Cruise line: Regent Seven Seas Cruises,
Reflections on our Regent Seven Seas Voyager cruise from Southampton to Monte Carlo<
When our cruise ended in Monte Carlo, the dozen of us taking the TGV home were off the ship by 8am and on our way by coach to Nice to catch the train to Lille and the Eurostar home. The train was routed via Marseille from which we had sailed the night before and as we approached a huge cheer went up as we spotted Voyager already back in the harbour there for her 17 day refit. Captain Mario must have given her wings to beat us there though the TGV along the Riviera coast was disappointingly more like a local bus than a high-speed train.
But that was at the end. The cruise began at Southampton where our early request to Regent, made through Janet, enabled my cousins in Winchester to come aboard with us and see us off. They are now very likely to try a Regent cruise soon themselves. 'Sailaway' is always exciting and then we were off to Honfleur. A smooth crossing and subsequent day and night at sea in the Bay of Biscay gave us all the perfect opportunity to settle in before arriving at Bordeaux. St Emilion is as delightful as its wine and so is St Jean de Luz but, beautiful as the towns are, tours to Biarritz and San Sebastian were a disaster! Regent cannot help the weather nor a motorway pile up; four hours spent in traffic jams watching the drizzle was dispiriting especially when we could see Seven Seas Voyager just across the bay. So near and yet so far.
The beauty of this cruise was that it visited wonderful places that we would not have thought individually worth a visit from the UK and with the advantage of Regent's all inclusive pricing we felt encouraged to have a go at tours even if we were unsure how well we would enjoy the destinations. The result - seeing so much more! Everyone knows Lisbon, Barcelona and Seville are excellent for a long weekend away but this cruise gave us the chance to realise how worthwhile other ports of call were. Bilbao, Cadiz and Santiago de Compostella are now on our list for revisiting
The success of a cruise depends on the skills of its sea officers, its "hotel" and destinations staffs and its entertainment staff. It was clear from the moment we went on board that well-honed teams were at work and we felt complete confidence in them. Characteristic of our Voyager cruise was the friendly and helpful manner of all staff. Nothing was too much trouble - an attitude exemplified by our exceptionally diligent steward, Wiyan.
A good Maitre D' can make a disproportionate difference to the dining experience; an aspect of the cruise vital to our social enjoyment. On Voyager we could dine in any one of four restaurants and we tried them all. The variety of the menus is good and the presentation and quality of the cooking very high. Twice we dined alone but we are happy to join others. A really skilled Maitre D' making good calls in putting people who do not know each other together can make a big difference. We were not disappointed and dined mostly with other passengers in tables of either four or six. This is a wonderful way to make new acquaintances as are the excursions. On this voyage we met three couples we now regard as friends. Inclusive pricing helps again here; shipboard service is so much smoother and quicker - no forever signing chits or worrying about choosing bottles of wine at dinner or ordering rounds of drinks. Much less hassle!
We really enjoyed the shipboard entertainment though we did not see all the shows. The dancing and the acrobatic displays were of West End standard with first class musicianship from the theatre orchestra, the pianist and trio who played in the bars every evening.
We previously sailed the Caribbean in Seven Seas Navigator and loved her intimacy. The Voyager is bigger and an equally lovely ship. Her public areas are spacious and comfortable with the same exceptionally large balcony suites (a walk-in closet and bathroom with bath and separate shower) that we so enjoyed on the Navigator. I do not doubt that Voyager will be even better still after the 17-day refit she is having in Marseilles at this minute and we look forward to sailing in her again.
Robert and MargaretOverall rating: 5