Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Seabourn Encore: The Inaugural Cruise - Part IX (The Retreat)

Seabourn has really promoted The Retreat, a private spa-ish area on Deck 11 of the Seabourn Encore. And, to be honest, I was a bit baffled by Seabourn even thinking about such a concept as the Seabourn Odyssey-class ships has the Garden Villas (two large, private, spa-ish areas) that nobody ever really booked...and which, fortunately, were converted into what I think are the best suites on those ships: Penthouse Spa Suites.  

So with a bit of skepticism, but an open mind, I began to wander up to Deck 11 to check The Retreat out. But before I could get there Seabourn asked me if I would spend a day there, really working out The Retreat and telling them what I thought and what could be done to improve them.  This told me two things:  The Retreat obviously is not perfect; and, Seabourn is focused on making design ideas that maybe aren't working out modified...rather than insisting "All Is Well!" (noting my reference to the ultimate chaos scene in the movie "Animal House"; No, it is not that bad!). 

Seabourn Encore's The Retreat Concept
Bird's Eye View
And this is where you will again know I am honest with my readers:  I am baffled by the space.  That said, it can be an asset if there are changes.  Otherwise I see it as a sore point that will have more negative than positive impacts on the overall Seabourn product.  Fortunately, Seabourn seems to be viewing it in a similar light.

Seabourn Encore's The Retreat
Actual view from a cabana
The space itself is aesthetically pleasing.  There are cabanas on all four sides of this square area with a separate bar and a massage cabana.  In the middle is a large spa.  In front of each cabana are two lounge chairs. Over the top of all of this is a very pretty awning. This gives the feeling of a courtyard, but I believe it tries to do too much.

In each cabana you have an L-shaped sofa, coffee table, a cabinet with a big screen television atop it (which is supposed to be utilized only with the supplied blue tooth headphones), a table with two chairs and two chaise lounges.  A ceiling fan turns above.  Mesh curtains can be closed to give you some, but not total, privacy.

I am not a fan of a television being included in The Retreat cabanas
even if they have Bluetooth headphones
You are provided towels and robes as well as The Retreat flip flops you are welcome to keep.  (I am not sure about the flip flops because presumably are wearing something similar when walking there.)

You are welcomed by very nice fruit platter, a bottle of Bollinger champagne waiting in the wings for your request and a The Retreat menu for when you get hungry.

The Seabourn Encore's The Retreat welcomes you with a fruit platter
and champagne be filled with the included bottle of
Bollinger champagne
There is dedicated staff (assistants and bartender) who regularly make the rounds with various flavors of water and tropical cocktails, but - as this is Seabourn - you may order pretty much anything you like.

As I settled in, enjoying the interesting lighting, my fruit platter and (you knowing me, this wasn't going to last very long) spa-like water, I reviewed The Retreat's menu.  Missing from the menu (but fortunately not from Seabourn):  Caviar.  So with a quick wave to Francesca ("my" fantastic assistant...and also "my" waiter in The Grill by Thomas Keller) I ordered up my champagne and caviar.

I'm now feeling pretty chill and Seabourn-like...and then I look up and see on one of those big screen televisions Fox News and constant pictures of Donald Trump.  Now, I don't care what your political views are, when I am in a serene area sipping champagne and indulging in a significant amount of caviar there are certain things I should not be subjected to.  I start with a television; especially not my television (and I had absolutely no use for the one in my cabana) nor, follow on, by an omnipresent picture of a politician; especially a not terribly attractive one. (OK, maybe Uncle Joe Biden would be acceptable, but that is even a reach.)

In order to break the view up I hop into the hot tub, facing the other way (of course) and am pleased to find that due to the height the spa you cannot really see into the other cabanas, so I reorient myself so as to catch some sun.

However, there is one thing missing:  A view of the ocean.  I am on a Seabourn cruise and I should be able to see the water!  Personally, I hope they remove two cabanas on each side so that everyone can see the water.

Because this The Retreat and, of course, I was working with the charge that I try everything:  I requested a massage in the massage cabana. A Big Hiccup!  The spa is booked out, but with not a single massage in The Retreat.

Seabourn Encore's The Retreat Spa Cabana
And this is where the Seabourn staff truly impresses me!  Not one, but two, of the Seabourn staff offered to give me the massage. One even went to her supervisor to get permission.  I tell people all the time that Seabourn service is beyond compare and that the staff is specifically hired and trained to take ownership of issues and find solutions; not to just do a job.  This offer was, well and truly, above and beyond the call of duty!

Well, permission was not granted (which I fully understand), but I wasn't told that until a solution was obtained:  A cancellation in the spa afforded me an opening.

I believe Seabourn should have a certain number of spa appointments made available for each day.  If you are going to use The Retreat you should have the option to book a massage at that time or, possibly, even by 10:00 AM of the day of use. (Certainly you would need to be flexible as to timing of your treatment, though.)

As I prepared for my massage I noticed that the massage cabana does not have solid curtains; only the same mesh ones. Not being terribly shy I was OK with this, but whether undressing or having your massage, privacy curtains should be provided.

I was drifting off as I was getting pummeled by request (Deep Tissue Massage) and then:  The occupants of the cabana next to me - I guess assuming they were the only remaining guests - took their television off of Bluetooth and I got blasted with the sound of some action movie. Seriously? While that was quickly quelled (first by them turning it down, and then my insisting they turn it off), it is a second reason I cannot fathom televisions being provided in The Retreat.  It was, alas, a rather abrupt way to end my day in The Retreat.

Overall I had a good experience in the Seabourn Encore's The Retreat, but I do have another objection.  Seabourn is (at least presently) charging $350 per day to use this area...and it gives you a $50 discount in the spa.  This is very UN-Seabourn.  I do not believe there should be a charge for this area; though I do believe it should somehow first be made available to Penthouse Spa Suite or better guests and then to other guests on a first come-first served basis; limiting its use (as with The Grill by Thomas Keller) to once per cruise unless there is additional availability.  And lose the $50 off coupon!

So the Seabourn Encore's The Retreat has potential to be a wonderful experience...but it needs some adjustments.  (And, yes, I had a number of other suggestions on how to improve The Retreat experience, but those are between Seabourn and least for now.)

Seabourn will be making adjustments, so stay tuned!

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