We began our journey in Vancouver, Canada where we boarded a Lufthansa flight to Istanbul with a brief stop in Frankfurt. As usual, the customs procedures in Frankfurt were a bit tedious. We selected a different lounge than we normally use and found it less crowded and much nicer. Arrival in Istanbul was easy. We stopped by the visa desk and obtained the required Turkish visas within two minutes at a cost of $25 each. The lengthy line at Passport Control was tiring. Finally, we were off in search of our Regent Representative.
The first Regent Rep. we located piled our luggage on a cart and looked for our names to check off. They were not there. We told him that we were part of the group with a pre-cruise to Cappadocia (pronounced Cappa dok ya). He off-loaded the luggage and we went on seeking the next Regent Rep. who did not have our names either. He did suggest that we stand in a particular spot and said that the Rep. would show up. After 15 minutes or so (and asking more questions), the Regent Rep. that had our names showed up. Unfortunately, all of us had to schlep all of our luggage to the bus.
We arrived at the lovely Ritz Carlton, the same hotel we stayed at previously. We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves on the Club level where food and drinks were served. Our plans for going out to dinner went out the window after the wonderful food offering at the hotel. After dinner we sat and had a couple of drinks in the lovely Club lounge. Breakfast in the morning was amazing. The buffet has a wide array of choices. We were happy and very impressed with the hotel.
Around 8:30 a.m. the following morning we were off with 19 other Regent guests to the airport where we boarded a Turkish Air Flight. It was a one hour flight to the city where the airport an hour away from Cappadocia was (cannot recall the name). Due to flight delays, we were approximately one hour late. Once we arrived, once again it was our responsibility to manage our own luggage. Fortunately, some of our luggage remained in Istanbul where it would be delivered to the Voyager when she arrived.
We arrived at the restaurant quite late (about 2:30 p.m.) and had a delightful lunch (no alcohol -- this was a strict Muslim restaurant). We had nice soft drinks and bottled water. We were all tired and were fine with changing the itinerary around so our day would be a bit shorter.
Regent used two hotels for the group. The "premium" hotel was The Cappadocia Cave Resort. It is a unique, beautiful hotel. The balcony of our suite overlooked the amazing valley. Dinner at the restaurant was confusing and disappointing. The Guide told us that we could dine any time between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. When we arrived at 7:30 p.m., there was a table for 21 set up and the expectation was that everyone would show up at 8:30 p.m. We were permitted to sit down and ordered a bottle of wine and ordered (not even water was included at this hotel). As other members of the group came down, they were seated at the same table. The service was so slow that, by the time we were served dessert, guests who arrived 45 minutes after us were deserved dessert at the same time. Food was mediocre
In the morning there were 75 hot air balloons (according to the guide) taking off. It was beautiful sight to behold. Many guests joined in the hot air balloon ride (additional cost). We preferred catching up on our sleep. They arrived back late so we started out a bit behind time-wise.
The day we spent in Cappadocia was magical. In all of our travels, we ahe not seen the unique beauty that is Cappadocia. From the fairy chimneys to the underground city, it was all amazing. To get a tiny look at this wonderful spot, you may want to Google it. Pictures, however, do not do it justice. There are cave houses, cave hotels, fairy chimney's also turned into residences and restaurants. It was worth all of the time and energy put forth to get there. Our excellent Guide bribed people to get us in to the underground city. It was a holiday weekend and there were people waiting to get in as far as the eye could see. We bypassed the line and viewed this magnificent place. Lunch was the best food we had since arriving in Cappadocia. Dinner that night at the hotel was arranged properly and the food was somewhat better. Breakfast at the hotel is quite nice.
