Seven Seas Voyager - Central America/Panama Canal: Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Review by mountainsailors

Seven Seas Voyager 5
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Seven Seas Voyager - Central America/Panama Canal

Sail Date: December 2005
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Overall Evaluation: This review is intended for Cruise Critic readers and Radisson staff. It is long and detailed so the summary is presented here. You can read the details if you wish.

After years of enjoyable cruises aboard ships from Celebrity, Costa and Royal Caribbean, it comes time to try something a little upscale  fewer guests, more space; fewer frills (Climbing wall, anyone?) more luxury; fewer activities, more time to reflect. So we embark on our first Radisson Seven Seas Cruises experience.

The cruise was amazing. The ship and cabin, the staff, the dining and the amenities all exceeded our expectations. With a capacity of 700 guests and an actual count of 615, the smaller ship never felt crowded or even populated.

We found this cruise to be an excellent value if all things are considered  especially for the six-star luxury it afforded. Details follow.

Embarkation: Shortly after Noon, embarkation from Port Everglades went very More smoothly. A port staffer met our car and gave us luggage tags with our cabin number. Ordinarily guests would have luggage tags ahead of time with their travel documents. We booked late.

Entering the ship on Deck 5 we were presented with crystal flutes of champagne, which we were to find a very frequent pleasure, and informed that our cabin would be ready at 3 PM. Restaurants for lunch were suggested and we went to Deck 4 to Compass Rose.

We used the time to make reservations at Signatures, the Cordon Bleu French restaurant, and Latitudes, the Asian fusion specialty venue.

Fresh fruit, fresh flowers and a chilled bottle of good Champagne (actually a sparkling white wine from the Loire Valley) greeted us as our cabin was ready exactly at 3 PM. Our luggage and cabin attendant arrived minutes afterward.

We made our in-cabin liquor selections and un-packed into the roomy walk-in closet. There were four cans of beer in the fridge along with four more left by the cabins previous occupant along with two bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, also left behind.

Ship: The Seven Seas Voyager is simply beautiful. The dEcor is elegantly understated, a sort of chic grace and style; the Atrium, extending from Deck 4 to Deck 11, is quite attractive although the stairs across the space detracted somewhat from an open and airy feeling.

There are two banks of elevators for use by guests. Only the two aft elevators go to Deck 12. The cluster of five elevators forward have curved glass walls looking out into the Atrium.

The jogging track on the Sun Deck, Deck 12, mid-ships, overlooks the pool and measures 7 laps to the mile.

Public areas: Restrooms  They are large, elegantly decorated and spacious. There are always fresh flowers and terry hand towels.

Pool: There is a small salt water pool and two jetted hot tubs on Deck 11. There are always ample lounges even on sea days. The tables and chairs are genuine teak.

A cruisers secret  there is a secret hideaway for sunbathing on Deck 5 sunny side with plenty of lounges. Check it out.

Cabin: Our Category H cabin, Deck 6 aft, the standard Deluxe Suite, measures 306 square feet plus a 50 square foot veranda. All cabins on the Seven Seas Voyager have verandas. The cabin is almost twice the size of a standard mass-market cruise line cabin.

The all marble bathroom accommodates a full-size bathtub plus a glass-enclosed shower. For once I found ample storage space for personal items.

There is a walk-in closet with more than ample hanging and drawer storage and a safe.

The cabin itself is furnished with a king-size bed, not queen, a large sofa, cocktail table with two chairs, a writing desk with a chair, a vanity with chair  in other words, plenty of room and a veranda with two chairs and a table.

The cabinets above the mini-fridge and desk contained crystal Champagne flutes, old fashioned glasses, water glasses and wine glasses plus coasters, napkins, stirrers, an ice bucket and a Champagne bottle stopper.

The television with DVD player features 21 channels with the usual on-board telecasts plus CNN International, ESPN International and FOX News Channel. There are four continuous movie channels with a printed schedule in the cabin.

