This was our 3rd Voyager cruise. We were really looking forward to seeing the changes that were made during the multi-million dollar refurbishment. But, let's start at the beginning.
We booked a Penthouse B suite so that Business Class Air would be included. Regent booked us on British Air from Vancouver to Heathrow. British air has flat-bed seats - a rather strange configuration, but, very comfortable. The food was good -- we were able to sleep - so, the flight seemed quite short.
Upon arrival at Heathrow, the Regent Representative informed us that the bus would be late and we would have to wait an hour. Not the best news to hear after an all-night flight! After an hour we were escorted to the bus. The next bit of news was that the bus driver had to take a 45 minute break before we arrived in Southampton (the law). Once on the road, the bus driver (a lovely man) said that the highway was jammed and he would need to take a detour. The detour was the best part of the ride. We went past Windsor Castle and several other landmarks that were described by our bus driver. The driver only took a ½ hour break while we wandered around some shops. When we reached Southampton, he told us that this was his last day - after many years of driving the bus, he was retiring and looked forward to fishing, etc. We applauded him and went to the ship.
The Voyager looked as amazing as we expected. Shortly after the quick check-in, we were able to go to our suite. The luggage arrived approximately an hour later. The previous week, we upgraded up a Voyager suite on deck 7. This was a full cruise (actually only 665 passengers, but, Regent considered it full). They had contacted passengers up until 2 days before the cruise regarding upgrades and/or voluntary cancellations.
The best thing about a Voyager suite is that it has 1 ½ bathrooms. It also has a lot of windows and a very private balcony. The configuration of the suite is a bit odd - however, we really enjoyed our 11 nights in the suite. Carpets, soft goods - everything was in pristine condition. The service by our butler and stewardess was not excellent - but, very good. There seemed to be an issue with towels and a couple of times we were given only one. A phone call rectified the situation. Note: on this particular itinerary, being on the starboard side of the ship wasn't the best place to be - we had views of container ports in most ports.
The rest of the ship is also beautiful. We particularly liked the dEcor in Prime 7 and the Observation Lounge. Compass Rose was also lovely in spite of those very heavy chairs. The carpeting that was chosen for the public areas of the ship was a bit puzzling. It's a medium/light tan color. When you are on a ship that can be quite rocky, you would think they would select a carpet that wouldn't show every spill, etc. They apparently have to clean it a lot to keep it looking good. When we noticed the same type of shading that appears to be water spots (the same as they had on the previous carpet), it was disappointing. There is a technical explanation for why this happens. Not sure why this only seems to happen on the Voyager.
I'll talk briefly about the ports:
Le Verdon, France - There is nothing in Le Verdon! Regent had a shuttle bus drive passengers through the countryside for 15 minutes to a lovely seaside town with shops, restaurants and a beautiful beach. Apparently, those of us who did not book the 2 hour each way excursion to Bordeaux made a good choice. Reviews on those excursions were fairly poor (note: excursions were not "free" on this cruise).
Bilboa, Spain - Once again, Regent had shuttle buses into town. From the bus we were able to view much of the city. We walked around "old town" - it was a bit early for the tapas restaurants to be open. It was an enjoyable walk.
Lisbon, Portugal - We took a private tour with another couple to Sintra. The area around Sintra is beautiful. We visited the Pena Palace and spent time in the quaint town walking through the small streets. I would highly recommend visiting Sintra.
Gibraltar -- I unsuccessfully tried to book an excursion online for the "Rock Tour". No one answered the multiple requests. We got off the ship as soon as we could and were able to get a van and driver to do the tour. My DH is British, so, this was a significant port for us to tour. We went into the most beautiful cave we had ever seen as well as some of the underground tunnels that were used during the war. The monkeys/apes were absolutely wonderful. They were not jumping on us or attempting to steal our belongings. We respected them by not reaching out to touch or hold them. They showed respect as well by walking right next to us - some with babies on their back and allowing us to take photographs. One little one got off of his mothers back to play with my DH's shoe. . . a really cute moment. There is also some great shopping in Gibraltar. Unfortunately, the ship only stops there for 5 hours.
Cadiz, Spain - We arrived at Cadiz on a Sunday when everything was closed and, unlike Gibraltar where we would have liked more time, we had all day to do nothing there. We decided to go on the HOHO (hop on hop off) bus which gave us a tour of the city. No one got off the bus as there was no where to go other than a lovely beach where it appeared every single of resident of Cadiz was - very crowded. Note: This was the only place we visited where we could not find any graffiti. This is a very clean city.
Valencia, Spain - We once again took the shuttle bus to get into town. The main reason we did not stay long in town was the bull ring. My DH found it fascinating - looked at all the "bull-related" things for sale. I just wanted to get the heck out of there. Just the thought of how many bulls died there was enough to put me off of that area.
Barcelona, Spain - The warnings we received about this city really scared us. Regent suggested not carrying anything in your hands. Pick pocketing and theft is really rampant in this city. Again, we decided to go to town early (around 9:30 a.m.). We find that the crowds and buses haven't arrived and we are able to see more.
