I have spent most of the past week discussing how you technically travel with Covid-19 in the world (It is easy!) and the changes that Seabourn has implemented onboard the Seabourn Ovation (They are all very good!), but I haven’t spent much time talking about what it is that those things are really supposed to make happen and make better: Cruising on Seabourn and doing a bit of engaging “travel” along the way.
As yesterday morning I had to take the one-week antigen test (I will take another the day before disembarking) and it is also the last moments onboard before my daughter, Devin, joins me I want to take some time to review. (For those that follow me on Facebook some of this will be familiar!)
With the Seabourn Ovation sailing with less than 300 guests and a full complement of crew, to say that the staff is falling over you to make sure you are having a fantastic time would be an understatement. But the sparkle in their eyes, a combination of their joy being back onboard working and their desire to please, is just infectious. Add to that Seabourn bringing together an All-Star team and, well, I’m not sure how the ambiance and delivery of the onboard Seabourn Experience could be better.
The dynamics are, however, a bit different as with fewer guests the venues don’t really have the same energy. For some, that is a good thing, but for others (like The Club) it can be a bit quiet.
Nonetheless, I have, ‘er um, struggled on and have been very comfortable with my morning routine of a coffee or two in my suite, followed by visiting the Seabourn Square for a strong Americano coffee to go, wandering over to Breakfast at the Patio for a combination of healthy and clearly no so healthy (but delicious) breakfast items. The daily tangines and blended fruit yogurt drinks are definite favorites.
With the new high-speed internet combined with being able to use multiple devices and not being logged off, I am able to get my work done so much faster. Seriously, I bet I have gained two hours of free time every day!
Thus my days have been quite enjoyable and dare I say relaxing. I mean when in Greece, one should be Greek, right?
Earth & Ocean was the perfect relaxed dinner venue. And Corporate Chef (and culinary genius) Tony Egger continues to improve this already amazing experience with new and inventive options.
My first full day onboard we arrived in a place I had never been, Agios Nikolaos (St. Nicholas, the saint of sailors, not of Santa Claus fame), Crete. I decided on an alleged hiking tour: Hiking in Elounda Bay & Spinalonga Visit: A Mindful Living Tour. It was, in fact, not “hiking”, not “mindful” and so painful I did not want to “live” through it. It was a terrible reminder of how much I truly resent the co-branding with that snake oil salesman Andrew Weil. Not only was it just a bad tour with a lousy guide (more on that in a moment), every time I hear his name I remember watching him eat (he does not “dine”) everything that is unhealthy and in equally unhealthy portions. Alas, Seabourn needs to sink that ship!
Oh, that “hiking” tour was horrible. It was not even a walk or a saunter. It was a meander at best up a non-descript road to a closed church (Oh how I wish just one tour…just one…would not include a church. It is not because I am Jewish, but because I signed up for a hike, not a religious lecture.) Anyway, once at the closed church and lecture it was back down the same road. A couple of us asked if it was OK if we walked ahead. The result: What took us over 30 minutes to get to, took 10 minutes to get back.
But that was not the worst part. Seriously! The guide must have said Spinalonga over 100 times (I am not exaggerating!). Spinalonga means “long spine” and was a leper colony…two facts repeated often. [A travel note: I have visited two leper colonies: Spinalonga and Bergen, Norway…which is not something many can claim.] We then took a 20-minute boat ride to Spinalonga – which was the highlight of the tour. I mean it wasn’t anything special we just weren’t walking in the hot sun for no reason and did not need to hear Spinalonga for twenty minutes.
We arrived at Spinalonga (are you getting tired of hearing it?) and the captain said we had 1 hour and 10 minutes. WHAT? What the hell were we going to do for all that time. Well, it wasn’t a hike or a walk or a saunter!
And then it hit me: The Three Stooges. “Niagara Falls! Slowly I turned. Step by Step. Inch by Inch.” (One of my favorite skits). Just substitute Spinalonga!
It was finally time to return to the boat for 20 minutes of silence…almost never to hear the word Spinalonga uttered again…and then back to the pier.
I asked the guide where a nice place to have a local lunch was. She told me to go to the right. Wrong! British holiday pub after pub. So I eventually went to the left…and I traveled. I wandered along the coast until I came to the last restaurant. There was a young woman with gorgeous blue eyes and long black hair that engaged me to sit down; and how could I resist…and then her mother brought me to a table. They sucked me right in!
I ordered a bottle of rose, fried anchovies, grilled sardines, grilled octopus, and grilled calamari.
After my wine was poured the father came over and said I ordered too much. I said my mother was not here so didn’t have to eat everything. We laughed. Later I asked him what the name of the restaurant, Ofou To Lo, meant. He told me it was a saying from his home village meaning “Nice to be here”. Perfect!
