Insider Journal: Day One on Seabourn Ovation's Arabia & Antiquities

Olivia Balsinger

Insider Travel Report - May 23, 2019

Earlier this month I completed a 21-day cruise aboard Seabourn Ovation, an ultra-luxury passenger ship introduced in 2018 as the fifth vessel in the Seabourn fleet. Our journey, entitled rather poetically “Arabia & Antiquities,” began in Dubai and twists through the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea before sailing up through the Suez Canal and ending in the Mediterranean, where we disembarked in Athens. A smaller ship compared to some of its competitors, Seabourn Ovation allowed to access small, less traveled ports for unique experiences.

My journey really began about five weeks before my cruise when I had my first contact with Seabourn. Since I have experienced a handful of luxury cruises as a journalist, I thought I knew what to expect from a company like Seabourn. But I was very much impressed by the amount of detail and follow-up that I received prior to my trip.

Valuable voyage information was delivered in consistent emails, with each one making me more excited than the last about my upcoming adventure throughout the Middle East. Even before stepping foot on the ship, I already had all my excursions planned and booked. I knew which day I would have my spa treatment and even had my exact reservation times for the Thomas Keller restaurant onboard.

I was traveling with my boyfriend Jonathan and we left Copenhagen with two suitcases packed with tuxedos and long gala dresses, knowing that Seabourn took its formal nights seriously (even though casual and casual elegance is really the dress code throughout most of the cruise). After a quick layover in Cairo, we touched down in Dubai just as the sun was rising on the day of our departure.

Because we were not yet able to check into our cabin onboard, we decided to enjoy a leisurely breakfast and relax at the newly opened Al Bait Sharjah. Located in Sharjah, Dubai’s lesser-known neighboring city, has always been my go-to in the area, since it still has an authentic feel. The Al Bait, a 53-room luxury hotel, balances historic preservation and restoration with contemporary twist. We ate a Middle Eastern-European fusion brunch in one of the hotel’s dining areas, aptly named The Restaurant, which has a sunny and open-air patio. Around 2 p.m., however, it was time to depart Sharjah and drive to our port in Dubai.

Once we arrived, Seabourn’s check-in process was seamless. We were given room keys, our luggage was taken to our stateroom, and we were surprised by a bottle of top champagne on the dining table of our suite.

At the sail away party from Dubai, as we were mingling with our neighbors and crew, one older gentleman came up to Jonathan and me to ask about our cruising past. While I have sailed on many cruises over the past few years, this Seabourn adventure was my boyfriend’s first cruise.

The older gentleman, who was named Herman, looked at me and smirked. “You know you’ve ruined him, right? You started him off with the best in the business with Seabourn,” he said. I couldn’t help but nod in agreement. And I was looking forward to what our next day would bring as we sailed around Arabia aboard Seabourn Ovation.