Our cruise from Venice to Rome was fantastic. The crew was very friendly and gave great service. We'd like to single out a few individuals: The cruise director, Jamie, was terrific. Our suite stewardess, Nina, was the best. In the dining areas, Abigail, Bish, & Rubin were very friendly and attentive. In the boutiqe, Samantha, was unbelieveby helpful, courteous, and friendly. She's a true asset to this cruise line. We're planning to cruise with Regent Seven Seas again.
First...I hate cruises. After 11 six to nine month deployments on carriers and cruisers during a 36 year Navy career, I hate cruises. My wife likes them. This was our fourth, one being the Delta Queen which was fun but doesn't really count. I am ready to go home after five days, unfortunately they usually last seven. Our Seven Seas Mariner cruise was ten days and neither of us wanted to leave. A great experience. Well worth every penny, which with free liquor and no tipping, compares favorably with comparable rooms on lesser "cattle boats".
The ship had a great open ocean ride for its size. Roll was well controlled by the stabs, pitch was moderate and you can't do anything about heave. Just enough movement to screw up my golf swing in the cages and help us sleep.
Check in: When they say 3:00, that's what they mean. No checking in at noon and getting lunch on board. I had been forewarned, the entire ship had been chartered the cruise before and all 704 pax were dumped at Pier 66 while we were having breakfast. They universally raved about the shipbut the Radisson reps let me know that the ship is closed until 3:00 so the crew can catch their breath and have one decent meal together every week or so. We showed up a little before and found a terminal full of really ticked off people. The Mariner reps, being French, didn't give a rats. At the appointed hour we squeezed through a tiny door to the next room where we checked in by deck. The process took seconds, provided you had passports and credit card and didn't ask any questions. Lots of people asked questions. Photographer was available for Kodak moment but as with the rest of the cruise, you had to ask. No cameras in your face. Assumed that was because a significant number of the old goats didn't appear to be with their wives. Greeted with flute of Champaign and crewmember who took carry on, led the way to room where a bottle of Champaign waited icing in a silver bucket. Stewardess (tall, blond Icelander) arrived to ask about our preference for set ups and soft drinks for the fridge and to take our order for the two complementary bottles of booze to be provided. The buzz started in the elevator, left somewhere around Daytona driving home.
Room: We bought the cheapest but received a four category upgrade. Everyone seemed to get an upgrade within type (suite, penthouse, etc.) Some paid for modest penthouse and ended up in 1220 sq ft quarters with butler. Our room was near to the Penthouse, only much narrower. Had the large bath with mirror in the tub, walk in closet with umbrella, king size bed, sitting area and balcony. Very comfortable. Next time will spring for your size room for the extra width. The washer/dryers on each deck were out of commission for some reason. The gave us a $100 laundry credit.
Crowd: The ship was reported to be full but we hardly saw a soul. Absolutely no crowds. Restaurants were never more than half full, plenty of room in the theater, lots of space around the pool. They must have stayed in their rooms because they weren't to be seen about the decks. No lines to leave the ship in port and walked off by ourselves when debarking. Where on earth did you cruise people come up with "disembarkation"? Only event to till a room was when the Cruise Director ( who sang at Dodi's funeral) gave a talk on the royal family. It filled the Mariner lounge. My wife said it was enjoyable, I was at the wine tasting.
Food: Fabulous, as Anne Campbell described. This was our first experience with open seating. The tables for two were very popular. The greater/seater would try to put you at a larger table with the intent of building a group. That, for us, with a couple of exceptions, was a disaster. Large percentage were loud, pompous, conceited, demanding, boors. My wife and I enjoyed eating alone, just talking to each other, instead of listening to a table full of (well, never mind). In any event, you sat where he put you, no asking for that table over there. French, remember? Compass Rose served excellent breakfasts. Lunch was a bit overdone. Who wants five courses at noon, with wine? Dinner was a gastronomic experience, every meal being memorable. With open seating, your order was taken and the courses began arriving, not waiting for the whole room to be fed before moving on. Glasses were kept full with absolutely exquisite wine selected to compliment the evening's menu. My wife figured I drank the equivalent of three glasses during white wine only meals, about five if red was served with main course. Service was French, prompt, professional, friendly and helpful. The buss boys were on a par with the waiters of other cruise lines. The French did not appreciate guests getting too friendly with them. Never left without feeling a $20 tip was appropriate. La Veranda, again never crowded, no matter when, was buffet breakfast which we didn't think worked if you wanted something hardy. We took lunch there trying for one sensible meal per day. If you were fetching or frail, a waiter took a plate and walked you through the line, explaining each offering while building a magnificent lunch of French prepared god knows what. I tagged along fixing my own salad. Could eat inside or outside . Evening meal at La Veranda was Mediterranean, a fun diversion. They didn't appreciate my asking what they were going to do when the sea gulls discovered La Veranda. The two specialty restaurants were billed as reservation only but in fact they only reserved about 70% capacity so there was a good chance of being seated if you just showed up. Signatures, the Cordon Blu was a disappointing experience for us. Three courses versus the C.R.s' five and the food didn't appear to be prepared any better. Some raved about the place and ate there as often as they could get in. Latitudes, another fun experience, was a sampling of Indonesian and south sea island fare. Once was enough. The buffet around the pool was about the same as La Veranda except they kept steaks, chops, sausage, chicken and burgers on the grill. Room service was by courses. Having dinner served on the balcony while sailing down the river leaving Charleston was easy to adjust to. Tea time in the proper British tradition but no midnight buffet, probably because that crowd would have had a coronary. After a couple days out, we would go to the restaurant through the bar. Would hook up with people we wanted to eat with and get a larger table. As I said, when left to the maitre'd, it was a disaster.
