Although I’m a seasoned traveller, I have a confession to make: I had never been on a cruise. Partly because my parents liked to stay in hotels, but mainly because the idea of visiting a destination and being deposited in a touristy port has never appealed to me. I was that person who winced whenever someone asked if I’d ever been on a cruise. I had visions of being herded onto the ship in droves in a hurried, uncomfortable manner, staying in cramped quarters, eating from unappealing buffets, and being exposed to new levels of kitsch.
So, when I was invited to be part of an exclusive itinerary through the Greek Isles and Dalmatian Coast on the small luxury ship Seabourn Odyssey, I was willing to open my mind and find out exactly why cruising holds such appeal. My mother and I boarded in Athens, and were immediately impressed by the lack of crowds and the ship’s chic interior design. Seabourn Odyssey accommodates 458 guests in 229 luxury suites (and a crew of 330) – not too big, not too small.
After a quick lunch on deck, our Veranda Suite was ready. The 28-square-metre cabin was like a luxury hotel room: king-sized bed with Egyptian cotton linens, living area with desk and sofa, flat-screen TV, walk-in wardrobe, and bathroom with a shower and full-sized bathtub. Our personal suite stewardess presented us with a choice of bath amenities: Hermes, Molton Brown and L’Occitane. Throughout our stay, our stewardess would learn our preferences, including Mum’s penchant for gourmet nuts and my favourite fruits, which were replenished each day.
Understanding the appeal – What I enjoyed most about the cruise was that we go could at our own pace. We enjoyed pre-scheduled tours at each port, including a tour of a Greek olive oil farm. We could choose nightly which restaurants we wanted to dine in, from celebrity chef Thomas Keller’s The Grill to the more formal Restaurant, and even the 24-hour room service. No massive midnight buffets; just lovely dining experiences night after night. The spa was spectacular and one you’d see in a five-star hotel. The nightly entertainment was fun, from comedy shows to musical performances, and there was even a small casino.
Many of the people we met on the ship were seasoned travellers who repeatedly booked Seabourn because of its consistency in service and diverse choice of itineraries. By the time we reached Venice, having visited many charming towns in Greece and Croatia on the way, we understood the appeal of small luxury cruising. It’s highly attractive for people who don’t have much time but want to see a lot of interesting places, only unpacking once. We found ourselves feeling sad to say goodbye to our favourite crew members, but are planning another Seabourn adventure soon, possibly to Alaska. While the destination may be new, we know that Seabourn Odyssey is sure to feel like a home away from home.