In a sign of the fast-developing nature of the local luxury Middle East cruise market, Seabourn, the leaders in yacht-like five-star cruising, sent three of their ships to the region in the first half of 2012. Seabourn Quest, their newest vessel at the time of writing, joined her fleetmates Pride (see our cruise review) and Legend in the Gulf in April for the fifth segment of her world cruise. Cruise Arabia hopped aboard to have a poke around this brand new, 32,000 gross ton, US $250 million vessel.
In terms of the luxury cruise fleet, Quest is a sizeable vessel, which gives her plenty of interior volume for her 450-max passengers to enjoy and makes her more comfortable at sea than her smaller fleetmates. Quest is also an extremely beautiful ship to look at. In fact, Cruise Arabia would go so far as to say she’s the prettiest ship to be launched in 2011 (after L’Austral). On a side note, all three of Seabourn’s newest and largest ships are virtually identical, so this review technically applies to all three of them.
Seabourn Square is the heart of this ship’s 22 public rooms and amenities. It is a new Seabourn trademark, described as a Seabourn ‘living room’ by the cruise line, with sofas arranged around cocktail tables forming a circle around the central Guest Services area, where various guest relations issues can be taken care of in privacy. This room is where one forms first impressions of Quest and for Cruise Arabia they were favourable indeed. The room doubles up as a library, with fiction and non-fiction books lining the walls and eight strategically located computer workstations provide access to the Internet for those without a laptop and the complimentary access to ship-wide wi-fi.
Main Dining Room
If one gets hungry, there is also a European Konditorei-style coffee bar serving specialty coffees, drinks, sandwiches, pastries and gelati and the entire area has been designed in such a way that it flows seamlessly out onto an expansive aft deck, making the traditional lobby space aboard ship an integral part of the ship’s entertainment and leisure facilities. The Restaurant aboard Quest, like all other ships in the fleet, remains the main dining venue, with early reviews at the time of writing indicating a near-universal five-star guest rating on popular cruise review Web sites. One of the few criticisms of the main dining room is the lack of a diverse wine selection, with just one red wine and one white wine offered on some cruises, although feedback from Seabourn suggests this will be rectified. A major plus for us is the fact that The Restaurant, occupying almost a third of Deck 4, is open seating for every meal, making it easy to arrange to have dinner with newly-made friends during the voyage.
The Colonnade and Restaurant 2 are the ship’s two other dining venues, we mean formal to smart-casual when we use the word ‘dining’ as guests can also eat at the Patio Grill, which is an unconstrained restaurant offering casual fare in an equally casual setting on the Pool Deck (Deck 8) with no dress code. Although we don’t like Restaurant 2’s unimaginative name, the decor is superb and the dining experience itself is innovative and intimate, with small-pate tasting menus served every night. The restaurant invokes no extra charge, although reservations are necessary. The Colonnade, on the other hand, located further aft on Deck 8, offers outdoor as well as indoor dining, serving buffets for breakfast and lunch and themed waiter-service dinners.
Spa Terrace with plunge pool
When it comes to leisure and recreation, Seabourn have pulled out the stops and claim their Spa at Seabourn aboard Quest is the largest aboard any luxury liner in the world. The spa has six treatment rooms, a thermal area featuring a large hydro-pool, dry float, sauna and steam rooms, a full-service salon, well-equipped gym and a motion studio featuring a Kinesis Wall and Thai massage area. It is located aft on Deck 9, with fabulous views and within arm’s reach of the Sky Bar for a post-treatment beverage, although those reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the spa can retreat to the Spa Terrace on Deck 10, where spa patrons can make use of a private Spa Villa, a breezy outdoor relaxation cabana and a small whirlpool spa.
In addition to the spa, there are three main lounges and bars aboard Quest, not counting the Patio Bar and Sky Bar, which are alfresco. The Observation Lounge is the passenger-travel staple public room, located way up forward on Deck 10 with stunning views over the ship’s bow. Seabourn’s publicity material claim this circular lounge with its square bar has 270 degree views, a grand piano in an offset recess suggests the Observation Lounge is an elegant, relaxing venue to take in the sunset or end the evening. Early Risers tea and coffee make it a great platform from which to begin the day as well.
The Grand Salon
The entertainment centre is the Grand Salon, the precursor (for many cruisers) to any maritime night out, with dinner followed by a show here, before heading on to The Club, where live music, as well as DJ-led dance music, make the lounge one of the liveliest aboard at night. During the day, afternoon tea is served here, while in the daytime, lectures, cooking demonstrations, movies and other gatherings and events are hosted in the Grand Salon, which puts on cabaret, production shows, comedy, and classical recitals in the late evening after dinner. For those seeking more ‘offshore’ forms of entertainment at night, there is also the ship’s casino.
Seabourn Quest occupies the crest of the wave of innovation and redevelopment sweeping the luxury segment of the cruise industry. She balances modern design and cruisers demands with old school elegance and traditions, which are integrated into her very design, such as her vast outdoor deck spaces and the classic mini promenade on the boat deck. She is expensive, but that’s the price one pays to get this close to perfection.
Seabourn Quest has seven categories of stateroom, each of which is different from the other based on its size, layout and location onboard the ship: the entry-level Ocean View suites (layout), Veranda Suites (layout), Penthouse Suites (layout), Penthouse Spa Suites, Owners’ Suite (layout), Signature Suite (layout) and the mammoth 1,097sq ft Wintergarden Suite (layout).
The Good –
– Expansive outdoor deck areas
– Open seating in The Restaurant
– Plunge pool on aft deck of The Club
The Bad –
– Lack of production shows on some cruises
– Relatively sparse formal entertaining
– Small wine selection in main dining room