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Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Mariner

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Dec 29, 2011

Eastern Caribbean

Overall: My second experience with Regent Cruises on different ship and much better than first. Was on Voyager last year and aft vibration problem was awful annoyance. This one was smooth ,even in rough weather. Overall,I would rate it very good to excellent in terms of cabins,service,food,excursions,entertainment..etc. How were the dining options: Loved it. 5 different places to eat. Compass Rose, Signatures (required reservations) ,LaVeranda,

Pool Grill, and Prime 7 which also required reservations but no extra expense and only 1 time in each. How was the food: Excellent choices, food prepared well, and delicious. Loved the room service for breakfast which is not just continental like some ships. Many selections and delivered promptly. How was the cabin: Spacious and very clean with large closets. The balcony has 2 chairs and table. Good sized bathroom with tub or large walk in shower (can chose), Comfortable king bed with luxury sheets. Total over 325 ft. The cabin was slightly larger on Voyager.. Onboard activities: Much to chose from Bingo, art lectures, shore lectures, pool, gym, you name it they had it. Excursions included in price so you can pick and chose what you want. My husband took the more physical ones like sailing, horseback rides etc, while I choose island tours,art museums,etc. Some are more enjoyable depending on each island visited, the tour guide, type of bus, etc. We sailed from Ft.Lauderdale and the embarkation was a nightmare with long waits due to computer problem at port. Regent changing to Miami next month. First stop Key West, then Sea Day, on to Gran Turk, Tortola, Dominican Republic, St.Maarten. Supposed to go to St.Barts but bad weather forced us to spend 2 days in St.Maarten, then San Juan and Princess Cay.

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Aug 7, 2011

Venice - Athens

Over all I would give this ship a C+...the service was soso (although our butler and stewardess were great); after the 2nd day the employees never greeted us or even smiled. The 2 premier dining rooms (Prime 7 and Signatures) has the worst service ever (I could have received better at a Denny's) and the last night at signitures we sat for 1 hour and 15 minutes with dirty plates from our appetizer still in front of us - we went back to our cabin and

had room service which delivered in 30 minutes. The ship was full of (mis-behaved) children and were not told in advance that this was some type of family cruise. Small children in the Premier dining rooms were disruptive and should not have been allowed; there was no such thing as a intimate, quite dinner. Embarking wasn't the easiest, they gave us our room key and pointed to the elevator (on other ships we were escorted to our room); disembarking was confusing and we almost missed our transportation. The food was the same day after day and a 10 day cruise was more than enough. We had a penthouse and it was very nice. Stay away from Montenegro and corfu and all bus trips; do your own excursion...the bus trips were very long and only went to one place. Let's put it this way, we will not be sailing Regent seven Seas again!

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Aug 9, 2005

Whittier - Vancouver

In August, 2005, we sailed for a week aboard the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner from Whittier to Vancouver. Since we’ve found the Cruise Review comments to be accurate and very helpful, we thought it would be beneficial to provide our perspectives on the ship and itinerary. Rather than doing a start-to-finish summary, we’ll try to highlight key information in general categories and conclude with a few tips which may make your cruise even

more pleasant. Admittedly, our comments are colored by three factors. First, we had taken a Caribbean cruise seven years ago on an “entry-level” line. The itinerary was fine, but we were unimpressed by the nondescript food and shipboard amenities. This time we wanted to try a higher end cruise line in hopes that the time on board would be more enjoyable. Second, although our cruise experience is limited, we’ve been fortunate enough to stay at many top-of -the-line hotels and resorts throughout North America. Thus, our expectation was that the Seven Seas Mariner would meet or exceed what we had found at these superior land-based facilities. Finally, we had amazingly good weather for our cruise, with sunny, crystal clear weather and highs in the 70s for five of the seven days. Clouds and showers only appeared on the last day. Naturally, such wonderful weather gives anyone a much more positive view of a trip, but we believe that our comments on the Seven Seas Mariner would hold true even if we had encountered the more typical clouds and rain of coastal Alaska. ITINERARY We particularly liked the one way Whittier to Vancouver itinerary, instead of the more typical one week loop from Vancouver or Seattle. You get to see twice the geography and a far greater variety of landscapes. For example, the sail along the Fairweather Range and visit to Hubbard Glacier was spectacular and the subsequent sail into Yakutat harbor was a special treat, since that little community is one spot in North America I’ve always wanted to visit. All of these locales are in a section of Alaska coastline not covered by the loop itineraries. The shore visits included the “big four” cities of southeast Alaska – Sitka, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. We took excursions at each stop, except the last, where our tour was cancelled at the last moment due to lack of participants. All of the tours were worthwhile, except for the tramway up Mount Robinson in Juneau. Admittedly, it was toward the end of a hotter than normal day, but all the staff seemed tired, bored and in some instances, downright cranky. The actual views were less than spectacular, both through the scratched windows of the tram as well as through the foliage at the top. We’d suggest you skip this excursion. Perhaps our three favorite tours were: 1) The Sea Otter Explorer tour in Sitka. Over a three hour period, we saw humpback whales, harbor seals, migrating salmon and of course, sea otters. The captain and crew all seemed focused on getting us the best views of available wildlife. 2) The White Pass and Yukon Railroad. I love this trip based on a visit 30 years ago when I took the train to Whitehorse, Yukon, but it’s still a dramatic ride to the top of the White Pass. The spectacular scenery is only outweighed by the courage and creativity of those who built the railroad over 100 years ago. 3) Also in Skagway, the “Ghosts and Goodtme Girls” walking tour highlights the workings of the world’s oldest profession during the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as some spirits which are said to remain in the old buildings even today. The tour was well narrated, enjoyable and in many instances a poignant reminder of the terrible working conditions and circumstances which plagued the women who followed the men to the gold. Having visited all of these towns 30 years ago, it was generally disappointing to see the evolution of their waterfront with the growth of the cruise industry. The proliferation of the usual cruise-related shops and restaurants reminded us of Caribbean port towns we’ve visited. It seems that just as saloons and prostitutes followed the miners in 1898, Little Switzerland and the other retailers today are following the cruise ship gold to destinations throughout southeast Alaska. OUR CABIN We were on the 8th deck, port side rear in a Class G minimum size cabin. Due to the space’s clever design, we never felt cramped or in any way claustrophobic. With great weather and a comfortable balcony, we ended up spending far more time in our room than we expected, watching the scenery and enjoying drinks from our complementary bottles of scotch and vodka with mixers from the in-room fridge. As we cruised through the most scenic areas, the in-room TV also carried the excellent commentary of Ms. Terry Breen, who highlighted geographic and cultural points of interest as well as spotting marine and land-based wildlife. The bathroom was functional, well arranged and for those of us with older eyes, had excellent lighting. Storage was equally well designed and although we did the usual overpacking, it never felt like we had to struggle to find our things. SERVICE Throughout the cruise, service was generally faultless. Staff in housekeeping, dining rooms and at customer service desks were all uniformly cheerful and helpful. Like many top-notch hotels, Radisson has clearly established a “zone of acknowledgement” where all staff will give you a “Good morning” or other appropriate greeting when you’re within a few feet of them. As an example of their responsiveness, I had left my laptop power cord at the hotel in Anchorage, and asked for help at the ship’s computer center. The attendant immediately offered to borrow a crew person’s cord, and also knew that there was a Radio Shack in Sitka which would have a replacement. Incidentally, the ship’s satellite-based Internet and email connections worked well for me, although some other folks grumbled about the slow response. Another small but significant example of top service was the reboarding procedures at port stops. The Seven Seas Mariner was frequently docked next to ships from other lines, and while we occasionally waited a few minutes to be processed through security, other ships had lines which contained hundreds of people and at least a half hour delay. Admittedly, some of the difference is because of because of the Mariner’s smaller size, but there was also a level of efficiency which allowed our ship’s passengers easier entrance. As a frequent flyer who sometimes spends hours in security lines, the difference was both dramatic and particularly appreciated. While we’ll comment later about the food, we were very impressed by the ship’s room service. We ordered breakfast in the room every morning, and although the order card specified a half hour window (i.e. 6:30-7:00; 7:00-7:30 etc.) , the meal invariably arrived within the first five minutes of the requested period, except for one morning when the attendant arrived with ten minutes to go. He apologized profusely, saying that 160 cabins ( nearly half the ship’s capacity) had asked for breakfast during the same half hour period. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a room service attendant at any hotel apologize for being on time. FOOD Given other reviews on this site, we had a high level of expectation about the food on board the Seven Seas Mariner, and in general, we were not disappointed. Aside from promptness, the room service breakfasts were invariably hot and tasty. Those lunches we had on board were usually at the Poolside Grill, where the food was informal but fresh and in many cases, cooked to order. On the last day we tried the buffet in La Veranda at the ships poolside aft and were impressed with the variety of fresh chilled seafood. While there were hot entrees, we feasted on cold crab claws, shrimp, salmon, trout, and other cold items. Next, time, we’ll definitely make more use of this venue. For dinner, we tried all three restaurants, as well as room service. Perhaps our top choice was “Latitudes”, where the food and presentation matched meals we’ve enjoyed at five-star restaurants. In the main dining room, “Compass Rose”, we found the food to be very good and the somewhat conservative portions allowed us to sample a wider variety of item. Surprisingly, the dinner at “Signatures” the Cordon Bleu restaurant, in part due to the chef’s interpretation of selected dishes, and also due to the over-the-top Escofier-style service. In all restaurants, we found the complementary wine selections to be very good to excellent and good pairings to the food served. TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS While these reviews are helpful in selecting a ship and itinerary, we found they were equally valuable once our cruise was chosen to maximize our enjoyment of the voyage. With the latter purpose primarily in mind, here are some tips for those who choose to sail with Radisson to Alaska: · Given the one-way itinerary, it’s very important to choose a shore-side cabin for your trip (port southbound, starboard northbound). We had wonderful views of the Alaska coastline in our cabin, from early morning to late at night, while those on the opposite side saw only the ocean. Even as we cruised up fjords or between islands, the port side seemed to have the better vistas. Certainly, people in the starboard cabins could see the same things by going to the observation lounge or other viewing points, but we suspect there were many times when a great scene was missed because occupants were in the wrong place at the wrong time. · Despite many self-serving comments by the captain and staff about the smoothness of the ship’s pod propulsion system, we noticed some clear vibration at times in the pod below our cabin, which was near the aft. There was also a bit of rolling motion in the room when we were at full speed. If these type of vibrations and motions concern you, as they did my wife, we’d suggest you try for a cabin near the middle of the ship. · While we didn’t choose the Seven Seas Mariner for economy, there are many elements of the ships all-inclusive package which help offset the higher fares. First, all cabins have balconies, which is usually pretty far up the cabin charts on other lines. Second, all tips for stewards and dining room staff are included in the fare. Next, as mentioned above, the complementary wine at dinner was not only excellent but frequently refilled. In addition, there were three receptions we attended with complementary cocktails. Non-alcoholic drinks, such as soda or coffee, were available for free, as was bottled water before each shore excursion. Speaking of alcohol, perhaps the best value was the complementary liters of spirits and mixers which were in our stateroom upon arrival. Given the outstanding scenery, weather and room, we enjoyed more cocktails than expected in our room (plus – we were on vacation and not driving for days to come). Anyway, the Absolut bottle was magically empty by the fifth day, so we ordered a replacement. Surprisingly, the charge was only $20, or less than three drinks at any of the ship’s lounges. · We started the trip from Anchorage and took the Grandview Cruise Train, which was a wonderful way to start the trip. The Alaska Railroad has modified the cars with domed roofs, allowing far clearer views of both the mountains and Turnagain Arm than could be seen from a typical tour bus. Each car had table seating and complementary soft drinks and coffee. Best yet, the tops of the Dutch doors on each car were open throughout the trip, allowing both better photo opportunities and the chance to enjoy the sounds, smells and sights of railroading in the 49th State. Amtrak could learn a lot from the Alaska Railroad. · Finally, a tip for those using frequent flyer miles to get to the ship, especially from the East Coast. Unlike Hawaii, you can fly to Alaska for the same miles as a domestic round trip, even though the flight from Chicago alone is 6 ½ hours. Thus, it’s a good value to burn off some extra miles for first class, which gives you more leg and elbow room plus, in the case of our United flight, a surprisingly nice meal. We arrived in Anchorage in far better shape than those who were crammed in a very full coach section. In summary, the seven days we spent on the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner were perhaps one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. The exemplary service, excellent food, enjoyable tours and attention to detail all combined to provide the perfect break from daily activities, and we would enthusiastically recommend the ship to all who are looking for both a great Alaska experience and a five star floating resort.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Nancy Norris Age: Baby Boomer Occupation: Travel Professional Number of Cruises: 35+ Cruise Line: Radisson Seven Seas Ship: Seven Seas Mariner Itinerary: Panama Canal The Group on the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner Full of anticipation and excitement, on March 16, I boarded my plane from Cleveland for an early morning flight to Chicago and then on to Los Angeles. There I would connect with some good friends for a pre-cruise night

