Regent Seven Seas Voyager Cruise
Sunday, 30 Sep. 12
We left home at 02.45, to make 05.00 check-in at LHR, which is a downside to booking flights through the tour operator. Usually we fly in a couple of days before, enabling us to fly at a more sociable time. We are flying to Barcelona, where we should be met and transferred to the ship. We have been very lucky in gaining access to the BA lounge, as I have a frequent flyer card, with Cathay Pacific, but I've never flown with them.
On arrival at the airport, we waited a few minutes for the valet parking service, then handed over our keys and took our bags to fast bag drop, before quickly clearing security and heading for the lounge, to enjoy a decent breakfast and Bucks Fizz (Mimosa). These lunges are wonderfully quiet places to relax and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi.
We had a very comfortable flight, though slightly delayed due to stormy weather around southern Spain, but arrived about 10.30 and now wait in arrivals for other passengers. We were offered a breakfast roll and a choice of hot and cold drinks. We arrived just a few minutes late, but t glorious sunshine, which followed 36 hours of heavy rain, so were really very lucky! Our bags came through pretty fast and we were met by Regent reps, who took our bags and escorted us to a bus.
The bus journey was very quick and our ship was berthed at the Trade Cetre, as opposed to the main cruise terminal, where all the other cruise ships were docked. This enabled pax to take a short walk into the city, raher than taking the bus or taxi. We arrived a bit early so we had to wait to check in, so Rosy and I went outside to sit in the warm sunshine, which was a really nice surprise as the forecast wasn't good. Check-in soon commenced and we were soon boarding our temporary home. No intrusive photographers to avoid, just a short walk and a champagne greeting, though Regent was a bit stingy with the measure! One sip and it was gone! Therefore, we had to walk around the circle and get another one!
We boarded at about mid-day and suites wouldn't be available until 14.30, so we had a buffet lunch, found some recliners on deck 12 and started to work our way through the cocktail menu. Rosy went off to find the library and I had a look around the ship.
Time soon passed and we were able to access our suite, which was originally an 'H' guarantee, but were upgraded to F 872, the same size, but a couple of decks higher. It was a quiet location near the stern, but very handy for the laundry room. The use of the laundry facilities was free for self-service. My baggage soon arrived, but Rosy's was delayed, so I went to find it, which was easy.
There was plenty of storage space, in drawers, cupboards and plenty of hangers. We had a separate dressing room and a large bathroom with shower and tub. The tub also had a handheld shower fitting. There were good supplies of toiletries, including lemon-scented soap.
The bed was large and extremely comfortable and we slept very well. I often struggle to sleep, particularly when the sea is rough, but no problems this time.
Our suite was decorated with balloons and a 'happy birthday' banner, due to Rosy letting slip that it was my birthday. I also had a postcard from Regent, with birthday wishes and presenting a bottle of bubbly and a small cake. We didn't drink the 'fizz' until about the fourth day, as we'd had more than enough cocktails and wanted to enjoy and 'remember' the evening!
Following pre-cruise advice, we had made advance reservations for the speciality restaurants for the first two nights, thereby giving us further chances later in the cruise, should we so wish. We had also pre-booked our free shore excursions. For the first night we had booked Dinner in Prime 7, the steak-house. We both had 'surf and turf', a 6oz fillet steak, plus lobster tail. It was very good, but no better than we had enjoyed on other cruise lines.
We were very tired after our early start, so we headed off to bed at around 10.30, rather than seeking out entertainment.
Day 2 Marseilles
We awoke late, resulting in a hurried breakfast on a glorious warm morning.
For our first Regent excursion we had booked a half-day tour of Marseilles and Cassis, which included a stop at the pretty seaside village of Cassis, accessed by a road train. I bought some delicious croissants from a local Boulanger. The traffic in Marseilles was very bad, mostly due to extensive harbour regeneration work, as the local tourist board were trying to change the image form industrial city to tourism destination, by introducing cultural activities. We got back to the ship just in time for a buffet lunch, with cocktails, at the Terrace Restaurant. We became very fond of the rear section, which was very quiet and offered excellent views.
We decided to stay on-board for the afternoon, to drink cocktails and to play putting, croquet and shuffle-board.
We had booked dinner in Signatures, the French Restaurant, which Rosy really enjoyed, but I thought it no better than the Compass Rose, the standard restaurant, where reservations weren't required, or available.
Day 3 Cannes -- another beautifully sunny morning
We enjoyed a more leisurely breakfast in our favoured aft location. Most mornings I had the same food, home-made muesli and fresh strawberries, together with fruit juice and coffee. Occasionally I had the daily special, pancakes or waffles. One day I had a rather disappointing omelette.
This was our first tender port, so picked up bus tickets in the theatre and then waited our turn. Our guide took us on what was called a 'Gourmet Tour'. I'm not sure why it was named 'Gourmet', but it did include visits to two wineries for some tasting. At the first stop we enjoyed a very informative wine-tasting, though we seemed to be running out of time, so it felt a bit rushed. We enjoyed some good wines, at a wine distributor but maybe in view of the time of day, late morning, I should have used the spitting bucket more, rather than drinking mine and Rosy's wine! The second stop saw us visiting a Chateau and sitting around large tables, sampling various savoury chutneys on crackers, together with assorted wines.
On our return to the ship, we were disappointed to find the lunch buffet close, so apart from room service; eating options were very limited, which we feel unnecessary on such a premium cruise.
After our snack lunch, we returned to shore for Rosy to swim in the sea and me to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi in the customer 'lounge', which was of poor quality, then we walked around the harbour, gazing at the large yachts, wondering how people can afford such luxuries. We returned to the ship for a wallow in the Jacuzzi and pre-dinner cocktails. There was a wonderful sunset and it was a balmy evening. Life couldn't be better, thank you Lord.
