Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Review by NauticaNelly
As a long time SSS member and Radisson cruiser, we have continued our cruising with the Regent product and each time, bringing our expectations and hopes that the experience remains the same despite the corporate change of hands. Our most recent foray was on the Voyager from Athens to Rio. Sadly, that Radisson famous service is no longer available. For the very things that used to make cruising unique on this line and encourage longetivity and loyalty amongst their guests, all have gone by the wayside in favour of the bottom line. A fellow SSS passenger reported to me that the new president Frank DelRio himself gauchely stated to guests that he no longer wanted to world cruisers or long-term travellers, "there was no money to be made off them". In essence, it's a slow destrcution or "Carnivalization" model this company is moving towards, and they are taking no prisoners, and in our opinion going the entirely wrong way about it. Solid shoreside staff who used to be well equipped to deal with the unforseen, or resolving issues pertaining to guest relations have been replaced by managers with no practical business experience and who have instead ridden up the corporate ladder and weild their newfound power with an unqualified sword. One such manager (name eludes us- French guy?)was apparently boarding in Puerto Rico but outright refused to meet with any guests despite a group of us approaching the chief purser. Perhaps he was ill equipped (crew told us he was a former maitred!!) to deal with questions on his and other's decision making that are substantially affecting the cruise experience itself. Consequently, they are allowing all those wonderful and memorable staff you would recall from past cruising who genuinely cared about the company to mass exit, and instead replacing them with crew who will work for less, and be entirely too busy to pay attention to the finer details we had all come to love. Less crew and more work means they aren't happy. We noted a number of the former crew have relocated employers on our last Silverseas cruise, and in conversations with some of the key individuals still onboard, expect to see more of them mass exiting in future with little or nothing to be done in attempting to keep the very folk who made these ships worthwhile. Indeed, a sad state of affairs and points very much to the possibility of unqalified and foolish corporate decision makers. This is the only reasoning as to why they are willing to destroy the very product that set them apart from the rest of the industry. Compass Rose The best this has to offer is the flexibility for it's diners in both menu and seating. The food has certainly gone downwards, and although they do their best to disguise it, in quality it is apparent. Maitre'd Luis was on for part of our segment and is the consummate professional. The sommolier Craig is the finest we've come in contact with and knows his wines inside out. Ordering items that are off the menu still permits for those with discerning tastes, and this is a gesture appreciated in the ever-evolving cruise industry. A good meal, but has lost it's sparkle. Verandah Buffet style, and often destination based, the offerings up here are hit and miss. Certainly kudos go out to the effort in which it takes to serve up a large variety, and it does break the monotony of the other onboard offerings. But expect chewier, cheaper cuts of meat, less exotic fruit and veg, and instead more mass production. When we requested a specific regional wine, we got the impression that we were somehow putting them out, and yet, throughout our lengthy voyage this was the same wine we had requested with nearly every suited meal. No strike against our hard working wine sommolier or waiter, as it was apparent they were not the ones at fault. Evening and Day Entertainment Although the lecturers are still for the most part, top notch, the narration while arriving or going through interesting spots at sea or in ports has been lost, and the captain is the only one who manages to deliver some personality in his announcements. The shows are decent, but dated, but some recognition should be given to the Cruise Director Lorraine who seems to be everywhere at once, and even if out of breath, always professional. Elsa is a living doll and is also full of boundless energy and compassion, and from our observations, along with Elsa really took the solo travelling people under her wing. Ports- no complaints here- we chose this run based on our past visits to the same ports. Our only problem wast that the french tour manager was exteremely difficult to understand in her announcements, and attempts to coral the geusts at times were noteably futile.
Onboard Activities There were good cooking classes, excellent crafts instruction and activities with Marsha,, interesting and relevant computer courses up for offer, and a large internet cafe and in-room wireless internet that was although agonizing in it's lack of speed, left one in good hands with the gracious female computer instructor. The gift shops were polished but lacked local and seasonal items, staffed with friendly folk and not too many of them! It always seemed someone onboard could dig up whatever it was a passenger lacked, which is also lost on the larger ships. There is no photo department any longer which is refreshing,although there were times a picture would have been great to have the option to buy. Not having the ability to purchase camera related items like memory sticks, etc was a let down.
The manager onboard Englebert seemed to be more of a yes man than a man who got things done. Friends of ours in a gruop onboard had somewhat unpleasant dealings with him and although he had some decorum and professionalism, he clearly had limited or no power to change or adjust the arrangements that had been problematic. His overall impression he gave off was that of padding/bandaging the issues rather than truly working to fix things. All in all, rather ineffective.
Debarkation was fairly smooth and the low passenger count definitely makes this a difference of night and day compared to much larger vessels.
All in all, if you are expecting the personalized, stand-out treatment of the Radisson days, that is all but lost, along with most of the staff who facilitated that. Decent value but overpriced for the service they are touting that just simply isn't the same.
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