I’m as happy as anyone to be pampered but do any of us really need our cabin stewardesses to draw us a bath?
On Seabourn, a “pure pampering by Molton Brown” promotion offers some flowery verbiage about ways we can have a bath that goes beyond boring old bubbles. I was half appalled and part fascinated (just how difficult is it to run a bath and pour some suds into the flow anyway?).
Would “the heavenly gingerlily bath” really “transport the senses to faraway shores?” Seriously, does “the blissful templetree” (another Molton Brown-themed bath scent, available at your neighborhood airport duty-free and at high priced High Street boutiques) have the power to “rehydrate your body with this lush infusion of exotic plants”?
All respect due to the marketing whiz who created these concepts, bubble bath is bubble bath. It goes skin deep. And the fact that a cabin stewardess actually fills the tub doesn’t, to use the word, infuse the experience with any more significance.
And yet that Seabourn even makes the effort, at no additional charge, is nice (other cruise lines do offer for-fee bath butlers which makes an oddly intimate sort of service feel even more strange). While the food onboard this ship has been absolutely amazing, from room service to formal chef’s dinner menus, and while the vessel itself is the most beautiful combination of small ship intimacy with big ship amenities I’ve ever seen, what really has put Seabourn over the top for me is its service.
The crew on this ship has taken a fried-out, wiped-out, and brain-frozen professional and helped make her feel human again. I’m not the only one; last night, as we pulled out of Stavanger, our last Norwegian port of call, a group of us was talking about highlights of this nearly-final cruise. Most focused on the destinations. It’s pretty clear that Fraam’s scenic train ride was a big hit. Aalesund got the nod for its elegant, preserved art nouveau district. The Geiranger fjord, in which Sojourn spent the day “at sea” being eclipsed by deep, teal green waters and craggy mountain caverns that began in the fjord and stretched skyward, was a huge delight. As was the trip to Olden’s Briksdal glacier.
But one woman spoke up and said, “what I’ve really loved on this cruise was the feeling of being well taken care of.”
She nailed it.
In thinking back over the jumble of days that seemed to pass more speedily as the cruise progressed, there’s appreciation for Sojourn’s intuitive crew, especially waiters, bartenders, and sommeliers, who could read your mind (yes, I’ll have another breadstick, absolutely, please, a refill of that delightful Argentinean malbec). But I noticed other aspects of service that point to a larger commitment and dedication to passengers.
In Stavanger, our last day in Norway, the normal cruise protocol — for any ship making its last call at a Norwegian port — is to send a bank officer who can process the tax refunds foreigners get from purchases made here. In our case, the appointed bank sent only one staffer to Sojourn, instead of the usual three. As the line stretched outside Seabourn Square into the elevator lobby, the guest services manager was distressed; Seabourn passengers are not accustomed to waiting. So he offered Champagne and fresh-baked cookies to the queue. It was a thoughtful, and elegant, gesture.
One night I witnessed an incident in the Colonnade, Seabourn’s buffet-by-day, casual-bistro-by-night, restaurant, in which there was this odd exchange between a passenger and waiter. It went like this: Ordering dessert, the elderly gent makes his request and then gets fussed because he feels like the waiter doesn’t approve. The waiter, who’s clearly perplexed, twists himself into 16 pretzels to make sure the guy gets what he wanted – and feels good about it.
These are just top-of-the-mind examples.
In the end, I’m just curious enough to ask Monika, my Swedish cabin stewardess, what this Molton Brown bath pampering scheme is all about. Oh, I don’t stay in the bathroom, she says, laughing (that’s a relief). But she’s unfussed about making the effort. For her, it’s really no different than making sure that the sliced limes I’ve requested are fresh in the mini-fridge – and that the stash of diet Cokes will never run out.