Sunday, August 22, 2010
Regents Seven Seas Cruise: Our Special Treat Vacation
It was somewhat surprising that we landed on the idea of a cruise for our anniversary trip last year. We'd only been on one other cruise--the long weekend Carnival cruise to the Bahamas. This choice could not have been more different. Truthfully, my faithful reading of the St. Pete Times travel section is what led us down this path. They had a great article about some of the luxury vacation deals available, and reading about Regents and their Baltic Seas cruise, I got pretty excited. We were having trouble coordinating everything, as we wanted some time on our own in addition to the cruise, so we enlisted the help of our AAA travel agent. We quickly got it narrowed down to a 7 day Regents cruise of the Baltic with time before and after on our own, in Stockholm and Copenhagen.
The trip was a wonderful experience in so many ways, but more on our ports later. I have to share the Regents experience...if you haven't experienced it and are ever looking for a real treat, look no further. I remember my husband's exact words as we prepared to board, "Well now, we'll see what $X gets you, and if it's really worth it". By the next evening, I remember him commenting on all he had seen so far as answer to that question. The first thing you notice on Regents is the service and the lack of crowds. The ships are fairly sizable, yet carrying significantly less passengers so it never feels crowded. All cabins are suites and the cruise is all inclusive (food and drink, plus at this time they were including all excursions as well).
Stepping in to our cabin was a pleasant surprise after our stay in a Stockholm hotel with efficient (tiny) Swedish style rooms. We were in the lowest cabin class, which was a balcony suite, larger than most hotel rooms. The bathroom was well appointed, with a full soaking tub, separate shower, double sinks and as much room as our entire Carnival cabin. The next delight was a walk in closet! The room had a curtained off sitting area, with a couch, two chairs and a small table which converted each morning for room service breakfast. A small balcony provided a spot to sit and enjoy the scenery. Our room attendant greeted us, gave us a tour of our suite and then fulfilled our requests for our small mini fridge (again, all included). It was stocked with soda, juice and mixers and she found out our preferences for what we'd want most, as well as our choice of two bottles of liquor or wine for in room. Off to a great start!
Service was impeccable from the beginning. All the servers and bartenders seemed familiar from the first day, and were pretty consistent in calling you by name and recalling your cocktail choices. Every question or request was answered with ease, and the service felt attentive yet unobtrusive.
The dining is flexible on Regents, so no seating times or need to dine with strangers (though we'd had fun doing so on our other cruise), but there are 2 specialty restaurants that require reservations. We made these right away, so we had good options and planned around our ports of call. The french restaurant required formal dress, though I think Regents has moved away from even this now. Otherwise, Country Club Casual was the evening attire, though I think they've renamed this also, to more accurately reflect button down shirts preferred (i.e. no golf shirts at this "country club"). I like to see people dressed up and enjoy it myself, so I don't mind that aspect of cruising. It adds something to the experience.
Which leads me to the passengers. Not only were the crowds minimal, they were nice to be around. We were surprised by how many families were on board, and then again more surprised by how well the children could handle sitting down to a nice dinner or going on a tour. Obviously, these were children initiated to travel and dining out. The three year olds on this ship were more well behaved than just about everybody on our Carnival cruise (known as the party cruise apparently). The only difficulty with this well-travelled crowd was that we had no chance at the daily trivia quiz.
Truth be told, I had a lot of fun on both our cruise experiences. The Regents trip was a real treat, but I don't like limiting myself to one type of trip, or always having everything be so perfect. But, I have to say we had no doubts that those seven days of perfection were well worth it.