Get Away With Fran

June 8, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn makes first port call at Invergordon, Scotland

Filed under: Cruise,International — Tags: , , — admin @ 2:02 pm

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The beautiful  Seabourn Sojourn, on its maiden voyage, made its first port call today at Invergordon, Scotland. There was even a bagpiper to meet us. We didn’t get sunshine but the rain held off for at least the morning.

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The town itself is a former navy base, now known for the repair of oil rigs. It’s not the prettiest town in the world. But still, locals have added flair by painting murals on several of the buildings on High Street.

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But I was most impressed with the friendliness of people here. Getting off the Sojourn, which was docked only a few blocks from the center of town, I asked at a visitor information booth if there was wi-fi to be found anywhere. Quite a discussion ensued. One fellow said, in a wonderful thick accent “Ooh, let’s see. There’s one at the museum.” And another older fellow chimed in “Ooh, and one at the church.”  And a third guy, with a wink in his eye, opined “And the church is free, but the museum isn’t.”

As it turned out there wasn’t Wi-Fi at the museum, but there were computers to use.

I explore the town in about a half hour. Walking back I noticed some souvenir shops near the pier. From one I purchased several tartan wool scarves – only about $20 each, so how could I resist? And the shopkeeper made my day, when he handed me my change with a “Thank you, lass.”

While I was exploring, my pal Jennie went off to see one of the castles for which the northern Highlands are famous (she also got to see countryside and sheep). Jennie reports the tour of Cawdor Castle (see photo at top), the 14th century castle that inspired”Macbeth” was excellent, with a well-informed guide and a Seabourn crew member on the bus as an escort. The guide though didn’t give the juicy version of the castle’s history, which very much involves sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Back on the ship, there was a performance in the Grand Salon of Highland dance and song, and a bagpiper was involved.

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Impressive. Among the other things that has most impressed about the Sojourn is the food. Jennie and I last night sampled Restaurant 2, which is the Sojourn’s specialty dining venue. Let me report it was awesome, seven extravagant courses, and each course had multiple tastings.

Okay, for you foodies out there, we had a crisp little bite of foie gras, lobster roll with yogurt caviar sauce, a bacalaito fritter with avocado and tomato salad, seared salmon with white bean salsa, Shiraz braised oxtail soup with manchego potstickers (my personal favorite), drunken turbot with porcini and swiss chard and Tuscan braised veal with mascarpone mashed potato, limoncello tiramisu foam over marinated oranges, dark chocolate ganache, espresson panna cotta and condensed milk ice cream, followed by a night cap of a Kahlua frappe.

And yes, we could walk afterwards, sort of. And I apologize for not having photos. I was too busy eating.

Food on this entire cruise has been amazing, so the fact there is even a specialty restaurant seems superfluous. But I still love it.

June 7, 2010

Seabourn Sojourn sets sail on maiden voyage

Filed under: Cruise,International,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 10:50 am

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The luxurious Seabourn Sojourn set sail on its maiden voyage on Sunday. The evening departue afforded wonderful views of London in the distance (we embarked from Greenwich) as we cruised down the Thames towards the North Sea.

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Seabourn President and CEO Pam Conover called the sailing a “momentous occasion,” and said it was particularly significant to her since she is British and the ship was doing its first sailing out of London. “You can take the girl out of Britain, but you can’t take Britain out of the girl,” Miami-based Conover said. She then led a countdown, signifying the official start of the cruise.

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And then the drinks flowed, including green martinis (my pal Jennie enjoying one in photo).

Suddenly the sound of drums and a surprise, the Royal Marine Guard came marching across the pool deck playing songs (including “Rule Britannia”).

One passenger, Arline Moore of Florida, said she was so touched she was almost teary. “Isn’t this wonderful,” she exclaimed.

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And then, another treat – fireworks over the Thames.

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A crew member proferring more drinks told me those working on the ship were excited to have the first guests onboard. “We have put a piece of our hearts in this ship,” he said.

June 6, 2010

Seabourn launches new cruise ship with Twiggy

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , — admin @ 3:20 am

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When a new cruise ship begins service there is much excitement and anticipation. A cruise ship’s maiden voyage is a historic event. And I am most excited to today be on the maiden voyage of the Seabourn Sojourn, as the ship leaves from London (Greenwich). The cruise is 14 days, and I’ll be on for the first six to let you know how it goes.

Last year, when Yachts of Seabourn launched the first of its new class of 450-passenger ships, the Seabourn Odyssey, I raved about how modern and beautiful and stylish a luxury ship it was. As sister ship to the Odyssey, Sojourn gets the same raves. This is simply one of the most beautiful, most luxurious, most expertly run ships out there. We’re talking 6-star all the way.

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I’ve actually been on the ship for two days now as I was here for the naming ceremony with British supermodel Twiggy as Godmother (the second night with the ship docked in London there was a fundraiser for a breast cancer organization).

I was excited to meet Twiggy – at age 60 she still looks fab. And Twiggy told me while she has never cruised she’d like to try it some time. And why wouldn’t she after seeing the Sojourn – if you’re going to start somewhere you might as well do it at the top, which is precisely what Twiggy did as a model in the 1960s.

Anyway, back to the ship. Real passengers will come onboard today for the first time (the first two nights were travel agents, press and guests invited to a breast cancer fundraiser). It will be fun to see their reaction. Also onboard for the maiden voyage is Seabourn President and CEO Pam Conover.

Captain Karlo Buer of Norway told me the ship is all ready to make its debut and he recognizes many names on the passenger list as Seabourn regulars.

I am in a lovely penthouse suite – everyone has a suite on this ship but mine has a nice big living area and separate bedroom area (regular suites have a curtain separating the two). My friend Jennie will be joining me onboard soon.

For those who know Seabourn, the Sojourn (and Odyssey) are twice as large as the line’s other ships and carry twice as many passengers. But bigger is not what strikes me most. Rather it’s how airy and contemporary these ships feel – almost like a fancier version of a W Hotel. The smaller ships feel traditional. this one feels modern, even hip.

My favorite spots so far are the spa, a two-deck affair (on this ship the second deck is a quiet sunning area open to all, whereas on the Odyssey it’s a private area you have to pay for); and the concierge area, which does not have a front desk, but rather helpful staff seated at regular desks in an area that also has plush seating indoors and out, a coffee bar (they make a great latte) and an internet cafe.

I have days to explore so expect to find other gems.

Of course, the other amazing thing about Seabourn is the crew. So helpful, so friendly, trying to get to know every guest. They really make the experience. And that is obvious from the second you step onboard.

BTW, Seabourn is doing two-for-one fares and free air offers if you act fast. The Sojourn spends the summer in Northern Europe.

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