Monday, June 6, 2011

Roman Around: The Pre-Inaugural of the Seabourn Quest - Part V

Last evening I dined with Seabourn’s President, Rick Meadows and three other of Seabourn’s top producing travel agents. It was a very nice evening and Rick was a very gracious and welcoming host. He is reserved by nature, but I truly enjoyed his genuine smile…though I am a bit put off that he looks so young and is almost my age. Seriously, it was really nice to spend some social time with Rick. After all he has done to right the ship, so to speak, to be able to sit back…even for just an evening…is truly well deserved.

Our meal was a Chef’s Dinner:
- Smoked Salmon Tartare & Malossol Caviar
- Celeriac Cappuccino
- Warm Potato Ravioli with Black Truffle Sauce
- Citrus Sorbet with Champagne
- Herb Crusted Halibut/Beef Tenderloin/Crisp Roast Chicken
- Napoleon of Berries/Soft Centered Chocolate Ganache Cake

After dinner was one of the most pleasant surprises: The entertainment was truly excellent. The singers were so good, especially the male lead, that they received an enthusiastic standing ovation; not an obligatory one. (This morning, John Barron, the cruise director – and we love to tease each other – asked me what I thought. I heaped praises…and then he introduced me to the entertainment director who was sitting at the table with him.)

We had very nice evening chatting after the show and then it was to bed early because I have an 8:00 a.m. massage. I have no idea what made me book it, but I figure after so many Seabourn cruises…and cruises in general…I should try it once. Up at 7:30 a.m., a quick cup of coffee (yeah, I know that is not the right thing to do before a massage) and I had my massage. It was, admittedly, very nice…but afterwards I felt just like I did before I had it. It is definitely on the “been there/done that” list for me.

Today, after breakfast and a chat with some Seabourn folks, myself and my wife were off on a private tour we were very generously invited to. After an OK wine tasting at Bertaund Belieu, it was off to St. Tropez for an absolutely spectacular lunch at Hotel Villa Belrose; a wonderful Michelin star restaurant. Each dish was an incredible feast for the eyes and the palate. It was well and truly a special event and with some special people.

Immediately upon my return it was back to work. Seriously, it was work! I had an hour long meeting with the Seabourn executives. While most of the discussions would not be of interest to you, one thing was very clear: Seabourn’s management is not only learning more about what Seabourn service is, it is putting things into place quickly so that the Seabourn way familiar and important to its guests is there. To be sure there is a learning curve, but it is being learned and appreciated; most certainly not ignored.

Another thing discussed that I really cannot go into now, is that new – very cool – itineraries are being looked at. Itineraries that are not repeated; possibly not repeated the following year. To use my words…because alas they are my words: Itineraries that are not on people’s bucket lists because most people don’t even know they exist. No promises as of yet, because the logistics, marketing, etc. is very complicated, but they are on the radar.

How about making sure that a new loyalty program not only doesn’t change or alter, in any way, the free cruise benefits as they now exist, but add value that the Seabourn guest – not just any guest – will find relevant, of value and appreciated.

One last point: With Seabourn’s pricing strategies going forward: BOOK EARLY TO LOCK IN THE LOWEST PRICES. Goldring Travel’s policy of reducing your cruise fare if the price happens to go down before final payments are due protects you …and do not anticipate many reductions going forward with the smarter pricing being put in place.

That is really about all I can say on that meeting…though I have also seen/discussed some new innovations that I think are truly forward thinking and very exciting.

So after a final soak in the forward hot tub, the Seabourn Quest is headed to Monaco for our disembarkation. So you think my cruise is over? Not quite.

As I am returning to my suite, Chef Bjoern tells me he has a surprise. A few minutes later he calls me and says my wife and I should meet him at 7:30 p.m. in the Spa Villa. Hummm? We arrive and see his fiancé (my words!) Shannon dressed in her whites and looking stunning with the sun setting behind her and Chef Rajat in his whites (OK, not so stunning, but certainly impressive) are by with a table filled with all sorts of Indian tastes…elegantly presented, of course. As Raj is explaining everything he put together for us, Bjoern pops open a bottle of champagne. After Raj hurries off to attend to dinner service, Bjoern, Shannon, my wife and I sit as friends with the sun setting, a slight breeze, soft music playing…and just enjoy our friendship while savoring every bite of Raj’s Indian delicacies. (I will post pictures later.)

That is what makes Seabourn simply the best: The understated elegance while going over the top, and with wonderful caring people and true friendships. (And, by the way, just in case you think Seabourn’s new management doesn’t support this sort of old-time Seabourn experience, when I bragged about it to Senior Vice President John Delaney, the first thing he said was, “Put that on your blog. I love it!” And, to be sure, when I mentioned it to Rick Meadows, he had one of those wonderful smiles.

So, after a wonderful dinner, it was time for the Rock the Boat celebration on the pool deck. I can tell you that this was not like the other ones I have seen. This was high energy, with great music – yes that is right, great singers, people really dancing and having a fun time. Dare I say it was contemporary and youthful? Yes I would.

Three days on Seabourn Quest is just too short. They have been a very busy three days (remembering I am just giving you the highlights). And, without question, I can say that Seabourn is better than ever and Seabourn is going to be stronger, more vibrant, more exciting, more youthful and more enriching sooner than you might think.

Now I just have to wait until September 21, 2011 for the 2011 Goldring Travel Food & Foliage Cruise on the Seabourn Sojourn from Quebec City to New York City…followed by the September 22, 2012 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Pride from Dover to Lisbon.