Considering the luxury experience and the six-star rating it advertises and considering the high prices it charges, we expected only the best from Radisson (now Regent) for this two-week Asia cruise (and had enjoyed ourselves very much on two prior, one-week RSSC Mariner cruises). Flaws that can be accepted from mass-market cruise lines should be rare on a luxury line. When measured against these standards, on the whole, RSSC and Voyager did not measure up. While many aspects of the cruise met at least a five-star standard and some were six-star, the overall cruise did not provide a truly luxury cruise experience. The overwhelming shortcomings to this cruise were the senior on-board hotel staff, the arbitrary changes to an exciting itinerary, and the inconsistent dining.
Let's start with what I expected. A cruise line (or anyone else) should provide the product advertised. While some "puffery" is normal, and while there can be quibbling over the quality of any aspect of a cruise, the product as a whole should measure up to the advertising. On a "luxury" cruise, that means (a) consistently excellent continental cuisine, (b) a responsive staff prepared to provide a luxuryexperience at all levels and to deal with problems quickly and professionally; (c) modern and clean staterooms, (c) well-appointed public areas; (d) unobtrusive service; (e) high quality lecturers, activities, and musical programs; (f) efficient boarding, cabins ready at embarkation; (g) no lining up and waiting for tenders, etc. Where I have not commented here, this ship and line met those expectations fully (e.g., cleanliness, efficient and easy boarding, quality of cabin stewardess, etc.).
The Positive about this cruise.
(1) This ship. It is well-designed, new, clean, comfortable, quite attractive, and generally well-maintained. It is very much in the mold of the new cruise ships (multi-story atrium, etc.). The cabins are unusually large and well designed, including a walk-in closet. Cabins below the penthouse level are larger and more comfortable than similar accommodations on other lines. The public spaces are attractive and, with a couple of minor exceptions, comfortable and functional.
(2) The junior staff (waiters, room stewardesses, bar attendants, etc.) were competent, pleasant, and sufficiently conversant in English (staffing changes in the last few months may have put these into question). They generally knew what they were doing and worked hard to please. The maintenance staff likewise seemed generally competent, although several requests for repairs (including a ventilation problem) went unanswered for more than 24 hours.
(3) The Tour Office staff. The three people did an outstanding job of handling ship's tours and private tour arrangements, with unfailing good humor, efficiency, and accuracy. This was particularly difficult in the face of a constantly changing itinerary (see below).
(4) Single seating dining and open seating dining are big pluses. They provide relaxed, enjoyable dining. While passengers seem to settle in to an individual table after a day or two (a few of them did try to lay claim to window tables), it is nice to have the option of sitting where you want and with whom you want. Service is usually well-paced and there is no pressure to finish so that the next seating can be set up.
(5) The inclusion of wine in the dining room in the cruise price is a welcome touch. No chit to sign every night. (The downside, one waiter confided, is that the policy of including wine and drinks seems to consistently attract a certain type of passenger who overdoes the alcohol, especially on cruises of less than 14 days. We did see a few such instances.)
(6) The port lecturer.
(7) Latitudes Restaurant. It was too small and crowded for the number of passengers they seated the one night I was able to eat there. This is an almost trivial comment because - although contrived - the theme concept was very well carried-out. The credit for that goes to the exuberant, young, and completely charming serving staff. They made us feel like they were putting on a private theme dinner party for a group of close friends, that they really cared that it be a complete success, and that they did everything possible to make it so. The food, too, was very enjoyable. This was one of the few occasions on this cruise that I felt that I was having a truly good time and that the cruise line really wanted me to have that good time.
(8) The advertised itinerary for this trip, Singapore to Tokyo, segments of the 2004 world cruise (actually the Circle Pacific Cruise), was exciting and enticing.
The Negative:(1) RSSC chose to disregard that exciting itinerary. One port (Hong Kong) was extended by a day, two port days were changed altogether, two port stops were shortened (one of them by about 12 hours and one by about 5), and one stop was eliminated altogether. (One additional port was missed because of bad weather.) There were no weather problems or terrorism concerns to justify any one of those unexplained changes.
Passenger questions/complaints about these changes were given short shrift by senior staff. As one senior official in the hotel department said to me when I asked what was going on with the schedule, and this is a direct quote, "We can do whatever we want."
While the schedule changes were bad enough, RSSC compounded the problem. Several of the changes were decided by RSSC management days in advance (including changing of two port days), but none of them were announced until the last minute. As a result, several passengers missed out some on private sight-seeing that they had arranged.
When RSSC elected not to deliver the cruise it advertised, we deserved two things. First, we deserved prompt notification of the changes. Second, we deserved a clear and compelling explanation for divergence from the schedule or some form of restitution and/or apology. RSSC provided neither.
(2) Senior staff problems and attitudes were not limited to the attitude about the schedule. I heard that several of the senior staff on the hotel side were newly promoted. It appeared that several of them neither knew nor were prepared for their new jobs and at least one did not seem to care. Senior hotel staff members were not respected by junior staff, although junior staff members were clearly terrified of several of them. Senior staff was generally inaccessible - no response to phone messages, not in their offices or on deck, etc.; the only time that the Hotel Manager's office door was ever open were the days that the President of the company was on board. This is also true on land. RSSC's customer relations person in Florida did not return any one of my four post-cruise telephone calls.
(3) The overall impression was that the ship was not run with passenger satisfaction as the goal, but rather that it was run for the convenience of management. (Note that I did not have this impression of RSSC on prior cruises). This is the first and only cruise on which I felt that I was merely along for the ride.
(4) Dining room food quality and service were inconsistent, lurching from very good to excellent at some meals to mediocre at others. Some nights the dining room was excellent in all respects but, on just as many other nights, it was no better than "good" overall. There were too many lapses, some main dishes were tasteless, particularly fish and poultry (tasteless grilled salmon one night). Oddly, the dining room was consistently better at lunch than at dinner. The service on several nights was painfully slow - 25 minutes wait for the order to be taken one night with no head waiter or maitre d' in sight and bickering waiters another night. While an occasional mistake or oversight is to be expected, the mistakes were too frequent for a luxury cruise and the ship was no more than about 60 percent full during this segment.
