This cruise was booked in early 2008 to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
SUITE (there are no "cabins") - We booked a G Suite just one up from the entry level H (we did not book the H due to the vibration issues in the back of the Voyager). The minimum suite on the Voyager is as large as Penthouse suites on other lines. At 356 square feet, we had plenty of room with our walk-in closet, big bathroom (shower and tub!), sitting area with a sofa and two chairs and a nice veranda. We LOVED the new bedding and slept so well! That comfort was hard to leave! I also liked the curtain that could be drawn between the sleeping and sitting area to make it easy for one to sleep and another to read without disturbing. (I would love to put this comment in tiny print because it's only a minor thing, however . ... for a Luxury Line I think that the fact that during the refurbishment they did not made a place in the shower to properly fit the toiletries left a bad impression. The toiletries are nice and in fairly big containers but the soap dish is curved and small and they won't stay in it. And the hair dryer was really terrible. I had heard this and was told to bring my own, but since I have fine hair and have never had a problem on any ship, I assumed this would be fine. It was not. These really should be upgraded.
FOOD - My husband and I travel a lot and love good food. We did not come with high expectations but we thought that the food was very good. We enjoyed our meal at Prime 7 (the new steakhouse) although it's not my favorite dEcor. The steaks were good but the lobster tail was great! Compass Rose, the main dining room, was quite good and I enjoyed the menus.
We were able to dine at La Veranda twice although once was a special menu for a Cordon Bleu reception so it was hard to judge that. The other night was a late night dinner at the outside back veranda after a (too long) day in Seville. We really enjoyed the casual ambiance (colorful plates), antipasto buffet and good pasta dishes. We were able to dine at Signatures twice since our Cordon Bleu graduation dinner was held there. I loved the dEcor, the dishes and both meals there were very good. There is also a Pool Bar menu with very good burgers and such. This is also where several times during the cruise they offer a special deck side luncheon like the day they had a Mexican buffet (along with a tequila and margarita bar) and in Monte Carlo a giant bouillabaisse! We never had time to enjoy the afternoon tea in the Horizon Lounge so are unable to comment on that but liked being able to go to the Coffee Connection for cappuccino or espresso (no additional charge). We never tried the 24-hour room service so we can't comment on that but I do know it's not just a limited menu and you can order from the dining room menu.
For those not familiar with Regent, this is open seating (our favorite) and we never had to wait even a moment to be seated in any of the venues. STAFF/SERVICE - Regent bills the line as Six-star and although we thought the service was good it was not six-star and at times not even five star. The majority of our wait staff was good although not exceptional, as we have experienced on two other luxury lines. We also usually get more personal service from the bar wait staff but it was fine. Our stewardess (I think they are all female on the Voyager?) was just ok and several times we had to ask for things more than once. We did not expect anyone to remember our names, but we thought there were a lack of smiles and the feeling of "we are really glad you are here sailing with us!" Although we have kudos for Melissa in the Observation Lounge and Tony and Albert and Jose at the Pool bar!
SHIP - After sailing on smaller ships, we were not sure we would love the 700-passenger size of the Voyager. But we both thought it was a great size with well laid out spaces. The ship was full and yet it never felt crowded. The pool was a decent size with lots of nice lounge chairs (and large towels and pillows) for relaxing (we didn't do enough of that). We loved the outside lounge in the back behind the Horizon Lounge and vowed we would sit out there and never found the time to do it! (we'll blame Le Cordon Bleu but more on that later). We did like the Observation Lounge and wish we'd had a longer cruise with more sea days to spend more relaxation time there (a nice place for sail-away if it's too cool outside on Deck 12) Although the pool area was nice, I thought the pool bar was not set up as a place to meet other passengers as we have found on other ships. I think this area could be redesigned somehow to make it more social. Also it closes at 6 PM! One of my favorite things to do (especially after a long day touring) is to sit at the pool bar enjoy the deck as things quiet down and relax. That was disappointing especially because one would have to dress up to get a drink at one of the other venues.)
INTERNET - The ship is wireless so it was great to use our laptops in our cabin (yes we were on vacation however each of us could not ignore the emails). The Internet was not very fast but it worked and we thought the plans were fairly priced. The Internet center, called Club.com is large and was often full of people. There was usually a manager there who was quite helpful to those in need. (By the way, once you have sailed 21 day at sea you get free Internet which can be quite a value!)
