On a cruise ship
CruiseClout score: 95.0
Seabourn Encore: Luxury with a modern feel
The uber-posh 604-passenger Seabourn Encore, which debuted in December 2016, is the latest and largest ship from luxury cruise line Seabourn. The ship is modeled after the award-winning trio of ships introduced with Seabourn Odyssey in 2009. Encore represents another stage of the small-ship cruising world, which Seabourn helped pioneer and continues to expand. (A sister ship, Seabourn Ovation, is scheduled to set sail in May 2018.)
Encore features all-suite accommodations with larger verandas and bigger public rooms that will include a greatly expanded Seabourn Square (the ship’s hub with computers, books, barista-operated coffee bar and reception area). She offers a restaurant created by celebrity chef Thomas Keller, notably of Per Se in New York and The French Laundry in Napa.
Adam D. Tihany designed the ship's interiors. While the architecture of the ship is similar to the other three Seabourn ships, the interiors represent the kind of luxury found on private yachts.
Who will like sailing on Seabourn Encore
Those who've been on a Seabourn cruise tend to come back again, attracted by the beauty of the ships, the personalized service and some of the best cuisine at sea. Luxury connoisseurs and Seabourn loyalists interested in the brand's evolution will be drawn to Seabourn Encore. Travelers seeking an abundance of onboard activities and elaborate entertainment should look elsewhere.
Where Seabourn Encore sails
During her maiden season, Seabourn Encore will feature ecelctic itineraries, from the familiar ports of the Mediterranean to exotic destinations in Arabia, Asia and Australia. No Caribbean or American ports on tap just yet.
Seabourn Encore will be familiar to anyone who has previously sailed on one of Seabourn's Odyssey-class ships. It is mostly the same externally and structurally — save for an extra dining deck — but its interior design is a marked improvement since the Seabourn Quest. Hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany took an already great canvas and enhanced it with a timeless yacht-like decor, brightening classic spaces like the Observation Bar with a new skylight in the process.
By making the ship larger overall and adding to its capacity, the passenger space ratio has actually reduced some since the Quest, technically resulting in less public area for each passenger. However, thanks to Tihany visually opening up venues like Seabourn Square — great as a reception area and library—and making more efficient use of space elsewhere, never does the ship feel any more crowded. In fact, Seabourn Encore feels just as spacious if not more so. (It has a passenger space ratio of 67.3, making it one of the roomiest ships at sea.)
Along with their all-suite accommodations and renowned personalized service, Seabourn’s ships also garner consistent acclaim for the award-winning gourmet dining on board. From french fries to foie gras, every dish receives the expert attention of highly skilled and imaginative chefs.
On Seabourn's ships, dining never incurs an extra charge, whether at meals in any of the ship's dining venues or spur-of-the-moment snacks. Beverages, from coffee and teas to fine wines and spirits, are complimentary throughout the voyage, either in the ship’s lounges and restaurants or from the bar in your suite, stocked in advance with your preferences.
Seabourn Quest was already a dining wonder, and Seabourn Encore only elevates the experience further. Along for the ride are all the classic restaurants and eateries as well as its signature restaurant, The Grill by Thomas Keller, which has its capacity more than doubled.
The main dining room remains fantastic as does its delivery via room service, and The Colonnade buffet has been wonderfully enhanced with a much more efficient layout and continued great cuisine. The new restaurant Sushi offers delicious bento box lunches and sashimi, rolls along with other fresh offerings for dinner — all of which are excellent and expertly prepared by Japanese chefs.
It must be said that Thomas Keller's food on board transcends the rest. His dishes can be enjoyed at The Restaurant, The Patio, The Colonnade and The Grill — where the best is reserved. This is the only place in the world where his exquisite cuisine is complimentary, and coveted reservations are required but indeed attainable.
It truly is remarkable how astoundingly good his flavor profiles are, elevating even the most common courses. Seabourn has something very special on board thanks to his incomparable talents.
The main benefit of a smaller ship is fewer people, but it also understandably results in fewer activities on board. Still, amenities are plenty sufficient, including the signature marina for water activities enjoyed off the back of the ship in select destinations.
Encore's spa is another popular area for its many treatments and thermal area with sensory showers, sauna, steam room and tile loungers. The spa could have been improved with the addition of a thalassotherapy pool - perhaps in a future enhancement?
