Updated September 21, 2017
So, you like boats -- but you can't afford a private yacht and are not interested in the big cruise ship experience. Or, perhaps you've made the rounds of the luxury cruise ships and are looking for something a bit smaller, less formal and with amazing food and service. Maybe you just want to do something truly special to celebrate a milestone event. Whatever your motivation, SeaDream Yacht Club might just be the cruise for you. Here are seven reasons why you will love this little line -- and three reasons why you might not.
1. It only carries 112 passengers.
If you hate crowds and waiting in line, you will be pleased to find neither on SeaDream. With only 112 passengers onboard, you'll always be seated right away at dinner and never have to fight over deck chairs. Plus, it's easy to get to know the other passengers with so few people onboard. A SeaDream cruise is a social one.
2. Service is out of this world.
A lot of big ships claim to offer personal, intuitive service but SeaDream takes it to the next level. There are nearly as many crewmembers as passengers onboard, and guest-facing staff will know your name the minute you're onboard. The friendly crew go out of their way to engage you in conversation, and to provide you with everything possible to make your vacation great. Sit down for just a few moments and a bartender will be offering you a drink. If you love a dish at dinner, the wait staff will be sure to make it again just for you; if your fave is not on the menu, the chef can prepare it for you with 24 hours' notice. No awkward requests necessary -- the crew will ask you if they can do anything special and happily accommodate.
3. The food is, too.
SeaDream might not have multiple dining venues or the highly designed restaurants of the newest luxury ships, but it definitely offers extraordinary dining. Whether you're eating inside the Dining Salon or outside at the Topside Restaurant, you'll find the food to be interesting, tasty and never boring. We fell in love with the creamy soups and the homemade ice cream, but you can't go wrong when you can order truffle omelets at breakfast, mussels at lunch, caviar at happy hour and lamb or lobster at dinner. Vegetarians will be thrilled to find multiple options per meal, including an intriguing vegan, organic, raw menu every evening and organic salad ingredients at lunch. The only downside is the weight you will invariably gain.
4. Your cruise fare covers nearly everything.
Gratuities, beverages (including soda, alcohol and coffee drinks), all meals, water sports equipment from the ship's marina, bikes, use of the onboard fitness center and sauna, and daily yoga and tai chi are all included in the price of your cruise. Ship staff even lead free hikes and bike rides in port. Caribbean cruises offer a complimentary beach party, complete with a Champagne and Caviar Splash event. You'll forget what your wallet looks like, since you really only need to pay extra for shore tours, spa treatments and souvenirs.
5. The ships go where the big cruise lines can't.
SeaDream considers its ships to be yachts, and they go where the private yachts and sailboats go, rather than where the mega cruise ships go. That might mean visiting the smaller islands of the Virgin Islands or under-touristed spots in Croatia. You'll rarely be fighting crowds in port -- plus, you'll have bragging rights for visiting places your traveling friends haven't even heard of, much less been to.
6. The schedule is always flexible.
You only have the barest of schedules to follow on a SeaDream cruise -- no four-page daily newsletters here. And the captain will change plans to better accommodate passengers whenever needed and possible. On a cruise during the NFL playoffs, the captain authorized extra tenders to shuttle passengers to a bar in St. John to watch the evening football game. And when rough seas made a wet landing impossible in Jost Van Dyke, he repositioned the ship to an adjacent harbor and ship staff arranged for local taxis to bring passengers and crew to the beach party location.
7. You can spend all your time outdoors.
SeaDream ships chase the sun because they are at their best when passengers can spend as much time as possible outside. The main dining area is not the formal indoor restaurant but the top-deck, open-air venue with tables scattered across three decks. The main thing to do onboard during the day is lounge by the pool, nap in the sun or head down to the aft marina to play in the water. Movies are shown on outdoor screens set up on the pool deck, and the late-night party is often at the alfresco bar. You can even sleep under the stars in Balinese daybeds made up with sheets and blankets for the ultimate in luxury camping.
Even the ideal line has some drawbacks. Here are a few things that might give you pause:
There's not much in the way of entertainment.
SeaDream focuses on activities ashore, water sports and low-key hanging out and socializing. If you are looking for daytime games or workshops, fascinating lectures about the destination or evening performances, you will be disappointed on these ships. The only thing to do after dark is gamble at the blackjack table or drink. For some, that's ideal; for others, not so much.
Internet access is slow.
If you want or need to stay in touch on your vacation, SeaDream is not the best choice. Even after upgrading the internet on our cruise, we had trouble connecting and received notifications that the security settings were weak.
SeaDream isn't young-family friendly.
Self-sufficient teens and grownup children traveling with their parents can have a wonderful time on SeaDream (especially if they're over the drinking age), but this adult-focused line does not cater to young children. School-age kids will likely be dismayed with lengthy dinners, lack of children's facilities and minimal entertainment options.