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 Caribbean Cruise with Regent Seven Seas

Wrong About Cruises

by Brooke Cunningham

The doors of the cruise ship open and out pours a stream of polyester in loud tacky prints. That had long been my concept of what cruise travel was about.

Ocean-going bed platforms on steroids. I had seen them ruin a beautiful day on a Caribbean island, and I was certain that no one could say anything that would make me get on one. But this Regent 7 Seas Navigator (at the time Radisson) was very small and the sun would be out where it cruised and the snow was three feet deep at the time the subject came up.

My first hint at how wrong I could be came by FedEx. A package arrived containing a fully customized 25 page itinerary handsomely bound with the ship’s name, my name, the dates of the cruise. There was also a leather ticket & passport wallet containing a very specific packet of tickets for excursions, massages and all the pre-planned adventures that we had signed up for. That wallet also contained a leather luggage tag, and several laminated luggage tags with our cabin number on them. “OK, that is impressive organization and a handsome presentation” I thought but skeptic that I am, I was sure that the “cattle barge” element would appear eventually.

So we flew to Ft. Lauderdale where the cruise line had offered to meet our plane. Since we came from far away we flew in a day early and spent a charming night at The Pillars, a small hotel on a tiny side street that backed up to the intra-coastal waterway. The hotel offered large rooms with high ceilings, big fluffy beds and a distinct Florida mansion style. We sipped wine and watched the Megayachts parade by like contestants in an Easter parade.

The most unique thing we did that night in Fort Lauderdale was to hire a water limo to tour the canals. These are graceful boats with electric engines so they make silent passage through the water. It was quite a vision to see the enormous houses all lighted for the evening with people moving about. Making no sound allowed us to glide along hearing the music, TVs and voices of life going on inside. We stopped for a while at an evening open air market and bought presents for friends, ate gelati and enjoyed this most distinctive mix of a sophisticated coastal city and a slow moving river town before being delivered back to our dock.

The following morning it was a short hop by land to the berth of the Seven Seas Navigator. Boarding was my second hint that perhaps our preconceived notions might be in error. Stevedores took our luggage out of the taxi, and the next time we saw our bags they were in our room. While security is evident everywhere, we followed their protocols and boarding was just a walk through. A steward showed us to our suite and that is where we met our butler!

Handsome, dapper, formal William entered our gorgeous suite and announced that he was at our disposal because he wanted our experience aboard Navigator to be the best time we had ever spent, hour by hour all week long. “Beep me” he said “any time of day or night I am at your disposal. I don’t need sleep.” He showed us around the amenities in our suite, and explained the ship board services. He told us about the restaurants, the various types of daytime activities and evening entertainments. It was an impressive delivery and every element was planned with a guest’s comfort in mind.

We did have one small accident though. William showed me a slip of paper saying “…and this is where you check off the four complimentary bottles of liquor that you would like to stock your personal bar for the week.” I looked at the list of options, checked off Johnny Walker Red which I happen to like, and then got distracted by something else in the suite. We showered, and went out for dinner, elegantly dressed for the beautiful Portofino Restaurant. The menu was varied, the service was perfect and the food was fork tender, succulent or crunchy crisp as was appropriate for our three courses. And then came the artistic and irresistible desserts! A truly perfect dining experience for our first evening aboard.

But the big surprise came when we got back to our suite that evening! We walked in and the beds were changed entirely. Sweet soft down puffs with lots of feather pillows replaced the handsome daytime covers. Chocolates, a small newspaper featuring details about the possibilities for the upcoming day, travel tips about the area, and profiles of the captain and crew lay on top. And on the bar, four quart bottles of Johnny Walker Red! It was the only thing checked after all!

I always thought of cruise ships as almost obscene giants, bloated beasts and hardly boats at all. Wrong again! Seven Seas Navigator is lovely. Everywhere you turn the boat is carefully designed for comfort and grace, like the finest of hotels. Even the elevators which run seven stories up and down are of elegant highly polished brass with floor to ceiling glass so that you can see enticing elements on each floor of the ship as you travel soundlessly up and down. The woodwork is meticulous, the carpets thick and plush, the interior design handsome and efficient. I never saw a fingerprint on any of the hundreds of glass windows and walls or the brass handrails that are all over the ship.

Rather than the boisterous inebriated revelers that I had expected around the pool, there were small groups of people in the comfortable lounge chairs, with a neat bar in one corner and salads and light fare in the other. Service was perfect everywhere on the ship. You couldn’t lie in the sun by the pool without being asked if you would like something cold to drink. You couldn’t sit by an empty glass for two minutes before someone came by and asked if you would like another or something else. Anything you requested anywhere aboard was attended to immediately, politely and as unobtrusively as possible. In our suite canapés and champagne appeared as if by magic (remember William?) each afternoon and fresh plush towels, shampoo and creamy body lotion seemed to refresh themselves constantly. In the evening after dinner we returned to our suite which had been remade for a peaceful night, it must have been the elves.

Our particular seven day itinerary began in Fort Lauderdale, stopped at Progresso, Mexico then on to Cozumel, followed by Georgetown, Grand Cayman and then offered a day in Key West before heading back to where we started. Each shore day had several different excursions to see the area offered, as well as tips about the area, all explained in the newspaper the evening before. There are actually four Regent Seven Seas ships, in different parts of the world and with different itineraries so be sure to check the web site.

In between shore days there were whole days and nights at sea. These were easily filled with time spent in cooking classes, bridge tournaments and lessons, spa treatments, working out in the gym, tea parties, evening cabarets, a casino, and a whole host of other activities. You could fill every minute of the trip with the offerings and events aboard. I chose to give considerable time to working on my tan with a good book and a seemingly bottomless iced tea.

I have lost my preconceived notion that meals on a cruise ship were reminiscent of a high school cafeteria. There are five choices of where you might decide to have breakfast, three options for lunch including an elaborate poolside buffet with a different theme each day, formal and informal tea, and three possibilities for dinner. I don’t think there is an hour of a day when you can’t order a cocktail. The food was artistically presented in each situation, and in every single case, scrumptious.

After my week aboard the Seven Seas Navigator I surrendered to being wrong about cruises. We did see much larger ships that had that “teeming masses” style about them, but just as William promised “hour by hour, day by day” we were having a luxurious and pampered experience on our cruise. Coming ashore is a very harsh reality when you have spent a week being so beautifully attended to. There are many things I will miss about life aboard a cruise ship, especially William.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises
600 Corporate Drive, Suite 410
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33334
(800) 477-7500 t

The Pillars Hotel
111 North Birch Road,
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304-4313
(954) 467-9639

Calm Water Electric Boat Limo
2525 Marina Bay Dr. W.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33312
(954) 791.8600
[email protected]

Photo: Photo courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Brooke Cunningham

[email protected]

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