Dress: Pretty much as you described. Everyone (except me) dressed up one notch from that required. Yes, required. No showing up in jeans saying this is all I brought, now feed me. Coats went on after six, required or not. When coats were required, ties optional, everyone (except me), wore a tie. Casual, everyone (except me) wore a coat. This crowd just naturally felt better dressed up.
Entertainment: Plenty to do but you had better be able to take care of yourself. The usual bridge, lectures, crafts and bingo during the day. A whole room full of computers for classes and keeping in touch. The evening show started at ten, a little late after three huge meals and all that wine. No expense spared on sets and costumes. Troupe was young and energetic but a bit stiff. Comic was hilarious, magician unfortunate. Was nice being able to order a ginger ale without digging out charge card.
Tipping: No tipping and they mean it. You would rarely have the same waiter twice. They got genuinely annoyed when you asked to sit in a certain waiter's station. Didn't see our stewardess the last evening or morning. Would have liked to have said goodbye. The management said we had already been charged the equivalent of their tips and that they receive it in their salary. Not having to shell out the obligatory 15% each time you order a drink was nice. We were told not to tip the stevedores because the company hired them from the city for the day and they were well paid. However, when the fellow piled our bags on his dolly and asked about tips for the porters, I paid.
The ship: Again, as you said, no vibration, anywhere, anytime. No propeller shaft. The drive system is essentially two 8,500 horse power electric trolling motors suspended beneath the hull. No rudders. A retired ship's master and I exhausted the second officer's English so he called the captain, who is most enthusiastic about his new toy. The bridge is 22nd century, the nav system, GPS (which doesn't translate in French) and autopilot are totally integrated. Other ships say they are, however........ One lady, being booked on this summer's Alaska cruise, demanded to know how the system was going to detect whales and ice bergs. But, seamanship consists of punching in where you want to go and what time you want to be there, and then sit back and let it do its thing. The captain thought it impertinent when I opined what would happen to the electric motors when the shaft seals inevitably leaked, and when the pods got sheared off on an uncharted rock. Little old lady said she was sure the captain had spare pods. The captain looked pained. But, he can spin the pods 360 degrees and turn the ship on a dime. With bow thruster, moving out from the pier sideways was possible.
My wife and I recently returned from a 10-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner. Our observations follow. For purposes of evaluation, you should know we have taken thirty-five cruises on ten different lines, the last fifteen primarily on Crystal and Silversea.
The best way I can describe our reaction to the physical ship itself is "ordinary." There is nothing particularly impressive about any part of the ship. The public areas in general, and lounges in particular, appear to be standard Hyatt or Hilton fare. The fitness center is small and under-equipped (at the peak hours of the morning, there was frequently a wait for the few elliptical machines, and the assortment of equipment was disappointing). The locker rooms pale by comparison to Crystal. They are cramped with no room to do anything other than shower. For some reason, the locker room does not open until 8:00 a.m. This is particularly inconvenient for those who are in the gym at 6:30 a.m. when it opens. When I asked about this, I was told that most passengers return to their cabins after exercising. Because the steam and sauna were turned onat the time of opening, one would be (and, indeed, was) scalded for the first half-hour or so until the temperature in the steam room regulated itself. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the sauna had not reached any appreciable heat by 8:30 a.m. I cannot tell you what happened after that, as I was long gone by then.
Similarly, the dining rooms are plain with nothing memorable about their physical set-up or facilities.
Although the staterooms are said to be larger than those on Crystal, it is not obvious that they are. I suspect the increase in size is taken up in the walk-in closet. While that is a plus, the rooms are a poor comparison to Silversea and are no less cramped than those on Crystal, which are small.
The service generally was quite excellent in the bars and on deck. There, the service crew could not do enough to please, and I would give it the highest marks. With two exceptions, the same can be said for the cabin service as well. For whatever reason, our room appeared to receive only the most superficial going over (I will not use the word "cleaning") before we arrived, and we found a number of items scattered about the room that ought not have been there: A memory stick and a box of Q-tips apparently belonging to the prior patron lay on the cabin floor and opened in the bathroom respectively; and an empty plastic bag resided behind the couch. Further, our room was neither made up nor turned down by the time we stopped by our cabin at 10:30 p.m. on the night of embarkation. We were not alone in this situation, however. As we made our way through the corridors, the stewardess carts were ubiquitous. I can only conclude they got a very late start for some reason.
The public areas were generally well-maintained and immaculate.
The service in the dining rooms was uneven. Sometimes it was quite attentive. This was particularly true in Indochine and the Italian steakhouse (the name escapes me). The service in the main dining room was haphazard and extremely rushed. Normally on Crystal or Silversea, when one enters the dining room between 8:15 and 8:30, one is finished with dinner two hours later. Here, in the main dining room, it was difficult to stretch the dinner much beyond 9:15.
