The Last Few Days on Seabourn Odyssey – The End of the Cruise:
The last time I arrived in Dubrovnik was on the occasion of my first ever cruise. Then, way back in 1972, the City was part of Yugoslavia. It was also well ahead of the release of films like Game of Thrones and, for teenage girls, Dubrovnik had little cachet against the romance of the Greek islands of Delos and Mykonos and the fascination of both Istanbul and Yalta. What I remember of our shore excursion then was blazing sunshine, blue skies and a walk around the city walls. This time, things were a little different. It was raining and grey – I was glad on this occasion that I hadn’t booked any of the shore excursions – the options of a trip up the cable car, a walking tour of Dubrovnik Old Town or a cycle trip in the Konavle Valley lost something of their appeal on such a grey day.
Instead, I took the tender across to the Old Town and went for a gentle stroll and a coffee by myself. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Croatia recently and I was keen to just get a feel for the City.
Dubrovnik is a Unesco-listed World Heritage Site and even in the rain, the charm and beauty of this city is evident. As the capital of the maritime republic of Ragusa, it managed to achieve an enviable independence from Venice and the Ottoman Empire. I walked along the very slippery ‘Stradun’ and went inside the Rector’s Palace, which was originally built to serve as the seat of the Rector of the Republic of Ragusa. Something of a multipurpose building it housed an armoury, the powder magazine, the watch house and a prison in addition to Palace rooms.
The Cathedral, just across from the Rector’s Palace is another fine building, dating back to 1192, though largely rebuilt after an earthquake in the 17th century. It was built on the site of several earlier cathedrals and has a stunning interior including an altar painting by Titian, portraying a version of the Assumption of the Virgin and a rather beautiful Romanesque-Byzantine icon of Madonna and Child (13th century).
Back on board the Odyssey, I discovered that I’d been given a last minute reservation for Restaurant 2, the Odyssey’s fine dining restaurant for dinner that night. I hadn’t realised when I first went on board that Restaurant 2 is generally fully booked. Much the smallest of the restaurants on the Odyssey, it feels very special – and would be perfect for that anniversary or birthday celebration. Surprisingly, it’s all part of the inclusive pricing too.
While I dined alone, I really didn’t feel ill at ease either, partly thanks to the excellent service.
The food was excellent, although personally, I would have preferred each course to be served separately. Instead, the first two dishes – Malossol Osetra caviar on a potato shallot cake with remoulade and herb salad and foie gras torchon served with quince confiture, roasted hazelnuts and hazelnut brioche were both served on the same plate, accompanied by a glass of Nicholas Feuillette champagne.
Next, a really delicious white plum tomato cappuccino, which had a lovely fresh, light flavour but was in no way insipid, served with a riesling.
This was followed wth a palate cleanser of blood orange and Campari sorbet with a champagne topping.
Then, a kind of upmarket ‘surf and turf’ with the next two dishes served together – Broiled main lobster tail with lemon risotto, green asparagus and Newburg sauce
And a slice of Chateaubriand, with Pont Neuf asparagus ragout and truffle jus.
Dessert was a lemon flan with vanilla ice cream and had I still been hungry there was ice pralines and warm amaretti.
I was particularly impressed by the sommelier service here, the inclusive wines really did match the food. The overall effect was impressive and my only quibble was the strange pairing of dishes which for my own taste should never have been juxtapositioned.
I understand that Restaurant 2 is being phased out and replaced by a Thomas Keller Grill. Given the standard of food we experience overall during the trip I have absolutely no issue with that, although the fine dining concept is rather lovely. I do hope the replacement will have the same level of intimacy and that the sommelier service will remain intact.
Overnight sailing took us to our second destination in Croatia – to Primosten. It’s a tiny Mediterranean town with a population of just under 3,000 and is apparently a favourite of the Captain. Sadly another rainy day means it wasn’t as stunning as it might be if the weather was more clement. I took the time to walk up to the Parish church of St Juraj, built in 1485, but sadly it was locked. The view out to sea, though, despite the weather, makes the walk worthwhile.
Back on board the Odyssey, it was time to start packing. A trip up to the Bridge gave us a fascinating insight into the day to day workings of the Ship. I was particularly surprised that the instrumentation looked to me more like the cockpit of a plane.
Then, dinner before packing everything up. I was really feeling quite sad at this point.
The next morning my own disembarkation slot was painfully early – so, I was up as the Odyssey reached our final destination, Venice. A silver lining, though, seeing Venice at dawn on the Grand Canal is a very special experience. And, we had the perfect sunrise.
All that remains is to thank the crew of the Odyssey for a truly memorable experience. I can genuinely recommend Seabourn, for a complete five-star service with levels of comfort that went well beyond my expectations. And, to hope that I will be able to travel with Seabourn again in the future.
Disclosure: I travelled as a guest of Seabourn Cruises
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**Stop Press – if you are interested in taking a cruise in 2017, why not pop along to the Cruise Show in London taking place 13th-15th January 2017 at London’s ExCeL. **