The Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager is the perhaps the best ship for exploring far away places on a long voyage. There are several reasons. First is the size of the cabin. The basic least expensive cabin measures a full 350 square feet including a large verandah. Our particular suite had a spacious walk-in closet affording us adequate space for our 18-days worth of clothes. The huge bathroom had two sinks and a large shower. A curtain separated the bed from the sitting area, allowing one of us to sleep while the other read.
More important, Regent includes most shore excursions in the fare, which saved us a healthy amount of money. We booked excursions on line months before sailing. Several were wait-listed but fortunately or us, the ones we wanted opened in time for us to be on them. Excursions were well-planned and executed, usually with manageable groups of between 20-25 people on each bus with a guide. We have been on other ships where the size of the groups was much larger.
As always, Regent’s food was excellent. Most mornings we had breakfast in the Lido area, which while self-serve, is still elegant with linens on the tables. It was quick, with plenty of staff around to get coffee or other food items. Ordered items like eggs and pancakes were delivered to our table. Lunch was served in several venues. Many times we ate in the main dining room. The Lido was available for lunch as well. Although it is supposed to close at 2:00, it often stayed open much later to accommodate guests arriving from shore excursions. There is also an outside buffet. Sometimes they featured specialty buffets highlighting foods from the area we were sailing.
We enjoyed most dinners in the Main Dining Room. It was open seating from 6:30 till 9:30, which meant eating whenever and with whomever you wanted. We often joined an open table with guests we did not know, but quickly got acquainted. The menu was large and varied. We never struggled to find items we wanted for each course. There are two specialty restaurants on the Seven Seas Voyager. Prime 7 is a traditional steak house for steaks, chops and seafood. Signatures is a wonderful French restaurant. Regent doesn’t charge an additional fee for dining at these specialty restaurants. Irene and I ate twice in each and enjoyed these meals very much.
Prior to sailing, we check the dress code and read that every night was listed as “elegant casual.” When we got on the ship, we found out that there were two nights called for elegant casual or formal and many men wore suits or tuxedos. I did not bring a sport jacket or blazer with me and never felt uncomfortable wearing a long sleeve sport shirt with dress slacks for dinner. Regent Seven Seas knows how to make sailing relaxing!
The service on the ship was superb — from our room steward and stewardess to the dining room staff — frankly on the entire ship, we felt the service exceeded our expectations. The entertainment on board was greatly improved since the last time I sailed Regent. The musical shows were good. The Cruise Director, was himself very talented, with a great singing voice and ventriloquist skills.
April 2 – Silhanoukville Cambodia. We selected to do the location “in depth”, which turned out to be close to six hours and included lunch. We visited a local school, walked through a village and visited people in their very simple and rustic houses. We saw the first of many Buddhist temples. We drove to a pretty beach resort for a buffet lunch.
April 3 – Day at Sea. We were pleased to find out that there was a bridge instructor on board. Turns out to be Barbara Seagram, from Toronto, whom I know. She and her husband Alex were great and had lessons for both beginner and intermediate players on the days at sea, as well as several port days when time permitted. We were surprised at the number of guests who played bridge. Sea days included duplicate games which were always well-attended.
The weather was very hot throughout our trip, between 90-100 degrees, so many times the pool area was too hot to sit at. Surprisingly, the pool itself remained comfortably cool and refreshing.
April 4 – Singapore. This was the only port on the itinerary Irene and I had been to before. This time we visited an interesting food market, the war memorial, and another temple. We lunched in a very pretty golf and country club, before driving back to the ship. Singapore is an amazing place. Spotless and very prosperous.
April 5 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country. We visited our first mosque, aptly named The Blue Mosque. On to a Buddhist and then a Hindu temple. We stopped in front of the King’s Palace for a photo op and continued to Independence Square and the war monument. Two of the highest buildings in the world are here — the Petronas Twin Towers … magnificent architectural buildings.
April 6 – Penang, Malaysia. This was the only rainy day we encountered on our cruise, but it did not stop us from exploring. A Buddhist temple and museum were part of the excursion, but the highlight was Chew Jetty, a series of rustic shops and dining spots off the road and jutting into the sea. There were many of such jetties off the road and we had to be careful not to get lost. Very picturesque.
