Cruise editor Cathy Carroll sailed aboard Seabourn Cruise Line's
Seabourn Legend, on the first half of an 11-night itinerary from
Curacao to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. Her report follows:
ABOARD THE SEABOURN LEGEND -- The wing of the vintage DC-3
dipped, and the valley of Venezuela's 7-million-acre Canaima
National Park, home to the world's tallest waterfall, stretched out
As I peered through the window of the banking 20-seater, the
sensation was like that of skydiving or being harnessed to the
plane's belly and basking in the wonder of Angel Falls.
At 6,000 feet, the craft skimmed alongside the tops of the great
tepuys (pronounced teh-poo-wees), much like the the mesas of
Arizona, which rose, godlike, from the valley floor.
The pilot repeatedly circled and dipped the plane, and we were
After just one day amid the world's most ancient rock
formations, it seemed as if the Pemon Indian view of the cosmos and
their relationship with nature was taking over.
It was then that I had to ask: Could this really be
In my mind, the word Seabourn was directly linked to the words
caviar, tuxedo and diamonds -- not canoe, hiking boot and bug
I reveled in learning how it could mean both.
In any case, I found it all too easy to anthropomorphize
That morning, speeding upriver in an outboard-equipped canoe, I
found myself asking the looming monolith to allow its enshrouding
clouds, which would prevent our flight over the falls, to lift.
By the time we had hiked through the jungle, walked beneath El
Sapo waterfall and sipped yucca wine from a gourd with a Pemon
family, the soft, late-afternoon sun was kissing the falls.
Seabourn officials and agents invited to sample this new
itinerary acknowledged that for the line to continue to succeed, it
must evolve, by including soft adventures such as this one for its
increasing number of baby-boomer guests.
Yet at the same time, the line continues to live up to its every
promise of luxury.
"Oh, yes, this is Seabourn," I thought, as I reclined in a
Legend lounge chair in the nearly equatorial sun and a steward
approached with a bottle of lavender-infused Evian and spritzed me
head to toe.
Later, his assistant brought a platter of rolled hand towels,
glistening and fresh from the freezer -- chilly diplomas to be
opened and dabbed upon glowing brows and wrists.
Lunch was served in the Verandah cafe and its open-air aft deck,
beneath the canvas canopy snapping in the Caribbean breeze.
Or one could opt for lunch poolside, with the chef grilling
lobsters, hamburgers and hot dogs, and chicken and scallops and
shrimp for fajitas.
At sunset, we unwound in the outdoor Jacuzzi, discussing the day
with our sailing companions while sipping champagne and dolloping
creme fraiche on Osceitra caviar.
Chef de cuisine Ulf Robel's featured dinner started with warm
prawn and Maine lobster salad with tarragon and truffle dressing
and caviar; a light roasted garlic soup and parsley croutons;
fillet of turbot on Madagascar peppercorns; Dom Perignon champagne
granita; pink roast rack of spring lamb on a wild mushroom and leek
confit with gratin potatoes; a salsa of peach and apricot with
vanilla frozen yogurt; handmade truffles and ginger snaps, and a
selection of cheeses.
Here, elegant evenings were juxtaposed with adventurous
As the Legend plied the Orinoco River, the flat coastline passed
hypnotically, seeming as wild as the Serengeti.
Punctuating it every several hundred yards were neatly thatched
huts perched on stilts, with a few items of clothing drying on each
All afternoon, Warao Indians, usually pairs of adolescent boys
or girls, rowed in dugout canoes toward the ship.
They would wave, calling out a single tone -- a steady low note
-- and smile.
Peter Cox, director of cruise and land programs for Seabourn,
said he chose the Orinoco because it has as much jungle and
wildlife as the Amazon but is closer to the U.S. and more
The Amazon is more developed, with modern structures on its
banks, he said.
After our day cruising the river, I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to the
sound of drums and thought the cruise was tapping my imagination
But I had not succumbed to jungle fantasies.
Beside the ship, a dozen canoes bobbed in the darkness, one with
a group of Warao playing guitars and beating handmade drums.
The canoes, except those carrying the musicians, were rigged
with outboards and piloted by English-speaking guides who escorted
100 of the ship's 200 guests through the Orinoco delta.
As we waited to board the canoes, the Seabourn crew offered us
bug repellant and supplied plastic ponchos.
A capuchin monkey, a pet brought by the Indians, climbed around
on guests' shoulders.
Daybreak came as the ship faded in the distance, and we turned
into a narrow tributary.
As we navigated among vines streaming 40 feet from the treetops,
parrots, egrets, herons and eagles traversed overhead.
Long grasses undulated in the warm, cafe con leche water, which
our canoe sliced through slowly, as we silently wished to spot a
My mind wandered to the mosquito that had drawn blood from my
thumb for breakfast that morning. I made the mistake of asking our
guide, Ricardo, about it.
He replied calmly, "I've had malaria four times and would not
wish it on my worst enemy."
But I had forgotten about it by the time we reached the cove
where hundreds of flying fish were hurtling themselves from the
One struck a graphic designer from San Francisco square across
the face, and a blond woman from New York squealed as though she'd
been goosed on a crosstown bus.
Shrills were sent up from the other canoes, and the once silent
cove now sounded like the audience on a Lenny Bruce recording.
Another silvery fish leapt into our canoe.
Luis, who was operating the motor and did not speak English,
held it in his fist, just below its head, the mouth gaping.
"Esta muerto?" Ricardo asked him. Luis nodded.
"We'll have fried fish for dinner," Ricardo said.
It was then that we caught several glimpses of the pink
dolphins, their arched backs breaking the river's surface.
Back on board, a couple in their 70s relaxed in the Midnight Sun
lounge and chatted about how they enjoyed the excursions, hiking
through the jungle, flying over the falls and canoeing down the
"It was exciting," the woman said. "But not as strenuous as the
cruise we did in the Galapagos."
Cruise-only prices for the 11-night New Caribbean Landfalls
North itinerary start at $6,950 per person, double. The next
sailing date will be scheduled for 1999.
Seabourn's other soft adventure itineraries include river
rafting in Bali, hiking the Costa Rican rain forest and
flight-seeing in the Antarctic and Alaska.
For reservations, call (800) 929-9595.
For sales and support, call (800) 929-4747.