Year Started: 1990
Ships in Fleet: 3
Summary: Often called the "best cruise line" in the world. Drinks, tips, tours, all included in the cruise fare. Three luxury ships with a new one coming.
Regions:Miami, Rome, Venice
Good for: Foodies. Group. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Miami, Vancouver, New York
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Beijing, London, Copenhagen
Good for: Teens. Group. Families.
My wife and I have enjoyed nine cruises with Regent Seven Seas cruises. We booked a cruise for November 2012, starting in Cairo, and traversing the Red Sea, to Jordan, Oman, then through the Straits of Hormuz to Dubai, Abu Dabi, ending up in Mumbai, India.
With the turmoil and US attacks in the middle east, I contacted Regent, where the agent told me that they had contacted their local agents, and there was no risk. We were afraid that it would take only one deranged terrorist to blow up a bus filled with hated Americans, but the agent informed us that Regent saw no risk, and the cruise would continue as planned. We cancelled, forfeiting over $20,000. A letter to Mark Conroy, President of Regent has had no reply or acknowledgment. I do know of several similar cruise itineraries on other lines that have been changed, but Regent continues to put it's passengers at risk. I expected better.
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.
We arrived at Fort Lauderdale airport, collected our bags, and took a cab to the port. The security guard at the entrance was snippy when I told her the name of our ship was "the Regent Navigator." "Next time you should know the name of your ship," she said, which suggests it was on her list as the Regent Seven Seas Navigator. Ah, well.
We were ushered onboard immediately and sent up for lunch -- a welcome "bonus" meal that makes embarkation on Regent a pleasant experience. Our cabin was well laid out -- bathroom with both shower and tub, walk-in closet with safe, a dresser with a 120 volt plug, queen size bed, sitting area with DVD player, flat screen TV, and a bottle of chilled "house" bubbly on the table, desk with a stocked refrigerator (beer, bottled water, soft drinks), and a veranda.
Navigator is beginning to show her age. Some of the fabrics are frayed, and the decor is dated. There is a lot of movement at times, perhaps because the Navigator's hull was planned for a Russian icebreaker. The size and overall atmosphere are fine, however, and the crewseem to enjoy making the passengers happy.
The food in the Compass Rose was excellent, and the buffet on deck 10 provided fine breakfasts and lunches. For the first week the reservations-required Portofino had a wine tasting followed by a sit down dinner. The second week it morphed into an "Italian steakhouse" with an appetizer and desert buffet. The wine tasting was accompanied by appetizers and was worth skipping dinner at the Compass Rose. The Italian steakhouse was nothing special.
We were cruising over the Easter holiday, and several of the ports were virtually shut down, so we took a few tours. The drive-in volcano on St. Lucia is worth a look, and this was combined with a plantation visit that includes a "cocoa dance" (not what I expected at all).
Some experienced cruisers complained that the officers weren't as involved as they expected, but overall Regent has a fine product. At the end of two weeks we were relaxed, wined and dined to our heart's content, and even had seen the "green flash" one sunset. Disembarking was efficient, but don't pay $29 per person for a transfer to the Ft. Lauderdale airport. The cab fare is only $15. We'll be back to try the Voyager later this year.
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.
My husband and I were travelers on the Navigator. I'll apologize up front because this will be really long, and I have tons of facts and stories . Yikes. We average about one cruise every 3 years and had this trip in the planning phase for more than 2 years. I'd been dreaming of Greece since High School and decided in early 2004 that this was going to happen in 2006.
I gathered the brochures from my travel agent and searched out any cruise line that had significant itineraries in Greece. I didn't really want Italy, didn't really want Turkey, just wanted port after port in Greece. Well, most of the lines have a combination of the two extra countries and in 2004 the itinerary that I wanted was on either Crystal or Radisson Seven Seas (rebranded to Regent SS in early 2006). At that time, the itineraries that interested me began in Venice (a concession) and hit Corfu, then all the regular Greek islands. With my travel agent's assistance we narrowed down our line to RSSC. Regent doesn't get their cruise catalogs out as early as other cruise lines, so Ididn't see the itineraries for 2006 until July 2005, and they'd changed. I decided to accept the removal of Corfu for Dubrovnik and one day in Kusadasi, and made my deposit. I'm a little obsessive with my planning and research and had folders for each port all ready when our dates finally rolled around. We arrived in Venice 2 days early. We wanted to enjoy the city, not take any chances on flight delays and battle jet lag before boarding the ship. We made our own flight and hotel arrangements and had a terrific time exploring Venice, walking enormous amounts and sampling the yummy restaurants. Be warned, restrooms in Venice are non-existent and if you are lucky enough to find one, it'll cost you about Euro 1 to use. We watched a guy get chewed out by the bathroom attendant when he used the sinks to wash his hands but didn't pay.
