My husband and I just returned from a wonderful 11-night cruise on board Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager. After months of anticipation, we can’t believe that our voyage is over.
We knew the first half of 2019 was going to be a pressure cooker, so it was important to have a major trip on our calendar to keep us going through the winter and spring. More importantly, we needed to go somewhere spectacular to celebrate my husband’s 60th birthday.
Choosing the Cruise and Making Reservations: We decided to set sail for the Dalmatian Coast and the French/Italian Rivieras. Planning for our Adriatic/Mediterranean adventure began in July 2018 when we logged on to a number of cruise line websites to research our options. We focused on Seabourn, Silver Seas, Celebrity, Cunard, and Regent. After significant discussion, we chose Regent, which offered excellent and all-inclusive pricing, great itineraries, and convenient travel dates.
Being a bit of a control freak, I did not use a travel agent; rather, I contacted Regent directly through its website and its toll-free telephone number. I called Regent on a Sunday to finalize the reservation. The agent was friendly, efficient, and knowledgeable. After 30 minutes on the phone, we were confirmed on the Voyager for its 11-night “Treasures of the Mediterranean” cruise, departing from Venice on Saturday, June 15 and ending in Monaco on Tuesday, June 25. We opted for a Concierge Suite on Deck 7 (Suite 738.) While the cruise itinerary did not include any sea days, we were attracted to the fabulous port calls of Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia; Durres (for Tirana), Albania; Corfu, Greece; Taormina, Sorrento (for Capri), Civitavecchia (for Rome), Livorno (for Florence/Pisa) in Italy; and St. Tropez, France.
The user-friendly Regent website is the perfect place to manage your cruise experience. As soon as the reservation was final, I was able to sign on to complete our guest information forms. Most importantly, the site provides a calendar of key dates, including when you can make excursion and specialty dining reservations. Once I had those dates in hand, I programmed task items into my personal Outlook account and set reminders so I wouldn’t forget to act.
During the eleven months between making the reservation and our departure date, I checked the Regent website numerous times just to remind myself that we had a fabulous vacation in our future. In October 2018, my husband and I sat down at the computer to review all of our excursion options. It took us about an hour to make our choices. Most of Regent’s excursions are included in your cruise fare and we were pleased that we could reserve space eight months ahead of time– one less thing to worry about on embarkation day when the lines at the excursion desk are long and many popular tours are sold out. Moreover, if we changed our minds about a certain excursion we could cancel or book an alternative at any time.
In March, Regent opened online reservations for the Voyager’s specialty restaurants – Chartreuse, a charming French bistro and Prime 7, a traditional American steakhouse. There is no upcharge for either restaurant, but seating is limited so I highly recommend making reservations ahead of time.
The Trip Begins: After months of anticipation, the sun finally rose on Thursday, June 13, 2019. We spent the morning packing and preparing the house for our pet sitter. After saying goodbye to our two beautiful dachshunds (our most precious possessions,) the car service to SFO pulled away from our house in Marin County. The exact time was 10:27 a.m. in California, or 7:27 p.m. at our first destination -- Venice.
Air Arrangements and Ground Transfers: Regent cruise fares include roundtrip business class airfare, even if your port of embarkation and port of disembarkation are different. In our case, we began in Venice and ended in Monaco. If you decide to make your own air transportation arrangements, Regent will issue you a credit.
Because most cruise lines don’t include business class airfare as part of their standard cruise fares, I normally make our own air reservations. We will not fly economy class, so on previous cruises we purchased our airline tickets independently – sometimes with cash and other times with cash + points. For this trip, however, I took a leap of faith and decided to let Regent make the air arrangements for me. I wasn’t about to give up total control, however, so I paid $350 ($175/pp.) to submit an air deviation request, which allows you to pick your own carrier and routes. Air deviation requests are accepted beginning 270 days before departure and must be made at least 35 days before departure.
In our case, we wanted to fly on a Star Alliance carrier (for the points) and we wanted at least the outbound connection to be in Europe. 270 days before departure, I contacted the Regent Air Deviation Department with a list of five possible itineraries. My first choice was on Swiss Air, with connections through Zurich. Unfortunately, seats were not available. My second choice was on Lufthansa, with connections through Germany. Space was available and reserved. Regent sent me a confirmation email (with the Lufthansa booking code) on the same day and even was able to assign us our preferred seats. And even though the ticket was purchased through Regent, we earned United Mileage Plus PQMs with the business class bonuses.
