Insider Journal: Eating Our Way Through the Arabian Sea with Seabourn Ovation

Olivia Balsinger
Insider Travel Report - June 10, 2019

Our horizons were constantly expanding as our “Arabian & Antiquities” cruise aboard Seabourn Ovation continued, navigating the calm Arabian Sea en route to Jordan. Also expanding, of course, were our waistlines. With 10 dining options—from a daily teatime to multi-course meals for dinner—my friend Jonathan and I were perfectly content with looser belt buckles by the trip’s end.

The mastermind behind the meals onboard the Seabourn Ovation is the ship’s executive chef, Jes Paskins, who grew up in the village of Hertfordshire, England. He has a professional diploma in culinary management and his zest for creative dishes in the kitchen is evident in all the ship’s dining areas. Jes’ favorite foods to create are Italian, Indian and Thai. 

Much of the food aboard Seabourn’s fleet come from Thomas Keller, the first and only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide, who designed the menus. He also is the first male American chef to be named Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, the most illustrious decoration in France.

“There is really no chef more accomplished or held in higher esteem than Chef Keller, and we are both honored and delighted to have a restaurateur of his stature take our onboard culinary offerings to an even higher level,” said Seabourn President Richard Meadows when he announced Seabourn’s relationship with Keller back in 2015. “His culinary talent and sophisticated cuisine are beyond compare and the perfect match for our guests. We have no doubt our guests will be as excited as we are to taste and enjoy Chef Keller’s dishes on our ships.”

While we were onboard Seabourn Ovation for 21 days, Jonathan and I never once felt the meals got boring or repetitive. In fact, we often talked about what we would do for just one more bite of that molten chocolate lava cake from The Grill. Here’s a rundown of the dining venues we experienced:

The Grill: Created in partnership with Keller, The Grill quickly became our favorite eatery. Inspired by a classic 1960s American grill, The Grill features red leather booths and elegantly dressed waiters. It dazzles the taste buds with spins on classic American dishes such as tableside Caesar Salad, Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart and Lobster Thermidor. The Grill’s sommelier did an excellent job suggesting one of the 90 domestic and old-world wine labels, personally curated by Chef Keller, to pair with dishes. Advanced reservations are required for The Grill, which can be made through the online passenger platform.

The Restaurant: Known as the most formal restaurant onboard Seabourn Ovation, The Restaurant always impressed Jonathan and me with its glitzy chandeliers and elegant ambiance. While it offers a fine dining experience, it still allows the freedom of open seating, with the exception of formal nights, where guests may be invited to dine with a Seabourn officer or performer at a specific table (note: you can decline an invitation to a specific formal night table by informing guest services before the specified mealtime). Meals typically include an appetizer, an entrée, and a desert, with vegetarian options also available. Dishes that I enjoyed during this gourmet experience included Black Truffle Risotto and Poached Egg, Key Lime Salmon and Roast Chicken. There is always a selection of dishes created by Thomas Keller on the menu, as well as Seabourn classic favorites. A glass case in the back of the restaurant showcases a wide variety of premium wines, which can be purchased for a nominal fee).

The Colonnade: This is the ship's casual restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, offered either a la carte or buffet. You can observe the Seabourn chefs masterfully at work in an open kitchen. The heated patio of The Colonnade was one of my favorite places on the ship to eat lunch, since the view over the open ocean (Note: Cocktail in hand, this is the go-to spot on the ship to witness the mosaic of colors of an evening sunset—not to be missed!). Some of the meals I had at The Colonnade included a full English roast, New York cheesecake and a spicy curry during the themed Indian Night Market.

Sushi: I used to question whether a cruise ship could successfully deliver authentic sushi, but as usual Seabourn rose to the challenge. The sushi restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, offered hot and cold items such Black King Fish Sashimi, Barbequed Eel Maki and Salmon Bento boxes. A variety of sake selections were also available, along with a delicious cocktail fusing sake and aloe. The sushi restaurant is currently only onboard Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation.

Seabourn Square & Afternoon Tea: Seabourn Square, the ship’s social center, features a convenient counter where you can pick up a freshly baked breakfast treat, coffee or an afternoon snack, especially when you are on the go. Bonus points: the baristas onboard roast the coffee fresh each day (it never felt stale). Similarly, afternoon tea, served daily in the Observation Bar, includes a wide variety of light bites, scones and an assortment of teas.

Artisan Gelato: We felt as though we were in the streets of Italy in summer with the constant allure of artisan gelato onboard. Beginning in 2019, Seabourn introduced a new milk- and fruit-based gelato made fresh daily and available throughout the vessel. Daily offerings including flavors like Amaretto, Dulce de Leche, Coconut and Black Cherry. But I most enjoyed the unique flavors of gelato made with local ingredients from select ports we visited.