(5) Of the two nights I ate in Signatures Restaurant, one night was truly very good. The food was very well-prepared, attractively and attentively presented, and service was perfect. The food on the other night, unfortunately, even with the identical menu, arrived bland and overcooked.
(6) There is far too much vibration on this new ship, particularly in the aft portion when the ship is trying to go fast (above about 20 knots). It was unfortunately very noticeable in my cabin. It took four days of requests to be moved to a vacant cabin of the same category. Several other passengers also said that they asked to be moved because of it. Once again, when I first asked what was happening and whether the problem would be fixed or whether we could be moved, the same senior staff member simply dismissed me: "All ships vibrate." The bottom line is simple, if you go on the Voyager, do not get a cabin in the aft portion of the ship.
(7) The art auctions. The quality of the "art" was poor (aside from there being just too many mediocre prints of famous pictures) and was too "mass market." It clutters up, cheapens, and detracts from otherwise enjoyable and usable public spaces. Please, let's get rid of art auctions . . . and not just on this ship and this line.
(8) Entertainment. Maddeningly inconsistent. The Broadway reviews, comedians, etc. were interchangeable with any other line. The music at the shows was always too loud. There was one very fine classical performer.
SUMMARY. A very mixed cruise experience. Those things that were done well were exactly as one would expect from a luxury line and exactly as the advertising would lead you to believe it would be done. However, they were overshadowed by the negative. Inconsistent dining is just not a part of luxury cruising. Itinerary changes where necessary because of weather or security and when reasonably announced in advance, on the other hand, are a part of cruising. However, the arbitrary changes to this cruise, compounded by the disdainful attitude of the senior staff and management on this and other issues, was just unacceptable.
My partner Doug and I took our first cruise on the Radisson Voyager October 15-24...and what a choice! From the moment we stepped onto the ship in Venice, we felt at home in the luxurious surroundings and pampering of the Radisson family. Additionally, We were very lucky as this cruise was only 70% full and the weather cooperated splendidly for mid-October in the Mediterranean (sunny every day except for one day of rain in Corfu!).
Our full itinerary was Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Nafplion, Santorini, Rhodes, Kusadasi, and finally Athens--one of the longer Mediterranean itineraries (10 days total).
Here are the high points of the Voyager: 1. Ship was magnificent, sparkling clean, beautiful design and decor, spacious as expected. It was just the right size to "get lost in" if you wanted to, yet intimate enough to get to know a lot of people. Facilities were all excellent, especially the Judith Jackson Spa, casino, theaters, library, etc.
2. We had a Penthouse Suite B with Butler on Deck 8, a bit larger than the already-spacious regular deluxe suites. Again, sparkling clean, soooo roomy, and we loved the washer and dryers right down the hall. thein-room bar setup of 4 bottles of premium liquor was a nice addition (although we didn't need it!). Our butler brought daily canapes and the champagne flowed!
It was so lovely to sit on the balcony in our bathrobes and watch the beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the Aegean Sea. We saw all of the room types on the ship, and we were more than happy with our choice (if we'd been in one of the larger suites, we may not have left our room!).
Others we talked to said that cabins in mid-ship were better (decks 7-9), and that there was no benefit really to being higher up (and it was a pain to go up and down the stairs/elevators all the time).
3. Dining options were wonderful! In fact, we didn't have a bad meal on the ship! Compass Rose had the most variety of course, and they had no problem with us ordering more than one appetizer, entree or appetizer. Portions were, thankfully, smaller, something everyone seemed to enjoy since it left more room for the yummy desserts (or second entrees!). Since the ship wasn't crowded at all, we managed to eat twice at Latitudes and twice at Signatures (New York night at Latitudes was very memorable). A good hint is to wait outside the door of Latitudes and/or Signatures for cancellations at these reservations-only restaurants; many people got in at the last minute. We were also pleased with the more casual food in the Bistro. Alcohol was NOT a problem as we could order drinks anytime at meals, or pay the very reasonable rates at the bar.
We ordered room service breakfast a few times and while we liked the convenience, some of the hot dishes invariably were cold. So I'd recommend fussy breakfast eaters get dressed and go to the dining rooms! Room service was able to whip up special request snacks (like hamburgers and milk shakes) for us a couple of afternoons--no problem!
4. Entertainment was stellar. The 3 Broadway-style song and dance revues were great, as was the racy comedian and pianist. We were most surprised by the lounge pianist Chris Hamilton (he's a brilliant Oxford grad and ex-lawyer from London), who could entertain anyone with his skillful piano-playing, smart monologues, and special shows on Cole Porter and Noel Coward. A real crowd pleaser! If you see him, say hi from Stan and Doug.
There were plenty of interesting on board activities and lectures to keep us busy.
5. Staff and service were six-star all the way. Fun Cruise Director Barry Hopkins set the tone, and he got to know most passengers by name. Our butler Sujee was so sweet (although we got reservations at the restaurants on our own), and everyone who served us in the restaurants was professional, courteous, and upbeat. The hotel staff and front desk/tour desk staff could handle any problem that came up, especially the chaos that ensued with the impending taxi strike in Athens. The no-tipping policy (which we decided to adhere to so as to not mess up the policy for others) had absolutely no negative effect on the staff's work ethic or upbeat attitude. That fine Radisson training really works!
6. Fellow passengers were friendly, fun, and well-traveled. Several people we met were staying on the ship for 4 segments or more. It was remarkably diverse, from a 95 year old, sprightly Englishwoman who knew Churchill, to many retirees, adventuresome singles, and even some younger honeymooners and stylish gay couples. We did share tables with strangers at Latitudes since it was such a hard reservation to get. We weren't sure what to expect as we had to be some of the youngest people on board, but we ended up LOVING our dining companions. Everyone was in a good mood on this ship! And we ran into more than a few dedicated Cruise Critic folks on board!
