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Seabourn Quest

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In the Seabourn family, the 458-passenger Seabourn Quest stands out as the adventurous triplet. Though its layout and luxurious amenities are nearly identical to its two Odyssey-class sisters, it's the only ship in the fleet that's ice-rated. Instead of chasing the sun, Quest chases the cold -- cruising Antarctica in the North American winter and Northern Europe in the summer.

This means that its beautiful pool and deck areas often go unused, and its aft marina no longer carries water toys for passenger play. The popular place to be onboard is wherever the best view is -- often the Observation Bar or its forward deck -- and the line's stash of warm throw blankets are greatly appreciated.

Other than these small differences, Seabourn Quest offers the same upscale cruising experience as its sun-seeking sisters. The ship's inclusive fares (covering tips and drinks) and small size makes for a stress-free sailing -- no need to constantly sign chits, worry about who's buying drinks or wait in line. While service isn't always intuitive, the crew does try hard to make your cruise the best ever. That might mean creating an exclusive menu of your choosing in The Restaurant one night, helping you find the perfect wine or tailoring a fitness class to your needs. But you have to ask. In our experience, the crew is always friendly but they won't remember how you like your morning tea and sometimes they'll take too long to take your order or refill your glass.

Dining is a decadent affair, and Seabourn doesn't skimp on ingredients. Fresh berries at breakfast, caviar anywhere and anytime you want it and huge portions of steak -- even a partnership with top chef Thomas Keller -- shows that this cruise ship takes good food seriously. We did wish the menus had more choice and the restaurants open a bit longer, but perhaps by limiting options, a small ship can better guarantee excellent results. Omnivores will love it; travellers with dietary restrictions and picky eaters might want to talk options with the dining team on embarkation day.

Entertainment is both a highlight and a lowlight on this cruise. The line's partnership with renowned lyricist Tim Rice has changed casting requirements for onboard singers for the better, and the ship's song-and-dance revues are fun to watch. The jazz trio and dance band who perform in the club are memorable and fun, rather than forgettable background noise. Yet the guest performers on our sailing did not live up to the onboard talent, and were surprisingly amateurish for a ship that attracts a cultured clientele.

Ultimately, the onboard experience will play second to the destination on Quest. Passengers choose these itineraries because they want to experience bucket-list destinations like Antarctica, the Arctic or the Amazon. But they choose to travel to those places on Seabourn because they know they will be treated well, they will dine well, they will sleep in comfortable beds in spacious cabins and they don't have to bother with the hassles that would mar the total enjoyment of their vacation.

Daytimes are "resort casual," which basically means wear the right clothes for the day's activities. For example, on a Norwegian fjords cruise, passengers going shopping or on an easy sightseeing tour might be dressed casually yet stylishly, while those going on a hike or Zodiac tour might be in hiking or athletic clothing. Jeans are welcome in all dining venues during the day, but are not appropriate in any public venues after 6 p.m., when the dress code applies. (Though no one will kick you out of the Observation Lounge at 6 p.m. if you're watching sail-away in your daytime outfit before getting ready for dinner.)

At night, Seabourn has elegant casual and formal evenings, though most cruises under two weeks long have only one formal night. Formal attire includes a tuxedo (white or black jacket), suit or slacks (jacket required) for men and evening gown, cocktail dress or fancy separates for women. Elegant casual attire includes slacks with a collared dress shirt or sweater (jacket optional) for men and skirt or slacks with a cute or stylish top or dress for women. In Europe, at least, people dressed on the nicer end of this spectrum; for example, men wore button-down shirts, at least half in jackets, rather than collared shirts.

Seabourn Quest Inclusions

Seabourn includes all gratuities (including at the spa), most drinks (alcohol, soda, water, coffee -- all but the highest-end liquors and wines) and self-serve laundry. You will pay extra for airfare and transfers, pre-cruise hotel stays, spa treatments, internet and shore excursions. There is no need to leave an additional tip for Seabourn's generally first-rate service; however, you might want to tip specific crew members who go above and beyond (such as assisting you with a private party in your suite). If you wish to express your gratitude to the general crew, make a donation to the crew fund at guest services.

The onboard currency is the U.S. dollar.

Shore Excursions

Seabourn offers an array of tours in every port for an extra charge. Prices struck us as a tad pricy, for example $149 for a hike to a glacier that wasn't even guided. On our cruise, we found a nice mix of sightseeing/coach tours, hikes and cultural tours; tours are rated as easy, moderate or considerable walking (from the viewpoint of someone in their 60s or 70s). You can also book a private car and driver.

