The Cruise Line that Makes You Feel Like a Local
There are certain things you may well know about Regent Seven Seas Cruises, from the luxury of the ships (where every stateroom is a suite, and every suite faces the water) to the value of the inclusions (not least, those roundtrip intercontinental business class flights and the vast majority of your excursions). But here's what you may not realize about the line: No sooner are you on board than you become supremely well-connected in whatever region you're visiting—with a list of local friends you never knew you had.
Indeed, in almost any given port, your excursion choices include experiences that give you the insider’s take on the place (think traditional fishermen, organic farmers and in at least one case, a legendary chocolate maker). And though these Go Local options are among the few to come with a nominal fee, it's one you won't mind mixing into your otherwise free excursion lineup, given the remarkably immersive experiences that result from Regent Seven Seas Cruises' deep local ties. One of the best places to see—and taste—for yourself? Europe. Read on for five of our favorite cases in point.
Old Tallinn & Chocolate Making Workshop with Master Confectioner
To get a truly local taste of the Estonian capital of Tallinn as soon as you pull into port, walk through the historic city center—past the famed Long Leg Gate, Town Hall and Town Council’s Apothecary (all dating to the Middle Ages)—to Pharmacy Lane and the Medieval Master's Courtyard, where Café & Chocolaterie Pierre awaits. Over the two hours you’ll spend there, you’ll learn the secrets of Master Pierre—aka Peeter Reier—who’s renowned for dozens of exquisite chocolate creations (his hot chocolates, whether spiked with chili and tequila or vanilla honey and sea salt, are local legends). But arguably the most addictive of his signature creations are the truffles, and they’re the subject of your hands-on tutorial. You’ll make the fillings, cover them with chocolate—and marvel at your dangerous new superpower.
Take time to mingle with café regulars in the medieval cobbled courtyard that harbors the whole operation. The atmosphere is magic. In fact, during the White Nights (those Northern European evenings from mid-June to early July when there's near-endless sunlight), people have been known to while away the hours in the courtyard until 5 a.m.
Though you won’t get to hang out at the café for quite that long—talk about parting being such sweet sorrow—there’s more medieval beauty to soften the blow: On the way back to the dock, you’ll visit the stellar handicraft workshops at Catherine's Passage and the street market of the fabled Müürivahe Lane. And there are always the gourmet offerings to look forward to back on board, from the internationally-inspired entrées at Compass Rose to the dry-aged steaks at Prime 7, all included in your fare—as, by the way, is whatever you drink, whether the craft cocktails in lounges, the bespoke beverage selection in your minibar, or those lattes that taste extra good on deck as the sun starts to climb over the horizon.
The Eumelia Farm Experience
A Greek farm-to-table experience? Yes, please—or the locals would say, “Nai parakaló.” After disembarking, you’ll be whisked into the Peloponnese countryside, where the Eumelia organic farm produces all manner of deliciousness (the olive oil, marmalades, eggplant pate and tomato sauce have been called out for their fabulosity on a PBS travel show).
Owners Marilena and Frangiskos Karelas were actually living in New York when a radical idea struck: Move home, restore the farm his grandfather had once tended, and make it a sustainable, organic agriturismo. You’ll tour the resulting paradise with them (the name aptly translates to lovely melody) and learn how they recycle water, compost almost everything, and keep electricity usage to a bare minimum.
You’ll also become an instant farmer, snipping shoots from the olive trees that dot 50 acres of groves and vineyards—and picking produce. For good measure, you may feed some of the resident animals, whose ranks include chickens, goats, and a rare breed of black pig.
If all that farm work builds an appetite, you’re in luck: Lunch will be served, and nearly everything on the table was made at the farm or sourced from very nearby. Think crusty country bread, olive oil, tzatziki and just-pulled-from-the-garden veggies.
And on a side note: You know what feels especially right after a day spent in pursuit of wellness? The organic ingredient-infused scrubs, wraps and rubs at the ship's Canyon Ranch Spa. (Not that there's ever a bad time to indulge in them, of course.)
Like a Parisian in the Marché d’Aligre
The Marché D’Aligre is one of Paris’s most bustling markets, where you’re as likely to spot celebrity chefs as home cooks—all gathering provisions from fruit and veggie farmers, herb merchants, cheese mongers, butchers, fishmongers or all of the above. As an insider guides you through the aisles, you’ll get plenty of tastes (cheese and cured meat, in particular) as well as historical tidbits (the Marché has been around in one form or another since 1779).
Given the seemingly endless stalls (did we mention the flowers, antiques or vintage fashion finds?), you’ll be grateful that there’s built–in free time to explore on your own—but you may also want to dedicate it to eating nearby: To try possibly the best croissants and madeleines in town, for example, head to Blé Sucré (7 Rue Antoine Vollon). Duly dazzled, you’ll take a panoramic tour of Paris before winding your way back to port.
Fishing with Natives on the Portofino Coast
In recent years, Portofino has become best known as a celebrity hot spot, but before this gorgeous little port town was a glimmer in Elton’s, Madonna’s or Beyonce’s eye, the rich waters off Mount Portofino National Historic Park drew fishermen. Century upon century’s worth, in fact.
And you can get a feel for that tradition aboard the fishing boat that will become your chariot for this excursion. Hop on board, get comfortable, then learn how the local fishermen pull in their catch from these stunning, protected waters. Some of the unexpected stars of the show? The palamiti, long traditional Ligurian fishing lines that have as many as 500 hooks apiece.
Once the fishermen have hauled in their catch—probably mackerel, bream and mullet—they’ll use local techniques to prepare the most exquisite catch-of-the-day (catch of the hour, really) you’ve ever tasted. But your boat tour is as much a visual feast as a culinary one, with a sail-by of the San Fruttuoso medieval beach Abbey, among other local icons. Keep the theme going back on board at the beloved Sette Mari (translation: Seven Seas), where Italian specialties and seaside dining blend to sublime effect.
Stockholm Through the Eyes of a Local
Some would say there’s no better taste of local life than public transportation—and Stockholm’s home to one of the most storied versions: Most of the 100 or so metro stations in use since 1950 are bedecked with paintings, murals, statues, and other kinds of art. So welcome to “the world’s longest art gallery,” as it’s often called.
Of the stops you’ll make, one of the most iconic is the T-Centralen station, where the walls are adorned with stylized flowers and leaves. But the station likeliest to, well, stop you in your tracks is Stadion, which happens to be fashioned out of a cave. When construction was completed in 1973, locals didn’t necessarily make the most positive associations—the netherworld came up a fair bit—so artists painted a large rainbow above the platform to remind riders that there’s a beautiful sky within steps.
You’ll soon see that sky again yourself as you emerge from the underground to visit the Östermalmshallen, a 19th-century food hall, where you’ll snack on local delicacies before moving onto the beautiful, bohemian Södermalm neighborhood, all the while gathering memories of living la vida local.