On the first morning of my first proper cruise, I was rudely awakened by what sounded like race cars outside my window. I stepped onto my private veranda on the Seabourn Quest, part of the ultraluxury small-ship cruise line Seabourn, and took in the Aalborg, Denmark, waterfront—notably the crazy cool Musikkens Hus (House of Music) designed by architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au. It was also the Grand Prix of the Seas, featuring P1 Superstock Panther boats capable of going 70 miles per hour—and I had the perfect vantage point from which to view the action. It wasn’t a bad way to start my 14-day voyage, which began in Copenhagen and would roughly trace part of the Vikings’ path—through Norwegian fjords, Faroe Islands, Scotland and British Isles, finishing in Dover, England.
“It’s all downhill from here,” noted a fellow passenger, who I befriended early on, when he was told of my maiden voyage. He and his wife have traveled the world on cruise ships and, like many others I met on this one, believed Seabourn to be among the very best. Their reasons varied, as their definitions of luxury also varied. Many mentioned the ship’s beautiful design; the intimate number of suites (only 229 on Quest), most with verandas; the generous square footage per guest; and the all-inclusive pricing, with a no-tipping policy. Others cited the cruise line’s unique routes that include over 170 UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as the new optional Ventures by Seabourn program, offering Zodiac and kayaking tours and hiking excursions, led by experts in various fields (on our trip we had an archeologist guide us to the Viking sites, and naturalists on the kayak and Zodiac trips), as well as on-board lectures and activities such as bird-watching from the bow. The option to dine at The Grill by Thomas Keller ranked high on many lists, as well as being able to take meals solo or a deux (versus other ships, where the smallest tables seat six), seemingly unlimited quantities of Champagne and a complimentary caviar service that could be ordered via room service. The diversity of the guests in terms of age and nationality was also a draw. While most were American, there were a fair amount of other countries represented, including the U.K., Belgium, France, Netherlands and, even, South America. Everyone seemed to echo the sentiments of the cruise director who, during a welcome toast as we passed the famed “Little Mermaid” statue on our way out of Copenhagen Harbour, spotted a massive cruise ship docked nearby, lifted her glass of bubbly and said: “Let’s toast to the fact we’re not on that.”