stay at the Sheraton LA Harbor in San Pedro, before we boarded the Radisson Mariner the next day. As members of a travel professional group, we would be attending a “Seminar-at-Sea” on board the luxury ship. This was my first cruise on this ultra-deluxe cruise line and I could not wait to experience what I had been promised would be a very special treat. A dear friend and I have a running “argument” as to whether Crystal or Radisson is better. Now, truth be told, he has only sailed on Radisson and I had only sailed on Crystal. So, now I would truly be able to compare them and make a more factual assessment. This would also be my first full transit Panama Canal cruise. Although I had been on two previous Panama Canal cruises, they were both round-trip cruises from Florida that made only a partial transit to Gatun Lake. I was eager to compare the two different types of experiences. Pre-Cruise: Although my friends and I were all flying from different destinations, we arrived at the Los Angeles airport within minutes of each other. Jerry, Janet and Pat met in their terminal, secured a private shuttle van ($72 with Super Shuttle) and proceeded to the United terminal to gather me and my belongings. Within minutes of touching down at LAX, we were on our way to our hotel. The 20 minute ride was pleasant and we encountered only a small amount of highway congestion (a fortunate occurrence when traveling in and around LA). The hotel was ideally situated within walking distance of Port o’ Call and our room offered a view of the ships coming into port. There was a nice pool and Jacuzzi, an adequate fitness center, nice restaurant and lounge and even a self-service laundry. I would not hesitate to stay there again and can recommend it as a perfect pre-cruise location. After checking into our rooms, we ventured downstairs for a “pre-cruise toast” and light lunch, which was quickly followed by a short rest before gearing up for the evening. Another friend was driving up from San Diego to join us for dinner and wish us “Bon Voyage”. Although, she frequently travels with us, prior commitments (work!!) prevented her from accompanying us. We had a very nice meal at the Port O’ Call Restaurant and talked until the wee hours. The Seven Seas Mariner Docked Embarkation: We checked out of the hotel at 11:30 and used the services of the complimentary hotel shuttle for the very short trip to the ship. We left our luggage with the porter and passed immediately through security. As we were a bit early, the check-in process had not yet begun, requiring us to remain in the waiting area for a short while. Fortunately, it was only a matter of about 15 minutes before the embarkation process commenced, and just a few minutes later we boarded the ship. Interestingly, the staff that services check-in was also the onboard entertainment staff. Providing a warm welcome, they immediately established a connection to the passengers and created a bond that was reinforced throughout the cruise. Although we were permitted to board, the staterooms were not yet ready, thus we were greeted with a flute of champagne and directed to the Pool Grill on deck 11 to enjoy lunch while we waited. (It is here that I made a distinct comparison between my Crystal and Radisson experience that I detail in Day 1 of my travelogue.) Flowers Around the Ship First Impression: As I entered the Seven Seas Mariner I was not overly impressed with my first glimpse of this 700 guest, 50,000 ton ship. It was nice, but nothing struck me as spectacular or extraordinary. But, as I roamed the ship and took a closer look, I realized that it exudes a very subtle, understated classiness. It is the tiny details that get overlooked at first glance that sets the Mariner apart from other ships. Small touches like fresh flowers arranged in casual elegance and artwork selectively placed inconspicuously throughout the ship create a very refined, yet comfortable, appeal unique to the Radisson Mariner. Suite 1071 My Stateroom: Everyone in the group was assigned a Category D suite on deck 10. Pat & I were to occupy Suite 1071, and Jerry and Janet were our neighbors in 1073. As the Mariner was the first ship to be designed as an all-suite, all-balcony vessel, there is no such thing as an inferior stateroom. As I entered my suite I was impressed with both the physical layout and the décor. A color theme of gold and rust, complemented by touches of mint green were embellished by rich polished wood molding from floor to ceiling. Measuring 301 square feet the suite provided ample space. The corridor into the stateroom was flanked by a full length mirror on one side and the bathroom on the other. And what a bathroom it was! The Bathroom The spacious marble appointed bathroom was equipped with a full size deep bathtub and shower that offered excellent water pressure. There was a full mirror across the sink with corner shelving on each side, plus additional shelving for storage below. The shelves were stocked with a complete complement of Aveeda toiletries that were replenished regularly. In addition to regular size towels, plush bath sheets were provided, as were terrycloth robes. Now that I have painted a picture of this wonderful bathroom, I need to add a point of clarification for those of you who may be sailing on the Mariner in the near future. My neighbors in 1073 did not have a bathtub, but an oversized shower stall. Apparently, the Mariner is undergoing some remodeling, and plans have already been implemented to remove all of the bathtubs and replace them with these shower stalls. This could be either good news or bad news depending on your personal preference. Along the same wall as the bathroom, the corridor begins to curve outward forming a perfect nook for a full vanity. Mirrors encased the vanity on all three sides and I thank the designer who chose the diffused side lighting that was set between the mirrored panes, rather than the typical harsh overhead lighting. It made applying my make-up, a much more pleasant task! There was also a divided drawer below the vanity for storage that contained an excellent hair dryer with multiple heat settings. The hair dryer plugged into its own separate outlet, leaving the two other 110-volt outlets available for other appliances. Another bonus of this space was the perfect placement of the mirrors of the vanity and the full length mirror on the opposite wall. It allowed for perfect viewing to coif the back of your hair. An inlaid wood frame provided an entranceway into the actual bedroom area of the suite. Two very comfortable beds with down comforters and pillows could be configured as two twins or one European king bed. The beds were high enough to store all of our luggage underneath them. They were flanked by two small two-drawer nightstands (a phone sits atop one of them). Two small nightlights/reading lights were on the wall above the beds. Along the sidewall of the bedroom next to the vanity was a walk-in closet providing all the storage one would need for longer voyages and extended itineraries. There were a total of three clothes racks, one full length for longer garments and two half-racks for shorter garments. Ample hangers were provided. The closet also provided a shoe rack, a built-in six drawer dresser with three open shelves above it and an additional shelf along the ceiling for extra storage. A small safe occupied one of the open shelves. Another inlaid wood frame separated the bedroom from the living space. This frame, however, was equipped with a full length drape that could enclose the bedroom in total darkness while leaving the living area and balcony open to lighting. The living area had a full size couch, comfortable matching accent chair, glass-top convertible cocktail/dining table and very attractive entertainment center/desk area. There were two matching glass enclosed double shelves, separated by one long open shelf. Fine glassware and a silver champagne bucket were provided, as well as your choice of 2 complimentary bottles of liquor for your in-room bar. Below one of the glass shelves was a large TV (not interactive) that offered limited selections. It included 3 movie channels that changed daily and ran continuously, CNN, a satellite sports channel, a shore excursion channel, a view from the bridge and one that provided the evening menu selections for each dining room. Below the TV there was a VCR and 4 more nice size drawers. The desk area was located in the middle, below the long open shelf. It was equipped with a desk drawer, comfortable desk chair, another telephone and one outlet. (By the way, the telephone does have voicemail.) Below the other glass shelving unit were additional desk/table space and the mini-fridge. It was stocked with beer, water and soft drinks. Water and soft drinks were always complimentary and restocked daily. The first 4 beers were complimentary, but there was a charge if you wished to have those replaced. (I am not a beer drinker, however, so I do not know the restocking price.) Fresh flowers and fruit were also stateroom amenities. There was ample lighting throughout the cabin. The workstation/entertainment center had separate lighting; there was soft overhead lights in the living area, two wall lamps above the sofa, and full cabin overhead lighting, in addition to the other lights I have already mentioned. The balcony was not large, but had room for 2 cushioned chairs that reclined and a table. The Balcony The balconies have open railings, but interestingly, we had a small child occupying a cabin a few doors down from us and a plexi-glass partition had been attached to their railing for safety. This is just one of the many examples that I was to discover during my voyage of the special accommodations Radisson makes for the comfort of their guests. The Seven Seas Mariner Bow The Ship: The eight decks on the Mariner devoted to passenger space were designed to provide the highest space to guest ratios of any ship afloat (71.4) and was accomplished quite successfully. I invite you to join me on a tour of the ship beginning with Deck 12, the highest point of the Seven Seas Mariner. Located all the way forward, impressive views of the passing scenery was the focal point of The Observation Lounge. Comfortable seating was arranged to allow for limitless views from every vantage point in a tranquil environment. The Observation Lounge The Observation Lounge also served as the perfect spot to enjoy a continental breakfast or midday tea, and throughout the cruise a pianist and harpist took turns entertaining us at various times. This was obviously a very popular spot during our canal transit. Moving aft, there was a full circuit jogging track mid-ship (11 laps equaled 1 mile). The Shuffleboard Court The rear of Deck 12 was devoted to sports venues including a golf net, shuffleboard and paddle tennis court. Paddle Tennis Court Taking the stairs behind the paddle tennis court leads to the outdoor dining area of La Veranda. The La Veranda Outside Dining Area The La Veranda Buffet This restaurant provided a breakfast and lunch buffet during the day and was turned into a bistro/steakhouse in the evening. The Pool Grill Exiting La Veranda, a paddle tennis table was located on the starboard side and an excellent Pool Grill was port side. The Pool Grill Dining Area and Pool Deck The Pool Grill was definitely more than the typical poolside dining venue, but I will save the details for the Dining Section of this review. Moving forward, a Pool Bar and a wonderful alfresco dining area of teak tables with blue umbrellas opened to the pool deck. The Pool The saltwater pool and 3 Jacuzzi’s took center stage, but the real treat was the thick cushioned lounge chairs encircling the pool. Not only were they extremely comfortable, but this was one area that attested to the impressive guest to space ratio. A table and SPACE between each chair was a welcomed deviation from the mainstream cruise scenario. The remaining portion of Deck 11 was allocated to 2 Grand Suites (987 sq. ft.) and a number of Penthouse Suites (449 sq. ft.). The Passenger's Laundry Room Decks 10, 9 and 8 were completely relegated to passenger suites, with the exception of a self-service laundry room on each deck. Washers, dryers and ironing facilities were provided at no cost, and even complimentary laundry detergent was supplied. The Casino The remaining passenger suites were located on the rear half of Deck 7. Continuing forward along the corridor there was a small, but adequate, Casino port side. The Casino Slot Machines The Casino was actually divided into two areas, one housing the table games and the other all of the slot machines. The Mariner Boutiques Opposite the Casino along the same corridor were the boutiques. Although somewhat limited, Tommy Bahama sportswear was featured and proved to be quite popular with a number of our group members. Mid-ship, the Photo Shop occupied the area around the Atrium. Forward, the remaining portion of Deck 7 was devoted to fitness and beauty. The Entrance to the Carita of Paris Spa Occupying the starboard side, a Carita of Paris Spa & Sauna provided the ultimate in pampering. It offered both a dry sauna and steam bath, as well as an array of beauty and body treatments. I have included the Spa Menu in this review, however, whether it was hairstyling or a manicure, facial treatment or body massage the staff was there to indulge your needs. The Fitness Center Adjacent to the Spa, was the Fitness Center. The Fitness Center was divided into two rooms, one housing a range of exercise equipment and the other devoted to floor exercises and fitness classes. Although there was a variety of standard machines (treadmills, recumbent bikes, elliptical, stair climbing, universal weight machine and free weights), the area is not very large and on this cruise often became quite crowded. A very full schedule of aerobics, stretching, body toning, circuit, fitball and Pilates classes were provided throughout the cruise by Jacquie, an excellent fitness instructor. Here is a list of the various classes that were available on the cruise.Again, although she was a great instructor, the space was somewhat limited and much too small to accommodate the number of participants. I am not sure if this was unique to our cruise, or whether it is an ongoing situation, but it definitely affected the quality of the workout. The Constellation Theater Moving down to Deck 6 from the fitness area, was the upper level of the Constellation Theater. This two-tiered theater was the main entertainment venue for the various production shows and guest performances that were provided for our enjoyment nightly. A single performance was scheduled nightly at 9:45, but was never crowded and there was always ample seating available (even if you arrived at the last minute). Seating was comfortable, aisles were wide and tables were strategically placed between rows. For most performances we sat near the front of the theater, but it appeared that sight lines and acoustics were excellent from any seat. The Atrium Moving aft to the Atrium, a small shop sat in the starboard corner. Although it was identified as the souvenir shop, it primarily sold jewelry. The Garden Promenade Continuing aft along the single starboard corridor, aptly named the Garden Promenade, was Stars Nightclub. Stars Nightclub This was the disco and actually became quite lively many evenings during the cruise (particularly on karaoke nights). The Circular Stairs Leading to the Casino Circular stairs in the center of the room led to the Casino directly above and provided an added dimension to the visual appeal of the space. We are now beginning to venture into the area that I found to be the most visually appealing and aesthetically pleasing area of the ship. Continuing along the Garden Promenade, the space opens to include a row of attractive chairs and tables arranged along the windows on the starboard side. Some were designed for reading, some for quiet board games and yet others were utilized as the “puzzle corner”. A very impressive library was on the port side. A cappuccino/latte machine, tea sandwiches and cookies were available in a small corner, while rather large number of shelves offered substantial reading material, a generous quantity of videos (for personal use in-suite) and a few multi-media computers. Club.com This was also the location of Club.com, the Internet café. There were 14 computer stations available, but this was one of the most disappointing aspects of the Mariner. While other Radisson ships offer package pricing making Internet access reasonable, this was not the case on the Mariner. The only option was a standard, $.75 per minute charge. In and of itself, this might not have been bad, but the service was extremely slow and highly unreliable. It was not unusual to accrue charges of $8.00 or more, just attempting to get to your mailbox and then still not being able to access your mail. For many, adding to the frustration was a less than sympathetic or helpful staff making for very disgruntled passengers. The Library Tucked behind the library was the Conference Center and Card Room. The Conference Center A movable partition separated these two facilities, allowing them to be utilized as two separate venues or combined into one larger space, should the need arise. The Card Room Still continuing our trek aft along the Garden Promenade passed the small selection of art that was on display for purchase was the Connoisseur Club. Promenade Art This very attractive room, which was actually an enclosed annex to the Horizon Lounge, appeared to be the “cigar bar”, but never once during the cruise did I see this space occupied. The Connoisseur Club All the way aft, the Horizon Lounge provided a great place to watch the sunset, enjoy afternoon tea, or spend the evening dancing. The Horizon Lounge Two dance hosts were usually in attendance for any ladies who were in need of a dance partner. Signatures Place Setting Adjacent to the Horizon Lounge and opposite the Card Room, was Signatures, a very intimate restaurant offering “Le Cordon Bleu” cuisine. Signatures Restaurant This elegant dining venue was quite popular and reservations were required. Compass Rose Restaurant Entrance Exiting the restaurant and traversing the stairs, we have descended to Deck 5 aft, the lowest of the passenger decks. This was the rear entrance to the Compass Rose Restaurant, the traditional main dining venue. Staff was available at both the rear and main entrances to greet and seat guests in this refined and tastefully appointed setting. The Compass Rose Restaurant Tables were arranged to accommodate parties of two to ten. Moving forward to the main entrance, the small conclave was shared by Latitudes, a reservations-only intimate hideaway featuring an interesting cuisine in a unique style. Here are two samples menus from Lattitudes. Lattitudes Continuing forward was the Mariner Lounge, where the piano player typically entertained for our pre-dinner pleasure. Mariner Lounge This led to the main floor of the unassuming, 8-deck Atrium. The Reception Area Arranged around the Atrium was the Tour Office, Cruise Sales Office, Reception Area and Concierge Desk. The main level of the Constellation Theater occupied the remaining forward section of Deck 5. The Doctor’s office was located on Deck 4, forward. Two banks of elevators serviced the passengers. A glass enclosed set of three were located in the Atrium section and a set of two elevators were located in the aft area. Be aware that if you choose to use the aft elevators and exit on Deck 5, you must go through the Compass Rose restaurant to reach the other areas of the ship. Dining Options: The freedom of open seating at all meals, elegant settings, tantalizing menus, and exquisite presentation combine to make dining onboard the Mariner a gourmet experience. Unfortunately, I became quite ill midway through the cruise (NO it was not the noro-virus or anything like that) and did not derive the same pleasure I usually enjoy from long leisure meals while cruising. But, truth be told, if I had to be sick on any ship, I am glad it was on one that provided phenomenal room service. And while on the subject of room service, let’s look at that option first. A rather extensive room service menu, including snacks, soups, salads, hot and cold sandwiches, main courses and desserts was available 24 hours. During dinner hours any item on the menu in Compass Rose was also available for room service (even complimentary wine). A full breakfast menu was also served from 6:30AM to10AM (see menu included). Since I did use this option more than I have on any other cruise, I can honestly say service, presentation and quality of food were all excellent. Signatures Signatures was open for dinner only (6:30PM – 9PM) and required reservations. It had a set menu that remained the same nightly and changed only once midday through the cruise. Signatures offered superb fare prepared by Le Cordon-Bleu trained chefs in elegant fashion with service to match. Classically French, with culinary twists, I have included both a la carte menus (menu #1 and menu #2) that were offered on our cruise, but can highly recommend the fillet of beef. Now, I am not a very adventurous diner and my tastes are rather basic, but this was truly a dining experience not to be missed on a Mariner cruise. Latitudes was the smallest and most intimate of the restaurants onboard. It was similar to Signatures in that it required reservations, open only for dinner and had a set menu that changed only once through the cruise. However, it offered a truly distinctive dining experience that proved to be the favorite of many in our group (Not me, but then I am not a fan of Asian fusion cuisine.) However, the Asian inspired menu was served in a unique fashion that I found to be quite appealing. All three of the appetizers, soups and desserts were served to everyone in small sampler portions allowing guests the opportunity a taste of each. Selecting between the two main courses was the only choice that each guest made for themselves. For someone like me, this was a perfect way to expand my taste repertoire. This was definitely another “not to be missed” dining venue. La Veranda Restaurant LaVeranda served a breakfast (7:30AM – 10AM) and lunch (12 – 2PM) buffet each day. Seating was available on the outside terrace or inside the air-conditioned restaurant. At breakfast the basic buffet choices remained the same throughout the entire cruise (breakfast pastries, fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, cereals, French toast, etc.) but eggs cooked to order or actually anything else that a guest wanted was prepared on request. The luncheon buffet was varied, but jumbo shrimp, baked fish, fresh vegetables and marvelous salads were offered daily. In the evening the port side of the restaurant was transformed into an informal Mediterranean bistro or Italian steakhouse (rotated on a nightly basis) serving diners from 7-9 PM on a first come-first served basis. Appetizers and desserts were chosen from a buffet but the rest