You may remember that in a previous blog we shared with you just how important taking a vacation is for your marriage, your mood, your productivity and your heart. (If you missed that blog you should check it out here) That is why we are so excited about todays blog because today is the day we are going to tell you about a brand new area of Calton Nutrition, our Wellness Travel department and we are going to introduce you to our absolute favorite cruise line (hint: it’s one that most people have never heard of). So if you are even thinking about taking a cruise this year you don’t want to miss this one!
Ok, so we took a cruise at the beginning of February for Mira’s birthday (you may have seen some of our fun posts on Facebook and Instagram). Now, having had a home on the ship The World for nearly seven years, you might say that we are acclimated to traveling well. So, we were very nervous when trying to choose the perfect cruise for Mira’s special day. What we didn’t want was one of those monster ships packed with thousands of people, screaming kids, endless buffets, and a pool area where the act of finding chairs is more of a contact sport than a selection process. These kinds of cruises are fine for when we vacation with our families or large groups of friends, but for this getaway we were looking for an intimate cruise experience. One that would offer a sanctuary from stress, personalized healthy dining options, and an environment that would envelop us in romance, luxury and never-ending pampering. In short, we were looking for perfection.
We searched the web for almost a week, reading literally hundreds of reviews and watching hours of video. Finally, we narrowed it down to one very special cruise line – The SeaDream Yacht Club. Ok, we know what you are thinking, “yacht club, that's going to be really expensive” – right? Well, while SeaDream is in the “Boutique” cruise category, if you know a little known secret (which we will share with you later in the article) about how to save more than 20% off nearly identical rooms, and when you take into account everything that you receive with a Sea Dream cruise, it’s really not as expensive as you may think.
Excellence Begins at Embarkation
The SeaDream motto is “It’s yachting, not cruising,” and we couldn’t agree more. To start with, the SeaDream fleet consists of just two well-appointed award-winning mega-yachts, the SeaDream I and the SeaDream II. Both are nearly identical so you can base your yacht selection solely on the itinerary you prefer, but here is the first huge difference between SeaDream and any other cruise line, each yacht is fully staffed with 95 genuinely friendly, highly professional crewmembers and accommodates only 56 couples. That is a maximum guest load of 112 people. On our particular voyage we had a total of 70 guests (including us), that’s nearly a 1.4 to 1, crew to guest ratio! Next, both SeaDream yachts offer true 5-star service. Again, we know what you’re thinking, “we have heard the 5-star claim again, and again” – right? Ok, so think back to your last cruise, what was your embarkation experience like? Did you stand in long lines with hundreds or even thousands of other people, waiting to be checked by a complete stranger, then herded into a waiting room until your assigned number was called, then finally allowed to make your way on the ship only to be greeted by a barrage of crew welcoming you with one sentence and in the second immediately trying to sell you a drink package upgrade or a specialty dinning reservations? Then, there is the wait to get into your room and an even longer wait to get your luggage. If you have been on a cruise recently you know what we are talking about. Even on an Azamara cruise (Royal Caribbean’s top tier cruise line) we took recently we experienced a similar situation.
Now the SeaDream embarkation experience—we were met at our car by port staff, which quickly and courteously took our baggage to the ship. Next, we were met by an actual crew member, in our case it was the activities director, and were privately escorted onto the ship where the Captain and the complete officer staff were there to personally greet us with a smile and a hand shake. Then, we were offered champagne and a cold towel by the spa staff, who were dressed in beautiful Thai inspired silk outfits, and leisurely escorted by lovely woman in a black gown and pearls (not your typical crew attire) to a private check in process conducted by our new ship concierges. This was a quick and painless procedure. Remember, everyone you have come into contact thus far is actual crew on the yacht you are sailing on, so you have a wonderful opportunity to build real relationships with each one.
Next the concierges introduced us to our personal room stewardess, Fatima, who escorted us to our cabin and gave us an in-depth tour of its many features which included a large closet (more room than we needed and we are notorious for over-packing), a writing desk with personalized stationary (this is the first time we have seen this on any vessel), and an all marble bathroom with the largest shower we have ever seen on a cruise ship complete with massaging shower head and dual body sprays (we took advantage of that!), a flat screen TV, CD/DVD player, an iPod docking station (awesome), and of course a fully stocked mini bar. Aside from the welcome bottle of champagne that was already on ice when we arrived to our room, Fatima asked us if we had anything we wanted stock in our mini bar daily. Within minutes Fatima returned with our requested beverages (sparkling Perrier for our nutreince) in hand. Our luggage arrived immediately after our tour, and we were invited to join the other guests in the lounge to enjoy a small reception. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet our fellow passengers, enjoy one of the free shoulder and neck massages being offered by the spa staff (the spa is wonderful we will talk about our experience later on) and enjoy a small bite before unpacking and exploring the yacht. Not your typical check in experience.
