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Review: Seabourn Venture

Seabourn does an impressive job of morphing adventure into its signature luxury experience onboard Seabourn Venture, its first expedition vessel.
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What is the line? Seabourn

Name of ship? Seabourn Venture

Passenger occupancy? 264

Itinerary? Lima to Santiago

Seabourn does an impressive job of morphing adventure into its signature luxury experience onboard Seabourn Venture, its first expedition vessel.

Start out with the big picture—what is this cruise line known for? 

Seabourn, a longtime luxury cruise player, garners kudos for all-suite accommodations, attentive passenger service, elegant ship designs, fine dining and many inclusives such as complimentary alcohol and caviar. Cruisers, well-heeled and well-traveled, are primarily Seabourn devotees. Definitely not the party crowd, passengers skew in the 55+ age category and appreciate the casually elegant country-club vibe.

Tell us about the ship in general 

Seabourn Venture launched in July 2022 with 122 all-veranda oceanfront suites (some are two-story) and a PC6 Polar Class-rated hunter-green hull. It’s one of the prettiest expedition ships I’ve seen, evoking a sleek adventuresome yacht. Despite a small passenger capacity, the ship feels so spacious. There’s plenty of intimate bars and lounges, and outdoor space - not just for viewing wildlife or lounging, but also for swimming in an infinity pool or soaking in one of four hot tubs (two by the cool outdoor Sky Bar). The well-equipped fitness center is large for the ship size. Built for polar exploration, this vessel features a cozy alpine-meets-the-sea vibe, with faux-fur pillows, plush blankets for staying warm and three fireplaces with dancing water vapor flames. The design keeps the focus on expeditions and wildlife, from art to screens projecting videos of Antarctica or the Arctic in all their pristine glory. Expedition thrills include submersibles, sea kayaks and Zodiacs. Seabourn ocean liner fans will recognize Seabourn Square, the popular meeting place with comfy seating, library books, snacks and espresso drinks brewed to order.

Who is onboard? 

Expect an abundance of upmarket couples, many bucket-listers, some traveling with friends.Some passengers joined this cruise as an add-on to visiting Machu Picchu; others were staying on when our cruise indeed, to sail to Antarctica. The crowd was mostly Americans, with a smattering of Brits and European voyagers such as Belgians and French. They were a friendly bunch,  particularly open to chats in lounges and when playing trivia.

Describe the cabins 

 All accommodations are suites, and range from entry level, which includes a bath with a separate tub and shower and Molton Brown soaps, to stunning bi-level Wintergarden Suite accommodations. A heated locker for expedition gear is a nice inclusion, as is the analog wall clock which changes time automatically - a plus when sailing through multiple time zones.Beds come with three pillows for each passenger; soft, medium and hard. Duvets are at their silky best. 

I stayed in a Panorama Veranda Suite, which I highly recommend. Such accommodations are worth the extra fee above standard suites and less expensive than other higher-end accommodations, such as Penthouse and Owners Suites. Expect a staggering floor-to-ceiling ocean view everywhere - from the bed, spacious living area, and even in the expansive bathroom. Imagine soaking in the tub and viewing penguins diving off ice floes. Floors are wood-like tile and can be heated throughout the suite, not just in the bathroom. Brew coffee from a high-end Nespresso machine, although, of course, you can order a pot or specialty cup of joe. 

Tell us about the crew  

The crew impresses with warm friendly service rather than opting for stiff and formal. Most servers seemed genuinely happy, and when asked how their day was going, they often answered “amazing” and it never sounded fake. Suite attendants - this line doesn’t offer butler service - kept accommodations spotless. They were also excellent at remembering daily requests, such as placing fresh orange juice in your fridge daily. Guest Services staff is most helpful and patient.

What food and drink options are available on board? 

Got a craving for caviar, even for breakfast? Order eggs Benedict topped with two generous heaps of caviar and no one blinks. Complimentary caviar (Regiis Ova, partially owned by star chef Thomas Keller) is offered, anywhere, anytime, with a once-a-sail deck party delivering a seemingly endless supply. You will not see caviar listed on the menu; it’s like a Seabourn devotee secret. Complimentary alcohol, including wines and spirits, is another perk. No need for reservations anywhere; it’s all open seating. The Restaurant dinners, like honey-roasted quail, were highlights, with deft chefs cooking intricate repasts with the finest ingredients. Sauces were silken and consommes (love the duck) tasted like the bones were simmering for hours. In the alternative dining venue Colonnade, breakfasts and lunches are buffets with an impressive variety of dishes. Count on a lunchtime carving station, with a chef slicing everything from a giant roast beef haunch to whole suckling pig. Some Colonnade meals were themed, dishing up tastes of the world, such as Indian or Mexican. Afternoon tea was excellent, especially the tender scones and smoked salmon mini-bagels. In the Club lounge beginning at 6 p.m, sushi chefs fashioned primo sashimi, such as yellowtail and salmon, and sushi. Passengers came for pre-dinner snacks and often never left, ordering plate after plate. The club offered cool cocktails, like Honey Dew Wop, made with Ketel One vodka and honeydew juice.