By way of footnote on food and beverage, one of my partners ordered a bottle of wine for our cabin which never arrived.
One of the greatest disappointments in terms of service was the Maitri 'd at each of the restaurants other than Indochine. I found them at best indifferent.
In addition to the excellent service staff in the cocktail lounges and on deck, the pre-boarding check-in was superb. I have never had an easier time -- or a more pleasant experience -- getting on a ship.
Equally outstanding were the young woman who ran the computer room and the staff at the reception desk. They were accommodating, knowledgeable, polite and efficient throughout the cruise.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the staff at the travel desk. We took no excursions. It was not for lack of trying, however. We were interested in two; one was booked and we were closed out. While I do not blame the cruise line for having too much demand and insufficient capacity, one would have expected at least a call from someone to tell us that they were not going to be able to accommodate us. The second excursion in which we had interest was one about which we had some questions which were not answered by the pre-cruise literature. When I went to the travel desk to inquire, the best the attendant could do was open up the tour book and read to me what I had read myself. He was incapable of answering any of our questions and seemed indifferent both to our questions and his own lack of knowledge. As the ship's television had no information on the ports or excursions, we were left without any help whatsoever. Needless to say, we opted not to take the excursion.
The food overall was quite good. We liked Indochine and the Italian Steakhouse very much. (The buffet restaurant on the pool deck is converted at night into a Mediterranean theme restaurant for the first half of the cruise and an Italian steakhouse for the second; while we found the steakhouse food excellent, our sole visit during the Mediterranean phase left us uniquely unimpressed with what we considered to be unimaginative and insipid fare). We also enjoyed the food at the "cordon bleu" restaurant, Signatures, although the wait-staff seemed to go out of its way to be overly pretentious. The food in the main dining room was average as was the food on deck. We never ate lunch in the main dining room, but the lunches in the other facilities were vastly inferior to Crystal and Silversea. (As a matter of fairness, my wife thought the special outdoor buffets were quite good; I did not share in that view).
One of the things that so impresses us about Silversea is the process involving the questionnaire we receive two or three days into the cruise asking us for our thoughts and whether there was anything that could be done to improve our experience. A questionnaire appeared here as well. Whereas on Silversea we received a letter thanking us for our comments and explaining what was being done to resolve the few modest issues that we had, as well as a follow-up phone call, here we received a telephone message which apparently came from a script and bore little relationship to any of the things about which we had commented. It gave us the distinct impression they were paying lip service -- literally -- to the process.
The shops offered the poorest variety and were the least well stocked of any we have encountered. By way of example only, it would be impossible even to find an outfit to wear to dinner on an informal (much less a formal) night, and it would be pushing the definition of "casual" to suggest any of the clothing qualified on such an occasion either. While one should not fairly expect to outfit oneself while onboard, there are occasions when one needs -- or wants -- to pick up a new outfit or article of clothing to replace something which has been lost, damaged, or forgotten. We did not find that option to exist on the Mariner.
The entertainment was fine: the casino was adequate; some of the individual entertainers were quite good; the string group which played in the open bar outside the main dining room and on deck at lunch was terrific; and my wife enjoyed a couple of the shows.
I can hardly fault the cruise line for the itinerary (which we found uninteresting in the extreme). We knew where we were going before we got on the ship and had been to most of the ports previously. Since we intended to spend most of our time aboard ship (we prefer sea days to ports), the fact that there was little or nothing to do in any of the ports was not of concern to us. Had we been looking for an itinerary that offered interesting diversion, this would not have been it, however. I am utterly clueless as to why Belize and Santo Tomas de Castillo were chosen. I agree wholeheartedly with the individual who suggested that the best way to see Belize City is in the rearview mirror of a car, however.
I guess, overall, I would say the cruise was "average." While we would not reject out-of-hand another opportunity to take Regent, it would not be our first choice, and we certainly would not compare it favorably either to Silversea or Crystal.
The Mariner had just come out of a seven day ("million dollar a day") dry dock in the Bahamas, and the crew was busy with final clean up when we arrived at the pier in Fort Lauderdale. Except for a few nuts and bolts on our verandah and on a shelf in the library, they seemed to have done a thorough job, and we boarded perhaps half an hour later--around noon. (I should note that some of the cabins did not have their carpeting replaced at the dry dock, and passengers were asked to leave their cabins for about three hours during the cruise so that this could be done. They were not happy about this.) There was a buffet lunch while we waited for the rooms to be made up, and we were in our cabin by 2:30.
We were in a "Deluxe Suite" on Deck 8. Our travel agent had arranged for two bottle of wine, but since the new policy on Regent Seven Seas is open bars, we eventually took them home. The cabin, even in this "lowest" category is spacious, with a walk-in closet. The onlyproblem is the combination bathtub/shower. If you are over 6', as I am, you can't stand upright to take a shower, and my 5'3" wife had some difficult climbing in when the ship was rocking, which it did for the first day as we passed through the Florida straights. Some of the cabins have showers, and my understanding is the rest will eventually be converted, but if I sail on the Mariner again, I'll definitely try to get one with a shower only.
After the mandatory lifeboat drill, the ship had a "block party." We were encouraged to go out into the hallway and meet our neighbors and some of the staff, including the Captain and the president of the line, while having wine and canapes. Its a clever idea and definitely broke the ice.
