Horseback Riding in Belize

Posted By : Vicky DiMichele/ 0 0

I was recently on the Caribbean Princess and had the opportunity to go horseback riding in Belize. It was a wonderful excursion through the nature park. We even saw monkeys! They usually sleep after their morning breakfast but we did see a few just before they rested. After the ride through the jungle, we had lunch at the restaurant on property and swam in the pool. They even had a water slide. The pool was a great end to the trip since it really cooled you off after spending the day in  the humid temperatures of the area.

Oceania Riviera

Cruising the Italian & French Riviera

Posted By : JoAnne Patterson/ 0 0

When you board the Oceania Riviera you immediately are in awe of how beautiful this ship is – from the magnificent pieces of artwork, to the design of the atrium with the crystal vase at the bottom of the staircase.  Yet there is an immediate feeling of comfort, relaxation of being onboard your home away from home

The service and food quality really set this ship apart.  You can make reservations at their speciality restaurants including the famous Jacques with no cover charge as in other cruise lines.  The open-seating dining policy makes it easy for you to get to know other travelers during dinner.

The stateroom with its earthtone colors, fabrics and tranquility bed creates an atmosphere of comfort and beauty.  We were in a Concierge stateroom which also provided us with access to the Concierge lounge providing 24 hour water, coffee, soft drinks, snacks anytime during the day.  We also received unlimited access to Canyon Ranch SpaClub® private Spa Terrace  which we loved.

There was great entertainment onboard and we loved participating in the lectures onboard as well as cooking classes in the Culinary Centre.

Disembarking in the beautiful places along the Italian and French Rivera such as Portifino, Amalfi, St. Tropez was seamless and we felt we had lots of time exploring.

In summary,  the experience both onboard Oceania Riviera and the ports of call provided some beautiful memories and new experiences.

Crystal Serenity Thanksgiving Cruise

Crystal Serenity Thanksgiving Cruise

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

She’s a big ship and is unashamedly luxurious as befits a ship representing the most awarded luxury cruise line in the industry. And of course all this size gave plenty of space for the 1063 passengers and 604 crew though you would never have known there were so many souls on board. The Thanksgiving cruise took us on a round trip from Fort Lauderdale, calling it at Grand Turks, Grand Cayman and Key West, all of which basked in the Caribbean sunshine, totally at odds with the wondrous Christmas decorations which were hung throughout the ship.

We were hosting 126 Virtuoso Voyager guests, there were only 3 shore days, and 7 total days, which meant there was not a shore event planned. We were on Deck 7, the Promenade deck, which allows passengers to circumnavigate the whole ship, with many using it as a jogging track (just over 3 laps per mile for those interested in such details.) Our cabin, by coincidence, was an ocean view stateroom, designed for handicapped passengers, which gave us 200 square feet more than the standard state-room and had a large walk-in shower and closet to boot; like the rest of the ship it was beautifully furnished and very comfortable and isn’t scheduled for their next mega dry dock next later this year. Mama Lee, a spry 85 year old likes it so much that she has taken up permanent residence on-board.

The ship was equipped with a couple of splendid eateries, over and above The Crystal Dining Room on Deck 5. The Sushi Bar, by NOBU, on Deck 7, was a joy to behold. We sat at the Sushi Bar and watched in awe, as the chefs took seemingly random scoops of rice, slices of fish and vegetables and created miniature works of art, seemingly too good to eat, but, which tasted absolutely delicious. Prego, the Italian restaurant, also on Deck 7, was another place where masterpieces of ethnic cuisine were conjured up to delight the tastebuds and satisfy the senses. In between these gastronomic palaces, one could visit the Trident Grill on Deck 12 for an alfresco breakfast in the warm Caribbean sun; The Bistro on Deck 6 for ‘café et gâteaux’ almost anytime during the day; and The Crystal Dining Room to experience exquisite cuisine in the formal and elegant format for which Crystal is famed.

As for the rest, the various shops catered for those in the mood for extensive retail therapy, and the Spa was booked solid for then duration of the cruise. As ever, the crew was scrupulously polite and accommodating, generous with their time and endlessly patient in response to their guest’s seemingly endless queries. She is a fine and luxurious vessel on which to while away the days, with excellent cuisine, fine wines and attentive staff; neither of us were sure we could have asked for anything more!

 

 

Contributed by Lynne Adams
An independent affiliate of Direct Travel

Cruising on the Caribbean Princess

Posted By : cruising/ 0 0

The great customer service began during the boarding procedure in the Port Everglades. Even though you go through long and winding lines, the Princess staff kept the line quickly moving & someone was always available for questions. If your bags are small enough (carry on sized) to go through the x-ray machines they will let you carry them on board yourself. If your bags are the standard size they take them before you enter the building to check-in and board. Never fear, they have your bags to your room in about 20 minutes. This is where those bag tags they provide on the princess.com Cruise Personalizer really come in handy.

