Part 2 – Cape Town to Rio on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner
We chose the Regent Mariner for our first Luxury Cruise. This decision was based on Internet research, the dates we wanted to go, and itinerary. I must admit my first impression after making the reservations almost led me to cancel the whole trip. It seems that when you book your air with Regent you don’t find out your air arrangements until much later. Our cruise started on December 3 with an overnight aboard the ship and sailing on December 4. The air with the cruise line had us arriving after 11 p.m. on December 3. When I said this was unacceptable since we would be missing the whole first day aboard the ship AND be arriving in the wee hours of the first full day, I was told, “No problem. You can change the air by paying the $100 deviation fee for each passenger” I tried to say that just wasn’t right. Not only would we be missing part of the experience, but if we got to our cabin so late we’d hardly be eager to be boarding a tour bus a few hours later. Nevertheless, we were told this was the only option. We paid the fee and arrived 24 hours earlier than Regent’s arrangements.
As it was we arrived just before midnight. We flew from Houston to Amsterdam (9 hrs) then Amsterdam to Cape Town (11 hrs). Arriving in Amsterdam in the middle of a snow storm, we had to wait for snow plows to clear the gate area. We got off the plane in Amsterdam, jogged to the gate for our next flight, and found it was boarding. Our flight was a bit late leaving, but we fared better than those fliers who were on some of the many cancelled flights.
Clearing immigration was a relatively short wait. Collecting our luggage took a while, as the slow pace of delivery to the carousel suggest that a single person was doing the unloading. We finally got our bags, and quickly cleared customs
Now remember, had we taken Regent’s air we would have arrived on the 4th at about the same time with a tour scheduled for 8:20 a.m. on the 5th! The entire trip getting there took 24 hrs. We would not have been in great shape to go touring.
The biggest problem with the proposed Regent schedule was the possibility of even bigger problems if there was any problem with the Amsterdam connection. Missing that Cape Town flight would provide few opportunities for us and our checked luggage to reach the ship in time. On the day of departure, we encountered tired-looking passengers boarding just before the Mariner was due to sail. We later found that other cruisers had missed the ship in Cape Town and had to join the cruise in Walvis Bay, Namibia.
We flew KLM economy all the way. The first flight was a bit cramped but the second flight had more empty seats and everyone was comfortable. The food was just fair but it did seem like they were always feeding us. As on most international flights, you didn’t have to pay extra for wine or beer, a welcome change from domestic flights which have abandoned just about all amenities. Both KLM flights featured a decent in-seat entertainment system with movies, TV, and games on demand. That certainly helped consume a few of those long hours in the air.