of the meal was ordered through your server. I sampled the fare at the Mediterranean bistro, but never did manage to test the Italian steakhouse menu. Although we did try, due to its popularity on this cruise we were never able to be seated. (I strongly suggest you plan to arrive before 8PM if you wish to dine there.) Compass Rose, the largest of the restaurants, was the traditional dining venue on the Mariner. Breakfast was served from 8AM – 9:30AM, lunch from 12 – 1:30PM and dinner from 6:30PM – 9PM daily. Dinner menus changed nightly and offered a wide variety of choices. Different standard, vegetarian and low-salt menus were provided and a filet mignon, strip steak, chicken breast and fish prepared to order could always be requested. Actually, my friends and I preferred this restaurant because it always offered a choice that appealed to our combined eclectic tastes. Lunch, however, was a disappointment. The menu offered little variety and service (according to a consensus of those in the group) was somewhat inconsistent. The Pool Grill offered a continental breakfast from 6:30AM – 9:30AM and began serving hot dogs, burgers, fries, etc from 11AM – 4PM. By the way, the burgers were cooked to order (yes, you can get a burger on the rare side) as well as being thick and juicy. Excellent!! Pizza and fruit plates were also available. However, the Pool Grill was often the scene of some rather extensive and unique poolside luncheon buffets. On this cruise a Mexican BBQ, Fish Al Fresco, Mongolian Wok, Asian Delight and American BBQ were just some of the featured luncheon delights. If these options were not enough a continental breakfast was also served in the Observation Lounge from 6:30AM – 11AM and an afternoon tea was served from 4PM – 5PM in both the Horizon and Observation Lounges. There was no “midnight buffet”, but it was certainly not missed! Both a white and red wine chosen to complement the menu selections for that evening were served complimentary in each of the dining venues at dinner. You could always request your favorite wine if the evening’s selection was not to your liking. FYI: Although it is not publicly announced, you can also order complimentary cocktails during dinner. Staff and Service: The Seven Seas Voyager Staff on Stage For the most part, I found the staff on the Mariner to be more than accommodating. Guests were treated with a friendly respect and special requests were patiently and promptly serviced. The stateroom attendants were particularly attentive to guests needs. I found it particularly pleasant to not be subjected to the invasive noise generated by the early morning cleaning schedule of staterooms so typical of mainstream cruise lines. Room service, (here is a copy of the room service menu)as I have already mentioned, was exceptional. Most staff members greeted me with a warm greeting and a smile, and even a number that greeted me by name. A few even anticipated my requests based on past preferences. However, there were some unsolicitous and less than friendly staff members in pockets of the ship that influenced the group’s overall assessment. For the most part they were minor infractions, that appeared to stem from a lack of attention to detail rather than attitude and were the exception rather than the norm, but nonetheless it did negatively impact the overall experience. Entertainment: For a ship this size they offered a wide variety of entertainment to appeal to broad range of tastes and interests. Musical genres from classical to modern rock were showcased in different venues each day. From harpist and pianist, to vocal duo and DJ the entertainment staff did their best to keep us entertained. The Peter Terhune Singers and Dancers were not the most polished and seasoned troupe of performers at sea. But, they exuded a youth, vitality and effervescence that was infectious and appealing. Although they were not a full blown orchestra, The Mariner Five quite competently handled the role of ship band accompanying the guest performers and providing background music at social functions. And speaking of guest performers, there were outstanding offerings (the impressionist and Holly Lipton in particular) and those that were received with less enthusiasm, but there is no question that there was definitely substantial variety. Day 1, Thursday (Los Angeles): The Port of Los Angeles We had boarded at noon and our staterooms were not yet ready, so we were directed to the Pool Grill on deck 11 to enjoy lunch while we waited. Since I boarded the ship with intentions of comparing this cruise to my Crystal, I was a bit disappointed with our initial greeting. On Crystal we were escorted to the dining room where we were presented with a full course luncheon menu while champagne flowed freely awaiting access to our staterooms. In all fairness, Radisson cruise documents stated a 2:30 PM boarding time; therefore they were not under no obligation to accommodate our early arrival. It just fell short of my preconception. Unfortunately, the fact that we were unable to get into our suites until 3 PM did nothing to enhance my initial impression. However, the Radisson Mariner redeemed itself immeasurably by conducting one of the most efficient and well conducted emergency lifeboat drills I have encountered. When we were able to occupy our staterooms, our luggage had already been delivered. So, after the lifeboat drill, Pat and I returned to the suite to begin unpacking. We had planned to join the Bon Voyage get together on the pool deck; but the view from our balcony was so inviting, we decided to have our own private SailAway. Leaving Los Angeles Harbor Earlier my friends and I had connected with two other members of the travel professionals group that we had cruised with in the past and were able to secure reservations at 8 PM for the 6 of us to enjoy our first dinner on board at Signatures. And what a fantastic meal it was! Ravioli stuffed with escargots, a very tender filet of beef, crème brulee for dessert and French wine. Now, this was the way to start a cruise! After dinner we went next door to the Horizon lounge for trivia and dancing at an energetic St. Patrick’s Day celebration. (By the way, this made my roommate very happy since she would have been sorely disappointed if the ship had not planned any St. Patrick Day activity.) While there, we met a number of the entertainment staff. In fact, it was the entertainment staff that had checked us in when we boarded. The young lady who had taken care of us remembered us and greeted us by name. Each of the performers in this young troupe was quite personable and exuded an enigmatic charm as they interacted with guests throughout the cruise. Ah, there is definitely something to be said for a small ship experience. By now, the evening was waning and we were all getting weary, so we retired for the evening. Day 2, Friday (San Diego - Docked): Port of San Diego (Taken From the Ship) Since my body clock was still on EST, I was ready to begin my day by 6:30 AM. When we arrived in port on schedule at 8 AM it was cloudy and looked like rain, but by the 9 AM the sun began to peak through. My 3 traveling companions live in California and my “cruise buddy” who had met us in LA pre-cruise is from San Diego, therefore this was not a new destination for any of us. Since we already familiar with the area from other trips Janet, Jerry, Pat and I left the ship about 10:30 enroute to the Hotel Del Coronado. Janet and Pat had both made arrangements to meet members of their families for lunch. We had planned to take the ferry to Coronado, but by the time we dawdled our way to the ferry terminal we had just missed the 11 AM ferry. Hotel Del Coronado Rather than waiting around until noon for the next ferry, we grabbed a taxi ($17.50 + tip). The Hotel Del Coronado Grounds We managed to have a leisure lunch and still squeeze in a little time for some shopping before returning to the ship for our 5 PM departure. We joined a few members of the travel group, before our group’s scheduled cocktail party at 6:30 in the Horizon Lounge. Captain Jean-Marie Guillou and some of the other officers stopped by the cocktail party which was a very nice gesture and well appreciated. After the cocktail party, I joined others from our group for dinner at La Veranda to sample the Mediterranean Bistro. Appetizers and desserts were served buffet style, while the rest of the meal was ordered from the menu. Wine flowed freely as we engaged in lively conversation. At dinner’s end, some of group went to the Constellation Theater for the evening’s main entertainment, comedian Fred Klett. Since my body had not yet adjusted to the 3 hour time difference, I chose to retire for the evening. According to my traveling companions, I did not miss much as consensus of opinion rated his performance as marginal. San Diego Port Suggestions: For those of you who have not been to San Diego before, here are some recommended activities and excursions you might find of interest. •The Trolley Tour offered as a ship’s excursion was excellent and provided a great overview of the city for first timers. •Horton Plaza is within walking distance (the ship also provided complimentary shuttle service) and is a great shopping complex. •“The Midway” is at the port and well worth exploring if you find such vessels of interest. •Old Town and Presidio Park are “must-do’s” if you have never visited San Diego. •The San Diego Zoo is one of the best in the country. •Take the ferry to Coronado or make a trek to La Jolla – both are fabulous destinations and provide a different view of the area. If you are a beach person and looking for one of those spectacular San Diego beaches, then make a point of visiting either of these spots. Day 3, Saturday (At Sea): The Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party I woke early, but began the morning a bit disappointed since the weather was definitely not promising. It was cold, cloudy and very windy. Sine a power walk on deck was not an option, I chose to visit the fitness center. It was very crowded and I was unable to locate an available treadmill. Fortunately, however, I had arrived just in time for the morning stretch class. I had just enough time to grab a latté before returning to my cabin to freshen up for the fist of our scheduled seminars. There was an excellent synergy that evolved during the seminar and we left the meeting charged with a task that I found quite intriguing. Since the weather had continued to deteriorate, we chose to participate in the wine and cheese paring seminar. After the wine tasting, I decided to take advantage of the inclement weather to begin collecting some of the interior photos of the ship for the review, followed by a relaxing lunch at La Veranda. Knowing there would be many sun-filled days ahead, I returned to the cabin to work. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the sun had finally decided to make an appearance. Protected from the wind, I was able to work while gathering the first of the sun’s rays on my balcony. Ah, life was looking good! This was the first of the two formal nights scheduled for our 14 day cruise. The Captain’s Welcome Reception was held on decks 5 and 6 of the Atrium. We mingled with the staff, enjoying cocktails and conversation, while the Mariner Five played for our listening pleasure. Following the festivities, we decided to dine at Compass Rose. I thoroughly enjoyed my small lobster tail poached in butter as I became better acquainted with some of the members of our travel group. This evening’s entertainment was the first of the production shows performed by the Peter Terhune Singers and Dancers. Having actually met a number of the performers, I was looking forward to seeing them display their talents. “Beyond Imagination” was interesting and different than many of the production shows I have seen of late. While I truly enjoyed “Beyond Imagination”, it was not without its flaws. The production was a bit disjointed as it appeared to have no real theme and there were some uneven transitions. There were also some mismatches between vocalist and song choice, but, on the other hand, there were also some very exceptional solo performances. Overall, I found the show to be quite pleasant. While some of the group left the theater in search of more late night activity, I chose to retire. It appeared that many passengers had a similar mindset to mine, as late night activity was at a minimum (or so my friends thought – but more about that later). (I was to discover later that due to unexpected personal matters and serious injuries to a few of the key performers in the ensemble, other members of the group were called upon as last minute replacements during our cruise. This would certainly explain the unevenness and mismatches I mentioned. I applaud the performers who did their best under extenuating circumstances.) Day 4, Sunday (Cabo San Lucas – Tender Port): Absolutely glorious day! Not a cloud in the sky and the promise of perfect weather. This morning I was able to enjoy a vigorous power walk and light breakfast before preparing for my day in Cabo. The Mariner arrived a bit ahead of its 9 AM scheduled arrival. I love Cabo and was looking forward to engaging in my favorite Cabo activity, a visit to Medano Beach. As Internet access on board was such a disappointment (both for cost and accessibility), locating an Internet café was a primary goal. So, a few of us arranged to secure the first of the tender tickets to be disseminated. Once we disembarked we remembered it was Palm Sunday, so many things were closed (including most of the internet cafés). Thus we changed our itinerary and decided to walk to the beach and look for internet access on our return to the ship. (By the way, it is very easy to secure a water taxi at the pier to take you directly to the beach.) Arriving at Medano Beach This turned out to be a wise move, as we had arrived early enough at Billigan’s on Medano Beach to acquire 4 chaises and an umbrella in a prime beach location. We settled in for a day of relaxing in the sun, enjoying lunch at “The Office”, and sipping liquid refreshment at the “All Day Happy-Hour”. This is absolutely a great party spot, so early in the afternoon the spring break crowd began filtering in and by mid-afternoon the beach was a sea of young college students ready to indulge in the standard “spring break party rituals”. Medano Afternoon By the time we left at 3:30, I am not sure how any more bodies would fit on this small stretch of sand. Joanie and I did manage to find an internet café as we walked through town and back to the tender pier, before boarding the last tender. I don’t know about you, but a day at the beach can really tire me out. So, the ordeal of dressing for dinner, and then sitting through a full course meal was just more than I wanted to deal with at this point. One of the pleasures of a Radisson cruise is that I had an alternative. I wandered down to the library, selected a “chick flick” video, returned to my cabin, ordered room service from the very extensive room service menu and settled in for the night. Dining in your stateroom is truly one of the luxuries of a Radisson cruise; simply delightful! Your coffee table is converted into a dining table adorned with a white linen tablecloth and fine china place setting. I would suggest everyone opt for this alternative at least once on a Radisson cruise. Cabo San Lucas Port Suggestions: Since many of you might prefer to do something other than spend the day at the beach, here are some alternative suggestions. •If your ship is in port early (and long enough), schedule a fishing trip. This is one of the best ports for this sport. •Rent an ATV and do some exploring. •Horseback riding is also very popular. •Kayak to Lover’s Beach (if the water is not too rough). An alternative is to just hire a water taxi. •Renting a car was not recommended as it tends to be expensive and rentals are not conveniently located at the pier. Day 5, Monday (At Sea): Another marvelous weather day was forecast and I was not disappointed. I awoke with sun basking my balcony and knew that another stellar day was ahead. By 9:00 AM I was already at the pool area staking my claim to a perfectly located lounge chair. I was able to complete a 2 ½ mile power walk (11 laps = 1 mile) before “vegging” in the sun for the rest of the day. Members of our travel group came and went during the day, leaving periodically to participate in other scheduled activities around the ship. Two members of our group were fortunate enough to have signed up for the Cordon Bleu cooking class that was being conducted by a Master Chef others went to bridge lessons, cooking demonstrations, or one of the enrichment lectures. By late afternoon, the sun had tired me out and I chose to take a short nap in preparation for a full evening. We had dinner reservations at Latitudes for 8:00 PM. Many from our travel group met at the Horizon Lounge for cocktails and dancing before dinner, then went our separate ways for dinner, before reconnecting later that evening. The meal at Latitudes was great. Its unique presentation style was definitely a major part of its appeal, not to mention the excellent selections that were offered. The evening entertainment was songstress Holly Lipton. Her performance was excellent. Each of the headline acts was scheduled for two shows during the cruise, and we were all definitely looking forward to her second performance. Well, after bailing early the last few nights, I had promised to join my fellow partiers for some late night activity. Thus, we headed off to Stars disco for karaoke and dancing. Now, karaoke is not normally “my thing”, but I must admit that on this particular night, even I was coerced into performing with “the girls”. After our “stellar performances”, karaoke led to disco dancing and it turned into a very late night for most of us. It was all good, however, as everyone had a great time. (Oh! By the way, I had mentioned that my friends were complaining that there was not much activity on board the ship at night. Well, apparently they had missed the disco in their quest, as we met a group of guests that had been there every night.) Day 6, Tuesday (Acapulco): Port of Acapulco Joanie and I had made plans to meet early that morning to disembark the ship together. As this was not the first time either of us had been to Acapulco, we had no plans other than to locate an Internet café, and then head to the beach. (Am I beginning to sound like a broken record?) Fortunately, there was an Internet café in the terminal at reasonable rates ($3 for ½ hour). Then, it was off to the beach. We walked the short distance to the beach and were lucky enough to locate a couple of lounge chairs to rent for the day. This was not an easy task, as most of the rentals were for umbrellas and straight back chairs. By the time we had settled in for the day, the beach was becoming crowded. Since this was Holy Week, the residents of Mexico City flock to Acapulco in droves for vacation. Now, I forgot to mention that I was beginning to come down with some sort of cold (or so I thought) for when I woke this morning, my throat was quite scratchy and I had lost my voice. (Now I know what you are thinking, but NO, it was not due to my late night revelry the night before.) The Beach at Acapulco So after lounging a while on the beach, I took a break to find a pharmacy to purchase some cold and throat medicine. Well, if I thought the beach was becoming crowded, that was nothing compared to the scene on the roads. Traffic was horrendous and there appeared to be gridlock in every direction. I was quite glad we had chosen to forego any sightseeing and had chosen to walk to the beach. By the time I returned, it had become very hot and humid. We attempted to cool off in the water, but, surprisingly, the water was quite chilly. It wasn’t long before we were both uncomfortable, not to mention getting hungry. Rather than try to find a restaurant in town and fight the sea of people, we decided just to return to the ship and finish our day at the pool area on board. When I returned, Joanie and I decided to return to the ship for lunch and finish our day at the pool on board. Well, with the ship in port there was not a hint of a breeze on the pool deck, so our afternoon plan was foiled a bit. I decided to take advantage of the empty ship to take pictures for this review, while Joanie retired to her cabin to do some work. My roommate, Pat, had ventured off with other friends but returned shortly after me. Some from our group had gone to see the cliff divers (a must do in Acapulco for first timers), others went to the central market and yet others participated in one the ship’s shore excursions. Once again we met at Horizons for pre-dinner cocktails and dined at Compass Rose. The evening entertainment was Fred Klett (the comedian) and so many from our group had been disappointed in his first performance; we opted to pass on that evening activity. Pat, Janet and Jerry decided to venture to the Observation Lounge to listen to the piano playing of Mr. Jordan Heppner and found it quite pleasant (there were only about 5 other people in the lounge, however). My throat condition was worsening and it’s not much fun conversing with no voice (anyone who knows me can appreciate that the inability to talk would be quite frustrating for me), so I chose to retire early again. Acapulco Port Suggestions: I have already mentioned some of the excursions that you might want to consider, but here is a compilation of suggestions from the group. •One of the most popular tourist attractions is the Acapulco Cliff Divers. It is easy to grab a taxi from the pier and catch one of the afternoon or evening shows. •The San Diego Fort is directly across from the cruise terminal and makes for an interesting tour. •The ship sponsored Cross and Fort Tour was good and very interesting. The highlight is the view of Acapulco from the summit of Las Brisas. •If you are a shopper and have honed up on your bartering skills, then the Central Market is a great place to get all your typical Mexican crafts and souvenirs. •Papagyo Park is a nice municipal park within walking distance of the pier, but if you are expecting to do some shopping all the vendor’s stalls are no longer there. Day 7, Wednesday (Huatulco): The Port of Huatulco I awoke still not feeling well, but my voice seemed to be coming back, so I was anticipating a rapid recovery. I was able to do an abbreviated power walk (my energy level was still down) before enjoying a light breakfast in La Veranda. This was my first visit to Huatulco and I was thoroughly impressed!! What was once a sleepy fishing community until it was discovered by developers in the 1960’s remains quietly charming. The Seven Seas Mariner in Huatulco Although this area is beginning to emerge as a popular resort destination, its secluded beaches and idyllic setting provide a relaxed environment much different from other major resort areas in Mexico. It was very quiet (particularly after our last two ports) and extremely clean.