Our ship, the Navigator, arrived on Saturday morning and we were able to board around 1pm. It's a smaller ship, only a 490 passenger capacity, and like the rest of Regent, mostly balconies. We booked the cheapest category, down on deck 5 and forward, no balcony, but it still was complete luxury! In coming directly from our hotel to board, we ran into problems dropping off our large luggage. We booked our hotel near Piazzale Roma in Venice, which is close to the ship terminal. I'd read something on a message board about being able to take a shortcut to the pier from our hotel which would make transportation to the ship unnecessary. This route includes a wonderful pedestrian sidewalk and a bridge over a canal, but alas, the bridge over the railway lines was blocked off with huge sheets of plywood. I gather that this blockage is permanent and has something to do with port security. So, we'd done a test run the day before boarding the ship, and knew that we'd be dragging the luggage on the alternate route: up a sidewalk to the highway from the mainland, then back down through the port entryway, which isn't really made for foot traffic.
We got an early start hauling our bags on the route, stopping frequently to let others by, or resting (too many resort casual clothes and shoes?) But when we got down to the passenger drop offs, it was still only 12:10, and the Regent literature says 1pm to board, we crossed our fingers and proceeded. One of the big signs next to the parking lot electronically lists all the ships in port and which pier was their entry. RSSC was sharing a pier with the MSC line (mostly Italian passengers). The signs on the sidewalk point the MSC cruisers one direction and the Regent cruisers another. There was no indication that we were to drop off our bags anywhere, so we entered and while the foot traffic went up an escalator, we took the elevator with our luggage. When we entered the RSSC-marked entrance an employee hustled up to us to say that we couldn't bring our large luggage through this way! I asked where they went and she told me that it was to be dropped off outside at the big white tent. So we went back down the elevator and across the street and parking lot to a small white tent. But that wasn't it either, wrong cruise line. They sent us back even further toward the entrance to a larger, dingy white tent. There were signs for Princess and MSC for the luggage drop, but no indication that this was the right place for Regent. I left a sweaty husband standing there, while I walked to the guard station to ask where the luggage for Regent went - they didn't understand me and were of no assistance. I went back to my husband completely exasperated - where did our luggage get dropped off?! I was weighing my options of going back into the pier building and re-asking the employee when someone in Regent uniform walked into the crowds and opened one of the garage doors and hung a Regent sign.
Hallelujah!! There we go! Evidently our only mistake was to arrive too early, before Regent was ready to receive us. We dumped our luggage probably before they were ready, and went back to our pier building. We went through the metal detectors on the 2nd floor and then were directed down a back stairwell to the pier-side sidewalk. Part of the Marittima cruise terminal is under construction, so some of the ship parking is moved further out. 2 nice Regent employees directed us to load into a shuttle bus, with another 8 passengers, and we drove a whopping 200 yards down the pier, past the MSC ship to the Navigator on the end. We were greeted by the ship's staff, and walked up the gangway. With a flute of champagne, we went through the check-in process in the Compass Rose dining room and then a porter took us up to the pool deck. There was a full buffet in Portofino and another entirely different buffet at the pool grill. After getting served from the bar staff and getting a little something to eat, we heaved a sigh of relief and knew that all the details are now taken care of! At about 2:30, the cruise director came over the public address system to say that all suites were now ready. Our suite was phenomenal!! The closet, the bathroom, ahh, fit for royalty. We met our housekeeper Hershey, a tall and exceptionally beautiful Pilipino girl, she had a bottle of champagne on ice for us, gave us the tour and took the slip of paper that indicated what bottles of alcohol that we wanted for our stateroom.