There is a DVD library on Deck 5 with hundreds of titles  drama, comedy and childrens.

Our cabin attendant, Rosalie, was superlative. The cabin was always made-up and always ready with ice, flowers and fresh fruit. Additional cans of tonic were promptly delivered and I never again ran out.

There was some sound and vibration from the propulsion system. When large swells were encountered in the Pacific off Mexico, there were numerous clicks and rattles concentrated at the vanity mirror. A few small pieces of cardboard diminished this nuisance somewhat. But the vibration and noise is disappointing considering the otherwise outstanding qualities of the ship.

Dining: There are four open seating restaurants plus a grill at the pool.

La Veranda  Located on Deck 11 Aft, the buffet-style restaurant has a buffet line on each side of the ship.

In addition to the buffet lines, at breakfast there are two omelet stations. At lunch there are stations offering pizza, pasta, carved meats and other dishes.

Desserts are given their own station.

Breakfast features one hot cooked-to-order special every day delivered to your table: French toast, minute steak, banana pancakes, eggs Benedict, etc. Otherwise the breakfast buffet is rather consistent although of excellent quality: eggs, bacon, sausages, hash, baked beans, broiled tomatoes plus cold meats, smoked salmon and other European-style items. Omelets and toast are made to order and delivered to your table hot.

At lunch the food is quite good with a large number of choices. The salad bar is especially good. There are always one or more fish dishes, a pasta station and roasted meat  goose, turkey, prime rib, pork roast  at a carving station.

Very attentive waiters bring drinks and special meal orders.

On alternate evenings (6:30 PM to 9 PM), the port side of La Veranda is transformed alternately into a Mediterranean Bistro or Italian Steakhouse. Dinner begins with a visit to the antipasto bar: dolmas, marinated vegetables, meats and cheeses, cold shellfish, other innovative appetizers, salads and much more. The Mediterranean Bistro menu features soups, pastas and several main courses of veal, beef, chicken and fish  all uniformly excellent.

A sample Mediterranean Bistro dinner: antipasto buffet, Tuscan bean soup, salad, pasta with proscuitto and tomato sauce, veal with truffle sauce. The beef medallions with Balsamic reduction are especially memorable along with two lobster tails in tomato reduction. There is always a hot dessert  bananas Foster, flambEed peaches, etc.  as well as a dessert bar. Coffee, espresso, Cappuccino is offered. After dinner liqueurs are available.

The Italian Steakhouse was quite similar but with more grilled meats.

There are always good, medium quality white and red wines offered. No Barolos, unfortunately. These may be ordered and paid for from a separate wine list. Cocktails are also available.

The Pool Grill  Deck 11, outside and mid-ships, 11 AM to 4 PM. Featuring cooked-to-order grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, grilled fish of the day, minute steak, grilled chicken breast, pizza, veggie burger and Cuban sandwiches. One places an order with table number and a waiter promptly delivers the food, hot and tasty.

Days at sea featured special theme buffets set on additional tables. Some examples: a caviar and vodka bar (included) with stone crab claws, king crab legs and steamed mussels plus a complete German buffet with Heineken beer on tap (I cant figure the connection); a grilled steak and lobster buffet; a Mexican buffet; grilled fresh fish brought on board at Huatulco featuring several varieties; and Burger Heaven with a variety of cooked-to-order grilled hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken, sausages and veggie patties.

Compass Rose  Deck 4 mid-ships, 6:30 PM to 9 PM. The main dining room is on one level, beautifully decorated and furnished with ample space between tables.

The menu offers appetizers, soups, salads and main courses. Early courses are excellent. There are always a set of optional dishes offered  steak, fish and vegetarian. The various items are blended into several suggested menus: vegetarian, lactose intolerant, etc.

White and red wines are offered and cocktails are available. Our companions one evening asked for the red wine they enjoyed from Signatures. Done.

