Riding the waves in style on a Mediterranean cruise
PUBLISHED: 16:37 07 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:17 25 March 2015
How lovely it is to be proved wrong! After years of enjoying cruising holidays, my husband and I thought that we had well and truly exhausted the concept.
We had travelled with four of the big cruise companies and the experience was becoming a little jaded as the ships got bigger, the crowds on board got livelier and the ports seemed rather overrun with this ever popular kind of holiday.
However, our minds have now been changed after spending four nights on Regent Seven Seas’ newly refurbished ship, the Seven Seas Mariner.
It isn’t a large ship, with a maximum of just 700 passengers, but it has a feeling of spaciousness. Unlike all other ships I have sailed on, there is no such thing as a poor standard cabin – every one aboard Seven Seas Mariner is a suite with a private balcony. You can choose from a range of size options but all are decorated beautifully with comfortable beds, marble bathrooms and extra touches like cashmere blankets, our own coffee machine and deep cushioned balcony loungers.
From the moment we joined the cruise near Rome, most notable was the high crew to passenger ratio; meaning we always felt like we were being well looked after. The definition of good service is of course a very individual judgement call, but I felt that with the exception of a couple of dismissive reception staff and one speciality waiter that had developed an unacceptable level of arrogance, I would give full credit to all other crew and staff.
A lot of cruise companies have a good reputation for their food. However, the Seven Seas Mariner beats them hands down. Whether it was breakfast in the open air La Veranda restaurant, lunch at the Pool Grill or dinner in the elegant Compass Rose, every meal was a treat. Other ships have speciality restaurants but there has always been an additional charge – on Seven Seas Mariner there are two restaurants on board that are also inclusive. The Prime 7 steakhouse is an amazing experience with options that even include Wagyu; and French restaurant Signatures, for me, was the ultimate treat. When it comes to food, Regent Seven Seas really excel. One night, the 18 chefs on board and all their teams laid out one of the longest buffets I have ever seen. Barbeque dishes sat aside sushi, scallops, terrines, suckling pigs, fine cheese selections, crepes to order and chocolate fountains. The whole pool deck was turned into a dining room for 700 people and we were entertained by a choice of three bands.
In addition to the inclusive speciality dining, I was amazed to find that all of our drinks were inclusive too. Any pre-travel misconceptions that this would be a limited choice of some mediocre wines and a few spirits were so misplaced. You could drink champagne, premium spirits and beers and every cocktail we could think of as well as some excellent wines at any time of the day – all served wherever you wished, whether relaxing on a sun bed, dancing in the nightclub or watching the world go by from one of the lounges. It was so lovely to know that the end of our cruise wasn’t going to be spoilt by an unpleasant shock when we’re handed the bar bill.
After all that wining and dining it’s easy to forget what it is a cruise holiday is all about; and that is the many trips and experiences on offer. On board Seven Seas Mariner there is an impressive selection of excursions, many of which are included in the price of your holiday. I like to spend time relaxing onboard so tended to select shorter trips, but many people I met really got to experience the places we visited with all day excursions. The tour guides are fantastic and we had a wonderful afternoon learning about the wonders of Pisa – a beautiful city with so many treasures beyond the famous leaning tower.
So what is missing from Seven Seas Mariner? You won’t find a tipping programme nor will you be bombarded by ship’s photographers. There are no queues for ‘drinks with the captain’. No pseudo formal nights. No fixed dining seating shifts and no table top sales of junk. There’s no extended time at sea to keep away from port costs and to increase onboard spending and, there is no limitation to the size of port you arrive at. What you will find is the opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet at sea amongst people who enjoy relaxing, good food and drink and great company – true luxury at its best.
Suzanne joined a Regent Seven Seas Cruise during a 10 night trip in the Mediterranean from Barcelona to Venice. For 2015 bookings, prices start at £3,429 per person including flights, transfers, shore excursions and all-inclusive onboard. You can take a 12 night cruise from Southampton to Stockholm from £6,069 per person including three full days and two nights in St Petersburg. To book call 02380 682280 or visit www.rssc.com.