ENTERTAINMENT - Somewhere between the large ship's Broadway style shows and the smaller ship's limitations, the Voyager had a lot of options but often we would miss the shows due to the timing of our dinners. I did sneak in the first 15 minutes of our talented Cruise Director Ray Solaire's puppet show. Don't judge it by its cover - a unique and interesting show. There was a good DJ system in the Nightclub on Deck 4 and they did a fun job of Karaoke night (and yes I did). The guitarist Jerry Vasi seemed to be everywhere! They kept changing his venue and although I wasn't initially a fan, he was THE hit of Liar's Club! Not to be missed! They also brought Flamenco dancers on board in Cadiz who performed on the pool deck but we missed it with our late dinner! I heard it was enjoyable. We never went to see to the Destination speaker, John Tabbutt-McCarthy but listened to him on our stateroom TV and he was one of the best and most knowledgeable that I have ever heard. We had a wonderful guest performer on our last night in Monte Carlo - Melanie Goerlitz, a talented Soprano, who did a pre-dinner Cabaret, which was sadly under attended (as Monte Carlo is a popular spot to enjoy at night and we over-nighted there)
CASINO - The Casino was nicely sized and had a good number of tables and some slots and thankfully not smoky and set to the side so one did not have to traverse it to get to where you had to go! I'm not a gambler but my husband tried it and said it was fine but he didn't find it friendly and inviting.
SHOPS There is basically one large shop and it's "standard" cruise ship fare so we didn't buy anything. (Although they did have some fabulous high end jeweled evening bags - I just closed my eyes when I passed the window!)
SPA/GYM - I was very happy that the spa was not a Steiner and is run currently by Carita of Paris. We each had two massages (one Swedish) and my husband had the Lomi Lomi and I had the Hawaiian Hot Stone. He had the same therapist both days and said she was probably the best he's had on a ship. Mine was good but not exceptional. In 2010, Regent is changing the spa from Carita to The Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Having stayed at both Canyon Ranch properties in the Berkshires and Arizona, we are looking forward to trying this in the future. The Fitness center is small but has enough machines for the number of passengers that wanted to use it. It was supplied with nice towels, cold water and TV's on most of the aerobic machines but many of them did not work well. The biggest complaint I had was that it was very hot and had little ventilation. At minimum, Regent should add a fan or two up in the corner of the ceilings to get some air moving! There were a number of interesting looking classes run by a female instructor but with our many excursions and our Le Cordon Bleu course we never got to try them! But she was very friendly and her classes were well attended.
THEME and Le Cordon Bleu Course Many of the Regent sailings are theme cruises (Spotlights) such a Wine, Chocolate, Arts, Music and in our case Food and Wine along with a very special offering of an exclusive Le Cordon Bleu course. We signed up last year and weren't sure if our investment would be worthwhile. It actually was the highlight of our cruise. This was a full-blown course with not only demonstrations but also hands on cooking in the kitchen shared by Prime 7 and Signatures. We were delighted with our Le Cordon Bleu teacher Gilles Penot who was not only a great chef and teacher but personable and made our hours of cooking great fun! We also enjoyed a cocktail party the first night, a special dinner in La Veranda one night (for just our group) and our very special graduation dinner in Signatures for both groups. Additionally we had a galley tour (which I've done on other ships but always find interesting) but we also got to do a provisions tour which was fascinating to see the various rooms below the passenger decks where everything is stored for all our fabulous meals! This tour was done with Executive Chef Cornel Ruhland who is great and we enjoyed our time with him at our special dinners. If you enjoy cooking don't miss this course!
