If there ever was a couple more reluctant to take a cruise, it was us. My first and only cruise was a disastrous cruise on NCL, which was so awful that I swore I would never cruise again! My husband, who has never cruised, was frightened off by the many stories of seasickness, crowded ships, crowded tour buses and the all you can eat buffet mentality. So, to find us on a cruise was a miracle in itself! Needless to say, in a weak moment, we decided to book a cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager. The high ratings it received from several Travel Magazines, plus the seven-night itinerary (Athens to Rome), appealed to us. Armed with our seasick bands and a high level of anxiety, we headed off to the airport. We flew to Athens via JFK on Olympic Airlines. Despite some ugly reviews of Olympic, we had a very good experience with this airline! New plane, comfortable seats and fairly friendly crew. We arrived in Athens around 11 AM on Saturday morning and headed to the port. Since we had some time to kill before boarding the ship, we had our driver take us on a quick tour of Athens. We arrived at the port (Piraeus) at 2PM and were immediately greeted by a Regent Representative who walked us through the gate directly onto the ship. Not a line in sight. On board the ship, we were warmly welcomed by Dana and Jamie Logan, the ship's Cruise Directors. We were immediately offered a glass of champagne and spent the next few minutes checking into the ship. Again, no lines and a speedy check in!
Since we embarked earlier than the suggested time, our cabin wasn't quite ready, so we were encouraged to tour the ship and/or enjoy lunch at La Veranda on Deck 11. Served buffet style (uh oh), the lunch was fairly good, but limited in offerings. While lunching, we did notice some ship vibration as we sat at our table. Turns out this is a minor problem, but fortunately, this did not impact us at all during the rest of our trip. The service was exceptional and everyone was warm and welcoming. Right after lunch, we were able to go to our cabin. It was much nicer than we anticipated. The walk-in closet was very roomy, the bathroom with its separate shower and bathtub exceeded our expectations and the balcony promised many wonderful views. On top of this, we were greeted with a bottle of champagne and a chocolate cake compliments of the Captain in celebration of our anniversary. Nice touch! We were also introduced to our stewardesses Therese and Lena who were responsible for making up our rooms and answering general housekeeping questions we might have throughout the cruise. They were wonderful throughout the cruise! Never once, did they not greet us with a Good morning/Good afternoon greeting and smile! In fact, I left my Blackberry charger at home and not only did they find a charger for me, but they charged my Blackberry for me while we were at dinner!!! Now that's service above and beyond!
At 6:00 PM, we set sail for Santorini, Greece. This was to be the first of many evenings where we would sit on our balcony, wine glass in hand watching one beautiful sunset after another. With each sunset, our anxiety over cruising was fading fast. In addition to our early evening balcony ritual, we also grew to love awakening in the morning to find ourselves at yet another beautiful port waiting for us to explore. In fact, our first morning at see found us docked off the coast of Santorini, Greece. The views were gorgeous and we couldn't wait to explore the island. We spent the early part of the morning on a shore excursion to Fira, which was just enough for us to get a taste and feel of Santorini we spent some time in town and then headed back to the ship. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the Mediterranean sun at the ship's pool. The pool deck was a bit of a disappointment as it seemed sparse, but certainly not a showstopper for us. Day 2 found us in Kusadasi, Turkey. This was to be my husband's favorite port mainly because of our tour to Ephesus. Don't miss this tour, we're still raving about it! One could almost imagine themselves back in ancient Roman Times. Our guide, Mustapha was an incredible story teller and had all of us (if for the moment) back in 292BC! The only downer for this port was the extremely aggressive shopkeepers, who practically dragged you into their stores. This was a turnoff and we headed back to the ship for our afternoon siesta and sun. Note of interest, if you are looking for good knock off designer bags and leather goods, this is the place to get them. Day 3 in Rhodes was another gorgeous, sunny day. We took the old and new Rhodes City Tour, which ended at a local winery where we sampled several local Turkish Wines. Our tour guide, Dora, was wonderful and was not put off by our fading interest in the Rhodes museums in fact, several of us waited outside the museum in the warm sun as we had overdosed on the site seeing activities. The local shopping area was quaint and the shopkeepers a lot more sedate than in Turkey. The Day at Sea was well received by us as we needed to just chill out and relax. We spent the morning in the gym (very small with limited workout equipment, but just enough equipment to get a decent workout) and the afternoon at the pool. If you plan to go to the pool on the Day at Sea, get there early. We couldn't find any chairs on the main deck and ended up on the top deck, where it was a bit windy. I planned on going to the Art Auction that day, but it was cancelled due to lack of interest& Instead, we went to the Olive Oil Tasting Seminar, which was quite informative and tasty! We were also in for a fun treat when Jamie Logan, the Cruise Director, water skied off the back of the ship. That was a lot of fun for all of us and was one of the many special events that made this trip so wonderful. By the way, Jamie and his wife Dana were a real delight. They were warm, friendly and very engaging. In fact, each night Jamie was televised talking about the next day's events. We looked forward to this nightly ritual as we planned our next day's events. As to how wonderful Jamie was, my husband was so disappointed that he missed the group tour of the bridge (somehow we missed the Captain's announcement) and the next day, Jamie treated my husband to a private tour of the bridge. My husband was a kid in a candy store on that tour. Thanks Jamie! Surprisingly and against our pre-conceived notion about shipboard buffets, the lunch buffet at the pool was exceptional! Fresh fish, meats, cheeses, etc. it put a whole new meaning to the all you can eat buffets on a cruise. It was tastefully done and very relaxed. On our third night at sea, we ate dinner at Latitudes (Asian Fusion). This was the first night that we sat with a group of people, which turned out to be a lot of fun. In fact, we closed the restaurant!!! The food was okay, not fabulous, although the lamb was scrumptious! The service was excellent, which is something we found throughout all of the restaurants. The wait staff was always looking to please us and this made for many pleasurable meals. Our dinner in Signatures (Cordon Bleu Restaurant) was just okay, too, although the Mushroom Soup was incredible as were the desserts -- yum! As to judging restaurants, we are a bit spoiled as we live in the Philadelphia area, which is home to Le Bec Fin, Striped Bass and other highly rated restaurants! One of our favorite on board restaurants was actually Compass Rose. The food was exceptional as was the service and ambiance. In fact, we thought this was the best restaurant of all. The salt bread was my downfall AND I'm not even a bread eater! Dessert was my husband's downfall he's still talking about the Tartuffe Bianco dessert. If he could have had that dessert every night, he would have foregone dinner! Needless to say, we threatened to join Overeater's Anonymous once we landed back on home turf! This review would not be complete without mentioning the Captain of the Ship, Dag Dvergastein or as he called himself, Our Driver. He was so personable (quick with a smile and a hello) and so full of good humor that you couldn't help but smile whenever he broadcast over the ship or happened to be in your company. Our last night of the cruise, he treated all of us to a very special farewell cocktail party along the Isle of Capri. On one end of the ship was a gorgeous sunset and on the other end of the ship was the moon over the hills of Capri. It was a magical and wonderful ending to a fabulous cruise. Needless to say, we are now cruise converts thanks to our experience on Regent's Seven Seas Voyager. In fact, we are now planning our next cruise (on Regent of course!) same time, next year! BON VOYAGE!