aftermath of 9/11 much changed, including many cruise ship
itineraries. Radisson, which
had planned the Inaugural World Cruise of its 490 passenger Seven
Seas Navigator to go through the Suez and the Mediterranean, altered
its itinerary to round the Cape of Good Hope instead.
As a result, in its later segments after Cape Town, the ship
was less than sold out,
to put it mildly. In March,
they offered past Radisson guests price concessions, a complementary
pre-cruise tour, low-cost business class air upgrades, and perhaps
most intriguing to us, an invitation to join the shake-down cruise
of Radisson’s new Seven Seas Voyager, then scheduled to be
completed in Genoa in March, 2003.
My wife and I were definitely interested!
we had earlier booked the inaugural transatlantic cruise of Holland
American’s Prisendam (the former Royal Viking Sun) plus the
following two segments in Western Europe and the Baltic (a total of
37 days), we didn’t feel we could take the full trip from Cape
Town, including a pre-cruise safari in South Africa.
Instead, we opted for the shorter 14 day Rio to Ft.
Lauderdale segment, preceded by the complementary tour to Iguaçu
Falls. According to Brazilian
sources, Iguaçu is the world's largest waterfalls.
Although tricky to get to and see, the Falls are truly
magnificent! Iguaçu is much
larger than Niagara, and is said to be taller than Angel Falls in
Venezuela. The falls are
inland on the Argentina/Brazil border, well worth the trip to see
a bit of a run-around concerning our flight arrangements (resolved
by a cooperative Radisson air rep and our very competent agent,
Vicki) we arrived at the Tampa airport early, only to discover the
Delta flight scheduled to take us to Atlanta to connect with their
flight to Rio was late. Initially
the Delta agent (supervisor?) was adamant there was no problem,
until the earlier flight to Atlanta, leaving from the gate next to
us, had closed up. When she
finally listened and looked at our tickets, she realized the
after a big hassle, we were re-routed on an American Airlines flight
from Miami, but had to reclaim our bags in Tampa, go through
security again, and have bags hand-searched, luckily by a nice,
helpful American Airlines porter/security guard(?).
And, with no two seats together; we were assigned seats on
either side of someone sitting in the middle seat of a 2-3-2
business class row on a Boeing 777. This
turned out to be a ploy to get the whole row to himself; when faced
with reality, he moved to an aisle seat, so my wife and I were able
to sit together, even if not in the most desirable place.
we avoid domestic airlines for international flights when possible,
but I must admit that the American Airlines “extra room” tactic
certainly gave us room to stretch out.
And their service was pretty good, too.
Radisson flew us in business class on a Continental 777 from
Newark to Rome in the fall of 2000, and we found it to be very good
as well, although the AA flight had more leg room I think.
In our opinion, the Boeing 777 is superior to anything else
flying commercially today.
had spoken with Radisson reps during the rearrangement of flights,
and sure enough, their agent in Rio was expecting us.
Things went quite smoothly, and although the security for our
bags in notorious Rio seemed casual, everything arrived promptly and
safely. Radisson booked us in
the LeMeridien Hotel, directly across Avenue Atlântica from
Copacobana Beach. Our room
for that night was available, without additional charge, upon
check-in about 10 AM. We were
in an ocean-front room on the 36th floor, so high the people on the
beach looked like ants. So
much for girl- (or boy-) watching.
a quiet, security-conscious day and night in Rio (we had an bad
experience there earlier), we flew next morning via San Paulo to the
city of Foz do Iguaçu, where we were taken by bus to the Iguaçu
Falls National Park. The
flights, on Varig, the Brazilian airline, were delightful.
Attractive, sharp, well-dressed and -groomed flight
attendants. Fast, cheerful
service. Quick turn-arounds
in San Paulo. The
stewardesses served drinks and a snack on the forty-five minute
flight to San Paulo, and lunch and drinks on the one hour flight
from there to Foz do Iguaçu! Ditto
on the return. Remember
how nice air travel used to be in the U.S.?
How special it seemed? In
Brazil, it still is.
Iguaçu Falls requires a lot of walking and climbing, some of it
challenging. The first day,
we went by bus, jeep and, after a treacherous climb on steep,
un-guarded stairs, zodiac boat up the river right to the base of the
falls, getting wet but not soaked. Another,
more daring group went right under part of the falls, but it
appeared they were prepared, having stripped to the waist (men only,
sorry) or to bikini tops.
a good meal and a long night in hard beds in the Spanish Colonial
style hotel in the park, the next morning we crossed the Argentine
border by bus. Then we caught
two trains and took a substantial hike to the catwalks which extend
out over the river 1100 meters to the very edge of the most dramatic
part of Iguaçu Falls, the Devil’s Throat.
