Friday, January 6, 2012

Seabourn Quest 2012 World Cruise - Behind The Scenes




The start of a World Cruise is always an exciting day, so I thought I would take you behind the scenes so that you can appreciate what happens and see what makes the start of a Seabourn World Cruise so special.

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale at Port Everglades at 10:15 a.m. and embarked with the staff and contractors coming on board; sort of the “servant’s entrance”. 

Who was the first person I saw?  Pam Conover.  She looks great, vibrant and energized.  She, along with her husband, was at the Gala Dinner the evening before at the Ritz Carlton (with Marvin Hamlish providing the entertainment).  The World Cruise Guests were provided with a private transfers, a pre-cruise night at the Ritz Carlton, a Gala Dinner and various niceties during their cruise.

As I finish dealing with security, she rushes off to tend to things as the Full World Cruise guests will be arriving by private sedans starting at noon and there are some guests remaining from the Christmas Cruise she wants to visit with.

As I reach the top of the gangway, I am followed by Captain Geir-Arne Thue-Nilsen – the master of the Seabourn Quest for the entire World Cruise.  He had earlier in the morning sailed the Seabourn Quest into Port Everglades completing her Christmas Cruise, but had hopped onto a pilot boat to take some pictures of the ship.  (I will be sharing some of his photos with you during the World Cruise.) 

With cameras in hand, Captain GA led me to the bridge for a coffee and a chat.  (My main purpose for being on the Seabourn Quest was to interview him…and you can look forward to a very interesting article; and one that explains why I believe cruising on Seabourn – and with this captain - is so special.) I met the officers, including one of those who rescued the couple adrift in Greece a few months ago.  The First Officer quickly advises the Captain about sea conditions and his options for the departure of the Seabourn Quest.  (It is 10:30 a.m. and the planning for 5:00 p.m. is already in its final stages…and they just arrived in port a few hours earlier.)

Finally, we settle into his office.  It is, alas, not just any turnaround day; it is the end of the Christmas Cruise and is the start of the Seabourn World Cruise. So Captain Geir-Arne had to do his “captain” thing and it quickly became clear that our “interview” was going to be more of an enjoyable catching a few minutes here, some there and a moment somewhere else.  So after a nice chat I leave the Captain to do his thing and I wander the Seabourn Quest. 

Everything is just where I left it when I was on her Inaugural Cruise back in June (sailing from Rome to Monte Carlo). Everything except, unfortunately, my clothes are no longer in Suite 923.

For those of you that think the suites should be ready for you earlier, I – once again – witness the frenetic pace at which the staff is working to make each individual suite perfect for its new guests…some of whom will call it “home” for the next 109 days.  It is not like an ordinary cruise line where everything is pretty much standard.  Yes, everyone receives a bottle of champagne (properly presented, of course) and all the other niceties, and the specified bar stocking requests (Coke Zero, Grey Goose, exotic fruit juices, etc.), but then there are all of the special order floral arrangements, gifts, cards, medical equipment, etc.

Then there is the staff taking down all the Christmas decorations, the entertainers working on new musical arrangements, bartenders restocking, etc.  And, of course, there is the luggage…lots and lots of extra luggage.  And pallet after pallet of provisions keep arriving.

But, while all of this is going on there is a sense of calm in the public areas.  Everyone knows their job and they do it, respecting the fact that there are guests that were on the Christmas Cruise who are staying on for the World Cruise and they are all entitled to the Seabourn Experience.

I eventually wander into the Seabourn Square; a place you know I (and many Seabourn guests) love.  I find Pam Conover – Seabourn’s Ambassador and former President - there and we have a nice chat about what she is doing, how I am doing and just generally catching up…over freshly brewed coffees.  

As Pam is about to walk over to her husband and a guest, John Delaney, Seabourn Senior Vice President comes over to say hello.  Pam excuses herself back to her guest and John and I continue on, chat about some upcoming things with Seabourn and the evening before.  But then he looks at his watch and it is time for him to get down to the cruise terminal as the Full World Cruise guests are about to arrive and he wants to personally greet each one of them.

