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Cruising with Regent on Seven Seas Voyager

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    Cruising with Regent on Seven Seas Voyager

    “Horses for Courses”

    (With apologies to those who may have already read this but it was suggested that I put it on here as it has a different slant on "All In ")


    We have just returned from a 13 day cruise to the Baltic area with Regent Seven Seas Voyage. Apart from a short sample cruise provided by cruisedot a long while ago it was our first “proper” cruise with Regent and we were full of anticipation and interest as to what it would be like to go on a cruise where little to no extra money is said to be required.

    We were given a one night pre-cruise stay in Stockholm at the Radisson Blu Waterfront hotel but this pleasantry was marred quite considerably by the fact that a power outage at Heathrow and the surrounding towns had disrupted most of the systems at the airport. We did not know that, as we were comfortably seated and taking off to Stockholm, our luggage was still being digested by the disabled belts and tracks of the Terminal 5 underground baggage system. The flight was a very good one but our awareness of the fate of our bags suddenly became perfectly obvious when only a few items of luggage were present on the airport carrousel. It strangely made things more awkward when I saw that a suitcarrier belonging yours truly was there but nothing of Ida’s. We waited a while then collected and filled in a form indicating that they now could see which of our bags were still missing and who would be in charge of unravelling the problem. We also found out that they had no idea when we would be repatriated with the rest of my items and, more importantly, the whole of Ida’s.

    We decided that little more could be gained by staying at this smallish airport and joined the arranged transit which we assumed would take us the 25 miles to central Stockholm hotel. We did not however reckon with the enthusiasm of Regent who had laid on a scenic tour of Stockholm as a precursor to what we had in store for the future. Eventually we arrived at the Radisson Blu Waterfront, and elegant name for a hotel which appeared to be part of the Central Railway station but which was nevertheless quite well furnished and provided for.

    There being no news of the truanting luggage we found our room, unpacked some of that which we had found and that which had as hand luggage and decided to find something to eat somewhere in this vast chasm of the Central Stockholm Railway Station. It is a mixture of Victorian fixtures, tiles, facades and lighting and holds a mesmerising assortment of shops, eateries and other boarded cavities of a nondescript nature. We looked at the various places, many of which were spoken of in Tripadvisor; against my better judgement we entered and were bemused by the items supposedly on sale in MacDonalds, I suppose I thought that I might just find something different in Ronald MacDonald’s in Sweden. We went out of the station area but as it started to rain quite heavily came back in and found a quite good café where we had an enjoyable seafood repast.

    Back at the hotel I decided that I had to work on this luggage problem and using the reception phone called the handlers who were supposedly able to make bags arrive. We have on two other occasions lost luggage, Terminal 5 Day 3 was the worst we never saw our luggage again on that occasion until our return from a transatlantic crossing 18 days later when we arrived home and they had been left with our neighbours with a note saying “Sorry we missed you”. The other was in San Jose, Costa Rica where we found our bags were taking the day off in Mexico City. It took some very forceful action and magnificent staring and finger pointing by Ida to get those bags to remember where they were suppose to be and turn up literally minutes before our departure to our ship. Anyway, this time I decided the tact would be a smooth but imploring one with an obviously tired and frustrated lady entrusted by the handlers to do what she could. She said that she could see our missing items on paper and as the conversation changed from imploring to exclaiming that we knew how she must be feeling but that we had faith in her ability. With these final touches the call finished with her saying, with sincerity, that she thought something could be done before the ship sailed the next afternoon.

    We did manage to sleep that night, albeit fitfully, and went to breakfast. Halfway through it Ida went to the Lady’s Room and came back to say that our two errant suitcases were at the reception, safe and sound and adorned with our ship’s cabin labels. We had been extremely lucky, several others did not bet their bags until over half way through the cruise and I believe some never got any. The cruise lines always help out with laundering items and supplying items when possible but having experienced that I can say that it is still a mortifying situation.

    Anyway this is a cruise review so I will attend to that. Regent Seven Seas Voyager is an extremely good looking ship and quite large when one considers she only takes 700 passengers. There are no Inside Cabins so this, Regent claims, enables them to label all Cabins as not just Staterooms but Suites. The “Suites” however are of a goodish size with a well designed bathroom, a walk-in wardrobe, space for comfortable bed(s) and furniture and relaxing chairs and a table on the balcony. I have to say at this point that the staff really are some of the best I have ever come across in over 70 cruises and nothing was too much trouble for them and everything was done with a willingness and skill that deserved mention. This applies to the Housekeeping, Restaurant, Bar and all other staff. We were more than impressed. Whilst on the staff we have to mention that Ray Solaire, the Cruise Director, is an old favourite of ours and of so many others on the ship. We have known him for many years and have to say that he, like good wine, improves with age. His style and demeanour is so engaging and his singing and puppetry, all of which he makes himself, are an absolute delight.

