While a personal yacht may be the most luxurious way to sail the waters of the world, a cruise aboard a small ship can deliver a yachting experience without the cost and maintenance of actually owning a yacht.
The motto of SeaDream Yacht Club is: “It’s yachting, not cruising,” which accurately describes the experience on SeaDream I and SeaDream II, the company’s two mega-yachts. With a maximum of 112 guests (56 staterooms) and a 95-person crew, there’s a choice of whether to mix and mingle and make new friends – or to dine and hang out alone with a spouse or friend.
On a recent Caribbean cruise with my daughter aboard SeaDream II, I could always find a table for two when we wanted to be alone – and a welcome at a larger table when we wanted to join others for a meal (the yachts have open dining).
When we wanted quiet time, it was easy to find cozy nooks and corners throughout the vessels, where we could read, chat or enjoy a cup of tea. For lounging (or sleeping) under the stars, we had the signature Balinese beds on the upper deck, (turndown service upon request). I never took advantage of the sleeping-under-the-stars option, but it was fun to just hang out on the upper deck with a complimentary cocktail in hand.
Service is a major element in the luxury experience, and this is readily achieved on the SeaDream yachts. One day into our cruise, the waitstaff knew that my daughter and I liked outdoor tables in the shade and hot milk with our morning coffee. Meals on-board were a highlight of every day. Food was always prepared to order, and when we dined indoors, the tables were set with fine china and crystal.
The line’s theme is “Casual Perfection,” which means we could dress as if we were on our own private vessel – for comfort and perhaps to showcase personal style. What a relief to know that there were no Captain’s dinners, no black tie events, no need for evening gowns or any fussy clothes. (Unlike the norm on most cruise ships, there are very few intrusive announcements blared out over loudspeakers.)
SeaDream yachts can visit harbors and ports not accessible to large ships. In those tiny ports, you’re likely to see only private yachts, which adds to the sense of a yachting experience. During my Caribbean cruise, the only vessels I saw in the harbor at St. Barth’s were the largest yacht in the world – and the second largest yacht.) And since there is always flexibility in SeaDream itineraries, we were able to spend more time is spent in ports like St. Barth’s, sometimes late into the evening or overnight – as we might do on your own private yacht.
The inclusiveness of a SeaDream cruise adds to the yacht-like experience. Cocktails, beer, wine (except for premium brands/vintages), gratuities, WiFi and use of the yacht’s fun toys (paddleboards, jet skis, banana boats, etc.) are all included in the cruise fare, which starts at about $3,600 for a 7-night fall cruise in the Western Mediterranean).
While use of the fitness center was complimentary, treatments at the small but appealing Asian-themed spa are extra, as were the shore excursions; however, the captain or crew members often led informal complimentary tours or mountain bike rides.
At 195 square feet, our Yacht Club stateroom was certainly spacious. In addition to the twin-bed sleeping area, there was also a living room with an entertainment center with flat-screen TV, DVD/CD player and iPod docking station; data port for Internet access; marble-clad bathroom with multi-jet shower massage and Bvlgari bath amenities; Belgian linens, down duvets, woolen blankets and a selection of pillows; SeaDream bathrobes and slippers. (As is the SeaDream custom, we each received a gift of pajamas bearing the line’s logo.)
From October 2013 through April 2014, SeaDream II will explore Asia and Northern Australia, embarking from Piraeus, Greece, traveling to Egypt, transiting the Suez Canal and sailing onward to the Far East. Included in the 17 voyages in Asia-Pacific and Northern Australia are two 13-day holiday Mystic Malaysia & Myanmar itineraries, departing November 25 from Singapore and December 8 from Phuket, Thailand.
Starting in January 2014, SeaDream I returns to the Caribbean, with 10 seven-day voyages. In April she will make a 15-day Transatlantic voyage from San Juan to London.
As they have done in the past, SeaDream I and SeaDream II have achieved the top two ratings in the Berlitz Guide’s “Boutique Ships” category.