For those who want to see my quick synopsis of this cruise, without having to read the "novella"..
This is not a drop dead gorgeous ship. There is no jaw dropping moment when you see her exterior, or interior, for the first time. But she is tastefully decorated, and we felt comfortable on her almost immediately.
The service was outstanding in all areas, except the dining rooms, where we found it be spotty.
The food was found to be of artfully presented, but unexceptional quality when it came to beef dishes. Fish and seafood lovers seemed to fare better.
Itinerary is what made this cruise for me. Superb and enjoyable ports. and such a busy itinerary we really didn't get the chance to experience the ship as much as we would have liked.
Now on to the FULL story..
I have been eyeing a Baltic Itinerary for some time, and noting it was the 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg, I thought this was the perfect time to visit. Travelling so far, we decided to pre-cruise a couple of days in Stockholm, Sweden.
We stayed at the Radisson SAS Royal Viking Hotel; a pleasant, if unspectacular, but well located hotel. Most of the prominent tourist spots and museums were within walking distance of the hotel, and Mrs. Kuki and I put a lot of miles on our Nikes. We did a half day bus tour to get an overview of the city, but most of the time just walked, and continued walking, taking in whatever sites we happened upon.
Stockholm is a nice city, with seemingly friendly people, but most things, from food to souvenirs struck us a fairly expensive. However, in my view, it's a city worth visiting.
The ride from the hotel to the pier is only about 15 minutes, and when we arrived at the pier, just prior to noon, and there seemed to be no other passengers around. We showed our cruise tickets and I.D., went through X-ray and security, and walked onboard. The remaining check in process was in the Celebrity Theatre, and consisted of handing them a credit card, receiving our cabin key/charge card, and in three minutes we were done.
They did inform us that our cabins would not be ready until 2:30, but pointed us to the pool deck where lunch was being served. We didn't need to be told twice, and away we went for our first taste of Radisson food, and service at the poolside grill. There was no standing in line at the grill. Staff at the grill took our order for food and drinks, and told us to sit and make ourselves comfortable.
I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but seeing the ship sitting at the pier, and then walking onboard, there really was no WOW factor. Nothing in the public areas around the atrium struck us as particularly spectacular, until we got to our cabin. Seven Seas Voyager is an all suites all balconies ship. Our cabin was a CAT F, standard suite, with a very comfortable layout and colour scheme, featuring grays, taupe's, a creamy green, and light wood trim.
The real treat in these cabins is the incredible amount of storage space in the cabin and in a full size walk in closet. That topped off by the nicest bathroom I've seen on a ship. The bathroom is completely done in marble, and aside from a full sized bath tub, offers a separate glassed in shower stall. The shower was roomy and had as much water pressure as my shower at home. This is an area where I find many cruise ships suffer, but the Voyager was superb.
A bit more on cabin amenities later.
This being my first Radisson Seven Seas cruise, I wasn't really sure what/who to expect for fellow cruise mates. There was a somewhat surprising, very broad cross section of age groups, with the average age not noticeably different than what we've experienced on Celebrity, Princess, or even RCI and Carnival. The only exception, we only saw 15-20 kids under 18 onboard.
I will say, of the people we got the opportunity to talk to, we encountered a very well travelled group. And they are not just cruise enthusiasts. They seemed to love travel of any kind, and most were very travel savvy.
One might imagine a bit of a pretentious crowd on a luxury cruise, but this was not apparent to us at all. Most everyone seemed more than willing to chat at every opportunity, and it was very common to be greeted by fellow passengers at all times, whether it was simply passing each other in a hallway, or while sitting at tables near to each other in a lounge. Though they were apparently a well heeled group. Possibly, because they were on a luxury cruise, they may have had an expectation that they were in the company of their peers. But, you never know as I was in their midst.
One thing I did notice was almost blind devotion and loyalty to Radisson from many of the passengers we spoke to. Negative comments from past Radisson passengers were rarely heard, and not looked kindly upon when made by others.
What They Do Well. And Not So Well
Heading out on a "luxury" cruise on Radisson Seven Seas our expectations were admittedly quite high. Considering the relatively high cost of such a cruise I believe these high expectations to be justified.
What we found was not entirely perfection. On this ship there were things they did very well, and quite different, compared to the "mass market" lines, and there were areas where we felt they fell short of the mark.
Earlier I mentioned the ease of the check in/ embarkation process. One would be hard pressed to find a more relaxed and efficient embarkation process.
Another major plus; without fail, each and every crew member we crossed paths with throughout the ship made a point of greeting us. This was not only very welcoming, but somehow also very comforting.