The only VERY minor criticisms: 1. Computers are PAINFULLY slow and sometimes you'd pay $4--$5 without seeing many web pages! We had one day when the satellite was down with no computer access.
2. Shore Excursions information was sometimes outdated and/or wrong/misleading. For example, they said it was an "adventure" to get from Fira town to Oia on Santorini, when on our own, we took a $1 public bus and arrived in style in 30 minutes to the most spectacular town on the island of Santorini! Some fellow passengers complained that the excursions in Corfu, Rhodes, and Santorini were disappointing with not much to see.
Of course, we know that all ship excursions, on any cruise line, are over-priced and they want to sell them; Radisson just need to be more upfront about the details and or alternate touring possibilities.
Therefore, more adventuresome types should go ahead and try to do the excursions on their own (depending on the itinerary of course).
3. Glaringly (because of the stellar service we experienced elsewhere), the poolside barbeque/casual lunch staff was a bit curt and/or forgetful at times. Very, very minor.
We can't say enough positive things about the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager. Everything about her and the cruise exceeded our expectations in every way; the rooms, facilities, staff, etc. have spoiled us for any future cruises!
The Radisson Voyager is truly six-star, luxury cruising at its finest. We miss her already!
I took my first luxury cruise on Radisson's new Seven Seas Voyager as a special way to celebrate my 50th birthday. With its large cabins, the Voyager is perhaps the most comfortable ship afloat. We picked an 11-night Baltic Sea cruise that departed August 19, 2003. Having taken 20 other cruises on mass market lines, mostly Princess and Celebrity, I was afraid that once I stepped into the luxury market I'd be so spoiled that I'd never want to sail on anything else. I could taste the caviar, lobster and champagne as I envisioned days of being pampered.
Luxury cruises are expensive. Our cruises on Princess and Celebrity usually were in balcony cabins at about $300 per couple per day. The cruise on the Voyager cost $1000 per cabin per day, more than three times as expensive as our other cruises. Was it worth $1000 a day? Pour yourself a little champagne and read on to find out.
At these prices you have to judge Radisson with a more critical eye. A deficiency that easily could be overlooked on a $300 a day cruise should not occur when you're paying $1000 aday. The one word that best describes the Radisson experience for me is inconsistent. The cabins and personal attention were wonderful. It was great not to have to wait in line for anything and have servers bring you any food or drink you wanted. But the food was disappointing and the service not quite what it should be at these prices.
Embarkation: Even though they say boarding begins at 3PM, you can board as early as 11:30AM. You're met by one of the cruise staff, given a glass of champagne and escorted to a lounge to check in and have a security photo taken. Then you can have lunch at the pool grill or sandwiches in some of the lounges. There's no hot lunch available except for what's cooked on the grill, hamburgers, chicken, and steak sandwiches. The rooms are not usually ready until about 2:40PM but you can tour the ship while you wait.
The Ship: The Voyager is one of the best ships afloat in terms of passenger comfort, 49,000 tons and only 700 passengers. Other ships that size could carry up to twice the passenger load. To fully appreciate the Voyager you have to venture inside. From the outside, the ship looks like so many of the newer floating hotels. Not much on the outside appears special. It's painted all white. There is not even much of a promenade deck. With no chairs, it's really just a place to duck outside for some fresh air if you happen to be on deck 5. The centerpiece of the ship is an atrium that goes form deck 3 all the way to the top on deck 11. The Voyager is furnished in an elegant but simple fashion. There's not much to wow you until you enter your suite.
The Suites: This is where the Voyager clearly leaves other ships in its wake. The minimum suite is a 300-sq. ft. cabin with an additional 50-sq. ft. balcony. There is more than enough room for two people. The sitting area has a full size sofa with two additional chairs and a small table. There's also a desk and bar in the sitting area, and a small vanity by the bed. The bathrooms are fabulous -- full-size and marble, there is a separate shower, bathtub, and large sink with plenty of storage space. There's also a walk-in closet with enough hangers and room for everyone's clothes. And there are cushions for your two lounge chairs on the balcony. And remember this is all in the minimum cabin.
The Food: When I did a little on-line research before the cruise, passengers had said the food on Radisson was on par with Celebrity. This surprised me since, at these prices, I felt the food should be a lot better than on Celebrity. It was not. The overall quality of the food was my big disappointment on the cruise, the only area that did not meet expectations. The food was inconsistent. A few of the meals were the best I've ever had on a cruise ship. Others were major failures.
There are four restaurants on the Voyager. The Compass Rose is the main dining room, with open seating. Show up anytime and eat with whomever you wish to dine. I never saw anyone waiting for a table. And there are plenty of tables for two for those who don't want to eat with others. While the food at Compass Rose is certainly good, the menus and preparation of the food left a lot to be desired. We felt much of the food was overcooked or not seasoned properly. The meals our first two nights in the Compass Rose were so unmemorable that we didn't eat there again until the final two nights of our 11-night cruise. On the second night, which was formal, they served Beef Wellington and lobster tails. Both were disappointing. The beef was overcooked and the lobster tails were very small baby lobster tails that lacked texture and flavor. I've had much better Beef Wellington on Princess and better lobster tails on every other cruise I've taken. They didn't even stock regular lobster tails, only the baby ones. This was very surprising for a luxury cruise. On the last formal night the waiter forgot to serve the sherbet course to our entire table. To their credit, they did accommodate special requests for cherries jubilee and baked Alaska.
There are two specialty restaurants that require reservations. Signatures is a gourmet restaurant, part of Le Cordon Blue. Its philosophy is the exact opposite of Burger King. At Signatures you have to have it their way. No substitutions, no special orders. But there's plenty on the menu to satisfy almost all tastes. For the most part, the food is very good to excellent and presented so artfully that I took pictures of some of the dishes. By the way, the dress code for Signatures is always at least semi-formal, even on causal nights.