Unique Seabourn options include a chance to go shopping at a local market with the ship's chef (usually advertised a day or two prior). The line also has a partnership with UNESCO, and marks tours to UNESCO sites. Mostly this means that a portion of the tour proceeds benefit UNESCO; look for Discovery Tours, which are (supposedly) more exclusive tours. An example of a Discovery tour on Quest is a tour of Stonehenge that allows Seabourn travellers beyond the ropes to walk inside the stone circle.

Seabourn also offers a series of tours called Ventures by Seabourn. These are kayak or Zodiac tours led by expert naturalists, scientists and historians (and trained kayak guides). These tours are often among the more expensive tours, but they are a very good experience with knowledgeable guides and a strong support team for the kayak groups (so you never feel like you'll be left behind to struggle if you get tired). You'll learn a lot and get an up-close view of the port's scenic offerings.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

Seabourn's entertainment team plans practically no activities during hours the ship is in port. On sea days, there are various and fairly low-key activities, such as bridge, lectures (by the Ventures team or guest lecturers), trivia competitions, dance classes and cooking demos. Seabourn's trivia games are extra competitive, and teams stick together throughout the entire cruise as scores are cumulative.

There's one seating of one show each night in the Grand Salon theatre (which offers bar service just before and during the performance). With the 2017-debuted "Evening with Tim Rice" show, Seabourn has really upped the quality of its cast of onboard singers. To cast the show, the line requires auditioning singers to have performed in Broadway, West End or national/international musicals; as these singers also perform the other musical revues onboard, the talent level is quite high and among the best we've seen on a small-ship cruise. However, the quality of the guest entertainers on the cruise really fell short. We found them amateurish and often cheesy.

Once per cruise, the evening show is replaced with the Rock the Boat dance party where the dance band teams up with the ship's singers to get the crowd on their feet by the pool deck. Also because Quest's itineraries are usually cold-weather, Seabourn's legendary Caviar in the Surf beach party, where uniformed waters emerge from the waves bearing platters of caviar and Champagne, is usually transformed into a Champagne and Caviar Deck Party for one sail-away.

In the evenings, the focal point after dinner is The Club, which has a dance band and jazz trio who switch off. Both groups were talented, and the dance band played a fun mix of music and got the late-night crowd dancing. There's a small casino with roulette, blackjack tables and a couple of slots off The Club, which sees more or less action depending on how port-intensive the itinerary is. The Observation Lounge has a pianist, and is popular during the sail-away for pre-dinner drinks, but it closes at midnight on the dot.

Enrichment

Quest offers enrichment lectures related to the cruise destination by employing a mix of guest speakers and its Ventures team. On our cruise, a historian and a naturalist offered lectures on animals and the Viking history of the region. A port lecturer gave anticipatory slideshows of the upcoming destinations, but he was more of a tease than an actual help in either planning independent touring or shore tours.

The spa team lead seminars, both Steiner's typical "Eat More to Weigh Less" talks and Andrew Weil-influenced classes on mindful living.


Seabourn Quest Bars and Lounges

Seabourn includes all but the most premium alcohol in its fares, but the line is by no means stingy with its pours. Waiters will make a point to ask you if you want a drink and check in to see if you need another. Sail-away and other parties will feature some sort of special bar setup, whether it's a line of after-dinner liquors at the Rock the Boat party or waiters handing out aquavit during a fjord sail-away.

The two main lounges for pre- and post-dinner drinks are The Club and The Observation Lounge, with two pool deck bars for sunny-day thirst-quenching. The Club and Observation Lounge have their own special cocktail menus through Seabourn's partnership with mixologist Brian Van Flandern, but oddly don't have regular cocktail menus so there's not much in the way of inspiration if you don't know what to order.

Many of the indoor and outdoor seating venues, including the Grand Salon and the Observation Lounge, house a stash of warm orange or brown blankets that are perfect when the A/C is turned up too high, or you've just come in from some windy scenery watching.

The Club (Deck 5): The Club opens just prior to dinner and closes when the last passengers stagger off to bed. It has a small square dance floor in the centre, and a jazzy trio and a lively dance band trade off sets (jazz pre- and post-dinner, dancing in the later hours). It's the go-to evening destination for conversation, drinks or a little boogie, and on our cruise, the musicians were outstanding, especially the dance band's female lead singer.

