Ship Review by Mike Coleman, February 2006
It may be a way of life for the elite few among us, but when two 40-something brothers are afforded week-long butler service on the ultra-luxurious Regent Seven Seas Cruises Voyager (formerly Radisson Seven Seas), we knew that our lives would never be the same.
While the aristocratic set may not officially welcome us into their ranks just yet, we did do our best to become chartered members. And while this all sounds decadent beyond belief, we faced an incredible quandary as soon as we met our living and breathing butler for the very first time.
What exactly does one do with a butler?
“Not to worry,” said Voyagers Butler, Laxmesh Pednekar. “I get asked that all the time.”
To put us at ease, Pednekar offered what the best butler’s do to break the ice with their new employers: “Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?”
With those simple words, we were off to a flying start.
The Butler’s Tale
The smartly-dressed Pednekar did not simply put on a crisp tie, vest and slacks and proclaim he was a butler. Nor did the line at the time of this writing it was Radisson Seven Seas Cruises known today as Regent – simply promote a guest-friendly employee through the ranks and give him the title of butler, either.
It’s a highly-regarded calling and – as you may have observed just a few years into a new century – it’s men like Pednekar, of Indian descent, who have risen to the top of their profession.
He received a degree in Hotel Management from Mumbai University before learning his craft in Great Britain, where he trained at the prestigious Guild of English Butlers.
It wasn’t long before RSSC came calling. The six-star luxury line is the first and only cruise line with a Guild membership.
The days of the snobbish, elderly English gentlemen pouring tea, however, are gone. They have been replaced by extremely polite, travel-savvy young men like Pednekar ,whose sole purpose – at least on the high seas – is to make your cruise experience both enjoyable and memorable.
The service aboard the spacious Voyager, from bow to stern, was outstanding. The ship, in fact, has one of the highest crew-to-guest ratios at sea (one crew member to every 1.6 guests), but retiring to a penthouse cabin and its teak-decked balcony with your very own butler just steps away was a truly unique, if not a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
While we basked in the glow of Voyager’s luxurious onboard life, it was Pednekar’s prompt 5:15 p.m. delivery of drinks, canapes, shrimp cocktail and his pleasant demeanor that we most looked forward to each day.
We weren’t the only guests enjoying the spoils. Pednekar was responsible for providing service to nine other suites. His peers – 10 other butlers on this voyage – each looked after a total of 10 suites themselves.
“We are here for our guests,” he said. “If they forget a pair of socks, a cufflink or tie, we’ll find a way to replace it. If a guest needs an onboard reservation for dinner or a spa treatment, we handle it. Or if our guests require a special dinner reservation in port and seats to a sold-out performance, we’ll find a way to get it done. “It’s truly a pleasure to serve you,” he told us.
No, Mr. Pednekar. The pleasure was ours.
How Suite It Is
Affluent travelers who yearn for a sophisticated cruise experience need to look no further than the 700-guest Voyager.
This modern marvel will delight cruise travelers at every turn. It’s the world’s second, all-suite, all-balcony cruise ship and guests onboard will immediately be struck by both the spaciousness and intimacy she offers.
At 46,000 tons, Voyager is certainly capable of handling more guests for a ship her size but that’s not what the former Radisson owners had in mind when it launched her in March of 2003.
The line sought to create a memorable cruise experience for guests by offering an elegant and un-hurried onboard atmosphere complemented by high service standards, from butlers and cabin stewardesses to servers in their four distinctly different dining venues.
Add the ocean-view suites, ranging in size from 356 to 1,403 square feet and a host of amenities – individual temperature control, king-sized beds, walk-in closets, large marble-appointed bathrooms with separate glass shower stalls, full bathtubs, Aveda toiletries, cotton bathrobes, hair dryer, television, CD/DVD player, in-suite bar setup upon embarkation, personal safe and telephone – and the heady company blueprint is now a successful, working reality.
Voyager, whether intended or not, has become a destination in itself. While my week-long Western Caribbean sailing aboard the ship featured port calls in Key West, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, it was the relaxed onboard ambience and enjoyable banter with crew and guests that my brother and I looked forward to the most.
Look for cruise director Glenn Younger to set the mood early. Social hostess Miranda Meir, butler Laxmesh Pednekar, cabin stewardess Marilyn Reyes and head waiter Louis Teixeira were among the many crew members whose professionalism spoke volumes.
But, let’s face it. A six-star luxury cruise likely matters most in the culinary and entertainment departments. Voyager does not disappoint.
Compass Rose is the attractive main dining room and features a variety of excellent options. La Veranda is the ship’s casual eatery and is as good as any bistro at sea. Reservations for the 110-seat Signatures restaurant, dedicated to Le Cordon Bleu cuisine and Latitudes, featuring a burst of exotic Asian flavors, are required. Book early, however, as each specialty restaurant is popular among guests. There is no additional charge for enjoying Voyager’s alternative restaurants.
Excellent fare is also featured, midday, on the pool deck. Still hungry? Guests can also dine in-suite, 24 hours a day.
Complimentary wine with dinner, shipboard gratuities, the in-stateroom/suite bar set-up, juices and soft drinks are included in your cruise fare on all sailings.
Look for Voyager to keep her guests enthralled after the dining experience.
Production shows in the two-tier Constellation Theater and incomparable Welsh comedian Kenny Smiles, who has been making onboard guests laugh to the point of tears for over a decade now, are not to be missed.
The ship features cozy lounges, a pool, two whirlpools, teak-decks, spa, beauty and laundry services, health club, golf driving range, boutiques, library, computer learning center, e-mail capability, lectures, enrichment classes, casino and gentlemen hosts.
The Voyager is presently in the midst of a 108-night world cruise calling on 45 ports in 28 nations on five continents, including a call on Libya.
This summer, look for eight, seven-night sailings aboard Voyager between Stockholm and Copenhagen on July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 along with Aug. 5, 12 and 19. Each voyage includes two onboard overnights in St. Petersburg to allow guests the time to explore Peter the Great’s famed Amber Room at Peterhof, the opulent Hall of Mirrors at Catherine’s Palace and the Hermitage’s renowned art collections. Additionally, guests may opt to participate in a special day flight to Moscow, with tours of The Kremlin, Cathedral Square, Red Square and Lenin’s Mausoleum.
Providing rare and often eye-popping shoreside events is nothing new for the line. In April of 2005, Voyager guests were treated to an ultra-exclusive private dinner inside the pillars of the ancient temple of Luxor, Egypt.
In 2007, RSSC has picked Voyager to ply the global waters again, this time on a 111-night voyage featuring 34 destinations in 26 countries on five continents. She’ll depart from Ft. Lauderdale in January.
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