Cruising with Seabourn
Venice to Rome and Back
September 2009
Sept 10th - 11th        The drive from Tuscany to Venice was uneventful and took about 3 hours.  Initially the
highway curved through many long tunnels, some stretching for over a mile.  We drove into Venice, turned
in our Avis Rental Car and took a water taxi to our hotel,
Locanda Orseolo, where we stayed in conjunction
with our Croatian Cruise on the Wind Surf last September.  It was as if we returned home.  The staff is
extremely warm and helpful.  Even Romeo, who was just a puppy last year, seemed to remember us!

The weather in Venice was perfect and we enjoyed roaming around the city for two days, window shopping
and people watching.  We had two wonderful dinners at the same restaurant we enjoyed so much last year.
The owner remembered us and was very welcoming.

Sept 12th                We shared a water taxi to the ship terminal with another couple from Bermuda who are
experienced travelers on Seabourn.  They will be taking a 50+ day cruise from Los Angeles to Hong Kong
on the Seabourn Odyssey in January.

Our cabin was much larger than those on the Wind Star vessels we have traveled on.  The room had a large
seating area with a sofa, table and two chairs.  A large sliding glass door looked out over the sea.  The
bathroom was large with a tub, and we had a king sized bed and a walk in closet with lots of space.

We set sail at 5:00 PM for Hvar, Croatia.  Our first dinner on the Seabourn Spirit was in small restaurant with
outdoor seating where we were treated to a beautiful sunset.  We skipped the entertainment and were
sound asleep by 10:00 PM.

Sept 13th                We enjoyed a quiet morning as the ship cruised to Hvar.  It was very enjoyable to open
our sliders to let in the fresh ocean air and listen to the waves lapping against the side of the Spirit.  We
visited this same area of Croatia last year and as we approached Hvar we passed many sailboats and yachts
enjoying the perfect weather.

By afternoon the weather deteriorated and it started to rain lightly when we reached Hvar.  We did walk
around the city for several hours.  I would have stayed on board, but Robi had not been to Croatia and had
been crammed in my backpack since June when we were in Block Island.  It turned out to be a pleasant
excursion and brought back memories of our visit a year ago.   

This is the first cruise we have been on which requests men to were a tux or dark suit on formal nights.
This was our first formal night.  I was not particularly looking forward to this aspect of Seabourn cruises, but
actually it was very nice to see everyone dressed up and we enjoyed the evening.  We were invited to join
the Hotel Manager at his table and this gave us an opportunity to meet some of the other guests.

Sept 14th                Our port today was Bari, Italy.  It has a fun old city and we enjoyed wandering the
residential streets.  The locals were extremely friendly and we enjoyed (trying) talking to a young mother
with her child, as well as her sister, mother and grandmother - four generations.  We also had some quiet
time in the city's beautiful Cathedral and the Basilica San Nicola where the remains of St Nicholas are
interned.   We skipped the "chocolate lovers indulgence" at 4:00 PM and instead soaked in one of the hot
tubs overlooking the port and city.     

Sept 15th                This was a cruising day.  We anchored for several hours just off a beautiful sandy beach
at the very southern part of Italy.  Those so inclined to participate in water sports riding on banana boats
and paddle boats had a good time.  We confined ourselves to the spa tub on the upper deck and caught up
on our reading, etc.

The level of service on Seabourn is very high, but not nearly as pleasant for us as on the Wind Star cruises
where most of the staff is Indonesian and Filipino.  On Seabourn the staff is European and tend to be a bit
more aggressive in their service attitude,  Several times we did not receive what we had ordered, but
when we complained the entire staff was obviously directed to be more attentive to our requests, almost to
the point of being comical.

Each evening we have been invited to sit at a table being hosted by one of the ship's officers.  This has
turned out to be very interesting,  All of the fellow passengers we have dined with have been interesting
and very well traveled.  Most are many time repeat Seabourn guests, many of whom have cruised for
several hundred nights on Seabourn, and are obviously dedicated fans of the company.

