An Insiders Guide to the Seabourn Ships & Fleet

18 Mar 2024

Categories: CRUISE TIPS | SEABOURN

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Introduction

When you delve into the cruise lines offering a true Ultra-Luxury Cruise experience, Seabourn is always one of the leading players in this market. The fleet of Seabourn ships is one of the easiest to understand, and it has unique selling points.

 

Seabourn Ships

Seabourn’s fleet consists of three classes: The Odyssey Class and Encore Class ships form the Ocean fleet, and Expedition ships are part of the Venture class.

Each class of the Ocean fleet consists of ships that are almost identical in design and built around the same time. If you experience one ship in a class, you will likely feel they are all similar.

At the time of writing, Seabourn Cruise Line operates seven ships: three Odyssey-class ships, two Encore-class ships, and two Venture Class expedition ships. Seabourn will reduce the fleet to six ships in 2024 when the Seabourn Odyssey is sold, leaving it for a new life in Japan.

In this article, we guide you through the unique features of each class of Seabourn ship so that you can make an informed decision about which is the right Seabourn Ultra Luxury Cruise for you.

Seabourn Ships History

Seabourn is one of a small but growing number of cruise lines competing in the Ultra-Luxury Cruise Market. Its focus is on voyages that promise a high level of service, cuisine elegance, and pampering and are priced accordingly.

Seabourn Cruise Line was founded in 1986 under the name “Signet Cruise Lines” by the Norwegian private investors Atle Brynestad and Warren S. Titus.

The company introduced its first ship, Seabourn Pride, in 1988, followed a year later by a sister ship, Seabourn Spirit. A third vessel, initially planned for 1990, was delayed due to investors’ financial constraints and ultimately purchased by Royal Viking Line in 1992 as Royal Viking Queen. In 1995, the Royal Viking Queen was transferred to a Kloster subsidiary, Royal Cruise Line, as Queen Odyssey.

In 1991, Carnival Corporation purchased a 25% stake in Seabourn. In 1996, Carnival Corporation increased its stake to 50%, providing sufficient capital to buy the Queen Odyssey, renamed Seabourn Legend.

In 1998, Carnival purchased the remaining 50% stake in Seabourn and the Cunard Line from Kvaerner ASA and merged the two brands into Cunard Line. In 1999, three Cunard ships, Sea Goddess I, Sea Goddess II, and Royal Viking Sun, were transferred into the Seabourn fleet as Seabourn Goddess I, Seabourn Goddess II, and Seabourn Sun.

In 2001, Carnival bought out the Norwegian shareholders, and Seabourn’s parent company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Carnival. That summer, Seabourn Goddess I and Seabourn Goddess II were sold to Seabourn’s founder, Atle Brynestad, to establish his cruise line, SeaDream Yacht Club. In 2002, Seabourn Sun was transferred to the Carnival-owned Holland America Line, reducing the Seabourn fleet to its three original sister ships. The company was demerged from Cunard Line and reorganized as a stand-alone operating brand of Carnival Corporation & plc.

Related: Why We Love Cruising with Seabourn

Seabourn Ovation

Seabourn Encore Class ship Seabourn Ovation ©Mike King 2024

The Seabourn Fleet

Like all the other Ultra-Luxury brands, Seabourn operates considerably smaller and far more intimate ships than the giant floating mega ships operated by mass-market cruise lines like Carnival Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line. The beauty of Seabourn ships is that they are designed to carry a few hundred guests instead of thousands of passengers.

While the Seabourn ships are smaller, they have relatively more public spaces per guest than mega-ships, which makes them feel more spacious and less cramped. Seabourn has one of the highest passenger-to-space ratios in the industry, and according to Douglas Ward, author of Insights Guide to Cruising, the line’s fleet is among the most spacious ships at sea, designated by the space-per-passenger ratio.

The other critical ratio is the staff-to-passenger ratio, an essential measure that Ultra Luxury Cruise Lines uses to highlight how many crew members are available to serve their guests. Seabourn also shines here with one of the highest staff-to-passenger ratios in the cruise industry. At nearly one-to-one, this is hard to beat.

Seabourn offers unique offerings that other cruise lines don’t. These include a relaxed onboard experience with super friendly staff who take pride in going the extra mile to ensure your Seabourn cruise is extra special. They are also renowned for their ‘Caviar in the Surf’ experience and cruises to almost every part of the world.

