Regent Seven Seas Voyager
My husband and I celebrated our 10-years anniversary aboard the Regent Seven Seas Voyager Cruise ship in November. I have been on cruises before but the Regent was beyond what I expected.
The cruise that we took was a little different than usual. Twice a year, a cruise ship repositions to more seasonal area. In the fall, this particular ship moves from Europe to Florida/Caribbean area and we took that special repositioning cruise - Regent calls it the "Grand Crossing" of the Atlantic, and it really was grand. The ship does not stop at any ports for excursions so you are completely stuck in the ship. We started from Funchal, Madeira and crossed Atlantic ocean to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It took 10 days (it usually takes nine days but thanks to a mechanical problem we got an extra bonus day) and as you can imagine, it takes a really great ship to keep people from going crazy for ten days. Voyager was great. I think we could have stayed on board for 10 weeks!
First of all, the cabin was just amazingly comfortable with a king size bed with a fluffy dawn comforter; a beautiful bathroom with a separate shower booth and a bathtub. And the best part of our cabin was the balcony. We reserved our cabin at the back of the ship so our balcony was spacious and calm, allowing us many wonderful hours of sitting/drinking/reading/exercising/napping there. It was just fabulous.
The Regent staff were all friendly, polite and professional.
Now, let's talk about the gastronomy on the ship.
The ship has four main restaurants. The most casual restaurant, La Veranda is located on the top deck and it offers a huge selection of breakfast and lunch items and salad and hors d'oeuvres at night. You can also order simple Mediterranean food from the menu. Even though this restaurant is the most casual and laid back one, their food was always well cooked. My husband had lamb once at this restaurant and he claimed it was the best meat from the whole cruise.
The main Compass Rose restaurant is huge - it seems to take up about half of the whole deck. Every day, they change the menu and you can order from á la carte or a course menu. I mostly enjoyed their daily cold soup. Especially the ones made of some kind of fruits. Even though their main ingredients were fruits, they were flavorful and refreshing without being too sweet. I tried cranberry and yogurt soup and chilled tropical fruits soup and they were both really good. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask for the recipes but I am determined to find out how to make that soup.
There are two reservation-only restaurants onboard. One is an Indochine restaurant called Latitudes. All their foods are served in traditional family style to share among the table. Fortunately, we went there with two other travelers so we could share almost all the main dishes on the menu. Overall the quality of food was quite good but not outstanding. The crab cake and chicken sate were not so special but I really enjoyed the prawn and lobster dish. Rumor has it Latitudes is changing to an Italian theme once renovated in 2009.
The other restaurant, Signatures, features the cuisine of the legendary Le Cordon Bleu of Paris, the most famous culinary school in the world. The setting is a modern French interior decor with candlelight. Very intimate but not too stuffy. We were lucky enough that we could go there twice. We made a reservation for our anniversay dinner and second time was part of the 3-day Le Cordon Bleu cooking classes that I took.
Being Cordon Bleu, our expectations were probaby excessive because we were disappointed with some of the food we ordered. But the presentation was beautiful and all the main courses I tried were very nice.
The dish that I did not care so much was the soup. I had a Cappuccino of broccoli with curried ricotta gnocchi and my husband had a shell fish avocado bisque. They were both a too salty. And I am a big fan of ricotta gnocchi from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco so I was very excited when I saw this in the menu. But the gnocchi was so small and I almost could not recognize what it was. And the broccoli cappuccino was not bad a but just like a broccoli soup that I make at home.
For the main course, I had a duck fillets with raspberry vinegar sauce and apple tart foie gras (photo top right). The duck was cooked perfectly and very tender. The raspberry vinegar sauce matched really well with the duck meat. Because the sauce was sweet and sour, I wish I had something else besides the apple tart which had the same sweet and sour flavor but the foie gras was very nice.
They surprised us with a special anniversary cake after the main course. It was a very soft chocolate mouse cake dressed with thin chocolate around it. It was absolutely yummy but we had also ordered a cointreau parfait and cheese plate so we had to pace ourselves to finish everything.
The second time at Signatures was rather special for me because it was the graduation dinner for my cooking class and all the menu items were designed by our teacher, chef Philippe Clergue. Here is the menu from that night:
Sancere, Michel Redde, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley, France, 2006
Chateauneuf du Pape, Les Closiers, Rhone Valley, France, 2007
Consommé with pigeon and wild mushrooms, flavored with truffles
Lobster gratin with buttered Belgian endives caramelized with Cointreau (photo top left)
Indian halibut, baby turnips with lemon peel, potato cream with cep mushroom brunoise, and frothy bouillabaisse style velouté (photo bottom left)
Duck breast lacquered with honey and allspice, cassoulet style white bean ragout with tomato confit and pancetta
Coconut shortbread with pears (photo bottom right)
The food from the Signatures restaurant
We also had one special experience onboard. We became friends with one of the lecturers on the trip who was married to a lovely Philippino woman. We became friends and I told her how much I liked Philipino food. Since the chef (and 80% of the staff) on the ship was Philipino she arranged for us to have a special meal that was just wonderful - the best home cooked Philipino lunch in my life. We had beef adobo, chicken adobo and tripe and oxtail in peanut sauce. It was fantastic.
Le Cordon Bleu Cooking Class
The main event for me on the ship was a 3-day Le Cordon Bleu cooking class. I have never taken a cooking class in my life besides the ones I had to take at home economics class in my junior high school in Japan so I was quite excited to find out if my self-educated cooking skills were proper.
One thing I truly admired about chef Philippe was the way he organizes and cleans while he cooks. I claim that I am a clean cook myself but he was even more strict about the clean work space. I am still an amateur cook after all.
The most memorable thing during the course was the opportunity to cook in a professional kitchen. I was surrounded by all the big stainless steel equipment - that made me feel really happy. Another important experience was cooking with a partner. I always cook alone and I like to cook alone. But I realized having someone next to me and cooking together was something that I need to accomplish and get comfortable with. And chef Philippe was an extremely patient person. I always think that cooking is all about patience and he definitely proved that. If you don't have a patience, you tend to burn things. If you don't have a patience and don't take time to check the flavor each step, you over season or under season.
On the first day of class, I was the last student who finished the plate. But I wanted to make things right and I wanted cut my lamb very thin for better presentation. People were already eating their finished food and I was alone at the kitchen. But when I finished my plate, Philippe told me that he could see how much I love cooking and that made me feel very good.
Chef Philippe on the bottom left and the Filet d'agneau parfumé a la coriandre, tian de tomate et fromage de sauce au yaourt ailé
(Lamb flavored with cilantro, tomato and goat's cheese tian, garlic and yogurt sauce)
that I made at the first day of my class on the bottom right.
Day 3 : Artichoke, spinach and pine nut salad (left), Cod with Chorizo on a bed of haricot bean and sherry vinegar purée (top right), Baked apples and figs with amaretti cream (bottom right).
We also had a provision and galley tour for the ship as a part of the class. They had a stock of more than 10 days supplies to feed 700 hundred passengers and 350 staff. The amount of food was beyond what you can possibly imagine and I don't even want to know how much food was wasted during this 10-days cruise. I was wondering if we can bring this whole thing to Liberia, we can feed them really well.
I focused on only food on the ship but there was many other things that we enjoyed besides food on this cruise. We learned so many people book the next cruise trip during their stay and I am not surprised at all. I really do hope we can get on this ship again really soon, too.