By Gary Allen
We wake up to the sun shining brightly over our view across a calm Mediterranean. It’s a beautiful blue-sky day and yoga starts in 20 minutes, enough time to grab a cup of coffee up on deck. Afterwards, we take in a leisurely breakfast before the SeaDream II pulls into port for the day. It’s become our routine, our ritual, on our cruise with the SeaDream Yacht Club.
Named Best Luxury Small Cruise Ship of 2015 by Forbes – the latest of a string of awards since launching in 2001 – the Norwegian cruise line runs two luxury craft in this class, the SeaDream I and II. And they are both all class. Built in the 1980s, the SeaDreams are sumptuously appointed and the scale is more like an intimate private club. The craft are able to dock at ports rather than moor offshore in deeper waters so there’s no queuing to get off or waiting to load onto a tender to go onshore. In fact, there’s no queuing for meals or anything else. The craft accommodates a maximum of 112 passengers and 95 crew, and there is always plenty of room.
SeaDream offer cruises in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic with durations ranging between seven and 14 nights. Ours is a Spanish cruise that begins in Malaga, on the famed Costa del Sol. We cruise up the Mediterranean coast stopping in Cartagena en route to Valencia, then out to the Balearic Islands and the jet-set islands of Ibiza and Mallorca, as well the tranquil island of Menorca, before finishing in Barcelona. SeaDream’s motto is “yachting, not cruising”. Every morning, we pull into a new port, with most of the day to explore. Docking in town means you always have the option to retreat back to the ship for lunch, a break, or just some (more) rest and relaxation. The convenience is one of the best features of the cruise.
Friends are made quickly on the first night as guests gather in the piano bar and lounge. Before long the karaoke and conviviality is in full swing. And if singing off-key is not your thing, there’s always the quiet retreat of the blackjack table. SeaDream claims it is the smallest casino at sea.
Food can make or break a trip and goes hand in hand with the standard of service in determining the enjoyment you get from your holiday. On the SeaDream we saw expert chefs lovingly prepare all manner of culinary delights, paired with wines of distinction, and all dispatched by staff who care enough to make it personal, to find out what *you* want and just how *you* like it: “The usual, Mr Allen?” SeaDream staff always went above and beyond and were a big part of what we loved about this cruise experience.
SeaDream’s “Signature” dining experience is prepared à la minute and served al fresco at the Topside Restaurant or in the stylish Dining Salon. Menus include a raw organic food selection, where none of the fresh ingredients is heated above 48 degrees.
Once you’ve settled on board, head straight to the concierge and book a night to “Sleep under the Stars”. Staff make up a bed at the bow of the ship and, roped off for privacy, it’s all yours for the night. Pray for a cloudless sky, but don’t worry, your luxury cabin is right below should the weather turn. Suites and staterooms are superbly appointed and come with flat screen TVs, iPhone docking stations, Nespresso coffee machines and 24-hour room service. Your fare includes all meals and gratuities.
In most ports, a guided bicycle ride is offered for those guests eager for early exercise. We took rides at every opportunity as it was a great way to get the sea legs moving and familiarise ourselves with the new port of call. The ship’s bikes are also available anytime you like but numbers are limited on the guided rides, so sign up early. Weather depending, other activities on board include watersports like kayaks, snorkelling, water skiing, swim platform, and a floating island. There’s also a well-equipped gym and the SeaDream Spa, which the owners boast is the only Thai-certified spa service at sea.