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By Raphi Bloom
Sea Dream Yacht Club
As a first time passenger on SeaDream, when they say their cruises are “yachting, not cruising” you wonder what they mean. However that confusion doesn’t last long. “Boutique”, “elegant”, “sophisticated” and “luxury” are all words that you quickly come to associate with SeaDream voyages. However there is NO stuffiness or pretentiousness - most of the 40 to 60 something passengers know how to have fun -and have it!
SeaDream was founded in 2001 and both its ships, the SeaDream I and SeaDream II, were built in 1984 and 1985 as part of the Cunard Sea Goddess line. They were both completely refurbished soon after being acquired by SeaDream to make them the sleek, sophisticated ships they are today.
The minute you step on-board you realise you are entering a different level of service. Warm hand towels are offered at the top of the gangway immediately followed by a glass of champagne and a welcome buffet while you wait to be called for your private check-in.
SeaDream is an all-inclusive cruise, which means that all food – and just as importantly – wine, champagne and spirits (apart from a very few top premium brands) are included in the price. This really does contribute to what quickly becomes a very relaxed and fun atmosphere on board. There is also no tipping or gratuties.
The dress code is what is called “yacht casual” which means no formal nights. Ladies wear cocktail dresses in the evening and men smart trousers and shirts – no ties are required!
Dining & Entertainment
Dining is silver service and really six stars. The dining room on Deck 2 has enough tables to be able to seat all 110 guests at any time, so there is no need for 2 dinner seatings. We travelled in the Baltic’s, so most times meals were served inside, but on warm weather cruises virtually all meals are served outside on Decks 4 and 5.
Nothing is too much trouble for the staff and the levels of personal service quickly become apparent. Staff learn your names and personal tastes fast - even down to the way you like your coffee. Fancy a slight variation of the curry that is on the menu – no problem – “just give us 15 minutes and we will make it”. Each night provides a different type of menu and theme whilst all the while there are a range of standard dishes always available for those that are less adventurous food-wise.
There are also plenty of vegetarian and fish options available and even choices for people with special diets. To repeat – NOTHING is too much trouble for the chefs. (See note at bottom of article regarding Kosher Sea Dream options)
Accompanying the exquisite food are delicious wines – and whilst there is a separate premium wine list available for an extra charge – the “house” wines are certainly NOT sub standard.
Canapés, snacks and pre-dinner drinks are available every day in the main lounge from 6pm and extra-nice touches include hot chocolate and snacks available at the top of the gangway when you return from shore excursions.
Of course this being “yachting” means that there is not the huge variety of entertainment available as compared to big-ship cruising. This though does not matter as the guests make their own entertainment. The “Top of the Yacht” open air bar on Deck 5 quickly becomes the place to gather, with music and dancing till 3 am. The personal service extends to here with the bartender soon learning your favourite drink – so much so that as soon as my head appeared at the top of the stairs my “usual tipple” was waiting for me on the bar – and a refill was never far away!
The ship also has a piano bar where a resident pianist and singer entertains and there are movies and live entertainment scheduled throughout the cruise in the main lounge.
The staterooms are all large and very well appointed. All have windows or portholes and contain enough room for a sofa, small table and chair. They also feature large flat screen TV’s, DVD players, Ipod docking stations and a fully stocked, complimentary -of-course – mini bar. There is no shortage of wardrobe space and the bathrooms – which are stocked with Bvlgari toiletries - feature a large, walk in shower. Again, your cabin steward quickly learns what you most like to drink from your mini bar and stocks it accordingly. There is also a 24-hour room service menu you can order from.
Deck and Pool Area
Although we travelled on a Baltic cruise where the weather was not really made for sunbathing, research conducted amongst passengers who had previously cruised with SeaDream made it clear that the yachts come into their own on warm weather cruises. There are enough sunbeds for all passengers at all times, so no need to get up early to nab a sunbed. You can also sleep outside at night on one of the signature “Balinese” beds under the stars! The pool and jacuzzi are on Deck 3 and what really sets the SeaDream apart is the ability to open the back of the yacht up and deploy its own jet skis, kayaks, snorkelling equipment and more. Guests can also swim in the sea off the back of the yacht.
Spa and Gym
The spa is elegant and offers a wide range of massages, therapies and treatments. The gym is somewhat on the small side – unsurprising given size of the ships – but have a good selection of cardio equipment and free weights. Certainly enough to keep me ticking over!
Ports of Call
Being smaller than normal ships allows SeaDream to dock at smaller ports that would normally be inaccessible for big ships. This allows passenger more flexibility to get on and off the ship on foot and also allows the Captain to vary sailing times. In St Petersburg for example we docked in the heart of the city on the Neva River. Likewise in Stockholm and Helsinki. Discussions with fellow passengers mentioned small, intimate ports in both the Med and Caribbean that they were able to visit which on previous voyages with other lines had been unavailable.
Although there are enough tables and sunbeds to be able to keep yourself to yourself should you wish, SeaDream’s size and atmosphere soon means that passengers become friends and will often eat together, and then carry on drinking and partying together. Most guests are couples, with the occasional family grouping. We certainly made friends we hope to stay in touch with for a long time.
An amazing voyage with fantastic service and crew. Once you have experienced SeaDream you will definitely return!
Note from Sea Dream:
Note from Sea Dream:
We can arrange kosher food to be delivered to the yacht. While we cannot offer a 100% kosher setup, we do our very best to ensure a respectful and quality meal service, including:
- Purchasing specifically kosher meats and foods. We order quality kosher products through our registered supplier for which a minimum 4 week notice is required.
- While we cannot offer a kosher kitchen, we purchase new post, pans and utensils specifically for preparing kosher foods.
- One specific chef is assigned to prepare and handle the kosher food preparation to avoid any crossover with our regular food preparation.
- We offer the kosher foods on newly purchased porcelain and cutlery. Note that all porcelain and cutlery is washed in the vessel’s standard dishwashers, and the kosher porcelain and cutlery is washed separately in the same machine.
- If the guests wishes to perform the cooking ritual of switching the stove off and on, the Chef will escort the guest to the main stove switchboard to perform the ritual.
A specific waiter is assigned to serve the kosher meals to the guests in order to ensure that their specific needs are met completely.
The alternative is to purchase pre-prepared “TV style” kosher meals, however we do not prefer this option as it detracts from the SeaDream quality profile. Upon occasion, Jewish guests do insist on this option, or to bring their own food onboard. Of course, we oblige them to the best of our ability.
Note that there is an extra charge for arranging kosher meals, as we purchase special products and are carefully respectful during the preparation and serving processes. Special requests will be handled together with the guest’s travel professional and the SeaDream reservations team, who will inform the Hotel Operations department of the request. Guests will be informed of the availability of products and pricing before the purchase is done. Upon the guest’s approval, the products will be purchased and forwarded to the vessel for loading. Serving kosher meals onboard SeaDream is a tailor-made offering and is personalized as per the requests of the Guest.