    Most of the tours or excursions are included in the price of the cruise and because they are free they tend to be very well subscribed. Most passengers find this a real bonus but there are drawback and we think that it can be too much. Our normal way of exploring is to research then work out what we want to do either alone or with a couple of others, sometimes we arrange small excursions for a few or join in excursions arranged by others but the mass exodus and often race for first place in customs queues or a seat on the coach does become overwhelming and so unnecessary. Most coaches were all but full and the tour guides seem to speak endlessly about the history, habits, endearments and attractions of their country. It was quite tiring and too much in many cases as the snoring from some of the passengers seem to indicate. We know that many people love this freedom to go time and again up to three tours a day so please realise that we are speaking purely from a personal viewpoint when we say that for us it became too much and will make us consider whether Regent will, despite all of its plusses and all the free inclusions be our future choice. We have found that our choice and lack of being herded is a better option to the free and arranged excursions.

    As I said we started with an overnight stay in Stockholm. We love this city but on this occasion saw little of it. The next day was a stop in Helsinki. We’ve been there several times now and decided to try a visit to an extremely attractive town/village of Porvoo well outside Helsinki. This place is full of visitors in summer and is very Finnish in style; river running through it, wooden houses of various colours cobbles everywhere. There was also a great selection of touristy shops too. My thoughts however could not escape wondering at every turn and steep slope how the Dickens they managed here in the winter which apparently starts early and finishes late. Very interesting as a stop now but oh dear, out of season would be a nightmare for me. We did however manage on the way back to be reacquainted with some of the places which I enjoy so much in Helsinki itself.

    The next three days saw us hove to in the new docks of St Petersburg, a vast improvement of the older one we had to say. The ship was not able to dock in the main river as did Azamara Quest and Silver Whisper, our draught was too deep apparently; shame because we have always said how great it would be to be right in the centre of the main city. There is always so much to see and do in St Petersburg and a three day stop does help enormously with this. I have to say that most visits seem to involve an large amount of steps either climbing up or out from palaces, museums or building and even down and out of boats on the river. Being fairly ambulent does become a real blessing here. We did enjoy the city though; it really is one of those special stops. One small drawback is the sullenness of Russian Officials although I did manage to make two of them really smile; now that did take some doing and they stood the chance of being sacked afterwards I’m sure.

    We did not eat out in St Petersburg although some did but with the amount of food available on the ship it didn’t matter. Both of the Speciality Restaurants, Prime 7 and Signatures, were superb with a great selection of really good dishes. There is no charge for these restaurants although initially the limit is one visit to each but should you want and if there opening then you can make further reservations on board. The regular restaurant, Compass Rose, again serves very good food with a large selection. Service is pretty good most of the time but, as can be expected, with large numbers coming in together it could slow down. Not a problem in the main. The wine and drinks selection was always good no matter where you were on the ship and again as it was free, unless you wanted something extra special, there was no restriction. We were not totally satisfied with the Pool Grill and La Veranda. These are the partially self-service eateries on the Pool Deck. We have seen better quality and a better selection of food on other similar ships. This was particularly so in La Veranda because the food was left for quite long periods under lights in the serving areas it often became luke warm and also dry. Not something I would have expected from a ship of this standard. Again though, one has to say that the service was so good. There was a Coffee Shop down on Deck 5 which I have to admit we didn’t try.

    At our next two ports of call we were in for a surprise. There is little doubt that there has been a huge influx of capital into these two countries. The speculation is that it is German money topped up and encouraged by the USA. In Tallinn, which we really like, we found so much newness and innovation that at first we thought we were in a different country. They are certainly more affluent than on our previous visit but the friendliness and readiness to the eagerness to converse in excellent English was still present. The city itself is expanding and the older parts are still there although more hidden than previously. The view from the top still shows the red roofs and spires but also shows this creeping sprawl. I am glad to say that the Kiek in de Kök tower is now fully renovated; Kiek in de Kök means “ Peek in the Kitchen” by the way. Were it not for their winters I could live in Tallinn. I could never reside in Riga which was our next port of call. Latvia has obviously benefitting from this influx of cash and Riga has also expanded and has some extremely interesting and modern architecture. The central square however conjures up images of past atrocities which still give me the shivers. We decided to go castle visiting here and these were well outside the city and in a totally different countryside; full of very leafy mainly deciduous trees and rushing rivers with lush surrounding meadows it was a far more bucolic scene. The castles were also worth the drive. On all of these drive enthusiastic guides told the history, albeit in the eyes of officialdom, of the countries and not for the first time did we come across the fear of Putin and his possible schemes to enlarge the Federal States of Russia. Bordering, as they do, the FSR and realising that troops were stationed just over these borders, purely there for exercise reasons according to the Russians, they cling steadfastly and hopefully safely to the fact that they are EEC Countries and have NATO protection but I must say that the worry that Putin causes is very palpable.

    One of my idiosyncrasies is that at about seven each morning I do a two mile power walk around the upper deck, it sets me up for the day and allows me to partake of a little extra breakfast than normal. I have to say though that after two days of trying on the Voyager I had to give up because on the first day I managed just a mile, slipping over twice and on the second day after changing into deckshoes I managed, on what appeared to be a drier surface, to slip and fall flat on my back. The surface of the “Running/walking Track” is gloss painted and absolutely lethal as far as I was concerned. Later in the day it became more usable but as the idea of this cruise was to get out and about I think they have totally the wrong surface. On no other ship, and there have been quite a few, have I ever encountered such an inappropriate track. Even with a sea day next I still could not summon up the courage to walk where it was intended people should.