Seabourn Square (Deck 7): The hub of the ship, Seabourn Square contains a coffee bar offering speciality coffees, liqueurs, cakes, pastries, sandwiches and ice cream; a library, with a decent selection of novels and travel guides; jigsaw puzzles; two banks of internet terminals; and a central, semi-enclosed area where Seabourn staff sit at desks and handle everything from onboard accounts to shore excursions. Chairs and couches are extremely comfortable, and it's highly likely that your hour with a book will turn into a power nap.

Patio Bar (Deck 8): This bar serves the beverage needs of sun worshippers, hot tubbers and Patio diners on the pool deck. The bartenders like to make seductive and calorific frozen concoctions (like mango daiquiris and a blend of Bailey's, mocha ice cream and crushed-up chocolate cookies) and wander the pool deck offering them to whoever looks thirsty.

Sky Bar (Deck 9): The Sky Bar overlooks the pool deck, and is a lovely spot to enjoy sail-away or the night air on a warm night.

Observation Lounge (Deck 10): The Observation Bar at the top of the ship is the spot for scenic viewing indoors through its panoramic windows giving 180-degree views. In the morning, early risers can grab coffee here from 6:15 until 8 a.m. It re-opens at 4 p.m. for daily afternoon tea, then stays open for drink service until midnight. It's a favourite for sail-away.


Seabourn Quest Outside Recreation

Seabourn Quest has three distinct pool venues, spread throughout the ship, which are under-utilized because the ship is so often sailing in cooler climates. The main pool area is on Deck 8, where you'll find the largest saltwater pool, two hot tubs and showers. Waiters will come around to take drink orders from hot tubbers and sunbathers; during lunch hours, the bartenders like to mix up a round of frozen or blended cocktails and offer them to anyone interested. The pool is surrounded by mesh loungers with adjustable headrests and a few circular clamshell daybeds, big enough for two. More loungers overlook the pool on decks 9 and 10.

The second pool area is aft of The Club on Deck 5. A small, square pool is flanked by two hot tubs, loungers, tables with wicker chairs and pool showers. A small cart with soft drinks is stationed here, so you don't always have to run inside for a beverage. A promenade of sorts runs from this pool area along both sides of Deck 5 under the lifeboats but does not circle the front of the ship to make a full loop.

A fifth hot tub is all by its lonesome on Deck 6 forward, also with loungers and DIY drinks available. Access is via the corridor of Deck 6 suites, and this hot tub is often not discovered by first-timers until later in the cruise.

Up on Deck 11 forward is The Retreat, with shuffleboard, Ping-Pong, a putting green and golf cage, and the Sun Terrace with more lounge chairs but no hot tub or pool.

One nice touch is that on the occasional sunny day, the spa staff will set up a massage chair by the Deck 8 pool and offer free mini-massages to anyone interested.

Although its sister ships have water sports marinas, Seabourn Quest had to take its platform out of operation when it was refurbished to be ice rated. While the marina is used to launch Zodiacs, it's not utilized for passenger play. This isn't really a problem because the ship so rarely sails in warm-water destinations where the marina would be used.


Seabourn Quest Services

Seabourn Square is the hub for guest services on Quest. The semi-enclosed, central portion of the square houses four desks, where guest and destination services staff answer any and every question you might have. A separate counter area was unused on our cruise, but often representatives from the day's port set up shop there to help with independent exploration planning for a few hours in the morning.

On two sides of Guest Services are banks of computers, set up for internet use. Unless you're in the top suites, you'll need to pay extra for internet access, either Wi-Fi throughout the ship or the desktops in Seabourn Square. Pay 40 cents per minute, or buy a package: $19.95 for two hours, $29.95 for three hours, $39.95 for four hours, $239.85 for unlimited access for a week or $399.95 for unlimited access for longer cruises. Each package can be used on several devices, but only one device can log in at a time. We found Wi-Fi speeds to be pretty good for a cruise ship, though in certain ports, due to topography, internet access was not available at all.

Seabourn's two shops are also just off the Square. One sells clothing, purses, jewellery, sundries and other souvenirs, while the other focuses exclusively on high-end jewellery.

Forward of Seabourn Square, by the aft spiral staircase is the card room, with a stash of board games and video games -- and square tables for bridge and other card play. It's used for an assortment of purposes, such as morning meditation, youth activities and even religious services. (You'll find a collection of bibles and prayer books on its shelves.) It's all set up with a Wii video game system, should any passengers wish to play. Mostly it's used when kids are onboard.

