Sunday, June 2, 2013

My overall thoughts about our latest SeaDream cruise...



A friend of mine sent me an email yesterday and said he'd been reading about my latest SeaDream cruise.  He wrote, "you know what, I can't actually tell what you REALLY thought about SeaDream."  I told him I would write a post giving my honest opinion about our latest cruise.

Just to give you a little background, I met this friend on our second SeaDream cruise in November 2011.  That cruise was a lot of fun, but there were some issues that came up that we both had complaints about.  The air conditioning wasn't working properly on that voyage and we also had some problems with a lack of hot water.  We also had issues with the Internet not working very well a couple of days.  Some people were complaining on that cruise because a couple of large groups had booked and were kind of "taking over" a bit.  

I'm happy to report that on our latest voyage, we had no problems with the air conditioning, hot water, or Internet.  Also, I can report that there weren't any obviously obnoxious large groups of people, at least that I noticed, on our latest cruise.  Most everyone was basically pleasant and well-behaved.  I didn't notice anyone sneaking behind the bars to help themselves to liquor and there weren't any fights in the piano bar...  and no one ashed their cigarette on my luggage (that happened just before embarking on our first SeaDream cruise).

Overall, I would say it was a very enjoyable cruise.  It was great to see some of my favorite crew members again.  The food was excellent, as was the bar service.  The stateroom was comfortable, even though it was on deck 2 (actually, I think I might even prefer the "cheap" deck).  We had a great stewardess who kept everything clean and stocked for us.  I had no serious problems with seasickness.  And... to top it all off, we had a fabulous itinerary.

So why wasn't I moved to pre-book another voyage?  The last two times I was onboard, I felt almost compelled to book again and lock in a 15% discount.  This time, I wasn't feeling that way at all.

Well, there were several reasons I didn't pre-book.  The main reason is that we don't know what the future holds.  My husband is leaving the Army next year, which means that he will be looking for a new job.  We don't know how long that will take.  I suspect we will have time to squeeze in a final big trip before he retires, but we've already determined that SeaDream doesn't go where we want to travel next (either Ireland or a river cruise).  Once he's out of the military, vacation time may be sharply curtailed.  Also, we would not have been ready to choose a specific voyage, which would have meant putting down $2500 for an "open booking".  That's a lot of money for us, especially right before a big move.        

The next reason has to do with some of the passengers.  As I explained in an earlier post, Bill and I are not well-to-do.  Many of the folks who cruise on SeaDream are very nice people who are at least somewhat friendly and polite.  But some of the others are a trifle entitled, which can be off-putting.  They are entitled not just in their attitudes and behaviors toward staff members, but also toward other passengers.  Since SeaDream is a very small ship, it can be difficult to avoid people with whom you don't click.  Of course, I understand that plenty of people don't click with me, either.  The point is, it can be uncomfortable to be on a small vessel among people with whom you don't mesh.  Even if you don't have an actual unpleasant run-in with them that makes things awkward, you'll still bump into them often and unavoidably.      

To continue on that point, remember that SeaDream is small enough that if a large group books, you may find yourself an afterthought.  Or it may feel like you're crashing someone else's party.  I think that would be less of a problem on voyages where there is a lot to do in port.  If you're on a cruise where the ports aren't very interesting, you may not enjoy a cruise with large groups booked... especially if they've also brought children.

The next reason has to do with the fares.  SeaDream is not an inexpensive cruise.  Even if you score a great fare, you also have to pay additional fees for taxes, port fees, handling, etc.  One thing I loved about Hebridean Princess is that the price advertised was the total price of the voyage.  Each leg of that back to back cruise was $1960 a person.  We got a 5% discount on the second voyage, so the second cruise was more like $1830 a person.  Those fares included everything.  Once we paid for the trip, we were done.  We could have bought expensive wine or cigars (if we were smokers).  Maybe we could have bought something in the tiny gift shop.  But everything else was included and we didn't have a bill at the end of the trip.  On SeaDream, we spent about $750 onboard the ship.  We didn't mind spending the money on extras like laundry, better wine, internet and a visit to the spa.  I do wish, however, they'd just roll the cost of the taxes and such into the fare.  

One major reason against pre-booking for me personally is that I have a tendency to get seasick.  I didn't have any serious seasickness issues this last time and SeaDream does have a doctor on board who can administer a shot for motion sickness.  However, no one wants to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation that involves repeatedly puking.  

The last reason is that after the third time, being on SeaDream is somewhat less of a thrill.  Having been on Hebridean Princess last November, I realize that there are other great ships out there and they are going places SeaDream doesn't go to (yet).  I also find that being on different ships reminds me what I do and don't like about SeaDream, which I think is good for the soul.  The truth is, as lovely as SeaDream is, it's also a bit hyped.  In my opinion, it's not the only game in town.  However, if SeaDream really is as special as the hype suggests, trips on other lines will only confirm that.  We're ready to investigate other ships to determine how accurate the hype is.

The bottom line is that I was awestruck after our first trip on SeaDream in April 2010.  The second time was still magical, despite a couple of maintenance issues and annoying large groups.  The third time was very pleasant and enjoyable... it was probably the best voyage on SeaDream we've ever had.  But I'm ready to try something different. I will probably go back to SeaDream at some point, but it probably won't be for awhile yet.  On the bright side, those who didn't "click" with me on my SeaDream voyages don't have to worry about bumping into me again anytime soon!



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