The food was uniformly excellent and always delivered hot. Some examples: Crab-cucumber Gateaux, Consumme with Profiterole (which contained a daub of pate de foie gras), Inter Cabbage and Potato Soup, Lamb Chops, Veal Chops, Boeuf Bourguinnone,

It was quite pleasant not having over-burdened assistant waiters with huge trays stacked with covered plates obscuring our view.

The dessert menu is offered after dinner along with a variety of ice cream. Good coffee is served promptly.

There was no Lobster Night. Instead lobster appeared frequently on the menu as appetizers, soups, salads and main courses.

Signatures  Deck 5 aft, 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM is the traditional French restaurant of the Voyager with supervision from Le Cordon Bleu. Note that there is no extra charge for dining at Signatures and reservations are required. A note at your cabin door in the morning reminds you of your reservation. The menu changes weekly.

There is a variety of offerings for each course: appetizer, soup, salad, main course and dessert. Each dish we sampled was delicious, served hot, when appropriate, and beautifully presented. The service was prompt and attentive, the glassware and dishes of the finest quality. Good red and white French wines are offered.

The Crustacean Bisque with Avocado, Tomato and Crab Garnishes is a good example of a soup course. There were several appetizers featuring fresh seafood. Typical main courses were Grilled Salmon with Buerre Blanc; Scallops with Cream Sauce.

The Crème Brulee was the best weve had.

I was reminded of a traditional New York French restaurant in the upper price and quality range.

Latitudes  Deck 5 aft, 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM offered an Asian-fusion menu from its open kitchen. Note that there is no extra charge for dining at Latitudes and reservations are required. A note at your cabin door in the morning reminds you of your reservation. The fixed menu changes weekly. Here is the menu from one of our weeks:

Beverage specialties: Welschriesling, Leo Hillinger, Rust, Austria, 2004; Small Hill, Leo Hillinger, Austria, 2004; San Miguel Premium Lager, Philippines; Tiger Lager Beer, Singapore; green and jasmine teas.

Appetizer course (all): Vegetables Lumpia Sariwa with Garlic and Soy Sauce; Vietnamese Grilled Pork Balls; Chiang Mai-Sesame Shrimp Toast; Malaysian-Style Beef Satay; Thai-Lao Duck and Black Bean Crisp Rolls. After the appetizer course the lovely and courteous Mariton asked if we would like more. Indeed we would!

Soup: Lemon Grass Infused Creamy Pumpkin Soup. This dish is so popular that it was included in a cooking class by the Latitudes chef, Gerry Garcia (not that Jerry Garcia).

Salad: Aromatic Vietnamese Chicken Salad with Roasted Peanuts.

Main Courses (all): Grilled Lobster Tail with Lime Leaves, Carrots, Apples and Curry; Braised Chicken in Coconut Milk Vietnamese Style; Garlic-Orange-Sherry Marinated Oven Baked Rack of Lamb; Served with Steamed Jasmine Rice and Sa-Ho Noodles.

Dessert: Home Baked Passion Fruit Tart with Blackberry Coulis and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream.

We enjoyed this menu so much we went again with friends two nights later.

Coffee Corner: Deck 5, port side forward, 24 hours. The Coffee Corner offers 24 hour coffee and tea service with several tables and comfortable chairs and a large screen plasma television. An automatic machine provides fresh, hot coffee, cafe latte, cappuccino and espresso, de-caf or high-test. From 6:30 AM to 11 AM fresh squeezed juices, fruit, pastries and doughnuts are available.

Wine and Liquor: Given the all-inclusive nature of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, it should come as no surprise that beer, wine and liquor are provided at various times and venues. Whenever I was thinking free, my wife reminded me included.

Upon embarkation we found beer in the fridge and our choice of liquor for the cruise. We chose a liter each of Beefeater and Tanqueray gins. Tonic in the fridge and lime slices from any bar.

Wine is included with all evening meals. The choices vary by restaurant: French for Signatures, Italian for La Veranda, California and international for Compass Rose. Several international beers are offered in Latitudes. Wine service is attentive and frequent.