Our departure from SFO was delayed about an hour because of various ground issues (occupied gate for incoming flight from FRA and the breakdown of a catering truck.). We arrived at FRA with about 35 minutes to clear European passport control and connect to our next flight. Luckily, there were nearly 40 people on our flight who were connecting to VCE, so the Lufthansa ground staff had a special bus waiting for us that first took us to a lower level private room where we proceeded through passport control, and then to our A320. In the end, we left FRA 15 minutes late, but arrived at VCE on time at 2:00 p.m.
Our luggage did not make the connection. This was the only major hiccup of the trip. As is common in Europe, there were not separate baggage offices for each airline at VCE. Instead, issues related to lost luggage for all airlines are outsourced and handled by one company. The Regent representative who met us (and many others) at VCE knew exactly what to do and before you know it I was at the front of the line at the baggage office. My bar-coded baggage tags were not useful. The agent told me that she did not have the ability to track our bags and that we would have to file a claim. She further said that once the bags arrived at VCE, they would be delivered either to the hotel that night or to the ship the next day. She added, however, that the delivery schedule was up to the driver and she could not guarantee that we would receive our bags before our ship sailed the next evening. There was no Lufthansa representative in the baggage hall and calls to Lufthansa both in Germany and the United States were fruitless.
The next Lufthansa arrival from FRA was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., so we decided to wait in the baggage hall (a secure area, so we could not leave.) It was delayed and did not arrive in Venice until 4:45 p.m. Unfortunately, our bags were not on that flight either. We were exhausted, frustrated, and annoyed. Luckily, just as I was about to have a public and ugly meltdown, I got a text message from Lufthansa that said our bags were being loaded on to a flight that was expected to arrive at VCE shortly after 6:00 p.m. We were not confident, however, that they would be delivered to us either that night or the next day, so we decided to wait at the airport. Finally, around 6:20 p.m., we had our bags in hand. In retrospect, I am glad we waited at VCE. One couple who was on our flight from FRA to VCE and on our cruise did not receive their bags until one week later.
All during our time in the baggage hall, we kept the Regent representative apprised of our situation. When we learned that the bags would be arriving sometime around 6:00 p.m., he told us that the last transfer to the hotel departed at 6:00 p.m. Keeping in mind that all of our transfers were included in our cruise fare, we asked him what arrangements would be made to get us to the hotel. He said we were on our own. We asked him if he could wait for us or give us some sort of voucher for transportation, but he refused and said there was nothing he could do. In the end, he left without us and we spent the equivalent of $145 for a private water taxi to the hotel.
I brought this issue to Regent’s attention once we were on board the Voyager. The front desk clerk profusely apologized, documented all of the details, and called me two days later to tell me that I would receive a $145 credit to my onboard account. Nice job Regent.
On the back end of the trip, Regent provided coach service from the pier in Monaco to NCE. The ride was comfortable and scenic. We arrived at NCE with plenty of time to spare.
Hotel Accommodations in Venice: At 7:00 p.m. (local time) on Friday, June 14, our water taxi pulled up to the dock in front of the Hilton Molino Stucky in Venice. We were excited, but exhausted from traveling nearly 24 hours – the last five of which were spent at VCE’s baggage claim area, but as I said above that was just a hiccup and we were happy.
The Hilton Molino is a wonderful hotel on Giudecca Island. The building is a former pasta factory. How Italian!!! Our room was small, but lovely, with a large bathroom that included a separate shower stall. The king size bed was comfortable. It was a great place to spend our first night abroad. The hotel was included in our cruise fare and Regent made the reservation for us. It was a great choice.
Having traveled to Europe often, we knew that if we wanted to get a good night’s sleep, we needed to remain awake as late as possible. So, upon arrival at the Hilton we quickly changed clothes and headed to the hotel’s outdoor restaurant, Bacaromi, for dinner. It was delightful to sit in the open air and watch the sun set as the boats traveled back and forth along the Giudecca Canal. After dinner we took a brief stroll in the immediate neighborhood before heading up to our room where we promptly fell asleep.
The next morning we rose around 6:00 a.m. feeling rested and ready to go. Before a satisfying buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we checked in with the onsite Regent representative, who told us that we were booked on the 1:45 p.m. water shuttle from the hotel to the Port of Venice. This gave us plenty time to wander around the city. The Hilton has a free water shuttle to San Marco Square, so off we went to explore.
Embarkation, Ship, Cabin, and Sail Away: We returned to the Hilton around 1:00 p.m. Earlier that morning, we left our luggage outside our room so it could be picked up and transferred to the ship. We asked the Regent representative if we could catch an earlier water shuttle to the port. There was one about to depart and she told us to hop on. Twenty minutes later, we were at the Venice passenger ship terminal. Check in was a breeze. We filled out a health form, and presented the agent with our passports and credit card. In return, she gave us our “key card” room key and maps of the ship. Shortly thereafter, we breezed through security and boarded the Voyager via a gangway that was connected to Deck 4. There was not a photographer at the gangway to take our picture as is common on so many other cruise lines. We did not miss this service. We were on board at 1:45 p.m.