The other specialty restaurant is Latitudes. Here, they serve different dishes from different restaurants around the United States. Everyone eats at the same time, 7:30PM. Your only menu choice is between two main course items, usually a meat and fish. At Latitudes we noticed the greatest inconsistency. This is where I had both the best and worst dishes ever on a cruise ship. Some of the food is truly excellent. A shellfish soup and a fillet mignon in a wonderful sauce were the highlights of the food part of the cruise. But on our second visit and with a different recipe, the same excellent cut of fillet mignon was not properly seasoned and served on top of a puddle of bland beef consume. The unanimous opinion of the six people at our table was that the beef turned out bland and tasteless. It was as if the chef had not even bothered to taste it. Deserts also were inconsistent. A pecan pie was overcooked and tough.
Some tips for making reservations at Signatures and Latitudes. If you want your choice of times and days, make your reservations as soon as they start taking them at 3PM on the day of sailing. They'll only let you make one reservation for each restaurant. But you can book a larger table and invite someone you meet later. After a couple of days when everyone has had a chance to make their first reservation, they will let you make a second one. If they do fill up you can always try for a cancellation. We ate in Latitudes two nights when there were at least 10 empty places for people who had made reservations but didn't show up and neglected to call.
If you have a hearty appetite, beware of any dishes where the meat comes sliced. The polite term would be to say the portions are "delicate." In other words, they're small. We had three different meals of sliced veal, sliced duck breast and sliced Chateaubriand that amounted to no more than 2-3 ounces of meat in a serving. You should have seen the expression on my face on the last formal night when I ordered Chateaubriand and I got a plate with two small 1/8-inch thick slices of meat. The entire table asked for more meat which the waiter brought after a wait that seemed too long.
The fourth restaurant is La Veranda, always casual and with an outdoor seating area. We only ate there twice, although some people felt this was the best food on the ship. Its theme is a Mediterranean Bistro. Humus and chunks of Parmagiano cheese await you with bread on the table. The atmosphere is warm and inviting. Much quieter than Compass Rose. Here the appetizers are served buffet style, and the waiter brings your entrée and some deserts. Other deserts are available from the buffet. On the whole, I thought the food in La Veranda was very good. They had an excellent lamb shank, and I don't even like lamb. But others at our table were not as impressed by the food here.
To be fair about the quality of the food, I spoke to many people on the cruise that were delighted with it. They loved every bite. It's interesting how two people can experience the same meal and come away with two completely different impressions. But I was not alone in my feeling that the food was inconsistent. Everyone in our core group of eight passengers felt the same way. And while the quality of the food wasn't always excellent, the presentation was beautiful.
The Drinks: All drinks at meals are complimentary. However, except for wine with dinner, they don't tell you the drinks are free. They never offered a pre-dinner cocktail or an after dinner drink. But they are free if you ask for them at the dinner table and the waiters will bring them. This applies in all restaurants. Non-alcoholic drinks are always free anywhere on the ship.
Upon arrival you select an in-room bar set up of two bottles of liquor or wine. You also get two cans of beer and mixers, soft drinks and bottled water. The non-alcoholic beverages are replaced as needed. To our surprise, we found that, other than water, we really didn't drink anything in our suite. There are so many opportunities to drink elsewhere on the ship that we didn't have much of a desire to drink in the room. I ended up lugging the two unopened bottles of liquor back home.
Radisson does not seem to make much of a profit on drinks. The most expensive glass of red wine we ordered was $5.50 and most cocktails were no more than $4.75. I know people have suggested that Radisson just go to an open bar policy. But they would have to raise cruise fares to do it and those who don't drink would end up further subsidizing those who do drink. I would suggest a compromise that would give passengers a choice of the in-room liquor or a shipboard credit. A $50 bar credit would have been more use to us than two bottles of liquor we never had time to drink in the room.
The Service: It was always prompt, professional and attentive. With a ratio of 1.5 passengers to 1 crew, the ship excels at service. Even tables in the buffet restaurant are set with table clothes and silverware. Same for tables in the Horizon Lounge at teatime. As soon as you sit down at a table anywhere, someone is usually quick to come to take a drink order. But as good as the service was, there is still room for improvement. Only about a quarter of the time did the serves make an attempt to address me by name. Almost every time I was drinking soda, I had to ask for a refill, instead of the server coming to me to ask if I wanted another one. And in only one case did the server bring a refill without asking or being asked.
The room stewardess and her assistant were very professional in doing their jobs. I never had to ask for anything for the room. But again, they never made an effort to address me by name in the 11 days of our cruise. They only would say "good morning" or "have a nice day" when we passed in the halls. I've taken cruises on Princess and Celebrity where the room steward was calling me by name on the second day. These are small points but they are important if you want to be the very best.
The Lounges: They are all comfortable, pleasant and simple. Not much leather or glitz. Most of the chairs are cloth. The Constellation Theater is the main show lounge. There always were seats available. The Horizon Lounge featured afternoon tea and evening dancing. The Observation Lounge was my favorite, on deck 11, glassed in and overlooking the water. A quiet place to have a drink or tea and watch the ship sail. There is also the Voyager Lounge outside the entrance to the Compass Rose. Great for a drink before dinner, it turns into the disco later.
The Staff and Crew: Cruise director Barry Hopkins was excellent. He and his staff made an effort to chat with and get to know everyone. I felt the ship's management was accessible if anyone had a problem. The Captain also seemed accessible and was on the bridge to answer passenger questions during the two sea days when the bridge was open for visits.
Entertainment: The 10 singers and dancers who did the three production shows were excellent. The rest of the shows in the main showroom were a bit spotty. I felt some of the entertainer's acts were not good enough to sustain an entire show. But you really can't expect to have all top acts on a smaller ship. There was also an on board enrichment lecturer who many people thought was great, even though I didn't get to hear her. And the cruise director Barry Hopkins did a couple of lectures himself, on digital photography and the Royal family, which were popular and entertaining.
Internet Access: Available in the top suites and in the Internet café. The price for surfing the net is very reasonable. You're charged only for actual downloading time. It's less expensive to use a web-based mail account like Hotmail than to use the ship's email address. With the ship sailing full, there was sometimes a wait for a computer terminal.
