My experience aboard Radisson Seven Seas Navigator gave new meaning to the word pampered. The extraordinary service we experienced throughout our 7-night Canada/New England cruise started even before my husband and I came onboard.
After checking in at the pier in Montreal, we were escorted to the ship and taken to the Portofino Restaurant for a buffet lunch. (Don't even think about carrying your tray to a table; a staff member does that for you.) Shrimp cocktails - with the large, freshly cooked shrimp, not those miniscule ones with the rubbery texture, marinated scallops, a variety of colorful salads, and a choice of hot entrees were among the buffet offerings. Pastries and fresh fruit provided a sweet finish.
By the time we had finished our espresso, our suite was ready. Even though we were in the cheap seats (no balcony), our spacious 301 square foot stateroom was beautifully appointed and contained amenities designed to make guests feel special. Our refrigerator was stocked with beer, soft drinks, and bottled water, which, with the exception of the beer, were replenished daily. A chilled bottle of champagne was also in our suite, along with an order form from which we could select 2 liters of complimentary liquor.
The marble bathroom contained a tub and a separate shower stall, and our walk-in closet was almost as large as the cabin I had occupied years ago on a mass-market ship. Plush towels and terry cloth robes added to the feeling of luxury, as did the fragrant amenities from the Judith Jackson Spa.
The onboard service was just as impressive as the accommodations. With a ratio of two staff members to every guest, passengers' needs were met promptly and courteously. The main restaurant, the Compass Rose, was a relaxing place to dine. Open seating, with dinner served from 7:30 to 9, made it possible for guests to choose when and with whom they wished to eat. Wine was included at dinnertime, and we found the selections to be above average compared to typical house wines. The selections, if purchased, would have cost $30-$40, and the wine steward never let our glasses remain less than half full.
With few exceptions, the food exceeded our expectations. The lobster tails were sweet and tender, the lamb was cooked to perfection, and the canard a l'orange compared favorably to the delicious duck we've had in France. The homemade breads were outstanding, as were the soups. The weakest link was the desserts, and, thankfully for our waistlines, they were easy to resist. But with 24-hour room service and afternoon tea featuring fresh scones, whipped cream, and jam, keeping the calorie count down was next to impossible.
Although eating did take up a fair amount of time, we managed to participate in a few other activities such as the daily Trivia Quiz, which afforded an opportunity to meet fellow passengers. A well-stocked library of books and videos was open 24 hours, and computers were available for a nominal charge. The small fitness center was open from 7 am to 7 pm and contained equipment such as treadmills and free weights. Aerobic and stretch classes were offered daily.
The entertainment was surprisingly good, considering the relatively small stage and lack of hi-tech effects. The usual Las Vegas review-type shows were presented by a talented group of young singers and dancers, and the comic had me laughing out loud. The lack of late-night activities wasn't a factor for us because we were up fairly early each morning to explore the ports of call—Quebec City, Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Bar Harbor, Maine, and Boston.
My favorite ports were Quebec City, which reminds me of some of the charming small towns I've visited in France, and Bar Harbor, where we shared a minivan and driver with two other couples. Our driver took us to Acadia National forest as well as to several picturesque harbors before bringing us back to Bar Harbor, where we spent a leisurely afternoon checking out the shops and enjoying a lobster salad at one of the pleasant seafood restaurants.
The stops in Nova Scotia were a little disappointing. Sydney doesn't have much to offer, and the heavy fog in Halifax made it difficult to appreciate the scenery. And because we were there on Sunday, the downtown area was dead. We did manage to find the public gardens, though, where a free concert was in full swing.
Our last stop was Boston, where we opted to meander around Newbury Street after a quick stop at Filene's Basement to check out the bargains.
While waiting to disembark in New York, we were able to sit in the comfortable lounges, sipping espresso and contemplating our next Radisson cruise. (Yes, we're hooked!) Luxury cruising, of course, does not come cheap. But when you consider gratuities, wine with dinner, non-alcoholic beverages, and an in-room bar set-up are included in Radisson's cruise rate, the price tag doesn't seem out of line. In fact, to get a comparably sized suite on a mass-market line, you would actually pay more. And once you leave your mass-market line suite, you still have to rub elbows (sometimes literally) with the 2,000 or more passengers with whom you share the ship's public areas.
Though certainly not for everyone, consider Radisson for those of you who book suites on lines such as Celebrity and Holland America and who would appreciate the personalized service and generous space ratios found on Radisson ships.
Beverly Robinson is the Communications Director for IT Group in Florida. When she is not working or cruising, she likes to design and make jewelry, cook with her husband, and play with her dog, Mojo, a 9-pound Japanese Chin who thinks he's a cat. She can be reached for questions and comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please