The balcony stateroom was very nice! They really did a great job at maximizing the space. The balcony itself was roomy with 2 chairs and a table. The queen bed was split into 2 twins as requested, and each bed had a night stand. The bedding & curtains were new and classy looking. There was a desk with chair in one corner by the balcony, and then an entertainment center containing the fridge, mini-bar, and flat screen TV in the other corner. The hanging closet was open and had plenty of space. They stateroom safe is contained in the closet with shelves and was easy to use. The restroom was very small requiring a step up and then down when entering or leaving, but it served its purpose. The sink had storage space underneath and then shelving to the left of the mirror. The shower had a nifty little retractable clothes line inside so you could hang your swimsuits to dry. The window and inside staterooms were similar in setup. Your mini-suites and suite staterooms are in some cases double in size from the standard staterooms. I only got a glimpse of the one of these. These mini-suite and suite rooms are located on various decks.

The ship has 19 decks and only 2 elevators reach the upper decks above 15.  The bottom deck 4 is your Medical Center only. The nurses informed me it is located there since that is the area of the ship that moves the least. Anything below Deck 4 was for staff only.

Your lower decks 5-15 are where the staterooms are located. Deck 5 has the larger Island dining room for Anytime Dining, the Art Gallery, the Internet Café/Library, the International Café, Vines Bar, and the Lobby Bar. This is the lower level of and the Piazza. The Piazza itself is 2 stories tall, and seems to be the hub of indoor activity: there are games in atrium & people just lounge in there to enjoy the view of the beautiful chandelier and elevator sculpture. Fair warning- It can get a little busy in this area around dinner time, and when there is a special shopping experience taking place.

Deck 6 part of the Piazza houses the Passenger Services Desk and the only 2 Princess Kiosks on board. The Excursion, Future Cruise, and Circle desks were located behind the Passenger Services desk. The Princess Theatre is very stunning and located forward of the Passenger Services desk just past the coolest of the indoor smoking lounges- the Churchill Lounge aka the Cigar Bar. The Crowne Grill was one of the specialty dining rooms on-board available for an additional cost per meal, but it was nice that they made this into a British pub on at seas days. The Coral & Palm dining rooms used for the Traditional dining were also located on this level.

Deck 7 contained several bars, Club Fusion, the photo gallery, one store, Sabatini’s specialty Italian restaurant (additional cost item), the upper level of the Princess Theatre, and most notably the Casino. There was also a nice Promenade Deck that wrapped around 3 of the 4 sides of the ship. You had to go up a flight of stairs to walk across the bow of the ship. This was the place to go to have a nice walk.

Your upper decks 15-19 were more casual. There were several pools and hot tubs on the 15th level, as well as the buffet dining, and a bar at each end. The fantastic Pizzeria, Burger & Hot Dog Grill, Ice Cream Bar, Café Caribe, Horizon Court (buffet), and Bayou Café & Steakhouse were also on this level. The only outdoor smoking lounge was on the 16th level and could only be reached by the stairs located near one of the bars on deck 15.  From deck 15 you can walk out through the buffet dining room to reach the Horizon Terrace. This was the hidden gem of an adults only pool. A very nice older couple turned me on to this destination. There is lots of shade in this area as well for lounging on the deck. Once you hit deck 15 everyone walks around in their swimsuit. Cover-ups seemed optional. People would even eat in the buffet room in their swimsuits. Deck 15 was the lowest deck you could sit on to watch Movies Under the Stars.

Levels 16-19 were various sun decks with bars, the fitness area, the centers for children of various ages, and the private Lotus Spa and Sanctuary. I never did figure out how to venture onto deck 18 & 19.

Princess had a special sale in the dining room on both of the at days at sea, and those were very popular: $10 Only Sale & Clearance Sale. They also had a couple informational seminars/presentations on what to buy in the Caribbean and gem stone/silver quality.  There were also various shows in the Princess Theatre. They also had various games they involved the passengers in. One was throwing paper planes from the stair case in the Piazza through a hula-hoop hung above the baby grande piano. It was fun to watch the people enjoying themselves. There were also 2 art auctions in the art gallery. The makeup store offered a free 5 minute make over. Every day the Lotus Spa staff would be out selling specially priced packages, etc. They really tried to keep everyone involved in something.