Related: The Passenger Space Ratio Explained

Seabourn classifies all its cabins or staterooms as suites. The cruise line operates on an all-inclusive basis, so all dining venues, including speciality restaurants, are included in the cruise fare. Although there are a limited number of venues onboard, the food is of a very high standard and offers exceptional choices.


Two of Seabourn’s three types of ships, the Odyssey and Encore, have similar designs and feel once onboard. The most significant difference is that the Encore-class ships are larger. They are essentially Odyssey-class ships with an additional deck for larger dining venues, extra suites and public areas, and a distinctive “pointed” bow.

Regarding passenger numbers, the original Odyssey-class ships are designed to carry 458 guests with 330 crew, and the Encore-class ships can hold 604 passengers, based on double occupancy and 450 crew.

The third and newest class of Seabourn ships is the Expedition fleet, known unofficially as the Venture class. These are Ultra-luxury, purpose-built expedition ships with PC6 ice-strengthened hulls and advanced manoeuvring technology for superior stability, safety, and comfort.
These ships are smaller and specifically designed and built for expedition cruising. Seabourn Expedition ships are designed to hold 264 passengers based on double occupancy and carry a team of expedition specialists for your sailing region.

The onboard Seabourn experience isn’t as bold as some luxury cruise ships’, most notably Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which features stunning art and dazzling interiors. Seabourn offers a more intimate, relaxed style of luxury cruising. Seabourn may not be the right choice if you are looking for stunning interiors with crystal chandeliers and exotic artwork. However, if you enjoy intimacy and refined subtle elegance without a lot of showiness, Seabourn ships may be a good choice.

The Seabourn Odyssey Class Ships

The Odyssey Class comprises: Seabourn Odyssey (2009), Seabourn Sojourn (2010), and Seabourn Quest (2011).

The introduction of the Odyssey Class ships in 2009 was a revelation in the Ultra Luxury cruise sector. From a fleet of small ships with a capacity of 208 guests, the Odyssey-class was a giant leap forward for Seabourn, a larger ship with over double the capacity of the original small ships. The three earlier small Seabourn ships, Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Pride, and Seabourn Spirit, were eventually sold to Windstar Cruises in 2015,

The debut of Seabourn Odyssey was hailed ‘a game changer’ for the ultra-luxury cruise market. A big step up in terms of size, Seabourn Odyssey carrying 458 guests and, at the time, offered a unique wealth of amenities made possible by the passenger space ratio and balconies on 90 per cent of the suites. Seabourn Odyssey joined by two identical sisters, Seabourn Sojourn in 2010 and Seabourn Quest in 2011.

Even though the Odyssey-class ships were larger and took long-standing Seabourn guests time to adapt, they offered a more spacious, intimate feel and many additional features not seen on the smaller vessels.

The public areas of the Odyssey-class ships revolve around the revolutionary, centrally located Seabourn Square, which features elements of Guest Services, Future Cruise Sales, a lounge, a cafe, and a library.

Related: The Seabourn Club Loyalty Program – All you Need to Know

Seabourn Quest

Seabourn Quest  © Mike King 2024

The Odyssey-class ships also have a Grand Salon (Theatre) with tiered seating where you can enjoy guest speakers, entertainment, and special events. There is also an intimate lounge bar called The Club on deck 5 with a small casino attached. “Sushi in the Club” is served nightly and offers fresh sushi bites and unique sake offerings. You can enjoy a menu featuring the finest ingredients that blend authenticity with a twist of Seabourn’s culinary expertise.

The Observation Bar on Deck 11 is a stunning lounge with a bar and sweeping panoramic views. Enjoy coffee and tea served every morning, afternoon tea at 4 o’clock, and drinks before or after dinner.

The biggest difference between the Odyssey-class ships and the newer larger ships is that there is one fewer deck, resulting in 24% fewer suites. When looking at the public areas, the only notable difference is a smaller ‘The Grill’ by Thomas Keller, which is being replaced by Seabourn’s new Mediterranean concept dining called “Solis,” and no Sushi restaurant.

The Seabourn Encore Class Ships

The Encore Class comprises: Seabourn Encore (2016), Seabourn Ovation (2018)

Seabourn has two Encore-class ships in the fleet, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, the largest ships in the Seabourn Fleet.

Regarding ship size, Seabourn Ocean cruise ships fall into two categories. Some prefer these newer, larger ships, and if you are in this camp, then these are probably the right ships for you.