The ship’s interior and public space décor is classy and understated. She is not the flashiest ship at sea, but she is comfortable. We particularly liked to hang out in the Observation Lounge on Deck 11 for a pre-dinner cocktail and afternoon trivia matches. We also spent a lot of time outside on Deck 12. We liked to be on that deck early in the morning as we sailed into our next port (so peaceful) and often were back in the evening as we sailed away.
The dress code never gets any more formal than elegant casual, which essentially means no jeans, shorts, or t-shirts in the public spaces after 6:00 p.m. No need to bring a tuxedo, tie or suitcoat. After spending all day in the hot sun, it was nice to be able to relax at dinner in an open collar shirt and slacks.
Three weeks before departure we received an email from Regent with a reasonable offer to upgrade to a Penthouse Suite. My husband and I discussed the offer and decided to accept it. We were assigned to Suite 787, which is in the aft of the ship. We have been in aft cabins before on other cruise lines and enjoyed the experience. They tend to be quieter. We have never been disturbed by engine noise or exhaust, and we like having the both the port and starboard side views. Our suite was approximately 300 square feet, with a 50 sft. veranda.
Regent informed us well ahead of time that the suites would not be ready until 2:30 p.m. on embarkation day. Nevertheless, curiosity got the best of us, so the first thing we did was to make our way to Suite 787, primarily to see its location vis-a-vie the stairs and the elevators. Just as we got to the cabin, an announcement was made that all of the suites were ready for occupancy. Great timing!!!
Penthouse Suites come with butler service. The butler serves in-suite meals (we had breakfast in our suite a number of times.) Had we asked, he would have packed and unpacked for us or would have arranged a cocktail party in our cabin. Each evening he delivered a tray of canapes, and made sure that our bar remained stocked. Once a reservation is confirmed (and up to seven days before departure,) passengers can submit personalized requests on the Regent website to select in-suite preferences for premium beverages, snacks, bedding, pillow types, and arrangements for special occasions.
Our suite had a large bathroom with a shower and a bathtub. We are not bathtub people, so I would have taken that space to enlarge the vanity for his/his sinks and to install a private toilet, so one person could shower/shave, while the other person could poop in private.
The walk-in closet was surprisingly large with plenty of room for all of our clothes and shoes. The bedroom and adjoining sitting room were the perfect size for two people. In addition to the beds, there was a small, but comfortable couch, an armchair, a coffee table and a built-in shelf under the television. The shelf is too narrow to be used as a desk. Underneath the shelf is the mini-bar cabinet that also houses barware. At the back of our cabin was the sliding-glass doors that led to the veranda, which included two lounge chairs and a small table.
The interactive flat-screen television offers complimentary movies on demand, standard channels include MSNBC, CNN (and unfortunately Fox News), Sky News, CNBC and BBC World, plus 15 channels of music. You can also see the view from the Bridge Cam, tune in to the nautical information channel and watch the Destination Services channel to learn more about your ports of call.
There are electric outlets throughout the suite, but only two U.S.-standard outlets. The adjustable thermostat indicates hotter or cooler, but not specific temperatures. We adjusted it to the coolest setting possible and were quite comfortable. The individual reading lights above the bed were a nice touch.
Our cruise was scheduled to depart Venice at 5:30 p.m., but because of the June 2nd crash of the MSC Opera into the River Countess, local authorities placed restrictions on cruise ship traffic in the Giudecca Canal. As a result, only one cruise ship per hour was allowed into the canal. There were seven other ships in port with us, so our departure was delayed until 10:00 p.m. Despite the delay, it was a delightful sail away.
The Passengers and Crew. Regent is a luxury cruise line. Nearly everything is included in your fare, so it is pricey compared to other lines. We were expecting the passengers to be couples primarily in their 40s and older traveling without children. We were wrong. This particular cruise had a number of large families with multiple children ranging from infants to kids in college. We were told that this was highly unusual, and that most of the time Regent draws an older crowd. Although we did not want or expect to be on a “family” cruise, the kids (for the most part) were well-behaved, and did not interfere with our positive experience. (The one exception was the one group of kids on Deck 8 who got their kicks playing with the elevators, and knocking on cabin doors and then running away. I had a brief run-in with their nasty, nasty grandmother in the elevator. She has no reason to be proud of her bratty grandkids, but I digress…)
My guess is that more than 65% of the passengers were American (luckily, we saw no MAGA hats), and 20% were from Great Britain. The other 15% primarily were from China, Australia, and Germany. Public announcements were limited and were in English only. The crew, of course, comes from everywhere. The captain was Italian.
