At first glance, the idea of a sea crossing, even on the Seabourn Goddess 11, arouses skepticism. Why on earth would anyone pay money to spend eleven days encased in a small container, bobbing around in the south Atlantic, without the distractions of shore excursions or varied ports of call? Why would anyone want to be nine hundred miles from the nearest landfall, completely surrounded by water that at this point is over three miles deep?
The answer is one word: peace.
Let me explain by way of example: As we boarded the ship, a harried Englishman, red faced, obviously wired, a drink in one hand and his cell phone in the other, was panicking because, while checking in, he had missed three messages. He spent the next twenty minutes huddled over his phone, trying to catch up. Three hours after we left port, he was no longer able to receive or send . The difference, when we saw him at breakfast the next day, was amazing. Now relaxed, outgoing and sociable instead of sunk in work, he was discovering himself, his wife, and his surroundings.
A repositioning cruise, such as the one offered by the Seabourn Goddess , is a special kind of cruise. Because many cruise lines have to move their ships from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean for the winter season, (and vice versa in the Spring) they often offer attractively priced voyages for the cruiser who likes the days at sea and doesnt miss the port stops.
Last year's fall Seabourn Goddess 11 cruise was an eleven day voyage that left from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, stopped for the day at Mindelo, on Porto Grande in the Cape Verde Islands, and then sailed directly across the south Atlantic to Bridgetown Barbados. This year's cruise in April was in reverse but minus the stop in Cape Verde. The passengers on the fall cruise were unique in that 70% of them were repeat Seabourn passengers, a figure that alone speaks volumes about the desirability of this brand of cruising.
This is not the cruise for everyone. It suits me perfectly. I like people, love to have the time to listen to their stories, watch them perform, act out their little contretemps. I like the peace of being able to sit in a deck chair and read for as long as I want, without a cruise director trying to involve me in a shuffleboard tournament. I like to have a long late breakfast on the upper deck, lounge in a deck chair with a book, roll in to lunch, perhaps work out for an hour in the gym, have a massage, then a shower and dress for dinner. A leisurely cocktail with friends, a long lovely dinner, a drink around the piano bar, and a comfortable bed at the end.
The next day stretches ahead of you with the same idyllic idleness ..
Any one without the social instinct, or personal interests like reading or sleeping or working out or painting their toenails ..anyone afraid of being alone with themselves, or, even more frightening, alone with their spouse, will have trouble with this cruise.
But not me. It is a tonic, a cure for the scrambled freneticism of our modern life. You begin to breathe more slowly, to be aware of who you are again, to get in touch. One gentleman, believe it or not, a successful marine lawyer, was busily engaged in rereading all of Shakespeares plays, something he had not done since school days. (Each to their own!)
It gives you time to savour the taste of a perfect Bellini, to feel the sun on your body, and to contemplate the ocean, no horizon in sight. It helps to put everything in proportion.
The Sea Goddess II is a small ship, really an overgrown yacht, with a maximum passenger load of 116. Eighty crew members take care of our every whim. Within a day, the crew knew everyones name, how you liked your espresso, what time you liked your Bloody Mary served , which deck chair you preferred.
The Goddess, or Goddess, as the British affectionately called it, as if it were their personal yacht, is a truly luxurious ship. The service was personal and attentive without being intrusive. I fondly remember lying on a deck chair by the pool, baking in the sun against all my better judgment, when Melisandro came by with a tray of perfumed chilled facecloths to cool the over heated brow. On another day, he passed by with a spray bottle filled with chilled scented water to spray ones too warm limbs.
The ultimate , though, was the Caviar and Champagne Party, Sea Goddess style.
The stewards, in full dress whites, got into the pool and served fine Russian caviar and good French champagne to the passengers. As I floated in the pool, chomping on caviar and toast and listening to the corks pop, it didnt seem that life could get much better.
Each passenger did what he wanted. Some were party-ers. Since all the food and all wine with meals is inclusive, they drank from mid morning to mid morning, slept and began again. They had bowls of caviar and plates of shrimp at 4:00, entered the dining room at the moment when they would be the stars, dressed to the teeth, and really enjoyed themselves.
Others found this cruise the opportunity to schmooze with business people from other countries, an investment banker from London, a manufacturer from Malaga, a developer from New Zealand, an entrepreneur from Australia.
Im a writer, so I collected stories. Like the one about the passenger, an elderly American gentleman, who came on board with his teddy bear. The bear came to meals, changed into a tux for dinner, even had a place set for him at the table. On one cruise a woman arrived on board with a collection of white sheets which she used to cover all the furniture in her stateroom for the entire voyage. One woman became ill in the middle of a crossing and had to be flown by helicopter, which was refueled in mid air, to hospital. She credited the crew of the Goddess with saving her life. There were many more, but Im saving them for the novel I was inspired to write, somewhere around the 13th degree of latitude.
Which is not to suggest that there are no activities on board. A putting green on the top deck attracted golfers, and the well stocked library had both books and videos that could be watched in your cabin. There is a small casino for the gamblers, and the entertainment is excellent.
On this particular cruise, a charming young Canadian girl was the featured vocalist. Nadine, born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia , has a great mellow voice, a showgirl figure, and a whopping wardrobe of Hollywood evening dresses.
Johnny Tudor .yes, that is his real name..did three shows during the crossing,, singing and dancing with Fred Astaire style charm.
You can even learn something. The on-board lecturer for this cruise was Ian Smith who had been a flight engineer on the Concorde for many years. He gave a talk and slide presentation about the inner workings of the fabled plane.
The chef, Robert van Rijsbergen, gave a cooking class, and Jean Luc, the sommelier did a wine tasting, Anne Marie, the masseuse from the Steiner Spa on board gave fitness workouts and conducted classes on toning, stretching and, my personal favourite, a class on how to massage your partner!
But I still enjoyed the restful quiet times onboard best of all. The Goddess is a small ship so you are always aware of the sea around you. With the trade winds at her back she sailed with a stately calm, and I savoured the sight and sound and roll of the waves. There was nothing else around us, except the odd pack of flying fish and an occasional dolphin.
Disembarking in Barbados was like waking up from a dream.
Photos: Top: Seabourn All others: Robert M Orr
For more information visit the Seabourn web site at www.seabourn.com