Travel: What it’s like to sail for 33 days on a luxury cruise ship with a private butler

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When we say that our recent cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises was typified by “going to great lengths,” we mean it in two ways. One is just how exceptional the service is — it frequently goes above-and-beyond the call of duty (more on that in a minute). The other meaning is that we sailed for 33 days in the Caribbean on Regent Seven Seas’ 718-guest Mariner.

One of our primary goals was to examine and experience what specific benefits might be obtained in an extended cruise of this length — not your average 10- or 12-day itinerary. In fact, shorter cruises are sinking in popularity, with many travel agents noticing that their clients are booking longer and longer cruises, to get a headier dose of Vitamin Sea.

  • One of the suites available on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Mariner. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

  • Harvest Caye is a 75-acre island off the coast of Belize that is owned by Norweigian Cruise Line, which works with the Belizean government to protect the island’s wildlife. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

  • The library aboard the Mariner often features a crackling fire. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

  • On-deck activities aboard the Mariner include a putting green. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

  • The Mariner’s Penthouse Suite is shown. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

  • Guests can recline and watch the waves at Harvest Caye’s Beach Villa Porch. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers 33-day sailings around the Caribbean on the 718-passenger Mariner. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises)



“Since the pandemic, now that people are traveling again, they are going all out,” said Lori Foster, owner of Dream Vacations Luxury Travel Associates in San Clemente, who is a member of Travel Leaders, a prestigious association of top travel advisors. “People are booking long cruises of 25-plus days, but World Cruises are even more popular right now. While travelers might have put off a trip for a few years, maybe until retirement, they’re telling me, ‘I want to do it now.’ World Cruises usually average three to four months in length, but one cruise line is offering 274 days in a single voyage! The amazing thing is that they sell out in a matter of days.”

So we decided to “take the plunge” and see what a L-O-N-G cruise would be all about. Would the experience be repetitive? Would it be difficult to be away from home so long? Would the onboard experience lose its luster after two weeks or so? The answer to these questions is a resounding “No.”

Almost every day, the ship was filled with wonderful new discoveries — whether we were at sea or in port. No two days were alike, with new and varied entertainment, engaging enrichment learning, and a wealth of enjoyable experiences. To us, the ship is so beautiful that it could serve as the destination itself. We were consistently impressed with the quality of the attentive service, which almost always went the extra-mile with peel-me-a-grape perfection.

Trust us, even an extended itinerary passes far too quickly. After spending 33 days, there still weren’t enough hours in the day to absorb all that was offered, and to see everything there was to see. During the last week we were still discovering private nooks and crannies, including a crackling fireplace in the Library and the iced Frappuccino lattes in the Coffee Corner.

Becoming acclimated to new surroundings can easily result in falling into a pattern of following your own familiar routes on the ship each day, versus exploring parts unseen. This can shortchange the overall experience, so we made sure to use the extended time to fully experience what every part of the ship had to offer, from stem to stern.

We discovered that even sailing for 33 days wasn’t enough. We compared this cruise to a 10-day trip, and this is what typically happens on such cruises:  Following a typically brutal air travel experience, it can often take two to three days to rest up and become acclimated to the ship, and by day four you’re getting mid-cruise or disembark preparation notices. (No, not fun). When you are on a truly luxury cruise ship, you don’t want to deal with thoughts of disembarking. You want to extend the time — and then extend some more.

Of several advantages to cruising for a long period of time, one is that a longer cruise gives you the opportunity to make and cultivate sincere new friends, versus mere acquaintances. In our travels, we have met many World Cruise passengers who became friends with other World Cruisers — and now they schedule their trips together. We have even met single folks who met other singles on a World Cruise – and now they are an “item” who cruise the world together.

It’s the same for us — longer cruises really give you ample time to get to know others — the passengers and the crew — and you make sincere friends. You even have access to the performers, and it’s always fun to meet them for coffee or dinner, where you have easy access to get to know them and hear their showbiz stories.

Spoiler alert: Yes, on Regent, you will be spoiled. Just one example: We met a World Cruise couple who upon boarding, visited the Mariner bar, and ordered a glass of scotch. The ship’s inventory only included The Macallan, and this couple casually commented on this to the Food & Beverage Director. Faster than you can say, “single-malt,” one of the crew disembarked and bought a bottle of The Glenlivet just for this couple. Now, that’s stellar service.

