We're sailing the Mediterranean aboard the recently refurbished Regent Seven Seas Voyager, where airfare, beverages and most shore excursions are included in the fare. Although we should probably be on the lido deck right now, sipping an all-inclusive cocktail, we are pausing to pen a few words before rushing off to today's special Chocoholics' Teatime. Yes, life is rough on a luxury cruise!
Voyager went into dry dock last November, part of a fleetwide, 125-million dollar upgrade program, designed to bring Regent's other ships more in line with luxe Explorer, launched in July 2016.
What's the result? Below we outline some hits and misses of Regent Seven Seas Voyager.
Hit: Plush, Modern Cabins
All the ship's cabins are referred to as "suites," and even the most basic option is spacious, at 356 square feet. Every cabin has a balcony, and we're particularly enamored of the roomy marble-clad bathrooms, which feature both a tub and a separate shower stall. Cabin furnishings have gone from a staid, yachting look to a more modern design sensibility like you might find at an upscale hotel. Out is dark paneling; in are lighter, brighter tones of gold, spring green, dove grey and cream. The king-sized beds are extra-cushy, with pillow-top mattresses and high thread-count linens -- the sort of beds that cause you to snooze the alarm so many times you risk missing that early morning shore excursion.
Hit: New Decor in Public Spaces
All three lounges have been refitted with chic new decor that strikes a nice balance between comfort and design. The looks are modern, with a dash of art deco, the fabrics are luxurious and the light fixtures -- particularly the Horizons lounge's sculptural glass chandeliers -- add a classy element.
Likewise in the Compass Rose main dining room, which has gone from dark to dazzling. The first thing to strike your eye will be the circular chandeliers, each with hundreds of abstract pieces of crystal. A light-blue color scheme is accented by cream-colored chairs with gold stripes. The colorful dishes are by Versace.
Call us picky, but the carpeting in many of the public hallways has a pattern that makes it appear splattered with nasty spills. The rest of the refurbishments are a big success -- but someone really dropped the ball (or rather, what looks like many pots of coffee) on the carpet. It's just not up to Regent style.
Hit: Chartreuse Specialty Restaurant
Chartreuse, a modern French restaurant, replaces Signatures, a more traditional French venue. As the executive chef onboard explained, Chartreuse is intended to replicate the sort of cuisine young chefs are cooking in Paris. More stylish and upscale than the ongoing "bistronomy" craze in the French capital, Chartreuse turns out Instagram-worthy artistic plates, using both traditional ingredients (duck, foie gras, escargots) and others newer to French haute cuisine (daikon, chickpeas, chorizo). Waiters set a decadent tone up front by delivering truffle butter with the bread presentation. We were particularly impressed by the foie gras terrine with Sauternes gelee; creamy artichoke soup with toasted hazelnuts; and the boneless short rib, cooked sous-vide for 72 hours and topped with cubes of seared foie gras and truffle mousse. Desserts are works of modernist art (and deliver on taste, too). Our favorite was a cylindrical ile flottante, fluffy meringue set in a pool of rich creme anglaise and topped with a sugar sculpture -- a classic French dessert, reinterpreted.
Miss: Internet Connectivity
It's a good news/bad news scenario: you get unlimited internet (great!) but that means everybody stays connected, resulting in an overloaded system (not so great) -- particularly during peak times when passengers are busily uploading photos, video-chatting or checking email after a day ashore. Internet at sea always has issues with speed and connectivity, but we've been particularly frustrated with the situation aboard Voyager.
Hit: New "Make Your Own Menu" in the Main Dining Room
Regent bills its Compass Rose MDR as the "largest specialty restaurant at sea," due to a vast new menu that features a permanent selection of the line's all-time favorite dishes, alongside a changing daily offering. So, you can order foie gras or lobster every night or make your own surf and turf from a number of red meat and seafood options. The choices are boggling!
Hit: Friendly, Personalized Service
Staff make it a point to learn passengers' names, even distinguishing between differing last-names among spouses -- a rarity. We noticed, early on in the cruise, that bar staff often pleasantly surprised passengers by greeting them and asking if they'd like the type of drink they'd previously imbibed. Even when we were waiting for a tender, one of the shore crew chatted us up, inviting us to come to the pool bar later for a special cocktail he promised to concoct. A sommelier spent a good 15 minutes at the end of dinner service talking wines with one couple, when she could have easily bowed out after a long day. A cabin steward may even ask, "How was your dinner?" and a random room-service waiter you encounter in the hallway might inquire, "How was your day ashore?"
Hit: Brunch Buffet in the Galley
It's a wonderful and slightly crazy idea: invite 700 passengers to wander through the ship's main galley, filling their plates from a series of buffet stations. We're impressed that Voyager's galley crew pulled it off so beautifully. From ice sculptures and fruit carvings to charcuterie, a sophisticated array of cheeses (offered by a server who could describe them perfectly), fried chicken, a whole carved turkey and fabulous beef curry, the buffet was a real stunner. Diners walked a red carpet laid through the galley's main aisles, oohing, ahhing and snapping photos of the food displays and equally impressive oversized pots steaming away on stoves in the background. Catch this special meal while you can. Regent Seven Seas is only offering it on select sailings, to celebrate the line's 25th anniversary. We (and plenty of other passengers) hope they'll reconsider and make it a permanent fixture on every cruise.
--By Gayle Keck, Cruise Critic contributor