First Call: Encore throws a curve while maintaining the Seabourn feel

First Call: Encore throws a curve while maintaining the Seabourn feel

SINGAPORE — A third generation of Seabourn ships debuted here this month, and fans of the small-ship luxury brand will detect both continuity and change.

A decade ago, Seabourn guests were still sailing on 208-passenger yachts. That era ended when the 458-passenger Seabourn Odyssey debuted in 2009.

The latest iteration, the Seabourn Encore, was designed for 600 passengers, 31% more than the current fleet, and almost three times the capacity of the original ships.

So while the Encore is still relatively small, the intimacy of the original ships is starting to get lost in some of the public spaces on board.

I noticed this in the outdoor seating area of the Colonnade, Seabourn’s buffet dining venue. While the space on the second-generation ships was still cozy, on the Encore it is a little less so.

The Observation Lounge on Deck 11, while vastly improved by the addition of a semicircular skylight, doesn’t have quite the clubby feel of the smaller ships.

The marvelous aft pool area on Deck 5 also seems a little roomier, for better or worse, on the Encore.

One of the 15 cabanas for rent in the Retreat on Deck 12. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst

But in terms of the basic layout, the Encore will seem wholly familiar to anyone who has sailed on the contemporary Seabourn fleet.

It has the same rooms, with the same names, in the same spaces throughout. The only exceptions are the additional deck (Deck 8), where a Thomas Keller-run chophouse and a small sushi restaurant are situated, and a new Deck 12 area of secluded cabanas dubbed the Retreat.

Seabourn’s third generation of ships is the first not designed in northern Europe. The interiors have been crafted by Adam D. Tihany, whose New York firm is best known for restaurant design.

Where the previous ships are full of blond wood and other Nordic touches, Tihany has adopted a softer, more Italian-style look that is still consistent with the Seabourn brand.

“This ship was built along the platform of the Odyssey, the Sojourn and the Quest, and then it was Adam’s charge to look at the design aspects and take things forward,” Seabourn president Rick Meadows said.

Tihany said he studied how people moved through the previous Seabourn ships.

“I looked at the ship, and there were very many sharp corners,” Tihany said. “The design was very angular. I said, ‘First of all, we have to make it soft. I want everything to be sinuous and sexy and curvy, so people don’t bump into anything and hurt themselves.'”

That meant rounding off just about every square edge and angled corner on the ship.

Perhaps the biggest change on the Encore is the Seabourn Square concierge lounge and coffee bar, which might still be a square in the sense of a central gathering place but is quite literally no longer square in shape.

Rather, it is now a circle, and in addition has been opened up by lowering the partitions that on the older ships sectioned off the passenger services area from view.

There’s no doubt it is a more welcoming and comfortable area on the Encore.

First Call: Seabourn Encore

Other areas where squares have been circled include the bar in the Observation Lounge, where the skylight makes that area much brighter, and in the Colonnade, where has Tihany not only made circular islands out of the linear buffet line but has eliminated a corridor, bringing the display of food closer to the entrance.

At the Restaurant, the main dining venue on Seabourn ships, the two double-height ceiling spaces, which had been onyx-lined squares, are now supported by tree-like ribs that give it a more organic expression.

Those wells are one of the few areas on the small Seabourn ships with tall ceilings. Tihany said the low ceilings make every design detail more important.

“The sense of closeness to the materials and surfaces really heightens the expectation that the details are done right,” he said.

Tihany said his favorite design on the ship is that for the Retreat, another circular space of 15 private cabanas arrayed around an elevated hot tub and shaded by white canvas sails attached to a framework.

Charges for the cabanas — $249 a day on port days and $349 on sea days — might prove controversial given the high prices and all-inclusive nature of Seabourn cruises. But Seabourn said the fees are mainly a way to ration demand for a limited popular space, not to add onboard revenue.

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