Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Sojourn of the Seabourn Odyssey Pre-Inaugural Cruise - Some Introspective Iamboatman Thoughts

As I am flying back from Venice I am thinking back on the past few days and the inauguration of Seabourn Odyssey.

It ended at the airport in Venice where I ran into one of the Regional Sales Managers flying back to the United States after the Maiden Voyage celebration. She was exhausted but in high “spirit”. She told me how the ship was 10% better at 2:30 p.m. yesterday than it was when I disembarked at 8:30 a.m. and how fantastic the naming ceremony was with human Italian statues, fireworks and people beaming with “pride”…guests and crew. It seems the naming ceremony was “legend-ary”.

(I heard the fireworks last evening at about 9:50 p.m. while dining in a little local restaurant in Venice. Oh, how I wanted to be there, but alas it was time for Seabourn to care for its guests; not travel agents. It brought a tear and a bit of pride and wonderment if everything was going as planned…plans that were a tightly guarded secret.)

It started out many months ago when I was told that I was invited to the Pre-Inaugural (it was technically the Inaugural, but I believe that was best left for the Maiden Voyage guests so I will forever refer to it as the Pre-Inaugural). I felt privileged to be invited and questioned, right through the sailing, what the heck it was that I did that garnered the honor. (Seabourn insists that my efforts and my sales earned me the honor, but maybe I am too humble or na├»ve; I still don’t see it.)

But as I was literally one of the first guests ever to board the truly incredible Seabourn Odyssey I wasn’t going to do anything but soak it all in. And soak it in I did. It will, quite assuredly, stay with me for my lifetime. But it is not the ship that has causes this special place in me. As it always is with Seabourn, it was the people.

Whether it be the crew cleaning more than humanly possible in 50 knot winds during the journey from Genoa trying to overcome a month-delayed turnover, or regional sales managers unpacking lounge chairs literally a half hour before I boarded, or Jochim greeting me at the Colonnade as if it was just another day on Seabourn, or Pam Conover being literally everywhere…and always focused, but with a smile…assuring everything was better than good or, possibly, the young lady (I wish I recalled her name) in the Seabourn Square who was obviously brand new but “got it” and I could see a transformation from “Can I do it?” to “I can do it…and do it with Seabourn style” in a matter of less than 24 hours, it just kept coming up with more inspiration and belief in the Seabourn family.

You have read, and will read further, about how fantastic the ship is, but it really is just hardware. It is, without question, the most luxurious hardware at sea, but without the 335 crew members for the 450 guests functioning at such a high and personal level the Seabourn Odyssey would be a disappointment.

OK, enough with the romantic and philosophical stuff. From a design standpoint, as some of my prior posts have, and future posts will, reveal the Seabourn Odyssey does so much so well.

She pays homage to the triplets in so many ways, but not without purpose or reason. There is a comfort for the guest that comes immediately. Whether it is the Sky Bar design or the glass railings leading down to the Restaurant or the spiral staircases or, frankly, the standard suite layouts, the fact is past guests will feel like she is a relative. Not one of the three sisters, but a close cousin. For first time guests, the very same design elements will either work or be irrelevant…until they try one of the sisters (and I am confident many will) and then they will, too, feel at home.

The Seabourn Odyssey has changed cruising-life with the Seabourn Square. It is not a giant television screen over the pool, or an ice skating rink or climbing wall. It is not something that simple or “in your face”. It is so Seabourn: It is subtle and works better than you can imagine; you need to experience it.

Pizza ovens and patio grills are nothing new, but to have designed them in a way that flows both horizontally and vertically, visually and operationally, with the ever popular Sky Bar is pretty cool (and I will discuss this in a later post).

Having elevators that are not cruise ship elevators, but rather ones that seem more hotel-like with leather and wood panels and with marble and wood lobbies, and with the forward elevators not being centered on the ship, gives the ship a different feel.

Extra wide balconies in the suites, the classiest pool area on the high seas, lots of tucked away places to do things or do nothing, the list just goes on and on.

I think one thing I will always remember was the kind, gentle and confident smile of Captain Buer while dining with him at the first ever formal night on the Seabourn Odyssey. His ability to admit imperfection, but to be so confident that those issues actually make the good appear so much better, is so Seabourn.

Seabourn must have told me fifty times in two days how much they appreciate all that I do. I still don’t get it. Seabourn has given me the ability to do that which I love and to make it so easy for me to sell the ultimate in luxury and exotic cruises to people all over the world.

As I have been saying every day, “How cool is that?!”

Seabourn: Thank You.