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Crown Cruise Vacations | July 24, 2014

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Luxury Cruises

Seabourn Odyssey attends to even tiny details

June 6, 2014 | Heidi

ABOARD THE SEABOURN ODYSSEY - It is just a small thing. But it makes me happy. And it shows the strong commitment that Seabourn has to taking care of even tiny details for a top-notch cruise.

One of my pet gripes is that cruise ships and international hotels often don’t provide clocks in guest rooms. I don’t want to carry a bedside clock with a lighted dial every time I take a cruise or go overseas. As a longtime journalist, I have this thing about knowing what time it is – no matter whether it is day or night.

If I wake up during the night, I want to be able to take a quick glance and know that I can sleep for four more hours. Or whatever. Might be years of meeting deadlines but a nearby clock is important to me.

And there it is. Attached to the wall by the queen size bed in my suite is an easy-to-read clock. But that is only the beginning of the special touches that I am discovering on my first cruise with Seabourn. The more I look at the Seabourn Odyssey, the more I like.

My large suite has two areas with a curtain that can be drawn to separate the sleeping quarters from the sitting room. Nightstands are placed on either side of the queen-size bed and a large dresser on the wall at the foot of the bed is a handy place to store books and papers.

Amenities include a flat-screen TV, refrigerator (stocked with soft drinks, beer and wine), a safe, fluffy robe and slippers, sofa, footstool and dining table with two chairs. There is a huge walk-in closet and the biggest bathroom I have ever seen on a ship – a full-size tub (really it is bigger than mine at home), a separate walk-in shower, double sinks and a commode. The bathroom is marble and it gleams.

There is storage galore. I counted more than a dozen drawers and cabinets, including one in the bathroom with lovely Molton Brown toiletries, before I stopped counting. I will never fill up all those storage spaces.

The balcony is large and covered with teak decking. Balcony furniture includes a round table (bet this will be my favorite breakfast spot), two deck chairs, a chaise lounge and a footrest. Instead of a sliding glass door, the Odyssey has a hinged door that stays wherever you leave it. It doesn’t slam shut. That is really neat. You don’t have to keep opening the door or propping it open with your foot while you carry out a snack or drink. It stays where you put it – fully opened, partly opened or shut.

In fact, all the drawers and doors in my suite seem to have some kind of magic opener/closer. The many drawers are fitted with a special quiet mechanism to soften their closure. I don’t know how many times I have been awakened by a hotel or cruise ship neighbor closing a closet, drawer or door. Not on the Odyssey. Quiet rules here.

Speaking of sleeping, Seabourn has designed curtains that almost completely block out the light coming from the balcony. I like to awaken with the sunlight coming in my window but sometimes it is nice to have a darkened room for a nap or when in port at night with strong outside lights.

The stateroom entertainment system has a big flat screen TV mounted on a pullout tray and an iPod deck with a remote. You can watch any of the ship’s lecture series on the TV and a bunch of new and old movies “on demand” without charge. When satellite reception is good, you can also get a selection of CNN, BBC, Fox News and other entertainment options.

Don’t know how much TV watching I will be doing. Too many other wonderful things to do both on the ship and on shore.

Story and photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

Seabourn Excursion: Shopping with the chef

June 5, 2014 | Heidi

KOTOR, Montenegro - An expensive delicacy, the plump porcini mushrooms looked great to me. But something about them raised the concerns of Rafael Peterkovic.

He eyed the mushrooms carefully, thumped their thick stems with his forefinger. Sniffed them, too. Then asked the mushroom vendor if he could use a knife to slice one open.

What Rafael saw turned my stomach.

The mushroom was filled with small worms happily munching away. The vendor just shrugged her shoulders, knowing she had lost a sale.

I’ve cruised many times but this is a first – an option called Shopping With the Chef.  When our Seabourn Odyssey docked in Kotor, Montenegro, a small group of passengers went ashore with Executive Chef Rafael to pick out some special items from the market lining  the ancient streets by the seaside.

The tour is offered once a cruise and books up very quickly. Kotor is one of his favorite cruise shopping places, Rafael says.

“It is famous for its cheese, olives and olive oil,” he says. “You can buy the best olive oil here, stone milled and cold pressed olive oil.”

CHEFS ARE TODAY’S CELEBRITIES

With the popularity of cooking shows,  chefs have become today’s celebrities.  Rafael is already an impressive figure. But wearing his Seabourn white chef’s jacket, Rafael seems to magically part the waters as he walks with determination through the stalls. We follow in his wake.

Heading straight for a neat stand in the bustling market, Rafael is immediately greeted by the vendor who brings out a plate of sliced cheese. I didn’t know that tasty treats would be a part of the tour. Yummy!

This particular family-owned business has some excellent cheeses and prosciutto    sliced paper thin and presented to us for sampling. The ham is hand sliced with a very sharp knife, I learned, because using an electric slicer would heat up the meat and change its taste. Food is a very serious business here.