April 7 – Phuket, Thailand. This was a highlight of the cruise! First we visited a rubber plantation to see how rubber was farmed, then on to spectacular Phang Nga Bay, where we boarded our own boat for a 2 ½ hour cruise around the bay with its magnificent limestone cliffs and caves. One of the islands, a needle-formed limestone rock in the sea, is called James Bond Island, because it was a location for “The Man With The Golden Gun”. Lunch and shopping concluded a great day.
April 10 – Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is an island off the coast of India that was devastated by the tsunami that struck in 2004. The huge loss of life and massive destruction is just now being addressed. We visited a Hindu Temple and then the beautiful resort hotel for lunch and free time, enjoying the pool and lounging around before heading back to the ship.
April 11 – Galle, Sri Lanka. This was the only port on the cruise where we were supposed to tender into, but the waters around the ship proved too rough, and the captain decided to pull anchor. So we had another welcome day at sea.
April 12 – Colombo, Sri Lanka. A full-day of sightseeing in Colombo, the surprisingly modern capital of Sri Lanka — museums, temples, lunch, bazaars and forts.
April 13-14 – Cochin, India. Instead of the Regent tour, we decided to use the services of our friends from Zutshi Tours, the Ensemble On Location supplier in India. Immigration and customs in India are very thorough, and in some cases time-consuming. Passengers had to go to a lounge on the ship with their passports to receive landing cards and pass Indian officials inspection. We had to do this in three Indian ports.
When we disembarked the ship, Irene and I met by our lovely guide from Zutshi and off we went. At one time, Cochin had a large Jewish population. There is still a working synagogue, which was closed the day we were there because it was Saturday. There were many shops on Jew Street, which we visited, as well as a Jewish cemetery, an old Dutch church and cemetery and a catholic church. The highlight of the afternoon was walking the promenade on the sea and seeing the old Chinese Fishing Nets and fish market. Many locals who were walking the promenade seemed very curious about us. It was yet another remarkable area with great photo opportunities.
The ship overnighted in Cochin and the second morning we went with another couple on the Ensemble excursion. We revisited many of the sights we saw the day before and enjoyed lunch in the most luxurious hotel in Cochin. Irene and I then left with our guides and drivers to visit Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan. This is a school founded by a Catholic priest who rescued 75 orphaned boys that were found on the streets. He schooled and sheltered them here, until they are about seventeen. Ensemble Travel had a donation for the school, which Irene and I presented to the priest. The boys performed songs and dances for us. It was a very moving experience.
April 15 – Mangalore, India. Today we drove to Karkala and visited the Monolith stone statue of Lord Gomateshwara. Then we drove to Soans Farm and to the Thousand Pillar Moodbidri Temple.
April 16 – Goa India. The most interesting part of this stay was seeing the fruit market. While the rest of the group went jewelry shopping, Irene and I, joined by Barbara and Ira Feingold, friends and clients, decided to walk on our own in search of the fruit and vegetable market. We spent some time there and then had some difficulty finding our way back to the bus. We made it just in time to avoid having to figure out a way to get back to the ship.
April 17 and 18 – Mumbai, India. This was our last port on the cruise. We knew we had to get off the ship very early the following morning to get to the airport for our flight to Jaipur, but did not want to waste the day packing. We decided to explore the Elephanta Caves. We departed the pier and drove towards the arch, the Gateway to India. On the way passed the Taj Hotel, where, in 2008, terrorists attacked and murdered many guests in the hotel and in other spots in Mumbai. It is little wonder why security is so tight all over India. We boarded a boat for a lovely 1 ½ hour glide to the island where the caves are located. It was quite a hike to get up to the caves — over 120 steep steps. Small shops (really stalls) lined the way and monkeys were all around us. Chair-carriers took non-walkers up the steps in a seat. These rock cut caves date from the 5th to 8th centuries and are filled with stone sculptures. We had never seen anything like them. Our excellent guide spent a great deal of time explaining the history and traditions. Many people shopped in the stalls on the way back to the boat which took us back to Mumbai.
Packing and dinner ended the day. It was sad to leave the Voyager. We met many friends and shared memorable experiences. But we were excited to get started on the last leg of our journey — Jaipur, Agra and the Taj Mahal and Delhi.