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In August, 2005, we sailed for a week aboard the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner from Whittier to Vancouver. Since we’ve found the Cruise Review comments to be accurate and very helpful, we thought it would be beneficial to provide our perspectives on the ship and itinerary. Rather than doing a start-to-finish summary, we’ll try to highlight key information in general categories and conclude with a few tips which may make your cruise even more pleasant.

Admittedly, our comments are colored by three factors. First, we had taken a Caribbean cruise seven years ago on an “entry-level” line. The itinerary was fine, but we were unimpressed by the nondescript food and shipboard amenities. This time we wanted to try a higher end cruise line in hopes that the time on board would be more enjoyable. Second, although our cruise experience is limited, we’ve been fortunate enough to stay at many top-of -the-line hotels and resorts throughout North America. Thus, our expectation was that the Seven Seas Mariner would meet or exceed what we had found at these superior land-based facilities. Finally, we had amazingly good weather for our cruise, with sunny, crystal clear weather and highs in the 70s for five of the seven days. Clouds and showers only appeared on the last day. Naturally, such wonderful weather gives anyone a much more positive view of a trip, but we believe that our comments on the Seven Seas Mariner would hold true even if we had encountered the more typical clouds and rain of coastal Alaska. ITINERARY We particularly liked the one way Whittier to Vancouver itinerary, instead of the more typical one week loop from Vancouver or Seattle. You get to see twice the geography and a far greater variety of landscapes. For example, the sail along the Fairweather Range and visit to Hubbard Glacier was spectacular and the subsequent sail into Yakutat harbor was a special treat, since that little community is one spot in North America I’ve always wanted to visit. All of these locales are in a section of Alaska coastline not covered by the loop itineraries. The shore visits included the “big four” cities of southeast Alaska – Sitka, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan. We took excursions at each stop, except the last, where our tour was cancelled at the last moment due to lack of participants. All of the tours were worthwhile, except for the tramway up Mount Robinson in Juneau. Admittedly, it was toward the end of a hotter than normal day, but all the staff seemed tired, bored and in some instances, downright cranky. The actual views were less than spectacular, both through the scratched windows of the tram as well as through the foliage at the top. We’d suggest you skip this excursion. Perhaps our three favorite tours were: 1) The Sea Otter Explorer tour in Sitka. Over a three hour period, we saw humpback whales, harbor seals, migrating salmon and of course, sea otters. The captain and crew all seemed focused on getting us the best views of available wildlife. 2) The White Pass and Yukon Railroad. I love this trip based on a visit 30 years ago when I took the train to Whitehorse, Yukon, but it’s still a dramatic ride to the top of the White Pass. The spectacular scenery is only outweighed by the courage and creativity of those who built the railroad over 100 years ago. 3) Also in Skagway, the “Ghosts and Goodtme Girls” walking tour highlights the workings of the world’s oldest profession during the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as some spirits which are said to remain in the old buildings even today. The tour was well narrated, enjoyable and in many instances a poignant reminder of the terrible working conditions and circumstances which plagued the women who followed the men to the gold. Having visited all of these towns 30 years ago, it was generally disappointing to see the evolution of their waterfront with the growth of the cruise industry. The proliferation of the usual cruise-related shops and restaurants reminded us of Caribbean port towns we’ve visited. It seems that just as saloons and prostitutes followed the miners in 1898, Little Switzerland and the other retailers today are following the cruise ship gold to destinations throughout southeast Alaska. OUR CABIN We were on the 8th deck, port side rear in a Class G minimum size cabin. Due to the space’s clever design, we never felt cramped or in any way claustrophobic. With great weather and a comfortable balcony, we ended up spending far more time in our room than we expected, watching the scenery and enjoying drinks from our complementary bottles of scotch and vodka with mixers from the in-room fridge. As we cruised through the most scenic areas, the in-room TV also carried the excellent commentary of Ms. Terry Breen, who highlighted geographic and cultural points of interest as well as spotting marine and land-based wildlife. The bathroom was functional, well arranged and for those of us with older eyes, had excellent lighting. Storage was equally well designed and although we did the usual overpacking, it never felt like we had to struggle to find our things. SERVICE Throughout the cruise, service was generally faultless. Staff in housekeeping, dining rooms and at customer service desks were all uniformly cheerful and helpful. Like many top-notch hotels, Radisson has clearly established a “zone of acknowledgement” where all staff will give you a “Good morning” or other appropriate greeting when you’re within a few feet of them. As an example of their responsiveness, I had left my laptop power cord at the hotel in Anchorage, and asked for help at the ship’s computer center. The attendant immediately offered to borrow a crew person’s cord, and also knew that there was a Radio Shack in Sitka which would have a replacement. Incidentally, the ship’s satellite-based Internet and email connections worked well for me, although some other folks grumbled about the slow response. Another small but significant example of top service was the reboarding procedures at port stops. The Seven Seas Mariner was frequently docked next to ships from other lines, and while we occasionally waited a few minutes to be processed through security, other ships had lines which contained hundreds of people and at least a half hour delay. Admittedly, some of the difference is because of because of the Mariner’s smaller size, but there was also a level of efficiency which allowed our ship’s passengers easier entrance. As a frequent flyer who sometimes spends hours in security lines, the difference was both dramatic and particularly appreciated. While we’ll comment later about the food, we were very impressed by the ship’s room service. We ordered breakfast in the room every morning, and although the order card specified a half hour window (i.e. 6:30-7:00; 7:00-7:30 etc.) , the meal invariably arrived within the first five minutes of the requested period, except for one morning when the attendant arrived with ten minutes to go. He apologized profusely, saying that 160 cabins ( nearly half the ship’s capacity) had asked for breakfast during the same half hour period. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a room service attendant at any hotel apologize for being on time. FOOD Given other reviews on this site, we had a high level of expectation about the food on board the Seven Seas Mariner, and in general, we were not disappointed. Aside from promptness, the room service breakfasts were invariably hot and tasty. Those lunches we had on board were usually at the Poolside Grill, where the food was informal but fresh and in many cases, cooked to order. On the last day we tried the buffet in La Veranda at the ships poolside aft and were impressed with the variety of fresh chilled seafood. While there were hot entrees, we feasted on cold crab claws, shrimp, salmon, trout, and other cold items. Next, time, we’ll definitely make more use of this venue. For dinner, we tried all three restaurants, as well as room service. Perhaps our top choice was “Latitudes”, where the food and presentation matched meals we’ve enjoyed at five-star restaurants. In the main dining room, “Compass Rose”, we found the food to be very good and the somewhat conservative portions allowed us to sample a wider variety of item. Surprisingly, the dinner at “Signatures” the Cordon Bleu restaurant, in part due to the chef’s interpretation of selected dishes, and also due to the over-the-top Escofier-style service. In all restaurants, we found the complementary wine selections to be very good to excellent and good pairings to the food served. TIPS FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS While these reviews are helpful in selecting a ship and itinerary, we found they were equally valuable once our cruise was chosen to maximize our enjoyment of the voyage. With the latter purpose primarily in mind, here are some tips for those who choose to sail with Radisson to Alaska: · Given the one-way itinerary, it’s very important to choose a shore-side cabin for your trip (port southbound, starboard northbound). We had wonderful views of the Alaska coastline in our cabin, from early morning to late at night, while those on the opposite side saw only the ocean. Even as we cruised up fjords or between islands, the port side seemed to have the better vistas. Certainly, people in the starboard cabins could see the same things by going to the observation lounge or other viewing points, but we suspect there were many times when a great scene was missed because occupants were in the wrong place at the wrong time. · Despite many self-serving comments by the captain and staff about the smoothness of the ship’s pod propulsion system, we noticed some clear vibration at times in the pod below our cabin, which was near the aft. There was also a bit of rolling motion in the room when we were at full speed. If these type of vibrations and motions concern you, as they did my wife, we’d suggest you try for a cabin near the middle of the ship. · While we didn’t choose the Seven Seas Mariner for economy, there are many elements of the ships all-inclusive package which help offset the higher fares. First, all cabins have balconies, which is usually pretty far up the cabin charts on other lines. Second, all tips for stewards and dining room staff are included in the fare. Next, as mentioned above, the complementary wine at dinner was not only excellent but frequently refilled. In addition, there were three receptions we attended with complementary cocktails. Non-alcoholic drinks, such as soda or coffee, were available for free, as was bottled water before each shore excursion. Speaking of alcohol, perhaps the best value was the complementary liters of spirits and mixers which were in our stateroom upon arrival. Given the outstanding scenery, weather and room, we enjoyed more cocktails than expected in our room (plus – we were on vacation and not driving for days to come). Anyway, the Absolut bottle was magically empty by the fifth day, so we ordered a replacement. Surprisingly, the charge was only $20, or less than three drinks at any of the ship’s lounges. · We started the trip from Anchorage and took the Grandview Cruise Train, which was a wonderful way to start the trip. The Alaska Railroad has modified the cars with domed roofs, allowing far clearer views of both the mountains and Turnagain Arm than could be seen from a typical tour bus. Each car had table seating and complementary soft drinks and coffee. Best yet, the tops of the Dutch doors on each car were open throughout the trip, allowing both better photo opportunities and the chance to enjoy the sounds, smells and sights of railroading in the 49th State. Amtrak could learn a lot from the Alaska Railroad. · Finally, a tip for those using frequent flyer miles to get to the ship, especially from the East Coast. Unlike Hawaii, you can fly to Alaska for the same miles as a domestic round trip, even though the flight from Chicago alone is 6 ½ hours. Thus, it’s a good value to burn off some extra miles for first class, which gives you more leg and elbow room plus, in the case of our United flight, a surprisingly nice meal. We arrived in Anchorage in far better shape than those who were crammed in a very full coach section. In summary, the seven days we spent on the Radisson Seven Seas Mariner were perhaps one of the best vacations we’ve ever had. The exemplary service, excellent food, enjoyable tours and attention to detail all combined to provide the perfect break from daily activities, and we would enthusiastically recommend the ship to all who are looking for both a great Alaska experience and a five star floating resort.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

