FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.-Last December, when Norwegian actress Linn
Stokke Brynestad grabbed an oversized champagne bottle and gave it
a shove into the hull of Seabourn Cruise Line's newly refurbished
Seabourn Sun, formerly known as the Royal Viking Sun, she ushered
in a new era for the Seabourn.
For the first time, the line has a midsized ship to compete with
Crystal and other luxury lines with larger ships and younger
"Royal Viking Sun was Seabourn's No. 1 competitor, so we bought
it," said Larry Pimentel, president and chief executive officer of
Cunard Line Ltd., the parent of Seabourn and Cunard Line.
"It's large compared to other Seabourn ships, but still small in
terms of ships being built today. She's the perfect flagship for
With the refurbished Sun, Seabourn plans to go after a younger
market that enjoys spa services, good cuisine and less
Former Royal Viking Sun passengers will find a much-changed ship
as a result of the $15 million refurbishment, completed late last
year at Germany's Lloyd Werft Shipyard.
Although the new Seabourn Sun has kept the Old World charm of
its Royal Viking Line heritage, 14 public areas have been updated
and all of the staterooms refurbished.
The big changes are the creation of a Roman-style spa, the
extension of the Garden Cafe to create a new outdoor seating area,
an upgrading of the Golf Club, a reconfiguration the Midnight Sun
Lounge and the creation of a Computer Learning Centre.
Despite the impressive changes, former Seabourn passengers may
find the ship is not quite as elegant as Cunard Line's smaller
Pride, Spirit and Legend or the Sea Goddess and Sea Goddess II
ships, soon to be transferred from Cunard to Seabourn.
Cunard's literature and management call the Sun an "ultra luxury
global resort cruiser," but travel agents sailing a three-night
introductory cruise recently said Seabourn Sun has great potential
but faces some challenges before the sobriquet becomes reality.
Pimentel said Cunard is working hard to bring Seabourn Sun's
staff, 30% of whom are new to the cruise industry, up to the luxury
service standards demanded by Seabourn guests.
Also, Seabourn Sun's size will require a dual level of service
on board. Guests in owner's and penthouse suites (about the total
number of guests on the smaller Seabourn ships) will experience
individual Seabourn-type service, including personal butlers.
Guests in other categories will receive the deluxe service typical
of larger ships found on other luxury lines.
This duality will make Seabourn Sun good for past guests who
expect the line's intensive service but prefer the advantages of a
It also becomes an excellent entry-level ship for first-time
cruisers who want a high level of service but are unsure about
sailing on small yacht-like ships.
The ship's upscale focus is reflected in the changes made during
its refit. Most noticeable is the expansion of Seabourn Sun's Spa
The ship's aft pool was moved further back to create a lap pool
with two whirlpools and make room for a glass-enclosed fitness
facility with toning and cardiovascular equipment.
Spa treatment areas feature a classic Roman theme with
Mediterranean sculptures, soft colors and terracotta tile. The
treatment area incorporates nine rooms and an array of additional
body treatments. Beauty salon services are also available.
The ship's golf club and pro shop area has been expanded,
including a more sophisticated video course simulator that features
virtual play on 12 famous courses around the world. Free onboard
seminars and clinics are offered, and there is a putting green and
driving cage located on the top deck.
The Garden Cafe is an buffet breakfast and lunch restaurant aft
on the bridge deck, and it has been expanded with a teak-floored
outdoor area reminiscent of a French sidewalk cafe. Buffet choices
are varied and good, but service could be better as could the
layout and traffic flow.
At the Pool Bar just forward of the Garden Cafe, hamburgers and
hot dogs were pre-cooked and reheated. Fast, but not very
appetizing. Drinks are served at the swim-up bar near the pool.
Seabourn Sun's redecorated dining room stretches two-thirds of
the length of the Promenade Deck. Unlike other midsized luxury
ships, the Sun's dining room serves the entire passenger complement
in one seating with assigned tables for dinner, and open seating
breakfast and lunch.
Most tables seat four, six or 10, but there are also many tables
for two. Unfortunately, dining room service was spotty. One set of
waiters forgot to serve dessert.
One of Seabourn Sun's most beautiful dining areas is the
100-seat Venezia, a reservations-only alternative restaurant, done
in dark woods, blues, greens and burgundies and featuring Italian
and Continental cuisine from its own galley. Tables can be arranged
for two, four, six or more with advance notice.
As in the main dining room, red and white wines, selected by the
sommelier, are complimentary and poured by the glass.
Seabourn Sun's Norway deck could well be called the
entertainment deck. It is anchored at either end by lounges, with a
casino, the Oak Room cigar and pipe lounge, an espresso bar, the
Starlight movie theater, a computer center, a card room, a library
and boutiques in between.
The Midnight Sun Lounge seats 171 in banquettes with dark blue
fabric and black leather, matching the black granite and mahogany
bar. The casino is enlarged, with a bar removed to make room for
additional slot machines and roulette, craps and blackjack
Just outside the Casino is the Espresso Bar (formerly the Wine
Bar), one of the most popular spots on board. The Espresso Bar
leads to the handsome Oak Room, which resembles a classic
There is a virtual fire created by unique lighting under
realistic logs, and the effect is quite startling.
Seabourn Sun's computer center has been expanded. The facility
now has 10 PCs for open use. Guests can send e-mail for $5 per
5,000 bytes; incoming e-mail is free.
The 101-seat Starlight movie theater plays first-run films in
the afternoon and evening. The theater also used as a lecture hall
and for business and incentive group presentations.
Opposite the casino and Espresso Bar is one of the Seabourn
Sun's loveliest rooms, the Compass Rose, seating about 60 in chair
and sofa clusters. It's a long room, anchored at one end by a baby
grand piano and opening through the center into a sort of interior
promenade. The room is delightfully decorated in muted sea green,
blue and rose, and window walls offer excellent views of the sea
(and of the lifeboats just outside some of the windows). The room
nevertheless seems intimate and cozy.
The 731-seat Norway Lounge offers dance classes, tea and
lectures, cocktail dancing in the early evening and elaborate shows
after dinner. Typical of ships designed in the 80s, the lounge has
a low ceiling and poor sightlines for late-arriving guests seated
in the rear. The performance area is not elevated and sets are
mostly limited to backdrops pulled across the small stage'
High atop the ship's Sky Deck, at the bow, is the 120-seat
Stella Polaris, a magnificent observation lounge with a superb
180-degree view of the sea.
Ranging from 724 square feet (owner's suite) down to 138 square
feet (inside cabin), Seabourn Sun's 384 staterooms are spacious
when compared to mass-market ships.
Still, the standard staterooms (191 square feet) are smaller
than the 277 square feet of Seabourn's Pride, Spirit and Legend,
and are just below Cunard Sea Goddess I and II's 205 square feet.
Penthouse suites and owner's suite have butler service.
Guest rooms have been refurbished in soft pastels, and mirrored
walls create a sense of added space.
Staterooms include a sitting area with a sofa, a table and a
chair, and almost 40% have private balconies. There are only 25
All staterooms have walk-in closets, VCRs, refrigerators, safes
or lockable safe drawers, twin beds convertible to king size,
mirrored vanity-desksl, 110/220 volt power, a full bath with tub or
shower and fluffy terry robes.
Two kinds of liquor plus bottled water are stocked above the
refrigerator, which is filled with soft drinks.
Seabourn's larger Sun combined with aggressive marketing to
younger guests, backed by the ship's upgrade, should help the
vessel live up to its sisters' well-earned reputation.