Day One – The Neophyte Arrives in Athens:
I am, truth be told, a little apprehensive. On paper, the idea of travelling in a floating hotel by night, reaching a new destination each morning, sounds fabulous. But, unlike conventional travel, if I don’t like where I’m staying I won’t be in a position to change it. And, despite the luxury tag, as my car arrives at 4am to take me to the airport I am still worrying whether I need to pack a hairdryer and what kind of toiletries I should pack. Gentle reader, my concerns prove unfounded. I arrive at Piraeus, the bustling port of Athens and am greeted by the immaculately dressed crew from Seabourn. My suitcase is whisked away. I’m handed a refreshing fruit cocktail and I fill in the shortest of boarding forms before walking on board. No queues, no hassle and someone to greet me the moment I am on the Seabourn Odyssey and take me to my cabin.
There’s a bottle of Champagne on ice waiting for me and fresh flowers on my table. The suite has a marble bathroom with twin sinks, a bath and shower. And, there’s a walk-in wardrobe with a very luxurious robe, slippers, a safe and all the other things I might need (including a proper hairdryer). Shanelle, my steward for the week, hands me a canape and glass of champagne and looks concerned. Apparently, I haven’t picked my drinks for the week. It doesn’t take long for me to ask for more champagne and a bottle of Grand Marnier, for those sunset moments. Meanwhile, I’ve already discovered the balcony and I sit, basking in the afternoon sun for a few minutes. Shanelle returns with a selection of soaps for me to pick from. There are already Molton Brown toiletries on the shelves. But, all guests get a choice from four more soap brands. I’m going to be very clean, if nothing else.
Time to explore. I make my way to Seabourn Square, which turns out to be something of a hub for the rest of the trip. There’s a coffee shop (with cookies, macaron and sandwiches on display). I say shop, but pretty much everything on board is free. This could get very dangerous! There are amply stacked bookshelves. There are desks with computer terminals for those who haven’t brought their own. And, there’s a central guest relations area with helpful staff and plenty of literature about the next day’s destination.
Upstairs I find the main pool area, with two hot tubs and a bar. There’s a balcony with another bar and a third balcony with comfy seating. It’s looking good so far. I peek into the two restaurants on level 8 – Colonnades and Restaurant 2. There are another two restaurants and, having checked the menus in my room I’m determined to try them all while I’m on board. And, to make sure I try the Thomas Keller menus too. More of that to come, for tonight I have an invitation to a welcome dinner.
The spa is one level further up and I take a look round since I have a facial already booked for later in the cruise. It’s Carl, who manages the gym, who shows me – and I feel compelled to sign up for a 7.30 am stretch class with him the next day. I know I won’t make it to the gym without some kind of commitment – and half an hour of early morning stretching doesn’t seem like too bad an idea. I baulk at the idea of an onboard boot camp – though since it’s only three sessions, perhaps that’s foolish?
Sail Away is a special moment and I’m on deck with a glass of champagne to watch the ship pull out of the harbour. I stay there, mesmerised by the lapping waves – and end up catching my first sunset at sea.
There’s just time to shower and dress for dinner – it’s smart casual for most of the cruise in the evenings. In the restaurant, I’m shown to my table and meet my host. The menu is simple but appetising, with a vegetarian choice clearly marked. And, the food is very good indeed.
I dine on a crisp Dungeness crab cake with a light remoulade and marinated napa cabbage slaw
Then, a delicious fillet of seabass with a polonaise garnish of buttered breadcrumbs, egg and parsley, served on a bed of potato puree and buttered leeks with just a little spinach on the side.
And finally a hot poire William souffle with chocolate sauce.
All very delicious. The main restaurant is one of four on board and I resolved to ensure I try them all before the end of the week. I’m particularly interested to find out more about the Thomas Keller for Seabourn menus, which are rotated through the restaurants. We’re missing Thomas Keller at the Patio Grill (the poolside restaurant), but the menu for this and for all the restaurants has been left in my room. I rather like the sound of Elysian fields farm lamb merguez flatbread with feta cheese, marinated sweet peppers, shaved red onions and garden arugula. I’ll just have to hope I’ll find something just as good later in the week.
Back at Seabourn Square, I pick up a decaffeinated coffee to take back to my room, where the bed has been turned back and the next day’s programme left out for me to check through. I can tell I’m going to be busy! There are so many things to fill the day. Having signed up to a little personal torture the next morning, I decide I deserve the treat of breakfast in my cabin and fill out the card. Smoked salmon and cream cheese, a toasted bagel and some yoghurt. And a pot of tea. Then, it’s time to curl up in bed – before I know it, I’m rocked to sleep by the gentle movement of the Seabourn Odyssey, my home for the week to come.
Disclosure: I travelled as a guest of Seabourn Cruises
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