It was also a nice treat finding our shipboard charge card stayed in our pockets the majority of the time. Sodas and bottled war are complimentary throughout the ship; both in the cabin mini bars, and all of the lounges and public areas. House wines were complimentary at dinner, in all dining venues, as were a number of after dinner drinks. Two bottles of your choice of alcohol are complimentary for your in suite bar.
In fact, about the only time one had to pay for liquid refreshments, was for the odd cocktail at the ship's bars and restaurants. The oddity in this policy is that there is a charge for wine in the dining rooms during lunch in the dining rooms and restaurants.
Basically Mrs Kuki and I don't drink much wine or liquor, so this policy did not affect us directly.
Another nicety occurred on a sea day when there was a German themed buffet poolside. The buffet that day had a most extensive selection, and they were serving complimentary German beer this day throughout lunch.
On another occasion there was a "Martini Night" in one of the lounges, and everyone present received a free Martini.
All of these were "nice touches", but when we had our CruiseMates group cocktail party the appetizers offered were unimpressive, and quantities skimpy. It was one of those moments, that just didn't add up, or fit, with the way they did the majority of things on this ship.
Radisson Seven Seas features onboard self laundry, with complimentary detergent automatically dispensed. These laundry rooms were, surprisingly, very busy. I guess I didn't expect this "well heeled crowd" to be doing their own laundry on a cruise, but I was proven wrong.
We encountered a strange phenomena with regard to elevators on the ship. There are two sets of elevators on the ship. Two aft, on either side of the staircase, and four of them forward, in the atrium. The aft elevators are perhaps twelve feet apart, yet if you press the button at one, to call an elevator, it is not synchronized with the other elevator. Not an earth shattering problem, for certain, but none the less. odd.
The same situation repeats with the four atrium elevators. Only here it seems the four are divided into two set ups. One call button reaching two of the elevators. Another call button reaching the other two.
Mrs Kuki and I were invited to dine with the Captain on the Voyager. A very gracious and friendly host and an evening we enjoyed a lot. There were a couple of things that surprised us about this evening.
Firstly, we were instructed to meet the social hostess outside of the Compass Rose Dining Room, so we could be escorted into the dinning room. An invitation to dine with the Captain, in our past experience, is a bit of an event. In this case, meeting in the hall, rather than in a lounge, for a pre-dinner drink, minimized "the event", in my view.
On other lines this experience has been enhanced with drinks prior to dinner, perhaps a rose for the ladies, and a souvenir photograph of the group. Perhaps on Radisson they feel passengers aren't interested in a photo of them with "the help", or perhaps no one wanted evidence of having dined with me.
On a positive note, unlike the mass market cruise lines, who normally site security concerns when they turn down request to visit the bridge, the Voyager has an open bridge policy on sea days. Any of the guests may tour the bridge at these times, you do not have to wait for an invitation.
In contrast to this trusting position I did have to laugh in the casino when I saw the dealers had to check all bills presented larger than 20s with a special pen used to detect counterfeit money. So. they'll let any passenger on the bridge, but when it comes to money, they want to make certain you're not a crook.
We found the service to have areas of strength, and surprisingly some weakness. While one might have expected other areas to have some shortcomings, I thought it reasonable to expect service to be close to perfect throughout the ship.
The time we dined in Signatures (the ship's Cordon Bleu alternate restaurant) service was indeed near to perfect. Even in Le Veranda (the ship's buffet style restaurant) the level of service was acceptable, and on occasion exceptional.
However, I was surprised to find service in The Compass Rose (the ship's main dining room) to be rather spotty, with orders being taken wrong and delivered to the wrong person. A few times we were offered bread or rolls once when we sat down, but then had to ask if we wanted more. They should either leave the bread basket on the table, or be sure to offer more throughout the meal.
Normally, all these errors were relatively minor, and easy to correct. Yet, the errors were more frequent than we expected.
Especially the first few nights, service in the Compass Rose was not better, and perhaps worse, than my experiences on previous "mass market" cruises. Though it did improve some as the cruise progressed.
Latitudes, the ship's other alternate restaurant seemed to be understaffed, in regard to front end service staff. There was the Maitre 'D, a wine sommelier, and six servers (a combination of waiters and ass't waiters).
In other areas of the ship, we experienced wonderful service, even exceeding my high expectations, but food service was often spotty.
For buffet breakfasts in Le Veranda we never really had to stand in line because it is not a typical buffet set up. Orders were taken at the buffet, and servers brought your choices to your seat when the order was prepared. There are no coffee or juice machines in this restaurant either. Coffee, juice and other drinks are served at your table, once you are seated.