The ship had one more day in port, we were scheduled to embark at 1pm on Sunday for Croatia. So for the remainder of Saturday, and Sunday beginning at 7am, Regent provided complimentary shuttles to complimentary vaporetto into Venice's St. Mark's Square. The Navigator cast off and left our pier at 1pm, and cruised down the Guidecca Canal along the Zattere and in front of St. Mark's. There is truly no better way to see Venice than from this vantage point! We had a terrific commentary from the ship's lecturer about what we were seeing as we glided down the canal. One of the enormous Princess ships was just behind us, so it was like a ship parade.
The Compass Rose meals were absolutely tremendous! We chose to sit with a large group the first night and met some terrific couples and one of the performers, then the second night we met even more new people. There were 2 large groups on this itinerary - an enormous group from Yamaha and then one from some sort of medical supply company. So, these people mostly sat within their own groups and we were able to meet a cross section of the non-affiliated people during meals. Portofino, the reservation only restaurant was also amazing, but oh my goodness, the sheer amount of food was astonishing!
I don't know if the Mediterranean is normally a rough crossing, but that second night on our way to Croatia the ship was bouncing, it didn't bother me, but my poor husband was caught a little green. Maybe because the Navigator is a smaller ship it has a little more motion? We had several evenings and nights which were rough. On of the perks of being a cruiser on this line is that Regent brings a local tour guide on board to answer questions at each port. This person will sit at a desk in the reception foyer area and they usually have maps of the port cities and areas and can answer local questions.
In the morning we reached Dubrovnik, Croatia. This is a wonderful port, we were there with the Rotterdam and it's a port that requires tendering. The Croatian people are absolutely gorgeous and they speak flawless English, the money is Croatian Kunars which you can change on the ship. The old wall around the city is a great way to spend some time, it cost Euro 6 per person and the entrance (the Pile Gate) was a little hard to find. From the tender dock, walk through the big wall and around left up a narrow alley. We'd worn our swimsuits under our regular clothes in the hopes that we could find a beach to play on. One of the bartenders from the ship suggested the public beach on the back side of the Old Town, we could see it from the wall. And we could also see on the ocean-side falling dramatically from the wall to the Adriatic, several little café-bars with chairs and tables on the terracing. We came down from the wall after a complete loop, and walked through town, unlike Venice, the streets are straight and it's easy to walk all the way through. We went out the "back gate" which is actually a drawbridge over what used to be a moat. They've added park area in the moat and you can walk down it to the back harbor, and the beach. The beach is beautiful but very rocky, so we did some wading in our water sandals. The rocks are dark colored and then there's bunches of pretty little white shells, and as I looked, the little shells moved. Because they are hermit crabs, Yay, and very cute they are! We sat on the rocks and then sat along the wall, got a little sun. We walked up through the new town, and found another beach further along the coast to the north. Then we walked back through Old Town and tried to find the gate through the wall to one of the terraces, and Voila! We walked directly to the door to one of the bars. We were served cold drinks from the bar, we sat in the sun and when we got too hot, our bartender, Barbara, suggested that we jump off of the rocks into the ocean and enjoy a refreshing swim. It's such a treat, they've poured concrete steps down to the edge, and then the rocks drop off into deep water. The water is chilly, but still perfect. One of the nice European ladies that is a regular let me borrow her swim goggles to look at the fish. I love these little accidents that happen when you explore on your own. We stayed for maybe 90 minutes then made our way back to the tender.
The next day was Katakolon, it's the port city on the Greek Peloponnesus, the entry to the ruins of Olympia. I kinda felt bad for this village. I'm sure that for generations they were a quiet town who relied on fishing, and then when the pier was built and the cruise ships added them to the itinerary, that they expanded fast. There's one main street, and the shop owners were really nice, spoke fairly good English. We were one of the first cruisers into town, and a shopowner greeted us kindly and asked how many passengers on our ship, and when we were embarking. When she got the information she shouted it down the street to all the other interested shopowners. I found the tourist items to be a little cheaper here than on the other islands and in Athens. They had the usual kitsch, and some really nice leather items. We walked past town and down the length of the harbor along the water, it wasn't very nice beach, kinda dirty and there were dead jelly fish here and there. It was a good walk, but we didn't do anything exciting. I suppose that we could have walked the opposite direction to the lighthouse on the headland, and there might have been a nicer beach that direction, but we didn't. Evidently there is an Air Force base somewhere close, because we were buzzed by fighter craft over and over. Our shipmates said that Olympia was nice.
