Take it from us. When you’re sophisticated travelers, you soon discover that the more you go around the world, the more you want to be away more than just one week or two.
That is especially true with cruising. With all of the extra energy and effort required to plan your trip — and complete all of your professional work, personal and financial matters and general chores before your trip — it only makes sense to make all this planning and effort worth it. That means going away for more than a week. If you’re considering a cruise, extended luxury cruising is the best way to make your “bon voyage” even better. This is so because it makes the creation of newfound friendships even easier and enhances the experience of upscale personal service, which only gets better the more time you are onboard. In fact, according to cruise industry experts, extended cruising is a hot new trend, especially among baby boomers, many of whom retire with more time and money on their hands.
On our recent 32-day Mediterranean voyage on Regent Seven Seas Cruises Explorer, we met many well-heeled passengers who almost all told us that they would never cruise for just seven days. We met one affluent couple from Australia who have taken more than 100 cruises in 30 years, almost all of them extended itineraries, and they told us, “The worst thing about cruising is the day you get off. The second-worst day is when you embark. And the more space you can get between those days, the better. We would never do a seven-day cruise.”
As travel journalists, we speak from experience when we say that the entire experience gets better the longer you stay on board — especially on an award-winning, all-inclusive ship such as the Explorer. It just can’t compare with other premium lines. For one thing, the ship holds 750 guests, which means that unlike mass-market huge cruise ships (frequently of 4,000 or more passengers), Regent is in a class all by itself. And in keeping on trend, the entire cruise line also has some of the most extensive plant-based cuisine at sea. If you’re vegan, you’re going to be very pleased.
As we sailed for more than one month, we can honestly say that as time went on, the crew became more than friends — even similar to our family on board, in the way they looked after us.
For example, Deb, the perennial dieter, even embarked with her own diet salad dressing, low fat mayonnaise and butter substitute she presented to the executive chef, after having a special dietary meeting with him. Every crew member on board looked after her — from the culinary staff to the housekeeping staff — and made sure that she had all three items at all dinners. Deb found herself feeling completely taken care of and thrilled that she had, in a sense, her own private chef.
But more than that, as time goes by onboard, you can develop great fondness and friendships with many of the crew members. For example, Daniela, one of the maître d’s, was beyond helpful whenever we sat down for lunch, so much so, we made plans to meet Daniela and her sister when she travels to Boston next winter.
On an extended cruise, you will also form great friendships with the other guests too, as more time onboard makes this possible. We made wonderful new friends on this trip — and on previous extended cruises — and it has made life back home even more fun and interesting. With its country-club atmosphere, the Explorer is a great place to trade everything from investment advice, exclusive travel tips, world-class shopping recommendations and more. You can even host a party in your own suite — and of course, it’s automatically catered by the food and beverage team.
Nothing in life is perfect, and in the interest of being fair and balanced, we also need to point out some areas of the Explorer that we wish had been different on our cruise, and where it could be improved even more, especially for guests choosing extended cruises. One area is the enrichment lectures. While there was principally one such lecturer on each cruise segment during our stay, primarily speaking on destinations, we feel that Regent could provide added benefit by expanding the number and range of guest lecturers. These could include areas of politics, world affairs, the news media as well as entertainment. We feel this expanded range of lectures could make the onboard experience more varied.
Another area where some improvements could be made is the computer center. One of Regent’s competitors in the luxury cruise sector provides classes on computer and smartphone topics. Regent’s competitors usually charge a small, added fee for this, but we highly doubt that guests on any of Regent’s ships would have an issue with that, and we’d recommend that it consider this.
An additional item that could use some possible tweaking is the pool deck. The ship’s architect designed the pool to be framed with a very wide section of raised wooden decking, and while visually appealing in form, in function it prevents pool deck functions in the evening, as there is insufficient space to place tables for dining at such nighttime pool parties.
We raised these suggestions with Regent, and their response was very receptive. Overall, our experience on the ship was extremely positive, and we cannot recommend extended cruising strongly enough.
The Explorer’s general manager Michel Coghlan, put it succinctly when he added, “We have guests that never go ashore. We are a five-star hotel and the ship becomes the destination.”
In fact, all of the suites are designed to be extremely spacious and comfortable. If you want the best room in the house, that would be the Regent Suite, at $10,000 per night. But don’t think that you have to spend that kind of money. No matter where your suite is on the ship, we think you’ll be as pleased as we were.
By Debbi K. Kickham and William D. Kickham