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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman


Renaissance R8 – Baltic Capitals Cruise
May 28-June 12, 2001

By Linda Coffman

It was nearly half a century ago when a little girl sat transfixed, listening to fairy tales read aloud by her mother. By the time she could read them herself, she had them committed to memory. Fast forward nearly fifty years and there I was... living that little girl's fantasy. From Walmer Castle in Dover to Drottningholm Palace near Stockholm, I walked the corridors of Europe's Kings and Queens.

Imagine your own castle afloat. It may be modest in decor by the standards of the Winter Palace of the Russian Tsars; however, Renaissance Cruises' newest vessel is fit for a modern day princess.

Renaissance R8
The final ship in the R-Class series, R8 is as gracious and inviting as her older sisters. Virtually identical, these mid-size maidens are designed to carry fewer than 700 fortunate guests to some of the world's most interesting ports of call. Her interiors have the understated flavor of an English country manor or fine European hotel but with all the modern conveniences and amenities today's passengers desire.

Funky artwork doesn't scream out from the walls and there is no glitz and glitter to be found on board an R-Class ship. Inspired by the glamour of the glory days of ocean liners, the grand staircase appears to have been plucked off the Titanic. Quiet and tasteful public rooms offer the amenities of a much larger ship in an intimate, comfortable setting.

Dining, Lounges & Public Rooms
Four restaurants serve a variety of cuisine, all featuring temping choices to please every palate. In addition to the Club Restaurant, the open-seating main dining room, there are two reservations-required specialty restaurants, the American steakhouse-style Grill Restaurant and Italian Restaurant. It's refreshing that there is no charge for these upscale dining alternatives. After a long day of touring ashore, passengers who choose the Panorama Buffet for a quick evening meal find the same dishes that are on the menu in the Club Restaurant. All breads, ice cream, and desserts are prepared daily on board and are delicious. The room service menu is limited to continental breakfast and a few salads and sandwiches but was tasty and delivered promptly. 

Should you happen to arrive for dinner at a particularly busy time, the Club, Grill, and Italian Restaurants all have delightful lounges for pre-dinner cocktails. Other lounges include the Casino Bar and Horizons, the late-night spot for dancing and socializing. The variety of niches and seating areas in Horizons makes it the perfect spot for conversation and stewards pass through with tasty canapés and pizza bites to satisfy midnight hunger pangs. For a spectacular view over the bow, plan to visit Horizons during the day and take a peek through the binoculars mounted on polished brass stands.

R-Class ships have beautiful well-stocked libraries that are open around the clock and operate on the honor system. The R8 is no exception with its cushy seating, faux fireplace, and domed ceiling with trompe l'oeil painting. A wood paneled card room, Internet Cafe, reception foyer lounges, and on board shops round out the areas for passenger enjoyment.

Attire is always "country club" casual and service in all areas is polished and professional.

Entertainment & Activities
Production shows by the Paramount Performers, as well as magicians, comedians, and specialty acts are staged in the Cabaret Lounge. Bingo and Art Auctions are also held in this large, clubby-feeling two level lounge with a seating scheme that insures everyone has a good view of the stage.

The casino has a variety of slot machines and gaming tables, as well as a bar that features a nightly Martini Hour.

Health conscious cruisers will appreciate the well-equipped gym and jogging track. For relaxation, there are two whirlpools and a generous sized swimming pool with plenty of padded lounge chairs in the sun and shade. For a charge, the spa features a private sun deck with wood steamer chairs, a thallasotherapy pool, and utter tranquility. Separate men's and ladies' locker rooms each have a steam room and unique "fog" shower. Steiner Leisure offers a variety of salon and spa treatments for total pampering.

Following the "English country" decorative theme, all stateroom categories are fashioned in a style reminiscent of Laura Ashley designs and are supremely comfortable with generous wardrobe storage, a vanity/desk, and sitting area. Similar in layout, they range in size from 158 square feet (inside), 146-165 square feet (ocean view), and 216 square feet (with balcony, pictured) to the ultimate accommodations -- Owner's Suites that measure 786-962 square feet with wraparound balconies. The Owner's Suites are the best-kept secret in the cruise industry--they are often far less costly than expected and are supremely luxurious.

Amenities include television, personal safe, hair-dryer, full-length mirror, and basic toiletries (shampoo, body lotion, French milled soap, and shower cap). Bathrooms are quite small but contain adequate storage and a retractable clothes line in the shower (except in those fabulous Owner's Suites that have a bath-and-a-half and a jacuzzi tub!).

The Experience
Again, I found that Renaissance excels at organization. From check-in for our chartered flights to arrival at the ship, everything flowed smoothly. Lines on board were virtually non-existent and we seldom waited for anything.

On such a destination-intensive itinerary, it was a pleasure to have two sea days to regroup and relax. We eagerly anticipated each port, though, and found the shore excursion offerings to be varied and interesting with knowledgeable guides and clean, modern coaches. For those with wanderlust, Renaissance provides maps of each port city with descriptions of major attractions and information about currency, language, and shopping. Carry your daily Great Times program ashore--it contains the name and address of the local port agent should you need assistance. 

What you WILL find:

  • A minimum of annoying announcements

  • Low-key activities and entertainment

  • Fellow passengers in all age groups; primarily couples in the retirement age range (or close to it)

  • Firm beds that can be softened with the addition of a pad (added upon request)

  • A self-serve laundry room and excellent ship's laundry and dry cleaning service

  • Gratuities are automatically added to your account but can be adjusted as you deem appropriate

  • One of the best values afloat; R8's premium cruises to popular destinations are offered at near-budget fares

What you WON'T find:

  • Formal nights

  • A sauna

  • A lack of choice--this is a smaller ship with big ship options

  • Refrigerators in staterooms, except the Owner's Suites

Renaissance defined... " rebirth, renewal, resurgence."

A change in management often means trickle-down tweaking of policies and Renaissance Cruises has some new ones set to take effect in December 2001. Children age two and older will again be able to cruise on R-Class ships. Parents should be aware that special facilities for them will not be provided and they will be responsible for their entertainment. Smokers will also be welcome to light up in specified areas--the outside pool bar and a designated area of Horizons Lounge.

Also look for new menu items in upcoming months. And... a final rumor is that the R-Class ships will soon be "christened" with proper ship names.  Stay tuned!

"R8 Cruise Diary" -- Follow the Cruise Diva through Baltic Capitals on Renaissance Cruises' R8 from May 28-June 12, 2001.

Renaissance Cruises Reviews

(Cruise Diva participated in a press tour as the guest of 
Renaissance Cruises
to provide this report.)

Copyright © 2001 Linda Coffman
Photos--Courtesy of Dover Cruise Port, Renaissance Cruises & Mel Coffman