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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Premier Cruises

SS SeaBreeze

Rating:One and a Half Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Premier Cruises
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1958 / 1989
Length / Tonnage: 606 / 20,416
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 411 / 822
Officers / Crew: Greek / International
Operating Area: Year-round Caribbean

Review by Mark H. Goldberg, TravelPage.com, Cruise Editor

Take what was formerly one of the best examples of Italian ship design, a vessel rivalling the looks of the most beautiful of them all, give her a couple of bad refits to try to make her something she was neither intended to be nor could become without a major rebuilding, and continue to work on the project over the course of the years, compounding others' mistakes with the efforts of your own arrogant take on the market and VOILA, the magnificent FEDERICO C., the once three class Costa Line flagship, the first passenger liner ever built for that august concern, gets transformed into the hideous "red boat" "Starship" ROYALE and then, painted white all over with a couple of "racing stripes" incongruously pointing down to the waterline as they reached forward, becomes the SEABREEZE.

Now sporting a dark blue hull which goes some to hide her age spots, I think this ship and a couple of her fleetmates at present hold the rights to the bottom of the cruise ship barrel. Certainly her rock bottom rates put her within the reach of most vacationers, but people who know that you get what you pay for, especially at sea...and know that the mass market has been reaching deeper and deeper into the passengers' pockets once the ticket buyers embark, already KNOW...you can get a much newer, classier, better equipped, more comfortable ship for a few dollars more... And those who wax rhapsodic about "classic liners" usually haven't been in one...I have...and have written ten books about ships so far, and if this WERE a "classic liner", she'd be running between Genoa and Buenos Aires like she used to, with me on board. Because back then when she used to do that...and I first saw her while in the port of Casablanca in 1964 when I was 13, falling instantly in love with her...(AH, YES, I remember the FEDERICO C. so well..she was the first Costa Liner I had ever visited or sailed...), her First Class was marvellous, almost as good as what we had on Italian Line. Of course, most who travelled in her rode in Third (not Tourist, originally, THIRD) Class, housed in small, cramped cabins located in what look like on deckplans to be rabbit warrens on most of her lower decks...Second Class, later designated Cabin Class, was good...The airplane knocked her and her other beautiful running mates off the liner trades and into the full time cruise business, so blame Costa for the first assaults on the ship's original looks and layout. Glassing in the upper of two covered promenades and extending the superstructure forward to build some new (and admittedly big) cabins disfigured the perfect aesthetics of this once extraordinarily beautiful lady. But she remained a Costa Liner with that grand Italian food and service, that regard for detail, that spirit of life as romance...That was a long time ago.

In its original incarnation, Premier Cruises started out with a single ship, this one. They renamed her ROYALE and painted her hull a bright cherry red, going one better at making her strake a panoply of stripes in white, yellow and orange, a look as unsettling to the eye in person as it seems to be on paper. Exchanging finesse for cartoons, Premier went for the kiddie trade, and were successful enough at it. Basing this ship at Port Canaveral they obviated a direct competition with the big cruise lines and with a tie in with Disney, made quite a go at it. So successful were they with their "bring the kids" along idea, that they were able to go shopping a couple of other times for other former Italian built or financed tonnage...in fact, of the four ocean ships ludicrously prefixed "Starship", all of them were Italian in some way...this one by build and registry, the OCEANIC by build and part ownership, the ATLANTIC by part ownership and the MAJESTIC (anyone but me notice the use of traditional old WHITE STAR LINE names here?) by build. First in, the ROYALE was the first out, going to Dolphin Cruise Line, a bottom of the barrel outfit put together by a group of people including some referred to as "London Greeks", meaning Greek shipping people resident in London. Those Greeks were primarily in the Vlassopoulos outfit, firms that owned among other ships, the ITHACA, laughably renamed DOLPHIN IV...Dolphin Cruise Line's first ship. The firm is now called Premier Cruises and in the couple of years it has been with us, has made a name for itself for its extensive management changes and frequent announcements that all is financially well with the company. For the sake of their employees, travel agents, intending and current passengers who have put up money to ride these Premier boats, I hope it works! something outstanding for quality...she is not...and never was.

