And now I’m not so sure I’ll ever get on the ship again.
The fire happened at about 2:00am on September 1st in Italy, off the coast of Calabria in the southern part of the country. It was in the engine room. 105 passengers and 61 crew members were aboard and they weren’t evacuated until the afternoon of the 2nd, perhaps twelve hours after the fire was extinguished.
I’ve been on SeaDream I three times. The first time was in the Caribbean in April 2010 and it was my very first taste of luxury cruising. I fell in love hard and fast, even though I got pretty seasick. The second time was in the southern Caribbean in November 2011, in honor of our 9th wedding anniversary. That cruise was also magical, though maybe not quite as much so as the first had been. The third time was in Greece and Italy in 2013. I would say that was the best of the three SeaDream cruises we’ve done, but we were not moved to pre-book another one. With that, we lost momentum and haven’t yet been back, though I have been shopping for possibilities. I haven’t been on SeaDream II yet, but it’s pretty much an identical ship.
We took a Hebridean cruise this year because we live in Germany and it’s somewhat convenient to get to Scotland from here. They had a whisky themed cruise that I found easy to convince Bill to book. They also gave us discounts that amounted to 15% off the fare. We’re doing another Hebridean cruise next year, because it’s going to Northern Ireland, a place neither of us has ever been and, again, it was something we could afford. Hopefully, we will still be in Germany at the time it sails, just under a year from now.
In any case, SeaDream I’s fire has really messed things up for a number of people. Because SeaDream I is currently out of commission, there’s only one ship operating. A decision was made to replace one of SeaDream II’s upcoming cruises with an itinerary from SeaDream I’s. That means that people who were booked on SeaDream II are being bumped, mainly due to a large charter.
Now… while I totally understand why SeaDream made the decision it did– purely for business– I can’t help but think I’d be pretty devastated if I were planning to be on SeaDream II’s cruise and got bumped at the last minute. This situation is one reason why I ALWAYS get travel insurance when I book a cruise. It generally costs at least five figures to sail on SeaDream. A last minute change like this, even though it’s due to a fire, can really result in the loss of a lot of money. It’s also kind of heartbreaking. I always look forward to my cruises with SeaDream and I would be crushed by a sudden cancellation.
As for the hapless passengers who were on the ship when it caught fire, it sounds like they went through quite a scary ordeal. They were on the disabled ship for about twelve hours before they were removed. Given that it was an emergency situation, I doubt the prosecco was flowing… but who knows?
I will admit that another reason why I hesitate to book SeaDream again is that I’ve been overdosing on Below Deck, Bravo TV’s show about crews on luxury charter yachts. It’s kind of spoiled the mystique for me, because it’s very clear that what they do is all about getting a big tip. SeaDream has a loosely enforced no tipping policy, but Hebridean’s policy is very strict. They explain that tipping can lead to embarrassment, so it’s not allowed at all. I have no problem with tipping, as long as I know what to expect ahead of time and can be prepared. On SeaDream, it’s not expected or required, but people do it anyway– or they contribute to the “crew fund”. I prefer to just pay a lot ahead of time and not have to worry about it.
So… anyway, I think if we try a different cruise line, it may be time to give Seabourn a chance. Or maybe we’ll try Azamara, where apparently a lot of former SeaDream crew members have gone. I have a friend I met on a SeaDream cruise who has defected to Azamara. On the other hand, both of those options mean bigger crowds on the ship. But they also mean nicer staterooms and, perhaps, more to do than drinking and sunbathing! We also really want to try barge cruising or maybe even a river cruise, although river cruises might be a little too geriatric for us at this point.
We’ll see. There are so many great cruises to choose from, we really can’t go wrong…
Captured on SeaDream I… Amalfi coast of Italy.
And an enchanting shot off of Hebridean… leaving Tarbert Castle.