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Cruising Asia on Regent's Seven Seas Voyager

By:
Ben Hall
 

She’s regularly voted as one of the best cruise ships in the world and the Seven Seas Voyager has been invigorated with a multi-million dollar makeover.

It’s been a long hot day ashore riding bicycles through traditional villages and rice paddies and the air conditioned comfort of our ship suite is a welcome relief. There’s an added bonus as well. A bottle of French champagne sits in a bucket of ice and shifts among the cubes as if to give a sign that it shouldn’t be ignored.

Right on cue there’s a knock on the door and our butler Bejoy enters and does the honours, armed with a serving of caviar to finish off the lavishly surreal experience.

With the ship rotating slowly on its anchorage, we’re given a super slow pan of the island of Bali and another cork pops from a balcony just below us, and it’s obvious we’re not the only ones enjoying a decadent slice of life aboard the Regent Seven Seas Voyager.

This is the midway point of an Australian and Asian leg of the Voyager’s World Cruise which began in Sydney and visited Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Thursday Island, Darwin, Bali and is on its way to Manila, Keelung in Taiwan, Seoul and finally Beijing. It’s a segment that’s destination-focussed, with plenty of sea days in between, but as we’re finding out life on board is an integral part of the experience and there are devotees on board who care little for where they are in the world - they just want to kick back and enjoy what this “small big-ship” has to offer.

Voyager was named “Best Cruise Ship in the Large Ship” category for 2010 by Condé Nast Traveler, and helped the Regent cruise line to also take out out “Best Large Ship Cruise Line”, and she’s been winning awards consistently since launching in 2003.

A typical day goes something like this: You wake and have breakfast delivered to your suite which is set up on the balcony; head to Coffee Corner for a caffeine hit before attending a cooking class held by a celebrity chef or maybe take a language or computer class; do a spot of lunch at La Veranda at the back of the ship overlooking the ship’s wake; hit the Canyon Ranch SpaClub for a bit of pampering or the fully-equipped gym for a workout; relax and read by the pool and jacuzzis and maybe have a hit of paddle tennis or work on your golf swing; order a cocktail at sunset before getting ready to hit one of the four restaurants followed by a Broadway-style show in the theatre or a nightcap in the elegant Observation Bar with its stunning 270 degree views.

Voyager is the world’s second all-suite, all-balcony cruise ship, the first being her sibling, the Seven Seas Mariner. Although similar to the Mariner, Voyager has more spacious accommodations which makes her a favourite with long range cruising aficionados. The Voyager’s 353 suites accommodate a maximum of 700 passengers, and with 445 crew she boasts one of the highest staff-to-guest ratios in the world.

Even the smallest ocean view balcony suites are a generous 33 square metres and they’re all pretty much identical in layout and colour scheme, which is mostly honey coloured wood, cream walls, and accents of biscuit and white. All the suites have double or twin beds, a comfortable sitting area, walk in closets, full size bathrooms, flat screen TV’s with extensive on-demand programming and wireless internet access. 

The penthouse suites are bigger and vary in size up to the impressive Master Suite which has two bedrooms and is 124 square metres. Penthouse suites and the categories above also have butler service, an in-suite bar set up, afternoon canapes and Bose docking stations for an iPod. From next year, penthouse suites and above will also be fitted with iPads connected to the ship’s Wi-fi system.

As part of a $100 million renovation program currently underway across all three ships in the Regent fleet, public areas on board Voyager have been redesigned and refurbished to give that “new ship” look and feel. On our last trip on board Voyager in 2007, she was looking a little tired and worn, and even though it’s accepted that cruise ships take a beating from the constant turnaround of guests, it is uplifting to see this great cruise ship back to its best.

The restaurants and bars have probably benefitted most from the major makeover with the addition of a new intimate classical American-style steak house, Prime 7. The other specialty restaurant, Signatures which is overseen by the legendary Le Cordon Bleu of Paris, and the main dining room, Compass Rose, are both now more intimate with softer upholstery and new artworks. Renovations aside, the quality and the options make dining on board one of the highlights of the Voyager experience with a new emphasis on cuisine and wine from the region you’re visiting.

As for service levels, it can be a little unnerving at first to have a waiter or waitress remember not only your name after a day or two, but exactly which wine you like and how much pepper you want on your food, but it’s all part of the attention to detail which has earned this cruise line a loyal following.

Voyager is a mid-sized ship with the intimacy of a yacht, and the temptation is to hang back on board and do very little exploring. But with some of Asia’s most exotic ports ahead, it would be criminal not to get out and about, and at least we know there’ll be a bottle of bubbly waiting for us at the end of the day.

An 18 night cruise from Sydney to Singapore on the Voyager departing February 24, 2013, starts from $10,805 per person. The all-inclusive fares cover accommodation, entertainment, food, all drinks including premium brands, 24 hour room service and gratuities and taxes. The fare also includes complementary shore excursions. Beginning in April 2012, guests in concierge-level suites and higher will receive a range of benefits including priority online shore excursions and restaurant reservations.

For more information, visit www.rssc.net.au or call (02) 9959 1300.

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