This is a horseshoe shaped section which appeared to be 300
or 400 yards across and perhaps half a mile long.
What a marvelous sight! On
the way, we passed the “ruins” of the old catwalk, which
collapsed a couple of years earlier.
evening we dined in famous chef Paul Bocuse’s
restaurant atop the hotel. A
good meal, high but not outrageously priced, but nothing
spectacular. Our meal in that same
restaurant 17 years earlier during Carnival was truly spectacular.
Too bad things have to change. The restaurant had a wonderful
view of the lights of Copacobana. This
time we had an ocean-front room on the 14th floor, so we could
actually see the people on the beach.
the concierge’s suggestion, we went to the Hippy Market in Ipanema
Sunday morning. Held in a
park several blocks in from the famous beach, this weekly open air
market specializes in local art, crafts and jewelry, with clothing
and souvenirs also available. I
got my lady a huge topaz and silver necklace.
We also bought a very nice modern sculpture, as well as a
couple of small limited-edition prints, all exceptionally
inexpensive by our standards. A
great time. If you’re in
Rio on a Sunday, don’t miss it! Hardly anyone speaks English, but
it really doesn't matter!
at the hotel, we just had time to collect the luggage from our room
and grab a drink before catching the bus to the ship.
Boarding a Radisson ship is a delightful experience, you are
welcomed with a glass of Champagne, and the formalities are handled
quickly, efficiently and pleasantly.
The only downside here was that the passenger ship terminal
in Rio is a long building. They
drop you at one end, forcing you to walk quite a distance carrying
your hand luggage past yet another gauntlet of hucksters for the
inevitable jewelry and duty-free shops in order to reach the
greeting area at the gangway. Once
there, you’re in Radisson’s friendly, competent hands, but till
then, you’re on your own.
of our other cruise plans, we had asked for the lowest cost cabin
available. On Radisson’s
Seven Seas ships, all suites are at least 300 sq. ft., and most have
balconies. In this case, we
got a suite on six deck, port side, without a balcony.
Instead, each morning we had seamen outside on a walkway,
hosing down and cleaning up. The
first morning, a passenger wandered back and forth, lost we presume,
but that happened only once. We
learned to close the drape before retiring.
on the Seven Seas Navigator are really terrific; spacious,
well-furnished and -equipped, exceptionally comfortable.
The baths are perhaps the best afloat, with separate tub and
shower and a spacious vanity. We
don’t miss the double sinks some folks favor, having consciously
left them off the plans of the last two houses we’ve built.
Everything else was there in abundance, especially large,
absorbent towels and bath-sheets and even pool towels!
Our cabin stewardess and her helper were just delightful,
cheerful, prompt, and nice. Actually,
that goes for everyone on board the Navigator.
We’ve never been on a friendlier ship.
Or heard of one. The
entire crew seems to go out of their way to be nice, to greet you,
to get whatever you want or need. May
sound exaggerated, but isn’t. Try
it, you’ll see. We never felt the infamous Navigator vibration,
even while aft (e.g., at dinner), so we can't comment on it.
passengers joining the ship in Rio may not have had lunch, they kept
the informal dining room on ten deck, the Portofino, open late.
Thoughtful! Lunch was
delicious, a nice buffet plus carving and pasta stations, while out
on deck, a grill offered hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.
On most days, there were two grills outside during lunch, the
second with at least four or five choices, including a grilled fish
and some kind of steak. They
also offered fruit, cheese and other deserts.
More than enough; too much, really.
first day our waitress seemed to have a large, busy station, part of
which was outside on deck, but we didn’t wait overly long for
anything. We soon learned to
sit on the other side of the room, in Ann Marie’s area.
She’s a very efficient, friendly English girl who seemed to
anticipate our needs after only a couple of days.
Throughout the cruise, service in all of the dining rooms was
excellent to outstanding.
lunch and a couple hours of unpacking in the very spacious cabin and
walk-in closet, we explored the ship.
Then we were invited on deck for Champagne, to watch as we
sailed out of Rio de Janeiro. It
was dark, but the lights were a sight themselves, and Sugar Loaf was
silhouetted against them. Then,
put ourselves in the hands of the Maître D’, Miki, asking him to
put us at “a large table with interesting people.”
