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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman

Radisson Seven Seas Mariner
May 2-6, 2001

by Hall Coons

Returned last Sunday from a four day voyage on the new Radisson Seven Seas ship "Seven Seas Mariner," to be referred to as SSM in remainder of review. The SSM just entered service in March 2001 and is not yet really "broken in." Our trip sailed from Ft. Lauderdale on May 2, a day at sea on May 3, Cozumel all day on May 4, Key West the afternoon of May 5, and back to Ft. Lauderdale on May 6.

A little background on me. I have been cruising since age 10 aboard the Brasil in 1969. Other notable ships include Michelangelo, Kungsholm, Rotterdam (1959), Queen Elizabeth 2, Oceanic, Island Princess, Paul Gauguin, and Horizon. I have lost count but at least 25 ship voyages under my belt.

The SSM is a much larger ship than Radisson has operated in the past, 50,000 gross tons, 670 feet long, 720 passenger capacity. The other ships in the fleet are truly small luxury ships. I cannot stress enough the huge amount of SPACE per passenger on SSM. You never feel crowded and there are always plenty of empty seats no matter what the event. ALL cabins have a balcony and all cabins are "called" suites. However, to really be a suite in my book you have to have at least two full rooms and the standard "suites" do not have that feature.

My "suite," number 752 on Seven Deck was very nice and you could not ask for a quieter cabin. I never heard any noise from hallway or adjoining cabins. You have a nice marble clad bathroom with full bathtub. However, very low ceiling in bathroom and even lower ceiling at shower/bathtub. At over 6 feet tall I could not stand up in the shower. This seems like a basic design flaw someone should have caught in the design process. If over 5 feet 11 inches, you cannot stand up in this shower without your head hitting ceiling. Always instant hot water in the bathroom, no wait for that.

The rooms also all have a walk in closet, which at first I thought was a waste of space, but as the days went on I grew to love it. The walk in closet provides a great place to "throw stuff" and keep the rest of the cabin relatively tidy. You have a full double bed which can be converted to twins. Then a nice sitting area with a couch and chair. Also a TV with basic satellite channels and a really nice refrigerator fully stocked with soft drinks. You were supposed to be able to choose your first set of liquor for this bar also free, but they were out of Canadian Whisky, Scotch, and Rum. I wondered what they really had in stock if not these items. However, since I am a very light drinker this fact did not bother me. It was very nice to have free soft drinks whenever you wanted them and this is also available at all of the bars on board. At the end of the cabin is the nice balcony which I really enjoyed during this warm weather cruise. It was neat to leave the balcony door open at night while sleeping to the sound of the ocean, this worked great since temps in low 70's at night.

The cabin was attended by a very nice young lady from Austria. Cabin service was great and room service even better. I has breakfast in my cabin on two mornings and they go all out with a fully set table with full linens, silverware, flowers, etc. It was great to eat breakfast in the cabin with the balcony door open to a great view of the passing sea. Fabulous blueberry pancakes!!!

The interior lounges of the ship look great IMHO. Lots of use of wood/teak trim and heavy use of blue colors are evident. Also use of other color, but mainly blues. No harsh bright colors, but enough color to liven up the place. The ship has a seven deck high atrium with 3 glass enclosed elevator. Great fun to ride these elevators from the bottom deck up to the sun deck. Some type of modern sculpture with light effects on atrium wall keeps you entertained when nothing else to see in the glass elevator. I really liked this atrium. Now you know how some cruise lines hawk their "modern art auctions." I usually hate this but on SSM it is done in a really neat way. Throughout the ship various paintings and prints are hung on the walls in the lounges, outside elevators, etc. You can buy virtually any of these artworks if you so desire. But there is never a heavy push to sell this stuff, unless you went to one of the two timed art instruction classes.

There are obvious touches of past ocean liner designs in the SSM public rooms. The small cigar/brandy lounge looks like it was lifted off of the 1929 Bremen... very Germanic/1930's design. The rear semi-circular lounge , Horizon, seems inspired by the Orion of the 1930's and even opens up to a nice rear deck area overlooking the stern of the ship. The Signatures (French specialty dining room) dining room seems inspired by the Ile de France interiors. The main dining room, Compass Rose, is very elegant with crystal chandeliers, wood trim, and rose colored chairs. The bar/lounge outside of the Compass Rose is all done in dark blue velour. Perhaps most striking is the casino/nightclub arrangement. The Casino is on Deck 7 and below it, connected by a cool metallic staircase, is the nightclub on Deck 6. The Casino is very tastefully decorated (and always well attended on my voyage). The nightclub has large pictures of Hollywood Celebs on the walls. I really, really liked the interior design of this ship.

The swimming pool on deck 11 was unusually large for a ship and you never had to fight for a deck chair here. Even at 12 noon there were plenty of deck chairs available on this warm weather cruise. A very nice forward Observation Lounge on deck 11 also, but almost never anyone used it. With all the space on SSM, they should have found a way to design in a full walk around proper promenade deck. But alas, the promenade is truncated at both bow and stern. Also you cannot walk to the front of the ship for a really nice view of the bow. Well, not unless you enter the "crew only" area forward on deck 8 like I did.

The ship is rated at a speed of 20 knots. But on my trip we regularly cruised at 22 to 23 knots. This ship has the new Azipod propulsion system. There is NO VIBRATION whatsoever anywhere on the SSM. Even at the stern under full speed you feel no vibrations. I enjoyed the great bridge tour with about a dozen other passengers. Here the officers told us the SSM could easily cruise at 24 knots and this was with the pods operating at only 95% power. Also this ship can turn on a dime, as the pods can rotate 360 degrees. When returning to Ft. Lauderdale we docked by going sideways into the pier with no tugs in sight. A truly amazing ship from a technical standpoint.

