Caviar & champagne on a beach? A cruise experience not to be missed

Champagne in the surf?  Even better with a bit of caviar!
Champagne in the surf? Even better with a bit of caviar!

The promotional DVD was impressive: a group of white-uniformed ship’s employees standing waist-deep in sparkling water just off a beach on some unnamed tropical paradise.  Smiling, they offered caviar and champagne flutes to the beautiful people.  What kind of gimmick is that, we wondered? But, when we booked our Seabourn cruise of Caribbean yacht harbors, we were determined that we’d find out.  And we did.

The day began as we anchored off Prickly Pear Island in the British Virgin Islands.  It was a spectacular day with calm seas and brilliant sunshine.  We are not usually the type of travelers who like to spend entire days on a beach, reading, sunning and drinking.  In fact, our plan for that day had been to stay on board the ship until near noon, then to take the tender ashore just in time for the caviar ‘thing’ and the beach barbeque.  The thought of a beach barbeque and eating a hamburger in the sand wasn’t very enticing, but we thought we’d like to experience the event for ourselves.  Oh how wrong our preconceived ideas can be!

We made our way into the lounge where passengers awaited the tenders, just to see how things were going.  It was about 10:30 am and according to the crew members there, the preparations had all been made, crew had taken over to the island all of the trappings needed for the day, and we were free to go ashore.  Never wishing to wait in crowded lounges for anything, we looked around, saw nobody and quickly scooted back to our suite to change into bathing suits and gather beach accoutrements.

caviar 2Within minutes we were aboard the tender making our way toward the beach.  As we arrived on the pier, we could see the grass hut where several hundred fluffy white towels had been individually rolled and stacked earlier by crew for the arriving guests.  A young crew member approached us and offered water or fruit punch.  We noticed that there were only a very few people who had evidently made it on to the first guest tender ashore before us – and this, despite the fact we thought the place would be mobbed.  Silly us!  With only 200 passengers on board in total, mobs were simply out of the question.  And it must be noted that this is a deserted island, save for the beach bar and grill that was commandeered by Seabourn for the day.  There was no one else there.

We made ourselves comfortable on lounge chairs mere feet from the lapping waves, and settled the umbrella so that we could have some shade.  Then the beach service began.  Barefoot bar servers from the ship, today in casual uniforms, delightedly served frozen drinks – any kind you want, as many as you want.  After sipping a frozen margarita, we explored the beach and discovered something wonderful.

The captain and crew of the Seabourn Spirit bringing champagne and caviar from the ship.
The captain and crew of the Seabourn Spirit bringing champagne and caviar from the ship.

There were to be not hamburgers eaten in lounge chairs.  No, Seabourn had something completely different in mind for its discerning travelers.  They had brought china, silverware, table cloths from the ship and had set up an open-air dining facility.  And on the menu was a vast array of barbequed pork, shrimp, and beef…too much food to even imagine.  Then there were the sides, salads, desserts – all brought from the ship that morning by hard-working crew members.

Late in the morning, the water sports activities were live. We spent some time enjoying the island from the water in a paddle boat and later Art water-skied.  All of these activities enjoyed while under the watchful eye of the two crew members aboard the fast rescue craft that floated unobtrusively offshore the whole day.

At around noon, the chef from the ship, accompanied by several of his bar staff took up striped sun umbrellas and waded into the water.  Shortly after, a rubber dinghy, driven by the ship’s captain (!) left the ship making its way toward the beach – they were bringing the caviar and champagne.  And so, we were served caviar by the chef himself while the bar staff happily opened bottle after bottle of wonderful champagne that the guests delightedly imbibed as they waded out of the water to the clicking of a hundred camera shutters.  What impressed us most is that the crew members all seemed to be having as much fun as the guests – they never gave the slightest hint that they felt it was work.

Chef opens the first bottle of champagne.
Chef opens the first bottle of champagne.

After this impressive hors d’oeuvre we took up plates and made our way through the buffet.  We had a wonderful lunch, not hunched over on a beach chair as feared; rather we ate at a white linen-topped table in the shade with a friendly American couple from the New York area, while sipping on a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc.

We were among the last guests to leave the island that day!  So, was the promotional DVD honest?  Absolutely – except for the champagne flutes.  No glass was actually permitted – you’ll have to watch our video to see…or you can just book a Seabourn Caribbean cruise and see for yourself!  Happy cruising!

