Stepping foot on the SeaDream I for the first time, I shook hands with the Captain, the Activities Director and the Maitre D'. I was handed a cool, moist towel on a hot Caribbean afternoon, then a glass of champagne. A dozen smiling faces offered a cheerful, "Welcome aboard," as we were escorted to our suite -- all staterooms are oceanview suites -- home for the next seven days. Our room stewardess, Babylynn, greeted us at our door with a genuine smile and warmth that would never leave her face for the entire week.
If this is yachting, let the yachting begin.
I'm just back from my Caribbean cruise on the SeaDream I, and I was very impressed. The SeaDream Yacht Club consists of two identical, 4300-ton vessels, 344 feet in length. These are not sailing ships but cruise ships on a smaller scale. The yachts cruise in the Mediterranean from May to October and in the Caribbean from November to April.
The company describes the yachting experience as an unstructured one, with "no clocks, no crowds, no lines, and no stress." They easily deliver on this pledge, partly as a result of the industry's highest ratio of crew to passengers. On our sailing there were 101 passengers and 92 officers and crew, and that startling ratio enabled an extraordinarily high level of friendly and personal service throughout the ship.
The small passenger count (55 total staterooms) and ability to customize any sailing to the demands of its guests have made the SeaDream yachts more popular for corporate charters than any other ship we represent. Companies such as Jaguar, Chrysler, Nokia and GE have chartered an entire SeaDream ship and customized itineraries, activities, dining and entertainment as a way to reward performance and recognize excellence. (If you are interested in discussing a charter of the SeaDream I or II, please contact Cheryl Cunningham in our group department by clicking here.)
On our cruise, the other guests ranged in age from the 20s to the 80s. At the lifeboat drill, my 16-year-old son realized he was the youngest passenger on the ship by at least 10 years, so there wouldn't be any new buddies to hang out with. I'd prepared him for this possibility, and he took the sad realization that he'd be spending a lot of time with his parents stoically.
Fortunately for everyone involved, this was his first cruise with his own room, and he enjoyed his room's DVD player, Internet connection (laptops supplied by the ship at no charge) and the freedom to come and go as he pleased.
SeaDream targets active travelers who appreciate a casually elegant lifestyle. There are no formal nights, and in fact less than half the men wore jackets to dinner during our cruise. About half of the guests were quite active, taking advantage of the ship's water sports platform which offered jet skiing, sunfish sailing, skiing, boarding, kayaking and snorkeling. Shore excursions also tended to be active, including zip-lining, kayaking, trail-riding on ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles), horseback riding, hiking, snorkeling and sailboat racing (more on that next week).
The SeaDream I's public areas and staterooms are immaculately maintained, in keeping with the 6-star ships of Crystal, Radisson (now Regent) and Silversea. The dining room is elegant and comfortable and not too noisy, and under the watchful eye of Christophe, the Maitre D', the food and service rank with the best I have had anywhere. In fact the only reason we rate SeaDream ships as 5 ½ stars is because there is no evening entertainment other than a bit of piano music in the main salon or a hand of cards in the small casino. If that is not important to you, you should consider the ships 6-star.
One of my favorite features of this ship is its ability to accommodate all guests with on-deck dining when weather permits. On two nights, we enjoyed candlelit dinners under the stars while at anchor. Unlike most ships, SeaDream's cruise price includes complimentary alcoholic beverages at lunch, dinner and throughout the ship.
SeaDream does not set or adhere to strict arrival and departure times in the ports it visits. The Captain may linger in a port to allow guests to take advantage of opportunities on shore, or cut short one call and substitute another. With so few passengers on board there are naturally fewer shore excursion options than the megaships offer, but my family found a perfect fit in every port.
One of the advantages of small ships is their ability to visit small, uncrowded ports that cannot accommodate the megaships. This sailing included four ports in that category -- St. Barts, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Nevis -- plus St. John and St. Martin. I'll check in later with more information about these off-the-beaten-path Caribbean islands, some of which are real gems.
In the meantime, I'm back in Houston looking for a place with no clocks, no crowds, no lines and no stress. So far, no luck!
For more information about the SeaDream Yacht Club, click here.
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