This same system was in place at the poolside grill, except during the themed lunch buffets, which produced fairly large crowds. Even then, when we reached the end of the buffet line, a staff member was there to find a table for us. We didn't have to wander around, with our food in hand, looking for an open table.
Service in our cabin was exceptional. Our cabin stewards, Dorota and Melchor, were efficient, and always smiling when we saw them. Leaving the cabin in the morning, and being greeted with a huge smile, and a pleasant greeting got our days off to a great start.
I carry my own thermal cup, when I travel, which I use for my coffee fix in the morning. Dorota went so far as to wash this cup for me when she was making up the cabin.
Radisson makes it very clear that tipping is not expected. In fact, they say it is included in your fare. I did, however, notice on the last night of the cruise, all the cabin stewards were available in the hallways, and we saw many passengers tipping them, just as we did.
The Voyager has a number of alternatives when it comes to dining. The main dining room, Compass Rose, features open seating. Come whenever you chose, during open operating hours (seating 7PM to 9PM), and dine with whomever you like. The room is large enough to seat everyone, and we never saw any waiting at all.
A couple of nights when it was just Mrs. Kuki and I entering, rather than with a group, the Maitre D did make a point of asking if we wanted a table for two, or would care to join others at a table.
I thought it was excellent service to ask this question, rather than just assume we wanted a table for two.
Food itself, of course, is an area of personal taste, so it's wise to keep in mind, that these are my thoughts. As the saying goes. your mileage may vary.
The menus in all venues onboard are fairly exotic. However, I oddly found the selections to be somewhat limited. Perhaps three appetizers, two salads, one pasta, and three entrée choices. In addition there were "always available" choices which consisted of a steak, fish, and pasta choice.
Fish and seafood lovers would probably be most satisfied with the menus. Being a meat and potatoes guy, making selections was more of a challenge. My personal tastes run to beef, veal, pork, chicken, and pasta. A number of dining times I was surprised how often I had to revert to the "always available" section of the menu. And frankly, I found the steak on that portion of the menu to be less than exceptional.
A couple of times variations of beef tenderloin were offered, and they were very good. Unfortunately other cuts of beef were of lesser quality. And once, even though the quality of the tenderloin was excellent, it was so bland to be disappointing.
Portions of everything seemed to be on the small side. Lobster tails were small, and one night when Beef Wellington was offered, the portions were tiny. and not particularly tender or tasty.
Presentation, on the other hand, was very artful. Everything always looked great, with the taste, unfortunately, occasionally not matching that standard. This was particularly true with desserts. They looked so fabulous, I certainly never passed on the chance to taste them though.
One thing in this area, on Radisson that you won't find on any of the more mass market cruise lines; with 24 hrs. notice you can pre-order pretty much anything you want for dinner the next evening, whether it's on any of the menus or not. The limiting factor, of course, would be that the ingredients are onboard.
The Cordon Bleu restaurant onboard is Signatures. This is a reservations only restaurant, but there is no extra charge. Both food and service here were fabulous. Signatures has a set menu, that does not change throughout the cruise, though selections seemed interesting and plentiful.
My thoughts though are that on a "luxury cruise", an alternate restaurant should simply be a different choice, not an entirely different, higher level of service and food quality from the other dining venues.
The ship offers one other alternate restaurant, Latitudes. Latitudes had only one set seating each night, and the menu, though changing themes nightly, was a set menu. You are limited to a choice of one of two entrees. The rest of the menu. appetizer, soup, etc, is set. Your choice is simply yes or no.
Though the theory of the restaurant is "cute", with an open galley where guests watch the chefs prepare the meal, the final product, including the service was, frankly, not that impressive.
Radisson calls the Voyager an all suites, all balconies ship, and they'd likely be upset to see me referring to the suites as cabins. They are really nice, and well designed cabins, that's for sure.
Aside from being tastefully furnished, they are well laid out as well. The standard "suites" are 300 sq. ft., with a 50 sq. ft balcony. The highlight of these cabins is without doubt the washrooms. Mostly marble finishes on the floors, walls and vanities, and all have a full size bathtub, as well as a separate free standing glass shower unit.
The bathroom is spacious and comfortable, with lots of storage space. And, just as in fine hotels, there's even a telephone in the bathroom. I was tempted to order room service to our washroom, thinking I could just flush it, thereby skipping a step.
The cabin also has a walk in closet. It's very well organized with plenty of hangars and shelf space, as well as a programmable personal safe.
The sitting area is large enough to be comfortable, with a full size sofa and two side arm chairs, and a cocktail table. Against one wall is the desk, and a cabinet stocked with glassware for drinks and wine glasses, with drawers underneath, as well as a mini bar. There is no mirror on the wall above the desk. That's saved for the vanity table located next to the bed, in the other part of the cabin.