The crew was impressive. Customer service was paramount. From the minute we stepped on board, we felt that each crew member made us the center of attention. Whenever we passed a crew member in the hall, they would smile and greet us with a warm hello. They were friendly, helpful, and approachable. Many of them had a terrific sense of humor. They worked hard and did their best to create a luxurious, but relaxed atmosphere. Our butler and cabin attendant were fantastic, and the waiters and bartenders went out of their way to make us feel special. This was our 13th cruise and this was the best crew by far. The only small exception was the Destination Services staff – more on that below.
We met some wonderful people on board, which formed our “circle of friends” for the entire voyage. So far, we have done a great job at keeping in touch with each other through social media. Regent doesn’t force people to socialize, but provides ample opportunities to do so. One interesting Regent tradition is the “Block Party.” Once each cruise (on this one it was the day we sailed away from Corfu), everyone is encouraged to step into the hallway around 6:00 p.m. to meet their neighbors. During this social hour, waiters make their way through the ship with champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and the senior staff circulates around the decks to say hello. It was a fun and relaxing way to meet people.
Food and Entertainment: The food on board was excellent. La Veranda and the Pool Grill, both on Deck 11, were great options for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast we rotated between room service, sitting on the aft deck at La Veranda, and a more formal breakfast in Compass Rose. My favorite breakfast was the Avocado Toast in Compass Rose, although the Eggs Benedict (not on the menu) was a close second. We both agreed that the ship’s “house blend” coffee was horrible. Most mornings we ended up at the Coffee Connection on Deck 5 for a decent cup of coffee or for a cappuccino.
We often ate lunch on shore. The highlight was a fabulous ravioli in Rome and a seaside lunch in St. Tropez at La Terrasse at the Cheval Blanc Hotel. Outstanding!!! Lunch on the ship was either at La Veranda or the Pool Grill. I liked the informality of the Pool Grill, which offered a wonderful selection of salads, fruits, and sandwiches, in addition to hamburgers and hot dogs that were made on a real outside grill.
Dinner, of course, was the main meal of the day. Most of the time we ate in the Compass Rose, which offers open seating until 9:30 p.m. We usually ate at 8:00 p.m. – sometimes alone, but often with some of our new friends. The menu was extensive and changed daily, although some of the appetizers were offered every night (the crab and avocado starter was exquisite.). Also offered daily were USDA prime steaks and seafood, prepared a variety of ways. We are not big meat eaters, but we both agreed that the steaks on the Voyager were phenomenal. Service in Compass Rose was consistently attentive.
On our first full day on the ship we had dinner at Chartreuse, which Regent describes as a “chic Parisian fine dining restaurant.” The service and the cuisine exceeded our expectations. When we first arrived we were seated at a table toward the back of the restaurant. We noticed, however, that a couple at a window table were about to leave. We asked the maître d’ if we could move, and he made sure the table was cleared and cleaned quickly after the couple left. The highlight of the dinner was the cheese soufflé, which was light, airy, and delicious. My husband’s scallops were divine. Each scallop was topped with a thin sliver of prosciutto, which added texture and additional flavor.
On our third day we had dinner at Prime 7. Prior to leaving home, I let Regent know that this would be a celebration dinner for my husband’s 60th birthday. Not only did our butler decorate our cabin that day with a “Happy Birthday” banner and balloons, but the Prime 7 staff had champagne and a decedent chocolate birthday cake ready for him. When the time came, the restaurant staff gathered around our table to sing Happy Birthday. It was an evening to remember. Our Prime 7 dinner was out of this world. I had the goat cheese, red pepper, and portabella tart to start. The crust was buttery and flaky, and the flavors delighted my palate. For my main course, I had the traditional surf and turf and my husband had a steak.
The cruise fare includes unlimited drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, including most premium wines and beers. I am not a big drinker, but I really enjoyed the Aperol Spritz in the Observation Lounge. My husband enjoys his beer, occasional cocktail, and wine at dinner – not to mention his Bailey’s on the rocks night cap.
We did not attend any of the shows in the Constellation Theatre. We preferred to have dinner around 8:00 p.m., and unlike at home where we tend to eat fast, dinner usually lasted around two hours. A couple of times we stopped by the casino (gross winnings of $225), but because we are early risers, we often were back in our cabin by 11:00 p.m.
