Yesterday, I reached an age that you might often see on the highways of America, 55, an age equivalent to the speed limit on some of the roads that cross our country. It’s good to know that I haven’t reached the maximum speed limit, so there’s still time to find new roads and put the pedal to the metal on those.
Five and a half decades after I emerged into this world, my significant other and I spent a wonderful day in Cartagena, Spain, a clean city with beautiful architecture, lots of shops and cafés, and fortresses surrounding the harbor. We walked a busy pedestrian-only street for an hour or so, returned to SeaDream I for a nice lunch outside in the warm glow of the sun, then after a short rest, walked down the gangway steps to straddle mountain bikes for an hour and a half ride along the seafront and beyond.
Dinner was at the captain’s table, which we shared with three others, all of them nice folks with interesting stories to tell. I asked Captain Johan Dyrnes about his job, and I would suspect that other captains would be envious.
He works two months, then has two months off, when he returns to his wife and children in Norway and where he operates two restaurants.
When on duty, he’s able to get off the yacht often to lead complimentary active excursions for guests, and since joining SeaDream, he has become a bike enthusiast. He told us about some of his rides in various ports, including a challenging three-hour ride to the summit of a mountain in beautiful Port Vendres, France.
After learning about all of his adventures, it almost sounded as if the captain were on vacation instead of at work. But that, I suppose, is the nature of yachting. The relaxed nature of his job seems to permeate the onboard culture for both the passengers and the crew, but don’t get me wrong, it’s relaxed, not unprofessional.
Captain Dyrnes also told us about about the freedom he enjoys as a captain in not having to stick to rigid itineraries, especially departure times from ports. He’s been working on ships since the 1980s for a variety of companies, including Crystal, Seabourn, NCL and others, so he knows what it’s like to work cruise lines where big corporations wield a heavy hand.
He told us a story about how SeaDream was docked next to another small luxury vessel in a port in the south of France. Bad weather was in the forecast outside the protected harbor, so Captain Dyrnes decided to stay put and extend the stay in port. The other small ship had to leave, because authorization to stay longer had to be cleared with the corporate offices back in the States, and those offices had closed for the evening.
The freedom that Captain Dyrnes enjoys further differentiates how SeaDream stands alone in its niche. As stated in a previous post, it’s important to wrap your head around the fact that this is yachting, not cruising.
That said, there are some drawbacks that come with yachting, when compared to small, luxury cruise ships, notably: 1) staterooms do not feature balconies (access to the outdoors is nearby, but you can’t step outside your stateroom into the open air); and 2) bathrooms are small (what you might expect on a yacht but about half the size of even the standard bathrooms on small, luxury ships).
Service, however, and cuisine (which I will write about later) measure up to SeaDream’s competitors. The spa and fitness area is well equipped, although the sauna and steamroom are small (the steamroom acccommodates only one person comfortably). The pool, on the other hand, is generously sized for a small ship.
What sets SeaDream apart for me comprises a long list. Surely, the availability of bicycles makes the list. The bicycles make for such a good way to see a destination. Monica and I covered a lot of ground quickly yesterday on our bikes. Also, the sports marina differentiates SeaDream. While anchored, the marina opens to allow guests to participate in a variety of water sports, all at no charge. That said, there are other vessels, including Seabourn’s ships, that have marinas.
Last night demonstrated one other key difference between SeaDream and other small, luxury ships. Monica and I slept outdoors under the stars in the light of a big moon. Situated at the front of the yacht, the ultra-wide Balinese bed was beautifully made up when we walked up at about 11 p.m. in the custom-embroidered pajamas we’d recieved on the first evening. A bottle of champagne and two glasses had been prepared.
Another key difference was how quickly our night under the stars was arranged. At 8 p.m. we expressed our desire and less than 15 minutes later we learned that all had been confirmed — our bed prepared and champagne chilling. It’s rare to hear “no, it can’t be done” on SeaDream.
Monica and I sipped bubbly and talked late into the night under duvets that broke the chill of the refreshing sea breeze. We slept until 6:30 a.m., when a light rain prompted us to retreat to our statrerooms. It was certainly a night to remember, a night of sea breezes and, of course, sea dreams.