A group of 8 friends, all from Europe, travelled together on the Mariner last June. We boarded at Seward on the only day that it rained on the whole trip (rain is an understatement - it was pouring!) and we were thrilled to learn that not only could we get on board right away (at 1230pm) but that a light lunch was being served at the pool grill. After checking in at reception we were given a glass of champagne which we enjoyed! We were

able to access our cabins at 1430. We were all in Penthouse C, Deck 9. Our first impression was one of spaciousness. All 8 of us could congregate for drinks before dinner in one of the cabins. The balconies were a super feature, especially given the scenery and our luck with the weather (very sunny and up to 30C in Juneau!!). We are used to relatively high European standards of service and food and the Mariner excelled itself in both. We ate, by choice, in the Compass Rose most nights though we also tried out la Verandah (Italian, mostly buffet) Latitudes (mostly salmon in Alaska) and Signatures (the Cordon Bleu restaurant). We thought that for choice COmpass Rose was best! (Though I personally loved my Tornedos Rossini at Signatures) We also really liked the breakfasts and lunches (buffets) at la Verandah. There was so much on offer that most of us didn't get past the raw fish and salad sections!! The service throughout the cruise was top notch. Since we were 8 people we generally got the same table in the Compass Rose, and our waiter, Stefan, took care of us beautifully. Cabin service was also good. It seemed that we just had to put our noses outside the cabin and it was cleaned!! We only ordered once from room service (after two exhausting excursions in Juneau) and while the pizza wasn't the best I have eaten the Caesar salad was!! A really nice feature is the fact that soft drinks, coffee etc are free and available at all times and that your mini bar is re-stocked every day. I was amazed to see that when we left the ship to go ashore we could take bottles of water from a table at the gangplank with us. Also that the two bottles of liquor which are provided at the start of the cruise are litres and not fifths! I thought the evening entertainment was quite good when it was the Terhane dancers. None of us care much for comedians so we didn't go to Kenny the Welshman's nights. In truth we were quite tired by our daytime excursions so early nights were more attractive than casinos etc! We all used the spa, exercise classes and computer center and really appreciated having these available. But there is nothing that tests a crew better than a problem and how it is dealt with, and we had a major one. While navigating the entrance to the Tracy Arm the ship fouled one of the azimuth pods (propulsion units) on a submerged log. The result was that while we were seaworthy, we had to drastically cut our speed and our cruise was re-organised to omit Ketchikan and sail directly from Skagway to Vancouver. We were immediately and constantly kept abreast of developments by the Captain and the Cruise Director. Staff re-booked people with flights out of Vancouver at least 3 times. As compensation we were offered $250 on board credit and a future credit against another cruise (which my husband and I are taking up in March!). There was also an open bar for the last two nights. Having worked for over 25 years in a travel-related industry I was literally in awe of the professionalism of the entire crew from the Captain to our stewards. I cannot say enough good things about the way RSSC trains its staff. We finally got to Vancouver about 6 hours late - a minor inconvenience for our group since we planned to stay in the city for a few days. To our surprise, although we docked at about 1230 and so did not expect to have lunch on board, a full lunch was provided for everyone before we got off! We hated to leave the Mariner and can't wait to board her again!!  

