An Indonesian Odyssey Aboard Seabourn
The stylish ships of Seabourn have served up high standards on the high seas for 25 years, with hallmarks of intuitive service (nearly one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio), above-par cuisine, spacious all-suite staterooms, and an elegant-meets-casual onboard vibe, all tied up in a neatly bundled pricing package that's inclusive of free-flowing cocktails, gratuities, fitness classes, and more. Couple all that with an itinerary that incorporates an exhilarating up-and-coming cruise region like Indonesia, where the cruise line kicked off their 10-night "Indonesian Odyssey" voyages last year, for a winning cruise combination that matches laidback luxury with exotic exploration.
I recently sampled their Indonesian Odyssey itinerary aboard the sleek, 450-passenger Seabourn Odyssey, which, for a ship of its size, packs a real punch in terms of onboard diversions, while still measuring small enough to slip into smaller, less-trodden ports.
Kicking off with an overnight port call in Singapore and winding down with a two-day stay in Benoa, Bali, the port-intensive itinerary included port calls in Java, Lombok, and Bali—a small, but significant sampling of three of the island nation's 17,000-plus tropical isles.
From Semarang, in Java, we set out to the world's largest Buddhist temple, the ancient terraced behemoth at Borobudur (albeit via a lengthy three-hour ground transfer). Probolinggo, also in Java, was the gateway to the dramatically looming—and still highly active—Mount Bromo volcano. In the little-visited northern fringes of Bali at Celukan Bawang, we passed through temple-pocked villages and lush highland rice terraces en route to Lake Bratan, with its lovely Pura Ulun Danu temple, seemingly floating upon the lake. Little-trodden beaches, like Kuta Beach, beckoned in Lombok, via Lembar, while Benoa, in Bali, ultimately delivered us to the famed island's legendary beaches, innumerable temples, and charming artists' enclaves.
While Seabourn's upfront pricing proposed good value for its many onboard inclusions, we did hear several cruisers gripe that the ship-organized shore excursions were priced rather steeply, particularly for Indonesia, where the dollar still goes a refreshingly long way. Easy enough to sidestep, though; we arranged independent tours, often teaming up with other Seabourn guests to cut costs on cars and drivers—a win-win, it saved us money, and we made new friends.
Back onboard, the Odyssey—which nearly tripled the size of Seabourn's largest existing ship when she debuted in 2009—packed plenty of inviting pockets into a relatively compact space, without ever feeling crowded.
A duo of pools, rimmed by lounge chairs and the occasional appearance of a massage therapist doling out free rubs, was offset by a half-dozen whirlpools sprinkled about the ship. A spacious two-deck spa offered private spa villa treatment areas, hydrotherapy features, Eastern-inspired treatments, and an adjoining fitness room and studio featuring free daily fitness classes.
Special guest lecturers gave destination-specific talks—though we found the speakers to be hit or miss, a particularly animated American humanities professor and National Geographic author was very engaging, offering insight into Indonesian art, history, and attractions.
The living room-esque "Seabourn Square" served as the ship's main hub, combining a concierge lounge, internet station, library, and coffee bar into one cozy space. When not gathering on the square, guests could choose between six lounges and bars, where an open bar policy encouraged free-flowing libations.
While the itinerary was fairly port intensive, apart from two days at sea, evenings back onboard delivered entertainment options like live piano and guitar tunes, a band for dancing, a main show lounge with dance and musical productions, and table and slot games in the casino. Daytime dress was resort casual, and apart from the one formal-optional welcome gala dinner, nights were casually elegant affairs (with jackets required for men).
The Odyssey earned high marks for its fine dining options, which come paired with complimentary wine and spirits. Four open-seating restaurants included the main dining room; the reservations-required Restaurant 2, with tasting menus; the casual poolside outdoor grill; and the indoor-outdoor buffet. Themed lunches and dinners rotated a smorgasbord of world flavors: Indian, Thai, kebabs, tacos. Dinner menus for each restaurant were delivered to rooms daily to help guests determine optimized palate-pleasers. Though round-the-clock room service was also available, we found it to be subpar in comparison to the high quality restaurant dining.
Nearly 90 percent of guestrooms on the all-suite vessel have private verandas, and start out at a spacious 295 square feet. Suites come with walk-in closets, interactive flat-screen TVs with on-demand music and movies, granite bathrooms with L'Occitane and Molton Brown products and a therapeutic bath menu (cabin attendants can draw baths upon request...seriously), and included minibar beverages, stocked according to guests' preferences. Our cheerful and doting cabin attendant, a lovely lass from Ireland, went out of her way to ensure our whims were catered to, ensuring that our favorite fruits, drinks, and bath products were on hand.
Seabourn attracts a refreshingly diverse demographic, with cruisers spanning families with kids to seniors. Nearly all on our sailing were well-heeled, well-travelled, and English speaking, hailing largely from the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, and Australia—many we spoke to were repeat Seabourn cruisers, a testament to the brand's loyal following.
Modern-day explorer, perpetual seeker, and diligent travel scribe Elissa Richard has set out circumnavigating the globe on an ambitious 14-month adventure. Tag along on her travels through Europe, Asia, the South Pacific, and Latin America—and on the high seas in between—as she reports back to Fodors.com on captivating cruises, hot hotels, and timely travel trends.
Photo credits: Lake Bratan courtesy of John Garay; Mt. Bromo courtesy of John Garay; Seabourn Restaurant and Suite courtesy of Seabourn
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