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Regent Seven Seas Explorer: The cruise redefining cruising

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I don’t know quite what I expected from a cruise. Dubious ‘entertainment’ from an ageing tribute band? Buffet food sweating in a Perspex prison? A median guest age to rival the Terracotta Army’s? Then I actually went on a cruise – a luxury cruise. And my perception changed.

Explorer, which is one of five ships from provider Regent Seven Seas Cruises, is like no quiz-night-and-karaoke liner you’ve ever been on. It calls itself ‘the most luxurious ship ever built’, and might actually have the goods to back up that claim. The interior is Art Deco-inspired; all fluted pillars, lacquered surfaces and massive chandeliers. There are Picassos on the walls and old-timey lifts zoom between ten decks. With a capacity of 732, it’s pretty small for a cruise ship, while also being one of the most spacious.

I start my trip in the port of Piraeus – it’s functional and unbeautiful, which only heightens the anticipation around reaching our first destination: Mykonos. But before then, I have my first-ever evening on a cruise to look forward to. The ship’s passengers (not quite the early bird special, I discover, but averaging, perhaps, a young-at-heart 65) decamp from suites in their gladrags, and disperse into the ship’s eight eateries.

I’m at Compass Rose, a robustly air-conditioned restaurant adorned with a blue glass ceiling installation and Versace tableware. The menu is customisable, with guests able to mix and match their fish or meat mains (featuring usual suspects like sea scallops and New York strip), sauce and sides. Precede with an appetiser and/or pasta course (the conchiglie was perfectly creamy with champagne sauce).

During my three-night foray, I will also dine at Chartreuse – a French bistro with white tablecloths and silk-backed chairs. The lobster bisque is fantastic, as is the pearlescent, lemony Dover sole and glossy opera cake – syrup-soaked layers of almond sponge. Prime 7 was my destination on night three: an American steakhouse with minimalistic decor. I’d recommend the surf and turf route, which entails a filet mignon and six-ounce lobster tail.

Anyway, we’re back in the Aegean Sea. After dinner, I peel off to my cabin to try and get something akin to eight hours before an early excursion the next day. Although, ‘cabin’ is a bit of a misnomer. Far from the claustrophobic, poky-portholed box of my expectations, my Superior Suite, despite being one of the smaller layouts (the top-tier Regent Suite comes with a £400,000 grand piano), isn’t small at all. It’s over 400 square feet, with a king-size bed and walk-in closet. After a sleep lulled by distant engines, I wake up in the Greek islands.

Mykonos is known for being a party island, but I’ll give you a hot tip: visit first thing in the morning, while the revellers are still sleeping (if any proof was needed that this is a town of night owls, many of the designer boutiques close at 2am). At breakfast, however, it’s just wizened locals sweeping their stoops and men delivering palettes of Coca-Cola on mopeds – a small glimmer of what Mykonos was like before the importation of the ‘jet set’ in the ’60s. This feeling of old-meets-new becomes something of a theme: our excursion takes in both the Billionaire nightclub and a 500-year-old bakery.

We finish the morning with ouzo and stuffed vine leaves at a taverna – by this time, the masses have descended and the coffee shops are blaring house music. My cue to get back on the boat, which is – to be fair – a destination in its own right. Aboard Regent Seven Seas Explorer, you can take a cooking class, get a seaweed wrap, and play blackjack. Perhaps you fancy a spa treatment, or a run around the jogging track (in which case you’re a better person than I). There’s a pool with a bar and grill, a golf net, shuffleboard and bocce courts, a theatre, a casino, and more.

The next morning, the rocky archipelago is gone, replaced by the cubiform apartment blocks of Kavala. I’ve learned that in-suite dining is a good option for a pre-excursion breakfast – especially if you stayed up in the Explorer Lounge for cocktails and live jazz the night before. Scrambled eggs and a flat white on my private balcony later, I’m jumping on a coach to the archaeological site of Philippi, about 20 minutes away.

The sprawling ruins are the remains of a once-great city conquered by King Philip II of Macedon (father of Alexander the Great) in 356 BC. Our tiny, elderly guide shows us around what was once a forum, market, theatre, baths and basilica, and explains that, in the early Christian period, the apostle Paul preached for the first time on European soil in Philippi.

By the time I disembark, I’m a born-again cruiser. Any notions of all-inclusive-calibre wine and over-zealous cruise directors have been firmly dispelled: Regent Seven Seas Explorer is a five-star hotel on water – transit, accommodation, entertainment, and food and drink all rolled into one super-premium package.

But the main appeal has to be the fact that I’ve just enjoyed two memorable destinations in the space of two days. Luxury aside, cruising is a super-efficient way to travel – especially if you’re looking to maximise on long-haul destinations. Explorer will be journeying from Singapore, via Indonesia and around Australia this December, before setting off to Bali, Tokyo and Bangkok in early 2023. This is no retirement-age ramble; it’s a dynamic expedition for those looking to experience the world – with a glass of champagne in hand, admittedly.