Next day was Santorini, the quintessential Greek Island! We arrived at sunrise and I was out on the upper deck taking photos and getting seriously windblown. Unfortunately, we were anchored in the harbor along with 4 other ships, and I'm not sure if it's cheaper, if it's mandated or what, but all the ships are using a Santorini company for tendering. When we reached the pier with hundreds of other ship people, the line for the cable cars was the length of the pier. And the walkway up to the donkey path was equally as packed. We pushed our way through the donkey line, because we wanted to walk. Now, if I'd put any thought into it at all, I would have known that where there's donkeys, there's manure. However, when you start climbing stairs in donkey poo, it's a festive experience.
It was a brutal climb, the donkeys with passengers passing on the way up, and then because it was still early in the day, the donkey herders wanted to take advantage of the crowd at the bottom and didn't yet have riders to come down. So they'd run the herds of donkeys back down the path, which is alarming as a walker to look up and see 10 donkeys running down the stairs at you. However, the donkeys never even grazed me and my husband. I am very proud to say that we made it all the way up the steps, it was hard, I was sweating torrents, but I earned an extra dessert at dinner!
One of the perks of being a cruiser on this line is that Regent brings a local tour guide on board to answer questions at each port. This person will sit at a desk in the reception foyer area and they usually have maps of the port cities and areas and can answer local questions. So before leaving the ship, we asked the guide about local buses. We didn't want to have to pay for a taxi, and then arrange for them either to wait while we finished our tasks or to come back at a certain time. The bus stop is down from the cable car building at the top, it's actually back south a bit. The best way to find it is to walk south along "Gold Street" until you get to the hotel Atlantis, then you make your way down the non-cliff side of the incline. There's a food stand and in the back corner is the bus kiosk, although you buy and pay for your bus ride while on the bus, the kiosk has the schedules. We didn't find this bus station that first time, however, we found 2 bus stops, one across the street from the other, and since we wanted to ride to Oia on the north end of the island and then go to one of the beaches on the south end, we figured that whatever bus arrived first would be our way of knowing which way to go first. And the first bus went to Oia, it was very full, cost Euro 1.10 per person, we braced ourselves in the back doorwell, and rode standing up the whole way. I don't know if the route is always the same but from Fira to Oia, the bus goes on the high road (west), skirting the cliff caused by the volcano, it's winding with steep dropoffs, and then coming back to Fira from Oia, the bus goes along the coast on the east side.
We were dropped off in Oia, and this is definitely the place to be! Narrow alleys, many shops, great people, and amazing views! We did some wandering, shopping and ended out on the point overlooking the Oia harbor. There was a similar path from the harbor up to the edge of the village on the cliff as in Fira, but I didn't think that I was up to another climb, so we didn't make our way down. We spent maybe a couple hours in Oia, then went back to the bus area and waited for the next one back to Fira. Unlike Venice, at least there are available public restrooms on Santorini, and they're free, but they're filthy and the women's rooms don't have toilet seats. So, girls - be prepared to hover. We heard later that some of the people on the shore excursions were charged Euro 0.50 for a several squares of toilet paper and the toilet.
We caught the bus back to Fira, it looks like anyone on the coast road can just stand on the side of the road and flag down the bus at any time. There's quite a few little beaches, and if you don't need a snack bar or anything fancy, this might be a option. The bus returns to the bus station that I wish we'd found first. The station is completely surrounded by schools. You can hear the kids playing on the playgrounds and at lunch many were walking down the streets or hanging out on the corners. So we waited for the bus to Kamari beach to open it's doors for the 2pm, and got a seat in the back, away from the other tourists. What we didn't know is that the city buses get used for the school buses. So at 1:55 all of the sudden the station was overrun by the middle school and high school students who proceeded to board all 6 different buses. We were surrounded by teens, and like you would expect, they were ignoring us. It was exactly like teens in the US, felt like home with my 15 year old. So we rode to the next little town, let off some teens and picked up a few elementary students, and eventually made it to Kamari. We got off the bus and with a handful of other tourists, we walked down a main street that parallels the beach until we reached the retail district and a direct route to the beach.