The SEABREEZE has been long in the tooth for so long that it astounds us that she still plods on, carrying a mostly congenial group of budget minded travelers every winter week to Caribbean destinations. The ROYALE became the SEABREEZE and joined her little fleetmate in cheap cruises from Miami. Dolphin Cruise Line no longer exists as such, it's Premier now...but the ship is substantially what it has been since her first days with Dolphin...I know Agni and Michael Katzourakis, Greece's pre-eminent cruise ship designers reworked this ship's interiors, but I found the results so ugly I could not help but wonder WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

Public Areas
Some of the ugliest public rooms ever assembled in one ship crowd the ship's Lounge Deck., now for some reason named Carmen Deck...(I guess it's named for Bizet's heroine Carmen, the cigar maker, who always seemed to me to be a bit of a loose woman) ... Blame Costa for blocking in what is now the Royal Fireworks Lounge. Formerly the ship's First Class Lounge, a beautiful room designed and decorated by one of Italy's then leading interior architects...I think it was Nino Zoncada...the addition of new cabins forward, (but inaccessible from this deck) left no choice but to make this the equivalent of an inside room...no windows, no view...and all the charm of an airport waiting room minus the spiffy view of the runway...Next in view is aft, and it's the Surprise Casino...and it's a surprise in name only, for it is so prominently situated, that the only way to avoid it is to be lulled into one of the many shops along the corridor on the other side of its port bulkhead. I guess that placing casino and shops in so unavoidable a location guarantees the passenger the urge to spit up cash... Then there's the Harmony Room, a sort of card room built by Costa into one of the areas that were once covered promenade. But how could it compete with the Carmen Lounge...the ship's main and show lounge, the room that wins my vote for the ugliest, worst main lounge I've seen at sea in many years. Aft, where there used to be a veranda bar and pool for Second Class is now only the "Pastorale" cafe... a covered area for food service and a largely outdoor area for chowing down...it's the ship's venue for breakfast and lunchtime buffet meals..about which, more below.

Ever notice how the owners of this ship...and to be honest it was Dolphin Cruise Line which named the decks and public areas...employs names of figures from Opera and Classical music to try to convey a touch of class?? ABSURD! For this ship is probably one of the last that will ever host, say, an opera festival at sea, and I don't care how many times she is chartered to gay groups and no matter how many "opera queens" are among them. Heavy metal, rap, country and western, rock and roll, sure, very valid musical forms they are...and are much more the style of the passenger load prevalent here.

There are a couple of more public rooms...There is a dismal cinema at the forward end of Electra Deck (NOT named for the Lockheed airliner, I'm afraid, but for Richard Strauss' heroine in the 91 minute long opera of that name about a girl who loved her Dad...perhaps TOO much...) Semi-pleasant, at least, is the Serenade Bar, formerly the Third Class pool bar...as is the Prelude Bar, a small room at the after end of...dare I say it, "La Boheme" Deck (NOTE the cruise line's lack of the accent mark on the first "e")...just outside, where the First Class swimming pool USED to be, are a triptych of hot tubs...and as a doctor's son, I have been warned to keep out of those things on ANY ship...So for her 840+ (and sometimes about a THOUSAND), this ship offers ONE outdoor swimming pool, the one that used to be the Third Class pool...and aft on Daphne Deck (Richard Strauss opera name again!), it's abaft that little Serenade Bar, a room just behind the ship's very small and not terribly well equipped gym. Built into a former cargo hold on...JULIET Deck (know who they named THAT deck for?) is the Agitato Disco...and with the decibel level and the strobe and other incessant high intensity lights, it's nowhere I like to be.

Well now....Premier advertising and brochures tell us "Nothing makes a guest feel more at home than a homemade meal"..how true...I remember the food my own mother used to make...and she was one of the worst and happily, most infrequent, cooks in the world. Thank heavens she was a savvy businesswoman who earned enough dough to hire someone else to cook...So be forewarned...despite the company's claim that "You can taste the care our chefs put into every meal. Not to mention the fresh herbs, exotic spices and vegetables right from the garden..." OH, Premier, come on! On my sailing, vegetables seemed to be fresh from the can...the exotic spices came from bottles and jars labelled ketchup and mustard. Premier claims "each dish a masterpiece"...indeed....but they don't say a masterpiece of what! And for that matter, they don't use many complete sentences in their brochures either...and the waiters they tell the prospective cruise buyer, who "go out of their way to be accommodating"...well, those guys tend to be very hard working, decent guys from some very poor countries and they go out of their way to make sure that everyone gives 'em ratings of "excellent" or else they might have to go out and find new jobs.