Cocktails may be ordered from your dinner table. Included.

At lunch, single glasses of wine may be ordered from the Pool Grill and La Veranda.

Trays of Champagne and rum punch are passed at special events, see below, and cocktails may also be ordered.

The Rose Bowl Tailgate Party and the caviar-German Pool Grill buffet included Heineken beer on tap.

Bars: The Pool Bar (Deck 11, 9 AM to 6 PM), the Observation Lounge Bar (Deck 11, 11 AM to 5 PM and 8 PM to 1 AM), the Voyager Lounge (Deck 4, 2 PM to &), the Horizon Lounge (11 AM to 1 AM), all serve excellent cocktails with tasty hot and cold appetizers at appropriate times. Drink and wine prices run from $ 6.50 to $ 8.50, 15% tip included ($ 5.22 to $ 7.39 without tip).

A caviar and vodka bar was set up outside the Voyage Lounge several nights serving a variety of caviars and vodkas.

Entertainment: There were small music groups in the bars during appropriate evening hours. On this fourteen night cruise, the beautiful Constellation Theater offered: eight single acts, singers or comedians; four Broadway-style reviews with four outstanding singers and eight dancers; and a special treat  a classical pianist that gave two shows with the ships orchestra and a daytime recital.

The Broadway-style reviews were fully staged with elaborate sets, special effects and very good performers  classical to pop.

Casino: Small with slots and table games.

Attire: Radisson suggests Country Club casual (resort-style outfits) is appropriate for daytime on board ship or ashore. Evening attire can be Country Club casual, informal or formal. Casual wear includes open neck shirts, slacks and sport outfits. For informal evenings, dresses or pantsuits, coats and ties are suggested. Formal evening-wear is gowns and cocktail dresses, tuxedos, dinner jackets or dark suits.

The evening dress code is recommended for all public venues after 6 PM. I saw only an occasional infraction and those people really stood out.

Shorts on ladies and gentlemen were commonplace around the ship and in La Veranda for breakfast and lunch. No tank tops, halter tops or bathing suits were seen except at the pool.

On this fourteen night cruise, there were three formal nights, three informal nights and eight Country Club casual nights.

Activities and Programs: There are a variety of activities and programs each day, with a larger selection on sea days  arts and crafts classes, destination lectures, bridge instruction, gardening lectures and an occasional cooking demonstration.

Radisson produces an extensive Enrichment Program with formal lectures and less formal get-togethers. This cruise featured former Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who spoke on homeland security; Dr. Alan Fisher discussing the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Mexico and California; Dr. Oded Rudawsky who spoke on the economics of mineral extraction; and Jake Jacobs, a former military and commercial pilot and photography expert.

There were also a number of special events which made for a more interesting and personal cruise:

Sail Away Party  On the Pool Deck we were greeted with tables of hot and cold appetizers and trays of Champagne and rum punch and the ships dance band. We were delighted to meet two of the ships young entertainers whom we kept up with through the cruise.

Block Party  At 6 PM on the second night out, each corridor offered wines and Champagne and an opportunity to meet our neighbors. Crew members, stewards and entertainment staff made for a festive atmosphere. Our block party had eighteen attendees, rumored to be one of the larger.

Rose Bowl Tailgate  A projection television was set up in the Voyager Lounge with large-screens elsewhere to watch the Rose Bowl game  USC fans to one side, Texas fans to the other. Snacks, hot dogs and chicken wings were served with Heineken. If youve never had hot dogs off of fine China and cold beer in crystal goblets, you should try it sometime. A betting matrix was set up, $ 20 a square.

New Years Eve Countdown Under the Stars  Again on the Pool Deck Champagne, rum punch and appetizers with the dance band and guest entertainers. Hats and party favors were supplied.

