Would you like to feel like one of the rich and famous, even if it's just for a week? Sailing the French and Italian Rivieras on the M/Y Variety Voyager of Variety Cruises certainly gives you a sense of what it's like to have your own (almost) private mega-yacht. The 223-foot, 72-passenger ship either docks or anchors offshore fascinating ports, many of which are only accessible to small ships. It's a great way to experience a different type of cruising.
The M/Y Variety Voyager is Variety Cruises' newest ship and was launched in the summer of 2012. She brings the total number of small ships in the Variety fleet to eleven, seven of which cruise the Mediterranean, West Africa, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean. The other four Variety Cruises' ships are small yachts (8-12 guests) available for charter.
The Variety Cruises' ships sail many different itineraries in the Mediterranean. Several of the quaint, tiny cruise ports seldom see a cruise ship since Variety Cruises specializes in fascinating ports not often visited by larger ships.
Let's take a tour of the M/Y Variety Voyager, starting with the cabins.
Cabins on the Variety Voyager - Overview
The 223-foot M/Y Variety Voyager has 36 cabins, ranging in size from 170 to 216 square feet. The mega-yacht carries up to 72 guests. The cabins are spread over three decks. None of the cabins have balconies, but all have either large windows or over-sized portholes. The cabins are equipped with 220-volt plugs.
The cabins come in five categories:
- Owner's Suite - one suite on the Horizon Deck
- Upper Deck (category P) - seven cabins on the Horizon Deck
- Category A - eleven cabins on the Riviera Deck
- Category B - ten cabins on the Riviera and Marina Decks
- Category C - seven cabins on the Marina Deck
Let's tour a Variety Voyager category A cabin.
Category A Cabin on the Variety Voyager
Most of the cabins on the Variety Voyager can be set up with either twin or queen-sized beds and primarily sleep two, although five of the category P cabins have an extra sofa bed. Every cabin in all categories has its own individually-controlled air conditioning (which we needed on our summertime Mediterranean cruise), small refrigerator, safe, bathrobes, flat screen television, DVD player, and a hairdryer.
Our category A cabin (#205) was centrally located on the Riviera Deck. The cabin was comfortable but could use more drawers (or even just hooks to hang things on) for storage. We had adequate closet space for a one-week cruise, but only four tiny drawers (two in each of the two nightstands). The cabin also has a small desk and settee, which we used to stack things on since we didn't have enough drawer space. The cruise line recommends packing light, and on a casual ship like the Variety Voyager guests don't really need any formal clothes, although most everyone changed out of their casual shorts for dinner and a few men brought sport coats.
Like most small cruise ships, the sleeping areas on the Variety Voyager are relatively compact, but the bathroom is surprisingly nice.
Variety Voyager Cabin Bathroom
The marble-floored bathroom in a category A cabin on the Variety Voyager is larger than most small cruise ships. It has a huge glass and Corian shower, with some of the strongest water pressure seen on a ship of any size. The shower has both hand-held and overhead rain shower heads, and experienced cruisers will notice and appreciate this terrific shower.
Now that we've toured the cabins, let's look at the dining options on the Variety Voyager.
Dining on the Variety Voyager
All meals on the Variety Voyager are served in the aft dining room on the Horizons Deck. The dining room has both indoor and outdoor seating, and most guests eat outdoors almost every meal on a cruise of the Mediterranean.
Dining outdoors is always a real plus! Breakfast and lunch are both served buffet style. Dinner is from a menu with all items set except the main course, which usually has at least two selections (fish, chicken, beef, pork, or seafood) and a vegetarian option.
The food was good to excellent, especially given the size of the ship. Breakfast has all the usual favorites, but be sure to try the excellent Greek yogurt.
Lunch features a wide variety of delicious salads, a soup, and a selection of hot dishes on the buffet, as well as dessert. A favorite lunch dish is huge grilled shrimp. One of the chefs grills them outside on the deck, and everyone went back to the grill several times for another plate full. They were perfectly cooked!
Most everyone dressed up a little for dinner, and guests loved eating outdoors and taking in the fresh Mediterranean air.
Next, let's look at the activities on this small cruise ship.
Activities Onboard the Variety Voyager
Like many very small cruise ships, the Variety Voyager doesn't offer much in the way of onboard entertainment. However, this deficiency is certainly offset by the opportunity to explore charming, off-the-beaten-path ports of call. The ship also offers two onboard activities you will never find on a large ship.
The mega-yacht (72 guests) has an onboard keyboard player and DJ who entertains in the main lounge before dinner and outdoors in the Oceans Bar after dinner.
The Variety Voyager has comfortable sun lounges on the Oceans Deck for those who love the sun, but there is also some shaded seating on the outdoor decks and in the al fresco dining area.
Indoor activities include socializing, reading, or having a coffee and snacks in the lovely main lounge. This beautiful spot has a bar, and coffee/tea/snacks are also always available. The reception desk is in one corner of the lounge.
The Variety Voyager has a small spa, beauty salon, and indoor fitness center on the Marina deck. Also on the Marina deck are the small library and Internet Center with three desktop computers. As on most ships, the Internet service is not as fast as onshore.
What are the two onboard activities you won't find on large ships? First is the opportunity to visit the navigation bridge almost any time. Just drop in, and the friendly captain will give you a personal tour. The Captain and crew on the Variety Voyager are all very approachable, adding to the private yacht-like experience. The second activity you won't find on a large cruise ship is swimming directly from the ship. When the ship is at anchor and not in a busy harbor, the Captain allows guests to climb down the ladder (or jump in) and go swimming in the brilliant blue Mediterranean.
The Variety Voyager is a beautiful mega-yacht and is well designed for sailing to ports that are inaccessible to large cruise ships. The small ship experience allows travelers to get to know their shipmates and crew better. The international flavor of this ship, with guests from many different countries, also adds to the memorable cruise experience. Even visiting the same ports as large ships is a different onshore experience when you are not sharing the space with thousands of others.
With only 72 guests onboard, there is never a line, which is a definite plus for many travelers.
Who might not like to travel on a tiny ship like the Variety Voyager? Anyone who loves cruising because of the entertainment, gambling, or diverse dining and lounge venues, might miss those activities on the Variety Voyager. Anyone with mobility issues might also have a problem since Zodiacs are used to tender guests ashore at some ports of call. Although the ship has covered lifeboats much like those seen on large cruise ships, the Variety Voyager crew uses two Zodiacs to tender the guests ashore.
Most travelers love this tiny ship and start planning their next Variety Cruises experience before the cruise is complete. That speaks well of the ship and cruise line, doesn't it?