The bed was very comfortable, and the linens, pillows and duvet were of good quality.
Another nice amenity here. Aside from the telephone in the bathroom, there are two other telephones. One next to the bed, and another on the desk, in the sitting area.
The cabin has excellent lighting controls and individual climate controls, which actually seemed to function in keeping the cabin as warm or as cool as we chose.
Unfortunately, attached to this great cabin is a pretty small balcony, with room for two chairs and a small table. The chairs are simple plastic resin types, but do have cushions for some added comfort.
The BIG problem with this cabin should be rectified by the time you are reading this report, because the ship is going into dry dock at the end of Sept to repair a propeller which was damaged earlier in the Voyager's Baltic season.
Unfortunately we had to live with this unfixed problem for our entire cruise. The damaged propeller caused our cabin to shake dramatically most of the time we were out at sea. It was so bad, we looked even more forward to our port days.
It felt as though we were living inside the mouth of someone who's teeth were chattering because of cold weather, and it did make for some sleepless nights. I have been on ships that suffered from some vibration problems before, but never experienced anything like this.
I'm surprised I didn't hear of a revolt of all the passengers living in the aft end of the ship, because surely other suites in the area had to be experiencing the same problems. Radisson obviously knew of the problems, and thus the upcoming dry dock. I would have expected them to offer some compensation to all passengers located in the aft portion of the ship, who had paid significant dollars for a luxury suite. and naturally wouldn't expect it to vibrate more vigorously than the bed in a $20 motel.
As a matter of fact, half way through the cruise, half way comment cards were left in the cabins, asking what Radisson could do to improve our experience. I thought this was a nice touch, but was less impressed, when after my rather dramatically negative comments, no one followed up and contacted me to have any kind of discussion of my concerns. I thought this made it rather obvious that they didn't read the comment cards.
I am not a "Vegas show" kind of guy, but I generally do like to attend the "guest star" shows. In the case of the Seven Seas Voyager, and from feedback from Mrs Kuki (who does attend most shows) I should have reversed my tact.
I saw a comedian and a magician who were both somewhat pathetic. The comedian was telling jokes older than I tell. The magician must have been pretty good at his craft, because he made me disappear half way through his show.
Mrs. Kuki reported that the production shows were well done, with quality costumes, sets and performers. She also told me about a fantastic violin player who's performance I missed. But, so did the majority of passengers apparently, because she estimated the audience to consist of about 35 people.
There was a guest lecturer onboard who also drew rave reviews, but the timing of her lectures and presentations seemed to be odd (one was at 10 PM, after a long day not for me), never matching my schedule, so I can't offer any person opinions.
There were bridge classes and play, and computer classes, and tours of the galley, etc. However, this was such a busy itinerary, I didn't even get around to checking to see what types of participation they were getting.
On this cruise the itinerary really was the entertainment, so you'll forgive me if the information in this section is a bit sketchy.
As mentioned, because of the very port intensive itinerary our actual time onboard the ship was somewhat limited, and much of it was spent sleeping, recovering from exhaustive touring.
If I was spending more time onboard I'd have likely been less than impressed with a couple of the lounges. The Voyager Lounge, outside the Compass Rose, is long and narrow, and though it's supposed to function as the ship's disco, it's physical layout certainly isn't conducive to that type of use.
Like the tiny, long and narrow, Connoisseur Cigar Bar, both seem to be afterthoughts to fill minimal amounts of space.
The Horizon Lounge, located aft, is a larger venue, and featured dance bands. Quite a nice physical set up. There are tables and chairs outside the lounge on the stern, but unfortunately the weather wasn't conducive to us taking advantage of them.
On Deck 11 forward the Observation Lounge offers the most pleasant atmosphere of all the lounges, with comfortable furnishings and a panoramic view. This is a non smoking lounge.
Though I happen to be a smoker, I think it's an excellent idea to have at least one lounge onboard totally smoke free.
In many ways the Radisson Seven Seas Voyager displayed the differences between a luxury cruise and a more mass market experience quite dramatically.
In others, they fell short. Overall, I'd rate this ship an 7 ½ out of 10. Pretty darn good, but I have rated previous cruises on less luxurious cruises higher.
They do have room for improvement in the quality of their dining room food and service. Being such a key area, and considering they refer to themselves as a 6 Star cruise line, they should take steps to make changes.
Frankly, I'd be very interested in taking another Seven Seas cruise. I'd be interested to follow up to see if my experiences were typical or anecdotal.