Kamari is a black sand beach, pretty rocky, and the surf is a little rough. There a gobs of lounge chairs and umbrellas and little changing huts. The day was overcast, so I only went out to my shorts, but Randy went swimming and enjoyed it. The headland to the south is enormous and juts out into the ocean. I guess that if we'd taken a different bus, that the beach of Perissa is just on the other side of the "mountain". Perissa is supposed to have red sand beaches. We didn't stay very long, about an hour, and then headed back to our bus stop, where we loaded up and went back to Fira. It felt like a full day but it was still early in the afternoon. We did a little window shopping, there's some truly gifted artists that set up along Gold Street in the afternoon, and I kick myself for not picking up a couple of watercolors. We chose the cable car for the jaunt down to the pier, there was no line, it cost Euro 3.50 per person and was quick and easy. Back on the ship I wasn't able to get my sunset picture from Santorini as we were sailing away, the fog was rolling in from the ocean and the sun disappeared well above the horizon.
We never ate breakfast in the dining room or anywhere really but the buffet. The servers learn what you like pretty quickly and had my hot tea without asking most mornings. They'll make any egg dish or omelet that you'd like and this request comes after being seated. You can have the coffee in the pots or request something special like a latte or cappuccino. I'd heard on the message boards that if you gave the kitchen one days notice that they'd pack a lunch for you to take with you on any of your excursions. We intended to try it, but either forgot to give notice or felt uneasy requesting such a special service. Twice we made bagel sandwiches out of the breakfast buffet and carried them to the beach and that worked really well with a couple of bottles of water and sodas from our suite. We missed quite a few lunches while in port, so several times we'd come back about in time for the afternoon tea - it was really terrific and decadent. Then if you weren't stuffed enough from all that food, cocktail snacks are always available either by the pool or in one of the lounges at 6pm before dinner.
Be warned, that if you want to do any laundry, starting about 3 days into the cruise, the machines start to have lines of people waiting for them. And if a passenger cannot find an empty machine on their own deck, they slum down to the other decks. I set the alarm on Thursday morning at 6, and was easily able to get one load in, and with the high powered machines, it only took 45 minutes to both wash and dry my clothes. They are free and the detergent is also free because it's pumped into the machines automatically during a cycle.
Coming into Mykonos, early in the morning, we had a spectacular thunderstorm! So much lightning! It must have sounded amazing from outside, but I only viewed it from the cabin. When daylight came, I thought that we were going to be disappointed with our planned beach day. It was kinda gray, but the weather report on the BBC said that the front was supposed to clear over the Aegean. Hoping for the best, we dressed for a beach day and packed our beach bag. Again, we stopped by the port desk in the reception area and spoke to the local man there. He wasn't particularly helpful as his family owned a series of jewelry stores, and he'd rather that we shopped than take a bus to the beach. But he grudgingly gave us directions to the town bus station, and then suggested that we shop at his stores. The station is almost all the way up the hill, and I cannot be more specific because we kinda lucked onto it. For Mykonos buses you have to purchase your ticket from the mini marts or a tobacco shop in order to ride, and you'd better purchase 2 per person, because you'll need the second for the return trip. Priced the same as Santorini, Euro 1.10 per trip/per person= Euro 4.40 altogether for both of us. We looked at the bus schedule and since it's October, it's end of season, and the weather isn't scorching, so they run the buses less frequently and not to the further beaches. We could wait 15 minutes and catch the bus to Platas Gialos, the closest beach to town, or wait 45 minutes for the bus to Paradise Beach. We didn't want to wait, so we caught the first one. Boy, bus drivers on both islands are very territorial! They don't get over for NO ONE, and they swear and gesture to any other vehicle on the road that doesn't yield to the bus. We were left off with the other passengers at the end of the road and bus route at Platas Gialos. We liked the look of it, but a group from the ship was there before us. We'd seen them zooming around on 4-wheelers back at the bus stop. They didn't know where they were and didn't have maps, we answered their questions from our map and they were back on their way.