Dining is Delightful and Personal Dietary Limitations Prove to be No Problem
Another area where SeaDream’s 5-star service is noticeably different to other cruise lines is the overall dinning and beverage service experience. Here is just one example of what we mean, on our first morning at breakfast we had three waiters who through, what looked like a beautifully choreographed dance, took care of every aspect of our service. Every time we even looked up one or more of them was ready to help. In fact, in stark contrast to other ship experiences where we have to stand in line to fill our own coffee cups, or strain our necks for half our meal to find a waiter to refill our cups, on that first morning our coffee cups were refilled or were offered to be refilled 14 times! (They were small cups and that was for both of us, but you get the point) And it was the same for each and every meal we were privileged enough to experience on SeaDream.
No matter where we were on the yacht, lounging by the always empty pool, reading on one of the many Bali beds for two, or just passing the time in the library playing a game of backgammon there was always a friendly waiter nearby ready to get us our favorite beverage or take a special dinning request. It has been our experience that on most cruise ships the menu is the menu and while the chef may try to accommodate small changes or requests, for the most part you are restricted to some variation of menu selections. This is not the case on SeaDream. We had heard that the SeaDream chefs would do anything possible to try to give you a personally tailored dinning experience, so we decided to try it out one night. Not that we need anything other than the wonderful selections already offered on the menu, but being major foodies and somewhat particular eaters when it comes to food quality and certain dietary restrictions (gluten, soy and sugar free), we wanted to put SeaDream to the test. So, one of our favorite dishes is a real Indian curry. You know, spicy enough to bring a tear to your eyes, yet so delicious that you hum though the whole meal. Well, it turns out that one of the chefs was Indian and, the next night a beautiful lobster curry was served to us as we dinned under the stars. It was perfect. By day two the entire staff knew our names, and greeted us accordingly each time we entered a room or passed us in a hall. The bartenders knew what we liked to drink and the waiters knew how we liked our coffee, what kind of water we drank, the fact that we were gluten, soy and sugar free, and even the speed at which we liked to dine. We are not kidding. And it wasn’t just for us. One new friend we met was vegan and she was thrilled to see that there were raw and vegan offerings at every single meal. No matter what dietary preferences or health concerns you may have SeaDream is sure to impress.
All Inclusive is Redefined
Did you notice how during our embarkation we didn’t talk about upgrading our beverage package, or booking a specialty restaurant. That's because there are no beverage packages or specialty restaurants – everything on SeaDream is included. Ok, not everything, you have to pay for your spa treatments, and there is a small, high end specialty wine selection you can purchase from if you so choose, and if the caviar that is provided several times throughout your voyage is not enough, there is caviar available on the dinner menu daily, but other than that everything is included. This includes an open bar with selected premium brand spirits and daily wine selections, 24-hour room service, water “toys” from your yachts private marina including wave runners, glass bottom kayaks, Hobie cats, snorkel gear, water skiing, wake boarding, and banana boat rides, mountain bikes, a state of the art golf simulator, a sauna and steam room, a fitness center, and even gratuities are included. And don’t forget about SeaDream’s signature Champagne and Caviar Splash celebration. Ours was on our second to the last day on Jost Van Dyke, one of our favorite little islands. (If you go don’t forget to visit the Soggy Dollar and try a Painkiller.) The crew brings over everything you need for an unforgettable beach barbeque and to kick it off the Captain pops the champagne (spraying it over everyone) and opens the caviar and everyone eats and drinks until their hearts are content (or until everything is gone) – then the barbeque starts offering everything you can possibly want from grilled shrimp, fall of the bone ribs, steak, fish, chicken, salads and even homemade brownies and cookies for dessert. Finally, like magic, the crew cleans everything up and it was as if it was all a fantastic dream. Yes, SeaDream is a dream.
