On Location: Seabourn Venture

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SeabournEmbarking on Seabourn’s eagerly awaited first expedition ship for a cruise from St. Johns, Newfoundland to the Caribbean ports of San Juan, Jost Van Dyke, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Martinique and Barbados, I’m struck simultaneously with a sense of familiarity and a design vibe that feels entirely new.

Having previously sailed on Seabourn Encore, I recognize common architectural elements like a central atrium stairway that defines the flow, and a social hub called Seabourn Square, with a coffee and small bites bar, concierge staff and plenty of comfy seating. There’s also the personal service for which Seabourn is known, which was immediately apparent when I stepped onboard.  

However, this is not a sister ship. The aesthetic is mellow, reminiscent of an ultra-luxury lodge with earth tones of brown, taupe and green in many of the spaces. Artwork and décor is inspired by nature and adventure, from traditional wall clocks and framed exploration maps in the suites to a tree-like textured mural in the spa. Yet all is impeccably elegant, with many thoughtful details. Design savvy clients will recognize the sophisticated hand of iconic hospitality designer Adam Tihany. I was wowed from the moment I stepped into my gorgeous suite. With 132 all-veranda, all-oceanfront cabins, there’s no skimping on luxury in any suite category. I especially loved the walk-in closet, bathtub, and—new to Seabourn— a “heated drying closet” for expedition gear that also came in handy to dry my wet clothing after snorkeling. Among suite categories new to Seabourn on the ship are eight Panorama suites with wraparound windows and a pair of 2-story Grand Wintergarden Suites. 

Luxury aside, Venture is a purpose-built expedition ship, with all the latest technologies such as a PC6 ice-strengthened hull for stability, safety and comfort. It’s outfitted with 24 zodiacs, two state-of-the art submersibles with air conditioning and unobstructed views from rotating clear bubbles, 8 double sea kayaks, a mud room and gear for hot and cold climates from snorkeling equipment to kayak booties and dry suits. The only upcharges in the all-inclusive expedition experiences are kayaking and submersible dives. 

A key differentiator on Venture is the ship’s 30,000 square feet of open decks for unobstructed viewing, said Seabourn’s Vice President Sales Steve Smotrys in an onboard interview. “The bow of the ship is purpose-built open deck space,” he noted. “Not many expedition ships have that. This was one of the priorities of our expedition team.” Indeed, when an announcement was made during our journey on the Atlantic that a rare masked booby hunting flying fish was sighted over the bow, passengers gathered there for great views and informative commentary from the ship’s bird expert Joe Cockram. With a 26-person expedition team, “There’s always an expert onboard to explain things,” said Smotrys. “Passengers don’t even have to ask.” He added that the head of Seabourn’s expedition team has been with the cruise line since it first visited Antarctica in 2013, and has brought together a top tier collection of experts in many fields from geology to ornithology: “academics, scientists and explorers sharing their passion and knowledge.” 

Another standout for clients is the generous amount of gathering space, with eight lounges and bars for just 264 passengers. Each area has its own appeal, from the warm and tactile Expedition Lounge to the Bow Lounge with touch screens showing navigational charts and the ship’s plotted location, and from the Club for afternoon tea, evening sushi and dancing to the Constellation Lounge, the highest viewing point on the ship with floor to ceiling glass walls. Dining onboard is as expected, with delicious gourmet fare in The Restaurant—which has enough seats to accommodate all passengers in one sitting—and in the more casual Colonnade. My weakness in all venues was the freshly made Vegan chocolate gelato. 

 Active Luxury

After five sea days relaxing in pampered luxury—and working in Seabourn Square, my favorite hangout on the ship—I was happy to explore five Caribbean destinations. Picture this: We’ve been ferried onto exclusive Carambola Beach in Saint Kitts early in the morning. It’s overcast but the day has the promise of sunshine, a great adventure and exquisite outdoor dining. Seabourn Venture team members have already been ashore to set up a beach club and dining area here on what feels like our own private island, with everything we need for a relaxing and indulgent day. I’m excited to have signed up for a kayak excursion to start. As an experienced kayaker, I know that cloudy, windy weather and paddling on open waters can be challenging and I’m happy that a few of the ship’s ace expedition team members will be assisting us every step of the way. We’ve already had an excellent hands-on briefing onboard the ship. After Seabourn guides instruct us on safety and paddling techniques, we hop in our kayaks and are gently pushed into the water for a pristine paddle on the mountain-framed sea, flanked by expedition leaders Andres and Ida and also accompanied by a local guide. A Seabourn tender hovers at a distance for extra security.  

After our kayaking adventure, the sun comes out and Seabourn’s signature luxury kicks in. I’m relaxing on a beach lounge listening to an excellent steel band when the cheering starts. A zodiac is cruising towards us with a Seaborn flag waving in the breeze. It’s time for “caviar in the surf” and the most upscale beach barbecue I’ve experienced. Champagne in hand, we’re served caviar by Seabourn officers standing in the water. Then we proceed to a covered luncheon area with ironed linen tablecloths and napkins, china dishware and substantial flatware. The crème de la crème of the buffet is an endless supply of freshly caught lobster, grilled on site for the occasion. 

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