We were going to Dine al fresco in the open air, on Deck 11, eating Italian food, but the wind was a little cool, so we joined another couple inside. We had met them in the Steak-house, so it was nice to meet again. Again I was surprised that he wasn't drinking any wine and it turned out he was a recovering (20 years ago) alcoholic. It must have been difficult seeing everyone guzzling away. I had previously read that Chateau Neuf Du Pape was available on the included wine list, but hadn't seen it, so I asked and out it came. I never looked back and drank it for the rest of the cruise, sharing my good fortune with others!
Day 4 Livorno
I was surprised to see us dock in Livorno, very close to the City, as on previous cruises we had always berthed in the industrial area, requiring a bus ride to the dock gates. This time we could walk and our location was much more attractive.
We enjoyed our usual breakfast, and then took our Lucca and wine tour. We tried to sway to the Lucca cycling tour, but it was full. As it turned out we were fortunate as it rained that morning, the only rain for the entire cruise, so we were glad to return to our bus and the visit to Buonamico wine shop and winery, where we enjoyed a tour and a tasting. I found a nice comfy armchair to sit and watch the world go by, whilst sampling. At one point I was brought a large sample of Grappa, a sort of Schnapps. It was quite strong and I felt a bit sleepy on the return trip.
It was strange to see the Carnival Breeze also in port, knowing that my good friend John Heald was so near, yet so far. We hoped to meet but he was too busy. I had told our CD that John was nearby and he admitted to being an avid reader of the JH Blog and asked me to invite him for lunch. Unfortunately he couldn't make it, but he and John did meet on the Breeze, the next day at Civitavecchia. He was thrilled to have met John and been mentioned on the FB page.
After lunch, on board, we walked into the city for an hour or so, and then returned to the ship.
We had a very enjoyable dinner in the Compass Rose.
Day 5 Rome
As usual for Rome, we had an early start. We had booked the Roma Express, a private train (several cruise lines had coaches on this train). Passengers are bussed about a mile to a special station, where the train awaits, and then a non-stop journey to Rome's St Pietro station. This could be an excellent trip, but give me the standard train any day. If I had paid the $70 for the trip, I'd have felt cheated. We usually pay 11 Euros for a return train journey, with free city transportation for Rome included. Ok we have to walk to station (about 10-15 minutes), but we have plenty of room on the train and they usually run to time. We waited on the 'Special' train for about 15 minutes, then it crawled around the docks, before racing to Rome, but it wasn't any quicker than the normal service and there was very little legroom. The return departure was late, due I think to passengers missing. It was very frustrating and there was no communication. Clearly it is a good option for those who worry about missing the ship, but for intrepid travellers, it's a waste of time and money!
Day 6 Portofino
Portofino is another tender port, but one of the prettiest I have been to and well worth a visit, albeit that the tenders take a long time. We had an afternoon boat trip as our tour, so left the ship straight after breakfast and walked around the coast to the next village (about 30 minutes). The local authority has constructed a good path, offering excellent views. It is possible to walk a lot further, but we wanted to have lunch on the ship, and then return for our tour, but as we had such a long wait for a tender, as did many others, we were all late for the tour. The boat trip took us to another small harbour, but we found it a bit tedious and were glad to get back to Portofino.
That night we returned to the Italian restaurant for our dinner, which was excellent again, helped by drinking copious amounts of red wine.
Day 7 Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo was our last port and we also stayed overnight on the ship, before disembarking on day 8. We had arranged a tour of Villefrance and the Chateau of Baroness Rothschild. Villefrance is a pretty harbour and town and is a popular tender port for cruises. There were some lovely views of the coastline from our tour bus. We stayed in the town for about 45 minutes, before leaving for the Rothschild home, surrounded by beautiful gardens and a dancing fountain. We were given a guided tour of the house and gardens, before returning to the ship for lunch.
In the afternoon we walked around the harbour and went to see some vintage cars, before returning to pack our bags.
We had an excellent dinner in Compass Rose, preceded by the crew show, which was quite good fun.
Day 8 Departure via Nice
On our final day, we had opted for a Riviera Tour on the way to Nice airport. This tour also included a somewhat tedious tour of Nice, when all I wanted was to get to the airport. Mind you, we had plenty of time, once we got to the airport. It was well organised, as porters met the bus and took our bags inside the terminal, where we checked in easily.
Once again, we were able to enjoy the comfort and peace of the lounge, before our short flight back to London.
This was one of best ever cruise experiences, helped by good fortune, good weather and a premium ship, but we didn't consider the cruise to be particularly good value for money.
The entertainment wasn't very exciting and lacked variety. We don't particularly like shows, so all but the 'Beatles' tribute was of no interest. There was an excellent trio, who played and sang well. There was also a pianist who played soft music in the Horizon lounge. We missed the comedians and variety of the bigger ships.
Sometimes it was difficult to get a drink, without actually visiting the bar, particularly on the pool deck. Maybe this was because they were included! At times they needed more bar staff.
The coffee was disappointing, apart from that served in the coffee lounge on deck 5.
It was useful to be able to collect free bottled water before leaving on tours.
The Champagne wasn't as nice as we're used to drinking at home. Some of the wine wasn't to our liking and they immediately tried to sell us an expensive bottle. I wasn't amused.
The water temperature in the hot tubs varied enormously and the staff seemed unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
Rather surprisingly, whilst we found all the serving staff very friendly, some of the officers were not so. One officer ignored my 'good morning'.