Is there a spa on board and is it worth visiting? 

The small spa offers multiple treatment choices. Some passengers raved about their facials and I actually saw (and envied) their clearly glowing skin. I tried a 75-minute deep-tissue massage; my masseur may have been slight but he had hands of steel. I could barely stagger off the table. I also liked that he didn’t push extra services. There was an ocean-view sauna in both the men’s and women’s changing rooms. 

Activities and entertainment   

Like most small expedition ships, Venture’s entertainment was limited. There were high-quality singers and pianists and such in lounges. I’m not sure how many passengers hit the DJ-driven dance floor post-dinner, but some showed up in the Discovery Center for a magician/comedian. (He was just okay.)  On our cruise,  the star was the cruise director, who sang opera. 

How was the experience for families? 

None was onboard our sail. The ship doesn’t offer youth programming, but when asked, the onboard team said they’ll cater to passengers of all ages. 

Where did it sail and how were the excursions? Did anything stand out? 

This Lima-to-Santiago route was more of a repositioning cruise than an adventuresome one. Unfortunately, we hit some unexpected permit issues and rougher seas that didn’t allow us to enjoy the expected Zodiac and kayak explorations. That said, we had still had some amazing experiences, including flying over Peru’s Nazca Lines, exploring the Atacama Desert (the planet’s driest), and visiting a well-preserved former mining town, now a ghost town. We also what was touted as the world’s oldest mummies, about 8,000 years old. This itinerary is not a common one, more like a one-off; it’s really a way to get “in position” for the Antarctic season. I loved the video that the expedition team filmed during our voyage and screened on our final night; what a way to re-live an adventure. Best of all, we could scan a QR code or download a link so that we could share it with family members or keep it for ourselves. Many expedition lines used to charge for that video, and maybe some still do.

Are there any stand out sustainability or green initiatives about this cruise?

Three cheers for its desalinated water (which can taste awful on expedition ships), which tastes much like fresh spring H2O.  It’s accomplished by reverse osmosis, consuming about 30 percent less energy compared to traditional systems. Filling stations for personal water bottles are everywhere. Even to-go coffee mugs are reusable. Molton Brown liquid soaps in suite bathrooms are refillable; no more single use plastic bottles. Most daily information is available on the Seabourn app and suite televisions, minimizing paper use. On the more technical side, bow thrusters are outfitted with fixed pitch propellers, frequently driving a reduction of energy consumption by 30 percent compared to traditional thrusters. The underwater hull was painted with an ultra-low-friction coating system, which also reduces energy consumption by up to 10 percent. Also, the ship uses dynamic positioning in many cases versus anchoring and disturbing the ocean. 

Anything we missed 

Perhaps what lingers most in my mind was the expedition team’s passion. I was skeptical before boarding with expedition cruising’s explosion of popularity, and wondering how challenging it must be for so many lines to find qualified personnel. My fears were assuaged by the knowledge and heart of the onboard team. They were eager to share information, not just in lectures or on expeditions, but in one-on-one meetups. Also, not all passengers loved the cruise formal nights; some grumbled that they made little sense on expeditions. A few packed tuxes and seemed happy dressing up. To avoid dressier attire, you can dine more casually in the Colonnade, Club or via room service. I didn’t notice attire censoring in the Restaurant on formal nights; many cruisers sailed by in dressier slacks, with men wearing sport jackets.

Finally, give a sentence or two on why the cruise is worth booking. 

If you want to savor an expedition sail delivering adventure with high-end indulgence, uber-pampering and cushy accommodations, you’ll find Seabourn Venture a worthy choice. If you’re already a Seabourn fan, you’ll particularly appreciate the amenities so similar to the line’s ocean liners. Note that twin Seabourn Pursuit launches in September 2023, meaning even more itineraries to choose from. 

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