I take the time to wander to my clients’ suites and drop them a note to let them know I am aboard for the day.  Then I wander over to The Club and run into Rick Meadows, (Seabourn’s President), Bjoern Wassmuth (Seabourn’s Culinary Operations Manager a/k/a Top Chef!) and one of the premier chefs of the world (who I cannot mention and, unfortunately, had to slip by rather than engage as otherwise would have been inappropriate).  I will meet up with Bjoern later.

I then head back to the Seabourn Square to meet up with Captain Geir-Arne’s wife, Juvy, and another couple who are friends of theirs, because the five of us are going to have lunch together.  We are supposed to meet up at The Colonnade at 12:30 p.m. 

At 12:16 p.m. the captain calls to say we will meet in 15 minutes.  (He is running one minute late!) I head up to his office and we walk together, chatting as we go.  It is inspiring to see him stop and say hello to staff and guests.  He congratulates a staff member on his promotion.  He “high fives” another.  And if he inspires me, imagine what he does with the Seabourn staff and crew.

By now, with the guests arriving, The Colonnade is buzzing.  I have a fantastic Salmon with Bok Choy in a light teriyaki sauce, along with an excellent Cauliflower and Pea Curry.  I paired this with a nice South African Chardonnay.  Someone else tries the Tomato Soup and says it is truly remarkable.  One by one each of us heads up to the buffet…including Captain Geir-Arne...and come back with a bowl…confirming its excellence.  (BTW, Seabourn provides nice tureen covers so that you don’t need to worry about walking with a bowl of soup.) 

John Barron, the Cruise Director, comes over to say hello.  He has just finished a terrible journey to the ship with missed connections and delayed flights.  He is exhausted, but when he sees a guest, he lights up, this charm is all there and it is, to be sure, “game on”.  You can see the joy in the eyes of every guest he chats with.  (I am hoping he can get some sleep before Rio!)

Just as I finish speaking with John, one of my clients staying on for the full World Cruise finds me (my card in hand), so I excuse myself and sit with them while they enjoy their lunch.  The staff knows what they want already.  But as it is turnaround day there is a miss as provisioning is still underway.  They ran out of lemons to accompany a drink, so the waitress substituted lime…but, alas, she mentioned it and offer to seek out an alternative.  (Perfection within an imperfection.  Yes, I do notice the little things.)

Bjoern Wassmuth then finds me and we find a quiet corner of the al fresco portion of The Colonnade to have a chat and catch up.  Bjoern was the Executive Chef on one of the first Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruises and we just hit it off.  Our friendship continues today and I am proud to see that he has risen so quickly to be the star that he is.  We talk about some of the culinary things happening at Seabourn (more on that in a separate article) and on what it is like adjusting to a more land-based life living in Seattle with his longtime sweetheart.

It was then back up to Captain Geir-Arne’s office to finish our time together.  As we talk, a possible problem with a guest’s visa is brought to his attention, a truck with 21 pallets is late in arriving, guests’ luggage is still arriving and, in fact, seven guests still have not arrived.  It is 4:00 p.m., so the Captain advises the departure will be delayed by 30 minutes (hopefully) and then makes a public announcement that his pre-muster speech will be delayed 15 minutes.

It is clearly time for me to disembark and for the Seabourn Quest’s World Cruise to begin.  So Captain Geir-Arne escorts me to the gangway.  But, remember what I said about the little details, as we walk he sees two little pieces of debris from the just removed Christmas decorations.  He stops and picks them up.  He doesn’t ignore them.  He doesn’t tell anyone else to do it. 

It is his ship.
It is a Seabourn ship.
It is the ship that his guests will call their home.
It is the ship that her crew and staff will call their home.
It is the attention to detail.
It is the respect of all of that.
Bon Voyage Seabourn Quest!

Next up is a very interesting Interview with Captain Geir-Arne Thue-Nilsen.