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Nov 30, -0001

UNKNOWN

You may have cruised or not but this ship is the plain hands down best I have ever sailed on in 25 years. on 7 lines 13 ships. including Royal Viking, Crystal, and Holland America to name a few. To put is simply I have sailed all the premium lines and Radisson comes out number one. The grand age of ship travel of a bygone era is alive and well here but with modern touches. Only 700 happy passengers fill her cabins all of which have large

balconies. The standard suite is 20% larger than other luxury ships and cost far less. The value is thus outstanding in every respect room, atmosphere, food, service and attitude. The ship caters to experienced travelers over 40 who know how to enjoy life and can entertain themselves. Party types, kids and glitz seekers are absent and the passengers all mingle in a very content fashion with no pomp and pretension. Your fellow passengers will be on the ship for the pleasure of ocean travel not to shop or party. On too many ships there are those who want to eat their fare, and drink themselves in to a stupor; you will notice with joy their absence This quality holds for the staff as well who are polished poised and friendly to a fault. I feel that this type of service by far out does Crystal's snob ice people. I spent 28 days on the Mariner and to be honest, could not find anything to criticize, other than I had to get off. If your comfortable with yourself and enjoy others with the same attitude then you will love this ship as I do. There is no way I can go back to any other after my Radisson experience...it is that good  

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Mediterranean

Cruise Line: Radisson mariner “Early in life I knew the sea would be not only my career, but my way of life. After being a captain for seven years I still love this life and the sea even more. After only a few weeks on leave from my ship and the life on board, they seem to be calling me from the sea to return.” Captain Jean-Francois Cotis Radisson’s Seven Seas Mariner - Review: A mariner is someone who makes a living at sea as

a navigator or sailor — at least someone who spends a great deal of time at sea. The Seven Seas is an informal term for all of the oceans of the world ... Mariner and Seven Seas are a natural mix of terms. Thus, born for voyages at sea was Radisson’s Seven Seas Mariner. This is a sleek plush ship navigating endless passenger voyages beyond each new and adventurous horizon — just beyond. Departure: From the bow, salty cool air sprayed my hair as dusk ensued. I envisioned the narcotic enticement that lures mankind to the sea. Surely for centuries the sea has been like seductive sirens calling to ancient seamen. The seas can be inviting and placidly temperate, or surly and tempestuous — but those shimmering horizons beckon — “Come to the sea ...” a primal urge to see and explore comes from the soul of those who love the sea. Today it is no different, for the sea is still that haunting temptress. This would be a wondrous adventure in many ways — exciting — I was at sea again! On a brisk fall day the sleek ship departed the ancient former city-state of Venice, Italy. Our voyage was in search of ancient wonders throughout the Adriatic, Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean Seas. It was appropriate to seek ancient wonders departing from Italy. Italy was the central focus for hundreds of years of the dominate Roman Empire. Roman antiquities are all about this region for more than a thousand miles. We would end this voyage 11 days later in Barcelona, Spain another Roman bastion. Ship: Radisson’s Seven Seas Marinerwas launched in 2001 in France. She is 50,000 tons at 709 feet. She is the elegant all-suite, all balconied ship, and this is a statement of finer — if not the finest cruising available. Four dining options including Signatures, which is dedicated to the world-famous Le Cordon Bleu cuisine, plus the welcomed open-seating ambience in the Compass Rose main dining area. Dine where you like, and with whom you like! The Allure: Pampering at the Judith Jackson Sea Spa might be one way to enjoy the day, and perhaps breakfast on your balcony. Need a slower pace? — try dinner in your suite from a restaurant menu — not merely a room service only fare. Want to really go lame with relaxation? Visit the comprehensive library of books, games, and VCR movies and enjoy the ambience of your suite, with your sweet tonight. Guests have the benefit of an array of complimentary beverages in-suite, and fine table wines with dinner. There is no need to keep checking your cash available, as gratuities are completely included in the cruise pricing, and this is convenient and well received by patrons. Guests are appreciative of the cut-above quality of Radisson’s Seven Seas Mariner. We have found highest standards likewise on Radisson’s Paul Gauguin, which is stationed in the paradise of Tahiti year-round. Guests enjoy a port intensive itinerary offering quality excursions and on-board entertainment plus guest lecturers. Our venue included timely audience interactive lectures from former CIA director (1977-81) Admiral Stansfield Turner. Space Galore: If you are not extremely aware of today’s ships at sea, you might not know that a number of ships that are approximately the size of the Seven Seas Mariner carry nearly 1,100 people. The Mariner’s full capacity is 700 persons: 50,000 tons at 709 feet with only 700 persons at most on 8 passenger decks — this is an equation for space aplenty! With several lounges about the ship, the library, spa, deck activities, your own spacious and inviting suite, it is common to wander about the Mariner and find pleasant nooks in almost solitude. Imagine cruising without the masses around and beside your every move — space, glorious space! This seems like a real vacation! This is what you really had hope cruising will be. If you must mentally take your family and business along, the very cost friendly staffed Internet Café ensures keeping abreast is cheap and easy. A 1,000 word e-mail was $1. Are you seeking entertainment or music to enhance an evening? Just follow the daily directory to your personal enjoyment. Your evening may include fine shows in the elegant Constellation Theater, or casual socialization in the Mariner Lounge. What about a star-lit stroll on the decks in the fresh sea air? Your Cabin: Seven Seas Mariner offers the very nice, to the unbelievable in the all-suite accommodations. Suite space starts at a generous 301 square foot Deluxe Suite with fine wood finishes and including its own balcony — of course. Cabins also have a sitting area, well appointed marble baths and walk-in closets, TV/VCR, and a stocked mini-fridge with an array of complimentary refreshments. It seems this beginning category resembles, but surpasses many ship’s upper tier facilities. From the Deluxe Suite it only gets better and more spacious. The next level up, and quite popular; the Penthouse Suite boasts 449 square feet. And there are increasingly larger suite choices up to the mind-boggling and breathtaking ... The Master Suite for larger families or a small group traveling together has an unbelievable 2,002 square feet — larger than many homes. It has two bedrooms, plus pull-out beds, and two large balconies — one aft, and one to the starboard side of the ship. This colossal suite is accompanied by butler services. Itineraries: Our itinerary from Venice went to a former Soviet domain of Croatia. Split, Croatia offered excellent ancient structures amidst a bustling community and abundant outdoor markets. Other ports included the country of Malta near Africa, then back to Italy’s opposite side for a Florence or Pisa stop — then on to Sardinia, Marseilles, France, Palma de Mallorca, Spain toward one of our favorite cities, Barcelona. Radisson’s Seven Seas Mariner will take on an exciting routing system this year when the new sister ship, Seven Seas Voyager, sets sail. The Voyager will have the warm season in Europe from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, and the Seven Seas Mariner will be closer as it spends this year’s warm season in the pristine Alaskan route. This year discriminating cruising enthusiasts will have an alternative to the massive ships that ply the temperate rain forest paradise — Alaska. Vacationers will have the Seven Seas Mariner as an alternative. Or, opt for the new Seven Seas Voyager for European explorations during warm months. Both ships will offer the same standard of luxury and excellence, no doubt. Overview and Critique: We found the highly superior aroma packed Arabiaca bean taste in coffee available only in the specialty restaurant. When we asked the chef about this, we were told each dining facility has its own measuring and brewing standards — for us good coffee is brewed not overly strong featuring aroma, not pure caffeine — a personal daily delight we would have loved in every dining option. I discussed with the Hotel Director, Oliver Hammerer, about how superior the gym, showers, sauna, and steam room facilities were, but that there were no hair dryers in that area to enable one to go directly about the ship with dry hair, and he advised that they would be installed within two weeks at most — thus this is now a moot issue. I also added my comment that on both the Paul Gauguin and Seven Seas Mariner the luscious complimentary bath and body products in-suite by Judith Jackson featured only the lotion named Citresse (citrus aroma), which many guests found too strong in scent. We suggest the Judith Jackson alternative ‘Tenderly’ hand & body lotion — a more familiar scented luxury product as an second option. Aside from our coffee niche, the gym hair dryers, and lotion scent — we would be hard pressed to find any substantive fault with Radisson Seven Seas Mariner — this is a quality managed cruising experience. Mariner’s crew and service are superior, and the cuisine is quite nice. Overall we found Radisson’s Seven Seas Mariner a special memory, and one that equals the fondness we felt for Radisson’s Paul Gauguin. These are ships with which to reward your life, marriage, and personal vacation dreams. There is the ordinary or usual, and then there is that which is extraordinary. Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has earned her 5-6 star ratings — not by chance, but with obvious hard work and excellent management standards. Your trusted local travel agency can help you seek any available specials, upgrades, or other promotions Radisson may be offering. It never hurts to aggressively ask for a discount or upgrade when cruising is on your vacation menu. This voyage concluded, and my imagination can only envision what Radisson wonders await on voyages not yet taken on seas not yet explored ... perhaps someday special yet to come! “Those who live by the sea can hardly form a single thought of which the sea would not be part.” The Spell, by Hermann Broch (18861951)

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Nov 30, -0001

AlaskaWe

We approached our first cruise experience with a mixture of anticipation (me) and mild dread (my wife is prone to motion sickness). Drawn by the lure of seeing parts of Alaska that we would otherwise never see, and reassured by traveling companions who are experienced cruisers, we decided to venture out on the Mariner's final Alaska cruise of the 2003 season. Having done considerable research on the Mariner on various websites before