Superior Spa Treatments and Unexpectedly Entertaining
Another “don’t miss,” is the spa. Again, on most ships we have sailed on you have to go and make an appointment for a spa treatment. Often time a few day in advance and usually not for the time that is most convenient for you. So, when we called the spa and asked for two massages at the same time that same morning we were sure the response would be a small giggle. But instead, the reply was, “we will be expecting you Dr. and Mrs. Calton.” WOW! And we both wish we had booked a massage earlier in the cruise, so we would have been able to come back and have another. The massage therapists are all trained in Traditional Thai Massage, so one of us (Mira) tried the signature Asian Blend Massage and the other (Jayson) tried a part Thai, part Swedish massage. Both were fantastic! The massage area is situated just in front of the small but well-appointed gym. The spa staff will even do yoga classes with even just one person on the deck. What can be better than taking deep meditative breaths of fresh sea air?
Being a small ship (or large yacht – however you want to look at it) the nightly entertainment was quite a bit different than most people may be expecting. You are the entertainment. Our evening usually started by waking from our daily nap (4:30 -5:30 PM) going to the gym for a quick cardio session to get our blood pumping. Then, we dressed for dinner and went for cocktails around 7 o’clock. We would then dine, either in the dinning room or under the stars on the back of the yacht. Both locations were lovely, but you need to tell the staff ahead of time if you prefer the outdoor location. Sometimes we dined alone and others times we joined a small group of our newly found friends for a wonderful night of interesting conversation, laughter and incredible cuisine. After dinner, everyone seemed to end up in one of two places, either at the “Top of the Yacht” bar on deck 5 or at the piano bar/casino on deck 4. Our choice was usually the piano bar/casino. Now, when we say piano bar/casino, we don’t mean a casino like you may have seen on a previous cruise, complete with hundreds of clinging and clanging slot machines, and endless rows of blackjack, poker and roulette tables, or a piano bar with dozens of tables surrounding a grand piano and long bar with a team of bartenders. We are taking about a SeaDream style piano bar/casino, which means a single blackjack table that is little more than 15 feet away from a small piano, which is attached to a small bar. The whole thing is in an area about the size of a large living room, but we have rarely seen a place where so many people were having so much fun. By the time we found our way there, four or five people would usually be gathered at the piano listening to the piano man, or singing their favorite karaoke song, the dealer would be dealing to one or two early players, and the bartender would bring over our favorite after dinner cocktails as we joined our friends at the blackjack table or at the piano. In no time the room was full of people of all ages dancing, laughing, and singing. We never missed the big shows or crowded casinos found on the mega ships.. In fact, in writing this now, it is surprising just how close we all became and much we miss those wonderful nights with our fellow SeaDream passengers.
Warning– The SeaDream Effect
As we are sure you have surmised by now we cannot express enough how utterly extraordinary our time on SeaDream was. It was a dream vacation. If you are looking for a truly unique experience where your every need will be attended to, where you can relax and de-stress, and where you're your daily adventures at incredible ports of call will send you home with some of the most incredible memories of your life, then look no further than a SeaDream voyage.
The last thing we want to tell you about, before we let you go to start planning your SeaDream getaway, is a warning really. You will become addicted! There we said it and now we are not responsible for what we have termed, “The SeaDream Effect.” What is the SeaDream effect? In a nutshell, you will meet incredible people. You will make friends with these incredible people. You will make incredible memories with these incredible people. And by the end of the cruise you will not want to leave these incredible people. So, there is a high likelihood you will book another SeaDream cruise to come back and see your new friends again. We have never done this before on any other cruise, but we did it on SeaDream. In fact, there is a whole group of us that decided to do this and we are literally counting the days to our next SeaDream getaway.
Ok, so at the beginning of this article we told you that we were going to share with you a little known secret about how to save 20% on nearly identical rooms. Well, what most people don’t know is before SeaDream was SeaDream it was Sea Goddess and when the yachts were first built all the standard stateroom cabins were built to be exactly the same. The only difference is the rooms of the 4th floor have windows rather than port holes (not a game changer) and when the yachts were run by Sea Goddess all the prices for the standard staterooms were the same no matter whether they were on deck 2, 3, or 4. Fast forward to today, and there is a slight upcharge for staterooms as you move up to higher decks. So, there is one price if you want a stateroom on deck 2 (the best value), as slightly higher charge for an identical room on deck 3 and a slightly higher charge again for a nearly identical room on deck 4. So if you are dying to experience a SeaDream getaway, but you want to do it in the most economical way possible, book a room on deck 2 and take the extra $1400 dollars (or so) you will save and treat yourself to upgraded airfare, a couples massage, and maybe even an incredible pair of shoes in St. Barts!
If you end up booking a SeaDream cruise keep yours eyes open for us, we will be heading back soon. For more information about SeaDream yachts click here.