Next we taste olives and dried fruit. This is the first time I’ve ever had dried strawberries. I didn’t even know they could be dried. They taste like delicious chewy candy. “No sugar, nothing has been added,” Rafael says. “They are just natural strawberries, dried.”

A fish stand behind us got scant attention from the chef who noted that last night’s rainstorm had cut back on the fish caught. “The boats go out at nighttime and come back in the morning,” he says. “Usually there would be plenty of fish but it is very limited today. I order my fish in advance so we always have what we need.”

After loading up his assistant with bags of goodies, the chef heads back to the ship and I chat with him on the way. Originally from Metzingen, Germany, Chef Rafael laughs when I ask how he got in the culinary profession.

GETTING STARTED AS A CHEF

“It was coincidence,” he says. “Originally, I wanted to study physics. I had excellent grades in science in high school and my teachers recommended me for science at the university.”

But before he began his long years of university study, Rafael decided he needed a break. So did his three best friends. “We were very good friends. We had grown up in the same village, went to school together. We all three decided to take a break first.”

However, “taking a break” did not mean the buddies didn’t have to work. “We went to the job bank and saw jobs for cooks. We thought we could do that.”

And they never looked back. “All three of us are still chefs,” Rafael says.

After attending culinary school in Heidelberg, Rafael started his career in Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Germany, before being lure to sea by Cunard liners. He sailed with Seabourn from 2000 to 2006 and returned this year.

What does he like best about being the Odyssey executive chef? “I like the people,” he says. “My team is fantastic. I am very proud of them. “

What does he like least? “Public speaking,” he quickly answers. “I hate public speaking. It is the worst thing that can happen. The kitchen is my domain. That is where I like to be.”

To be in charge of a cruise ship kitchen requires extreme organization and long hours, Rafael says. “My kitchen is 100 percent organized. It has to be,” he says. “On Seabourn, we cook ala carte. It is completely different from the big ships. We cook what the passenger wants. We don’t just put it in a microwave and heat it up.”

His favorite food? “I like Mediterranean food. It is simple and good.”

Working four months on and two months off, Rafael heads to his home in Stuttgart to relax in his off time. But he is always happy to return to the sea. “The best compliment that someone can give is to say they like what I prepared. Those are the words I want to hear. ”

No worries about that on the Odyssey. Although our voyage has just started, I have heard nothing but compliments about the delicious food created by Chef Rafael and his team.

Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

The Square is ‘heart’ of Seabourn Odyssey

April 14, 2014 | Heidi

ABOARD THE SEABOURN ODYSSEY - Every cruise ship seems to have a heart, a place where folks like to gather.

Maybe it’s the lobby, which is often a beautiful showcase on ships. Or it might be the lounge around the top-deck pool where folks can socialize and swim or enjoy a cold drink.

On the Seabourn Odyssey, the “heart” seems to be Seabourn Square. Read More

Regent Stays Connected on the Seven Seas

January 3, 2013 | Roger

Here at the office, we relish the thought of being completely off the grid. Disconnected, and unable to be reached is a dream for many people that never seems to pan out in reality. The call of the cell phone and internet can just be too alluring, too necessary and too familiar to stay offline for many. And although cruises offer the ability to log on, the prices can be very high – and it can keep connectivity down to a bare minimum. However, Regent is looking to change that, believe it or not. Read More

An Epic Civil War Journey, Iberian Tapestries, Washington Week–Election 2012 and Public Radio at Sea – Four Unique Public Broadcasting Educational Adventures

October 10, 2012 | Ross

Crown Cruise Vacations, preferred provider of PTV at Sea events, and Artful Travelers, producers of PTV at Sea, present four unique public broadcasting educational adventures at sea.

This is a rare opportunity to cruise while meeting and interacting with fascinating experts and their featured guests at panel discussions and presentations in the areas of history, politics, culture, personal finance, health and wellness and more.

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Choosing Your Cruise Ship: When the Choice is Between a 5-Star Ship and a 5-Star Cabin

October 10, 2012 | Ross

To view additional cruise ship and cruise planning videos please click here.

Choosing Your Cruise Ship: When the Choice is Between a 5-Star Ship and a 5-Star Cabin

Sophisticated Cruise Specialists at Crown Cruise Vacations Assist With the Ordinary and the Extraordinary 

Princeton, N.J. 
(Aug. 28, 2012) – So you’re thinking of taking a cruise, and you have to decide between a 4-star line and a 5-star line. If you go with the 5-star line, you can afford a nice, but mid-range suite. If you go with the 4-star line, you can afford a high-end, ultra-luxurious suite that makes you feel you are on a 5-star ship.

The question: Is your priority the vessel or the room? The cruise vacation specialists at Crown Cruise Vacations offer the following information to help you decide:
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