Eating on-board was a learning experience. You have to figure out where and when… there are so many options you just have to find the best bet for you. Each traveler has an assigned type of dining based on what they chose using their Cruise Personalizer-  Anytime dining 5:30-10 with new companions each night & Traditional dining at a set time with the same companions. Above and beyond this there were places like the Café Caribe, the Trident Grill, the Prego Pizza Bar, the International Café (some items), and the and Horizons Buffet where you could eat any time they were open without incurring an additional cost. The only two true 24 hour places to dine were room service and in the International Café. The best food was by far found at the Anytime & Traditional dinners. They offered multiple courses to choose from & great service. I wish I would have skipped the buffet for this every night instead of just 2 nights. People actually dressed for dinner and it was nice to mingle with new people. Also I totally agree with the “best pizza on the sea” from the pizza bar & the hamburger grill was yummy! They made your burgers fresh to order, but you would also get hot dogs, brats, and chicken. It seemed like most people openly took food and drinks back to their room from all the places except the Anytime and Traditional dining rooms. I really wanted to try the Café Caribe, but it never seemed to be open every time I tried.

The beverages were rather expensive. If you’re a drinker opt for the drink package. It was $49.99 per day for drinks up to $10 unlimited. I did love the Paradise Punch, but once you paid the tip and 15% concession fee it was over $11 a drink. This would be why I only drank 3 drinks the entire voyage ? There was a soda package as well for $9.99. This would let you avoid paying $2.50 for a can of pop. Unfortunately none of the beverage packages included bottled water. (I did see some travelers bring cases of bottled water on-board however) With breakfast juice and coffee was free. The rest of the day poured water, lemonade, and unsweetened brewed iced tea was available free of charge.

Now let’s talk service. WOW!! You know learning about the CRUISE standard and seeing it in practice are two completely different things. Every single crew member was polite and kind to everyone. I didn’t witness one instance of a crew member ignoring someone or being rude. In fact it was like Bizzaro Land… they all stopped & said hi to wish you a nice day. Your room steward is very visible throughout the whole journey. Our room was cleaned 3 times a day including the turn down service. My steward was so amazing he worked around our schedules and it mainly because of him I felt so pampered. I would hands down recommend sailing on Princess to anyone. And you know the best little personal touch with crew members is their country is listed on their name badges. It makes it easier to start a conversation & to remember them individually.

Shopping in the Port was nice. We did excursions outside of Princess (yep I ATV’d through the jungle, got to hold some cool animals, and snorkeled at a private beach J), but found out firsthand the port prices were the same if not cheaper than the street vendors. There are 3 reasons I would suggest someone only shop in port in Cozumel: Cost, the fact Princess backs your in-port purchases for 60 days, and doing so avoids the harassment from the locals trying to sell you items. The harassment can get out of hand. When someone is grabbing you trying to drag you into their tent that’s too much!!

In closing, I can also inform that their medical staff is very well trained and they go above and beyond as well. No one warned me the boat rocks constantly and seasickness is a most likely scenario. My roommate and I spent the first night in our cabin ill. I missed the welcome reception and everything which was disappointing. However kudos to the nurse who was nice enough to call us after his shift. He even called back later in the evening to check on us. When we showed up first thing the next morning he was like “Ahh yes, I was expecting you.” Anyone who cruises should take enough Dramamine to last the voyage just to be safe. The trick is to keep up on it and not let the effect lapse.

Silver Wind

Silver Wind Med Cruise

Posted By : Shelley Greenan/ 0 0

This was a 7 day sailing from Lisbon to Barcelona.  I was the onboard Virtuoso Voyage host.

The Wind is 296 passengers.  A nice small size.  Easy to get on and off.  The staff are amazing.  There isn’t anything they won’t do for you.  All butler suites.  The staterooms are very generous in size.  Beds are very comfortable.  Large bathroom, walk-in closet, sitting area.

As this was a Virtuoso Voyage, our Exclusive event was in Valencia.   Our guide was fabulous and extremely knowledgeable.  I had been to Valencia on a previous voyage but never got to really “see” it.  The value add being on a Virtuoso Voyage cannot be duplicated.  We toured everywhere in that city.  Valencia is truly a modern, with it’s old style still prominent.  Our tour ended in a restaurant on the beach where the locals go.  We had authentic paella, sangria and salad.  It was truly an unforgettable emersion into local culture.

The staff onboard the Wind always make you feel like you are coming back home.  That’s the unique small ship cruise experience.

Food onboard was fabulous.  Lots of choice.  Buffet or a la carte for breakfast and lunch.  My favorite spot was La Terazza for lunch.  Sit outdoors if weather permits.  No need for a reservation at lunch time.  It’s a very relaxing time lunching and checking out the view while being served amazing food by amazing staff.