The beach is beautiful, quite a few people, the sand and water are terrific and there's a platform out in the water, so you can go out and claim it and hang out in the middle of the bay. Further down the beach, past a large area of rocks and out on the tip of the headland was another beach, with no people and several boats anchored. I was happy with our destination, and then Randy decided he really wanted to go to Paradise Beach. After grumbling under my breath that if he'd spoken up we could have just taken that bus, we looked at the map and decided that Paradise should just be on the other side of the headland. So we splashed down the length of the beach in our water sandals, and walked up a road at the end past all of the snackbars and bars. We ended up in a residential section with dead end roads and long driveways, basically in people's back yards, which isn't good. We couldn't find our way through, so had to back track down some driveways and came out to the main road and walked to Paraga Beach, the next beach on the coast. Initially Paraga looked deserted and possibly closed for the season. We had to wind our way through closed gates and sidewalks and ended up on the beach with a tiny scattering of people. We thought that we'd be at Paradise, but this was just on the other side of the headland beach that we saw from Platas Gialos. The walk down the beach and over the headland was a little more difficult this time, climbing up boulders until we found a path along a chain link fence. We walked way out on the point to get to the corner of the property owners fence, then came back down the other side with Paradise Beach in sight. Hallelujah!
We paid for 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella and made ourselves at home. There's a reef, possibly man-made, out from the shoreline about 75 yards, and it makes the water against the beach really calm, and then it's really fun to swim out and then stand on the shelf way out in the water. My husband was enjoying himself out there and had a conversation with a nice man from France who was reaching into the nooks and crannies of this shelf and pulling out sea anemones, the giant black long-spiked ones. This man was going to take them back to his hotel and have them prepared to eat. After seeing that, when we walked on the reef, we wore our water sandals.
The weather was nice, we had high clouds that sometimes blocked the sun, but it was still pleasantly hot, about 80` F. Going back to town at the end of the afternoon, we just walked out to the road and look for the bus stop sign, it's in front of the little convenience store. The bus was on time and swept us back to the bus station, and then we walked through town. Most of the shops had closed for the day, but we managed to find Petra, the mascot Pelican. He was sleeping and I didn't want to poke at him as he has a reputation for biting, but still I got a great picture. The wind had kicked up quite a bit, so we were glad to catch the Regent shuttle from town back to the pier (a distance of maybe 1 mile?).
Last port before disembarkment - Kusadasi, Turkey. We'd initially wanted to do an elaborate Ephesus tour here, but my husband wanted to save our ruin-viewing until Athens instead. So, we were slow to leave the ship, checked with the port lady and got directions to the nearest beach - Ladies Beach just south of the main town and pier. We exited the ship and went through our first port building, similar to each stop in the Caribbean, with the duty free shopping and the security guards. There's a starbucks in the ship-only shopping and the vendors are exceptionally courteous. We walked out of the cordoned off area and walked across the street to the bazaar. Wow, this is a different experience in shopping! Always greeted with shouts of, "My friend! My friend! You come to my shop!" And it's a little amusing, we know that the shop owners have been asked by their own city to calm down the browbeating because the tourists don't like it, so we heard again and again, "No, high pressure, you come my shop!" My husband could handle only one street, so he camped out at the end of the block while I did some more serious looking. We didn't buy much, mostly stuff from the little grocery store. The pistachios are amazing!! Then we found a cab to take us to the beach, $6. Most of Kusadasi will take American money as well as euros, although their money is the Turkish lira.
