Who wouldn't love sailing on a luxury cruise ship – especially over the

holidays? We recently spent 16 days sailing in ultra-luxurious style on

Regent Seven Seas Cruises, on the Mariner, from Los Angeles to Fort

Lauderdale through the Panama Canal (www.rssc.com)

To say that we were pleased by this experience would be an

understatement. Regent's marketing lays claim to provide the ultimate

in a luxury, over-the-top cruise experience, and it more than delivers

on that promise. Hence, then let us explain our Top Ten Reasons to love

sailing on Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

1) Large in size, small in feeling. Like its sister ships, The Voyager, The Navigator, and the Paul Gauguin, the Mariner

is a large and spacious ship – but only holds 700 passengers. The

result? No crowds at the pool, at elevators, and at restaurants. It is

quiet, elegant, and totally intimate in experience. An oasis from the

hurried pace of everyday life.

2) Level of service. You want it? You've got it. We are

always impressed with the level of attentive service that Regent Seven

Seas Cruises delivers. Immediately after you board the ship, the wait

staff greets you by name. Almost each staff member knows who you are,

from pre-boarding information they have been provided, and this level

of attention promotes a very personalized feeling of service. As an

example, when you first dine, your waiter is almost sure to deliver

your preferred drink (in our case it's diet ginger ale). Or, do you

want the main dining room entrée served to you in the Verandah

restaurant? No problem. Furthermore, sailing on the Mariner is like

having your own personal chef. Take our advice – and ask for all kinds

of special orders – low-fat bread, gluten-free goodies, low-calorie

carrot cake, shrimp one night, ratatouille another night, spinach

salad, yogurt dressing without oil. As a passenger on board Regent

Seven Seas Cruises, you're never going to hear the word “No.” With

today's decline in customer service, it's great to know that your every

culinary desire will be met with unqualified enthusiasm and delivery.

3) Elegant atmosphere. You won't find plastic grass, fake

palm trees, or a huge Jumbotron at the pool showing wrestling on TV,

which you're bound to see on mass-market ships. The Mariner offers

refined ambience – from the quiet and dignified atmosphere that

prevails on the pool deck to the fresh fruit and flowers in your

stateroom, to the lit candles in Signature restaurant, to the general

décor of the ship. On our trip, a Christmas cruise, the ship was

beautifully outfitted with numerous decorated Christmas trees, and even

several gingerbread houses offering cookies and cake, and evergreen

décor everywhere, making everything truly festive. Menus also catered

to the time of year – offering goose on Christmas eve and a truly

delicious turkey on Christmas Day. And New Year's Eve? There was a huge

outdoor party on the pool deck, with a live band and large amounts of

champagne. Delightful!

4) It's quiet. Unless you're a twenty-something who

drinks and parties, you're not going to find pounding music where you

don't want it. You won't find rowdiness and raucousness – and let's

face it – most mass-market cruise lines can't offer you the refinement

you'll enjoy on Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Sit anywhere – in the Coffee

Corner on Deck Six adjacent to the library, on the observation deck, or

most important, at the pool, and you can read, nap, talk, and just take

in the lovely surroundings, where you won't be assaulted by noise and

crowds. No “information overload.”

5) Enrichment. On this trip, stargazing guide Jon Lomberg

(www.jonlomberg.com) gave several incredibly interesting lectures –

discussing astronomy the nature of the cosmos. It was highly

interesting and we always learn something new and unusual of an

intellectual nature. Another lecturer on this trip gave political talks

about the places we were visiting on this itinerary. We also enjoyed

the enrichment given by Diane Buffalin, Ph. D., on how to deal with

difficult people, and how to make molehills out of mountains, to

enhance the quality of your personal relationships. You can easily pay

at least $50pp for these kinds of lectures anywhere else, but these

high-quality enrichment experiences, of course, are offered free of

charge on Regent. The computer instructor even took us aside and gave

us personalized tutorials on Facebook and LinkedIn, which would

normally incur a cost if sought elsewhere. Sailing at sea has never

been more stimulating.

6) Daily activities. You'll never be bored on the Mariner;

Regent makes sure of that. A typical day can include all kinds of

fitness instruction; Catholic mass or Jewish services; bridge-playing;

arts and crafts; ballroom dancing; British guests and solo guests

get-togethers; art auctions; boatyard bocce; needlepoint; afternoon

tea; bingo; even Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (subtly mentioned in the

daily newsletter as “friends of Bill W.”). There's also a fitness

center with weight machines, treadmills and plenty of mats for yoga;

and an incredibly impressive array of free classes thanks to the

“Fitness Afloat” schedule – a trained instructor instructor assists

with Cardio Groove, Core Fusion, Beginner's Pilates, Stretch and Relax,

Strong Abs and Back – you name it. There's also a casino offering slot

machines, roulette, blackjacks and 3-card poker. And of course, the

ship features a spa. The Carita Spa is a delight, and definitely a

place where you'll want to spend time. (On days where you're in port,

many services are even discounted.) Deb had the Ultimate Anti-Aging

Pro-Life Facial (80 minutes, $275); it used high-performance Carita of

Paris anti-aging products rich in soy proteins to boost the production

of collagen fibers, along with a massage given by the Pro-Life machine

– it resembles a pair of headphones with two sponges where the

earpieces would be, which massage your skin, making the ingredients

penetrate deeper. After, Deb's skin absolutely glowed! A wealth of

other spa services are available for your pleasure, including all types

of massage, facials, scrubs and wraps plus hair styling, coloring and

nail services.