Caribbean Princess

Western Caribbean from Houston

Posted By : Vicky DiMichele/ 0 0

The Caribbean Princess ship leaves from Houston and we were lucky enough to take their Western Caribbean itinerary to Cozumel, Honduras and Belize for seven days. My friend and I had a nice direct flight on United from Cleveland to Houston the day before in case there were bad weather conditions. Being in Cleveland and planning on flying at the end of February, you have to be prepared for a cancellation or delay. They are now serving a snack on board which was from Solon’s very own King Nut factory although it was spicy pretzels so no nut allergies to worry about. The flight went perfectly and soon we were in the warm Texas weather. Being a day early allowed us to check out some local hot spots like World of Beer and Rudy’s BBQ.

The Princess cruise terminal is about an hour outside the city, a different port than Galveston. This was smaller, so small that there could only be one ship in port at a time. This being the case, embarkation was very smooth. We had filled out our pre-cruise information online so really just had to show our passports, fill out one form and we were on our way.

There were many fun things to do as soon as you boarded the ship. They handed you a card where you could check out different areas of the ship and get stamps at the locations like the casino and internet café. Once the stamp card was completed, you turn it in to be entered into a raffle for $1,000. I unfortunately did not win.

We did not upgrade so were in an inside cabin. Although I was nervous about the closed-in conditions, the room ended up being more spacious than I was expecting. There was also a mini fridge next to the desk which was nice to keep drinks cold. Our room steward made sure to keep our ice filled throughout the trip. He must have cleaned our room at least 3 times a day, leaving little chocolates on the bed every night. The only thing that I was not expecting was to be completely confused on what time it was. There was no daylight coming in to wake you up. Another passenger gave us a little trick though. There was a station on the TV that showed a live feed of the ship and if you turned that on at night, it will brighten with the sunrise so acts as a “window”.

Our first complete day was onboard for a sea day. There were so many activities to do like a shopping presentation and trivia that you had to consciously plan your time to just sit back and relax. There was an adult only pool at the back of the ship that was quiet. We found a few lounge chairs up a couple decks from there. The two pools in the center of the ship were pretty crowded though. One had a video screen which played movies throughout the day and evening. During the late evenings, they played a movie and served popcorn with a blanket to keep the chill away which was nice. The other pool played music or had a live band on the stage above the pool. We did not go swimming though because the pools were VERY cold. There was also a wine tasting that evening where we sampled 6 wines from around the world, paired with canapés of lobster, caviar and prosciutto. It was our first formal night as well so the evening was extravagant in many ways.

Our first port was in Cozumel. I was most excited about this one because I have been there a few times so knew my way around. We decided not to do a shore excursion and use this as our shopping day. There were a lot of stores around our port but we took a taxi to the downtown area where there were even more shops. I was on a hunt for my favorite tequila and finally came across the store after showing multiple people the distinctive shaped bottle and getting directions.

Now, there are plenty of tequila tasting tours offered on the island but you do not need to pay for any specialty tours. All you have to do is walk around and literally every little shop you pass will offer you shots of “the best tequila” to get you into their stores. After much of my shopping was complete, we went over to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for lunch. They have a beautiful deck out back where you can go swimming while you have lunch.

It was a long morning so we headed back to the ship after we were finished and got ready for the evening. Princess sent canapés to the room before dinner and we were seated at our table as soon as we made our appearance. We opted for the anytime dining instead of picking an early or late seating. This worked out well because we did not have to worry about being down at a specific time. Although we did not sit with the same group of people the whole trip, we met different faces throughout the week which was fun too.

The next day we arrived bright and early in our own port on Roatan, Honduras. There were a couple other ships in another port but Princess had their own including shops and a huge private beach that had enough lounge chairs to accommodate the entire ship. We did a bit of shopping before we met our tour guide to head over to another private island to snorkel in the Mayan ruins. Princess has partnered with the Discovery Channel which gives accreditation to some of their excursions and this was one of them. The bus ride was about 20 minutes and then we boarded a smaller boat for a few minutes. We landed at a small dock with a beautiful beach complete with dive shack and restaurant. After signing waivers, we were fitted for our gear and then taken on another little boat out into the coral reef. The water was especially calm that day so we went to the drop-off of the reef and then snorkeled our way to the ruins. Although they were reproductions, it was cool to see a different experience. There was even a circular Mayan calendar with a huge hole in the center. If you were brave enough, you could dive down and swim through the center. After about an hour, we were taken back to the beach where we were served local beers and fish tacos. There was time to play in the blue water before we had to leave and return back to the ship.

