Day 6 – Tuesday, June 18 – Regent Cruise Lines, Seven Seas Mariner
What’s not to love about starting the day with an endless breakfast buffet in a gorgeous European hotel venue and meeting interesting new acquaintances as you size them up for ‘worthiness’ as potential travel companions prior to boarding your Mediterranean cruise? Well today was, after six months of planning, preparation, organization and daydreaming, finally the culmination of all that plotting. After 35 years of marriage, our ship had come to the Port of Monte Carlo – literally – and acting more like newlywed honeymooners which we were certainly not, we found ourselves giddy with excitement about boarding that cruise ship at long last.
We got our itineraries for the day at the Regent Cruise Line sponsored group breakfast which basically divided everyone up into bus groups and assigned hotel departure times. It was a very smooth and organized process, and since I do this type of thing for a living I could find no fault with any of the advance planning, so that was a very good thing. Husband and I made good use of the little time we had to fill between checking out and our scheduled bus departure and took a leisurely stroll from the hotel to the waterfront, passing the gorgeous and restful Princess Grace garden plus a very busy helipad along the short route. Since this was pretty much in the central part of Monte Carlo, one could only imagine the daily amount of helicopter traffic loaded with the rich and famous that ocean front landing pad would see. And as if that wasn’t enough excitement in one area, adjacent to the constant landing and taking off of numerous helicopters was another oddity of sorts, or at least one you don’t stumble upon too often, and that was a training school for motorcycle enthusiasts. Most likely it was more for tourists who are fond of renting scooters and cycles to ride the Riviera, but still it was fun to watch them train and maneuver on their oceanside track while catching another chopper coming in for a landing right behind them. All in a typical Monte Carlo day, one presumes.
Back at the hotel again, we were boarded onto one of the first busses departing for our Regent Cruise ship which ended up being much closer to the hotel than we imagined. It was docked in the world famous port of Monte Carlo, and that was just a quick journey up and over the mountain road that we could see from our hotel but not beyond. So it was a pleasant and exciting surprise to get that first glimpse of what would be our home for the next eleven days and nights as the bus churned its way up and over the big hill allowing us a panoramic view of the harbor as well as the center of Monte Carlo, which up to this point we hadn’t seen. And to say our ship, the Seven Seas Mariner, fit nicely into this yacht harbor would be an understatement. Yes, it is an ocean going cruise ship with a passenger load just short of 700, but next to the über luxurious mega-long private yachts in this harbor ours looked like just ‘one of the gang’, so to speak. Only on the French Riviera, oui?
Once the boarding formalities were completed (and by formalities I’m referring to the welcome champagne, okay?), we were directed for lunch to our first of many extraordinary al fresco dining experiences over the course of this cruise; each one unique and memorable as much for the stunning vistas we enjoyed at every port as well as the ridiculously exceptional food. But here in the port of the Monaco Yacht Club (somebody pinch me, please!), what I’m remembering most is the feeling of sovereignty and exploration that the scene presented to us that day. Yes, to one side of us was the Grimaldi family palace, or Palais Princier (rather nice ring to that, don’t you think?), and to the other, Casino Royale (yes, please tell Mr. Bond I’m here today). Then there was that ‘little place’ that Jacques Cousteau made famous, le Musée Océanographique, that we observed while seeing a bit of le passage de la Grande Prix. True, this vista was just a little bit overwhelming in scope to absorb during one brief lunch. But to help us get acclimated to our luxurious and world famous surroundings were an international array of exceptional porters, wait staff, and cruise personnel positioned and trained to anticipate our every need while we settled in, which in my case involved never letting that glass of welcome champagne go empty. (I didn’t want to appear rude by refusing those refills. . .)
When our cabin was ready, we met Henry, the first of many of my shipboard loves. He was our Pilipino personal cabin steward who even had his own assistant. Sigh. Not only were the two of them so adorable with their starchily pressed uniforms including white gloves and steward caps, but they took great pride in showing us around the cabin pointing out the details, amenities and conveniences that we would come to love and in fact attach ourselves to within the first five minutes of living ‘the good life’ here in cabin #617. However did I live before without a daily delivery (on silver tray!) of fresh fruit? Why can’t my slightly used, oversized Turkish bath towels (squeee!) at home always be immediately exchanged for clean ones at least twice a day? Fresh flowers on my lighted vanity? Turn down service that includes a change of pillow linen (in case we napped and soiled ours), chocolates with daily meditative quotes, and buckets (silver, of course) with fresh ice along with clean drink glasses and stir rods left alongside for our nightcap-drinking pleasure. Check. Check. Check. Like I said, easy to get used to and then crash! So hard to live without. And did I mention the walk in closet with both wooden and padded hangers, plush robes with his and hers slippers, and, ah yes, le piéce de résistance, our walk out balcony with proper deck furniture so we could watch the Mediterranean world motor by in comfort? Well, now I did, and now you know a little bit about some of the mighty fine cabin amenities on board this Regent Cruise Ship. And, it only got better from there.
After ‘we’ unpacked (why yes, thank you Henry!) and participated in the mandatory muster drill it was time to really get serious about this cruise. We did our first ship walkabout and after much exploration then returned, exhausted (hard to believe, I know) to our room so we could pop the anniversary champagne and enjoy the fresh canapés that had just been delivered while gazing in awe at the view from our balcony of the 7PM port departure from Monte Carlo. Adieu, French Riviera!
During our advance planning stages back home, we had wisely made the decision to confirm dinner reservations at one of the gourmet restaurants on board for this first night. We figured it would be a grand beginning to our daily quest of top-this-celebration, and Signatures Restaurant did not disappoint. It was elegant, intimate, and uber gourmet at each level. Course after course; wine after wine. Husband went for fresh fish, and I chose lamb chops. What’s not to love about all that? We followed up that food and beverage extravaganza by our first of many evenings spent in one or more of the ship’s nightclubs and lounges. Tonight was the opening welcome performance of the shipboard entertainers, so we saw that show in the theatre then moved on for our own dancing pleasure in the Stars Night Club. Or was it the Horizon Lounge? Or was it both? Yes, it was that kind of night for us, and it did set the pace that would be our routine for every night that followed. In fact, it’s quite possible that husband and I were the only two people who could honestly say that they danced each and every night in one place or another on board this cruise!
Returning to our cabin at close to 1AM, we had no trouble settling comfortably in to what would also become another nightly routine for us – sleeping with the sliding glass door open so we could hear the music of the ocean’s constant movement. Unlike other larger cruise ships we’ve been on that you’re liable to hear the echoes of late night party music with your patio door open, this was glorious, peaceful silence interrupted only by the slicing of the surf as the ship’s bow met the occasional large wave. It was our own version of finding Mediterranean heaven each night, and yes, sleep came gently and easily, just as it should. A very serene ohmmmmm. . .
NOTE TO SELF: Must get one of those ocean wave CD’s to lull me to sleep at home!
And even though sleeping with the curtains open meant we were also awake with the sunrise, what’s not to love about that Mediterranean cruise perk?