T+L’s Take: The New Seabourn Encore
Seabourn has long been a favorite of Travel + Leisure readers, who consistently give the brand high marks in our annual World’s Best Awards. So it was with much anticipation that their latest ship, the Seabourn Encore, took to the seas last December. Would the cruise line, which is known for its spacious guest rooms and personalized service, be able to replicate that same luxury experience in a larger vessel?
Having sailed on Seabourn Encore, I can say the answer is yes. The 600-passenger ship certainly is bigger — and grander, some might argue — than the brand’s three Odyssey-class liners, which each carry 458 guests and have one less deck. But Seabourn loyalists will note many similarities regarding the overall layout and flow. The main restaurant, for example, is still on deck three, and the ever-popular Seabourn Square, where passengers can book excursions and read magazines, is back in its same place.
But Encore’s Square has a newer, airier look, since the squared-off walls surrounding the concierge desks were removed. Doing this somehow allows your eye to naturally turn to the other elements — the bookshelves, the coffee bar, the gelato station. This sense of openness and expansiveness is present throughout the ship thanks to designer Adam D. Tihany, who was brought in to give the Encore curves and a modern vibe. For example, mahogany veneer is strategically placed on walls to give the ship a clubby, yacht-like feel, and arching columns in the main restaurant lead to stunning, blue starburst Murano chandeliers. The Grill by Thomas Keller, a new concept, is a glamorous, Deco-inspired steakhouse, with its curved Moroso velvet couches and columns with gold accents.
Mr. Keller's influence and thinking went into all aspects of the Grill, from the waitstaff uniforms to the restaurant layout to the food, which includes classics like Caesar tableside for two, whole roasted chicken, and hearty steaks. At times, the celebrity-chef concept can feel overplayed on cruise ships, but it doesn’t here.
Travel + Leisure was invited as a guest about the Seabourn Encore on a recent sailing. Read on for more on this beautiful new ship.
Seabourn is known for having some of the largest cabins at sea. On Encore, the entry-level Veranda Suites are each comfortably sized at 300 square feet, and all have a 65-square-foot private balcony in addition to a walk-in closet. The layout and flow is similar to the rooms on the Odyssey class, but the purple, blue, and cream color palette on Encore feels more contemporary. The use of white marble in the bathrooms, all of which have double sinks set on grey marble, adds to the overall feeling of spaciousness. For those who really need more room, the Wintergarden Suites (989 square feet) even have a dining room for six and a glass-enclosed solarium.
Adam Tihany’s influence can be felt in every corner of the ship, but particularly in the public spaces, which somehow feel quite grand — this, despite the fact that the ceiling heights range from seven to eight feet. Nautical blues, silver accents, and plenty of warm mahogany veneers were used instead of the Scandinavian aesthetic that was favored in the Odyssey-class. Tihany opened up one of the ship’s most popular spots, the library and lounge that is Seabourn Square, by taking down the walls around the concierge desk. In doing so, he created a more open, inviting space.
Will it be tuna tataki or steaks tonight? By adding two new specialty restaurants, Sushi and the Grill by Thomas Keller, Seabourn has given its passengers two stylish, welcome options beyond the main dining room. At Sushi, a 30-seat, walk-in restaurant, you can order specialty sakes and sashimi for dinner or bento boxes for lunch. Our favorite seats were at the sleek, L-shaped bar, though there are a handful of tables that ring the room. And at the 80-seat Grill by Thomas Keller, it’s all about simple chophouse dishes, presented beautifully: think thick ribeyes, with your choice of several sauces; Caesar salad for two, made tableside; and ice cream sundaes.
Another new concept for Seabourn, the Retreat is an exclusive, reservations-only spot that costs $249 per port day, and $349 per sea day. Passengers who book one of the 15 cabanas can watch TV and kick back with a cocktail, or head out to sit on the hot tub and couches that circle the main space. Unfortunately, the cabanas don’t come with ocean views (slatted blinds enclose the space). But if you are traveling with a big group and want a little more privacy, the Retreat is a nice option.
One of the best places to grab a drink is at the Bar by Thomas Keller, which sits just at the entrance to the Grill. A singer and piano player are often here to provide entertainment, and the maroon velvet sofas and semi-circular bar are often packed with guests who aren’t even dining at the Grill — they just want to enjoy an Aperol spritz or a martini in a refined atmosphere. After dinner, everyone heads to the Club, or to see “An Evening With Sir Tim Rice,” a collection of songs by the British lyricist who worked on “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” among other famous projects.
If there’s one thing that Seabourn delivers on consistently, it’s on service. The young staff on the Encore is warm, courteous, and efficient. On nights where we dined outside, the waiters would come by to offer a blanket to keep off the chill. Our helpful cabin attendant always stocked our fridge with my favorite red wine. The staff’s enthusiasm makes sailing anywhere in the world a pleasure.