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W Hinman

Age: 50

Occupation:consultant

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Regent Seven Seas

Ship: Radisson Diamond (sold)

Sailing Date: n/a

Itinerary: Southern Caribbean

Hard to commend RSSC enough. After years of dreaming of cruising, we took this one to celebrate a special birthday. Expectations were high, especially seeing the 6-star rating for Radisson Seven Seas Cruises & "Best Small Ship Line 2003" from Conde Nast.

Every, yes every, expectation was exceeded: Outstanding & friendly service, impeccable accommodations, an enjoyable itinerary, incredibly delicious and well-prepared food, and an overall wonderful experience for my wife and me.

RSSC couldn't get us to San Juan in time for embarkation, so they flew us down a day early and gave us a suite in a four-diamond Wyndham, including all transfers and breakfast. That really made the trip even more special - a nice time to get in, relax, and be ready to board the next day after a nice night's sleep. It made the fly-cruise package even more of a deal, too!

(Sadly, US Airways still hasn't learned how to motivate their crew members to act like they actually appreciate having you on board the plane. Flying to the port of departure, and returning home, were NOT the fun parts of our vacation - but that's USAir, not Radisson Seven Seas. I get the same feeling every time I fly USAir domestically for business, too. Next time, we'll see if we can get another airline to connect to our cruise!)

On the other hand, the crew onboard the Diamond go out of their way to please their guests. Every single interaction with the staff was pleasant - warm, genuine smiles and eager yet never overbearing efforts to serve us. Room service always came on time, hot and tasty and nicely set up on a tablecloth in our suite. Meals were always memorable, especially the Italian extravaganza at Don Vito's. Other reviews had said don't miss it - we completely agree. Luigi and his staff were incredible, and Gerry and Danille (the entertainers) were so fun! In the Grand Dining Room, shrimp, lobster, notably excellent filet mignons & sirloins were perfect. Gilbert & Albert, in particular, made dining a carefree, excellently timed, and relaxing experience. We felt neither rushed nor dragged out - just the right timing and everything done just right. Sipping coffee, pretending we still had room for dessert, and taking in the beautiful room - well, each evening was fabulous.

Some reviews I read sounded like there were problems with staterooms. What problems? Ours was tastefully appointed, larger than I had expected, and kept in perfect condition up to three times a day by Nataly and Deo, our stewards. The shower was ample with plenty of hot water and outstanding soaps and shampoos. The big, fluffy towels were always replaced before we needed them again. We loved strolling on deck, watching a show, or going ashore, but got to where we craved escaping back to our cozy cabin and enjoying the great view from inside or outside. The port-side balconies, by the way, had the best views in the ports we visited - facing the harbors instead of the docks or the towering megaships that often pulled in beside us. The twin hulls of the Diamond gave a soft, rocking ride as we motored from port to port each night. And we never, ever heard anything from any of our neighbors around or above us. That's better than any hotel we've ever stayed in! Good, first-run movies were available - but who had time or interest to watch much TV with so much scenery, activities, and entertainment to enjoy.

Speaking of the islands, we enjoyed each one. If asked, we would have stayed on board the ship for St. Kitts except for the fun scenic railway trip there. The rest of that island is still pretty poor and not quite ready for tourism. St. Barths is easy to drive around in a rented car - as long as you don't need to find a place to park when you want to swim, snorkel, or eat or shop! Could have just stayed on board and enjoyed all the water toys that the Diamond put in the water that day! St. Maarten is primed and ready for cruisers, from the Disney-like dock facilities to the mega-shopping opportunities up and down the four main drags of Philipsburg. We caught a ferry from downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, and went right over to our favorite St. Johns. Rented a car, enjoyed great swimming, snorkeling, and some shopping before easily returning in plenty of time for dinner on the Diamond as the Virgin Islands drifted off into the sunset. Wow, what a great time!

The troupe of four young entertainers put on classy, fun shows two nights, and an Irish pianist dazzled everyone the other two nights. We didn't, but others really seemed to enjoy the attractive casino facilities and late-night bar with a great duo singing and playing for dancing, listening, and fun. Cruise Director Giuseppe was a pure delight! And so were Tour Directors Gerlinda and Ursula.

Afternoon tea included real scones (even if not clotted cream) and other goodies. Twenty-four hour room service filled in any hunger pangs (or cravings) with ease. Breakfast up on the top deck was terrific - if the buffet wasn't enough, there was a fine menu to choose from. I had to get used to someone coming up and taking my plate from me to carry it to any table of our choice! And the coffee - so rich and strong and always fresh and hot. Let's not even talk about the croissants and other fresh-baked goods!

We only had to work one time - packing up to go home. The rest of the time, the Diamond's remarkable crew took such care of us that re-entry into the real world has been really tough.

Cudos to the Radisson Diamond - she and her smiling, pleasing crew made our five-day cruise vacation a dream come true. We would go again in a heart-beat, on the Diamond or any other Radisson Seven Seas ship.

(We wondered if any cruise lines have implemented the kind of route progress live tracking that airlines like Delta offer as you cross the ocean? It would have been fun to have watched where we were among the islands.)

Our recommendation of the Radisson Diamond is without hesitation or reservation. It was excellent in every way.

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