Sept 16th                Today's port was Taormina, Sicily which we had been looking forward to.  Unfortunately
the weather was horrible with heavy rains and rough seas,  We decided to stay on board.  Those that did
venture ashore had a very difficult time re-boarding the ship from the tenders which were being tossed
about in the rough seas.  Our dinner host was the guest lecturer, an extremely interesting professor of
Egyptian and Roman History.  Eleanor found out she was seated next to a gentleman who spent his
summers on Candlewood Isle where we live.  In fact, the parents of his best childhood friend owned the
house we now live in.  Small World!

Sept 17th               Lipari is a small island just north of Sicily.  We enjoyed wandering along the main street
during the morning and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon on board the ship.  We discovered an outdoor spa tub
on the bow of the ship away from the more active spas and pool we had been using.   During the evening at
sunset we reached the Island of Stromboli which is an active volcano.  The top of the volcano was cloud
covered by the time we reached it and we only saw a very few mini eruptions glowing through the clouds.

The big event for me was finally seeing the  "green flash" as the sun set on the horizon. To be honest, I
really thought people were making the whole thing up, but low and behold as just as the sun dropped out
of sight it flashed green - and I got a photo to boot!

Sept 18th                Sorrento was much the same as we remembered it from visiting 10 or so years ago.  It
was crowded with tourists, but we still enjoyed a morning of strolling the streets.

Sept 19th                This concluded our first week of the cruise.  The ship docked in Civitavecchia which was
about an hour and a half bus ride to Rome.  Seabourn was charging $129 per person for the bus trip which
we felt was too much.  We had the ship to ourselves for most of the day which was very enjoyable.  When
we sailed away that evening the Queen Mary 2 (2,620 passengers) was moored near by, as was the Grand
Princess (2,000 passengers).  We were happy to be on the smaller Seabourn Spirit (208 passengers)!

Sept 20th & 21st     On Sunday we anchored just off the city of Amalfi.  It was as beautiful as we remembered
when we were there about 10 years ago.  The following day was sea.  It rained most of the day, so Eleanor
read and I worked on my photos.

Sept 22nd                Corfu was our only stop in Greece, and it turned out to be one of our favorites on this
cruise,  It was scenic, pristine and fun to walk the streets and talk to the friendly merchants.  Robi had a
chance to get some fresh air, as this was his first time in Greece.

Sept 23rd                Bari, Italy was the only port we stopped at on both weeks of our cruise.  We took a tour to
Aberobello where we saw a very interesting village of small homes with conical stone roofs called trulli
(plural of a trullo).  They are now protected by UNESCO.

Sept 24th                We visited Korcula, Croatia; which claims to be the home port of Marco Polo, during our
Windstar cruise last September,  It is a very interesting city with its streets laid out in a herringbone pattern
to take advantage of the ocean breezes.  It is not a very large city, so after a short visit we relaxed on board
the remainder of the day.

Sept 25th                Rovinj, Croatia was a pleasant surprise.  We had almost decided to stay on board for the
day, but are glad we didn't.  We stopped by several art and jewelry shops.  Several of the owners shut down
during the winter months,  One couple have a home just outside of Boston.

Sept 26th                Alas we were back in Venice and it was time to move on.  We picked up a rental car and
had an easy 2.5 hour drive to Varenna on the shores of Lake Como.

Some final comments re: Seabourn:

About half the passengers were British, Scottish and Irish.  There were also quite a few Germans.  Most
seem to do most of their travel with Seabourn and many stay on board for a month or two at a time.  They
are affluent and enjoy dressing for dinner.  On the formal nights most men wore tuxedos, and on other
nights a sport coat and tie.  I did not feel out of place wearing a sport jacket with an open collar shirt and a
dark suit on the formal nights.  

The physical comfort on board was noticeably better than on the Wind Star ships.  The cabins are much
larger and the common areas better laid out,  The quality of food in the evening was about the same as on
the Wind Star, but breakfast and lunch on the Wind Star we felt was better.  The Spirit seemed to be a much
more stable ship than the Wind Star vessels.

The big difference for us was the service which we felt was much smoother on Windstar.  Many of the
Seabourn regulars did not feel the service on this cruise was up to the usual standards.  Seabourn is
adding new ships which accommodate up to 600 passengers.  Many of the better waiters have apparently
been transferred to the Odyssey which is the first of these new vessels.  The Sojourn will make its debut
next year.

We met many pleasant couples who were fun to travel with.