Laundry: Free self-service laundry, including detergent, is available on all decks. With only two machines per deck there sometimes was a wait.
Dress Codes: On the Voyager there are three: casual, semi-formal and formal. I've concluded that ship dress codes really apply only to men. Women can wear anything but jeans. A black pantsuit can double for casual and semi-formal nights. Add a string of pearls and you can wear it for formal night too. So for the men, formal means tux or dark suit and tie. About half the men wore tuxes. Semi-formal is a jacket, tie optional. Most men wore ties. Casual means no jacket. About half the men wore them anyway.
Tipping: This is a topic that seems t get people riled up. The policy on Radisson is that all tips are included in your cruise fare and no tips are expected on board. They even tell you on board that tips are not expected. Some people felt the need to tip anyway, sometimes up front, and believed they received better service. I didn't tip extra and my service was fine. However, as much as people don't like the hassle of tipping, I believe that you will never get service as good as you would get when the employee's income depends on a personal tip from you.
Conclusions: Radisson is an excellent cruise line and I would sail it again. Some people have said it's like a floating Four Seasons resort. But I didn't feel that it was quite up to that level. The Voyager excels in its cabins, passenger comfort and service. In my opinion the food needs improvement. At these prices the food should be much better than the mass-market lines, not on par with them. What you're paying for on Radisson - and you're paying a lot for it - is a larger cabin, much more attentive service, not having to wait in line, and a more exclusive group of passengers. Whether you think it's worth three times the cost of a mass-market cruise is a personal choice. I wasn't won over completely. But I would like to sail a luxury line again. When I do, I think I'll try Crystal's new ship Serenity so I'll have something to compare with Radisson.
For those who want to see my quick synopsis of this cruise, without having to read the "novella"..
This is not a drop dead gorgeous ship. There is no jaw dropping moment when you see her exterior, or interior, for the first time. But she is tastefully decorated, and we felt comfortable on her almost immediately.
The service was outstanding in all areas, except the dining rooms, where we found it be spotty.
The food was found to be of artfully presented, but unexceptional quality when it came to beef dishes. Fish and seafood lovers seemed to fare better.
Itinerary is what made this cruise for me. Superb and enjoyable ports. and such a busy itinerary we really didn't get the chance to experience the ship as much as we would have liked.
Now on to the FULL story..
I have been eyeing a Baltic Itinerary for some time, and noting it was the 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg, I thought this was the perfect time to visit. Travelling so far, we decided to pre-cruise a couple of days in Stockholm, Sweden.
We stayed at the Radisson SAS Royal Viking Hotel; a pleasant, if unspectacular,but well located hotel. Most of the prominent tourist spots and museums were within walking distance of the hotel, and Mrs. Kuki and I put a lot of miles on our Nikes. We did a half day bus tour to get an overview of the city, but most of the time just walked, and continued walking, taking in whatever sites we happened upon.
Stockholm is a nice city, with seemingly friendly people, but most things, from food to souvenirs struck us a fairly expensive. However, in my view, it's a city worth visiting.
The ride from the hotel to the pier is only about 15 minutes, and when we arrived at the pier, just prior to noon, and there seemed to be no other passengers around. We showed our cruise tickets and I.D., went through X-ray and security, and walked onboard. The remaining check in process was in the Celebrity Theatre, and consisted of handing them a credit card, receiving our cabin key/charge card, and in three minutes we were done.
They did inform us that our cabins would not be ready until 2:30, but pointed us to the pool deck where lunch was being served. We didn't need to be told twice, and away we went for our first taste of Radisson food, and service at the poolside grill. There was no standing in line at the grill. Staff at the grill took our order for food and drinks, and told us to sit and make ourselves comfortable.
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but seeing the ship sitting at the pier, and then walking onboard, there really was no WOW factor. Nothing in the public areas around the atrium struck us as particularly spectacular, until we got to our cabin. Seven Seas Voyager is an all suites all balconies ship. Our cabin was a CAT F, standard suite, with a very comfortable layout and colour scheme, featuring grays, taupe's, a creamy green, and light wood trim.
The real treat in these cabins is the incredible amount of storage space in the cabin and in a full size walk in closet. That topped off by the nicest bathroom I've seen on a ship. The bathroom is completely done in marble, and aside from a full sized bath tub, offers a separate glassed in shower stall. The shower was roomy and had as much water pressure as my shower at home. This is an area where I find many cruise ships suffer, but the Voyager was superb.
A bit more on cabin amenities later.
This being my first Radisson Seven Seas cruise, I wasn't really sure what/who to expect for fellow cruise mates. There was a somewhat surprising, very broad cross section of age groups, with the average age not noticeably different than what we've experienced on Celebrity, Princess, or even RCI and Carnival. The only exception, we only saw 15-20 kids under 18 onboard.
I will say, of the people we got the opportunity to talk to, we encountered a very well travelled group. And they are not just cruise enthusiasts. They seemed to love travel of any kind, and most were very travel savvy.
One might imagine a bit of a pretentious crowd on a luxury cruise, but this was not apparent to us at all. Most everyone seemed more than willing to chat at every opportunity, and it was very common to be greeted by fellow passengers at all times, whether it was simply passing each other in a hallway, or while sitting at tables near to each other in a lounge. Though they were apparently a well heeled group. Possibly, because they were on a luxury cruise, they may have had an expectation that they were in the company of their peers. But, you never know as I was in their midst.
One thing I did notice was almost blind devotion and loyalty to Radisson from many of the passengers we spoke to. Negative comments from past Radisson passengers were rarely heard, and not looked kindly upon when made by others.
What They Do Well. And Not So Well
Heading out on a "luxury" cruise on Radisson Seven Seas our expectations were admittedly quite high. Considering the relatively high cost of such a cruise I believe these high expectations to be justified.
What we found was not entirely perfection. On this ship there were things they did very well, and quite different, compared to the "mass market" lines, and there were areas where we felt they fell short of the mark.