On this and every other evening that we didn’t make our own
arrangements, Miki put us with people we enjoyed.
We sat with the Staff Captain the first formal evening, and
at the Captain’s table twice (the Captain wasn’t there when we
were -- we sat there when we were with a large group, as it was one
of few tables for ten available). Whatever
you want, they tried to accommodate you.
One night Pat wasn’t feeling up to snuff, so we ate in our
suite from the dining room menu. They
served us in courses, just as if we were in the Compass Rose
Radisson ships, wine and drinks with dinner are included; no extra
charge. The sommelier and his
assistants knew their wine, but perhaps more important, they quickly
got to know their guests. That
first night, both the red and white wines served were Burgundies.
I much prefer Burgundy to, for example, a Bordeaux.
The next night, the white was another Burgundy, but the red
was a Bordeaux. Having had a
pleasant experience earlier on the Seven Seas Mariner, I thought
I’d try again, and see what happened.
I asked if any of the Burgundy they had served the previous
night was available. But of
course! Almost without delay,
there it was. After that,
wherever we sat (remember, the main Compass Rose restaurant holds
more than 450 people when the ship is full) here comes one of the
wine stewards asking if we were having the Burgundy tonight?
And at least two knew us by name.
This service is typical of what we experienced throughout the
night early on we had dinner with two couples who were
“circumnavigators” (i.e., had been on the ship for the entire
World Cruise). They were very
interesting, talking about the highlights (and the few low spots as
well) of the trip to date. One
of the men, a digital photography buff, was making an album of the
entire cruise, a marvel according to the other couple.
(Later, I saw it, and it was
truly outstanding!) Although quite modest, the digital
photographer had been a very senior IBM systems engineer, and had
been talked into teaching a three-class digital photography and
photo album course on board. I
told him I had just bought a digital camera and was very interested.
of the drawbacks of cruising on a small ship like the RSS Navigator
is that there are a limited number of things to do on sea days, so I
welcomed this opportunity. Unavoidably,
I arrived late for the first class, held in the Stars Lounge outside
the large Seven Seas show room. The
class was over-subscribed, but we pulled up more chairs and everyone
was accommodated. The class
itself was very interesting. Ron,
the instructor, was a good lecturer, exceptionally knowledgeable
about his topics.
the second class, I arrived early to find Ron with a projector, a
table, and his own laptop PC, struggling to rearrange the chairs
into a classroom layout, so everyone could hear and see the screen.
I helped, as did a couple of other early arrivals.
The chairs were heavy and not easy to grab on to, so it was
difficult to move them. When
I spoke to Ron, he said that after the first set of classes, support
for his efforts was basically limited to announcing the class in the
ship’s daily newspaper, and providing the projector and screen.
Later, I spoke with the officer who ran the computer lab, but
he seemed frustrated and unable to help.
When pressed, he suggested I discuss it with the Cruise
Director or even the Hotel Director.
So I did.
resulted in only real negative in our cruise on the Seven Seas
Navigator. I’ve been a
bureaucrat myself, and have dealt with them for much of my career.
I know when I’m getting the run-around or a brush-off.
These guys didn’t even try to hide it.
For the only time on board the Navigator, I met with
indifference and a defensive, negative attitude.
The hotel director explained plans and implied he would get
help for the room set-up, but none appeared.
Unfortunately for him, the cruise director happened along
when we were breaking the room down the third time, and I unloaded
on him, but all I got were excuses and B.S.
This was out of character for the ship and, in fact, for the
whole Radisson line. There
may have been something I didn’t understand or know about going
on, but it seemed to me here was an opportunity to give passengers
something useful and desirable to do on a boring sea day, at little
or no cost, yet they ignored it at first, and derided it when
questioned head on. Certainly
not typical or helpful.
wife and I had planned a cruise from (or to) Australia and New
Zealand, either on the Navigator this fall or on the Mariner next
winter, but our experience this trip and on a longer cruise since
have caused us to re-think our plans.
This cruise was 13 days, calling at four ports: Salvador de
Bahia and Fortaleza in Brazil, Bridgetown, Barbados, and San Juan,
PR on the way to Ft. Lauderdale. That
left nine sea days. We
don’t play bridge, and are spoiled by our 45’ lap pool at home.