About an hour or so later I asked him if I ate enough. He smiled approvingly. After enjoying the last bit of my wine and unable to eat any more I asked for my bill and it arrived…with a plate of fruit and a carafe of Raki (not Ouzo). Not only was it so appreciated, it underscored how Turkish and Greek cultures have much in common even though they hate to admit it.
Many people me why I eat so much when I travel. This is why! Food brings people together. And I had a day of magic without a hike in sight but also fond memories of The Three Stooges!
Over the rest of the day and the following Day at Sea I enjoyed as much of the ship as I could; of course, heading to The Grill by Thomas Keller for the chicken and an ice cream sundae!
By the way, the one sea day is Formal Night. There are, in fact, hosted tables and I had a wonderful evening reminiscing with the Hotel Director, Kevin Huxham. I have also noticed that my hosted tables (I have been to two) are small tables so everyone can actually chat!
On the third day, we arrived in Limassol, Cypress. The day prior we were required to complete a health form under penalty of perjury or else we would not be able to disembark. It was the basic information and no big deal. I signed up for my second “hike”: Kalidonia Nature Hike: A Mindful Living Tour. (Grrrr.) Fortunately, the hike in the Troodos Mountains was beautiful, the guide charming, and due to some last-minute cancelations, there were only three of us. I found it funny that, I guess in true Seabourn fashion, the hike was all downhill so not a lot of effort but still a hike.
After the hike, which we finished quicker than expected, I had a nice sandwich and a beer before heading to a reconstructed village of Omodos, supposedly famous for its local wineries. OK, you know what the first stop was, right? C’mon, you know! Yup, a former Greek monastery…with the attendant religious lecture. Ugh.
After that and a wander around with the guide, I returned to a wine shop that looked interesting. I sampled some wine, took a proper glass of one I liked, settled into a comfortable courtyard for a bit, and bought some local wine as my souvenir before heading back to the meeting point and our return to the ship. A nice day!
Upon returning to the ship I stopped by the Patio Bar for a gin & tonic. And then there appeared an amazing Gin Tasting complete with about a dozen botanicals. Needless to say it was a popular event!
That evening I wanted to dine at The Grill by Thomas Keller, but it was packed. I mean they couldn’t have put another table in the place for me to sit. I mention this for two reasons:
It was then onto Mykonos, Greece. I love this little island as the people watching is spectacular. However, this time it was not sitting in a taverna in the old port, but rather Paradise Beach. Seabourn was great and ordered me a taxi as they are hard to come by. So off I went being dropped at the Old Port…but no taxi. I walked every possible place…no taxi. Then I received a telephone call which I could not understand (English spoken by an Albanian living in Greece is slightly difficult to interpret!). He was at the New Port. However, eventually, we got things sorted and a fun beach day with caipirinhas, local beer, and a bottle of rose.
I returned to my invitation to dine with Captain Stig. He is a very nice man with a big smile, but is very quiet. And then I received a telephone call apologizing that the Captain could not make dinner, but Staff Captain Stefan would host the table. Staff Captain Stefan has a big personality and I wasn’t disappointed. All I had do to was sober up!
What a fun dinner reminiscing about various captains (including seemingly everyone’s favorite, my dear friend, Captain GA), shipbuilding, the Seabourn ships including the Seabourn Venture and, of course, the tails of the triplets Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend. (We had a good laugh when I mentioned I was on the Spirit – my first Seabourn ship – now as the Star Breeze and when I took a shower the drains actually worked!) I think we entertained our tablemates…at least I hope so.
Oh, yes, dinner was excellent. I mean the idea was to eat dinner, wasn’t it? Chef Bert and his galley staff did a great job!
Nafplion, Greece was next up. I had work to do so my morning was pretty much sitting in front of my laptop being a bit frustrated. (Oh how I want the Seabourn experience before my clients get on the ship to mirror that when they arrive!) So to clear my head I figured I would head into town for a walk. Of course just as I was heading to the tender the harbor master instructed the Seabourn Ovation, which was having a Marina Day, to move. It will be 20 minutes. But the anchors weren’t holding due to the hard bottom of where the ship was instructed to move to. It will be 20 minutes more. And then another 20 minutes more.
Finally, my frustrating morning continuing, I was able to board the tender and head into town. I really didn’t feel like climbing up to the fortress so I wandered about the town…which is not as charming as it was when I last visited about 15 years ago…and couldn’t find any place that caught my eye, so after walking about three miles I headed back to the ship and took a nap after lunch at Sushi. Yum!
I had planned on dining at Earth & Ocean, but again not reading The Herald I forgot that since I am on a combination of two seven day cruises, the Officers on Deck affair was on and Earth & Ocean was closed. It was a good tradeoff as seeing all the officers, staff and crew out on deck was kind of emotional…even for me!
Now to start my second week with my daughter, who believe it or not, has never been on Seabourn and actually interned for Adam Tihany so she did some of the interior design work on the Seabourn Ovation!