For more information, visit rssc.com

Read more: The world’s most exclusive holiday destinations

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ICE London 2023 to feature exhibitors from record 68 nations – IAG

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Industry trade show ICE London will feature exhibitors from a record 68 nations, topping the previous best of 65 set three years ago, according to organizer Clarion Gaming.
ICE London returns as a full-sized show for the first time since 2020 from 7 to 9 February, with the total 623 exhibitors representing everything from Argentina to Australia and Macau to Mexico.
“No other exhibition in the gaming space can come anywhere near the internationalism of ICE,” said Clarion Gaming Managing Director, Stuart Hunter.
“To have 68 nations represented by our community of exhibitors means that visitors are immediately part of what is a global experience with unique access to the smartest gaming innovators drawn from every corner of the world. There are very few exhibitions of scale in any industry sector which are able to compare with such international representation and legitimately lay claim to being a ‘global’ or a ‘world’ event.
“Once an event is recognized as being genuinely international, stakeholder groups including brands, regulators, trade associations, media groups and strategic industry-wide bodies focus their activities accordingly.
“Research that we’ve undertaken has shown that for many people ICE and iGB Affiliate London actually start on the Sunday preceding and finish on the following Saturday. In that week we estimate that over 100 gambling industry events will take place outside of the show hours providing a new and compelling perspective on why ICE and iGB Affiliate London are so influential and important to the world industry.”
IAG will have a team of four at ICE London next week. Visit us at Stand ND7-C.

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David Ford and Annie Dressner Live in London

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There’s something special about London on a Saturday night – there’s a certain buzz in the air as you head into the Capital city. For me that buzz was extra special, as I was going to see David Ford and Annie Dressner at The Lexington in Islington. I literally listened to their ’10 Days (Live)’ album for the first time a week ago, but since then it’s been on repeat and heading in I knew that the night was going to be special.
The Lexington is a great place for music, with a bar on the ground floor before heading up the winding stairs to the spacious venue itself. And as the crowd started coming in, the atmosphere in the room was growing by the minute.
Opening the night was Scottish singer songwriter Gary Stewart. He set the night off really well, with an engaging set that got the crowd onside from the start. He opened with his 2021 single ‘Hot To Trot‘ and you already knew the set was going to be a good one – a rousing folk song with great lyrical dexterity. The highlight of the set was ‘Frontlines’, a simply gorgeous song (check out a YouTube video of the song here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDCLwYwsesk). Gary ended with a fine cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Song for the Asking’.
It was time for a quick visit to the bar before settling down for the main event. 
The duo appeared on the stage to great applause, David in an orange shirt and Annie in a sparkling black dress. They opened with ‘Easy Falling’, the first song that I’ve ever heard of theirs, and a song that convinced me I needed to listen to the rest of the album. This slow and moving number is a touching love song and shows off the brilliant harmonies of David and Annie – there’s something special about the English (David) and US accents (Annie) mingling in the way that they do. 
Throughout the set, there were so many highlights. ‘Something I’ll Have to Learn‘ is a song with an almost timeless feel that feels like a conversation in song, Annie’s original ‘Strangers Who Knew Each Other’s Names‘ was simply brilliant and ‘Some Folks Are Lucky I Guess‘ is a song with a great sentiment. ‘Can’t Help What I Want‘ (below) is a great example of those brilliant harmonies that the two share.

‘Trash‘, a cover of the Suede hit, was a particular highlight – a song that was a nice surprise on the live album. As they break into ‘Oh maybe, maybe it’s the clothes you wear‘ it almost feels like this was a song that Suede wrote for David and Annie, their version is that good. Outstanding.
The set had a second cover, a song that Annie introduced as ‘an American classic‘. This classic was ‘Ain’t No Pleasing You‘ from Chas and Dave, a song that typified the cockney sound of London back in the 1980’s. I love the way they re-worked it and there was something special about the way Annie sings the word ‘Darling’ in her US twang that just resonated and put a smile on my face.
There were great moments of humour throughout the night, the chat between the two great. At one point mid-song, Annie passed her guitar to David, exclaiming ‘I knew there were chords in this song, I just didn’t know which ones‘ which had the crowd laughing.
The best of the night was saved till last. ‘Warning Sign’ had quickly become my favourite song from the pair and hearing it live in person lived up to all expectations. There’s such a beauty in live music, and hearing songs like this with other people in a venue can really bring a song home – and almost even change your own personal relationship with a song.
The final song of the night (there was no encore as David explained that they literally had no more songs!) was ‘Put Me In A Corner’. Annie’s vocals take the lead in this track and it was just magical, the emotion of the song emanating from the stage and filling the room. You can listen and see for yourself below.

You never know what to expect when you see an artist or artists perform for the first time. Some exceed expectations and some just don’t hit the heights you expect. In David Ford and Annie Dressner, it was definitely the former. The gig was stripped back – just two people on a stage creating a moment. And what a moment it was.
Annie and David and reviewer Nick Cantwell
Check out their websites and hit and follow the social links!
http://www.dressnerford.com/

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http://anniedressner.com/
***Note – I need to say a word about the audience for the gig. The audience was impeccable, with barely any talking at all at any point (apart from whispered orders at the bar). Credit goes to Gary, Annie and David, who managed to grab the audience from the start, but also to everyone there. If you were there yourself, give yourself a high five!***
Review written by Nick Cantwell (instagram.com/nickcantwellmanagement)
 
 
 


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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties – Church Times

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Graduate Organist vacancy in London and Home Counties  Church Times

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