The ride back to the airport (they utilized a closer airport this time) was uneventful. The airport was quite small and had no crowds. After, once again, dragging our luggage into the terminal, we flew back to Istanbul for the tours. This was still a holiday weekend and the area was packed. If that were not enough, they were filming a James Bond movie in Istanbul that created traffic tie-ups. We entered the Blue Mosque with no problem whatsoever. Saint Sophia was also fairly easy to get into. Topkapi, on the other hand,was so bad that we gave up. We walked for a long way to get there only to learn that it would take a long time to get in and that it would be packed once we were inside. By then it was approximately noon. The group was going for lunch after Topkapi. We decided to go on our own and take the tram to the ship (after thanking and tipping our wonderful Guide).
Being onboard the Voyager is always an amazing experience. Such understated beauty and kindness from the crew. The weather every day of the 10 day voyage was between 70F and 76F (one day it approached 80F). Clear skies, sunny (there was rain for one hour in Anaconda, Italy -- a port we are at today and still have no desire to leave the ship -- not an attractive port).
Service has been incredible. Food in Prime 7 was the best we have had to date. Food in Signatures is different as it has to be now that Regent's affiliation with Le Cordon Bleu has ended. The mushroom soup, while extremely good, was not the mushroom soup that they had last year. To be fair, we have never been fans of Signatures but did have an enjoyable meal. Compass Rose has been right on point. We still ask for a table in Zaldys section. He somehow knew we would be on board and looked for us the first night (we were in Signatures). We were quite happy to see each other the second night.
The ports have been lovely. I was completely amazed by Kotor, Montenegro. I was not aware of the beauty of that port. We did not take an excursion in Kotor but will be doing so on this leg of the cruise.
We had been we Santorini previously. This time the ship anchored at a place where you can just board a bus and drive away (no donkeys or trams). we were taking a wine tour with the new company, something like Wine Trails. It was a lovely tour but not worth the price. The best part of the tour was the Tour Guide. He was the best Guide we have had in our 25 years of international travel. Evan should be a trainer for other tour guides. He does not talk too much or too little. he has a sense of humor and is quite no-nonsense when it comes to dealing with the people at our stops. If the description of something is not to his liking, he will add information to it. Completely blown away by this young(ish) man.
In Ephesus we did the Terrace Houses that everyone raves about. It is definitely amazing. Heed the warnings about people with walking difficulties having problems on this tour. The stairs up are easy. Going down is very difficult and there are no handrails.
Montenegro was simply amazing. Beautiful views, lovely scenery. We again took a wine tour. This one started out to be one of the best tours we have had. We went to an olive oil processing plant (no longer in use except for tourists). We were shown how the horse walked in circles as the olives were pressed (beautiful horse -- doesn't like to do the demonstration but puts up with it. We were then served jugs of homemade wine, prosciutto, homemade cheese, salad), olives and homemade bread. Did I mention that this was 9:30 a.m. Well, we were all on vacation so we enjoyed it completely. The rest of the tour was a bit slow. The winery wine was not that good (no one purchased wine there). Still, a great day.
We took "sea days" while other people were in port because, as I mentioned, we are repeating some ports on this leg of the cruise".
The cruise ended with an overnight in Venice. We did the "included" gondola excursion. It sounds gimmicky and touristy but was fabulous. A highlight of the trip On the day when most people were disembarking, we went on the St. Marks Square and Doges Palace tour. Quite nice. We are amazed with Venice. This was a place we had no interest in visiting as we heard it was dirty, etc. The information we received was completely untrue as it is a clean, vibrant city. It is crowded but will be much more so in the summer.
While much of this is a review of our pre-cruise, I hope Regent reads it and corrects the very few problems we had (mainly luggage handling). There are people who asked our opinion of Cappadocia and, having now been there, we would recommend it without hesitation.
Forgot to mention the shows (which we typically do not attend). The Cirque Voyager is better than any show we have seen on Regent (we have seen other versions on the Voyager -- this one was unique and simply amazing! A must see!
At the risk of being called a "Regent Cheerleader" (I don't consider that negative), the people on this ship, from the Captain down are caring, warm, professional, trustworthy and hardworking individuals whom it is always a pleasure to see. There was not one person who did not give excellent service on our cruise. Bravo Voyager crew!