The popular launderettes are located on Deck 5, with one room on the port side and a second one starboard. Each launderette contains two washers, two dryers, two ironing boards with irons and a utility sink. DIY laundry is complimentary, and a basket of detergent pods is provided for your use. The longer the cruise, the more in demand the machines are, so you'll need to be strategic about when you schedule your washing. The dryers are also not as strong as what you're used to at home.

Conference rooms are also on Deck 5. The medical centre is on Deck 3.

The Seabourn Spa, run by Steiner, has the slight feeling of a rabbit warren inside, and we had to ask directions to the fitness centre from reception. From the spa entrance, go left to the Motion Studio (the group exercise room with a kinesis wall) and treatment rooms; straight to the extra-fee thermal suite; and right to the salon and fitness centre. The changing rooms, each with a free-use dry sauna, are in a corridor directly behind the spa reception desk.

Treatments include the usual range, from massages using bamboo or hot stones to facials and body wraps. The salon offers hair treatments and styling, nail services, waxing (amusingly dubbed Bliss Poetic Waxing) and men's grooming treatments, including shaves. An acupuncturist is also on hand to stick you with pins and cure what ails you. Prices are high ($150 for a 50-minute Swedish massage, BIOTEC facial for $209, mani-pedi for $138), and we didn't notice many port-day discounts. Certain treatments do count toward the 10-20-30 offer (book three services and get 10 percent off the most expensive, 20 percent off the middle and 30 percent off the cheapest).

The thermal Serene Suite (herbal sauna, steam room, circular Kneipp Walk Pool for enhancing circulation and contoured heated loungers) costs $25 for a day, or you can buy a full-cruise pass.

The fitness centre is long and narrow, with the machines practically on top of each other, so working out is rather unpleasant on a sea day when the gym is packed. Get your heart rate up with treadmills, elliptical trainers and recumbent and regular stationary bikes, or feel the burn with free weights and TechnoGym resistance machines. Group fitness classes (Pilates, Kinesis circuit, stretch, core and abs, total body workout) are free of charge, though you can pay extra for personal training, body composition analysis or the Trilogy combination workout series (a mix of cardio, strength and recovery).

New in summer 2017 to Seabourn Quest is the Spa and Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil experience, which incorporates yoga, meditation, spa treatments and seminars on mindful and healthful living. Daily guided group meditation is complimentary, but the 30-minute yoga classes cost $15. On the one hand, these classes are better than your typical cruise ship yoga classes; on the other hand, it seems cheap for a very inclusive luxury line to charge for yoga (especially when caviar is free). An unusual aspect of the Weil classes and treatments is crystal sound bath therapy, which involves ringing crystal bowls to create a sound pattern that is supposed to relax you and put you into a meditative state.

There's no official running track onboard, though joggers utilize the Deck 9 loop around the pool in the morning when passengers aren't lounging there. Ten laps make 1 kilometre.

Seabourn, like many luxury lines, puts an emphasis on fine dining, and its partnership with famed American chef Thomas Keller aims to elevate its dining even further. We had delicious food in each of the four main dining venues onboard, and rarely experienced a dish that didn't live up to standards. You'll find plenty of high-end ingredients like caviar and foie gras. The open dining system means you never have to make reservations (except for The Grill by Thomas Keller because it's so small), but you also never have to wait for a table because restaurants are large enough to accommodate everyone. We also appreciated that room stewardesses delivered the dinner menus for all restaurants (except The Grill) the night before, so we could plan our next day's evening.

A red and white wine are offered at both lunch and dinner in all venues, but you can also offer additional vintages from the complimentary or premium menus. Bar staff are happy to work with you to find a satisfactory bottle, and are not shy about topping up your glass.

Our main complaint had to do with options. Seabourn offers fewer dish choices on its menus than other lines (Regent comes to mind). Possibly this is to ensure a high quality of the food it does serve and to avoid waste on a small-size ship. This is fine if you're a versatile and easy-to-please diner. Those who are pickier or who have dietary restrictions will find themselves limited. For example, we found the vegetarian options to be lacking (more so than on other lines) and poorly thought out (such as offering spring rolls as a main course). We would recommend that diners with even slight dietary restrictions speak to the chef about options. (Also, you won't find spa cuisine or healthier options marked on any restaurant's menu.)