7) Entertainment is excellent. In general, Regent puts on

a great selection of entertainers and production shows before and after

dinner. We saw a comedian; magician; pianist; and a great singer

impressionist, Karen Grainger, who gave two shows worthy of high

admission prices you'd pay on land. We were also especially delighted

with Polish violinist Artur Banaskiewicz, who offered several

world-class performances. That's one thing we especially like about

Regent – there's always a great show to go to, and the great thing

about any cruise is that it's included in the price. Of course you can

also go the DVD library and pick out a movie, and simply watch one on

your TV. (Obviously, no charge. On a mass-market line? You're likely to

be charged up $5 per movie.) The other great thing about sailing on

Regent is that due to the relatively small passenger count, you get the

chance to meet the entertainers up-close-and-personal – at the pool, at

the coffee station, at reception, wherever. We had the immense pleasure

of dining one night with comedian/magician Bruce Gold

(www.brucegold.com) who unbelievably, performed sleight-of-hand tricks

for us, right in the Coffee Corner. He actually changed dollar bills

into hundred-dollar bills, while standing just inches away from us.

Plus, we had a chance to get to know him better – a real delight. We

highly recommend that Regent book this talented performer again and


8) All-inclusive alcohol. Here's a typical afternoon: We

sat up on the pool deck –in Costa Rica, while the staff played

volleyball in the saltwater pool, and where the sunlight was gorgeous.

Snacks and lunch are yours outside here for the asking, and as for

drinks – wowee, if you like to imbibe, this is the cruise line for you.

Regent is an all-inclusive line, which means that you won't be

nickel-and-dimed for any drinks, which is what happens on the

lesser-quality lines offering high passenger counts and low, low

prices. Most travelers at the pool order the usual suspects – a pina

colada – but the wine and spirits list is dressed to thrill. There's

champagne (how about a Kir Royale?); aperitifs such as Pimms and Dry

Sack; rums; scotch and whiskey; a wealth of liqueurs starting with

Amaretto, ending with Triple Sec and everything in between; beers;

martini classics; vodka; sours; coffee drinks – and much, much more. We

stick to water and diet Lemonades during the day – and we're delighted

that there’s no charge for non-alcoholic beverages as well. The ship

also features a Coffee Corner bar, where you can get a wide variety of

gourmet coffee and tea beverages, all complimentary (and which you

definitely pay for on “cost-plus” cruise lines). Adjacent to the

Internet and library, it's a great place to do some work (if you must)

and meet new friends.

9) The gourmet food. Do you like the idea of a $250

dinner included in the price of your ticket? If so, you're going to

love sailing on Regent. It offers the Le Cordon Bleu restaurant

Signatures, where you can enjoy – at no extra cost – an incredible

gourmet menu that you would easily pay a great deal for on land. The

atmosphere is ultra-elegant – only a few tables, all with white

tablecloths, fine china, and arrangements of roses on the tables. And

the cuisine – ooo la la! You'll start with, say, cassolette of snails

or sole-and prawn risotto. Soups include chilled vichyssoise or crab,

followed by an appetizing apple-and-thyme sorbet. Main courses feature

ravioli of lobster, grilled filet of halibut with Provencale

vegetables, or roast duck breast. For dessert, there is crème brulee, a

chocolate tasting (divine!) and lemon gratin with strawberries. It's a

four-star experience that's included, and we give it a rave review.

After our trip, the Mariner was going into dry dock for a $20

million-dollar refurbishment, including the addition of a new specialty

steakhouse, giving travelers yet another onboard dining option. Of

course, dining in the Main Dining Room, the Compass Rose, is always a

delight, with a wealth of gourmet, vegetarian and light entrees, all

offered with complimentary wines. Another option is La Verandah, an

Italian/Mediterranean bistro offering yummy fare that we couldn't get

enough of.

10) All-suite ship. We love the fact that all of the

staterooms on Regent Seven Seas Cruises are suites with balconies –

ensuring a very comfortable experience. Our stateroom, 1046, while

certainly not the largest, measured 356 sq. ft. of living space (with a

55 sq. ft. verandah) and we were totally comfortable. It features two

beds (which can be pushed together); Sealy Posturepedic mattresses with

deluxe Anichini linens; marble bathrooms; dining/seating area with

couch; flat-screen TV; refrigerator; bathrobes and slippers; bathroom

amenities such as shampoo and conditioner; and in general, all the

comforts of home (or a really good hotel room). Some suites even come

with butler service, and that is truly a special service to be enjoyed.

Your butler will make dinner reservations; press your clothing; attend

to all sorts of details, and heck, he'll even hang your “Do Not

disturb” sign for you if you want him to. Here's what we recommend:

have him tell you about the World Cruise – and book your next cruise

before you leave the ship, taking advantage of the generous on-board

booking discounts.

At this writing, ALL 2010 voyages are, for a limited time only,

available at a 2-for-1 pricing, with complimentary air or an air credit

included. And standard shore excursions will be included in the cruise

fare, as well as government fees and taxes. That's exactly how good

Regent Seven Seas is – you'll want to return even before your cruise is

finished. Bon voyage! For more information, call Regent Seven Seas

Cruises (877) 505-5370.