Cruise lines aren't exactly known for altruism to crew members...I know...I worked as purser in eight ships....several of 'em Miami cruisers. So though Premier likes to advertise its belief that they are giving and doing a FIRST CLASS job all the way, I'm here to suggest...on the basis of my experience and OPINION...that it ain't necessarily so. I didn't get sick from anything I ate when I sailed in the SEABREEZE, but nothing was memorably tasty, and when something I ordered for the Farewell Dinner turned out to be something whose moment had come and long ago gone, my waiter, who was, Premier suggests, "always standing by", had to run down a superior to sign for an extra entree because I wouldn't eat what he had brought....VERY STINGY of the line, I thought. I admit that that was in Dolphin days, but I don't think much has changed...I could be wrong...but I doubt it. Besides the two sitting "Bacchanalia Restaurant", there's that Pastorale Cafe I mentioned above...For all Premier's hype about its food, it's the typical cruise ship alternate eating space...At lunch expect hot dogs, burgers (well done ONLY) and other inexpensive fare complimented by salads and generally soggy side dishes. At breakfast, sweat in the tropical sun to your cereal...

Because this ship used to carry 1,200 passengers or so in three very distinct classes, and because of the tremendous cleavage between First and Third, cabins in her are neither uniform in layout nor size. Nothing modular about these rooms, and lacking for some of the modern amenities like TVs, hairdryers and safes you'll find as standard features in so many newbuilds, you'll find the entire gamut of cabin types from the rather hefty proportions of the four A grade "deluxe suites" and the three B category suites and to a few of the bigger Category C "deluxe oceanview" rooms (how HOTEL-LIKE!)...all formerly First Class to the itty-bitty broom closets fitted instead as passenger cabins in Category K....formerly Third Class space... If you MUST travel in this ship, try to grab a copy of a FEDERICO C. deckplan...at least Costa Line drew in every last piece of furniture in every last cabin, so you knew just what you were buying...nowadays you can say..."I guess I'll take a medium green room". Anyway, if you book a room on Fidelio, la Gioconda or Isolde Decks, no matter which cabin you take, you'll probably have a hell of a time finding your way around for the first couple of hours, if not days..At least you will run into other people similarly lost in the maze of corridors housing the bulk of the ship's passengers.

Who Goes
People looking for bargain basement cruise rates flock to this ship's winter sailings. Summer weekend sailings from New York attracted the party crowd while the 5 night cruises to New England and Nova Scotia got a wide mix of types, mostly from areas easily accessible to New York.Associate Cruise Editor and I did one of the 5 night cruises in the company's ISLAND BREEZE in 1996...and were very badly impressed both by the ship and the crowd...though we did laugh when we overheard a distressed matron cry out..."Did you see my room? It's two by NOTHING!".

For summer season 1998 - which included both spring and autumn dates, too, the ship was based at New York and did 2 night nowhere cruises every Friday (to attract GAMBLERS and partiers, THAT's why) and on Sundays did 5 night cruises to Newport, R.I.; Portland, Maine and Halifax, Nova Scotia. We've seen a couple of different planned itineraries for the upcoming winter season. I guess they dropped the plan to base the ship at Curaçao...and substituted an itinerary from Florida to some of the Central American coastal towns so recently destroyed in the hurricane. Watch the papers for news of her upcoming winter cruises. Premier discounts to frighteningly low prices...so you might pick up a price too cheap to resist.

Like most ships, this one has a couple of irreverent nicknames...Some call her the Seasleaze...but I think of her as the Seacheese...though why I would liken her to dairy products I much like, I don't know. Maybe it's because I found her unrelievedly cheesy in all aspects. Since our cruise in her several years ago left us with extremely poor impressions of this ship, we have been loathe to try her again. After all, we have but 52 weeks in any year and our monetary resources rival that of the famous poor church mouse...so if we hated her the first time, I ask you, why would you expect us to bother with this ship again? That said, we know a lot of people, generally relative newcomers to cruising, like her, but I rather think a kindly elderly woman I met on a competitor's (MUCH NEWER and NICER) ship during a Caribbean cruise said to me: "The SEABREEZE was the worst vacation experience I ever had. If I had no other cruise ship to compare her to, I wouldn't be here, but I had cruised before. I didn't pay a lot and though they promised wonderful food, what came out of her kitchens was garbage before it went back in. I guess you get what you pay for", she concluded. My sentiments exactly. One thing is pretty certain. You won't see me on her decks...As for you, keep this in mind, she's over forty years old now, has had more facelifts than ZsaZsa has had husbands, has some of the lowest rates in the business. Your call.

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