To that end, the staff is very amenable to special requests. They told us at embarkation, when asking everyone about any dietary needs (a nice touch) that they could make nearly anything we liked with 24-hour notice. We tested this out by requesting an Indian dinner one night, and the ship's Indian chefs made us an amazing multi-course feast that was possibly the best meal we had onboard.

Our other minor gripe is that dining hours are very limited. The only way to eat dinner before 7 p.m. is to order from the standard room service menu (limited options) or book a 6 p.m. Grill reservation. If you want to get off the ship right at 7 a.m. when it docks, you'll need to order room service or grab a coffee and a pastry from the Observation Lounge. If you like restaurant dining for lunch or breakfast, you're limited to just one hour of service. In most cases, the hours suited us just fine, but the later we got back from port, the more limited our options.

Service in all venues was generally good but inconsistent. On several occasions, we sat waiting for water glasses to be refilled, ketchup to be brought out and orders to be taken for longer than was necessary. Yet when struggling to carry a bowl of soup and a plate from a buffet, a server quickly came to my aid, and it was no problem for a waiter to fetch hot chocolate, peanut butter or a veggie burger from a different venue to bring to my table. Wait staff were also incredibly friendly and would stop and chat, when they sensed diners were amenable to that.

The Restaurant (Deck 4): The main dining room is quite elegant and light with floor-to-ceiling windows running along the port and starboard sides and a centre section with a raised ceiling, gauzy white drapes and lit-up white panels with a white-on-white abstract design. Dark yellow (a staple Seabourn colour) chair backs and window curtains add a touch of colour to the white table linens topped with white roses.

Dining is open seating, and all passengers can be accommodated at once, meaning The Restaurant can feel oddly empty on nights when many choose to dine in alternate locations. (On the flip side, when nearly everyone shows up for formal night dinner, it can get quite loud.) Ask to share a table if you're feeling social. Seabourn makes a point of inviting passengers to tables hosted by ship's officers and entertainment team members; solos tend to get invited to these group tables nightly. Don't hesitate to turn down the invite if you're not interested or have other plans.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are ordered off a menu and waiter-served every day. Note that hours are quite limited; one hour for breakfast on port days (two hours on sea days), one hour for lunch and two hours (7 to 9 p.m.) for dinner.

Breakfast includes a large selection of fruit, pastries and breads, yoghurt, hot and cold cereal, egg dishes, griddle items like pancakes and French toast, meat (everything from cold cuts to lamb chops) and fish (pickled or kippered herring, smoked salmon).

The lunch menu is fairly limited with two starters, three mains (fish, meat and vegetable) and two desserts that change daily, plus shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, hot dog, burger, chicken breast, steak and ice cream that are available every day.

At dinner, as with lunch, the menu is divided into two sections: Inspirations (daily specials) and Classics (always available). The Inspirations menu will have four starters, divided into two courses, with salads, soups and appetizers. Four main courses typically include a vegetarian and a seafood option. Options might include a caviar appetizer, foie gras, Maine lobster, beef Wellington or a potato and Gruyere cheese tort. The Classics menu includes chilled shrimp, Caesar salad, chicken consomme, vegetarian tomato soup, tagliatelle pasta with lobster sauce, pan-seared salmon, roast chicken breast, New York strip steak, grilled beef tenderloin and rack of lamb.

Every other night, Thomas Keller items are added to the menu for additional choice, with one starter, two mains and a dessert. For example, one menu might be ricotta and Parmesan gnudi, fillet of king salmon, roasted king trumpet mushrooms and a frangipane tart. Diners can mix and match from all three menus.

Vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are marked, though some meat-free dishes go unlabeled, so diners should always inquire about ingredients just in case. Travellers with other dietary restrictions or allergies should contact the cruise line in advance of the sailing and speak to the dining team on the first day.

The dessert menu includes four options, with one typically sugar-free and one a different flavour of souffle, plus two ice cream flavours, a sorbet and a frozen yoghurt. You can also order a cheese plate.

At lunch and dinner, waiters offer a complimentary white and red wine; these change daily and are a fine selection, at the expected price range (i.e., not too cheap but not the real expensive stuff, either). If you don't care for the offered selections, you can request something else from the complimentary list or pay for a premium selection.

The Colonnade (Deck 8): The Colonnade is the ship's buffet venue, with indoor and outdoor seating (with heat lights on the aft deck for chilly days). At breakfast and lunch, meals are self-service, with small menus of hot items to order a la minute. Dinner is typically off a menu and waiter-served, but there will be the occasional buffet meal (like the Tuscany Market Dinner). Note that gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian items are sometimes marked, but not always.

