Bob Hoelscher

Groups on Cruises: Seabourn Odyssey Cruises


Bob Hoelscher
Published July 07, 2014

Late this winter — summertime in the Southern Hemisphere — my friend and industry colleague, “Gig” Gwin, and I embarked in Sydney on a 16-night sailing of the upscale Seabourn Odyssey to Australia’s east coast and the islands of Indonesia, concluding in Bali. A beautiful, all-suites vessel of 32,000 tons that accommodates just 450 guests and entered service in 2009, Seabourn Odyssey is physically at the top of my list of the most attractive, comfortable and spacious vessels on which I’ve cruised. On Deck 5, the 295-square-foot Veranda Suite is equipped with virtually every feature imaginable, including a good-sized balcony and a bathroom large enough to accommodate both a bathtub and separate shower, as well as dual sinks.

Fine dining is a Seabourn specialty, and gourmet-quality offerings were the standard, served throughout the voyage in four separate dining venues. Those like me, who are accustomed to also enjoying favorite “comfort” foods such as fried chicken, baked potatoes, tacos, tuna salad and Chinese, were likely a bit surprised by the concentration on richer, fancier creations. But I’ve never experienced faster room-service delivery at sea than on this ship. Unlimited beverages of all types, except for premium vintage wines, and all onboard gratuities are included in Seabourn cruise fares, seemingly popular amenities for the many repeat passengers we encountered.

An interesting selection of ports was one of the primary attractions of this particular trip. After departure from Sydney, there were four more in Australia and four in Indonesia. Of course, Sydney is famous for having one of the world’s great skylines, with its iconic waterfront Opera House and “coat hanger” Sydney Harbour Bridge. But the city offers countless other attractions, making a precruise stay almost mandatory.

Gig and I were tremendously impressed with our visit to Brisbane, which I’ve now added to my list of the most beautiful cities in the world. Here handsome high-rise apartments, lovely parks, gardens, recreational and cultural facilities, hotels and restaurants, plus a bustling, modern downtown area all line the Brisbane River, which flows through the heart of the community. Next, our stop at exclusive Hamilton Island revealed a splendid resort retreat in the Whitsunday Islands, off the Australian coast.

In Townsville, although tours to the Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary, Aboriginal Cultural Center and Wet Tropics Rain Forest were also available, we decided to forgo our planned trip to nearby Magnetic Island National Park, where koalas can be viewed in the wild. Our final Australian port, which included an overnight stay, was the resort town of Cairns, gateway to the renowned Great Barrier Reef. In addition to a memorable, full-day offshore expedition by high-speed catamaran to the Outer Reef, where amazing views of the coral ecosystem are available not only to divers but also from an underwater viewing platform and semisubmersible vessel, I even discovered good shopping in downtown Cairns.

Our stop at Indonesia’s Komodo Island presented the unique opportunity to explore the home of the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon, as well as view those unique creatures in their natural habitat at relatively close range with the assistance of knowledgeable native guides. Our cruise ended in the lush, extensively developed resort island of Bali.

It was a fascinating and worthwhile trip.