Plus, the cruises are on Seabourn's newest ship, Ovation, in a fully vaccinated environment (guests and crew).
The feedback since these sailings were announced Tuesday — they'll open for booking April 12 — has been 'great .. very positive,' according to Seabourn President Josh Leibowitz.
The itineraries, which highlight exclusive yacht harbors in Greece and two destinations in Cyprus (a different one on each seven-day route) were already in Seabourn's roster but had to be tweaked for where the line has permission to sail. So, no Turkey for now.
The cruises can be combined and Leibowitz said most guests prefer the 14-day option.
Sixteen departures have been announced through October, starting July 3.
More destinations TBA
More destinations are coming soon, Leibowitz said, declining to specify if those will be in Europe.
Three things are needed to start, he explained: 'Guest demand, which we have. It's been very strong. Medical protocols and procedures we feel confident of, and government support.' All of these apply to the Greece-Cyprus itineraries, with strong support from the Greek government and from Cyprus, where four Seabourn ships, including Ovation, have been sheltering during the pause.
Until now, few top luxury cruise options have been available near term, apart from Hapag-Lloyd's Europa 2 in the Canary Islands with Dubrovnik and Crete up next, and Crystal's upcoming Bahamas sailings. Today Silversea announced its return, also from Greece, this summer.
High space ratio
Seabourn Ovation carries just 600 passengers, making for a small-ship option, but Leibowitz doesn't like the descriptive 'small' since it doesn't convey the very high space ratio. This is a 12-deck vessel of more than 40,000gt, with all-veranda suites.
Yet it's still touted as a yacht.
Seabourn Ovation will be sailing to exclusive islands and destinations bigger ships can't access. Leibowitz extolled gems like Crete's Agios Nikolaos as 'gorgeous,' and Nafplion, 'incredibly charming, a very hyper-local, authentic Greek experience.'
His favorite part of cruising is approaching a Mediterranean destination by tender.
'We want people to feel like they're vacationing on a yacht,' he said, and when they alight, they can point to 'my yacht' in the harbor.
It's anticipated some destinations — not all — will require company-provided excursions to go ashore.
'We will continue to recommend company-provided shore excursions to help support the overall management of the experience,' Leibowitz said. 'That includes experiences with private guides ... whether for two people or a dozen people.'
Many travelers already vaccinated
This Greek Islands program was already well-booked with Seabourn's typical clientele from a blend of markets, including the US, UK and Europe.
'We've heard from many of our guests in the US and the UK that they've already been vaccinated,' Leibowitz said.
He expects a 'significant proportion' of those booked will sail, however Seabourn is contacting each client individually, offering the opportunity to stay on or switch to another cruise if they wish.
There was a loud cheer from the Seabourn Ovation team when Leibowitz made an all-hands broadcast to announce the restart. 'They were so, so, so happy,' he said.
During the pause, they've been practicing 'Seabourn Moments,' a core of the brand.
With the Greece-Cyprus cruises starting in July, it won't be long until they'll once again be indulging guests with these little extras that are designed to surprise and delight.