We liked that The Colonnade never seems overcrowded, and a line for food generally means just one person ahead of you. Separate stations helps with flow, as well. While waiters aren't hovering over you, ready to take your plate, they will notice if you need help and will offer to carry your plate or find you a table. Our criticism is that open hours are often too short to accommodate early or late tours. Breakfast generally starts at 7 a.m. and lunch ends at 2 or 2:30, and servers start removing the serving platters on the dot.

At breakfast, help yourself to hot items like scrambled eggs and potatoes, fruit, pastries, meats and cheeses, yoghurt and cereal, or order omelettes, pancakes, steak, oatmeal and the like from your waiter. There's always a daily special, such as a truffle omelet or baked apple pancakes.

Lunch features a small selection of daily-changing hot dishes (loosely tied to a theme like Greek or Mexican), a soup of the day, salad bar and premade salads, breads, cheese, deli meat and dessert. You can order burgers, hot dogs, salmon, grilled chicken or steak off a menu.

At dinner, you will be seated and served by a waiter and order off a menu that changes daily and is loosely based around a theme. You'll be offered one type of bread, a choice of three appetizers and three mains (one vegetarian -- the same as in The Restaurant), and one dessert. Unlike the dining room, passengers here are limited to what's printed on the menu, and we found the venue was not ideal for cruisers with dietary restrictions. While the setting seemed more casual, and diners here opted for the less dressy end of the dress code, we still spent a good two hours at dinner.

Servers will take beverage requests for complimentary or premium selections; at dinner, as in The Restaurant, a daily white and red are offered but you may request a different bottle if you prefer.

A few nights per cruise, The Colonnade will offer a buffet dinner or a four-course set menu (no choices) created by Chef Thomas Keller. On Thomas Keller nights, passengers must make reservations; on all other nights, you can simply walk in to dinner whenever you wish.

The Grill by Thomas Keller (Deck 8): The marquee speciality restaurant onboard Seabourn Quest is The Grill by Thomas Keller, the Michelin-starred American chef known for restaurants such as The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon. You need to make reservations for this must-try dining experience, and you'll have the best results if you do so online pre-cruise. The restaurant staff make a point to get everyone in once; space permitting, you can dine a second or third time.

The venue is long and narrow, and is meant to evoke the upscale dining car of a classic train. The menu concept is modern versions of 1960s classic American dishes (shrimp cocktail, lobster thermidor, macaroni and cheese), with cocktails inspired by the 1920s. Ignore all that. What it really means is you'll get huge portions of perfectly prepared dishes, with no weird gimmicks (a la molecular gastronomy), and if you want an off-menu cocktail, no matter how standard, the waiters will have to run to another bar to bring it. Thomas Keller has also hand-picked all the purveyors of the wines, meats and cheeses used in his restaurant.

Your meal begins with a bowl of crudite and dip and mouth-watering, buttery, warm bread. The menu is simple, with a choice of starters (Caesar salad, New England clam chowder), plates (roasted free-range chicken, New York strip steak, veal T-bone), sides (steak fries, creamed spinach) and sweets (ice cream sundae, seven-layer coconut cake). One starter and one main course change daily. Many dishes are prepared or finished tableside on a trolley cart the waiters wheel up and down the aisles, and the waiters will chat with you about what they're doing and the special ingredients they're using.

Everyone we spoke with on our cruise agreed with us that the Thomas Keller dishes we tried were delicious and perfectly prepared, but that you're served way too much food and feel a bit ill when you roll out of dinner, post-dessert. We recommend eating light the day of your reservation and booking an early reservation (dinner hours here are 6 to 9 p.m.).

The Patio (Deck 8): The Patio is so much more than a standard pool deck grill counter, and was the surprise hit of our cruise. It has the longest hours for lunch (12:30 to 3:30 p.m.), though it will close in inclement weather. (No one wants to eat at the open-air tables in the rain anyway.) At lunch, help yourself to an excellent salad bar, three hot dishes (such as panini or grilled chicken or fish), two pizza flavours (one is typically cheese), small sandwiches and cookies. Or, order off a menu of standard hot dogs and burgers, Thomas Keller's Napa Burger and Yountwurst Hot Dog, and a fish that changes daily. Veggie burgers are not officially on the menu, but are available on request. (They're also shipmade and delicious.) Grill items are delivered with irresistibly crispy french fries; you might also get some surprise chips, salsa and guacamole while you wait. Order ice cream and drinks from the bar.