The next day was off to Belize. The area is full of islands so we had to tender in on little boats to the main port. I have to admit that the shopping here was my favorite of all the ports. I did not realize that there would be so many stores or I would have brought more money! Our group was escorted to a large bus to go to Bacab Eco Park. There were two tours, one for horseback riding though the rainforest and one to kayak the smaller parts of the river. We were on the horseback one which was good because there was a crocodile sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the practice pond for the kayakers and I would not have gone.

The riding was fun! The horses were older so did not go very fast which was nice but also meant that they were like cranky old men, not wanting the others to pass them but would stop in the middle of the trail to eat some plants. Our guide would smack them on the butt and yell “No McDonald’s break!” We were lucky enough to see a black howler monkey which was rare at the time we went. The monkeys usually came out in the morning to eat but then would hide and take a nap during the late morning. After our ride, we had a traditional lunch of rice, beans and chicken with an amazing local sauce.

Then it was time to walk the medicinal trail which was a self-guided tour through the forest. There were signs by different plants describing what they would cure; everything from fever to syphilis to diabetes. It is so amazing what these different plants can cure! There was still a bit of time so we went swimming in the pool that had a waterfall over the rocks and a waterslide down the edge. As I was about to go down the slide, I started chatting with the security guard and he was telling me that he was a medicine man too. He was working on curing his daughter of asthma. He already cured his brother and was going to the doctor next week to see if it was working on her. He even gave me some tips on plants they use to cure diabetes (made with hyacinth stem and root) and help stop cancer cells from forming (lemongrass). I think I need to go down there for a month or so to learn more…

The next two days were sea days coming home. We relaxed by the pool and caught some shows. There was a great cooking demonstration given by the head chef and maître d‘. There was a tour of the galley after which was very interesting. Did you know that on a typical week of a Princess cruise, they use about 70,000 eggs?

All in all, the trip was great and I would definitely recommend Princess to others. Their main demographics are retired and the LGBT communities but there were still a good handful of families and millennials as well. There were also many back-to-back cruisers continuing on to the next Eastern Caribbean cruise on the same ship. There were almost 400 people on-board doing that. Princess has a very streamlined experience for this as well. If guests are not moving cabins, all they have to do is exit the ship, go through customs and get back on. There was one lady with a broken arm who needed to move one room over but her room steward cleaned her new room first and moved all of her stuff so she would not have to do that. The ship did need some upgrades here and there but the service was spectacular down to the white gloves at afternoon tea service. I will definitely be looking forward to my next cruise with Princess in the near future. If you have any questions about Princess Cruises or this experience, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Estonian Hospitality

Posted By : cutecourts/ 0 0

My husband and I were booked on an amazing Baltic cruise in July with Regent Seven Seas.  Unfortunately our flight out of Toronto was delayed by several hours due to bad weather in New York (rain storm) which made us miss our connection from Newark.  We had to sleep in Newark Airport and were rebooked on the same flight the next day into Copenhagen but we had missed boarding our ship.  Once we arrived in Copenhagen our only option was to fly into Tallinn and spend the night there in order to board the ship the next day.  We booked a flight on Estonian Airlines – the wonderful reservation agent at the airport heard our story and without us knowing upgraded us to business class.  We had more comfortable seats (leather), a warm meal (with real cutlery) and the staff onboard were so sweet to us.  After travelling for two days it was the best feeling to be taken care of! We learned the hard way to always fly in the day before the cruise departs – you never know what is going to happen – delays don’t just happen in the winter!!

PLUS we got an extra day in Tallinn and absolutely loved the extra time – what a wonderful place with such friendly and helpful people.  A bad situation turned out to be okay … not that we would want to go through it again.

    Regent Seven Seas Explorer: The world’s most luxurious ship

    Posted By : Stephen Smith/ 0 0

    Anytime a new ship is launched it is very exciting for everyone involved: the lucky guests that are the first few to experience it; the CEO of the cruise line; the cruise line sales staff; the staff and crew on board; the travel agents that sell it.

    There is an anticipation of what we will all find when it is finally revealed.

    On Regent Seven Seas Explorer they thought of everything.

    It is one of the reasons they can call it “The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built”.

    A few of the other reasons: the table settings, the linens. the pool side grill, the theatre setup, the lighting throughout the ship, the magnificent foyer, the amenities in our suite, the new twist on the main dining room menu, tea time, the incredible artwork, the remarkable food in EVERY restaurant. Everything was clearly thought through and built to exceptional standards.

    Our 5-day inaugural cruise on board the Explorer exceeded my expectations and cemented Regent as a leader in luxury cruising.

    On the page ahead I hope a mix of words and photos can re-create my experience and help you decide if the Regent Seven Seas Explorer is going to be in your future travel plans.