we embarked, we felt at the end of our voyage that the experience had surpassed our expectations in every respect. In weighing the comments that follow, remember that we had no point of reference to compare the Mariner to other cruise ships, so these are the impressions of true "newbies" to cruising. The itinerary: The Mariner's typical Alaska itineraries are one way Seward to Vancouver or reverse. This repositioning cruise started in Vancouver, called in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Seattle, and Victoria (in that order), with at-sea days cruising the Inside Passage and Tracy Arm, before heading south to San Francisco and a wonderful finish to our experience cruising under the Golden Gate Bridge at daybreak. We made independent air and land arrangements and, as San Francisco is home, we can't comment on Radisson's air and land offerings. Even though we did not call at destinations further north that are included in Radisson's usual itineraries, we found the grandeur of Alaska to be everything we had hoped for. The Mariner's propulsion system allows close approach to shorelines and glaciers and turn-on-a-dime navigation in tight quarters. Time spent in each port was generally adequate for the opportunities available and for the planned shore excursions, of which a wide range was offered. We only availed ourselves of the White Pass & Yukon Railway excursion in Skagway and the Mendenhall Glacier and River Float in Juneau because of one traveling companion's temporary mobility limitations. We thought both were worthwhile and good value for the money. By that I mean that while both are available onshore on a walk up basis, booking through the tour desk on board cost only a few dollars more, and gave us the convenience of being met dockside by a bus (or set of specially designated train cars in Skagway), plus the assurance that our return to the ship was being monitored. The ship: All public areas were tastefully elegant, comfortable, spacious, and (consistently throughout every part of the ship) impeccably clean and tidy. There are four distinct restaurant venues, three lounges (plus a separate, enclosed "clubroom" accommodating cigar and pipe smokers), a nightclub, a theater, a library of books and videos with its own reading room, a garden promenade for art shows and auctions, and, up top, the pool deck and track for walking and jogging. There is also a very fine fitness center with a good assortment of machines, free weights and aerobics area, and an adjacent spa and steam room, both of which we used daily (see more below about the fitness center in relation to our dining experiences onboard). While we did not have any spa treatments, we did make frequent use of the (complimentary) steam room and sauna. There is also a casino which we did not enter, two small boutiques, and a photo shop. The atmosphere in the public areas was much more reminiscent of a very good small luxury hotel than of a Las Vegas mega-resort. The atrium forward included three glass-walled elevators and a circular staircase, and provided a feeling of light and airy spaciousness. The large forward Observation Lounge and the aft Horizon Lounge maintained the same small luxury hotel feeling, with ample and comfortable table seating, and pre-and post-dinner entertainment (piano and guitar). We had fair to good weather for most of the voyage and made good use of the pool deck, which occupies most of the 11th deck and includes a saltwater pool large enough to swim laps and three soaking tubs. These Jacuzzi tubs received a lot more use than did the pool, with the exception of a few hardy youngsters who were eager to swim in any weather. We found the tubs not quite hot enough, an opinions shared by most of our fellow soakers. For this voyage we had about 450 passengers, well short of the ship's 700 capacity. This fact may have contributed to the overall feeling of spaciousness that pervades the Mariner. Yet I doubt that even at full capacity would any part of the ship have seemed crowded. With the exception of the two reservations-required dining venues, there was never an occasion anywhere on ship that a space was filled to one-half capacity. One aspect of the Mariner that I have not seen described in any other reviews is security procedures. I am prompted to mention it because when we approached both Seattle and San Francisco, we found the ship being escorted by two armed Coast Guard vessels that quickly shooed away any small craft that came too close. Perhaps this is a standard procedure, but most of the passengers found it a surprise (and for most a welcome one). Then, while awaiting disembarkation in San Francisco we were idling away some time watching the ship take on fresh water, and noticed that before even hooking up the hose, a member of the ship's crew came out and took several samples of the water back on board (presumably for testing). We also noted upon boarding in Vancouver that all public areas gave distinct evidence of vigorous cleaning and disinfecting. An important issue for us was the ship's stability and the possibility of motion sickness. We had one night of rough weather while at sea between Sitka and Seattle, encountering 120Km/Hr (that's roughly 70 miles an hour) sustained winds and high seas through most of the night. Although outer decks were closed and the production show was canceled for the evening, restaurants and lounges operated normally. Another passenger who owns a 65-foot yacht and is an experienced cruiser described the ship as "incredibly stable" during the storm. Those prone to motion sickness fell into two categories. Those who had taken "precautions" (such as my wife's scopolamine patch) mostly avoided nausea, although many kept to their suites. Those who did not take the precautions readily available at the reception desk in many cases spent an extremely uncomfortable night. In contrast, sailing from Victoria to San Francisco, despite seas the Captain described as "rough" there was very little discernible motion. In calm seas and along the Inside Passage, fjords and bays, we had to look out a window to know that we were moving. The suite: One of the attractions of the Mariner and a key factor in our decision to take this cruise was the all-suite, all-balcony format. Our suite was in the "Deluxe" category on deck 7. This is the smallest suite available, and, at 301 square feet including a 50-foot balcony, I would not describe it as "spacious," yet because of the extraordinarily clever use of that space we felt it was very comfortable and more than adequate for this 11-night cruise. Indeed, our inexperience caused us to overpack, and the walk-in closet accommodated enough clothing and other paraphernalia for a much longer cruise. The sitting area is small but intelligently laid out, with a wall unit accommodating TV and VCR as well as a desk and cabinets doing duty as a writing area with storage for cameras, books and so forth. We were able to enjoy cocktails with our friends in our suite without feeling the least bit cramped. However, more than four people would be a problem for any length of time. The bathroom was a very pleasant surprise. Many reviews have noted problems with the shower-tub. At 6'1" and 190 pounds, I was able to shower quite comfortably. I do believe that with another inch or another 50 pounds, showering could require some uncomfortable contortions. We did not use the bathtub as such, but to my eye it seemed rather too small for a person of my height. Because it is a combination, there is a step up to get into the tub and shower, and this could be a problem for someone with significant mobility limitations, but our friend with a relatively new artificial hip reported he was able to shower with no problem. The bath is finished in marble, the fixtures are brilliant in design, layout and execution, and we would have felt perfectly comfortable with this for a much longer voyage. Very tall and very large people, however, might well be unhappy with the shower/tub arrangement. It should also be noted that the steam room contains more spacious stall showers that are available throughout the day. We had the opportunity to look at one of the larger suites during a cocktail reception, and decided that unless traveling on a voyage that required hosting groups of more than four, there would be no reason for a couple to take anything larger than the Deluxe suite. Indeed, we preferred the more cozy atmosphere to the idea of rattling around in so much empty space. The balcony was definitely a plus in making the suite feel uncrowded. Although the weather was too cool for extended sitting outside, the balcony easily accommodated two seated in the reclining chairs, and had the weather been suitable we would likely have taken our morning coffee there on the small table between the chairs. With the sliding glass door open, the sitting area and balcony blended into a single space more than ample for four people to enjoy cocktails and appetizers (readily available from room service) before setting out for the evening's activities. Comfortable pads for the chairs were set up each morning by the cabin stewardess, and brought in at the evening turndown and stowed behind the curtains. Dining: Radisson makes a big deal out of the dining experience on its ships. Most of the reviews I have read comment extensively on the Mariner's facilities and food, so rather than go over the same ground, I will try to use a shore-based point of reference, namely the Zagat dining guides. I have found these guides to be amazingly accurate in giving the relative ranking of restaurants within a particular city. Zagat rates restaurants for food, service and decor, each on a scale of 1 to 30, with 30 being awarded very rarely indeed. Typically a city's top forty restaurants will have food ratings from about 25 and up, with the two or three very finest holding 28 or 29 points. In San Francisco (a city with thousands of establishments), for example, a restaurant with a Zagat food rating of 25 is an excellent restaurant and usually would be among Zagat's top 40. On that scale and using San Francisco as my point of reference, I would rate each of Mariner's venues roughly as follows: Signatures - 26 points. This reservations-required venue serves an a la carte dinner menu in the Cordon Bleu style, with five courses consisting of appetizer, soup or salad, a sorbet, a main dish, and dessert. The menu did not change during our voyage, but we were able to dine at Signatures three times and found ample variety. The menu is decidedly French, and presentations and service are artful. Decor is very stylish in a traditional way. Latitudes - 24 points. Mariner also requires reservations for Latitudes, which offers dinners with a theme it calls "confusion fusion," involving a set menu of sampler plates with many Asian touches. The appetizer and soup courses both include samples of three different items, and the main course can be had as either a three item sampler, or one can choose to have (a proportionately larger) serving of just one of the main course choices. The dessert is also a sampler plate. The tableware is artfully whimsical, perhaps commissioned for this restaurant's theme, and the decor is formal but very pleasant. It gets a couple of points less than Signatures only because two of the many items I sampled were not entirely successful. The menu changed once during this voyage. Compass Rose - 22 points. This is the main dining room, and reservations are not required. It reminded me of hotel dining rooms in Europe, with crisp linens, good china, and a daily changing menu including a number of a la carte choices as well as a "menu degustation." Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is every bit the fine hotel dining room. The Compass Rose menu is also available via room service for in-suite dining during dinner hours. We did not have a chance to try this service, although we did rely on room service for morning coffee, juice and fruits. Compass Rose also offers low fat, low calorie "spa" menus for those counting calories or cholesterol, as well as appealing vegetarian options. Veranda - no rating because we did not eat there except for one hasty buffet lunch. This venue is at the back of the pool deck and offers both enclosed and outside seating. The menu has a Mediterranean theme, and I'm sure we would have visited more had we experienced weather permitting outside dining in the evening. Pool Grill - 20 points. Open from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. for hamburgers, chicken or steak sandwiches, grilled sausage, and a variety of salads, all of very good quality. After placing an order for grilled items, one prepares the self-service salad plate and repairs to one of the numbered tables on the pool deck, where the grilled items are delivered by waiters. Many tables are sheltered from wind by glass, permitting a view while dining. The ambience is very friendly and informal, and we found the simply grilled items to be of excellent quality and prepared exactly as requested. In all the dining venues, wines are complimentary at dinner if you are content to drink the sommelier's choices, which we found to be uniformly good. The complimentary choices changed nightly in each venue, but we found the Signatures sommelier happy to pour the evening's choice in Compass Rose upon request, and vice versa. Other wines are available for purchase, but we did not feel the need to look at the list. Wines are poured liberally throughout the meal. All other beverages are complimentary throughout the ship and in the suite, with the exception of liquor, cocktails, and wine other than at dinner. The cost of drinks in the lounges, however, was quite reasonable (under $5 except for vintage Ports and single-malt Scotch). In addition, at the beginning of the voyage a complimentary in-suite bar setup is provided including two liters of liquor (selected on a form that the stewardess will collect, and delivered a short time later). Additional bottles can be purchased if needed at very reasonable cost. Room service readily provided whatever else might be needed for in-suite cocktails, including nuts, chips, assorted canapes (of very good quality), cocktail olives and onions, and even an occasional eyedropper full of dry vermouth for the dedicated martini drinkers in our group. In all the dining and lounge venues, service was attentive, friendly and professional. Every effort was made to accommodate special requests -- in fact, I cannot recall that any of our party, or anyone we spoke to on the ship, for that matter, was ever refused a request. For example, although Eggs Benedict was not on the breakfast menu in Compass Rose, our request for it one morning was readily satisfied with a classic preparation including an excellent, light and frothy Hollandaise Sauce that obviously had been freshly made. The reservations policy for Signatures and Latitudes is designed to afford all guests an opportunity to dine in these restaurants at least once. Given our small guest complement and longer itinerary, we had no problem getting additional reservations, and the reservationists were very good about managing the waiting list and honoring walk-up requests (including one evening when in 15 minutes they arranged a table in Signatures for eight of us who decided to dine together on the spur of the moment). The entire food service staff appeared to take a good deal of well-deserved pride in offering outstanding service. A couple of reviewers have commented about snobbish or condescending attitudes, but our experience was completely the opposite: from headwaiter to busboy, the service was friendly, polished, and professional. Apart from concern about motion sickness, one of my wife's apprehensions was that we would come away from the cruise ten pounds heavier than when we started -- a reasonable fear because we both enjoy good food and found, as expected, an abundance of it on this cruise. We were both pleasantly surprised when we stepped on the scale upon returning home, and found we had not gained a pound! This resulted, I believe, from two factors. First, we made daily use of the fitness center and walking track on deck twelve to achieve a combination of about three miles a day of brisk walking, plus whatever we did on shore excursions. (Beware the scale in the fitness center, by the way -- it was erratic and generally seemed to overstate our weight.) Second, we breakfasted lightly and avoided the buffet lines in favor of Compass Rose or the Pool Grill for lunch and one of the three restaurants for dinner, where we found the portioning to be perfect to provide very satisfying and varied meals with moderate caloric overhead. We avoided the afternoon tea and morning pastries, but did enjoy the desserts in Signatures and Latitudes. Whatever the reasons it worked out for us; your results may vary. Entertainment and activities: The evening schedule on this voyage had the following pattern. 6:00 p.m. Pre-dinner entertainment in the lounges -- piano, guitar, or singer/accompanist duet. Very pleasant. 7:00-9:30 p.m. Open seating dinner, subject to the reservation requirement in Signatures and Latitudes. 9:45-10:30 p.m. Entertainment in the Constellation Theater. There were three production shows with eight singer-dancers backed by the Mariner Quintet, the other evenings being filled by a pianist and a harpist. We took in one only of the production shows and thought it was nice, with some money obviously having been spent on costumes and so forth. 10:30 on -- Dancing or theme gatherings in the Stars Nightclub, and more lounge entertainment until the last revelers retired. We found the open seating policy at meals allowed us to make a lot of new friends on this voyage and we tended to spend the evenings socializing with them after dinner rather than attending the theater. Various onboard activities were offered daily, ranging from fitness classes to needlepoint, audience participation games, bingo and enrichment lectures. The social staff was energetic and charming, but we found the prospect of an afternoon nap to be too tempting and didn't take advantage of any of these offerings. Value We felt this voyage was a very good value. To return to the land-based comparison, the accommodations, food, service and ambience were very much on a par with the small luxury hotel experiences we are familiar with in Europe and the U.S., and the price we paid (discounted from Radisson's list prices) was very competitive with what we recently paid in London and Paris for good small hotels and fine dining. Based on that yardstick, one might even call this cruise a bargain, considering that it includes priceless sightseeing and shore excursion opportunities not readily available in any other way. Conclusion: For these first time cruisers, Radisson Seven Seas Mariner hit a home run. All expectations were met and most were exceeded. There were no disappointments. We are now talking about plans to transit the Panama Canal on the Mariner. The only "problem" we have is that I fear we will be reluctant to try any other ship after having such a wonderful experience on the Mariner.

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Nov 30, -0001

AlaskaThe Seven

Seas Mariner had a number of positive elements, particularly the relatively large size and efficient layout of the suites. The food was not particularly special and the service could be warm or indifferent depending on the day. Quite often I felt rushed to order and rushed to eat. Coffee was seldom refilled without asking, drink orders were slow and sometimes wrong. Conversely, the officers were friendly, chatty and concerned all were

having a good time. One word of caution, do not stay on the 10th level! The noise from things being pushed around the pool deck above was very annoying. The entertainment was OK and the ship has an excellent video and book library. No need to bring a tie and a jacket wasn't mandatory. Signatures and Latitudes restaurants were good, the Compass Rose decent and La Veranda just OK. Room service for breakfast was horrible. It arrived half an hour early and was barely warm. The side trips such as the helicopter to the glacier are breathtaking and worth the money. Equally, the cruise itinerary is outstanding with no complaint on the scenery or commentary about Alaska. TV channels are limited, but who stays in the room with such beauty outside? The hot tubs were great, the pool chilly, and there are golf nets, paddle ball, shuffleboard and other outside games to keep kids and adults occupied. There is photo service, shops, a doctor, and a casino. The portions at meals tended to be small so don't hesitate to ask for a double the staff were happy to handle those requests and be sure to try the soups, they were great! I would return to the 8th deck or so and out of 10 stars this one rates a strong eight to a weak nine.  