Meeting the Seven Seas Mariner  At 10:30 in the evening on our way to Huatulco, we rendezvoused with our sister ship, the south-bound Seven Seas Mariner. Our Captain Dag Dvergastein had us all sign a six liter bottle of fine French Champagne which we presented to the Mariner from our cat boat. In return, we received a handsome world map signed by all of the guests aboard the Mariner. After a half hour of waving, music and spotlights, the two ships performed a ballet, each slowly making a 360 degree circle around the other then continuing on into the night. A remarkable experience. Again with the Champagne.

Captains Welcome Reception  In the Atrium.

Captains Farewell Cocktail Party  In the Constellation Theater highlighted by musical numbers performed by the crew. We were surprised and delighted to see our cabin stewardess perform.

There are NO limbo contests, horse races or belly-flop contests at the pool. Very refined.

There is a childrens program, Club Mariner, but very few children on the ship  reflecting the good advice to book longer cruises outside of holidays to avoid them.

Launderettes: There are launderettes on Decks 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, open from 7 AM to 10 PM. Each has two front-loading washers and two dryers. No need to bring any quarters  they and the soap are included. There are also two irons and ironing boards in each. Only occasionally on sea days were the machines not available.

Computers and Internet Access: There is a central computer room. on Deck 5. Open 24 hours, computer use and printing are free. The 19 personal computers were seldom totally occupied, usually after lunch on days at sea. Internet access is available for a $ 3.95 registration fee and $ 0.35 per minute or $ 25 for 100 minutes or $ 50 for 250 minutes. There was no hard-wired connection to our cabin.

Wireless Internet access is available in and around for the same fees. Using your own computer can reduce your expenses if you use a client E-mail program such as Outlook or Outlook Express rather than Web mail. You need be connected only to download your E-mail and later upload your replies; reading E-mail and composing replies can be done off-line. Coffee and soft drinks are available in

Shore Excursions: There are many shore excursions available in each port, enough variety to satisfy all tastes and reasonably priced considering they are from a cruise ship.

We particularly enjoyed the Fury Catamaran Sail and Snorkel from Key West (3 hours, $ 45) and Sailing Catamaran Cruise from Cabo San Lucas (2 hours, $ 45 although it went three hours). The latter featured extensive sightings of migrating humpback whales.

In between we had an outing at the Gatun Lake Yacht Club in the Panama Canal. The crew set up a bar-b-que buffet with beer and soft drinks and we enjoyed a folklorico show and swimming in Gatun Lake. We can now say we swam in the Panama Canal.

Personnel Uniformly excellent. The largely Filipino cabin and dining crew were friendly and outgoing and attentive to their guests needs. At the La Veranda buffet and Pool Grill you arent left alone as on mass-market cruises; at breakfast and lunch they are there to bring special orders, drinks, wine, almost anything you could wish for. Remember, tips are included in the fare although it felt right to tip our cabin stewardess the usual daily amount at the end of the cruise.

The officers are efficient, friendly and Norwegian. Captain Dag seems to be everywhere on the ship and has a wonderful sense of self-effacing humor, as when he confessed over the public address system that he got the clock settings wrong between Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas.

Cruise Director Jamie Logan and Assistant Cruise Director Dana Logan (yes, theyre married) are ubiquitous, friendly, effective and, importantly, available. The ships dancers and singers show up at most events to mingle and socialize. They are charming. We enjoyed a delightful dinner in La Veranda with dancer Kim and Singer Corinne.

Debarkation Colored luggage tags are distributed the night before debarkation, bags are placed outside ones cabin before 11 PM and will be found ashore. The morning of debarkation, passengers are directed to public rooms to await the announcement of their colors. It went very smoothly. All guests were ashore by 10 AM.

Other FAXed major newspapers are available in your cabin for $ 4.95 per day each. Printed news summaries from the U.S. and Britain are delivered to your cabin each morning.

Library  There is an excellent library on board, with a wide assortment of good books neatly categorized.

Photographers are only to be found at embarkation and special events. Very nice.

Tendering went well at ports where required. Bottled water and beach towels were always available at the gangway. Less

Published 03/06/06

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