Regent Seven Seas Explorer Cruise Review Day 2
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Livorno, located in the center of Tuscany, is the gateway to Florence and Pisa. From the 13th to 16th centuries, this era gave birth to Dante, Donatello, Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, da Vinci, and Machiavelli. Florence offers the Galleria dell'Accademia, with the famous statue of David by Michelangelo, and the Uffizi, which is the most renowned art gallery in Italy. You can also venture to Pisa, to see the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, or visit nearby Siena and Lucca.
We took breakfast in the The Veranda Cafe (we ordered omelettes from the egg station) and had a nice table for two outside. There was plenty of room and it was so lovely to dine alfresco. I had pre-booked all the complimentary tours prior to boarding and the shore excursions tickets were in the suite when we arrived. After breakfast we headed down to the Constellation Theatre to swap our tickets for a bus number.
All the shore excursions and tours are included in your fare, and I was impressed with the choice of the complimentary tours. For example in Livorno there was a selection of seven included tours, ranging from a four-hour tour to Lucca to a 10 hour tour to Florence and Pisa. There are also additional excursions for purchase – for example, a seven-hour Food and Wine tour of Tuscany for $199, or a six-hour Exclusive Cooking Class for $319.
I had pre-booked the Highlights Of Florence tour – a 10.5 hour trip to Florence that included a guided walk and free time for shopping or further exploring on our own.
Regent Seven Seas try to use luxury buses/coaches wherever they can and keep the group numbers to about 15 to 20 guests so the buses are never crowded and there's plenty of room for everyone. It was about a two hour drive from Livorno; however our charming guide Marina kept us informed and entertained. When we arrived we had another guide to show us around the city, he was called Kane, not a Tuscan local but a bloke from Australia! He had married an Italian girl and settled in Florence, and he was excellent, one of the best guides I have experienced. We had the whisper devices, which comprises of a receiver and an ear piece that you wear; the guide has the transmitter, enabling you to hear the commentary without having to crowd around, which worked perfectly in a busy city like Florence.
We started at the Piazza del Duomo, a huge Cathedral featuring an impressive Tuscan marble façade followed by the Baptistery, famous for Lorenzo Ghiberti's celebrated 3D doors called the Gates of Paradise. We continued on to see the Giotto Bell Tower, designed in 1334 and Florence's second major piazza, Piazza della Signoria featuring an abundance of statues that include Cellini's Perseus, Giambologna's The Rape of the Sabine Women, Ammannati's Neptune Fountain and a copy of Michelangelo's famous David. There were also some modern works – including a gold-leafed Elvis riding a massive turtle – which looked out of place amongst the classic works.
Next we went to Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge. Ponte Vechhio dates back to 1345, and is the only bridge in Florence that wasn't blown up during World War II. It originally housed the butchers, but they were removed by the Grand Duke Ferdinando I, because of the terrible noise and stench they created. As a result, Ponte Vecchio was open only to goldsmiths and silversmiths that can be found there to this day.
We then visited Piazza di Santa Croce, a large square dominated by the Franciscan Basilica. We had free time to grab some lunch and explore the rest of Florence's labyrinth of alleys and piazzas which was really excellent – we headed back to Ponte Vecchio for more photos and to try some local Gelato! The tour was very good – we saw all the best bits of the city, our guide was superb and there was lots of free time too.
When we returned to Seven Seas Explorer, there was a lovely welcome waiting for us. As we left the bus, there were about 50 members of the ship’s crew lined up either side of a red carpet, dancing and singing along to the ships musicians and offering us drinks and cold towels! It was a lovely experience and really felt like a welcome home!
That evening was our first experience of one of the specialty restaurants - Prime 7. This restaurant is the American-style steak house, serving USDA, 28-day dry-aged prime steaks, lobster and King Crab, and is found on all ships of the Regent fleet. Located on deck 10, the room is decorated in browns and creams and has a bar located outside so you can enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail whilst admiring the genuine Picasso's and Marc Chagall art works.
To start I had the Ahi Tuna Carpaccio and Avocado tower which not only looked stunning but tasted great too! The Clam Chowder soup was equally delicious. For mains I ordered the Surf and Turf with lobster (you can have it with King Crab legs if you prefer) and I had mine with Béarnaise sauce, but you could have chosen from about 6 different sauces. The meal was stunning and the service great, again the wine pairings were delicious and perfectly accompanied the main courses.
After the meal we headed to the theatre for the first show of the cruise - Broadway Cabaret. This was a stripped back production, with just the six singers on stage alongside the ships musicians. They performed songs from Broadway, (I only recognised a few) with some great harmonies and solo performances. The show lounge was packed, so the guests were obviously up for a bit of entertainment. I felt the show lacked some oomph, and for the first show of the cruise felt they should have put on something with a bit more razzmatazz, using the production dancers too, as it did not give a good impression. A few more recognisable songs would have helped, and when they did perform something we knew, a Lloyd-Webber montage, it was too short. Unless you were a real Broadway aficionado, I doubt many could have named the shows they were from. It was performed well but was it entertainment for an international audience? Not really.
After this we headed to the bar to try the ships signature cocktail – The Explorer. It was served in a classic cocktail glass and was pink coloured and really delicious. Our bar waiter poured it from the shaker at the table so there was a touch of theatrics about it too. I cannot tell you what was in it but I obviously enjoyed it as I had about four of them – it’s all a bit of a blur after that!