The restaurants on the Mariner are the main dining room, the Compass Rose, where no reservation is necessary, and three specialty restaurants, which require reservations. On this cruise, billed as a Radisson Diamond reunion, La Veranda became Don Vito's, an Italian trattoria experience that was a popular feature on the Diamond, at night. Signatures has a French menu, and Latitudes has a set course Vietnamese/French menu. All of the restaurants have excellent food and service, and there are no extra charges for eating anywhere. A fine selection of wines is offered at all times.
After my wife took a Dramamine on our first day at sea, we settled into a pleasant routine of breakfast and lunch in La Veranda, cocktails and hors d'oeurves in the Observation Lounge while watching the sunset, followed by dinner at the restaurant du jour. We were at sea on Easter, and the lunch buffet on deck was spectacular--including grilled lobsters and steaks, Alaskan king crab, shrimp, Jonah crab claws, and (my personal benchmark for real luxury) caviar with all the trimmings.
One new feature added at the drydock is a coffee bar outside the library and computer room on Deck 6. My wife really liked the coffee there and took to bringing her own cup up to breakfast in La Veranda.
We went to the daily tea time team trivia, which is another good way to meet fellow passengers. I tend to take things like this a little too seriously and was frustrated when half the questions were repeats by the sixth or seventh day, and a number of the answers given were wrong. (I was reading an excellent biography of Mark Twain from the ship's library, and Tom Sawyer was not the first novel written on a typewriter. Incidentally, Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad is the story of the very first luxury cruise.) Well, we had a good time anyway.
There were production shows, comedians, a magician (my personal favorite), singers and other musicians. I went to one talk on watches, but gave most of the lectures a bye. All of the art on board seemed to be for sale, which may indicate its quality, but a number of passengers seemed to be happy with their purchases. The first and only thing I had to sign for on board was a photograph we bought the last day.
For us the Caribbean ports were secondary to life on board, although my wife has yet to make a visit to St. Barths without buying one or more La Perla bathing suits, which she assures me are less expensive than at home. We signed up for a two week cruise on the Navigator (after I checked out the shower situation) next year.
CRUISING FOR THE DISABLED!
I am writing to make your readers aware of just how excellent a line Regent is when it comes to passengers with disabilities. Being a fulltime 3-wheel scooter user, I can tell you from experience that the crew and staff on board go over and beyond the normal when it comes to assistance in any aspect of the cruise experience. They actually found me on many stops at smaller South Pacific Islands to transport me and my chair, via tender, as well as ports where we docked but the gangway was to steep to navigated my chair driving down.
On board, there is only one spot thats was non-accessible and that was the hot tubs, but as of NOV 2005, the line was going to be installing power chair hoists on all the fleet so ALL passengers could enjoy hot tub soaking. I feel this is yet one more example of how they totally care for any and ALL passengers as with the design and aceessibilty of the staterooms/suites.
Good luck to my fellow travelers with physical challenges, check them out and you too will be a loyalRadisson/Regent cruiser.
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' all-suite, all-balcony ship, Seven Seas Mariner, navigated the waters of the Pacific Ocean and Yellow Sea, taking us through Japan and China. The Mariner, which entered service in 2001, is a sleek, modern vessel with style and panache. Radisson is trying hard to appeal to loyal Crystal Cruises guests, but misses the mark in that attempt. However, Radisson has created a niche all its own – a more casual, freestyle environment that is still delivered in an upscale (yet overpriced, in my opinion) package.
The ship itself is a stunning execution of Scandinavian design. With an emphasis on earth tones and blond woods, and dashes of blues, greens and reds, this is a surprisingly contemporary ship, considering that its target clientele is older (60+), more traditional cruisers. The ship's focal point is its seven-deck-high atrium and soaring glass elevators. Following in the footsteps of its older sister, Seven Seas Navigator, the ship's designers made terrific use of light and color to provide an open, airy interior. The lowest level (Deck 5) of the main atrium is where you can find Guest Reception, the Hotel Director, the Cruise Consultant andthe Shore Excursion Office. In lieu of the elevators, there is a main staircase that takes guests up one level to Deck 6, where most of the entertainment venues can be found.
This is a quiet ship, as in you-can-hear-a-pin-drop quiet! Once 10 p.m. rolls around, don't count on any wild activities or rousing entertainment. In fact, you should not plan on seeing any kind of civilization at all. These cruisers go to bed early and rise early. They are into fine dining, drinking and sleeping.
There is not even much of a social vibe earlier in the day. As an individual in my 20s, I found myself wandering the corridors of Deck 6 and hanging out on the Internet at Club.com, the ship's computer room, which is packed by day and empty every night.
The main show lounge is a two-deck-high, midnight blue room (this is also, thankfully, where the first-day muster drill is held, to protect us from the elements out on deck). All of the sightlines are excellent for the variety of evening shows. Every few nights they put on a traditional production show (the first was "Thoroughly Modern Broadway", a collection of famous stage tunes from shows such as "Mamma Mia" and "Fiddler on the Roof." The second production was "Beyond Imagination," an eclectic mix of dance and music styles (Irish, ballet, etc.). The final production show was supposed to be a Beatles tribute, but it was cancelled on our cruise due to production difficulties and an unprepared new dance troupe. The shows are quite good. I was not so impressed by the filler performers on other nights -- a comedian/storyteller, a female singing/piano playing duo from Australia, an Australian male singer who caused all of our senior ladies onboard to swoon; this is just not my cup of tea.
