The sun comes up over the horizon, which is always such a gorgeous sight at sea – few luxury hotels can offer such a wake-up, says the gal. Seven Seas Mariner’s 350 suites are all with-balconies, with the interior sizes starting at 301 sq ft. Penthouse Suites, with 376 sq ft interiors, seem like double the size of most lines’ cabins, and there is so much storage that few can need all the drawers, or all the coat hangers, that are provided. Toiletries are Guerlain or Hermès, and there are Illy FrancisFrancis espresso machines.
Art in suites is, like some, but not all, of the wallhangings around the ship, oil slapped on with a palate knife to give a feeling of nature. I think the piece above my bedhead would look like Cape Cod, were I American, or Norfolk, to someone from England. Beds are really comfortable, by the way, and there are fibre optic reading lights, and European and US sockets, either side. Someone has thought of the customer, throughout. I had the great pleasure of lunching with Jason Montague, on boarding: he is the accountant who got into the cruise industry and became President and CEO of Regent Seven Seas this very September.
He listens, and he always wants to make things better. Luxury, he says, starts with the first telephone call to plan a trip, and he wants the world to know that his ships are for those who love luxury, who like interesting destinations, and appreciate exquisite food and service. Luxury is also having a work force that knows how to communicate with consumers – the 450 working aboard this ship are amazing at remembering names, and idiosyncracies and, bliss oh bliss, the butlers never get in the way. Interestingly, the Captain is an Italian woman, Serena Melani, who apparently, when ashore, loves riding pillion on her husband’s motorbike.
She is pretty extraordinary, not only for showing the distaff side of ship management, but for her general people skills. Instead of the industry-norm welcome cocktail, when passengers sit firmly in armchairs in a ship’s theatre and hardly meet anyone, here there is a ‘block party’. Take a glass from your suite and go out on to your corridor, where staff offer red and white wines and you meet your new neighbours, and the captain and officers manage to pass along all the corridors, a brilliant idea (luxury hotels, or at least resorts with long-stay guests, might think of devising something similar). And today, when coming back on the tender from yet another well-organised trip ashore, all included in the price, there was the Captain herself welcoming everyone back home.