The Seabourn cruise – A luxurious experience to top the list

Seabourn lays out the red carpet on the pier for its guests.
Seabourn lays out the red carpet on the pier for its guests.

On a six-star, so-called luxury cruise a few years ago, we were in the bar one evening, everyone dressed to the nines, sipping cocktails and getting to know one another.  We asked a selection of our new friends who hailed from various parts of the world, what the term luxury meant to them.  Most of them said that they had never really thought about it.  Indeed, these were people who, by all external standards, might be considered to live a luxurious life as a result of their income and standard of living.  They were, however, not among the idle rich.  All were successful in their chosen fields: medicine, law, business (the latter of which seem to have the most money of all).

When they were finally able to answer the question, they didn’t suggest jewelry, designer duds and handbags, or even private jets (although, admittedly, the private jet experience might be a luxury we might enjoy – but only if the service was terrific – which is at the heart of this story).  Luxury to them included things like “having someone to wash my hair every day for me,” and “fresh sheets on my bed every single day.”  Not quite what you might have imagined.  But luxury means different things to different people, and for these discerning travelers, service is at the heart of the luxurious experience.  Our recent cruise on the Yachts of Seabourn (on the Seabourn Spirit) was, then, one of the most luxurious experiences we’ve ever had.  Bar none.

After five wonderful days at The House in Barbados (the subject of our last post), we thought that the service they gave could not be topped.  We were wrong.

The hot tub forward deck on the Seabourn Spirit
The hot tub forward deck on the Seabourn Spirit

Arriving at the cruise terminal in Bridgetown, Barbados, we were greeted by a Seabourn representative who had our luggage whisked away, and directed us to the private transport.  We mention this only because two years ago when we cruised from Bridgetown on Seabourn’s competitor in the luxury cruise business, Silversea, they put us on buses with hot, dirty and damp revelers from several other mega-ships who all looked at us as if we had three heads, and gave us the stink eye for taking up space with our hand luggage.  Not this time, though.  The transport was just for Seabourn’s embarking guests.

If you’ve ever been on a mainstream cruise, especially one that leaves from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, then you’re familiar with the cavernous cruise terminals where the lineups are legion.  Even if you’re in a suite and have a dedicated, priority boarding line, the crowds are daunting and the service brisk if friendly.  This is where the luxury cruise lines have all of those others beat: personalized service where you feel important right from the start.

Once on board, we were ushered into a lounge where embarking passengers were sipping champagne and registering.  Before long we had had our photos taken, our credit card registered and were on our way to our suite.

Patty poses in our suite one evening.
Patty poses in our suite one evening.

We have been in many lovely suites in our lives, and this one was attractive – not outstanding, but delightful nonetheless.  Our suite stewardess arrived in due course to provide us with another glass of champagne (to add to the bottle chilling in a silver ice bucket on the dining table in the suite) and offer us a selection of high-end soaps (Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, Molton Brown).  All of this is very nice, but if the service isn’t terrific, then the experience is not luxurious.  We were not to be disappointed!

After unpacking our suitcases which arrived in record time and settling everything nicely into the very spacious suite with oodles of storage space, we attended the life boat drill, explored the admittedly small ship and eventually made our way to the dining room for dinner.  As we approached the Maître d’ he greeted us by name and asked us for our table preference, since we can eat whenever we want with whomever we want – even just ourselves.  This ability to identify the guests by sight on first meeting is impressive – no doubt they have access to all of our photos!

The food was really wonderful, but the service was even better.  Every day we were on board, we ate at least two meals in the dining room and were impressed with the service from everyone from the bus boys through the servers to the sommelier who was particularly service-oriented.

Art enjoys the impeccable service at Restaurant II while docked in Antigua one evening.
Art enjoys the impeccable service at Restaurant II while docked in Antigua one evening.

Bar service (any drink you desire, sir), deck service (would you like a drink, sorbet in the afternoon, a cool towel?), spa service (how can we help?), front desk service (is there anything you’d like fixed in your suite?  Yes?  Done!).

All in all, a vacation to remember – and a luxurious experience to repeat – which we certainly will.  Seabourn, you’ve beaten Silversea and Regent.

And we haven’t even told you yet about caviar (and champagne) in the surf – but we will!

Come along with us and tour our suite: Owner’s Suite #5 on the Spirit.

And…then tour the ship if you have a few minutes…