Europe by Voyager

By Jay Brunhouse
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by Jay Brunhouse

Giotto’s Campanile, completed in 1359, is clad in white, green and pink Tuscan marble. Photos: Brunhouse

I was honored to be invited for a prechristening shakedown cruise of the new Seven Seas Voyager under Captain Dag Dvergastein, and I was excited, too, because the 700-passenger cruise ship would be calling at ports where I could update sections of the sixth edition of my “Traveling on the Eurail Express,” which was released by Pelican Publishing in January.

The Voyager (log on to www.rssc. com) proved unabashedly magnificent. It is a well-designed, all-suite vessel with expansive suites and every one with a balcony. She boasts a space-per-guest ratio of 71.4 square feet per person, one of the highest of any cruise ship in the world, and a crew-to-guest ratio of 1:1.5. Everyone aboard gave her standing applause.

I was astonished when a polite young man announced to me, “Welcome aboard. I am your butler.” Imagine! Butlers are assigned to 88 suites of category B and above. All suites are equipped with interactive TV with free movie channels, e-mail, movies on demand, CD and DVD players, and wake-up and message-retrieval services. I appreciated the 400-DVD library as well as the book library covering four walls. During the shakedown cruise, I could see being installed Club.com, an Internet café with eight computers and a learning center with 21 computers.

Meals were splendid gastronomic events in all four dining venues, especially Signatures restaurant, which is dedicated to Le Cordon Bleu cuisine. A tablemate raved about the Voyager’s spa, which specializes in aromatherapy-based treatments. Service everywhere was exemplary, and the Voyager has a no-tipping policy.

At sea

Our first port, Catania, Italy, is notable for the Circumetna (FCE) train, which circles the foot of Mt. Etna but does not climb the smoking volcano. You board the diesel railcars of the FCE’s 68-mile, narrow-gauge line in Catania’s FCE terminal and curve around the crater of Mt. Etna in four hours.

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 laid waste to Herculaneum with a flood of hot mud, which sealed and protected whole buildings.

The regional tourist office has a new location beside track one of Catania Centrale Station. I picked up maps there, and although I could not find an Internet café I did stumble upon an Internet pizza parlor.

The next day, tenders took us ashore in Sorrento, Italy. I revisited the private Circumvesuviana Railroad, which runs half-hourly between Sorrento and Naples and conveniently calls at Pompeii, where visitors flock to visit the city ruined by falling ash from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

From Livorno (Leghorn), Italy, which is the terminus of Pisa’s San Giusto Airport-Florence airport train, I took the ship’s excursion to Florence. I was interested to learn what the massive reconstruction of Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station had wrought. The new shopping mall beneath the station is now lined with shops and an Internet café. The Airport Train has a comfortable office between platforms three and four, where you can check in for your flight from Pisa Airport.

In Nice, France, our final port of call, I revisited the Chemins de Fer de Provence, the scenic private railroad that runs up the Var Valley to Digne, and learned their new prices and discounts for seniors and holders of railpasses.

Where is she now?

The Voyager is now completing a Grand Asia Pacific Voyage with segments from Hong Kong to Beijing (March 11), Tokyo (March 21), Honolulu (March 29) and Los Angeles (April 7) before transiting the Panama Canal to Ft. Lauderdale (April 13). The segments feature well-known lecturers, political commentary and White House gossip.

A large fountain marks the entrance to Catania’s train station.

The Voyager will cross the Atlantic Ocean to Funchal, Madeira (April 27), and then enter the Mediterranean Sea for Monaco (May 5). Several of the Mediterranean cruises are already sold out, but you still can book Monaco to Athens (May 20) and Monaco to Dover (June 7).

For the summer, Voyager enters northern waters where passengers will enjoy the long daylight hours of the Midnight Sun. She sails for Copenhagen on June 18 and cruises the coastal waters of Norway above the Arctic Circle on June 27. She certainly does get around.

Two cruises that caught my eye because of the attractive ports of call (Tallinn and St. Petersburg) sail from Copenhagen on July 9 and return from Stockholm on July 16. All Aboard! indeed.

I thank Seven Seas for transatlantic transportation on Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) to Nice and extravagant hospitality, accommodations and dining aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. In Nice, they arranged a night’s stay for me at Le Meridien Hotel (www.lemeridien.com) at the end of the promenade in the center of town.

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises is the world’s largest luxury line as measured by berths and is consistently voted “Best Small Cruise Line.” It is part of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, which includes over 1,400 hotels, resorts, restaurants (such as T.G.I. Friday’s) and cruise ships.

“Traveling on the Eurail Express” is available at travel and online bookstores.