Although the Encore-class ships are slightly larger than the smaller Odyssey-class ships, they feature all the same public areas with similar passenger space ratios. Both are considered ‘spacious’ by this measure. Some notable additions include one extra deck, a larger TK The Grill (now being upgraded to “Solis”), a Sushi Restaurant and an exclusive Retreat on Deck 12.

Seabourn Square is at the hub of all Seabourn ships and is considered the ‘living room’ of the vessel. A welcoming social space where guests will find a delightful European-style coffee bar serving a range of careful coffees, teas and espresso drinks, freshly baked pastries, homemade gelato and other nibbles. Seabourn Square is also where guests can interact with onboard officers and expedition teams and converse with family and new friends. The space is also home to Guest Services, providing a range of concierge services, including voyage information, dealing with special service requests, port and travel information, and where you can even book your next Seabourn cruise.

Other public areas on the Encore-class ships include the Grand Salon, a theatre with tiered seating; this is home to nightly entertainment and is used as a lecture hall during the day. On deck 5 aft, there is a cosy lounge called ‘The Club’ with a cocktail bar and a small dance floor. There is also a tiny casino on one side.

Seabourn Quest

Seabourn Encore. © Mike King 2024

As on all Seabourn ships, there is an Observation Bar at the top of the ship overlooking the bow, which offers stunning 270-degree views out to sea.

Dining onboard Seabourn is important, and whilst the venues are limited compared to other Ultra Luxury lines, the menu choices are wide and varied. Venues of Encore class ships include the Main dining room called ‘The Restaurant’, where you can enjoy elegant sit-down meals; Sushi, The Patio, which is the poolside venue serving al fresco lighter fare at breakfast and lunch; and ‘The Colonnade’, a casual dining option with both buffet and table-service dining during the evening.

In the evening, the poolside Patio becomes Earth & Ocean for dinner with table service only and a lovely al fresco setting. The menu offers bistro-style cuisine designed by Seabourn’s Chef de Cuisine Anton “Tony” Egger that rotates throughout each voyage.

In addition, the ships are now home to Solis, a new fine dining venue designed to engage all your senses. Through a series of delightful culinary moments and surprises, it transports you to volcanic slopes, cerulean seas, and abundant citrus groves. Expect whimsical cocktails, vibrant plating, and flavour combinations that are familiar and elevated; all served within a reimagined dining space reminiscent of the afterglow of the sun.

Related: Seabourn Ovation Review

Tucked away in a corner off a central stairway on deck 8 is Sushi, a dedicated sushi restaurant for just 30 guests, unique to this class of ships.

This is somewhat of a hidden gem that offers an array of innovative sushi and sashimi plates that are served at night. Tuna, hamachi, shrimp and other fresh fish products are served à la carte for dinner. In addition, the Sushi restaurant features three varieties of disassembled bento boxes for lunch: Umi Bento, Gyozo Bento, Riki Bento and Noen Bento, plus Ramen for lovers of Noodles.

All of Seabourn’s restaurants are fully included in the cruise fare—there is no so-called all-inclusive fare where you have to pay extra to dine in speciality restaurants.

Both ships feature a sophisticated Spa and Wellness centre in partnership with Dr Andrew Weil. A Wellness Guide who is a certified yoga and meditation practitioner leads this program. The spa’s massages, facials, and beauty treatments blend traditional practices worldwide with cutting-edge techniques. There’s also an ocean-view gym with state-of-the-art equipment, a Motion Studio with complimentary yoga, tai chi, meditation, a crystal sound bath, and TRX and stretch classes.

The Encore class ships have the feel of an upmarket luxury hotel combined with a private yacht. Their interiors, with an array of warm and tactile materials, were designed by hospitality designer Adam Tihany, which sets them apart from the earlier Odyssey calls ships, which were designed by Petr Yran and Bjorn Storbraaten, who created the original Seabourn ships.

Thanks to Tihany’s rethinking of the interior designs, we like the enhanced features and decor of the Encore class ships. The larger size is a slight problem, as the ships feel slightly more crowded. This is most noticeable on pool deck 9, which is only marginally bigger than the Odyssey-class ships despite carrying about third more passengers.

