|In the March/April issue of Prow's Edge, our editor joined the Seabourn Spirit as she sailed the Eastern Mediterranean...|
|by Kevin Retief|
|Moored a few hundred yards away is a small private yacht with a helicopter on the deck. It's rumoured to belong to Bill Gates and everyone is green with envy. Not me. I'm on the Seabourn Spirit and as far as I'm concerned, at this very moment, drifting at anchor off the coast of Sorrento, there's not a single thing Bill Gates has there on his private yacht that I should want. I've got it all here and more besides!
For eight days now, all the way from Istanbul, around the Greek Islands and through the Corinth Canal, we've been pampered and spoiled as if we were millionaires ourselves. (Quite possibly some of us are.) We've been spritzed with chilled Evian water as we lie baking in the hot Mediterranean sun. We've been tempted with Greek buffets under the umbrellas on the Sky Deck, Italian buffets by the pool, Indonesian buffets at the Veranda Cafe, silver platters of caviar and hors d'oeuvres at the Captain's party and first class cuisine morning, noon and night in the restaurant. We've been courted like royalty and entertained like sultans and it's all starting to feel like home.
|Pampering is part of the routine on this luxurious, all-suite ship, large enough to carry more than twice the 208 passengers setting sail on her, but it's a pampering that is unobtrusive. We imagine that this is what it must be like aboard the millionaire's yacht across the bay. Here too, aboard the Seabourn Spirit, we are the ones who decide what we want, how we want it, when and where.|
|On the Seabourn Spirit, your days can be fun and stimulating - a wild banana boat ride from the sports marina at the back of the ship or just plain relaxing as you soak up the rays with a good book from the library.
This is what makes it feel like home like our own private yacht. It seems as if we've been here forever.
|The Istanbul taxi had barely slowed to a stop in front of the dilapidated terminal building - we hardly had a chance to grow accustomed to the stunning backdrop of a minaret encrusted skyline, the rose water scents, and the babble of an incomprehensible language, when doors were being opened and white liveried staff, all from the Seabourn Spirit, were there to greet us with broad grins of welcome.
Within seconds our hand luggage was lifted from our shoulders, and we were being led feeling suddenly, but delightedly half naked without all the accoutrements of our last several hours of travel through one of the swiftest registration processes I've ever encountered in the cruise industry.
Everything is arranged before you get to your port of embarkation. There are no forms to fill in, no tickets and dockets or vouchers to present. All you have to do is show your customized boarding /credit card, and your passport. In return there's a glass of champagne, and within seconds of all of this you're being leisurely escorted across the pier, through the shadows of the sleek form of the Seabourn Spirit to the waiting gangplank.
This is the welcome of a Seabourn Cruise. An effortless process that makes you feel like an honoured guest. And it's just the start of the style that assumes that everyone is as discriminating as any one of those millionaires in their private yachts just across the bay.
In a matter of minutes we were ensconced in our cabins and besieged with well wishers. The cabin steward who offered us a welcome glass of champagne and a choice of designer soaps, the cruise director, Marsha Harris, who popped in to say hello and who invited us to the Turkish Delight Party on the top deck later that night, and even one of the officers, who happened to be passing by and donned his cap in welcome.
|The cabins, certainly larger than anything Bill Gates or any of his pals out there on the bay might be enjoying, are large by any standards in the cruise industry. Every single cabin aboard the Seabourn Spirit, with more than 277 square-feet of luxuriously appointed features, is an outside suite a room with a view.|
|All suites have 5-foot picture windows and by the end of this year, more than fifty percent of these suites will be converted to include highly distinctive French Balconies with sliding glass doors opening to sunlight and sea breezes.
The cabin is a home away from home maybe even better complete with a fully stocked bar, television and VCR, personalized stationary, a cozy terry robe, walk in closet and my personal favourite, a marble bath. Plenty of room to take your time getting ready for dinner. And there's plenty to look forward to. Dinner that first night aboard the Seabourn Spirit, and all the meals that were to follow, was of a standard a millionaire might expect.
We should imagine that all the millionaires on the yachts anchored peacefully about us have their own chefs aboard. Maybe even two.
|Here aboard the Seabourn Spirit there are several teams of chefs, each of them creating award-winning cuisine for the open seating restaurant, and at alternative casual locations like the Veranda Cafe (where you can dine more casually both indoors and out on deck as you watch the sun set behind you), and at festive barbecues out on deck or ashore or on a secluded beach. Dinner can even be served in the cabin. As always, the emphasis is on choice. It's yours!
All the staff aboard the Seabourn Spirit are professionals trained in Europe's favourite resorts, hotels and spas, and they provide a service that is uniquely personalized and pampering. They are all part of what they appropriately call Team Spirit.
Sailing from Istanbul to Rome, and sampling three very distinct cultures in just 10 days, there is plenty on offer for the intrepid adventurers who do want to go ashore.
|From the busy and exotic city of Istanbul, where east meets west, to the sleepy, whitewashed towns of the Greek Islands with their easy pace of life, to the awe-inspiring passage through the Corinth Canal, and on to Italy and the ruins of ancient Pompeii.
Last night we sipped an after dinner cocktail as we sailed around the amazing volcano of Stromboli and watched as streaks of red leapt into the dark night sky.
|Photos: (from top to bottom) Seabourn Cruise Line, Kevin Retief|
|For more information visit Seabourn Cruise Line's web site at www.seabourn.com|