The service on the Mariner struck me as the missing piece of the puzzle. The staff seemed tired, cranky and not in the mood to be there. The Reception staffers were stone-faced and cold. Some servers in the Compass Rose (the main dining room) and La Veranda (the casual dining venue) were appallingly rude – e.g., a South African girl who told a guest, "This is not Starbucks," when the guest asked for an espresso. Service at several dinners in the Compass Rose was slow, and the staff seemed unconcerned. There were exceptions, but too often the servers would just stand around chatting with each other while my table waited for bread.
A Radisson policy that I don't care for is open-seating in the main dining room. I prefer having the same table and same servers every night. Radisson ensures that you get different servers all the time, and are not guaranteed that special table by the window. Also, the quality of the food varied wildly all across the ship. In one instance, I would be biting into the driest, dullest pastries and cakes I ever had. Then moments later I would be served amazing lobster rolls and crab dumplings.
Portions in the Compass Rose were so tiny I felt like Radisson had me on a 14-day diet. Other dining options were by reservation only - Latitudes served an eclectic mix of Asian-fusion dishes, and Signatures was an elegant French option. Both were stunning, with incredible presentations (although Latitudes was a bit too wild for my taste). For the final week of the cruise, Latitudes was turned into a Roadside Diner with the most vile "classic American" cuisine I had ever eaten! It was a fun idea, but the food was a catastrophe.
You never feel crowded on the Seven Seas Mariner - at least not until you reach port. I was shocked by the traffic jam of guests; all three elevator banks were filled to capacity, while a line of people snaked through the Deck 5 lobby. Disembarking in port was chaos - and our cruise was barely half full. On the flip side, embarkation on Day 1 was handled with the utmost graciousness. It was truly white-glove service – simple, efficient, five-star.
The main reason to choose Radisson is the accommodations. You don't get rooms like these on just any ship. No matter which category you book, you get a suite with a balcony! The rooms are bright and roomy, done in tones of blue, red, orange and a lot of rust. With a walk-in closet, fully stocked mini-bar, lots of storage space and a large marble bathroom, what more could you ask for? Each suite is tended by a pair of room stewards - one male, one female - so turn-down is quick and practically invisible. Many thanks to Dandy from the Philippines and Maria from Sweden, who kept my suite in tip-top shape twice a day.
Asia was a spectacular destination and highly recommended. The weather was a mixture of rainstorms and sun, but each day was warm. Sailing from Tokyo, we spent the next two days docked at Osaka, right next to a great shopping mall and in the shadow of the "World's Biggest Ferris Wheel."
We took an excursion on the second day to an ancient castle and an area of temples. After leaving Osaka, we headed for Hiroshima. Despite the pouring rain, Hiroshima was amazing! After touring a beautiful Japanese-style garden in the middle of the city, we headed for the Peace Memorial, in the center of where Hiroshima was hit by the atomic bomb during World War II. The museum is a moving, life-changing experience.
Leaving Hiroshima that evening, we spent a day cruising the Yellow Sea on our way to China. Our first Chinese port was Dalian. After a lengthy delay to disembark, we boarded tour buses with guides who spoke little English. They were cute, though, and tried very hard. Dalian is just a big city, famous for its stunning parks (where some guests flew kites) and excellent beaches. Our next stop was a two-day stay in Tianjin, the port for Beijing. Since Beijing is a good three-hour drive from the port, we stayed overnight at the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing and took side trips to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. This was one of only two shore excursions provided for the port of Tianjin; the other, to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, was a 4-day excursion that met up with the ship at a later port.
After sailing from Tianjin, we spent another day at sea and then docked in the heart of Shanghai. Another two-day stay here gave us ample time to sample the nightlife, shop and tour. Shanghai is a 24-hour city of food, crowds, music and fun. The view of Shanghai from the ship was amazing - huge modern buildings all lit up brightly, with music and searchlights adding to the festivities. Two more days at sea brought us to Hong Kong, where we docked overnight before disembarking. Our tour in Hong Kong was a drawn-out bore, but the city itself is phenomenal! Sailing into Hong Kong rivals coming into New York City.
Overall, we enjoyed our time on the Mariner. Asia was incredible and the ship is beautiful and elegant. However, for the price we paid, we expected a higher level of service. The ship is in a class by itself, but cannot compete with the likes of Crystal or Seabourn. I would choose Radisson again if just for the exotic, port-intensive itineraries. But for service and sheer entertainment value, I would most likely look to another cruise line.
We sailed 11 days on the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner's repositioning cruise from Vancouver through Alaska and disembarked in San Francisco. Previously we have had many different sailings, from the best-rated luxury cruise (Crystal) to the most basic in China. Our dining experience is heavily flavored with west coast fine dining in the San Francisco area. This was our first cruise with Radisson. At the time of this sailing, we were both seniors in age, young at heart, retired, and have traveled extensively.
As the Seven Seas Mariner considers itself a top-rated cruise ship, we compared this cruise with a typical Crystal Harmony cruise. Both ships are the same tonnage but have some very different features.