The beach is down the road, around the hill with the large statue, and then through a residential area, our cab driver tried to talk us into going to a much better beach further down the coast, but we were firm. He dropped us off right at the beach, it's long with a huge section of hotels and restaurants and bars along the back. We walked down and back to determine the best position, and since it was fairly early in the day, we chose the furthest north end because the sun was behind many of the hotels so the beach was in the shade further down. We paid for our lounge chairs, declined an umbrella and went swimming. The breakers are constant, but the water is only knee high for about 100 yards out. You can rent snorkeling equipment as well as kayaks and other equipment, from several shacks. It was a beautiful day, the hottest that we'd seen, we got some good sunshine, spent a little time in the shops and ate our sandwiches from the ship's breakfast buffet. It was a good day. We decided to walk back, it wasn't that far and the biggest hurdle had been to find the beach in the first place, but the cab driver had done that for us. It was good to walk some more, the sidewalk along the water at times was crumbly and incomplete, but worked just fine. We passed a nice resort that had it's own little peninsula, and then we could see in the distance another island, just off of the mainland that had a pier built to it. It had what looked to be an ancient fort on it. We walked down the pier which was home to many fishing vessels and probably tourist boats, and entered the fort. It was free and really nice, the dwelling is really old and the pathways and gardens are beautiful. We had to pay Euro 0.30 to use the restrooms, but they were incredibly clean and worth it. We sat down and enjoyed the scenery for a moment before continuing to the port. After finishing the shopping, we walked through the security zone and reboarded the ship. The people who visited Ephesus and especially the terraced houses absolutely loved the expedition.
Embarkation in Athens - It's always hard to leave a magnificent ship, but we needed to be out of our rooms by 8am, so had breakfast, grabbed our carry-offs and found a table in the seven seas lounge. Since we had several more days in Athens and our own hotel, we were one of the last groups to be called, and that's fine. The luggage was lined up inside the port building by color and easy to find. We just rolled it out and asked a taxi to take us to our hotel near Monastiraki Square.
Some observations, it's odd that the hot tubs are drained each evening, and unusable at bedtime. They are re-filled in the mornings and aren't yet hot in the afternoons. It seems counterintuitive that you begin the warming process each morning just to empty them. The pool gets closed off at the same time in the evenings as the hot tubs. The much discussed vibration on the Navigator is noticeable. We purposely chose a suite at the front of the ship (yeah, I know, not "ship speak") and never felt anything. But in the seven seas showroom, it was horribly noticeable when we were at sea, and very noisy during the movies or shows. I know that there are a lot of Navigator-haters out there on the message boards, but it's a beautiful, intimate ship and if you do your homework, you won't be caught in a poor cabin. I hate to take a life changing vacation and come out of it with only complaints.
We had terrific service on the Navigator, the reception desk was always manned, the employees were welcoming and helpful. I love having the plush robes in the rooms, it made for the best nap in the afternoon, to put on a heavy robe, not disturbing the beautifully made bed, and toss on the wool throw also provided and doze off. I know that the Navigator is going in this December for refurbishing, but our beds and bedding were sumptuous. The bathroom was a dream, we used the shower stall most of the time, but I had a fully immersed bath one day. We loved the thoughtful additions like complimentary shuttles into town, complimentary vaporettos into downtown Venice. As already expressed, the local tour desk in each port onboard was terrific. I loved choosing whether to dine alone or with others each evening in the Compass Rose. We used room service several times and it was fabulous. I sat in an afternoon lecture on how to navigate a ship and that was completely engaging. We would definitely chose Regent again, and Navigator if we have the opportunity.
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.
The Seven Seas Navigator is a lovely 490 passenger all outside suites ship with impeccable service, wonderful cuisine and great entertainment. We recently sailed on her from Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, through the Panama Canal to Fort Lauderdale, with stops in the Panama Canal Zone, Cartagena, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Calica. Embarkation took all of five minutes with champagne in hand. The standard suites are very spacious (300 sq. feet plus balcony) and are beautifully decorated.
There is a living room area with sofa, chair, bookshelves with TV/vcr and fridge (which is stocked with complimentary soft drinks throughout the cruise), there is an initial complementary stocking of two large size liquor bottles as well. There is an actual walk-in closet with lots of storage space, and includes a safe. The marble bathroom is spacious as well, and includes a separate full-size tub and shower. The cuisine was excellent and includes choices in the regular dining room, or alternative Italian restaurant. A choice of complimentary wines was available with dinner and flowed freely. What was a standout if one could be picked, was the incomparable service. Service levels were uniformly excellent throughout the ship andalways included a smile and attention to detail. It was not unusual to have 3 wait staff at our dining room table for six. The only negative thing I could say is that I wish the cruise had been longer. We have been on over 30 cruises and this was the best.
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.