By Fran Golden

Cruising the Med is a comfortable, social experience with Regent Seven Seas Cruises. And many luxury accoutrements are included to make your cruise even more enjoyable.

RSSC_VoyagerCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

On the first day onboard the Seven Seas Mariner my pal, Denise, and I were greeted in our suite with an iced bottle of French champagne. We took the accompanying flutes out to the cushioned chairs on our balcony and toasted ourselves with much of the bottle, as the 700-guest ship sailed out to sea. My friend, who had never cruised before, had a smile for miles.

Checking on us, our amiable suite steward asked if champagne was our preferred drink (your suite is stocked with your choice of adult beverages). Yes, we said, bring on the bubbles.

And so bottles started arriving. One for St. Tropez, two for Monte Carlo – we could not keep up with the generosity and joked that we didn't need the ship, we could float away on the bubbly.

RSSC ChampagneCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

What we did not receive is a bill. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is truly all-inclusive. Fine wine and spirits and specialty dining are included in your cruise fare along with unlimited shore excursions, airfare and gratuities. Beginning in 2016, the line is throwing in free unlimited Internet too.

This pay-upfront system adds to an ambience that is both cushy and egalitarian.

Everyone onboard the Mariner – and sister ship Seven Seas Voyager – stays in a large suite with balcony. Everyone has the luxury of space to hang out sans crowds. Everyone can drink endless champagne or whatever else they desire, including fine wines.

But don't bother packing the fancy duds. On Regent ships you never have to dress up beyond what you'd wear to the country club. Everything is about being comfortable.

Together with the 490-guest Navigator of the Seas, where everyone stays in spacious suites, most with balconies, the Regent ships visit some 350 destinations around the world. This breadth attracts guests who are well heeled, well traveled, well educated and often brand-dedicated – many guests are longtime Regent loyalists, most over age 55.

Champagne aside, included shore excursions are perhaps the biggest benefit of Regent's all-inclusive milieu. There are several in every port.

FlorenceCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

The idea is something for everyone. On our 10-day Celestial Sojourn from Lisbon to Rome, options in the various ports included bike tours, wine tastings and visits to artist’s studios in addition to more standard see-the-sights coach tours.

A benefit of shared excursions is quality time with your fellow travelers, opportunity to hear about their lives while, say, pumping pedals in historic Lucca or sipping wine in Provence. Regent further enhances this social aspect of cruising with its own version of a Block Party.

One of the first evenings of your cruise you're invited to bring a wine glass into the hallway so you can meet your neighbors. Stewards pour wine and serve canapés, the Captain makes the rounds, and the ship turns into one big social event. It’s great fun and a wonderful way to make new friends and perhaps renew old acquaintances.

In the ship's public rooms, such as the Observation Lounge, with its cool ebony and ivory decor and views, schmoozing is further encouraged and there is often live music too. But these ships also have space where you can spread out and be alone.

RSSC PoolCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

On a warm summer day, lounging in alcoves separated by billowing curtains on the spacious teak pool deck has you thinking you may be on your own private yacht.

Watching a DVD borrowed from the library while cocooning in the plush Slumber Bed in your elegant and roomy suite is another heavenly pastime.

For those who want to keep active, Regent serves up a classic roster of activities including ballroom dancing, interesting lectures and the popular Teatime Trivia brings the allure of tea and chocolate cake before you compete.

There are some onboard treats you can pay extra for such as seaweed body wraps and other treatments at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. But there are also many complimentary diversions, including fitness classes, paddle tennis and golf-driving cages.

RSSC_FoodCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

RSSC_DessertCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

Fine food and wine tend to be a shared passion of Regent guests. Meals in the lovely, windowed, open-seating Compass Rose dining room, and the more intimate, reservations-required French and steakhouse restaurants, come with charming waiters offering advice on what to select – including fresh seafood options. In addition to always-available great steaks, the kitchen will prepare anything you want (including recipes from home) with 24 hours notice.

Complimentary wine pours include such surprises as nicely balanced white Bordeaux, the wine steward carefully describing the nuances.

You'll want to do breakfast and lunch at the buffet-style La Veranda or the Pool Grill so you can snag a table outdoors. At night, La Veranda becomes a casual Italian restaurant serving tasty pasta perfectly al dente.

Not to be missed on warm-weather itineraries is the outdoor BBQ on the pool deck, which morphs into one big and fun dance party – guests on our sailing joining a conga line to "The Locomotion."

RSSC TheatreCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

The most popular nighttime entertainment takes place in the two-story theater where show productions feature a cast of singers and dancers, a live orchestra and sometimes even aerial theatrics. And while some guests do the late-night casino, disco and karaoke scene, most retreat to their suites. After all, there are bottles of champagne to drink!

Coming Attractions

In July 2016, Regent debuts its new flagship, the 750-guest Seven Seas Explorer, which the line is unabashedly promoting as the "world's most luxurious ship."

Regent Suite Living areaCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

The all-suite, all-balcony Explorer has the most fancy suite afloat – a 3,785-square-foot palace with private spa and a hefty price tag naturally. The space-per-guest ratio on the ship is also a chart-topper, the line says.

RSSC_Pacific Rim RestaurantCourtesy of Regent Seven Seas

Gorgeous spaces include a two-story theater themed on the glamor of Old Hollywood, an Observation Lounge that pays tribute to the Roaring Twenties and new French and Pacific Rim restaurants. The ship will also debut Regent's first hands-on cooking school and numerous other delights for guests seeking a luxury, inclusive experience at sea.

Originally published in Dream Voyages Spring 2016 issue.

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