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Deluxe or not

Seven Seas Voyager at Southampton

During both of our recent cruises I’ve had close-up looks at a 5-star deluxe cruise liner: Seven Seas Voyager, in fact. This ship sails for Regent Seven Cruise Line, one of the industry’s deluxe brands. The ship itself is quite small by todays standard, just 46,000 or so gross tonnage, but she only has 720 passengers, so there’s a lot of space per passenger. Lots of the onboard policies differ from the standard lines: there are no sittings for dinner, you can eat whenever you want. It’s all-inclusive, as well: there’s no extra charge for the speciality restaurants, the excursions, or even drinks – although premium drinks, e.g. seriously good wine, do attract an additional cost. So basically the whole experience is supposed to be very high-quality: the service is excellent, the hardware is good, there are no crowds, and there’s no constant pressure on you to spend.

This all sounds very attractive. When we were in Istanbul lat year we were in fact berthed just behind Seven Seas Voyager, and I remember looking at an open deck area on her attractive tiered stern. As the evening wore on I watched groups of well-dressed people strolling out of the restaurant and onto the deck, with drinks in their hands, or sitting in small groups at the teak tables and chairs, happily talking. It looked very attractive, and in fact was an excellent advert for the 5-star experience. We were on Solstice, itself a good ship, but Seven Seas Voyager looked even better. Then when we returned to Southampton after our recent Ventura cruise I had the chance to take a picture of her, as we sailed slowly past her on the way into the new Ocean Dock.

Since then I’ve done some research: I’ve got a brochure, I’ve read reviews, and I’ve got prices. My conclusion? Well, it really does seem to be a truly high-quality experience – but my goodness, it’s expensive! I’ve seen 10 night cruises in the E Med priced at over £4000 per person. That’s a bit more than £400 a night! – and I try to get as close to £100 a night as possible. Admittedly, part of that cost is due to the fact that at just over 300 sq ft plus a balcony, even their basic cabin would count as a mini-suite anywhere else. In fact I think that if you booked an equivalent cabin on, say, Solstice, and then added on an amount for your flights, excursions and on-board spending, you probably wouldn’t come out much lower than the all-inclusive price for Seven Seas Voyager. But: £8,000 for a cruise….. that’s a huge amount for a holiday, and not a terribly long one at that.

In fact it’s caused me to have a good think about how we’ll do it in future. I think that from now on we’ll probably chase the lowest deal we can find for the ship, itinerary & cabin we want; but having got that low price, we’ll then compensate by not worrying too much about how much we’re spending once we’re on board. That’s the sort of compromise I can feel comfortable with. Sorry, Regent Seven Seas cruises, it looks as if we’ll be sticking to P&O & Celebrity.

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