Regent Seven Seas Cruises
The Line in a Nutshell
Operating a fleet of stylish and extremely comfortable midsize vessels, Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) provides a casually elegant, luxurious cruise experience. Its service is as good as it gets, and its cuisine is near the top. And, having spent over $100 million on refurbishment in the last few years, the line has kept its three ships up-to-date, comparing favorably to the younger ships in the category. Sails to: Caribbean, Alaska, Bermuda, Panama Canal (plus Europe, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Africa/India, world cruises, Antarctica, South America).
If you insist on luxury but like to keep it quietly elegant, Regent might be your cruise line of choice. Its ships are spacious and understated, with a relaxed onboard vibe that tends to be less stuffy than Seabourn and Silversea. As aboard all the luxury ships (with the exception of Crystal's vessels), entertainment and activities are a relatively low priority, with guests left to enjoy their vacations at their own pace. In keeping with the industry trend toward more casual attire, Regent's code is now "elegant casual," with formal nights now held only on longer cruises. Service is friendly and absolutely spot on, and cuisine is some of the best at sea, in both the formal dining rooms and, especially, the alternative restaurants. Even if what tickles your fancy isn't on the menu, the chef will prepare it for you. Passengers tend to be unpretentiously wealthy. When we've sailed, our social circle included an economist with an international banking institution, an environmental lobbyist, and a man who starts banks -- all of them aboard to enjoy a quiet, relaxed vacation.
RSSC appeals primarily to well-traveled and well-heeled passengers in their 50s and 60s (Regent says the average age is 58), but younger guests, honeymooners, and older cruisers pepper the mix as well. Many passengers are frequent cruisers who have also sailed on Silversea, Seabourn, and Crystal, or are taking a step up from Holland America, Celebrity, Princess, or one of the other mainstream lines. Though they have sophisticated tastes and can do without a lot of inane shipboard activities, they also appreciate the line's less formal ambience. On our recent cruises, casual nights in the main dining room saw some guests dressed in polo shirts and jackets and others in nice T-shirts with khakis and sneakers. You're also likely to find some women with full makeup, coifed hairdos, coordinated jewelry, shoes, and handbags, and many men sporting businessman bling. A kids' program on summer sailings and some holiday sailings attracts some families, but the limited number of third berths in suites tends to keep those numbers down as does the lack of kids' facilities.
There's been a lot of change at this line over the past few years. First, it went through a name change -- from Radisson Seven Seas Cruises to Regent -- to satisfy the desire of its owners to link the line's operations to those of its Regent Hotels group. Then, less than 2 years later, those same owners sold the line lock, stock, and barrel to the Apollo Management investment firm, which created and is now the majority shareholder in Prestige Cruise Holdings, operating Regent and Oceania Cruises and holding a 50% stake in NCL. As a result, there have been some changes at the line. Some improvements to amenities, decor, and technology were implemented in the wake of the Regent rebranding, and in 2007 the line poured another $20 million into further refurbishments, adding Wi-Fi computer access, onboard cellphone service, improved bed linens, new espresso bars in the Internet centers, and other upgrades. A further $105 million was committed for changes to Seven Seas Voyager in 2008, Seven Seas Mariner in 2009, and Seven Seas Navigator in the beginning of 2010. For example, various public rooms have been redesigned with new, highly upgraded furnishings and materials; Regent has replaced its Indochine alternative restaurants with upscale steakhouses; the Pool Grill has been redone; and Voyager now has an extended coffee and snack area similar to the very popular Coffee Connection on Mariner. The changes on Navigator bring this older ship up to speed with the rest of the fleet.
In late 2009, the line revamped its pricing policy in a way that's made it the most all-inclusive of the luxury lines. Fares now include round-trip air from 23 U.S. and Canadian cities, free unlimited shore excursions (not all excursions in all ports are free, but most are), staff gratuities, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, stocked minibars in staterooms, and more.
Superb menus are designed for a sophisticated palate, and the overall cuisine is some of the best in the cruise industry. Each ship has an extensive wine list, with vintages from France, California, Italy, Germany, South Africa, and Chile.
Traditional -- In the main restaurants, elaborate and elegant meals are served in open seatings by a mostly European staff. Appetizers may include baked escargots in garlic-herb butter, beef carpaccio, and an eggplant-tomato-mozzarella roll; and main entrees include such enticing dishes as grilled venison medallions and mushroom fricassee, Chinese tangerine shrimp, and grilled grouper filet with pink grapefruit. Each dinner menu also has a vegetarian option such as a forest mushroom quiche, and a light and healthy choice such as broiled whole Dover sole. When you've had enough of fancy, several standards called simplicity dishes are also available daily: pasta with tomato sauce, filet mignon, grilled chicken breast, or salmon filet. Special diets (kosher, halal, low-fat, low-salt, and so on) can be accommodated at all meals, but for very stringent regimes, such as glatt kosher, you must make arrangements before your cruise. Breakfasts include made-to-order omelets, as well as a typical selection of hot and cold breakfast foods. Lunch entrees include soups, salads, sandwiches, and entrees like Indian lamb patties with mint-coriander-lentil chutney, pan-seared chicken breast, and a fisherman's platter of fried jumbo prawns, scallops, and filets. For those looking for simpler and/or healthier recipes, Compass Rose and La Veranda now serve Canyon Ranch Spa Cuisine.
