This was our second cruise with Regent, and the first on the Navigator. We cruised last January on the Mariner, and were less than blown away, so were somewhat concerned about what our experience would be like on the smaller Navigator. We need not have been worried...the ship and her crew were amazing!
Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale was a breeze. It probably helped that there were only 500 passengers to check in, and we were in the last 100 or so, arriving at the pier at around 1:30. It was also a Tuesday, so the pier was not busy at all. It probably only took about 15 minutes from the time we entered the terminal until we were stepping onboard the ship...very nice.
We were finally allowed into our cabins around 2:30. We found the cabin to be very large, with a nice walk-in closet and very nicely laid out bathroom with shower and separate tub. Our bags actually arrived before the safety drill, so I was able to unpack before the drill and sailaway, which was a first for us.
As spacious and well laid out the cabin was, we were soon to find that it was exceptionally noisy (which is why I only rated it a 3). We have been on a lot of cruises, and we have never, ever heard our neighbors on either side of us...that changed with this cruise. It isn't that they were overly loud...it just seems as if the walls were extremely thin. Several other passengers complained of this throughout the cruise, so it wasn't just our cabin or neighbors. It probably didn't help that there were three people...two adults and one teen...in the cabin next to us. However, that cabin is NOT designated as a 3-person cabin in the Regent brochures, and indeed, their sofa did not pull out to a bed. Instead, a rollaway bed was delivered to them at the start of the cruise! I had specifically booked our room to be as far as possible from any of the 3-berth cabins because, quite frankly, I did not care to possibly be around children (I left mine at home!!). So you can imagine my frustration when I discovered that apparently Regent will make any cabin a 3-berth one if they find themselves overbooked (which was the case in our cruise). I do not know if the third person was the reason for the extra noise, but I doubt it, as I could hear the husband/father snoring at night, and if I tried hard enough, could actually make out what they were saying next door. Plus, the people above us must have been early risers, as we could hear them clomping around in the early hours, and then soon thereafter, the cabin stewardess would re-wake us with her vacuuming, which literally vibrated and shook the wall next to our bed every time she slammed the vacuum into the wall. I was amazed that I came home from this cruise more tired than when I left!
But that was probably the biggest negative for us, and truthfully, it was more of an inconvenience than something that would ruin our cruise (although I will pick my cabin more carefully the next time). The only other thing that was somewhat negative was the soot that spewed out of the smokestacks all over the decks. We had noticed that there were black spots all over the deck chairs on Deck 11 (one deck above the pool deck), but didn't think anything about it. Well, after an hour or so on the deck our first day, we discovered that those black spots were from the soot of the smokestack (we could see it flying around), and it does NOT wash out. The laundry onboard tried to get the spots out of my new yellow bathing suit, but they just couldn't. To be fair, the concierge did offer to pay for a replacement, but I declined. I just didn't go up to Deck 11 to lounge around anymore. However, I do wish the response to my request to put signs up there warning people of the "soot danger" would have been taken more seriously. Based on the conditions of the chair cushions, this was not an isolated incident, and I just felt that perhaps even just a small notice would have been nice...at least my bathing suit might have been saved.
From the moment we stepped onboard to the moment we left, we were treated like royalty by everyone on the crew. This was the most amazing crew we have ever cruised with, and could not believe the level of service we received. The cruise director, Lorraine Weimerskirch, was by far the best we've ever seen. She was engaging and fun, and was always "out in the open." Not only was she a fantastic singer, but she also was just a neat person to be around, and she literally made the cruise for us (in fact, we asked what her schedule is, so we can hopefully book another cruise with her).
Surprisingly, the entertainment was fantastic as well. We had heard that it was less than stellar on other cruises, but again, it was the best we've ever seen. This particular group is nearing the end of their contract, and they have apparently all become fast friends, and it shows in their performances. We usually pass on the evening shows when we cruise, because we just don't find them very good...not so in this case! They were great!