    The Anticipation of Embarkation

    People say that the anticipation leading up to a cruise is almost as good as the cruise itself. While I completely agree with this I also believe that the day you board your ship sets the tone for the entire cruise.

    Our cruise embarked from Barcelona. The cruise port in Barcelona is about 30 minutes from the airport. When we pulled in we were greeted by smiling faces eager to help with our bags in a very orderly manner. The embarkation process was smooth and we were on board in 30 minutes.

    For anyone who cruises regularly you are aware that the majority of people head straight to the food when they get on board. It is typically around lunch time and your cabin is not ready – so food is clearly the obvious choice. It is also typically very crowded and a bit stressful as you have a carry on of some sort and you need to find a table.

    On Regent Seven Seas Explorer, Le Veranda is located on the 11th deck at the aft of the ship and is was not crowded, the food was spectacular and there was a nice variety. The staff was ready to help and there were plenty of tables available – both inside and on the “veranda”. A refreshing and civilized way to begin a cruise.

    The Suite

    The first thing that struck me as I entered into my suite was the space. Nothing was cramped or tight, nothing was awkward because they had to figure out how to fit it in.

    We were lucky enough to enjoy a one bedroom Seven Seas Suite onboard the Seven Seas Explorer. It has a foyer with a powder room (which was very useful when my wife was busy “getting ready”) and a living room area with a sofa and two chairs, a wet bar, a dining table and a desk (which overlooked the balcony – a very peaceful way to get a bit of work done).

    The bedroom is perfect. It starts with the bed. Regent obviously believes every guest should get a perfect night’s sleep and their beds certainly achieved that for me. It is extremely comfortable and the linens are of the highest quality.

    There is a vanity beside the bed with plenty of space and two bedside tables – each with storage in them. One of the best features of the suite is the bathroom. With a Jacuzzi tub, two sinks and a sizeable shower, the bathroom is as comfortable as my ensuite at home – maybe even more so.

    The walk in closet provides plenty of space for outfits for 10 nights. Given that we were only on board for 5 nights, we actually had empty shelves and an empty drawer.

    My experience in cruising is that a cabin is always well thought out from a storage perspective but not always convenient. Ship designers have a way to make every small space useful for good reason. The difference in our Regent suite was that every single piece of storage was convenient and it was plentiful. The impact this has on your everyday life on board the ship is remarkable. I never really felt like I was on a cruise ship – and I mean that in the most positive way.

    I would be remiss not to mention the incredible butler that accompanies the Seven Seas Suite. Our butler was incredibly attentive without being overbearing and his attention to detail was impressive. I expected a high level of service on board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer but a butler took it to a new level.

    The Restaurants and overall food experience

    I have dined on many cruise ships and for the most part the food experience has been outstanding. I was curious as to how Regent could elevate my food experience to be that much better than the premium cruise lines.

    They did not disappoint.

    The food was outstanding. I was not able to dine in each venue but here was my experience:

    Compass Rose

    Compass Rose is the main dining room and it was amazing. The décor was magnificent and was highlighted by a central lighting feature that was stunning. I would try and describe it in words but it would not do it justice – you will just have to go find out for yourself.

    The highlight for me is the new menu concept. You can essentially build your own meal from a plethora of options. The possibilities are endless and any compromises are completely removed. They still have the chef features, which are typically off the charts in appearance and taste. I ate the lamb with a perfect wine pairing chosen by the sommelier and it was spectacular.

    La Veranda

    A buffet that does not feel like a buffet. Well laid out with a nice variety of food for breakfast and lunch and never a challenge to find a table that suited my mood (inside, outside, quiet, etc). The service was really a highlight at La Veranda, always attentive to drinks and clearing away dishes and engaging in conversation when appropriate. The staff on board the Regent Seven Seas Explorer really made you feel like you are at home.

    Sette Mari

    La Veranda by day turns into Sette Mari at night, a fine Italian restaurant with the option of eating outside. We started with a delightful compilation of anti pasto followed by our appetizer, a tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad, pasta, dessert and coffee – a true Italian feast.

    Chartreuse

    A beautiful setting that made me feel like I was in the middle of Paris. Chartreuse is the French restaurant and it features a very traditional menu with Soufflé, rich foods and fantastic wines. While this is the least adventurous menu, the food was delicious.

    Room Service

    We ordered room service twice. Once for breakfast and once late at night. The breakfast came promptly at 7:30am and it was hot, fresh and our butler laid it out for us. This is when the extra space of a Regent Suite can be appreciated. We were able to sit and enjoy our breakfast before heading out on our 8:30am shore excursion. At night we ordered and simple sandwich and it came on time and was clearly made fresh upon ordering.

