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Five things to love about the Encore, luxury line Seabourn’s new ship

With its extra deck and space for 600 passengers, The Encore is bigger than the Seabourn line’s other vessels, but the quality and comfort haven’t been compromised

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 January, 2017, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 5:38pm

When it comes to luxury line Seabourn’s first new ship in five years – the 600-passenger Seabourn Encore, which was christened this month in Singapore – it’s safe to say it’s bigger but not a radical departure.

Built on the same platform as the line’s three older vessels, but with one more deck, the Encore features all of the same public spaces that exist on the earlier ships, often in the same locations – a fact that will be a big plus to Seabourn fans who like things just the way the are. Still, Encore’s bigger size – the extra deck adds about 26 per cent more space – also allows for a handful of new venues, including a sushi eatery, a piano bar and a private, deck-top sanctuary.

Encore also features a new, more yacht-like decor – the handiwork of celebrated hospitality designer Adam Tihany. Tihany says he was going for something a little sexier than the Nordic-style sleekness of the earlier ships without straying too far. Following the instructions of executives, he went for “evolutionary, not revolutionary” design.

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Perhaps most notably, Seabourn didn’t try to match the opulence of rival Regent Seven Seas’ new ship, Seven Seas Explorer, which has been the talk of the luxury cruise world over the past year. You won’t find a soaring central atrium topped with a four-metre-tall crystal chandelier on Encore, as you do on Explorer. Or a 4,443 sq ft master suite complete with en suite spa. There is a lot less extravagant marble and expensive art, and even the ceiling heights in central public spaces are noticeably lower.

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Still, Encore is a lovely ship. Intimate, refined and luxurious in a quiet way, it is perfectly tailored to the Seabourn customer. Here are five things to love about the vessel.

1. The cuisine of Thomas Keller. He’s been called the best chef in America, and getting a table at one of his restaurants on land can be a challenge (not to mention pricey; the cost of a dinner at his New York eatery is fixed at US$325 per person, not including drinks). But you can sit down to his dishes almost any night on Encore – and at no extra cost. As part of a new partnership with Seabourn, Keller has brought his famously fastidious focus to menus that appear several nights a week at The Restaurant, Encore’s main dining space, as well as the more casual Colonnade. Passengers also will find Keller’s take on classic American chophouse fare at The Grill by Thomas Keller, an 80-seat eatery that serves up such items as New York strip steak, lobster Thermidor and Dover sole.

2. The Grill by Thomas Keller Bar. While The Grill by Thomas Keller was getting mixed reviews from Seabourn fans on the inaugural sailing (some found its American classics focus surprisingly prosaic for the celebrated chef), the bar and lounge attached to the restaurant is the sleeper hit of the ship. Packed nightly, it’s a luscious, mahogany accented space with curvy red Moroso sofas and white leather-lined Colber armchairs that has supplanted Seabourn staple The Club as the go-to destination for cocktails.

Set off from the restaurant by an airy divider, the new-for-Seabourn venue is home to a semi-circular bar that specialises in iconic drinks of old such as the Sidecar, Rusty Nail and Gibson (made with house-pickled cocktail onions), and it features the nightly crooning of a piano-playing vocalist.

3. Sushi at sea. Luxury line Crystal still may have the most notable Japanese eateries at sea with its Silk Road restaurants designed by famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa. But Encore’s 30-seat sushi restaurant (called, simply, Sushi) is a noteworthy contender. Staffed by an all-Japanese team of highly trained sushi chefs who work in view of patrons, the first-for-Seabourn venue offers elegant and often innovative sushi and sashimi plates for dinner in a stylishly minimalist setting.

At lunchtime, the menu shifts to perfectly presented, disassembled bento boxes with cooked entrees such as miso salmon and teriyaki chicken served alongside miso soup and small dishes of salad, rice and oshinko. As with all the eateries on Seabourn ships, Sushi can be enjoyed at no extra charge.

4. The many hidden nooks for outdoor lounging. If Encore has a noticeable flaw, it’s that its main pool area is a tad small for a luxury ship of its size. It’s not much bigger than the main pool areas on Seabourn’s three smaller vessels, despite having to cater to about a third more passengers. But on the other hand, Encore is awash in additional hideaways for sun seekers – some so cosy and exclusive feeling that many passengers may prefer them to the main pool area anyways.

Like the earlier Seabourn ships, Encore has a secondary, smaller pool area with loungers at its back on Deck 5. But it also has two more small outdoor areas with loungers at the backs of Decks 7 and 10, and the sloping front of the vessel has three more little nooks for sun worshippers, including the wonderfully tucked away (and often overlooked) whirlpool deck at the very front of the ship. Finally, there’s The Retreat, the new-for-Seabourn private enclave at the top of the ship. Featuring 15 private cabanas, it’s been a bit of a flop since Encore’s debut, with few passengers paying the exorbitant charge of US$359 per day on sea days to use it. But at the right price, and with a few tweaks to its design, it could become yet another great hideaway.

5. Seabourn Square. Call it the ship’s living room. Part lounge, part cafe and part library, this innovative space is filled with comfortable seating, computer stations, a puzzle table and bookcases lined with reading material. On one end of the room is a European-style coffee bar serving hand-crafted espresso drinks and fresh-baked pastries, and a few steps away is a station serving home-made gelato.

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An updated version of similar spaces on Seabourn’s three other vessels, Seabourn Square also is the base for guest services, with a circular concierge area at its centre that is an elegant focal point. The room also offers a desk where passengers can research and book future cruises, and it’s flanked on one side by Encore’s small shopping area.