship’s lounge or on the pool deck (weather permitting). As guests sip their favorite cocktails and munch on delicious, and often elaborate, hors d’oeuvres, they are entertained by the yacht’s pianist or guitarist. Before dinner, the guitarist strums outside the Dining Salon. After dinner, the entertainer moves up to Deck 4 to the Piano Bar, a small, intimate area next to the Casino (which consists of a single Blackjack table). Popcorn Movie Nights are held in the Lounge on select evenings.

ACTIVITIES



The most popular activity on a SeaDream cruise centers around the destinations, which tend to be smaller ports where the large ships cannot go. When the ship is anchored and the weather and local authorities permit, the water sports platform at the aft end of the yacht is lowered and guests can partake of the various water "toys". Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, sailboating, water skiing are some of the activities offered. The yacht even has a couple of Wave Runners available for guest use and a banana boat that is pulled behind a motorized zodiac for guests to try to ride. Guests are also invited to take one of the yacht’s mountain bikes ashore to pedal around town.

Elisa Della Guardia, the yacht’s Club Director, is available to describe the many shore excursions that are offered. As is common, excursions are not included in the cost of the cruise. We found some of the offerings to be a little on the expensive side, and others to be competitively priced.


Elisa Della Guardia and Rickee stop for a quick photo

Cold bottled water is always available by the gangway to take with you when you leave the ship. Water is also available at the places where you board the tenders to return to the ship. When you get back on board, a smiling waiter hands you a cold face towel. A nice touch.

The yacht’s library on Deck 4 is exceptionally well stocked for a vessel of this size. The library is a quiet and comfortable area with large, plush chairs and sofas. Guests can grab any book they like from the shelves and return it before the end of the cruise. Chess boards are set up awaiting players and newspapers and magazines are there for the reading. The library also serves as the yacht’s Internet Cafe with two computer terminals to access the Internet. There are two Internet packages available: $99 for the entire week with unlimited access, or $25 for one day with unlimited access. Gone is the clunky card reader that you used to have to insert to gain access. The yachts have been equipped with Wi-Fi and after a visit to Concierge, the guest is given a user id and password. The Wi-Fi worked perfectly from our stateroom (310) and Internet reliability and speed were the best of any ship we have sailed. And, the $99/week with unlimited access, for us, is the best value we have found for Internet access.

For those desiring a workout, the yacht has a nicely-equipped Fitness Center located on Deck 4 forward that is open from 8am to 8pm; however, you can use the facilities at other times upon request. Tai Chi classes are offered on most days. The SeaDream Spa offers a wide selection of Thai therapies, massages, facials, manicure, pedicure and salon services. There is also a steamroom and sauna available. The Golf Simulator located Deck 6 forward provides guests with the opportunity to play on various famous golf courses. A variety of clubs and balls are provided on a complimentary basis.

FOOD AND DINING



Dining is one area where SeaDream leads the cruise industry. The quality and presentation of meals on SeaDream is unmatched in our opinion.

Each day begins with breakfast served al fresco in the Topside Restaurant beginning at 7:30am. A buffet with fresh fruit, cheeses, oatmeal, breads and pastries complements a full cooked-to-order breakfast menu. This includes eggs any way you can imagine and a variety of meats including a cooked-to-order minute steak. A variety of pancakes, French toast and a daily breakfast special are always available. Early risers can find fresh coffee and pastries at the Top of the Yacht Bar starting at 7am.


Those banana pancakes are not long for the world

By 12:30, it is time to head to the Topside Restaurant for lunch. The buffet line includes a selection of salads, cheeses, desserts and breads. Fresh crab claws, crab legs and boiled shrimp were some of the featured items during the week. The lunch menu changes every day and includes a variety of specials. You can always order a hot dog, hamburger or cheeseburger with fries or onion rings. Meals are cooked to order and extremely fresh. The Asian specials offered during this cruise were amazing, and quite spicy. We found the service at both breakfast and lunch to be spot-on SeaDream perfect. The wait staff really is amazing.

There are ample appetizers and snacks served each evening at the Cocktail Party held in the ship’s lounge or on the pool deck (depending on the weather). A large tin of caviar is available for guests to enjoy on more than one evening during the cruise. Crostini, egg, onions and crème fraiche are available to enhance the experience, all served up with traditional mother-of- pearl spoons. Other hors d’oeurves run the gambit from coconut shrimp to egg rolls to a spectacular sushi display one evening (the wasabi had a real kick). One evening featured a Mexican theme, which seemed a little out of place in the waters off the coast of Greece, but the Margaritas tasted just as good as they do in the Caribbean.

Dinner service begins at 7:30 in the Dining Salon on Deck 2. However, if you prefer to dine outside on deck and weather permits, simply ask the Maitre d’ Hotel a day in advance and he will gladly accommodate your request. When weather permits, SeaDream features "Dinner Under The Stars" where everyone is invited to dine at the Topside Restaurant. Dinner menus change each day and the menu items continue to evolve and improve. There are some extremely complex dishes coming out of the Executive Chef Singh’s galley and we suspect that this may be the reason wait times between courses were somewhat longer than normal. During the eight-course (no kidding) "Menu Degustation" dinner, we actually skipped dessert because we were tired and ready to go to bed! As a rule of thumb, two hours for dinner is not unusual.

Freshly prepared sandwiches and sweets are available after lunch at the Topside Restaurant buffet. The 24-hour Stateroom Menu also offers healthy selections and lighter fare.

ITINERARY AND BLOG




CruiseReport.com Blog


THE GOOD AND THE BAD


Every cruise line and/or ship has areas that stand out. Here are a few things that we observed.

Things We Love

  • Personal, friendly service is unmatched in the industry
  • Excellent food quality and presentation
  • Best cocktail hour of any cruise ship
  • Small, intimate "yacht" atmosphere
  • Casual dress code
  • Lots of open deck space
  • Best Internet of any ship
  • Beverages, cocktails and gratuities are included

Things We Would Like To See Improved or Changed


  • Mattresses could be replaced
  • Additional storage in bathroom is needed
  • Staterooms need updating

SUMMARY



An “experience” really is the best way to describe sailing on a SeaDream yacht. We have said it before and we can wholeheartedly say it again: There is no other ship (or yacht) in the world that offers this level of personal attention and outright pampering. Of course, with a crew of 95 and a guest capacity of 108 giving a near 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio, this task becomes manageable. Guests enjoy a relaxed, yet sophisticated vacation experience. The only dress code is “yacht casual” and there are no formal nights or ties required.

SeaDream Yacht Club is best suited for adults who are looking for a relaxed, casual and upscale vacation experience. This is much more laid back than a typical cruise vacation. We were pleasantly surprised to see a much younger clientele on this most recent cruise. We would not typically recommend SeaDream to families with young children, however, we met a family traveling with two boys (ages 13 and 10) and they enthusiastically claim SeaDream to be their favorite cruise line!  We also do not recommend these yachts for those with serious physical disabilities. The yachts do have an elevator that takes guests from Deck 2 to Deck 5, but not to the Top of the Yacht Bar. And, there is no ramp to the Top of the Yacht. Also, many ports require the use of the yacht’s tenders (smaller boats that take you from anchorage to the shore). Getting into and out of tenders can be a challenge for the physically disabled.

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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https://cruisereport.com/crReview.aspx?id=2629   |  4/19/2019 11:32:44 AM