Specialty -- Mariner and Voyager each have three alternate choices. The 110-seat Signatures restaurants are directed by chefs from Paris's famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, serving very elegant French cuisine. The new Prime 7 steakhouse serves prime aged steaks and chops along with fresh seafood and poultry entrees. Appetizers include avant-garde choices such as a trio of steak tartare and foie gras sliders with rhubarb chutney, as well as traditional items such as oysters Rockefeller and a jumbo lump crab cake. La Veranda serves Mediterranean and North African dishes in the evening, providing a casually elegant option.
Seven Seas Navigator has two alternative choices: La Veranda, similar to the two larger ships, as well as Prime 7. Both have been added during the 2010 refurbishment. All alternative venues are intimate spaces with tables for two or four. Make reservations early in the cruise to guarantee yourself a table. Booked passengers can make specialty-dining reservations online up to 75 days before their cruise (naturally, once final payment has been made).
Casual -- All three vessels have casual buffet restaurants. And now, all three ships have extensive poolside hot and cold buffets, salad bars and grills, along with ice cream and milk shake bars.
Snacks & Extras -- Hot hors d'oeuvres are served in the lounges before dinner, and if you take advantage of the 24-hour room service, a steward will come in and lay out a white tablecloth along with silverware and china, whether you've ordered a full-course dinner, a personal pizza, or just a plate of fruit. Specialty coffees, soft drinks, mineral water, and most alcoholic beverages are complimentary at all times, and high tea is served each afternoon.
Service by the mostly European and Filipino staff is a major plus. You rarely if ever hear the word no, and because the crew-to-passenger ratio is quite high, you rarely have to wait when someone else gets served first. Stewardesses care for your cabin ably and unobtrusively, room service is speedy and efficient, and restaurant waitstaff is supremely gracious and professional, with an intimate knowledge of the menu. Bar staff will often remember your drink order after the first day.
The ships all have complimentary self-serve laundries in addition to standard laundry and dry-cleaning services. Cellphone service is available (with passengers charged a roaming fee by their carrier), and shipwide Wi-Fi allows laptop users to connect to the Web from all public areas and most suites. Also, we know of no other line besides Regent that allows guests to use the ship's Internet system to type documents and then paste/append them to an e-mail, getting charged only for transmission time.
Gratuities are included in the cruise rates, but many guests still end up leaving more at the end of their trip.
Days not spent exploring the ports are basically unstructured, with a variety of activities thrown in for those who aren't pursuing their own relaxation. During the day, there may be ballroom dance classes, wine tastings, art auctions, bingo, computer classes, bridge (with instructors sailing on all cruises), and lectures by visiting writers, anthropologists, naturalists, and retired diplomats, often speaking on a topic relevant to the region you're sailing -- for example, Colonial America on New England/Canada cruises, Incan culture on South America cruises, and so on.
Themed Spotlight Cruises may cover food and wine, photography, chocolate, music, the arts, and so on. On Le Cordon Bleu cooking cruises, for instance, chefs trained in the Le Cordon Bleu cooking method hold three onboard workshops, a special chef's dinner, and a market visit in port to see how the chef chooses the best local ingredients. Participation costs $499 per person. On Art Experience cruises, Regent teams with noted museums to offer art-related shore excursions and onboard lectures.
Active passengers can work out in the ships' gyms, run on the tracks, or whack some balls into a golf net, then take a massage at the ships' spas, run by the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. Besides the usual wide range of services, it also offers company specialties such as the Euphoric Coffee Scrub, the Ohana Circulation Polish, and the Organic Mermaid's Purse Wrap.
As on most luxe ships, entertainment is not the highest of priorities, and many guests are content to spend their evenings exploring the cocktail circuit, visiting the casino, singing along in the piano bar, or dancing to the ships' elegant musical groups. In the production show area, Regent used to be known for lackluster performances, but lately quality has improved, demonstrating what some imagination and talent will do -- along with a larger budget. Recent shows include Thoroughly Modern Broadway, a mix of musical theater numbers from the 1960s through 1980s; the Beatles tribute Here, There and Everywhere; the outstanding Beyond Imagination, which mixes opera and classical song with sea songs, folk tunes, and pseudo-classical modern hits; the wonderful On a Classical Note, with music by Mozart, Verdi, Rossini, Puccini, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Bizet; and Oh What a Night, with hits by the Four Seasons, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, and others. Prediction: Regent will soon be known for excellent evening entertainment along with Crystal Cruises.
Occasional sailings provide themed entertainment -- small-group and big-band jazz, for instance, or performances by a chamber group. Check with the line or your travel agent for a schedule of upcoming themed cruises.
These ships are geared to mature adults, but summer sailings and select holiday cruises have a Club Mariner kids' program in which counselors supervise activities such as games, crafts projects, and movies for three age groups (ages 5-9, 10-13, and 14-17). For the younger kids, counselors are on hand for games, crafts projects, movies, and "food fun," while teens help the counselor select the activities they prefer. On non-summer/holiday cruises, an ad-hoc kids' program is put together if enough kids are aboard to warrant it. The minimum age for children to sail aboard is 1 year, and the line reserves the right to limit the number of children age 3 and under on any cruise. Babysitting may be available for $25 an hour if a female crewmember is willing to perform the service outside of her regular-duty hours.