Seabourn ships Seabourn Ovation Pool Decl

The Pool Deck – Deck 9 Seabourn Ovation © Mike King 2024

The Marina on Seabourn Encore

The Marina – Deck 3 Seabourn Encore. © Mike King 2024

Seabourn Ovation Review 2

Lite Bites at Seabourn Square. © Mike King 2024

Seabourn Ovation Review 10

Sushi Restuarant – Deck 8 Seabourn Ovation. © Mike King 2024

The Seabourn Expedition Fleet

Ships in class: Seabourn Venture (2022); Seabourn Pursuit (2023).

Introducing Expedition ships to the Seabourn fleet was a bit of a shock to guests who loved the traditional Seabourn Ultra Luxury Ocean cruising. Still, the Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit are definitely worth considering for really off-the-beaten-track adventures and lots of activity while maintaining the feel of an Ultra-Luxurious ship.

The smallest ships in the Seabourn fleet are designed to carry just 264 passengers with a crew of 120. Both expedition ships are built to the PC6 Polar Class standard, which enables them to operate in Antarctica and the Arctic during Summer and Autumn. Both ships have two submarines onboard, each capable of carrying six passengers and a pilot. The ship also has 24 Zodiac RIBs. They sail with an experienced expedition team to help you understand and savour the region you are sailing in.

Even though they are expedition ships, Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit are still very luxurious vessels. They have many of the same amenities and features found on Seabourn’s larger, more traditional Ocean ships. Once you have experienced the larger Seabourn ships, you will likely feel at home on these expedition ships.

Both Expedition ships boast the same signature Seabourn Square area, which offers snacks, coffee, a guest services desk, and a future cruise consultant. There is also the main restaurant, The Restaurant, and the more relaxed self-service dining venue, The Colonnade.

The public spaces are definitely smaller but do have some unique new spaces to enjoy. Notably, the new ships still feature a version of Seabourn’s spa and wellness centre.

Another favourite spot is ‘The Club’ Located aft on Deck 9; this roomy venue sports a lodge-style interior by Adam Tihany Design. There are comfortable seating areas, a bar with stools, space for live entertainment, a small dance floor and huge windows.

During the day, ‘The Club’ hosts team trivia or other activities orchestrated by the ship’s entertainment manager or another of the crew. A pianist or guitarist (sometimes also singing) performs in the early evening. Between 9 p.m. and midnight, those musicians are typically back with more live entertainment.

One impressive feature of ‘The Club’ is its nightly, unlimited and complimentary Sushi and sashimi offerings between 6 and 9 p.m. You can watch sushi chefs preparing the fresh sushi bites at the counter adjacent to the cocktail bar.

Another unique place is the Expedition Lounge on deck 4, near the one-level ship’s theatre, known as ‘The Discovery Centre’. Nightly expedition recaps/briefings for all guests unfold here. During the day, Seabourn Conversations enrichment talks or expedition team members provide guests with insights about local cultures, ecology, heritage, and traditions.

The accommodations onboard these expedition ships are stunning, with light and airy decor, bright bathrooms, and an all-suite with a bathtub. There are large walk-in closets that provide ample storage, even for long sailings, and every suite has a small drying closet to store your outdoor adventure clothing. A pillow menu and nice touches like Swarovski binoculars further enhance the ship’s already thoughtful design.

Suites come with a complimentary in-suite bar and round-the-clock room service, a spa bath, and even a heated wardrobe, so your thermal gear will be dry and warm every time you head out. The flexible and inclusive dining programme offers everything from full-service fine dining to light sushi bites, lavish afternoon teas, tapas, and craft cocktails.

The expedition ships also offer exclusive features like a “mud room” with cubbies where passengers can prepare for remote landings and a pair of submarines available for extra-fee underwater excursions.

Seabourn Venture

Seabourn Venture. Image courtesy of Seabourn

Conclusions

Although the three classes of Seabourn ships vary in size, they are still considered small ships. Once you have a taste for the Seabourn experience, you will be at home in all of these vessels, as their onboard venues and amenities are very similar. If you’ve already experienced the Seabourn culture on one ship and loved it, you’ll be sure to love its other vessels, too.

Planning a cruise? Start with these articles:

A passionate cruiser and photographer with more than 600 days at sea, and just a few, but growing number of Luxury River Cruises. Our expereince as hotel inspectors for a prestigous French brand help us uncover all the good things about luxury cruising. All-Inclusive Food and Wine Cruises always attract our attention!
Mike King - About Luxury Cruising Blog

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