The shuttle bus took us within 3 blocks of Las Rambla (aka Las Ramblas). It really is worth seeing - particularly at that time of day when things are getting set up. We were able to watch the "mimes" and other acts putting on their make-up and costumes without hoards of people around. Half way down Las Rambla is the Boqueria Market. This was the best and largest open market we have seen. We must have spent an hour in there. The array of fish, meat, vegetables. . . . everything you can think of (including heads) were there - very fresh. Wish we had access to a market like that at home.
After walking the entire distance of Las Rambla, we took a cab to the Goudy Cathedral/Temple. There is a lot of construction going on there. . . . still, it is worth seeing.
Monte Carlo was amazing. The fact that we had perfect weather helped (we had approximately 75 degree weather every day on the cruise). The bay is magnificent. There was a "regatta" being held so there were an incredible amount of beautiful sailboats on the water. We sat on the balcony in the afternoon and just watched them. Earlier in the day we went to the Jacques Cousteau Oceanographic Museum. The species of fish in enormous tanks were spectacular. We walked up to the palace and then took a very long walk back to the ship.
Back to the ship. We took a Le Cordon Bleu class on this cruise. We highly recommend this class. It is fun and you learn something along the way. There is something about cooking in the Signatures kitchen while "real" chef's are around doing their thing that is quite unique. There were three classes scheduled to go two hours (they went three) plus a tour of the kitchen and food storage areas and private dinners in La Veranda and a graduation dinner in Signatures (they close the restaurant for this). This was definitely a highlight of our cruise.
The service on the Voyager was different than past cruises on any of the Regent ships. There was a genuine friendliness that was more apparent than before. Rather than trying to learn the name of every passenger, they remember who you are and things about you. For instance, the 2nd night I visited the Observation Lounge before dinner, the server said "Chocolate Martini? And, where is your husband, may I make him a Cosmo?" We were extremely impressed with the service at all levels.
We dined at Prime 7 the first evening. Having been a fan of Latitudes, it was hard to get over the feeling that we would have preferred being there. However, the crab was probably the best we have ever had. The rest of the meal was "okay". We were not in a hurry to return. A few days later, we did try it again. This time I had Maine lobster - okay - not great. My DH had steak - good, but not as good as Compass Rose. The service was good - the ambience is quite lovely.
La Veranda for breakfast and lunch just seemed to fit our very busy days. Between classes, port days, etc., there was little time to relax. The service on the port side of the ship (to the right when you enter) was exemplary (Linda's section). The other side was okay. The food in La Veranda will never blow us away - we try a little bit of many items. Some are extremely good - others aren't. They did a dynamite paella for lunch one day. . . yummy! The pizza is not worth mentioning except that they have the pizza oven and put two different kinds of pizza under the heat lamp at lunch every day. The pasta bar was not there most days and was greatly missed (by me). We did not dine at La Veranda in the evening (except for the special menu prepared for the Le Cordon Bleu class was perfection).
Compass Rose was better overall than on prior cruises. The steak and lamb in particular are superb. For some reason, the potato's served on the plate are never cooked through. We order a side of mashed potato's that are always very good (my DH occasionally orders fries that are also well prepared). Although the service in all of Compass Rose is probably great, we found an area that suited us and dined there every night we were in CR. We enjoy getting to know the staff - the service was perfect - no reason to sit elsewhere.
Signatures was not our favorite dining venue. After 2 cruises of horrible halibut and a disappointing graduation dinner on this cruise, we were hesitant to try again. We must be gluttons for punishment as we ordered the halibut yet again. It arrived undercooked. We sent it back and ordered rack of lamb. Finally. . . . . the right choice. It was cooked to perfection. It was a wonderful meal with service to match!
Disembarkation was more than a little disappointing. A busload of us were disembarking at 4:45 a.m. We asked at least three employees how we could get some coffee and a bite to eat before we left for the airport. We received three different answers - all of them incorrect. There was nothing put out for the disembarking passengers - not a cup of coffee - nothing! Very poor!
Regent booked us on Lufthansa back to Vancouver (with a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt). For those who are familiar with Frankfurt airport, it has been a place that most of us would like to avoid. We were happy to learn that it is in the process of a full make-over which should be complete this year. Their "dirty" Business Class lounge is gone - the new one should have opened this week. The temporary lounge was clean and had nice soups, sandwiches and drinks. The flight home was quite nice.
The bottom line is that this was an excellent cruise. Some people go on a luxury cruise ship with expectations that could never be met. Others don't take the smaller size of a luxury ship into consideration and expect the same amenities as they receive on a 2,000 passenger ship. For us, Regent meets our expectations and we remain happy cruising with them. In fact, we will again be on the Voyager in November - less than two months away. I will no doubt do another review as the ship will have a different Captain, Head Chef and Cruise Director. It should be another interesting adventure!