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Nov 30, -0001

Asia

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises offers a premium, upscale product with a small fleet of modern ships. Wanting to take my first cruise in Asia, I chose the 3-year old, all suite, all balcony SEVEN SEAS MARINER. EMBARKATION: My family and I arranged our own transportation to Tokyo, in lieu of a pre-cruise excursion provided by Radisson. We arrived in Tokyo the day before the cruise in order to recover from jet-lag and allow for any delays

or anything unexpected. Our first full-day in Japan was a privately organized city tour. After our tour, we were taken to the beautiful MARINER which was docked right near the city center. We were impressed with the ease of boarding. There was no wait and no line, and once onboard, we were directed to the main show lounge to check-in. We were told our suites would not be ready for 30 minutes, but within 5 minutes an announcement had been made that all suites were ready. It was quick, seamless and hassle-free. Maybe the fact that our 700-passenger ship would only have around 450 guests for this cruise had to do with the ease of embarkation - but something tells me that even with a full ship, Radisson would have handled the proceedings just as well. SERVICE: There is not much negative to say about service on a ship like this. Radisson provides one of the finest cruise experiences available and at a very steep price. I paid around $10,000 for this 2 week experience. And while the staff were friendly and professional, I found the level of attentiveness was very spotty and not as blemish-free as other premium lines I have traveled on. The first day onboard, I was actually shocked when a guest asked a server for an espresso at La Veranda (the casual breakfast buffet location). When the server brought it back and it wasn't up to the guest's standards, the South African female server said, "Well, I'm afraid this isn't Starbucks!" Other than that bit of unprofessionalism, I found the staff showing smiles and warmth. I have to say, though, that service in the Compass Rose (the main formal dining room) was fair to poor most meals. We would wait and wait for water, sodas and bread. Servers just stood around talking or completely disappeared. This was very surprising and definitely lowered the overall cruise experience. I thought perhaps that since this cruise was not very full, the staff were a little more relaxed about their performance. However, as I have learned after working in the hotel industry for years, the slow periods are the times for staff to really shine and give that extra special attention to guests. My family and I did not care for the open-seating policy onboard, as we prefer to have the same servers night after night. We like for them to know our preferences and build a relationship with us. Fortunately we were able to have the same servers at each meal if we made a point to request it. We made a point to request a terrific Hungarian girl named Renata as our server for lunch. At dinners, we tried to always get a young, good-looking German server named Jerome. He always had smiles and jokes and would give us his recommendations off of each menu. ENTERTAINMENT: The shows onboard were very well done. Every few nights we would get a Broadway-style show by the main singers & dancers. One show was "Thoroughly Modern Broadway" which showcased songs from "Mamma Mia", "Fiddler On The Roof" and others. The next show was called "Beyond Imagination" which was a smorgasbord of song and dance styles. Another night was supposed to be a Beatles-themed show which was cancelled. The problem was that a new group of singers/dancers were brought on mid-way through the cruise and they apparently weren't prepared. On the other nights, a variety of entertainers performed - namely two females called Diva Diva who played classical piano music and sang, an Australian guy who sang cheesy music and was dubbed "International Superstar" and Mike Neun who is a storyteller/comedian. Mike Neun has been on almost every cruise I have been on and very much needs to retire. He is very stale and repetitive. Overall, I really enjoyed the Broadway shows. However, I have never been much for the other variety performers and acts. THE SHIP: This is a stunningly beautiful ship. From the graceful lines of the outside, to the bright, airy, modern decor inside, this is a classy and very European ship. The main atrium has glass elevators which go up and down 11 decks. The pool area is roomy. And the suites are gorgeous and spacious. Each suite has a balcony, and I have to say that there is nothing like cruising with a balcony. There is one main show lounge, which is 2 decks high. The sightlines are great and there is not a bad seat in the house. There is an extremely underutilized disco called "Stars". Each evening the room would blast hot dance tracks, yet remain completely empty, giving the bartenders nothing to do but stand there and talk. In fact, the entire ship is quiet after 10pm. I entertained myself most nights with Internet access at Club.com, which was empty at night and packed by day. The Compass Rose is the main dining room, yet there are 2 alternative dining rooms that are by reservation only. One of the alternative venues was turned into a "Roadside Diner" for the last week of the cruise. The food was horrible - it was a Europeans idea of classic American diner food! It was a cute idea, but poorly executed. This a spacious ship in which we didn't feel crowded - most of the time! The only complaint I have is how crowded the ship's lobby got when we disembarked in various ports. The elevators were jammed with guests and Decks 5 & 6 were packed. It was a stressful experience and unusual to experience on such a top-notch cruise line. What I also didn't like about the layout was the location of the Mariner Bar. This was a room which had various lectures during the day. Well, you had to walk through it to get to the dining room for lunch. And each time I did it, I felt as if I was walking right through the lecture. It was always embarrassing. THE PORTS: We sailed from Tokyo, Japan - Osaka, Japan - Hiroshima, Japan - Dalian, China - Tianjin/Beijing, China - Shangahi, China - Hong Kong, China. Asia was more than I had expected and each destination was a revelation. The people were beautiful and friendly and each port had its own charm. I also liked Radisson's itinerary as we had overnights in Osaka, Tianjin, Shanghai and Hong Kong, allowing us even more time to explore and live the nightlife. Shanghai was especially amazing. It was like Las Vegas on steroids and I spent the entire night out shopping, drinking and just taking it all in. I highly recommend Asia. It blew me away and I am anxious to return and explore. We were there in September/October and the weather was tropical - warm with a mix of rain and sun. OVERALL: This was an unforgettable cruise! The destinations made the trip for me, personally. And the SEVEN SEAS MARINER is not a bad way to travel! It is one of the finer cruise ships afloat and caters to an older, affluent crowd who go to sleep early and rise early. They like personal attention, fine food and the best life has to offer. Radisson will meet those expectations. I think Radisson offers a great product. However, for the same amount of money, I prefer Crystal Cruises. They are Radisson's main competition, but I find that Crystal's staff far outshines Radisson's. I also go for Crystal due to the fact that their ships offer more nightlife and foster a more lively, social experience. This was my second Radisson cruise, and I will sail them again. But if Crystal is going where I want to go, I will most likely book them first.  

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on the 8th and arrived around 1:15 p.m. We asked the RSSC rep how many guests they were waiting on and we were told four. Wow, there are normally hundreds on the other lines waiting for a bus. Anyway we were off to claim our baggage and into a cab a little after 1:30. It was only a ten minute $10 ride and we were at Pier 21. Now we are on our way. A brief trip inside to the terminal desk shows only

four people being registered. We are immediately taken care of and an imprint of my credit card is made. It is now just before two o’clock. Anyone having cruised before will realize how expedient this process has been so far. We were informed before they do not board prior to three o’clock. Well not this time. We are escorted immediately to the ship stopping only for a security picture and a boarding photo opportunity. We are told that our room would be ready at three. Upon boarding our small carry on bags are taken by a steward, a glass of champagne is offered and were are escorted to the Mariner Bar for a snack and more champagne. At this point we are immediately impressed with the look of the ship. She is truly beautiful. Just before three we are told our room is ready. Upon rising from our chair our bags are once again taken from us and we are escorted to our room. Our room was a cat H on deck seven. This was the least expensive cabin but in all honesty it was centrally located to most everything. Doing the ship again I would request the same category and floor. We enter the room and are amazed at the décor, craftsmanship and expanse. Many pictures are available on various websites but you can’t get a real feel until you see it for yourself. It is not pretentious yet has an elegant look. Throughout the ship the same theme look repeats. The wood is gorgeous and everything is of the highest quality. Our luggage arrived before we did. Another pleasant surprise. Lots of room in the closet and the bathroom is huge. The tub is odd in that it is so high off the floor and tall folks have a tough time in the shower. I’m 6 feet tall and my head could touch the ceiling over the tub if I tried. Well the glass of champagne (which was refilled twice before getting to our room) is now empty. An iced bottle is there waiting courtesy of Radisson. A second bottle is there as a gift from American Express for being a Platinum member. Also we find two shipboard credits. A $200 book and deposit credit from Radisson and an AMEX Platinum member credit of $300. My wife is determined to use it all. Two bottles of vodka, 2 beers and an array of mixers and soft drinks are in the fridge. Almost forgot, no lock on the fridge door. One bottle of vodka is sent back and a bottle of red wine replaces it. Canyon Road Cabernet. Nice wine. The beer and spirits are not replaced but the mixers, soft drinks and water are always replaced. Out to the teak floored balcony to try our own champagne. Wonderful view without Plexiglas panels. I guess this is because there are so few children on board this line. On this cruise there were two wonderful kids still in strollers. They never screamed or cried. Kudos to the parents of these kids. We put the keeper on the champagne and off to explore the ship after unpacking. We went down to deck five where we had embarked to the reception desk to get a ship map. On the way another glass of champagne is placed in our hands. The purser’s staff is efficient and oh so polite. The layout map though is large and we thought it would be nice to downsize it a bit. No matter it was not needed for long. The ship is easy to find your way around. By the way she does not seem small at 50,000 tons. The layout is done perfect with entries to lounges and other rooms only on one side. This allows the rooms to be larger. The Observation Lounge and the Horizon Lounge have the feeling of being large but comfortable. Honestly to me the ship seemed to be in the 70,000 ton class due to the efficient ingress and egress into the ship spaces. The mandatory safety drill was effortless and comfortable. We assembled in a lounge for rehearsal of the drill. The poor folks on a Royal Caribbean ship across from us stood in the western sun of the promenade deck for what seemed like 30 minutes. Thank you RSSC. Off we sailed at 6:00 for our best cruise yet. We did dinner tonight in La Veranda which becomes a Bistro at night. This is the breakfast and lunch buffet area during the day. At night they cleverly close off a portion (the buffet area) of the restaurant to make an intimate dining area. Here comes the wine. Woo, we hardly had recovered from the afternoon champagne. An excellent white wine in a bottomless glass as well as another excellent selection of red. I love wine and this cruise did not disappoint. Dinner was great with the best Tiramisu for desert. Tonight was a casual night and it was nice to see many of the men in sport coats. Friday brings an at sea day as we head for Grand Cayman. It is nice to relax and explore more of the ship. We really love sea days. After breakfast we look for a chaise by the pool. No problem finding two together. When more are needed a pool attendant sets more up. At times we wonder where the rest of the guests are. After inquiring we find there are between 440 and 450 passengers out of 700 or so. This is great! Lunch all days is in La Veranda and the pool grill. We get a steak sandwich and pair it with a good salad from the buffet. The selections are numerous and delicious. Always plenty of cold seafood like crab claws, shrimp, mussels and wonderful seafood salads. Tonight is formal night and there are many tuxedos and many dark suits. Only a very few non-conformers but a least all gents had a jacket. We did dinner this evening in Signatures. Remember to make a reservation. This is the Cordon Bleu Restaurant and the service and wine were excellent. The room is candlelit and romantic. The food was good but not remarkable. After dinner it is off to the casino to rid my pocket of some loose bills. The slots are very tight and there are quarter and dollar machines in a smallish area. The casino is a separate room that you don’t have to pass through. Very little smoke as there are not many smokers on the cruise. What a pleasant surprise. There is one mini-craps table, one roulette wheel and three blackjack tables. They make the table totally fill before opening another. I swear I counted 9 at one table. The dealers are very pleasant as are all the staff on board. I will not discuss the ports but will comment on the docking. Cayman is a tendering stop. At Cozumel we docked in town and spent one and a half days there.. No taxi needed. In Key West we docked at the Hilton Marina. No need for the tram. This was appreciated though I do wish we had an overnight here instead of Cozumel. We assumed there would be three casual nights, 0ne formal night and three informal nights on board. We were wrong and definitely over packed the good stuff. We ended up with only one informal night and most were dressed in country club attire (open collar with jacket). The ladies looked great each and every night. Not overdone, just great. One guest lecture we really enjoyed were the proprietors of Dry Creek Vineyards. A husband and wife who had a true passion for their art. The first lecture and tasting brought out four different Fume’ Blanc’s and the second meeting they sampled Zinfandel, red not white. Their products were excellent and they answered many questions. They even politely ignored the French person who stated “French wines are far superior to California”. Typical and rude remark. We ate at all four restaurants. We liked the Bistro (La Veranda) for its small size and wonderful service. Signatures is a must do one time only. The Compass Rose looks like a standard large main restaurant. The service was very good as were the wines and food. Remember Radisson pours excellent complimentary wines with dinner. There is a list of different wines so if you don’t like the evening suggestion ask for the list. We were fond of the Pinot Grigio and the Red Bordeaux. The most memorable dinner to me was our time in Latitudes the other reservation required restaurant. The evening we dined there was a wine pairing tasting menu with more wines from Dry Creek Vineyards. The menu here is fixed. You sit down and they bring you a sampling of appetizers, soups and entrees. It was a difficult menu for the Dry Creek folks to pair but they did an excellent job. Try their wines if you see them in the store. One downside to the cruise occurred the final evening aboard. We were weary after a long day in Key West and wanted to eat in La Veranda. Honda had about ninety people on board and they reserved the restaurant this evening. They had reserved the horizon lounge one other evening. I would have appreciated Radisson putting a note in the daily news stating this. The final morning we asked for room service before our departure. When it arrived the waiter set up our table and it was large enough for our big breakfast and us. They hide a table top under the couch. White linen, china, silver and the best coffee ever on a cruise ship. We waited longer than what we were told was normal for the ship to start debarkation. Some passengers did not show up for immigration as ordered. Our color though was called first. There are basically two groups. Those with fights before noon and those after. Down the ramp we went and easily found our bags. Many taxis were waiting and we were on our way to the airport. To sum it up: This was our most enjoyable cruise ever. We have done ten now. The ship is very quiet but the disco does wind up around 10:30. For us it was so relaxing. The staff was excellent, always had a smile and a greeting. No tipping. Great complimentary wines at dinner. The best food yet. A great cabin and a wonderful vacation. We will visit her again. Feel free to send comments and questions. Bob Rpetersen1@charter.net

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