There are two aspects of the Mariner that we believe are significantly better than the Harmony.
In the main dining room the menu selections, quality of the food, plate presentations, and taste were better on the Mariner. However, the menu accents French preparations and was not appreciated by all guests. (As one guest at an adjoining table put it to the waiter, "Bring me two of those chicken breasts without the gravy.") We mostly enjoyed the main coursesthat used typical base meats used in France. The use of fish and veal was much more to our liking than beef, and the poorest entree was turkey. The food is not what we call "comfort food." Cruisers are not likely to find a steak, baked potato with all the fixings, and a salad with thousand islands dressing on the Mariner. However, for comfort food, the pool grill does serve excellent cheeseburgers and French fries at lunch.
The Mariner's balcony suite, with 252 sq. ft. plus a 49 sq. ft. balcony, is superior to the balcony suite on the Harmony (246 square feet total). The larger size of the Mariner suites results in an outstanding stateroom. The daily price for suites as determined from cruise discounters is close to the same for the two ships ($473 per day on the Harmony and $477 per day on the Mariner). Not only is the larger size on the Mariner significant but the layout is exceptional. The walk-in closet includes a safe, shoe rack, a series of small drawers, and several rods for hanging clothes. The bathroom is large and includes a tub/shower, large sink area, shelves, and commode. (There is a problem with the tub/shower arrangement for people with restricted mobility. To enter the tub/shower requires stepping over the high tub rim.)
In all other aspects of comparison, the Harmony far exceeds the Mariner. In the following observations we ask you to recognize that this is just one cruiser's experience. Also, what we may consider a less-than-luxury cruise feature may be thought of by others as just what they are looking for in a cruise.
On any cruise, we believe that ones cruising companions can make or break the total experience. On this Mariner cruise, the average age appeared to be close to 70 or above. We did meet and exchanged e-mail addresses with several interesting compatible couples. However, after dinner the ship seems deserted. Very few guests attended the evening show, and the very large disco was mostly vacant.
Most evenings the Compass Rose restaurant was only about 20 to 30 percent occupied. Eating in your suite is an elegant experience compared to the Compass Rose. The negative aspects of the Compass Rose start with the maitre d' and open seating. Several evenings we requested a table for two, and were placed next to an inner wall near the serving stations, even though there were several tables in the dining area near the windows. The wait staff varied from very good to very bad. The bad aspect was having a wait staff that pushed diners through a five- or six-course dinner in less than 30 minutes. We ate in Latitudes one evening and finished all courses in 20 minutes. My wife was finishing her salad when the entree arrived. When I protested that they should give us a chance to finish one course before bringing the next, the waiter suggested we should just push the salad aside. Also, if you appreciate good Asian fusion cuisine, avoid Latitudes. The Kyoto specialty restaurant on the Harmony offers a varied menu selection and typically high-level, considerate service. The Signatures restaurant on the Mariner is excellent in all aspects of a dining experience.
We will not comment much on the entertainment. Compared to most of our other cruises (except China), the evening shows and other venues place the Mariner at the bottom of our list. The staff tries very hard, but the only venues that brought out a significant number of guests involved food. The gentleman that ran the art auction was very knowledgeable and interesting but couldn't attract many guests. There is a large computer area that had several guests making use of the Internet at all hours of the day. The computer training classes consisted of a half-hour lecture (poorly attended) and no organized, hands-on training. The Harmony offers detailed, hands-on computer training and the classes were always full. One final general comment we attribute to a young lady who brought their three-year-old son on the cruise. She had so looked forward to a luxury cruise but soon found out there was no entertainment for a young child and she was bitterly disappointed. The Mariner is not a cruise ship for children.
We enjoy cruises where there is a balance between quality of food, service, accommodations, compatible cruisers, entertainment, and ports. The Mariner is a luxury cruise line whose appeal is based mainly on quality of food and accommodations. The drawback to the Mariner is the lack of things to do while on the ship. As the suites are larger than on the Harmony and the large Stars disco is basically unused space in the middle of the ship, we believe this leads to a very poorly laid out ship. The public rooms are small and/or narrow but that is no reason that they should be furnished with lackluster decor. Being an all-suite/balcony ship also means there is no promenade around the middle of the ship. The elevator from the suites on the stern to Deck 5 requires walking through the Compass Rose restaurant to get to the maitre d' station or the facilities toward the bow of the ship.
The concept of a complementary two bottles of liquor in the suite sounds good. However, we believe most people will have a hard time making a dent in two fifths of liquor in a week. We recommend selecting some beverage more likely to go well with in-suite dining, e.g. champagne or wine to go with the complementary bottle of champagne placed in the suite before boarding. A suggested en-suite lunch is one order of smoked salmon, two shrimp cocktails, a single sandwich of your choice, and champagne.
When we lived in France we noticed that the French are not big on supplying information; we had to ask questions until we found out what was available for purchase or how to do some task. The same is true on the Mariner when it comes to information about available services and/or other choices. Typical examples include bar menus with only drink prices listed; small print at the bottom of one menu that caviar was available for $24; how the Internet connection charges calculated; the number of the pier where we will be docking (so we can tell friends where to meet us); why our shore times were shorter than listed on the itinerary; spa services; etc.
