Deborah Stone develops a taste for the high life on the refurbished Regent Seven Seas Voyager
The late afternoon sun is glinting off the ornate roof of Monte Carlo’s casino, and I admire the multimillion-dollar yachts in the harbour as a waiter brings me a glass of chilled white wine.
Settling back to enjoy a plate of giant prawns with a dollop of garlicky mayonnaise on the side, I congratulate myself on lunching in one of the best-situated restaurants in Monaco. Our ship, Seven Seas Voyager, is anchored so we overlook the old town, including the Palace, former home of Princess Grace of Monaco.
From the outside deck of the buffet-style La Veranda restaurant I can see virtually all of Monaco’s mountain-backed territory, and I’m keen to go ashore to explore. First though there is the small matter of the prawns. They’re really rather good.
Fine dining, as Americans call it, is very important on Regent Seven Seas’ three cruise ships, as is the all-inclusive luxury experience that they pride themselves on delivering.
When you first step aboard, you’re greeted with a glass of bubbly and the Champagne lifestyle continues until you disembark.
The 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager has balcony suites throughout, and even the lowest grade is a Deluxe Suite.
The next grade, Concierge Suites, are given priority booking for excursions, speciality restaurants and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, which has single-sex aromatic steam rooms and Finnish saunas – as well as a huge range of treatments.
I’m very impressed with the size of my stateroom: along the corridor is a large bathroom with a separate shower and bath with marble-like tiling on the floor and walls. The double sleeping area leads into a lounge with a sofa, two armchairs and coffee table with French windows out to the balcony.
The interactive television gives me free access to around 200 films or documentaries and I can borrow DVDs to play, as well as catch up with the enrichment lectures I have missed. Amazingly, there are seven more grades of suites above mine, which come with just about anything your heart desires
– including a personal butler and free wifi.
Voyager is fresh from a multimillion-dollar refit after a week in dry dock. It has an improved pool deck with more space for loungers, while so much work has been done on the Constellation Theatre that it is virtually brand new. It has been re-carpeted, re-upholstered and given new high-tech facilities such as an LED video screen at the back of the stage to provide ambitious sets.
Four new 50-minute shows have been written and produced especially for the ship, and the cast includes aerial artistes and dancers who have worked in places such as the Moulin Rouge and the Lido in Paris.
Voyager’s atrium – the focal point of most ships – has a pristine marble floor, stairs and silver sculpture and there is superfast wifi now throughout the ship. There are new carpets, teak decks and 91 refurbished Penthouse Suites.
The Observation Lounge on deck 11 has luxurious cream leather and velvet armchairs, cream leather walls around the bar and the best sea views on the ship, while the nightclub Horizons has a contemporary feel, with new tan leather sofas, exposed ‘brickwork’ behind the bar and a teak deck ‘patio’ with rattan armchairs and textured cushions in cream, ochre and teal.
It’s a transformation that is coming to the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner this spring (April) and the 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator next year.
This will leave the tastefully-refreshed fleet ready to welcome the new Seven Seas Explorer in 2016, which will be “the most luxurious cruise ship ever,” according to chairman and chief executive Frank J Del Rio.
Back in Monaco, I finish my lunch and join one of the free excursions. There are seven to choose from today, including scenic drives to Nice and Cannes on France’s Côte d’Azur, and the perfume capital Grasse, but I just want to see Monaco’s Exotic Garden.
We wind our way up to the garden with its giant money and yucca trees, huge aloes and thousands of flowering cacti. There are also caves with stalactites and stalagmites and a museum of prehistoric finds. The views from the paths down the cliff are stupendous.
Back on board I get ready for dinner at the steakhouse, Prime 7. Like all the speciality restaurants, including French restaurant Signatures and the Italian Sette Mari, this is free but has to be booked.
All serve gourmet-standard food, as does the main dining room Compass Rose, where the night before I enjoyed Roast Black Angus Beef Striploin.
A truly relaxed atmosphere
This followed a bizarre but fun Block Party as we set sail from Civitavecchia: it’s a tradition on Regent Seven Seas ships to have a drink with your neighbours in the corridor outside your cabin at the start of the cruise. During this sociable half hour waitresses bring round drinks and nibbles while key staff drop by to say hello, neatly demonstrating the ship’s friendly and truly relaxed atmosphere.
The dress code never gets any more formal than Elegant Casual, which essentially means no jeans, and that includes the Captain’s Cocktail Party where I drop in before meeting friends at Prime 7.
This classic American steakhouse has starters that include crab cakes made from the finest lump blue crab meat, then you can move on to whole Maine lobsters dripping in butter or – for those with a good appetite – a 32oz Prime Porterhouse Steak. It’s huge.
Thank goodness for the free morning fitness classes: Walk A Mile around the deck 12 jogging track at 7.30am, followed by yoga or Pilates at 8am.
We finish the evening at Karaoke Night in the Voyager Lounge opposite the Casino, where I steer clear of the microphone but join the enthusiastic backing group at the bar.
This is followed by a Jukebox Disco, where you choose your favourite songs on a jukebox and make everybody dance to them. A great night, but most of us leave at a sensible hour because when we wake up in Livorno, tomorrow, we’re off on the free coach transfer and partial guided tour of Florence, which on other cruise lines would cost about £75 each.
Among our other ports of call are Taormina, Sicily, and then Corfu, but I’m especially looking forward to the overnight stop in Venice.
Just think, I’ll be able to eat scallops and sip chilled white wine while gazing over the terracotta Venetian roofs. What a magical restaurant view that will be.
GETTING THERE: A 10-night cruise from Rome to Venice in July 2014 calling at Monte Carlo; Florence, Sorrento, Sicily (Italy); Argostoli (Greece); Durres (Albania); Split (Croatia); Koper (Slovenia) and Venice starts from £4,579pp. Visit rssc.com or call 02380 682280.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise here.