Earlier I mentioned the ease of the check in/ embarkation process. One would be hard pressed to find a more relaxed and efficient embarkation process.
Another major plus; without fail, each and every crew member we crossed paths with throughout the ship made a point of greeting us. This was not only very welcoming, but somehow also very comforting.
It was also a nice treat finding our shipboard charge card stayed in our pockets the majority of the time. Sodas and bottled war are complimentary throughout the ship; both in the cabin mini bars, and all of the lounges and public areas. House wines were complimentary at dinner, in all dining venues, as were a number of after dinner drinks. Two bottles of your choice of alcohol are complimentary for your in suite bar.
In fact, about the only time one had to pay for liquid refreshments, was for the odd cocktail at the ship's bars and restaurants. The oddity in this policy is that there is a charge for wine in the dining rooms during lunch in the dining rooms and restaurants.
Basically Mrs Kuki and I don't drink much wine or liquor, so this policy did not affect us directly.
Another nicety occurred on a sea day when there was a German themed buffet poolside. The buffet that day had a most extensive selection, and they were serving complimentary German beer this day throughout lunch.
On another occasion there was a "Martini Night" in one of the lounges, and everyone present received a free Martini.
All of these were "nice touches", but when we had our CruiseMates group cocktail party the appetizers offered were unimpressive, and quantities skimpy. It was one of those moments, that just didn't add up, or fit, with the way they did the majority of things on this ship.
Radisson Seven Seas features onboard self laundry, with complimentary detergent automatically dispensed. These laundry rooms were, surprisingly, very busy. I guess I didn't expect this "well heeled crowd" to be doing their own laundry on a cruise, but I was proven wrong.
We encountered a strange phenomena with regard to elevators on the ship. There are two sets of elevators on the ship. Two aft, on either side of the staircase, and four of them forward, in the atrium. The aft elevators are perhaps twelve feet apart, yet if you press the button at one, to call an elevator, it is not synchronized with the other elevator. Not an earth shattering problem, for certain, but none the less. odd.
The same situation repeats with the four atrium elevators. Only here it seems the four are divided into two set ups. One call button reaching two of the elevators. Another call button reaching the other two.
Mrs Kuki and I were invited to dine with the Captain on the Voyager. A very gracious and friendly host and an evening we enjoyed a lot. There were a couple of things that surprised us about this evening.
Firstly, we were instructed to meet the social hostess outside of the Compass Rose Dining Room, so we could be escorted into the dinning room. An invitation to dine with the Captain, in our past experience, is a bit of an event. In this case, meeting in the hall, rather than in a lounge, for a pre-dinner drink, minimized "the event", in my view.
On other lines this experience has been enhanced with drinks prior to dinner, perhaps a rose for the ladies, and a souvenir photograph of the group. Perhaps on Radisson they feel passengers aren't interested in a photo of them with "the help", or perhaps no one wanted evidence of having dined with me.
On a positive note, unlike the mass market cruise lines, who normally site security concerns when they turn down request to visit the bridge, the Voyager has an open bridge policy on sea days. Any of the guests may tour the bridge at these times, you do not have to wait for an invitation.
In contrast to this trusting position I did have to laugh in the casino when I saw the dealers had to check all bills presented larger than 20s with a special pen used to detect counterfeit money. So. they'll let any passenger on the bridge, but when it comes to money, they want to make certain you're not a crook.
We found the service to have areas of strength, and surprisingly some weakness. While one might have expected other areas to have some shortcomings, I thought it reasonable to expect service to be close to perfect throughout the ship.
The time we dined in Signatures (the ship's Cordon Bleu alternate restaurant) service was indeed near to perfect. Even in Le Veranda (the ship's buffet style restaurant) the level of service was acceptable, and on occasion exceptional.
However, I was surprised to find service in The Compass Rose (the ship's main dining room) to be rather spotty, with orders being taken wrong and delivered to the wrong person. A few times we were offered bread or rolls once when we sat down, but then had to ask if we wanted more. They should either leave the bread basket on the table, or be sure to offer more throughout the meal.
Normally, all these errors were relatively minor, and easy to correct. Yet, the errors were more frequent than we expected.
Especially the first few nights, service in the Compass Rose was not better, and perhaps worse, than my experiences on previous "mass market" cruises. Though it did improve some as the cruise progressed.
Latitudes, the ship's other alternate restaurant seemed to be understaffed, in regard to front end service staff. There was the Maitre 'D, a wine sommelier, and six servers (a combination of waiters and ass't waiters).
In other areas of the ship, we experienced wonderful service, even exceeding my high expectations, but food service was often spotty.
For buffet breakfasts in Le Veranda we never really had to stand in line because it is not a typical buffet set up. Orders were taken at the buffet, and servers brought your choices to your seat when the order was prepared. There are no coffee or juice machines in this restaurant either. Coffee, juice and other drinks are served at your table, once you are seated.
This same system was in place at the poolside grill, except during the themed lunch buffets, which produced fairly large crowds. Even then, when we reached the end of the buffet line, a staff member was there to find a table for us. We didn't have to wander around, with our food in hand, looking for an open table.
Service in our cabin was exceptional. Our cabin stewards, Dorota and Melchor, were efficient, and always smiling when we saw them. Leaving the cabin in the morning, and being greeted with a huge smile, and a pleasant greeting got our days off to a great start.
I carry my own thermal cup, when I travel, which I use for my coffee fix in the morning. Dorota went so far as to wash this cup for me when she was making up the cabin.
Radisson makes it very clear that tipping is not expected. In fact, they say it is included in your fare. I did, however, notice on the last night of the cruise, all the cabin stewards were available in the hallways, and we saw many passengers tipping them, just as we did.
The Voyager has a number of alternatives when it comes to dining. The main dining room, Compass Rose, features open seating. Come whenever you chose, during open operating hours (seating 7PM to 9PM), and dine with whomever you like. The room is large enough to seat everyone, and we never saw any waiting at all.
