Saturday, August 5, 2017

Goldring Travel Revisits Regent Seven Seas Cruises (Seven Seas Voyager: Rome to Barcelona - August 1, 2017) - Getting There and First Impressions

This 10 day cruise on the Seven Seas Voyager from Rome to Barcelona is my first one on Regent Seven Seas Cruises in quite a few years.  To be honest, I have had a number of issues with Regent's marketing and changes to its product (i.e. everything is "free" such as airfare, hotel and tours, when you are paying for all of them), there being a definite marketing of "classes" (you get more if you purchase a more expensive suite) and the consistency of its product.

Regent Seven Seas Voyager
I consider this cruise to be great opportunity to objectively revisit Regent Seven Seas Cruises, but I am also here to be the host for the Ensemble Travel Group Ensemble Experience in Marseille and to have some quality father-daughter time with my 18 year old, Devin.  

Because my daughter and companion for this cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager, didn’t want to spend time in Rome, having been there again just two years ago, we decided to fly in on the day of the cruise (which, again, I do not recommend so I arranged early arriving flights).  My flights on United Airlines with close connections was Reno to Denver to Newark (meeting up with Devin) to Rome.  They went off without a hitch; actually arriving 45 minutes early. 

While the disinterested United flight attendants and lousy food was expected, the lousy SeatGuru.com information on my United 767-400 seating was noteworthy (and, of course, I fortunately ignored it).  We sat in 16A and B; bulkhead seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. While being warned by SeatGuru of limited legroom and no window, we had great legroom and a window (though it was slightly forward of our seats).  Yes, SeatGuru and TripAdvisor are related.  Just sayin’, again, don’t blindly follow what is posted.  Inaccuracy is the norm.

Our arrival in Italy was, well, Italian.  Immigration took about an hour with the line literally almost out of the building.  When we got to Passport Control the officer never looked up, never scanned our passports, and never stopped talking to the officer in the next booth.  But our passports were stamped and we were off to baggage claim.  We were told our bags would be delivered to Carousel 10.  The monitors confirmed same.  The bags were arriving at Carousel 10…just…and after the hour delay at Passport Control.  And then the monitors said “Completed”, but our bags were not delivered.  Here we go!  Off to Lost Baggage…only to be told many of the bags were being delivered to Carousel 8.  Huh?  And there are bags were...and then our driver wondered what took us so long!

Italy is Italy.  You can let it drive you crazy or you can embrace it.  I, personally, love the land where everything is impossible, but everything is possible.

Because there is nothing between Fumicino Airport and the port in Civitavecchia (and there is absolutely nothing in Civitavecchia) we sat in the dismal cruise terminal for 2.5 hours before being checked in and boarded the Regent Seven Seas Voyager.  Once onboard we were greeted with a glass of inexpensive champagne and plenty of staff guiding us to La Veranda.  But we first dropped our bags at Deck 4's valet and then headed to La Veranda for lunch while we waited for our suite to be ready.

My initial impression is that the Voyager is an older, but well maintained, ship with consistencies with the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, which I sailed on a few years ago. (I have also have sailed on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator, Diamond and Paul Gauguin when they were Radisson Seven Seas).  Regent has done a good job making the public spaces designed with lower ceilings seem higher.  Overall the spaces are nice, but the artwork is either not very tasteful (my artistic daughter is very opinionated on this subject) or curiously absent.  Much of the furniture new or newly refurbished, but is of an older cruise ship style and arranged to maximize the number of seats in each public space.

After our stroll we arrived at La Veranda which, consistently, still has the older design of tables on the sides and the buffet aft; taking away what now is considered coveted “view space”.  The old design of the buffet - long straight counters on either side - creates lots of conflicts…and a few broken plates as people ran into each other while looking at the offerings.  I sampled a few different items and the best I can say is that the cuisine and service was “hit or miss”.  As it is the buffet on Embarkation Day I am keeping an open mind, but the linguini with pesto was clearly precooked pasta kept in water and then quickly drained and tossed with pesto.  Yuk.  First impressions matter!


