The newest addition to Seabourn’s fleet, the sumptuous, 600-passenger Seabourn Encore is also the luxury line’s biggest, although still petite in cruising terms, at 40,340 tons. The all-inclusive ship has the feel of a luxurious private yacht, all curves, rich blues, gleaming mahogany and polished stainless steel. She is stylish and contemporary, effortlessly classy but not remotely stuffy, with masses of deck space and public areas flooded with light.
Where to sleep
Every cabin is designated as a ‘suite’, so even the most basic (if there were such a thing on Seabourn) is plush accommodation with a decent sized balcony, a marble-lined bathroom and a walk-in dressing room. The décor is both soothing and tasteful: cream carpets and textured neutrals with splashes of jewel-like colour from bright throws and cushions.
The bulk of suites are Veranda grades, which are essentially the same but are priced differently according to location (those on Deck Five, the cheapest, have a metal panel on the balcony, so you can’t see out if you’re sitting down). I loved the Penthouse Spa suites, five hideaways located immediately above the spa. The bed in these is enclosed behind glass screens and huge balconies overlook the ship’s wake. Occupants of these suites get free access to the spa’s thermal suite as well as perks like L’Occitane room fragrances, extra bathroom goodies and a ‘spa concierge’ to make bookings.
If you really want to splash out on your luxury cruise, the Wintergarden Suites have top bragging rights thanks to a bath with a view in a glass-enclosed conservatory that forms part of the balcony.
Where to eat
Michelin-starred chef, Thomas Keller
The Grill by Thomas Keller
Seabourn makes much of its association with megastar chef Thomas Keller, the only American with three Michelin stars. Keller’s dishes, using ingredients sourced by the chef himself, appear in The Grill By Thomas Keller; in The Restaurant (Encore’s main dining room); and every couple of nights in The Colonnade, the ship’s buffet restaurant, for more informal fare.
The Restaurant is gorgeous, all creamy white with blue, gold and mauve chandeliers. We always got a table for two in there and you can turn up whenever you want, and throw any dining request you like at them; I found an excellent choice of vegetarian dishes, for example. The Colonnade has masses of choice, with a superb salad bar at lunch as well as anything from local specialities to a daily roast. Dinner here, by candlelight, follows themes including Mediterranean, Chinese and Indian, the latter a favourite with the Brits on board.
Most lunchtimes, I ate at The Patio, by the pool, which does a fine line in salads, fajitas, burgers and grilled sea bass. You can eat here in the evenings, too, with a more refined menu.
You have to book for Thomas Keller’s swanky Grill (though there is no cover charge), which is like an upmarket New York steakhouse serving mouth-watering dishes like crab cake on top of a rich aioli, New England clam chowder, ribeye steaks and Dover sole. Save space for pudding; the lemon meringue pie is sublime.
For those following a lighter diet there is a bright and airy Japanese restaurant, Sushi, offering bento boxes for lunch with a choice of teriyaki chicken, miso salmon or tamari-glazed mushrooms, and sushi and sashimi in the evenings.
What to do
There is a generously sized pool and plenty of deck space all around the ship for sunbathing, though shade was hard to come by. The Spa offers a mindfulness theme, with a healthy living programme designed by wellness guru Dr Andrew Weil, so you will find yoga and guided meditation here rather than boot camp and botox.
Seabourn cruises always have decent guest speakers on-board relevant to the destination, and covering anything from food to geology and politics. In the evenings, though, Encore is more about leisurely dinner and late night chatting over cocktails than full-on entertainment. I did go to a couple of the shows and was very impressed by An Evening With Tim Rice, in which the ship’s singers perform the great songwriter’s most famous numbers with a filmed narrative by Sir Tim himself.
What I loved
Al fresco dining at The Colonnade on a balmy night. It’s a wonderfully romantic setting with a different theme every night. Pre-dinner drinks at the bar by The Grill by Thomas Keller, a social hotspot with a great vibe, a pianist and a fine line in martinis. The fact that they make a decent coffee at the café in Seabourn Square; a rare find on a cruise ship. I loved quieter evenings in the Observation Lounge, too, with a jazz duo and wonderful ocean views. And yes, I admit it, we splurged on a day in The Retreat, a VIP area on the top deck with cabanas, a big Jacuzzi, Bolly on tap, hand-crafted cocktails and delicious lunch, served in your cabana. At $249 per cabana on a port day and $349 on a sea day, it’s indulgent, but a lot of fun.
Most of all, I loved Encore’s crew, who are exceptionally friendly, charming, intuitive and thoughtful. They really make you feel like family.
What I didn’t
There is little to complain about on this beautiful ship but a word about the bath towels: they are too small! Seabourn regulars were moaning about the lack of a jogging track or a sports deck. And by the time I realised the exercise classes weren’t listed in the daily programme and went to the gym to sign up for Pilates, everything was full. If you want to work out during your cruise, sign up as soon as you board.
Would you like to find out more about life on-board Seabourn Encore, and the stunning destinations this luxury cruise ship visits? Call our expert Cruise Concierge on 0207 980 2848.