A password will be e-mailed to you.

She’s been receiving rave reviews since her debut last year and The Yachts of Seabourn’s new Odyssey may have a major impact on the way cruise ships are designed.  Words: Joanna Hall.

We’re sitting in a jacuzzi on the bow as Balinese fishing boats putter past on their way back home and from two decks above, one of the roving bar staff spots us and mimes the question: do you want Champagne? The thumbs-up is given and, minutes later, she comes back with two glasses of bubbly, promising to return to check on our progress.

It’s part of the silver service on board one of the world’s newest cruise ships and, while this is typical of The Yachts of Seabourn, the design elements of Seabourn Odyssey have been welcomed as an innovative and refreshing departure from the way traditional cruise ships are designed and built. Quite simply, Odyssey has been hailed as the world’s most luxurious cruise ship, and her launch last year set a new benchmark in style on the high seas.

Odyssey was the first new ship for Seabourn in 15 years. She is the first of three new sisters for the line, with Sojourn launched in June and Quest coming in 2011.

Seabourn refers to its vessels as ‘yachts’ because of their intimate size and highly personalised service, and even though Odyssey is more than twice the size of the older ships in the fleet, with a capacity of 450 guests, there’s still plenty of space on board to find quiet and intimate spots.

Odyssey has one of the highest space-to-guest ratios of any ship at sea, but what really sets her apart is the contemporary style; she’s akin to a floating boutique hotel, though some traditional amenities, such as the forward jacuzzi, have been included to keep the cruise line’s fiercely loyal regulars happy.

The décor is subtle and tasteful, with marble finishes, soft lighting and understated colours creating a welcoming and sophisticated atmosphere. This is the first giveaway that Odyssey has broken with tradition; the second is that there is no reception area located in a central atrium.

Instead, enquiries to staff are made at Seabourn Square on deck seven, an area of calm and tranquillity. Service desks are concealed for reasons of aesthetics and privacy, and the area also has a cafe serving specialty coffees and pastries, a reading area stocked with newspapers from around the world, and some very comfy chairs.

The ship’s suites and restaurants reflect her overall modern design, and even a basic stateroom has a separate living area and bedroom, a good-sized granite bathroom with separate tub, shower and dual sinks, and an interactive entertainment system programmed with hundreds of movies, television shows and music, as well as a flat-screen TV. The four restaurants on board take cruise-ship dining to another level – in particular Restaurant 2, which offers an elaborate degustation menu that changes nightly.

We board Odyssey in Sydney for a 20-day world-cruise segment to Hong Kong, with ports of call including Cairns, Darwin, Bali, Brunei and Kota Kinabalu in Borneo.

Even though it is part of a round-world voyage, which typically means an older clientele, there is a slightly younger crowd on board this cruise, perhaps drawn by Odyssey’s hip new design.

Asian destinations are becoming increasingly popular with cruisers, especially younger ones, and cruise lines are responding to this demand by moving more ships into the region, and offering longer and more diverse itineraries.

“There’s something exotic and evocative about cruising in Asia,” explains Odyssey’s cruise director, Barry Hopkins, a respected veteran who has notched up 25 years in the industry. “It’s a cultural experience that changes daily. And it’s also mostly hot-weather cruising, which means you can spend more time on deck and relaxing by a pool, which also appeals to younger guests.”

On this cruise, after we’ve visited Cairns and Darwin and enjoyed a cluster of divine sea days to enjoy all the ship has to offer, we anchor off Bali to explore some of the island’s ancient culture. We book a ship’s tour that includes a visit to Tenganan village, a throwback to Balinese life before modernisation, and to the Tirtagangga Royal Water Gardens and Palace, once the retreat of kings.

Brunei is every bit as fascinating: we especially love the ancient stilt village of Kampong Ayer, home to nearly 40,000 people – or about 10 per cent of the country’s population – who live on the Brunei River.

The grand finale of this cruise is an overnight stay in Hong Kong, where a famous local jazz band comes aboard to perform on deck. With Hong Kong’s crazy skyscraper skyline as a backdrop, it’s another
Champagne moment on one of the world’s most beautiful cruise ships.

Fact File

Cruise line: The Yachts of Seabourn

Vessel: Seabourn Odyssey

Star rating: 5

Max passenger capacity: 462

Total crew: 330-335

Passenger decks: 8

GRT: 32,000

Entered service: June 2009

Features: All 225 suites have ocean views; 90% have private verandahs. Each suite has an entertainment system with flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, wi-fi, 24-hour room service, a fully stocked bar and walk-in closet. 4 restaurants; complimentary beverages including selected wines and spirits are available throughout the ship. Other key facilities include The Spa at Seabourn, a fitness centre, 4 bars (2 outdoors), a coffee bar, a retractable watersports marina, a casino, Grand Salon Theatre, 3 pools,
5 whirlpools and a sports area on deck 11. All gratuities included in the fare.

Highs

• Superb cuisine, attentive service and attention to detail.

Lows

• Having to disembark.

Booking details

Seabourn Odyssey won’t be back in Australia until 2012 but her twin sister, Seabourn Sojourn, will make her inaugural trip Down Under in 2011. Contact 13 24 02

What Else Is On Offer In Asia 2010/11

The Yachts of Seabourn’s Seabourn Pride will be based in Asia between October and April. Seabourn Spirit will also operate cruises in this region over December, January and March.

Oceania Cruises: Nautica will operate a variety of Asian itineraries from January to April, including a 16-night Hong Kong to Bangkok voyage departing January 30.

Silversea Cruises: Silver Shadow will operate a variety of Asian itineraries in October and November, including a 14-night cruise from Sydney to Singapore from February 18, and an eight-night Singapore-to-Hong Kong cruise departing March 19.

Azamara Club Cruises: Azamara Quest is operating a 12-night cruise from Dubai to Singapore that departs on December 11, and various Asian itineraries from January to March.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Navigator will operate a 43-night cruise from Beijing to Sydney departing on October 4, and Seven Seas Voyager will depart on March 20 for a 20-night cruise from Beijing to Bangkok.