In the evening, The Patio offers table service and diners order off a themed menu. It's still casual dining (even if the dress code applies) and the daily themes are grill-related --Butcher Shop, Chop House Grill, Surf and Turf, etc. Choose from three appetizers (one is always a Caesar salad), one pasta and one pizza flavour, three "From the Grill" options (such as tuna steak, pork chop and beef rib eye steak), daily sides and one daily dessert (or always-available cheese plate, fruit salad, ice cream or sorbet).

Seabourn Square (Deck 7): Seabourn Square is the heart of the ship -- part cafe, part internet centre, part lounge and part guest services. In the morning, it's the place to grab an espresso or a chai tea latte and a pastry and kick back on a couch with a newspaper or Kindle. In the afternoon, drop by for a slice of cake or tea sandwich and a caffeinated pick-me-up. It's open from 6:15 a.m. to 11 p.m., closing for a few hours during dinnertime.

Afternoon Tea (Deck 10): Afternoon tea is held daily in the Observation Bar from 4 to 5 p.m., so you can enjoy the view while you munch on scones with jam and clotted cream, tea sandwiches, little cakes and organic loose leaf tea. Raisin scones are the norm, but plain and gluten-free scones are available on request. A note for tea aficionados: Seabourn serves loose-leaf tea in a pot and provides a strainer for you to pour through into your tea cup. This means that any tea left in the pot over-steeps before you can pour a second cup. We recommend either sharing a pot, asking for a half pot of tea or asking for a pot with just the leaves and a pot of hot water so you can steep just a little at a time.

Room Service: For those who want a more private dining experience, the dinner menu from The Restaurant can be served course-by-course in your suite, either inside or on the balcony, but only during restaurant open hours (7 to 9 p.m.). A room service menu of comfort food -- burgers, steaks, pasta and club sandwiches plus soups and desserts -- is always available. (It's not at all vegetarian-friendly.) Order breakfast via a hang-tag you place on your door. Hot and cold items (basically anything available on The Restaurant's morning menu, minus a few items like steak and lamb) can be delivered between 6:30 and 10 a.m. And for sheer indulgence, you can order a platter of (gratis) caviar and blinis any time you like, to any destination onboard (your cabin, the pool deck, The Club).

The first thing to know about Seabourn Quest is that all cabins are called suites because they have a bedroom area separated from a distinct sitting area by curtains that can be pulled closed across the entire width of the room. The Ocean View and Veranda Suites (categories A and V) are the standard suites, with the Penthouse, Penthouse Spa, Owner's, Signature and Wintergarden Suites making up the more limited-number of premium suites.

All passengers can go online before their cruise and select a wine and liquor (per person) to be placed in the suite, pillow type and bedding preference (duvet vs. sheet and blanket, mattress topper, etc.). There are no butlers, but all cabins are serviced by room stewardesses, who are friendly and accommodating and will leave little gifts (eye masks, chocolates) or sprinkle rose petals around your tub to encourage a relaxing soak.

In standard suites, the sleeping area contains one queen bed (that can be split into two twins), nightstands with drawers and bedside lamps with attached reading lamps. On the wall opposite the bed, a cabinet unit has three sections, each with three shelves. The living area contains a dining-height table with two chairs and an ottoman, plus a full-sized couch. On one side, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet contains the mini-fridge (stocked with soft drinks and beer), your choice of wine and liquor and bottled mineral water and glassware. A twin cabinet directly opposite holds the TV (on a pullout shelf), some shelves and three drawers. The flat-screen TV is interactive, so you can check your onboard account. It also offers a decent array of movies.

The hallway at the entrance to the suite features a small lighted vanity with a stool and a drawer (which contains a hair dryer), a walk-in closet with hanging space and shelves and the bathroom. You'll find bathrobes and slippers, a sewing kit, shoe polish, a shoehorn with brush, lap blanket and safe in the closet. Two outlets (each with 110 and 220 V options) can be found low to the ground between the cabinet and dining table, and just above the vanity table. There are none by the beds.

The marble bathroom is among the largest and best designed of the luxury cruise bathrooms we've encountered. There's a tub with a clothesline, a separate shower with both a fixed head and handheld wand, and a double vanity. There are two small glass shelves by the vanity and glass shelving beneath, plus a corner shelf by the bathroom door. Molton Brown toiletries (in herbal scents exclusive to Seabourn) include bar soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and lotion. You also get shower caps and cotton balls and swabs, as well as a choice of additional soaps from Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo and Baudelaire.

