Saturday, June 4, 2011

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

My second day on the new Seabourn Quest began with an al fresco breakfast at the Colonnade. I had my standard starters of pickled herring, herring wrapped around pickles (yes, they are totally different), smoked salmon with a little cream cheese on brown bread, and two poached eggs.

Oddly, the last item made me think back on January’s cruise on the Celebrity Century where they pre-cook poached eggs and then warm them in hot water as you wait in the buffet. On Seabourn the poached eggs must be made ala minute so they are warm, soft and perfectly cooked. It is the little things like that just make your Seabourn experience feel so much more personal…and, of course, tasty.

This morning was the obligatory sales meeting. There were some interesting statistics which I will detail in another article, but one you should know is that when I tell you Seabourn is the best luxury cruise product out there, it is not only my opinion, but that of many others. No, I am not talking about the various magazine polls (you know I have no belief in them, even though Seabourn ranks in the tops of all of them).  What I am talking about is an actual survey of people that have cruised on the other luxury lines as well. In every single category: service, cuisine, value and pricing, Seabourn rated significantly higher than any other cruise line. (You also know which one came in last…just like I have been saying all along.)

After the meeting I wandered the ship, spending a good bit of the day chatting with Chef Bjoern (Note to Bjoern: I did not forget the “e” this time!), Chef Rajat (who had a rather long conversation with my wife about ashrams and meditation (she is reading “Eat. Pray. Love”), seemingly the entire back-of-the-house food and beverage folks, and celebrity chef David Burke.

“David Burke?” you ask. What happened to Charlie Palmer? Is this a signal of a big change? No, it is one of those good things that comes out of the synergy with Holland America without it being Holland America. Charlie Palmer was not available for this cruise (though you may remember he was onboard the Seabourn Sojourn for her Inaugural), so enter David Burke – who has an affiliation with HAL. I didn’t realize that David was born very close to me and that in the very same year I was bartending at the now James Beard award winning Doris & Ed’s Restaurant in Highlands, New Jersey, David started working as a prep chef in another outstanding restaurant one town over: Fromagerie in Rumson, New Jersey.

I do not know if you recall the Remington shaver commercial where Victor Kiam said, “I like the shaver so much I bought the company”. Well, when Fromagerie came up for sale, David Burke bought the restaurant. It is a totally different dining experience now, as Fromagerie had always stood for romantic dinners and now it is cheesecake lollipops, Burger Tuesdays, aged beef and Angry Lobster. It is one of his five or six restaurants and it has, under his supervision, once again become one of “the” restaurants in the area…and only ten minutes from Goldring Travel’s office.

Anyway, Chef Bjoern and Chef Rajat have very quietly told me that they are working on something special for me and my wife for tomorrow. I am both enjoying the anticipation and struggling with the fact that I am going to have to skip some sort of dining experience as I think I am truly reaching my limit after four days of Sardinia’s pork-fest, Rome’s Jewish and then cheese-fests and 24 hours on Seabourn.

By the way, lunch today was a Greek theme: Whole baby octopus with squid in a tomato sauce was great. I’ll just have one lamb kebob with tzatziki. OK, half of a chicken gyro. One dolma to see how they taste. You get the idea: Today’s lunch was not the dining experience I skipped.

I also should note that I have heard comments about Seabourn’s complimentary wine pours and, to be sure, I have been very pleased with the offerings. I did mention that yesterday’s lunch was accompanied by a very nice French chardonnay for me and a pinot grigio for my wife. At dinner I had a very nice albarino (a Wolf Blass cabernet was also poured) and today at lunch a Gavi was selected. There was a wine tasting today at 3:00 p.m., which I skipped because, quite honestly, I am on a cruise…so I took a nap! And then I enjoyed a Massage Moment on deck; the complimentary 10 minute massage that Seabourn offers on every cruise.

Cocktail hour is upon us.