Regent’s Mariner holds about 700 guests — so you have plenty of space — and you are definitely NOT on a mass-market ship with thousands of others (and a Jumbotron on the pool deck). That is a luxury in itself. But there are other things that really pamper. You can have your sheets changed daily. If you prefer a special menu for a celebration, just let the Executive Chef know what you would like served, and it’s a done deal. We requested a special anniversary dinner, and were served spa cuisine mushroom soup (which we ordered throughout the cruise); no-fat ratatouille; chicken cacciatore, and — the piece de resistance — a low-calorie carrot cake made, at our request, with pumpkin puree instead of oil. It truly was even better than the full-freight version.

Returning to our cabin, we discovered it decorated with balloons, towel swans, rose petals, and Happy Anniversary signs. In fact, the only menu item that wasn’t always perfect was Deb’s daily order of diet lemonade made with water, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, Splenda, and no ice or seeds. So simple, yet it came many different ways — but easily fixed.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, you are also in luck — Regent has one of the largest plant-based menus at sea. Do you like a cocktail or mocktail? Regent’s all-inclusive product includes top-shelf spirits, along with some amazing champagne and dessert wines. All excursions are also free on Regent, along with free Business Class airfare. Our Penthouse suite also delivered — 446 square feet with a balcony, walk-in closet, binoculars, plush robes, satin hangers, daily canapes (we chose fresh raspberries at 5 p.m. daily) and a TV with a wealth of movies and programs.

So what does all this cost? For a cruise similar to ours, Veranda suite berths start at $12,899 while the Penthouse suite starts at $16,599.

Our Penthouse suite came with butler service — and our butler (who actually was too overly attentive at times) attended to a variety of items for us, from mending clothing, to mailing postcards, to purchasing graham crackers especially for us, to doing all of our washing and ironing. Beds even come with a pillow menu.

We also enjoyed the nightly entertainment. While the production shows are not Broadway-bound anytime soon, other performers should be. Super pianist Linda Gentille (who resides in Indian Wells) gave mesmerizing piano performances, as did Assistant Cruise Director Richard Rubin. (He is a combination of Woody Allen, Liberace, Victor Borge and Groucho Marx) Some of the comedians also had some difficult nights without much laughter — it just goes to show you that a cruise-ship audience can be very tough. But comedian Mark Palmer rose to the occasion with brilliant observations.

While the Mariner itself could serve as a destination, there were also plenty of shore excursions, and they’re all free. One of our favorites was a visit to Harvest Caye, a private island in Belize. When is the last time you had an entire island to yourself?

We explored this 75-acre oasis that lets you immerse yourself in natural beauty, culture and wildlife. It is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line, which partnered with the government of Belize to establish the Harvest Caye Conservation Foundation (HCCF) in 2016, a nongovernmental organization whose primary goal is to promote wildlife conservation. Here, at this manicured beach resort, you can enjoy the pristine sands, ziplining (great fun), and snorkeling the world’s second-largest barrier reef. As part of NCL’s efforts to preserve wildlife and further education, Harvest Caye is also home to a wildlife sanctuary under the care of Tony Garel, an esteemed Belizean naturalist and wildlife expert.

We also enjoyed a rum tasting in Antigua, where we learned that most locals pay as much as $1,800 for just one feathered Carnival costume! There was also a wonderful snorkel excursion in Dominica, to a special bubbly-water place called “Champagne.” And there were plenty more, all complimentary, too numerous to mention.

But back on board, Deb’s all-time favorite thing to do was to park her posterior in the ship’s clean saltwater pool. The smartest thing she packed was a pink tube, which our butler inflated. As she bobbed around in the bubbly water, she aimed to be mindful, and to be in the moment, to be grateful, and to be here now. And she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. We spoke to a seasoned World Cruise guest one afternoon around 4 p.m., and asked him what he was doing for dinner that evening.

“To tell you the truth,” he said with a big smile. “When I’m on a long cruise, I don’t think that far ahead.”