The price of most drinks was $4.50. The complementary wine at dinner (You can also ask for complementary wine with lunch, I believe) is very acceptable but it is not French table wine as served in France.
To get a cup of coffee during the day (when you are not ordering from room service), find a bar that is open and ask the waiter for coffee.
Breakfast in the Veranda restaurant is very basic but good. We found it to be boring after a couple times. The Compass Rose serves outstanding breakfast selections of very high quality.
Other cruise lines advertise that tipping is not required and then hand out envelopes with suggested tipping guidelines at the end of the cruise. The tipping-not-required on the Mariner is refreshing, and really happens from embarkation to debarkation.
We sailed on her last July 2001 in Alaska, a few months after she was launched. Last year the service (dining room, room service, ect.) was spotty due I'm sure to the fact it was a new ship, and a much larger ship than Radisson had experience with. What a difference a year makes. The service was well polished. We also saw a lot of crew and staff from our Alaska cruise. That is a good sign as too much turnover keeps you from achieving that polished state. Dinner is open seating and house wines are included. The house wines are actually quite good. There are 3 specialty restaurants. One is Cordon Blue gourmet. Its as good as it gets!!! One is a tasting menu where you get a taste of several outstanding items in each course. The third is mediteranian type foods (also very good).
We did not get a chance this time to watch the shows but I remember them being very good last year. Our cruise was a jazz cruise so they had a great jazz band. 6 or 7 guys. Some of the people on the shipknew jazz and apparently these guys were known and well respected. It was great to listen to them.
There were lots of events like bingo and bridge. Lots of movies you could borrow and watch in your room and of course lots of books you could borrow to read. There are about 25 PCs you can use to check email or surf the net when classes are not happening.
The cabins on this ship are great. All rooms have a balcony so even steerage (deck 7) is choice. 2 bottles of booze (your choice) and a fridge with mixers all included. An iced bottle of champagne in your room when you get on is a nice touch. All tips are included which I find makes the cruise more relaxing for some reason.
Check in: Drop your luggage off outside by the conveyer belt that takes it on the ship and hop right on the ship. Check in is in the ship's theater. Goes real quick if you have your passports and credit card out. They have people to carry your hand luggage up to the room for you.
We really enjoyed the cruise. We will continue to leave the Mariner very high on our list of choices. After talking to lots of people that really liked the smaller Navagator, I think we will try it in the future.
Only other cruise was on the Crystal Symphony which we also loved.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on the 8th and arrived around 1:15 p.m. We asked the RSSC rep how many guests they were waiting on and we were told four. Wow, there are normally hundreds on the other lines waiting for a bus. Anyway we were off to claim our baggage and into a cab a little after 1:30. It was only a ten minute $10 ride and we were at Pier 21.
Now we are on our way. A brief trip inside to the terminal desk shows only four people being registered. We are immediately taken care of and an imprint of my credit card is made. It is now just before two o'clock. Anyone having cruised before will realize how expedient this process has been so far. We were informed before they do not board prior to three o'clock. Well not this time. We are escorted immediately to the ship stopping only for a security picture and a boarding photo opportunity. We are told that our room would be ready at three.
Upon boarding our small carry on bags are taken by a steward, a glass of champagne isoffered and were are escorted to the Mariner Bar for a snack and more champagne. At this point we are immediately impressed with the look of the ship. She is truly beautiful. Just before three we are told our room is ready. Upon rising from our chair our bags are once again taken from us and we are escorted to our room.
Our room was a cat H on deck seven. This was the least expensive cabin but in all honesty it was centrally located to most everything. Doing the ship again I would request the same category and floor.
We enter the room and are amazed at the decor, craftsmanship and expanse. Many pictures are available on various websites but you can't get a real feel until you see it for yourself. It is not pretentious yet has an elegant look. Throughout the ship the same theme look repeats. The wood is gorgeous and everything is of the highest quality. Our luggage arrived before we did. Another pleasant surprise. Lots of room in the closet and the bathroom is huge. The tub is odd in that it is so high off the floor and tall folks have a tough time in the shower. I'm 6 feet tall and my head could touch the ceiling over the tub if I tried.
Well the glass of champagne (which was refilled twice before getting to our room) is now empty. An iced bottle is there waiting courtesy of Radisson. A second bottle is there as a gift from American Express for being a Platinum member. Also we find two shipboard credits. A $200 book and deposit credit from Radisson and an AMEX Platinum member credit of $300. My wife is determined to use it all. Two bottles of vodka, 2 beers and an array of mixers and soft drinks are in the fridge. Almost forgot, no lock on the fridge door. One bottle of vodka is sent back and a bottle of red wine replaces it. Canyon Road Cabernet. Nice wine. The beer and spirits are not replaced but the mixers, soft drinks and water are always replaced.
Out to the teak floored balcony to try our own champagne. Wonderful view without Plexiglas panels. I guess this is because there are so few children on board this line. On this cruise there were two wonderful kids still in strollers. They never screamed or cried. Kudos to the parents of these kids. We put the keeper on the champagne and off to explore the ship after unpacking.