    Pool Side Grill

    I love a freshly made hamburger. The Pool Side Grill features a menu of 8 different burger options including basic, salmon, chicken, veggie and more. You find your table, order your burger at the grill and someone brings it to you. You can really order any variation of burger you want and they will make it. Fresh. Accompany it with an ice cold lager and you have yourself and fantastic lunch at sea!

    The Café

    The Café features all your typical coffees and teas but also a nice array of food, both fresh and sweet. The baristas are available throughout the day and you can use the self serve machine late at night

    Public Spaces

    One of the highlights of Regent Seven Seas Explorer is the public spaces and décor. I would describe it as a 1920’ s design with a modern twist. The public spaces are very open and welcoming. All of the lounges are spacious but intimate, the Casino is small but had a nice energy to it after dinner and into the night.

    The theatre is outstanding – almost a cross between a 1920’s café and theatre. The seating is arranged is 2’s 4’s and 6’s with tables so that you can sit on your own or with a group of friends and have a drink and be comfortable as you enjoy the entertainment.

    On the top deck they have a sports area with a sports court for tennis and basketball and a 9 hoe mini putt as well.  A great facility to spend an afternoon at sea.

    One of the highlights was the puzzle table. It was in a very public space so that it drew attention and would not be missed but set back so that it was not in the way of those passing by. Very well done.

    I found the ship very easy to navigate the first day as the layout is straight forward and logical. This may seem like a minor statement but I have been on many ships that take a few days to become familiar.

    The Canyon Ranch Spa and The Gym

    I could write a blog on the Canyon Ranch Spa alone. While I did not have a chance to experience one of their services, the spa and their water treatment rooms are open to all guests – you just need to book a time.

    I had a tour of the spa and the treatment rooms are spacious and they even have a couples treatment room – a perfect way to start your cruise!

    The water treatment rooms are spectacular. They have a sauna, a cold room, a steam room and a showering system with multiple stations – very cool. I personally enjoyed spending time in the steam room with aromatherapy followed by the cold room and back and forth.

    After my hot and cold treatment, I laid down on the mosaic heat beds to read for a while before heading out to the infinity pool on the deck. A perfect way to spend the morning before my previously mentioned burger and lager at the Pool Side Grill.

    The gym was enormous – I have never seen a gym like this on a cruise ship. The equipment was state of the art and view off the stern of the ship made you forget the workout you were putting yourself through. They have spinning classes and yoga classes all lead by professionals. They will also spend time curating a personal workout regime for you.

    The thing that stands out the most about the spa and gym are the amount of space they have allocated – even the spa lobby is wide open and welcoming. Combined the two facilities take up almost a third of the ship on two decks.

    Overall Atmosphere

    When you think of a luxury ship you might think of it as being stuffy and lacking atmosphere. Quite the opposite is true of Regent Seven Seas Explorer. From Cruise Director Ray’s opera singing at tea time to the deck party on the last evening to live music in all of the lounges, there is always something to do or somewhere to go to be entertained or to unwind.

    Regent Seven Seas Explorer absolutely lived up to “The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built” but it goes beyond the physical ship; the overall experience is one you will never forget and will be calling your travel advisor to plan your next cruise as soon as your return!

    Wind Spirit Sails Up

    A little bit of paradise in the South Pacific

    Posted By : Courtney Anderson/ 0 0

    The Tahitian Islands are said to be the most beautiful place on earth and I have to agree! The lush volcanic landscape juts straight up and out of the crystal clear lagoon water. I would also have to say the people of Tahiti are equally incredible.

    TRANSPORTATION – Air Tahiti Nui from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti and back. A late afternoon flight in which we slept comfortably most of the way. The seat arrangements in economy are 2-4-2 and we were happy to be sitting near a window. The return flight left at midnight, and again we slept comfortably for almost the entire ride. Each seat had a sanitized sealed bag with a blanket, pillow, socks, ear buds and eye mask … NICE! These eight hour flights just flew by.

    Windstar, Wind Spirit sailing 7 days around the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti. Newly refurbished in May this year and the one week temporary home of just 148 fellow sailors. The many common areas offered ample seating options and we never had the feeling of being crowded. It was necessary for the stabilizers to be engaged when sailing between the islands, and this made for a comfortable ride. This was the only time I’ve returned from cruising where I didn’t get vertigo for weeks afterwards.

    FOOD – Early morning on the pool deck, there was a selection of teas, coffee and juices, along with fresh fruit and pastries. Breakfast was serviced either buffet or a la carte at the casual indoor/outdoor Verandah restaurant.