The casino crew went out of their way to drum up interest,
running classes for neophytes early on and blackjack tournaments
later. We enjoyed that.
The library is pretty good, and there are enough computers
when the ship has less than 350 guest.
Just upgrade memory and
fix the charge-back software before the next long cruise, please.
were some good speakers, particularly former Attorney General and PA
Governor Dick Thornburg (although his wife cut off informal
conversation after the lecture, and little or no time was provided
for questions.) Prof. Michael
Mendelssohn, who talked on a variety of topics, was also quite
interesting. But that
doesn’t begin to fill up nine days!
Now think about expanding that to 45 days, with 19-22 at sea.
Gives you something to pause about, doesn’t it.
It has us, I’m afraid. (We didn't go, and most likely won't
take a cruise over three weeks long.)
few other observations: We
never missed a meal, and the food was good to excellent.
Perhaps not as good as the Signatures dining room on the
Mariner, maybe even not as good as the Mariner overall.
We both gained weight, not a lot but some.
Pat wished for more variety in the on-board shops.
We met quite a few very nice people.
In fact, on every Radisson ship we seem to meet nice people.
As for entertainment, the Peter Grey Terhune company are
attractive, talented, energetic, and they sing and danced well.
The concert pianist was excellent, although we missed her
first (best?) show, unavoidably. Larry
Hagman was on board and turned out to be rather entertaining
speaker, although I never did care for either Dallas or I
Dream of Jeanie. All in
all, for a smaller ship, we found the entertainment surprisingly
ports visited after Rio were less than inspired, in our opinion.
We would have liked to cruise up the Amazon a way, or perhaps
stop at Devil’s Island. We
went ashore in each of the four ports, but took a tour only in
Barbados. That was sponsored
by our travel agent’s Voyager Club, but we didn’t think much of
it. Of course, we’ve seen a
lot of islands. “Free”
tours are often worth just what you pay for them.
year the Mariner’s World Cruise is scheduled to skip Rio, going
directly from Ascension Island to Fortaleza.
That certainly will be exciting! (NOT!)
We’ve compared Radisson’s port selections with some of
its competitor’s; in our opinion, we find them sorely lacking.
Who plans these trips, anyway, the bookkeeping department?
Of course, if you don’t like the itinerary, you don’t
have to go.
this cruise, the hospitality and excellence of the ship itself, the
excursion to Iguaçu, the time in Rio, and the Voyager shakedown
cruise invitation make the whole thing worthwhile for us.
Open single seating in the dining room is a major plus as
well. For us, a real handicap
for Crystal are the sittings for dinner.
Seabourn and Silversea use smaller ships, and you do pay for
their “all inclusive” approach. If
you’re not a big drinker, or don’t use the included amenities,
you’re paying for someone who is/does.
Radisson balances this well, we think: drinks with dinner and
an initial setup in your room are included, as are non-alcoholic
beverages. After that, you
pay for what you use. Works
for us. All things
considered, we’ll be aboard Radisson again, but selectively.
we did book two future cruises while on this one.
The first is the inaugural cruise of the new Seven Seas
Voyager, which follows the shakedown cruise we’ve been invited on.
Not worth the hassle to fly to Europe just for one week.
We also booked a Montreal to Palm Beach cruise on the
Navigator for the Fall of 2003, itinerary unseen.
The initial details and ports of call Radisson announced
(after our return) were just awful, and we were going to cancel, but
then they made some changes, breaking it up into three trips over 20
days, so we’ve picked up our option. We are looking forward
Charleston and Savannah, but will miss Newport.
In this case, it seems
they listened to past passenger comments, which is truly AMAZING!
do like Radisson, we like it best of the lines we’ve cruised, in
fact, but improvements are still needed in a couple of key areas.
Some of the annoyances would be quite easy to fix, we feel.
Like more interesting, informative activities e.g., speakers,
courses or lectures, more classes of general or special interest,
etc. on sea days (al la Crystal), as well as more customer
input/consideration and a lot more careful thought given to
itinerary planning. Instead of running round-trips from New York to
Bermuda back-to-back, mix them up with New York to Montreal trips.
That way guests who want a longer cruise can book different ones
back to back.
piece obviously reflects just the reviewers’ personal opinions;
although it tries to be objective and balanced, any person
contemplating spending multiple thousands of dollars should use care
and check a number of sources deciding.
Perhaps even more important, you should know yourself and
your traveling companion(s) well enough to make well-informed