PORTS AND EXCURSIONS This cruise was very port intensive and one of the reasons we selected this sailing was that with the exception of Lisbon, the ports were all new to us. I'll be brief here as it's just an overview. First generally we thought the excursions arranged through Regent were good on a whole but not great. We're a bit spoiled with smaller groups and don't enjoy the large bus groups (not for the company but just that it's impossible to see a destination well with so many in a group and they are ALWAYS too slow paced for me). The guides generally spoke good English and were knowledgeable but some were so focused on history to a point where there was not time to enjoy the ambience of the location. The ports we thought were highlights were: Bilbao, Spain - For those who think this is only an industrial city that has the Guggenheim museum, take a second look! Yes the Guggenheim was wonderful (and we had a great guide), but the rest of the city is walkable and lovely (not a hint of graffiti as is common in most of the other cities on this itinerary). Lisbon - I had spent 8 nights in Portugal in January of this year (3 in Lisbon) so I was anxious to share it with my husband. We did indulge in a private driver (Not booked through Regent - he was fine but not great and his English was not good) and we drove up to Sintra to see the town and the Pena Palace (I highly recommend it) Barcelona - This was a very long but full day. We didn't get much of a chance to see the city except for the Sagrada Familia (a Gaudi work in progress!) but we thought our day was well spent by going up to Montserrat (about 20 miles from Barcelona)! This is somewhat hard to describe but is a mountain, a sanctuary and a monastery. The original monastery dates back to 1025 and the current Benedictine monastery are active with daily masses and "performances" by the Escolania de Montserrat, Europe's oldest boy's choir. We took the funicular up to the top of the mountain with amazing views looking down on the Basilica. Unlike some of the other many tour groups (like The Grand Princess group) who ate in the cafeteria up at Montserrat, we drove about 45 minutes to a lovely "farmhouse" (call it an estate), Paradis Can Amat, which served typical Catalonian cuisine. We had a private room on the 2nd floor with a large window that opened to the courtyard (it was a beautiful day - did I mention that we had fabulous weather throughout our cruise?). Our large and very wide farmhouse style table was laden (and I really mean to use that word) with more tapas style appetizers than could feed a group 3 times our size. We really enjoyed that with wine, followed by an odd meat course, but it we didn't care by that point. A highlight was Catalonia Crème, a traditional dessert (like a crème brulee but not as solid), followed by muscatel but served in a traditional parron (there are no glasses - you just raise it over your head and pour into your mouth!) We had lots of laughs as only 5 in our group of 17 tried this (and yes I did and was first to do it!) Monte Carlo for Eze - We really enjoyed our brief visit to Eze, a picturesque medieval village in France about 30 minutes from Monte Carlo. The little village with a beautiful ochre church seems perched at the top of the mountain and although full of little cute shops is also jammed with tourists. I can't imagine it in August! I also enjoyed our tour of Monte Carlo and the chance to walk around on our own. Gibraltar - This port turned out to be more interesting than we thought and we enjoyed our cable car ride up to the rock, our time with the Barbary apes, the tour of St. Michael's cave and inside the Siege Tunnels. Other ports - We also stopped at Le Verdon (France) for Bordeaux, Cadiz (Spain) for Seville (entirely too long of a day since it's 1 ½ hours each way by bus to get there, Valencia (a nice town but the Falles museum is over-rated.
OTHER NOTES Because we were traveling as a couple, one of our concerns was the ship's capacity of 700 passengers and the ability to meet and mingle with other guests. One of our favorite things about cruising vs. a land vacation (we love both) is that with cruising there is more opportunity to meet other travelers. We have met some great friends onboard smaller ships. This cruise was happily no exception. We enjoyed two dinners through our Cordon Bleu course so that was nice but we also had dinner with people we met onboard and enjoyed the company of all, and look forward to meeting them again on land or sea!
Because it's a small ship, we had the privilege of having an open Bridge tour one afternoon that I always find interesting. Captain Dag is quite personable (and handsome too!)
Many of you that read this will know that Regent is not only a luxury line but also truly all-inclusive. When comparing the cost with another line this really must be taken into consideration. In 2009 some of the cruises include free shore excursions but regrettably this was not true for our sailing. In 2010 the shore excursions will be included which is truly a stress free vacation option. Regent's all-inclusive amenities include all beverages including wine and alcohol (some premium wines and drinks are an additional charge) and also gratuities, so the onboard experience is very relaxing.
EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS: • Food • Our suite and our wonderful bed and bedding • Fellow guests • Le Cordon Bleu course!
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT • HAIRDRYERS! • Ventilation in the fitness center - at least a fan is a necessity! • Minor I know - but a place to fit the toiletries in the shower • More smiles from some of the staff
There is no cruiseline or cruise experience that is perfect but this cruise was memorable and we felt it was a great choice for our special anniversary. All in all, a wonderful vacation and we took advantage of the onboard booking discount and booked another Regent cruise for 2010 on the Mariner!