We went down to deck five where we had embarked to the reception desk to get a ship map. On the way another glass of champagne is placed in our hands. The purser's staff is efficient and oh so polite. The layout map though is large and we thought it would be nice to downsize it a bit. No matter it was not needed for long. The ship is easy to find your way around.
by the way she does not seem small at 50,000 tons. The layout is done perfect with entries to lounges and other rooms only on one side. This allows the rooms to be larger. The Observation Lounge and the Horizon Lounge have the feeling of being large but comfortable. Honestly to me the ship seemed to be in the 70,000 ton class due to the efficient ingress and egress into the ship spaces.
The mandatory safety drill was effortless and comfortable. We assembled in a lounge for rehearsal of the drill. The poor folks on a Royal Caribbean ship across from us stood in the western sun of the promenade deck for what seemed like 30 minutes. Thank you RSSC. Off we sailed at 6:00 for our best cruise yet.
We did dinner tonight in La Veranda which becomes a Bistro at night. This is the breakfast and lunch buffet area during the day. At night they cleverly close off a portion (the buffet area) of the restaurant to make an intimate dining area. Here comes the wine. Woo, we hardly had recovered from the afternoon champagne. An excellent white wine in a bottomless glass as well as another excellent selection of red. I love wine and this cruise did not disappoint. Dinner was great with the best Tiramisu for desert. Tonight was a casual night and it was nice to see many of the men in sport coats.
Friday brings an at sea day as we head for Grand Cayman. It is nice to relax and explore more of the ship. We really love sea days. After breakfast we look for a chaise by the pool. No problem finding two together. When more are needed a pool attendant sets more up. At times we wonder where the rest of the guests are. After inquiring we find there are between 440 and 450 passengers out of 700 or so. This is great!
Lunch all days is in La Veranda and the pool grill. We get a steak sandwich and pair it with a good salad from the buffet. The selections are numerous and delicious. Always plenty of cold seafood like crab claws, shrimp, mussels and wonderful seafood salads.
Tonight is formal night and there are many tuxedos and many dark suits. Only a very few non-conformers but a least all gents had a jacket. We did dinner this evening in Signatures. Remember to make a reservation. This is the Cordon Bleu Restaurant and the service and wine were excellent. The room is candlelit and romantic. The food was good but not remarkable.
After dinner it is off to the casino to rid my pocket of some loose bills. The slots are very tight and there are quarter and dollar machines in a smallish area. The casino is a separate room that you don't have to pass through. Very little smoke as there are not many smokers on the cruise. What a pleasant surprise. There is one mini-craps table, one roulette wheel and three blackjack tables. They make the table totally fill before opening another. I swear I counted 9 at one table. The dealers are very pleasant as are all the staff on board.
I will not discuss the ports but will comment on the docking. Cayman is a tendering stop. At Cozumel we docked in town and spent one and a half days their.. No taxi needed. In Key West we docked at the Hilton Marina. No need for the tram. This was appreciated though I do wish we had an overnight here instead of Cozumel.
We assumed there would be three casual nights, one formal night and three informal nights on board. We were wrong and definitely over packed the good stuff. We ended up with only one informal night and most were dressed in country club attire (open collar with jacket). The ladies looked great each and every night. Not overdone, just great.
One guest lecture we really enjoyed were the proprietors of Dry Creek Vineyards. A husband and wife who had a true passion for their art. The first lecture and tasting brought out four different Fume' Blanc's and the second meeting they sampled Zinfandel, red not white. Their products were excellent and they answered many questions. They even politely ignored the French person who stated "French wines are far superior to California". Typical and rude remark.
We ate at all four restaurants. We liked the Bistro (La Veranda) for its small size and wonderful service. Signatures is a must do one time only. The Compass Rose looks like a standard large main restaurant. The service was very good as were the wines and food. Remember Radisson pours excellent complimentary wines with dinner. There is a list of different wines so if you don't like the evening suggestion ask for the list. We were fond of the Pinot Grigio and the Red Bordeaux.
The most memorable dinner to me was our time in Latitudes the other reservation required restaurant. The evening we dined there was a wine pairing tasting menu with more wines from Dry Creek Vineyards. The menu here is fixed. You sit down and they bring you a sampling of appetizers, soups and entrees. It was a difficult menu for the Dry Creek folks to pair but they did an excellent job. Try their wines if you see them in the store.
One downside to the cruise occurred the final evening aboard. We were weary after a long day in Key West and wanted to eat in La Veranda. Honda had about ninety people on board and they reserved the restaurant this evening. They had reserved the horizon lounge one other evening. I would have appreciated Radisson putting a note in the daily news stating this.
The final morning we asked for room service before our departure. When it arrived the waiter set up our table and it was large enough for our big breakfast and us. They hide a table top under the couch. White linen, china, silver and the best coffee ever on a cruise ship.
We waited longer than what we were told was normal for the ship to start debarkation. Some passengers did not show up for immigration as ordered. Our color though was called first. There are basically two groups. Those with fights before noon and those after. Down the ramp we went and easily found our bags. Many taxis were waiting and we were on our way to the airport.
To sum it up: This was our most enjoyable cruise ever. We have done ten now. The ship is very quiet but the disco does wind up around 10:30. For us it was so relaxing. The staff was excellent, always had a smile and a greeting. No tipping. Great complimentary wines at dinner. The best food yet. A great cabin and a wonderful vacation. We will visit her again.