In June 2010 we were last aboard the ship now known as the Star Breeze. Then, she was named the Seabourn Spirit. Although a lot has changed since that week in the Mediterranean, the ship is still beautiful and charming.
When most people think of cruises, they think of thousands of people, endless buffets, and Vegas-style shows. Not the Star Breeze. Carrying a maximum of 212 passengers, the ship is intimate and never crowded. Our driver left us at the entrance to the cruise port in Colón, Panama, where we boarded a small bus to take us through the industrial, container-filled port, to the ship. As we disembarked the minibus, we quickly put on luggage tags and were escorted onto the ship to complete the check-in process.
As we meandered our way into The Lounge, we barely had a sip of the offered rum punch before handing over our passports to a waiting crew member. The entire check-in process, complete with a stop on the way out to reserve a dinner at Candles, took about six minutes. We exited The Lounge and were immediately greeted by our room steward and shown to our spacious, well-appointed suite. All suites are basically the same, except for the French balconies. Some have sliding glass doors (“balconies”) but you can’t go outside like on a larger cruise ship balcony room. The suites are about 277 square feet, complete with double sinks in the marble bathrooms. I didn’t have too much time to ogle the L’Occitane bath products, as we were hungry and ready for lunch.
I knew it was going to be a great cruise when the quality of embarkation day lunch was quite good. FKGuy enjoyed a spicy, flavorful vegetarian chili, while I enjoyed the hearty salad bar and cheeses. The only miss was the baked salmon. Frankly, I should know better than to eat buffet fish. As it would turn out, the food on the ship was excellent, but every salmon dish, with the exception of smoked salmon, was a miss.
Our self-guided tour took us through all of the beautifully refurbished public areas of the ship. From the Yacht Club, forward on deck, serving sandwiches and coffee drinks, to the Compass Rose lounge, and what would quickly become our favorite hangout, the Star Bar, open air on deck 8, the ship is magnificent. Yes, she is starting to show her age. At nearly thirty years old, I expect it. I am confident I would look far worse if I spent my entire life with my lower portion immersed in salt water.
That first evening, we dined at Candles, the Verandah buffet restaurant turned white-tablecloth-al-fresco dinner option. While it is reservation only, there is no upcharge to eat there. Of course, the most appealing part of the dining experience is sitting outdoors, watching the wake of the ship as you sip a glass of wine and thoroughly relax.
Each passenger can reserve one night at Candles. If space permits, additional reservations may be available. Since the menu is the same throughout the cruise, we did not go back another time and instead enjoyed the AmphorA dining room the other nights. The steakhouse-inspired menu has appetizers of beet salad, smoked bison salad, Caesar salad, and shrimp cocktail. Main courses include a variety of steaks, lamb chops, fish, and chicken. There is even a vegetarian choice each night.
I started with the beet salad, a highly unusual option since I generally don’t like beets. FKGuy had the Caesar, and he enjoyed it very much. My beet and goat cheese salad was excellent, and while I may have been in a happy place, I can tell you that these beets were tender and not too earthy. Yum. Once again, I knew we were going to eat well on this vacation.
Chops were our choices for the mains. Lamb for me (of course) and veal for FKGuy, both were nicely cooked, delicious, and accompanied by a selection of sauces. As a side dish, we ordered the roasted potatoes and the creamy mushrooms and leeks with quinoa. I loved those mushrooms, and they were the perfect accompaniment to the lamb. The terrific food and service left us thoroughly satisfied while the glorious weather was simply icing on the cake. (We skipped dessert, as we had plenty to eat already, and it was still day one.)
After dinner we strolled up to the Star Bar, expecting a crowd for the duo performing. Either most of the other passengers were watching a movie about the building of the Panama Canal, (which would have undoubtedly put me to sleep after a great meal), or they were already snoozing in bed. It was 9:30 PM,
There are two musical duos on the ship, with one playing outside at the Star Bar and the other indoors at Compass Rose. We sat outside for a while, enjoying a cocktail, listening to music, and talking to the four fellow passengers that managed to stay awake past 10 PM. After day one, it got a bit livelier, but perhaps that is because we made new friends.
Stay tuned. Up next: the beach bbq, the deck bbq, and the beverage package.