    Sea days are something we normally look forward to and enjoy but we were a bit disappointed with the lack of variety of activities and lectures. Maybe it was just us, looking for something offered by most cruises and our expectation could have been different. We do enjoy the usual offerings of activities but failed to find them.

    Copenhagen is another of the cities we enjoy, particularly wandering the streets of the city centre and enjoying the sites, sounds and smells (Danish bakeries and chocolate shops). The ship layed on a shuttle and we did the usual but because the day was so pleasant decided to take the ubiquitous river-boat ride as well.

    Another day at sea followed which mainly consisted of eating, shuffleboard, chatting, eating, teatime and the quiz and resting before eating and drinking again. Life on this ship with this cruise line is so hard to keep up with at times.

    Amsterdam is a great stop for many people and so it should have been for us. I used to live not too far from there and knew a great deal of the area so this time I decided that I would introduce Ida to the joys of the two fishing ports of Marken and Volendam. It was forty years since I had been there and remembered the traditional old Dutch villages with people still in Dutch costume with fondness. How wrong could I have been to find Marken now quite bland and full of tourists and Volendam so changed that it was almost unrecognisable and even fuller, if that’s a word, of tourists. It was a huge let down for me but that’s what comes of holding memories of places and expecting all to be the same after so long a time. Ida says she did enjoy it though.

    Our last port was Zeebrugge with the options of Brugge, World War 1 Fields, Ghent canals or the Shuttle to Blankenburg. The weather was inclement to put it mildly, the “been there done that” attitude kicked in and as a decider the feeling of being knackered and over excursioned really hit home so we decided to do a little packing then laze away the time once more in the great company of several others who had exceded their touring capacity.

    For the youngish, adventurous passenger, for those who have never seen the delights of these ports, for the inexperienced and for those whose quest for knowledge is never dulled a cruise with 2 to 3 free excursions a day must be absolute bliss but for two who fit none of those descriptions it was hard work although I must say that the luxury, the service, the catering, the entertainment and all the other things that would normally change your on board account into a long list of black writing it was good (My real delight was the after dinner black coffee with a Remy Martin VSOP; on the side of course.) and the absence of gratuities with the exception of tour guides and because they were so good a small donation to the suite staff makes for many the epitome of what one would like to expect on a cruise. So you must be wondering; what’s not to like? All I can say is “Horses for Courses”
    Neil and Ida Down.

    #2
    Thanks for the review Neil. We sailed to Svalbard on Voyager and really liked the ship. It was lovely to see Ray Solaire again and we loved Nectar and Ged in the Voyager Lounge.

    Comment


      #3
      I read and really enjoyed this on the main review section. Great to see you share it here also.

      Comment


        #4
        Welcome back Neil and thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable and comprehensive review.
        Regards
        Garfield
        Last edited by Garfield, Waterlooville; 2nd September 2015, 09:35 PM.

        Comment


          #5
          Great review Neil,I am tinkering with the idea of a 6* cruise in a year or so(major anniversary and 2 main birthdays),So I am lapping up all reviews of this genre,Pleased you both enjoyed it. Jan.

          Comment


            #6
            Very interesting review.

            We asked several Helsinkonians, when there in July, what it's like there in the winter, Horrible, was the general response - the sea freezes over from December to April, though they do have icebreakers in order to keep the harbour open, and pavements becomes quite dangerous, the authorities apparently taking the British line that a few broken legs are cheaper than clearing pavements of ice and snow. Plus, of course, there are few hours of daylight.
            I hadn't appreciated that quite an area of the eastern Baltic can become frozen for some months in winter.

            Comment


              #7
              Thank you Neil, it's a wonderfully comprehensive review! I am so relieved your luggage arrived; I don't want to begin imagining a cruse without it!

              Comment


                #8
                Thank you Neil, very interesting review. So pleased to hear you were re-united with your luggage just in time. It sounds as if you could now do with a holiday to get over the hectic cruise! Beryl

                Comment


                  #9
                  The next three days saw us hove to in the new docks of St Petersburg, a vast improvement of the older one we had to say. The ship was not able to dock in the main river as did Azamara Quest and Silver Whisper, our draught was too deep apparently; shame because we have always said how great it would be to be right in the centre of the main city.
                  Hi Neil
                  I was in St Petersburgh last month,,,,,so was Voyager.
                  What did you think of the new terminal,,,i had heard all the tales of belligerent Russian security,so got off ship 30 mins before tour time.We was off the ship and through security in 5 minutes.They failed to smile though.

                  The small Phoenix cruises ship Amadeu that followed us around the Baltic docked in the city centre.

                  The new stadium being built is for the 2018 World Cup,



                  Did you stop at the souvenir shop with the free vodka,,,,those Voyager vodka louts weren't half giving it loads.
                  JC
                  C P Scott,,,,,"Comment is Free,,but Facts are Sacred"
                  "You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.

                  Comment


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