A couple of nights when it was just Mrs. Kuki and I entering, rather than with a group, the Maitre D did make a point of asking if we wanted a table for two, or would care to join others at a table.
I thought it was excellent service to ask this question, rather than just assume we wanted a table for two.
Food itself, of course, is an area of personal taste, so it's wise to keep in mind, that these are my thoughts. As the saying goes. your mileage may vary.
The menus in all venues onboard are fairly exotic. However, I oddly found the selections to be somewhat limited. Perhaps three appetizers, two salads, one pasta, and three entrée choices. In addition there were "always available" choices which consisted of a steak, fish, and pasta choice.
Fish and seafood lovers would probably be most satisfied with the menus. Being a meat and potatoes guy, making selections was more of a challenge. My personal tastes run to beef, veal, pork, chicken, and pasta. A number of dining times I was surprised how often I had to revert to the "always available" section of the menu. And frankly, I found the steak on that portion of the menu to be less than exceptional.
A couple of times variations of beef tenderloin were offered, and they were very good. Unfortunately other cuts of beef were of lesser quality. And once, even though the quality of the tenderloin was excellent, it was so bland to be disappointing.
Portions of everything seemed to be on the small side. Lobster tails were small, and one night when Beef Wellington was offered, the portions were tiny. and not particularly tender or tasty.
Presentation, on the other hand, was very artful. Everything always looked great, with the taste, unfortunately, occasionally not matching that standard. This was particularly true with desserts. They looked so fabulous, I certainly never passed on the chance to taste them though.
One thing in this area, on Radisson that you won't find on any of the more mass market cruise lines; with 24 hrs. notice you can pre-order pretty much anything you want for dinner the next evening, whether it's on any of the menus or not. The limiting factor, of course, would be that the ingredients are onboard.
The Cordon Bleu restaurant onboard is Signatures. This is a reservations only restaurant, but there is no extra charge. Both food and service here were fabulous. Signatures has a set menu, that does not change throughout the cruise, though selections seemed interesting and plentiful.
My thoughts though are that on a "luxury cruise", an alternate restaurant should simply be a different choice, not an entirely different, higher level of service and food quality from the other dining venues.
The ship offers one other alternate restaurant, Latitudes. Latitudes had only one set seating each night, and the menu, though changing themes nightly, was a set menu. You are limited to a choice of one of two entrees. The rest of the menu. appetizer, soup, etc, is set. Your choice is simply yes or no.
Though the theory of the restaurant is "cute", with an open galley where guests watch the chefs prepare the meal, the final product, including the service was, frankly, not that impressive.
Radisson calls the Voyager an all suites, all balconies ship, and they'd likely be upset to see me referring to the suites as cabins. They are really nice, and well designed cabins, that's for sure.
Aside from being tastefully furnished, they are well laid out as well. The standard "suites" are 300 sq. ft., with a 50 sq. ft balcony. The highlight of these cabins is without doubt the washrooms. Mostly marble finishes on the floors, walls and vanities, and all have a full size bathtub, as well as a separate free standing glass shower unit.
The bathroom is spacious and comfortable, with lots of storage space. And, just as in fine hotels, there's even a telephone in the bathroom. I was tempted to order room service to our washroom, thinking I could just flush it, thereby skipping a step.
The cabin also has a walk in closet. It's very well organized with plenty of hangars and shelf space, as well as a programmable personal safe.
The sitting area is large enough to be comfortable, with a full size sofa and two side arm chairs, and a cocktail table. Against one wall is the desk, and a cabinet stocked with glassware for drinks and wine glasses, with drawers underneath, as well as a mini bar. There is no mirror on the wall above the desk. That's saved for the vanity table located next to the bed, in the other part of the cabin.
The bed was very comfortable, and the linens, pillows and duvet were of good quality.
Another nice amenity here. Aside from the telephone in the bathroom, there are two other telephones. One next to the bed, and another on the desk, in the sitting area.
The cabin has excellent lighting controls and individual climate controls, which actually seemed to function in keeping the cabin as warm or as cool as we chose.
Unfortunately, attached to this great cabin is a pretty small balcony, with room for two chairs and a small table. The chairs are simple plastic resin types, but do have cushions for some added comfort.
The BIG problem with this cabin should be rectified by the time you are reading this report, because the ship is going into dry dock at the end of Sept to repair a propeller which was damaged earlier in the Voyager's Baltic season.
Unfortunately we had to live with this unfixed problem for our entire cruise. The damaged propeller caused our cabin to shake dramatically most of the time we were out at sea. It was so bad, we looked even more forward to our port days.
It felt as though we were living inside the mouth of someone who's teeth were chattering because of cold weather, and it did make for some sleepless nights. I have been on ships that suffered from some vibration problems before, but never experienced anything like this.
I'm surprised I didn't hear of a revolt of all the passengers living in the aft end of the ship, because surely other suites in the area had to be experiencing the same problems. Radisson obviously knew of the problems, and thus the upcoming dry dock. I would have expected them to offer some compensation to all passengers located in the aft portion of the ship, who had paid significant dollars for a luxury suite. and naturally wouldn't expect it to vibrate more vigorously than the bed in a $20 motel.
As a matter of fact, half way through the cruise, half way comment cards were left in the cabins, asking what Radisson could do to improve our experience. I thought this was a nice touch, but was less impressed, when after my rather dramatically negative comments, no one followed up and contacted me to have any kind of discussion of my concerns. I thought this made it rather obvious that they didn't read the comment cards.
I am not a "Vegas show" kind of guy, but I generally do like to attend the "guest star" shows. In the case of the Seven Seas Voyager, and from feedback from Mrs Kuki (who does attend most shows) I should have reversed my tact.
I saw a comedian and a magician who were both somewhat pathetic. The comedian was telling jokes older than I tell. The magician must have been pretty good at his craft, because he made me disappear half way through his show.
Mrs. Kuki reported that the production shows were well done, with quality costumes, sets and performers. She also told me about a fantastic violin player who's performance I missed. But, so did the majority of passengers apparently, because she estimated the audience to consist of about 35 people.
