The Royal Treatment
by Risa Feldman
“When deciding where to go and what to do, does the experience have wow potential?”
I plan vacations with a rating system called the wow factor. Translation? When deciding where to go and what to do, does the experience have wow potential? As such, when a vacation was much needed, I started planning a trip with my friend and Major League Baseball star, Bret Saberhagen—a two-time Cy Young award winner and World Series MVP. Our criteria? Travel somewhere international that offered a mix of relaxation and sightseeing, was no more than 10 days long, and of top note, had all the ingredients for wow factor. With many enticing options on the table, I decided to research luxury cruising. Bret and I had both cruised before, but never on a truly luxurious ship. In researching the finest cruise lines, Regent’s Seven Seas Explorer won out. It matched my “wish list” in terms of size, dining options, and ports: Valencia, Palma de Mallorca, Sete, Marseille, Monte Carlo, Portofino, Florence, and Rome.
We step aboard, and I immediately realize I’ve made a smart decision. With a glass of champagne in hand, Bret and I check out the floating hotel. Each deck is beautiful, with majestic chandeliers and inspiring art work. Perhaps most enticing is the enormous Canyon Ranch spa and its infinity pool. My first wow occurs when we enter our magnificent suite. The bathroom is made of marble and stone; the bed linens are 1000-thread count. Sliding glass doors span the living room and bedroom and open to a huge balcony. I choose this category suite for its round-the-clock personal butler service (why not indulge?). Having a butler for a week at sea is a true luxury. Clothes are pressed right before wearing, and a perfectly chilled glass of fine champagne is served within minutes of asking for one—pampering at its peak.
For me, dining aboard cruise ships can be hit or miss. Seven Seas Explorer changed that. Bret is a meat-and-potatoes guy, whereas I—a host of Epicurean Exploring— look for authentic, locally-sourced dishes when traveling. Pacific Rim, Chartreuse, and Prime 7 are the ship’s exclusive restaurants, each with a uniquely elegant theme. Compass Rose and La Veranda are the main dining rooms, with a more casual vibe. Not only are the dishes innovative and exceptionally prepared, they’re matched by seamless service from the staff. And as a self-proclaimed wine snob, Bret was thrilled to find such an extensive wine list. We sip Belle Glos and Caymus each night. On the night of our first evening meal, we opt for a nightcap in one of the stylish lounges. As we pass the theater, where the evening’s live show is performed, we peek in. We’re lured in by the exceptional talent and watch the show in its entirety, which then becomes our go-to every night.
The Seven Seas Explorer includes impressive complimentary shore excursions, with enough choices to please discerning travel types. While anchoring in Marseille, we visited Châteaneuf-du-Pape (in the Southern Rhone Valley), for a private wine tasting. To gain a different perspective of the incredible coastline of Portofino, we sailed around the island, before stepping off to explore its charm. In Monte Carlo, we compromised: Cocktails at the renowned Hotel de Paris Hotel (my choice) followed by a track-side walk of the Grand Prix of Monaco, which was taking place the following week (Bret’s choice). The nutshell? Regent Seven Seas Cruises had wow factor to spare. It exceeded every expectation, was worth every dollar spent, and made a former Kansas City Royal baseball player feel royal again.
Top 5 Mediterranean Port Excursions
AIX-EN-PROVENCE: CHEESE AND WINE
Explore Aix-en-Provence with a private guide. Highlights include the Holy Savior Cathedral (which took 10 centuries to build), and the Mousse Fountain, where the Romans bathed. As the birthplace of Paul Cezanne, Provence houses his former studio space, where he painted “The Woman with the Coffee Pot.” Stop at La Fromagerie du Passage, and sample local cheese and wine pairings.
MALLORCA: TASTE OF THE PAST Navigate the circular Bellver Castle, which has amazing views of Palma. Learn about the agricultural traditions in the Pla de Sant Jordi region at 18th-century manor house Els Calderes. In Montuiri Village, watch local artisans create unique Majorca pearls using a time-honored technique.
CINQUE TERRE: A CRUISE TO CINQUE TERRE
Nestled between two promontories, Cinque Terre is located on five miles of rocky coastline in one of the most pristine areas in the Mediterranean. Five small neighboring villages—Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso—are terraced across the coast cliffs and have winding footpaths with arresting views of the sea. Take a short boat ride to Vernazza, where you’ll learn the history of this storied little town.
KOTOR: HISTORIC KOTOR & BUDVA-KILIMS STORY
Drive to Budva, one of the oldest settlements in the Balkans. View historical churches, 15th-century ramparts, and charming squares with small shops. You’ll visit a shop that specializes in kilims, a special style of woolen carpet that originated thousands of years ago, followed by a private guided tour of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
SANTORINI: UNIQUE WELLNESS EXPERIENCE IN SANTORINI
Hike up a volcanic crater on the uninhabited island of Nea Kameni and swim in its thermally heated waters. Take in views of Nea Kameni, formed by two volcanic eruptions in the early 1700s. Post swim, your skin will be glowing with the minerals and warm temperatures—a perfect warm up to a follow-up yoga session.