The main show lounge on SSM can easily handle all passengers in one seating. This area also technically advanced from a stage production viewpoint. One night they had a very very funny comedian who managed to make fun of all of the officers, band members, cruise director staff, and most of the front row passengers. The other production shows were very elaborate and you could tell that a lot of thought went into the production numbers. But, to be honest, I did not enjoy them (except for the comedian who was outstanding). I seldom am impressed by such cruise ship production shows, maybe I have seen them too many times. It seemed that most of the passengers enjoyed them.

You never find a crowded area on SSM due to the huge amount of public space per passenger. I also suspect some passengers stay in their very luxurious cabins and balconies, while on other ships they would venture out in public. This creates, in my opinion, a poor social life on SSM. There is seldom anybody "out and about." Therefore, you should book this ship with friends or with the intention of sticking to your spouse while on board. In other words, it is hard to meet people on the ship. This not a problem for me on this voyage since I was traveling with a friend. But if a single, this might be a problem. One night my friend and I had the Horizon Lounge completely to ourselves from 6 pm to 7:30 pm and this is one of the main lounges on the ship. I must say that the hub of social life seemed to be the Mariner Lounge just outside the Compass Rose Dining Room, as lots of people met here for pre-dinner and post-dinner drinks. Also the Horizon lounge very well attended for excellent 4 pm teas.

Food & Dining! Ah, the highlight of most any cruise. But here the SSM often stumbles. I must stress that at all meals and all times the food was EXCELLENT. But service is a different issue. First the good news. Do not miss the Signatures Dining Room if you go on this ship!! This is a small French specialty dining room with all French staff and cooks from the Cordon Bleu. The room itself is beautifully done in deep reds, black, and silver. Again it reminded me of pictures of the Ile De France interiors. Food and Service here were some of the best I have experienced at sea (or anywhere else). The French waiters and Maitre D' were very friendly and easy to strike up a conversation with. My traveling companion had recently been to Paris, and she knew the restaurant that the Maitre D' had previously worked at. Book for an early time in Signatures. We reserved dinner at 6:30 Pm and had the room almost to ourselves for an hour and it was a very elegant quiet dining experience. However, by the time we left at 8:45 pm the room was full and getting somewhat noisy.

The SSM has so many alternative dining rooms that you often don't know which way to turn next. We also dined in the casual La Veranda which serves a "Mediterranean Bistro" meal for dinner. The food here also very good and service was okay, if sometimes just a little slow. There is also another alternative dining room, Latitudes, which we did not have time to experience. However, I can tell you it is a beautiful room done in gray and black with native primitive artwork on the walls. It looks better than it sounds. You should have reservations for both Signatures and Latitudes. The La Veranda is open sitting each night.

Lunches at the Pool Grill or a full buffet at La Veranda were excellent. A typical lunch buffet had sweet and sour chicken, grilled steaks, grilled fish, pasta cooked to order, huge quantities of Peeled Shrimp on Ice, Alaska King Crab Legs. Also a great chocolate rum dessert cake served warm with hot chocolate sauce. A small outside dining area right on the stern served for a spectacular setting to gorge on shrimp etc. while we sailed over multi colored blue waters into Key West.

But the bad news is the Compass Rose main dining room. Service here was very, very poor. This is of course an open sitting dining room, very freestyle. Now you should be aware that I hate freestyle dining and the SSM only serves to reinforce my hatred of this method of dining. Despite LOTS of empty tables for four, our group of four had 10 minute waits to get a table each of our two nights in the Compass Rose. The first night we finally just went in and grabbed a table and demanded the waiter serve us. Maybe this is why we received poor service, but it does not explain the second night when we behaved ourselves and waited for a table from the dining room manager. Of course with no assigned waiter you have someone different each night. In Compass Rose each table seemed to be served by 3 to 4 different waiters. You place your order with one waiter, never to be seen again. The other waiters routinely delivered the wrong items to our table. Also service was very slow even though the dining room was not crowded. I stress again the food was excellent. I had a great Sirloin Steak the first night and delicious rack of lamb the second night. Portions did seem a little bit small. Overall this is not the type of dining experience you expect on a ship of this status or cost. I was on the QE2 last summer in the cheapest, Mauritania dining room and the service there was MUCH better than SSM's Compass Rose and the QE2 food just as good. Radisson definitely has some work to do to bring their dining room service up the standard they aim for.

Radisson has Crystal passengers in their sights with the SSM. It seems obvious to me that this 720 passenger luxury ship is designed to capture the Crystal passenger. And the ship has several advantages over Crystal ships. All outside cabins with all balconies. Not just one, but three alternative dining rooms nightly. (And I suggest you use them and avoid Compass Rose main dining room !) No early and late sittings like Crystal. However, I am sure Crystal main dining room must have better service than SSM. I have never sailed Crystal but their service has a great reputation. If Radisson can fix the service problems in Compass Rose, find some hard liquor for the free in room bars, and just slightly upgrade their entertainment I think they will present some really serious competition for Crystal. Another Radisson large ship (700 passengers) is currently on the drawing boards.

I should also mention that SSM is rated to carry 720 passenger. There were 690 passengers on our trip. Several of the staff mentioned that all previous cruises had 570 to 600 passengers at the max. It seemed that this extra passenger load overwhelmed the new cruise staff at times... in the Compass Rose, at embarkation, and in a few other instances. Or at least that is my theory for the sometimes poor, slow service. Seems like management will fix this problem given time and experience.

All in all I really enjoyed the SSM experience. Food was really excellent. The interior design is delightful. Cabins are truly a luxury experience. Lots and Lots of space throughout the ship for passengers. SSM is a luxury cruise ship that will make her mark on the industry. 

Hall Coons, Maryland

Photo: Courtesy of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises

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