When we got to our suite, needing a nap, we found a king bed rather than two twins.  A bottle of Jaquart champagne was iced with a bowl of mixed nuts and another small bowl of fresh fruit greeted us.  We first met our stewardess around 6:00 pm when she changed out our beds while we were in our suite, rather than doing it when we went to dinner.  Huh? Apparently this was our turndown service as well. (She is fairly new and very sweet, so I am not going to hold this against her.  Training is the issue.)

Overall the suite is as expected, though again on the older side.  A new, comfortable, sofa and a desk chair is provided but no occassional chairs.  The telephone (again older) is located on the desk across from the beds (which causes me to have to jump out of bed to answer wakeup calls. Ugh.)  The cabinetry is essentially limited to the desk and a seperate vanity near the bed.  The refrigerator is quite small and is supplied only with soft drinks.  There are sufficient outlets, but none by the bed (although if you have a longer cord the outlet by the vanity may suffice for bed time use).

Signing up for the internet is very easy and, as a big plus, it is included and even better, is not limited to one login per suite.  The speed seems to be good for shipboard internet.

The bathroom is spacious enough, but only has one sink – again an older design element – but tons of counter space.  The cabinetry is quite plain and the lighting is a bit dim.  Our separate shower and bathtub is nice.  The towels (important to me) are very good with a nice gray trim adding a bit of elegance. Water pressure and angle of the shower head isn’t great, but most certainly is adequate. L’Occitane amenities are provided. 


Seven Seas Voyager's Bathroom is older and somewhat dimly lit,
but has plenty of storage and counter space.

After our bags were delivered (later than we expected) we unpacked (OK, I unpacked, but don’t think Devin is ever going to, opting to pull things out of her bag as needed…We shall see) we showered before heading to dinner.

We chose to dine in Compass Rose, the main dining room.  While the room has lower ceilings, Regent has done a great job with architecture and lighting to make the room attractive; especially when seated.  Devin loved the Versace chargers and flower vases which do make an elegant impression. Our servers were pleasant and efficient, and the sommelier, Katryn was a gem.    

I was most interested in Regent Seven Seas new menu concept of having numerous proteins and sauces, as I tend to want the chef to create my dining experience.  Fortunately, there is actually a balance of prepared dishes and what I would call a “steakhouse approach”.  Unfortunately, the descriptions of the dishes tended to be better than the execution.  (For example, my foie gras starter was not great quality and was undercooked and my truffled poached egg was a nicely presented but had no flavor other than egg.)

We both decided to try the “new” concept for our main courses.  The proteins are delivered “plain” and the sauces are delivered separately, so the flavors are not integrated into the dishes.  Devin’s lobster, which was extremely overcooked, was served with a cold pat of garlic herb butter and my half roasted chicken was served with a Madiera truffle sauce.  While applying the garlic butter was a challenge because it wouldn’t melt on the just warm lobster, I did spoon my sauce over my somewhat dry chicken and it was tasty.

For side dishes we ordered spinach and asparagus served in round bowls.  Suffice it to say, if you can serve asparagus in a round bowl it has to be seriously overcooked.  That truly baffled us both as to it being so overcooked and how anyone would think properly prepared asparagus could fit in a round bowl.  Dessert was a small souffle that was not memorable.

My dining experience gave me the clear initial impression that just about everything was cooked in advance...or at least timed to be be served based upon anticipated orders rather than a la minute (as it is ordered). But as I said before, this is Embarkation Day so it is not to say that this is a good representation of what is to come.

After a long day, it was time to head back to the suite and get a good night’s sleep.  Fortunately, our beds, including the sheets, are extremely comfortable…and we needed a good night’s sleep because the next day is a long day traveling to Florence for a private tour of the Uffizi Gallery.