This year, prices for Eurail products remain unchanged from 2003, and most BritRail products are cheaper. In April, we’ll look at the new prices and advantages of using railpasses to get around Europe conveniently. All Aboard! Til next month.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

by Jay Brunhouse

Giotto’s Campanile, completed in 1359, is clad in white, green and pink Tuscan marble. Photos: Brunhouse

I was honored to be invited for a prechristening shakedown cruise of the new Seven Seas Voyager under Captain Dag Dvergastein, and I was excited, too, because the 700-passenger cruise ship would be calling at ports where I could update sections of the sixth edition of my “Traveling on the Eurail Express,” which was released by Pelican Publishing in January.

The Voyager (log on to www.rssc. com) proved unabashedly magnificent. It is a well-designed, all-suite vessel with expansive suites and every one with a balcony. She boasts a space-per-guest ratio of 71.4 square feet per person, one of the highest of any cruise ship in the world, and a crew-to-guest ratio of 1:1.5. Everyone aboard gave her standing applause.

I was astonished when a polite young man announced to me, “Welcome aboard. I am your butler.” Imagine! Butlers are assigned to 88 suites of category B and above. All suites are equipped with interactive TV with free movie channels, e-mail, movies on demand, CD and DVD players, and wake-up and message-retrieval services. I appreciated the 400-DVD library as well as the book library covering four walls. During the shakedown cruise, I could see being installed Club.com, an Internet café with eight computers and a learning center with 21 computers.

Meals were splendid gastronomic events in all four dining venues, especially Signatures restaurant, which is dedicated to Le Cordon Bleu cuisine. A tablemate raved about the Voyager’s spa, which specializes in aromatherapy-based treatments. Service everywhere was exemplary, and the Voyager has a no-tipping policy.

At sea

Our first port, Catania, Italy, is notable for the Circumetna (FCE) train, which circles the foot of Mt. Etna but does not climb the smoking volcano. You board the diesel railcars of the FCE’s 68-mile, narrow-gauge line in Catania’s FCE terminal and curve around the crater of Mt. Etna in four hours.

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 laid waste to Herculaneum with a flood of hot mud, which sealed and protected whole buildings.

The regional tourist office has a new location beside track one of Catania Centrale Station. I picked up maps there, and although I could not find an Internet café I did stumble upon an Internet pizza parlor.

The next day, tenders took us ashore in Sorrento, Italy. I revisited the private Circumvesuviana Railroad, which runs half-hourly between Sorrento and Naples and conveniently calls at Pompeii, where visitors flock to visit the city ruined by falling ash from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79.

From Livorno (Leghorn), Italy, which is the terminus of Pisa’s San Giusto Airport-Florence airport train, I took the ship’s excursion to Florence. I was interested to learn what the massive reconstruction of Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station had wrought. The new shopping mall beneath the station is now lined with shops and an Internet café. The Airport Train has a comfortable office between platforms three and four, where you can check in for your flight from Pisa Airport.

In Nice, France, our final port of call, I revisited the Chemins de Fer de Provence, the scenic private railroad that runs up the Var Valley to Digne, and learned their new prices and discounts for seniors and holders of railpasses.

Where is she now?

The Voyager is now completing a Grand Asia Pacific Voyage with segments from Hong Kong to Beijing (March 11), Tokyo (March 21), Honolulu (March 29) and Los Angeles (April 7) before transiting the Panama Canal to Ft. Lauderdale (April 13). The segments feature well-known lecturers, political commentary and White House gossip.

A large fountain marks the entrance to Catania’s train station.

The Voyager will cross the Atlantic Ocean to Funchal, Madeira (April 27), and then enter the Mediterranean Sea for Monaco (May 5). Several of the Mediterranean cruises are already sold out, but you still can book Monaco to Athens (May 20) and Monaco to Dover (June 7).

For the summer, Voyager enters northern waters where passengers will enjoy the long daylight hours of the Midnight Sun. She sails for Copenhagen on June 18 and cruises the coastal waters of Norway above the Arctic Circle on June 27. She certainly does get around.

Two cruises that caught my eye because of the attractive ports of call (Tallinn and St. Petersburg) sail from Copenhagen on July 9 and return from Stockholm on July 16. All Aboard! indeed.

I thank Seven Seas for transatlantic transportation on Lufthansa (www.lufthansa.com) to Nice and extravagant hospitality, accommodations and dining aboard the Seven Seas Voyager. In Nice, they arranged a night’s stay for me at Le Meridien Hotel (www.lemeridien.com) at the end of the promenade in the center of town.

Radisson Seven Seas Cruises is the world’s largest luxury line as measured by berths and is consistently voted “Best Small Cruise Line.” It is part of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, which includes over 1,400 hotels, resorts, restaurants (such as T.G.I. Friday’s) and cruise ships.

“Traveling on the Eurail Express” is available at travel and online bookstores.

This year, prices for Eurail products remain unchanged from 2003, and most BritRail products are cheaper. In April, we’ll look at the new prices and advantages of using railpasses to get around Europe conveniently. All Aboard! Til next month.