Is It Time to Trade Up?

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

Regent Seven Seas Cruises Makes All-Inclusive So Affordable It's Time for Cruisers to Consider Trading Up.

If you're like me, you spent decades booking traditional cruises, all the while dreaming of what it must be like to immerse yourself in the luxury of an all-inclusive voyage. Perhaps you even considered a premium line, maybe going so far as picking up a brochure from your travel agent, flipping to the voyage rates and then gasping as you realized that the price of the higher category accommodations were damn close to what you paid for your car or even your home.

So back you went to sailings filled with thousands of fellow passengers, bar tabs, bottled water bills, soft drink bills, alternative dining surcharges and tipping obligations.

Regent Seven Seas Voyager

If you're currently planning your 2010 cruise, it might be time to consider an upgrade to your typical cruise vacation. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, an award-winning all-inclusive line whose accommodations have been rated as best at sea by readers of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure, is enticing travelers with money-saving offers that just might let you trade in your predictable baked Alaska dessert in a triple-level mega-ship dining room for an elegant evening in an intimate Le Cordon Bleu Restaurant at sea and a "0" on board account total at journey's end.

My recent Russia/Baltics sailing aboard Regent Seven Seas Voyager, gave me an extravagant taste of the all-inclusive good life and the special features and offers new to this premium line which, while always premium, only became truly all-inclusive in December 2006.

Regent Voyager, at 42,000 tons, is a midsize ship that, despite its smaller size, features a big-ship line up of activities, entertainment and dining options as well as a full-service spa, casino, fitness center, shopping arcade, internet café and enrichment programs. And the best part is that you get to enjoy those features with only 699 fellow passengers-less than one-quarter of what is the norm on today's megaship.

When planning a Regent Voyager sailing, the question of whether or not to spring for a balcony cabin is a non-issue, as Voyager was the second ship at sea to offer all-suite, all-balcony accommodations (sister ship Regent Mariner beat Voyager out of being the first ship to do this by two years). As a result, you'll find all Regent accommodations spacious and comfortable with the smallest suite measuring a spacious 356 square feet including its 50 square foot balcony. And just wait until you see the marble bathrooms!

By this time, you might be wondering exactly how, in an ailing economy, an all-inclusive luxury sailing might fit your budget.

Let's begin with 2-for-1 fares on nearly every Regent 2010 sailing. True, the 2-for-1 deal relates to the exorbitant brochure rates that nobody ever pays, but it's a start. And, if you book your 2010 sailing prior to September 30, 2009, you can deduct an additional $1000 per person or $2000 per cabin from your passage.

Now take a look at the extras. Not long ago on a traditional ship, I realized that my bottled water bill exceeded $20 per day, my soft drink bill was close to the same amount and my husband's and my bar and premium wine bill, together, had a comma in the total. On that particular sailing, we forked out a few hundred on alternative dining surcharges, raked up more than $50 on fitness classes and together tipped over $300 to dining room personnel and cabin attendants. Aboard an all-inclusive ship like Regent Voyager, those incidentals are included in the fare. Honest.

And things get even better. On all 2010 sailings, Regent offers free airfare to and from your cruise. If you prefer to arrange your own air, perhaps through cashing in a store of frequent flyer miles, get ready to slash your cruise passage price further by applying the generous credit extended to guests who waive Regent's air offer. Through this, yet another significant cost has been eliminated from your total cruise tally.

But probably the most ground-breaking "extra" offered by Regent in 2010 is the program of free shore excursions that was initiated this summer. Originally, my Russia/Baltics sailing was not listed among the 2009 sailings offering free shore excursions so, upon receiving my booking number, I logged on to www.rssc.com to choose my excursions, providing my credit card information for payment of the several hundred dollars I'd spent on my selections. Several weeks later, when the free shore excursion program was extended to include my voyage, I contacted Regent requesting a refund, only to discover that a credit had already been applied to my credit card.

The Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia-View from the Neva River (Photo taken during a free Regent shore excursion which included an hour-long canal cruise along with a visit to the Yusupov Palace.)

While the "free" status certainly does not apply to Regent's very exclusive excursions like, on my sailing, "Moscow by Air," a 16 ½ hour, $1,099 tour that included a one-hour flight to and from Moscow, lunch and dinner, the vast majority of tours were offered at no additional cost. And exceptional tours they were: Air conditioned motorcoaches, knowledgeable guides speaking excellent English and iconic destinations like The Hermitage and Catherine's Palace. And, prior to booking any Regent excursion, guests have an opportunity to read not only a synopsis of the tour, but are given a detailed breakdown (by minutes!) of exactly what is involved, from the time of departure to the length of the drive and the time spent at each site, to the activity level of the tour including the number of steps that must be climbed.

On my sailing, I found the free shore excursion program to be a huge, money-saving bonus, but one that requires a bit of courtesy on the part of the ship's guests. Booking of tours is permitted on-line prior to sailing, tempting passengers to sign up for more tours than they could possibly participate in. The result can be a "sold out" status for an excursion that actually offers ample space when overeager passengers fail to materialize at the bus. For this reason, it is smart for Regent guests to show up for any "sold out" tours of interest. Chances are very, very good that they'll find themselves boarding the bus, filling in for the no-shows who, most likely, are on another tour.

When I started sailing in 1976, cruise passage meant, with the exception of alcoholic beverages and tipping, an all-inclusive holiday. Thanks to some extraordinary offers by Regent Seven Seas Cruises in 2010, that's what it means again.

Before you book another traditional cruise this year, consider the luxury of an all-inclusive sailing. Do the math and you just might find yourself on board.

Continue Article >> Other Little Pleasures (Part 4)

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