Excursions and Ports of Call: My only complaint about our itinerary was the lack of sea days; they are my favorite. Sea days are incredibly relaxing and a great time to truly unwind. Because we left Venice late, our arrival in Split was delayed until Noon the next day, which gave us at least a morning at sea.
We chose our excursions before leaving home, but made a couple of adjustments on board. Excursions are arranged by the ship’s Destination Services crew. They were the least impressive staff group on board. They were often rude, a bit bossy, and didn’t seem interested in answering your questions or assisting you with changes. On a positive note, our excursion tickets were waiting for us in our suite when we boarded. Check in for all excursions was in the Constellation Theatre on Deck 4, and was generally efficient. In most ports, we were alongside the pier, so it was easy to get on and off the ship. In three ports – Taormina, Sorrento, and St. Tropez, we used tender boats to get to shore. Although some of the tenders were crowded, the crew did an excellent job getting people from ship to shore.
I’m not going to review each excursion here; rather, here are some observations.
In Split, we signed up for an excursion to historic Trogir, about 20 miles west of Split, which ended with a short walking tour in Split, including the Diocletian Palace. In retrospect, we should have spent more time in Split. We didn’t get a lot of time at the Palace or an opportunity to see other landmarks in the city. Trogir was interesting, but we spent too much time there.
In Taormina (you dock in Naxos) we originally signed up for the Mt. Etna tour, but were so glad that we changed our minds and opted instead for a walking tour of Taormina. The city, which is 1,200 feet above the sea, is spectacularly beautiful.
Rome was a bit of a bust. We’ve been to Rome before and have seen most of the major sites. On this trip, we did “Rome on our Own,” which only included roundtrip express train service from Civitavecchia to the city. Rome in June is not the place to be if you only have eight hours. It was hot, dirty, and crowded. (We spent a week there in January and it was delightful.). Lunch was fantastic and our second visit to the Vatican museums was somewhat enjoyable. In retrospect, however, we should have opted for another excursion that did not take us into the city. Lesson learned.
The biggest fail logistically was in Sorrento. We opted for an excursion to Capri with two other couples. This required a tender boat ride to the pier in Sorrento, a hydrofoil boat ride to Capri, and then a minibus ride to Anacapri. Anacapri is on the highest part of the island at the base of Monte Solaro. Once there we hopped on the Monte Solaro chair lift. The ride was spectacular. During a 13-minute ascent to the summit we enjoyed splendid views of the Gulf of Naples with Vesuvius in the background, the Gulf of Salerno, the Isle of Ischia and the breathtaking beauty of the blue Mediterranean. Monte Solaro is the highest point on Capri and provides stunning Kodak moments. You ride alone on the chair lift and it is not for anyone who has a fear of heights. You can hike back down to Anacapri from Monte Solaro, but we opted to take the chair lift round trip.
After our visit to Anacapri, we took a minibus down to Capri town in the middle of the island. While we had a wonderful lunch at Ristorante di Giorgio, we felt like we should have been a bit more discerning and not let our tour guide pressure us into eating there. Still, we couldn’t complain about the views of the sea or the wonderful pizza.
Things fell apart after lunch. To get back to the ship we had to take a funicular down to the port of Capri, take the hydrofoil back to Sorrento, and then catch the tender boat back to the ship. Unfortunately, Regent held all of the excursion groups in Capri until a set time instead of letting us make our way back to the ship on our own. The result was long lines, big crowds, lots of waiting around, and a 2.5-hour trip from Capri back to the ship. Not fun.
Disembarkation: On our penultimate day, we left St. Tropez at 11:00 p.m. and made our way to Monaco – 60 nautical miles away. We were awake and on Deck 12 at 6:00 a.m. as we approached Monaco and docked alongside Quai Prince Rainer II. This would be a day where we saw the sun rise over Monaco and the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge, 5,989 miles away. I was very sad that the cruise was ending.
The prior evening, we place our luggage outside our suite so the crew could off load it in Monaco. After a final breakfast in our cabin, we disembarked at 9:00 a.m., claimed our luggage, and boarded our coach transfer to NCE.
The trip home on Lufthansa (NCE-MUC-SFO) was uneventful (no issues with our luggage) and we arrived home at 9:00 p.m. Our dogs were very happy to see us, and we were overjoyed to see them.
Our Mediterranean adventure exceeded our expectations. It was a great way to spend our vacation time. We were very pleased with our experience on the Voyager and would not hesitate to sail with Regent again. In fact, while on board we made reservations for an August 2020 voyage on the Seven Seas Navigator from Amsterdam to Barcelona. The countdown has begun…..!!!!! Read Less