There was a guest lecturer onboard who also drew rave reviews, but the timing of her lectures and presentations seemed to be odd (one was at 10 PM, after a long day not for me), never matching my schedule, so I can't offer any person opinions.
There were bridge classes and play, and computer classes, and tours of the galley, etc. However, this was such a busy itinerary, I didn't even get around to checking to see what types of participation they were getting.
On this cruise the itinerary really was the entertainment, so you'll forgive me if the information in this section is a bit sketchy.
As mentioned, because of the very port intensive itinerary our actual time onboard the ship was somewhat limited, and much of it was spent sleeping, recovering from exhaustive touring.
If I was spending more time onboard I'd have likely been less than impressed with a couple of the lounges. The Voyager Lounge, outside the Compass Rose, is long and narrow, and though it's supposed to function as the ship's disco, it's physical layout certainly isn't conducive to that type of use.
Like the tiny, long and narrow, Connoisseur Cigar Bar, both seem to be afterthoughts to fill minimal amounts of space.
The Horizon Lounge, located aft, is a larger venue, and featured dance bands. Quite a nice physical set up. There are tables and chairs outside the lounge on the stern, but unfortunately the weather wasn't conducive to us taking advantage of them.
On Deck 11 forward the Observation Lounge offers the most pleasant atmosphere of all the lounges, with comfortable furnishings and a panoramic view. This is a non smoking lounge.
Though I happen to be a smoker, I think it's an excellent idea to have at least one lounge onboard totally smoke free.
In many ways the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager displayed the differences between a luxury cruise and a more mass market experience quite dramatically.
In others, they fell short. Overall, I'd rate this ship an 7 ½ out of 10. Pretty darn good, but I have rated previous cruises on less luxurious cruises higher.
They do have room for improvement in the quality of their dining room food and service. Being such a key area, and considering they refer to themselves as a 6 Star cruise line, they should take steps to make changes.
Frankly, I'd be very interested in taking another Seven Seas cruise. I'd be interested to follow up to see if my experiences were typical or anecdotal.
Radisson has refined and updated its outstanding Seven Seas Mariner into the near perfect Seven Seas Voyager. There is great attention to detail that is noticed in your Suite, Public Rooms and Dining Rooms, and even among the attitude of the Staff and Crew, for you, the passenger, are about to be treated as the center of all attention during your cruise. The fact that no tipping is expected on Radisson does nothing to diminish the quality of service and in fact seems only to enhance the atmosphere aboard ship.
All cabins are now outside balcony suites. The starting Deluxe Suites are 306 sq.ft. plus a 50 sq.ft. balcony. Although very similar in floor plan to many cruise lines' mini suites, the extra square footage is noted in extra cabin width and length resulting in a very comfortable space. Two people can use the bathroom which has a separate tub and stall shower. The walk-in closet has more than adequate hanging areas and wall bureau. The seating area can comfortably seat 5 people around a cocktail table and still have aisle access to the balcony. The details in the cabin include a continualsupply of fresh flowers and fruit, built in night lights, pool towels, deckchair blankets, umbrella, the latest in interactive TV's with DVD players and game boards (upgraded Suites have their own Computer terminal station). There is also a complimentary Bar Setup with your choice of 2 bottles of liquor with all mixers, sodas, and bottled water replenished as needed.
In fact throughout the cruise there are no additional charges for soda or bottled water. Also at Dinner a selection of wine is offered at no additional charge. What a nice change from other cruise lines where one's charge card is presented like a reflex whenever one wants something to drink. Also there is no circus like atmosphere marketing the drink of the day or to purchase your wine for dinner.
There are two open seating dining venues and two reserved dining venues at no additional charge. I actually enjoyed the main dining room Compass Rose the most, however the reserved Signatures Restaurant operated by Le Cordon Bleu trained chefs and the more contemporary Latitudes Restaurant should not be missed. Latitudes features the kitchen and your chef, preparing center stage, regional cuisine specialties. My experience was Sonoma Valley serving recipes from highly recognized chefs and establishments of that area on a new Villeroy and Boch pattern.
An item of interest that is missing when one goes to the buffets is the tray. There are none. For as one fills their plate a wait staff member will be nearby to take your plate, seat you, and bring you anything else you may have overlooked. These buffets in general do not offer the overwhelming selection as found on huge ships feeding 2000-3000 passengers, but all selections are of very high quality and well prepared with an outstanding staff to obtain and serve any particular request.
Another highlight of the cruise was the showroom entertainment in the Constellation Lounge. There was a different show every evening consisting of excellent cabaret type performers in addition to production numbers. The young singers in these productions were outstanding exhibiting a range of performance from Opera Arias to Broadway to 60-80"s Hits. Also while in St. Petersburg a local classical pianist and Russian Folkloric Singers and Musicians performed with ice cold vodka served to all after the performance.
This 7 night Baltic Cruise is very port intensive with excellent sightseeing opportunities both independently and through the ship's organized tours. I was surprised with the general youthfulness of the passengers. Expecting more octogenarians I would not be surprised that the average age was in the 48-60 year age range. There were a number of families with teenage children. Radisson does have youth programs and counselors aboard. I look forward to returning to the ship perhaps with a less active itinerary where one could really appreciate all the amenities and service that the Seven Seas Voyager provides.
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.
I have enjoyed reading the reviews of the other August/ Baltic travelers. And in an effort not to simply repeat, I will note that I mostly agree with the comments offered. The ship is lovely even if not visually spectacular and one very quickly feels comfortable. Cabins & their service are excellent. Staff is professional & personable.
I concur that the cuisine should be, as Emeril would shout, kicked up a notch both in variety and preparation; presentation was restaurant quality. Where we became unhappy campers was vis a vis the entertainment which we found to be disconcert-ingly weak both in shows and lounges. We enjoy dancing pre/post dinner, but found 'a piano' rather uninspiring and unexciting. The hair salon,by Carita, is highly priced for unexceptional talent.