Food is always so subjective, and I will just say that it was very good on this cruise. Nothing to blow you away, but we certainly never had to send anything back and I certainly gained enough weight that it shows! We were not all that impressed with Prime 7...the steaks were just so-so, although the Dover Sole was very good. However, the service there was well above par, so that made up for a lot. The service in Compass Rose seemed rushed...we felt a little sorry sometimes for the waiters, as they had to run around, literally, to take care of all their tables. But we never had a surly waiter, and we found that if we told them ahead of time that we would not be having dessert or coffee, we could just enjoy our entrees and then leave whenever we wanted to. That kept our dining times down below 2 hours (we never had a dinner that took less than 2.5 hours on the Mariner). As for the pool grill, it was wonderful, and we ate breakfast and lunch there almost every day. If I couldn't find something I liked out there (my husband was always ordering a specialty burger), I could just walk inside to La Veranda and get some salads. We only did La Veranda for dinner once, and liked it, but are not really buffet fans (at least not for dinner). We definitely prefer the way it is done on the Mariner, where appetizers and desserts are buffet, but you order your entree off the menu, from a waiter.
As for the wines, we were not very impressed. When a Bogle Cab was presented with a flourish at Prime 7, I had to laugh. Yes, Bogle is a very decent label...but when I'm cruising on a luxury line, I hope to have something presented to me that I cannot buy at my local grocery store. If we asked for something else, they would bring it without question or complaint...but we found that even the alternate wines were not always to our liking. Also, wines that were supposed to have been available (according to the list we were given) were no longer available (apparently they had run out, and not bothered to re-stock them). We ended up just not bothering with wine more often than not.
We ran into some bad weather, and so had to miss our stops in Wilmington and St. Georges in Bermuda. We were disappointed, especially since Savannah was taken off the itinerary a few months ago, but the crew did a great job of taking care of us on the extra sea days. I have also heard several negative comments about the Destinations personnel, but we found them to be extremely helpful, with one exception. We were on the Dolphin Encounter in Nassau, and specifically asked the Destinations personnel if we should wear bathing suits. They told us, "Absolutely not...you will NOT get in the water." Thankfully, the Dolphin Encounter people had wetsuits we could use, because we most certainly DID get in the water...all the way up to our necks! That kind of information really should have been something the Destinations people were smart about. However, the excursions we did were all excellent, and we never really had that "round 'em up" feeling while waiting in the Seven Seas Lounge to be called for our excursion. In fact, two of them (Airboat Adventure in Port Canaveral, and the Dolphin Adventure) rank right up there as two of the best we've ever done.
We hit some extremely rough seas between Charleston and Bermuda, and yes, the Navigator moves a LOT in rough seas. Thankfully we had our SeaBands, or else we might have been like so many other people (including the spa's hairdresser) who were unable to even get out of bed. Many, many people tried to crowd into the Navigator Lounge and the library, as that is as low and center as you can go on the ship. Only then did the ship feel a bit crowded to us...so we just went up to the pool deck, which, even though higher, is still in the center of the ship so the motion was not as bad (still bad though...water from the waves would hit the side of the ship and sprinkle down on us, even though we were way up on Deck 10!!!). We had friends traveling with us who did not like the layout of the ship at all, as they said it felt too crowded all the time to them. But we spent most of our free time on the pool deck, and it never felt overcrowded, so we came out of it with a different opinion...in fact, we loved the Navigator and her layout.
If I had to say there was one thing that blew us away on this cruise, it would be the crew and service. When a bartender can remember your name after only meeting you once, and know exactly what you want to drink, that is impressive. When the cruise director participates in karaoke with the passengers, that is impressive (especially when she can really sing!). When the entertainers actually act as part of the crew, rather than just entertaining, that really enhances the experience (it was great fun talking to them around the ship). And when you get hugs from so many of them as you are leaving the ship (not without at least a few tears on my part), you really do feel as if they are family.
Bottom line: Best cruise we've ever been on and I cannot wait to board the Navigator again!!!