A dozen suites on Quest have sofas that convert to a third berth; in other suites, a rollaway bed can be brought in for a third passenger. Eighteen pairs of suites connect via an interior door to accommodate larger families and groups. The balcony dividers can also be opened up to create a shared veranda space.

Oceanview Suites: The only outside suites are found on Deck 4. They measure 295 square feet and are identical to balcony cabins except they have a picture window and no veranda. Note that a few cabins (410, 411 and 413) are slightly smaller, ranging from 271 to 283 square feet.

Veranda Suites: The majority of cabins are 300-square-foot veranda suites, each with a 65-square-foot balcony. They are identical and it's their location that make some more desirable (and expensive) than others. Balconies feel spacious and are furnished with two mesh-and-metal reclining chairs with footstools, a small drinks table and a larger round dining table.

Penthouse Suites: The penthouse suites are found on decks 9 and 10, with one wheelchair-accessible version on Deck 6. Measuring 436 square feet with a 98-square-foot veranda, these suites are built for entertaining. Each features a sleeping area separated from the living area by decorated glass panels, which can be screened off by heavy chocolate silk curtains. It's a great option if you're entertaining guests or if one person wants to sleep but the other wants to watch TV.

Penthouse suites employ a dark brown wood (versus the lighter wood found in standard suites), have a larger L-shaped couch in the living room and more chairs. Balconies feature both the two reclining chairs but another two upright chairs by the dining table. The bathroom is divided with an interior door and accessible from both the hallway and the bedroom; this means when guests are present, you can close off the bathing and double-vanity area to hide your mess and create a half-bath with toilet and sink.

Passengers in Penthouse Suites and above receive double Seabourn Club points for their cruise.

Penthouse Spa Suite: Four spa suites were created out of extra spa space during a ship refurb and can only be accessed via a stairway in the spa. (There's a stair lift for passengers with mobility issues.) Suites vary in size slightly, measuring 536 to 539 square feet inside, with balconies of either 167 square feet or 200 square feet. They're laid out like regular Penthouse Suites with a few differences, including a slightly different colour scheme. The bathrooms are enormous with huge stall showers with glass doors and an oblong tub; the balconies are much larger and furnished with wicker couches, a large round wicker-and-glass dining table and chairs and loungers.

Spa-like amenities include Molton Brown speciality products, a choice of bath sponges from luxury brands, fancy blooming teas, healthy snacks, soothing room fragrance and serene music. Suite residents receive complimentary passes to the spa's thermal suite and spa concierge service.

Owner's Suites: Owners Suites vary in size from 526 to 593 square feet with 133- to 354-square-foot wraparound balconies. There are two all the way forward on decks 6 and 8, and one midship on Deck 7, and size and layout vary by location. Like Penthouse Suites, Owner's Suites have a bedroom set off by glass panels but the furnishings are light rather than dark wood. The suites feature large living areas with two love seats, dining table for four, pantry with wet bar and guest bath. The master bath has a whirlpool tub.

Passengers in these suites and the two higher categories receive complimentary internet access and transfers to and from the airport or a hotel within 50 miles of the port. Note that you will only get these perks if you originally book one of these categories; if you book a lower category and then accept a discounted upgrade, you will not receive these amenities. All three categories also can be combined with standard suites next door to create one huge connected suite for larger groups travelling together.

Signature Suites: The Signature Suites are sandwiched in between the Owner's Suites, forward on Deck 7. The two suites each measure 859 square feet with a 493-square-foot veranda. They are essentially an expanded version of the Owner's Suites -- same layout, just more floor space. Perks are the same as for Owner's Suites.

Wintergarden Suites: Two big Wintergarden Suites (914 square feet with 183-square-foot balconies), located midship on Deck 7, have the most interior space but much smaller balconies than most of the Signature and Owner's Suites. The claim-to-fame of these suites is the glass-enclosed sun room with a wicker couch, oval tub and plenty of sea views. This relaxing room is adjacent to the suite's open-air balcony. Inside, the living room has a large L-shaped sofa, dining for six and a pantry with wet bar. The master bath has a large circular tub over which hang fibre-optic fairy lights; there's also a guest half-bath. Perks are the same as for Owner's Suites.

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