    Lunch was also serviced here daily accept for the one day the Windstar staff held a fabulous barbecue buffet on the private Motu. For dinner, some nights we had a more elegant open seating experience in the AmphorA restaurant. The menu had a wide variety of options, leaving us struggling to choose each night. The other dinner option is the very popular Candles restaurant, which is by reservation only and is set up on the pool deck each night. The very delicious menu is completely different than the dining room, and is prepared poolside as well. A very nice evening!

    One night on the pool deck, a French Polynesian celebration took place with a traditional meal served buffet style and traditional Polynesian dancers as the entertainment. At the end of the second day at Bora Bora, a very well orchestrated Motu Festival takes place. The Wind Spirit guests are swiftly tendered to the Motu, directed to the traditional Polynesian buffet, displaying a roasted pig and open seating. Immediately upon finishing dinner, the Fire Dancers appeared and the Festival continued.

    If at any time the guests didn’t want to participate in the above dining options, 24 hour room service offered a long list of options as well. – The option of signing up for the Alcohol and Beverage package is offered on the day of embarkation, well priced, and convenient. The “Plan” as the crew call it, is available both on and off the ship when Windstar is hosting your activity.

    ACCOMMODATIONS – We were surprised to find our stateroom so spacious, with Windstar taking advantage of yacht style storage spaces in both the living area and the granite bathroom. A wide variety of L’Occitane Bath products were replenished daily, along with plush bath and beach towels. A plate of fresh fruit was also on the table throughout the cruise. The queen size mattress and pillows are new and very comfortable.

    ONBOARD – The Wind Spirit offers daily, early morning stretching and yoga classes on the open air, top deck. The yacht also offers a Fitness center, Casino, Library/Business center, gift shop, The Lounge with live nightly entertainment, pool bar, pool and hot tub. On deck 2, Aft, when conditions were right, the Watersports Platform was wide open and offered water skiing , paddle boards, kayaks, sunfish sailing boats, snorkel and diving equipment. The water staff were always helpful. On the day of the private Motu off the island of Taha’a, the water staff set up all of these activities on shore so everyone could take full advantage.

    We booked a Windstar excursion for each day of our trip, spending all of our shore time, on the water.

    In Moorea we did the Snorkel Safari, where we swam with Black Tip Sharks, Stingrays, and many colourful reef fish. I have underwater video of sharks swimming straight for me, and turning away quickly. AMAZING!

    While at Raiatea, we kayaked the Faaroa River. It had rained the night before leaving the water murky, but at a level easy to maneuver. Viewing the landscape from the river is interesting as the fruit and flowering trees hang low over the river creating lush tunnels to paddle through.

    At the nearby island of Taha’a we started the day on a Coral Garden Drift Snorkeling tour. We boarded a motorized outrigger and headed toward two private Motus with a thin channel of swift water flowing between. Located at one end of the channel, the waves crash at the reef’s edge. We walked from one end of the Motu, up to where the fast moving white water begins, geared up with snorkel equipment, and jumped in. We drifted between the tiny Motus and maneuver through almost a kilometer of Coral Gardens. Sadly we only had time to do this 4 times, then our tour operators delivered us to the Windstar Private Motu barbecue lunch. The staff put out a variety of land and water games and the Spa offered their massage services in a private beach environment.

    We had two days in Bora Bora. On the first day we boarded another motorized outrigger and headed just outside of the reef’s crashing waves, stopping in calm clear deep blue water. Here our guide anchored, invited everyone to jump in, then with a hand full of fish chum he dove half way to the bottom. With everyone snorkeling on the surface, he threw his feed above him, swam out of the way, then as the tiny fish nibbled away, three 8 foot Lemon Sharks merged from the bottom, with mouths wide open, gulping in breakfast just a few feet away and stayed to swim around everyone for a while. OMG! Getting back into the boat we sailed to a private Motu for a traditional Polynesian lunch. The picnic tables were knee deep in the water and while we ate, fish swam around our legs. Here we learned how the tie dyed beach cover-ups, woven palm leaf crowns and plates are made.

    On the second day at Bora Bora we took a Jetski tour around the entire island, viewing the nearby over-water bungalow resorts, and stopping for a snack of fresh coconut, fruit, and juice.

    Our last shore excursion on the island of Huahine, we snorkeled in the clear water of the lagoon, then stopped to have a traditional lunch again sitting in knee deep in the water with fish swimming around our legs. After lunch, we hiked to the Ocean side of the island for more snorkeling. The interesting part of this adventure was walking in waist deep water to where the lagoon and the reef met. The waves would crash against the reef wall sending many interesting fish over the top.

    The Wind Spirit Captain and Crew are a great collection of happy people which were a pleasure to spend vacation time with. I look forward to planning my next Windstar holiday!

     

     

    Contributed by Bonnie Burr of
    Vision Travel, a Direct Travel Company