We are not frequent cruisers, this being only our third cruise since 2003 and our first with Regent Seven Seas. Our flight from Heathrow was at 8:15 so we stayed overnight at the Heathrow Sofitel and booked parking there as well. It was reassuring to know that our car would not be moved while we were away. I wasn't even asked for my key. The Voyager is the largest ship we've been on and we wondered how crowded it would feel with 700+ passengers. We needn't have worried. We rarely saw the other English passengers who shared the same flight out and we never felt as though it was full, even in the dining room. It had also been refurbished in November 2011 so everything was fresh and new.
We were off the ship every day so which left little time to get involved with other activities, although we were often in the Horizon Lounge in time for the Trivia quiz.
The service was fantastic. The crew were friendly, cheerful and accommodating and nothing was too much trouble. Part way through the cruise Comment cards are left in your suite so that you can raise any issues you've had. We had one or two minor suggestions and these were followed up by the Executive Concierge who left a message on our suite phone to go and discuss them with him. I mentioned, in passing, that my starter in the Signatures restaurant wasn't what I expected and almost as soon as I got back to the suite I had an apologetic phone call from the restaurant manager and an offer for us to eat there again.
We probably took on more excursions than we should. Most were timed to leave the ship before 9:00am and this meant that we were only able to have a leisurely breakfast in Compass Rose on one morning. The rest of the time we breakfasted in Le Verandah, which opens earlier and is self-service. It's difficult to advise on the excursions. There's a balance to be struck between trying to see everything or thinking you might have missed out on something if you don't and the calls on your physical resources of being up between 6:30 and 7:00am to meet the time for your trip each day. It is supposed to be a holiday after all. The advantage is, I suppose, that you can decide which places you'd never want to return to - which in our case would be Kavala, Xanthi and Istanbul. All the excursions were well arranged, had knowledgeable guides and each coach carried only 20-25 passengers. The only hitch we had was in Istanbul when the driver was moved on from our pick-up point by the police and couldn't find his way back. He was a relief driver and didn't know the City. It was a Sunday and everyone was out and about. Everywhere was crowded and we had to run the gauntlet of dozens of street sellers at every venue, who were extremely persistent in their efforts to get you to buy. We had an issue with the amount Regent were going to charge us for a (UK)Visitor's Visa for Turkey. This was $49 each if you let them arrange it, instead of the Â£10 you pay if you pick up your own at the airport. However, we'd arrived in Athens and had called at Kusadasi and needed the visa for Istanbul because we were staying overnight there before disembarking for the flight home.
We found out, from another couple, that we could buy a Visitor's visa at the port in Kusadasi. Go into Arrivals and turn sharp left and there's an office marked "Visas" on the window. We bought ours for Â£10 each, took them to the ship's Reception Desk and they stuck them in our passports. We didn't need our passports with us. The port authorities know you're from the ship and they've already cleared you to land. I assume there's a Visa office at the port in Istanbul too.
Our suite 854 was designated "concierge level". The only advantage this gives you is pre-booking your excursions and speciality restaurants well in advance. In addition you get 60 minutes free internet use. The latter is useful for printing out your Boarding Cards for the return flight. All the regular suites are the same size and have much the same amenities. (Since returning we've booked another cruise, this time on The Mariner and have gone for a G Grade Suite.) The suite was beautifully presented and well maintained by our steward, Romel. The walk in wardrobe was great and there was plenty of drawer space. The bathroom had not only a full size bath but also a separate shower in a glass cubicle.We had two quite rough nights at sea during which the suite vibrated quite badly as did the fittings around the vanity unit - plastic and wood don't go well together. The carpenters did their level best to improve it - which they did but you'll always get a certain level of noise. It didn't spoil things and we were often so tired by the end of the evening after excursions etc that we soon dropped off.
We thought the food was excellent in all venues. There were one or two minor hitches - one night the fish was slightly overcooked - we mentioned it straight away and the dish was cooked again. There were profuse apologies and every night after that the staff fell over backwards to make sure everything was all right. If you're not able to get into the speciality dining venues don't worry. The food and service in Compass Rose is excellent. They also include dishes from Prime 7 and Signatures on their menu each night. The menu changes daily so there is plenty of choice. The wines provided were first class and if they don't appeal to you, they will bring you an alternative.
We saw two excellent shows and watched a film in the theatre and the vocalists and other musicians around the ship were very good and provided easy listening while you relaxed with a snack or a drink by the pool.
Disembarkation was expertly handled. Suitcases were required outside your suite at 11:00pm on the evening before disembarkation. Colour coded luggage tags were provided with the time you should be in the theatre the next morning for your coach to the airport. The port authorities wanted everybody out by 9:00am. Once you've identified your luggage it's put aboard the coach. We were then escorted to Istanbul Airport. All the luggage was scanned while we went through another scanner with our hand luggage. Once reunited with our suitcases, we were escorted to the check-in desks and baggage drop. The only drawback was that we had 2 hours to kill before the desks opened. So we had coffee. We checked the bags in as soon as the desks opened and then spent the next 90 minutes or so before our flight browsing the duty free and having a snack and a drink. Istanbul is a large and virtually new airport with all the amenities and shops you'd expect so it wasn't difficult to make the time pass.
As I said, this was a holiday which ended too soon. Everything went well. We enjoyed it so much we've booked to sail with Regent Seven Seas again this year.