Nevertheless, there is still the main pool at midship as well as the auxiliary one overlooking the stern. There also remains a great whirlpool available at the bow and a new one as part of The Retreat. For an extra surcharge, guests can have a private al fresco cabana with exclusive access to the shaded deck area and water feature as well as concierge-served food and drink and additional spa services. One curiosity: There are very little views to the outside, even from those cabanas skirting the exterior of the ship.
Rounding out activities are a few onboard shops, card room, casino and The Club for dancing.
A new stage production show, "An Evening With Tim Rice," is introduced on Encore, created exclusively for Seabourn in association with Belinda King Creative Productions. The concert-style presentation is narrated by Rice on video to highlight some of his most loved works, from “Jesus Christ Superstar” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”
It's a perfectly balanced example of simple stagecraft carried out to great effect. The lyricist's personal video introductions add interesting behind-the-scenes touches to each number that then resound live in the theater. (The show is also now part of the evening entertainment on Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest.)
Other nights in the Grand Salon you'll find smaller performances, such as cabaret acts like violinists Laszlo and Claudia, whose music rises above the contrived attempts at humor.
Bars & lounges
With the debut of Seabourn Encore will be the launch of a new lounge space called The Club. The multifaceted lounge, located on Deck 5 of the 12-deck vessel, is arrayed with contemporary seating with yachting references visible in the furnishings, design elements and balustrade. Modern illumination highlight the line’s extensive array of complimentary spirits and liquors and provide a central focal point for the bar.
The Club features custom-crafted cocktails and fine wines, canapés served at cocktail hour and live music before and after dinner. In addition, The Club houses an intimate, full-gaming casino, where guests can test their odds on a variety of slot machines, and blackjack and roulette tables.
Adding to the elegant atmosphere, guests have direct access to the Club Terrace, an intimate exclusive aft pool lounge area set immediately behind The Club. This al fresco space beckons guests to relax in the plunge pool or either of two whirlpool spas. At the heart of the Club Terrace is an elegant fountain illuminated through the night for viewing from inside or out.
Encore has 302 staterooms in eight categories, all designated suites, and all rooms have a fair-size private balcony, marble bathroom and walk-in closet. Sizes range from nearly 300 square feet for a standard Veranda Suite to more than 1,300 square feet for the Wintergarden Suite.
The Veranda Suite layout is mostly unchanged from the earlier Odyssey class ships, but Tihany's aesthetic touches add richness while bed mattresses feel plusher this time around. Sheets barely cover the bedding and tend to pull up, however.
A huge plus is Seabourn added electrical outlets and placed a welcome one at the counter along the bed and one higher at the dining room table — also great for enjoying wonderful private room service.
Meanwhile, Veranda Suite all-marble bathrooms are luxuriously appointed; they feature a contemporary design, separate tub and shower and come stocked with lovely house Molton Brown toiletries. His and hers sinks are nice, as is a new elongated toilet. Suites offer walk-in closets, a seating area, in-suite bar setup and a personal "suite stewardess" who can draw you a bath, replenish your bar and assist with special requests.
As before, however, the inclusion of both a bathtub and shower makes for a smaller latter enclosure that is just large enough but could definitely be bigger for a suite. Nonetheless, the high angle-mounted shower head is perfectly placed and features fantastic water pressure.
Service is a hallmark of Seabourn, but its uneven rollout on Encore honestly has some room to catch up to the rest of the ship. It's still in the top tier to be sure, and crew members were very attentive and friendly, whether greeting guests or serving ice cream.
There were a few instances of service and maintenance that fell short, however, including several rust stains throughout and a rather mildewy shower — surprising for such a new ship at the time of this review. Nonetheless, with only a few rough edges to iron out, the luxurious Encore is well on its way to being the flagship vessel of the Seabourn fleet.
— Cruiseable news services contributed to this review
Interested in a cruise on this ship?
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Top highlights on this ship
- All-inclusive dining, spirits and wines
- Some of the best gourmet cuisine at sea
- Luxury interior design similar to a private yacht
- Intimate ship with only 600 guests
- Itineraries visiting must-see cities & hidden gems
- All-veranda, all-suite accommodations with sweeping views