I am a first time cruiser. Here's my report.
Ship: Regent Seven Seas Mariner.
7 Nights. Monte Carlo-Florence-Rome-Sorrento-Olbia Sardinia-St. Tropez-Marseilles-Barcelona.
Pre-Cruise: Our documentation arrived a couple of weeks before sailing. I learned that I book a "guarantee" and not a cabin. That means I was assured of a suite but not able to pick a particular one. It was assigned a week or so prior to sailing. We booked and were assigned a "G" level suite which ended up being at the back of the boat on deck 8.
Flights: We made our own arrangements to fly to Nice and return from Barcelona.
Transfer to the ship: There were several choices here. I opted for the total cheap way to get from Nice Airport to Monte Carlo. There's a Helicopter, taxi, express bus, bus and train, and bus/bus. Also, Regent will arrange to pick you up for a steep fee. We caught the city bus into Nice for 4 Euros and then connected at the same stop for an additional 1 Euro to Monte Carlo. If we hadn't stopped to shop in Nice for an hour, the journey would have been 55 min from the airport to Monte Carlo. The bus dropped us off about 300 meters from the port and at sea level. Monte Carlo is built on a steep hillside. We each had a rolling bag and one shoulder bag. With any more luggage I'd suggest a taxi or at least the express bus (19 euros) and then a taxi in Monte Carlo.
Check-In: We walked up to the boat and were welcomed aboard quickly. A glass of champagne was offered as we completed the check-in process in the ships theater. Key cards and a welcome package were pre-printed. We were taken all the way back to our suite.
Suite: We were in the most aft "G" suite on deck 8. I was worried about engine noise and vibration, but there was little if any. I did notice some rocking or swaying when underway at high speed. It was really not an issue and it was also noticeable in other parts of the ship. The suite was as advertised. We noticed a slight foul odor in the suite which was coming from the drains. We ran the water and aired the room out and it seemed to go away. The bed was very comfortable , the climate controls worked well, and the walk-in closet was really nice. The bathroom was ok. This suite still had the bath tub and had not been upgraded to the walk-in shower. I'm 6'3" and had expressed my concern to Regent about being able to stand in the shower or lay down in the tub. Despite my questions and concerns I was still assigned this suite and had to scrunch down to get in the shower or curl up to get in the tub. I complained about the smell and small shower in the mid-cruise survey and was offered another G Suite on another deck. Since we were fully moved into this suite, I declined the offer. It was nice that they showed concern, visited the cabin, and made the offer.
Restaurants: All the restaurants and food service aboard the ship are good.
Breakfasts at La Veranda were just ok. The experience lacked "wow" factor. It reminded me more of a Holiday Inn buffet breakfast. On this ship it should be a Four Seasons type experience.
Breakfast at the Coffee Connection: There was a nice continental breakfast with a coffee bar. We opted for this most mornings as it was far less hectic than the buffet upstairs. There's also a high end coffee machine available 24 hours here.
Breakfast at the Compass Rose: Standard high end service and ordering off the menu. They serve a nice peaceful breakfast. You can't however eat here and go on a morning shore excursion. They don't start serving early enough.
Lunch at La Veranda: We had lunch here a couple of times. There a decent selection of salads or "antipasti". You can also bring in food from the pool deck if you want a burger or something from the bbq. The food here is comparable to a good Las Vegas buffet. Shrimp, seafood salads, cheeses, etc.
Dinner at La Veranda: The same Antipasti buffet is setup and then you order additional items from the menu. It a bit more relaxed atmosphere and the view is very nice. We enjoyed a million dollar window seat with a view of Monte Carlo.
Dinner at Prime 7: We ate here once. Everything was very good. There a great selection of steaks and other dishes on the menu.
Dinner at Signatures: We ate here twice and would have gone again. I give this place an "awesome" rating. We loved everything we ate. I ordered two starters almost every night in each restaurant and usually skipped the salad. The Fois Gras was fantastic. Everything was pretty darn perfect! I did get the feeling from our shared table that others didn't share my love of the type of food that was on the menu. They serve a great selection of French classics to include duck breast, seafood, beef etc. However, if French food isn't your favorite, you may want to consider other dining options. I loved the place.
Dinner at The Compass Rose: Great service with good food. Not very good and not awesome, the food was "good". Think high end wedding food. You simply can't seat 500 people at once and expect any better, so it was good. There a nice selection of food and the service was very good. We were seated promptly each of 3 nights. You order, your server dashes into the back and grabs your pre-prepared food from a warming or cooling rack and brings it out with grace and style. The soups in all the restaurants were very good. The menu changed and offers specials as well. There were menus in the lounges and poolside and that helped me pick where to eat each night.
Room Service: Available 24/7 and a good idea after a shore excursion.
General Comments on Food, wine, and Service:
Food: Everything was prepared well and of good quality. There were a few regional dishes on the menus each night to try to give you a taste of where you were visiting. I'd love to see more fresh local food on each menu.
Service: There servers and the service are some of the best I've ever had. They do a fantastic job! Period.
Wine: This was my big let down. The "Fine Wines" turned out to be $8-10 a bottle stuff. That certainly is better than box wine or banquet wine, but it's not really "fine wine". I'm a wine enthusiast and was looking forward to experiencing some amazing wine. What we got was stuff I usually buy for a weeknight dinner at home.
Even more strange was the selection of wines. This cruise was in the heart of wine country visiting both Italy and France. After spending a day in St. Tropez tasting local wines of Provence, we were served California wine. What? We are in France! I think they need to do some more local wine purchasing and serving aboard the ship. Their selection of wines were decent, I just think they fell short of the "fine wine" that they advertised. A notable exception was the Champagne. They served a very nice bottle when I ordered room service.
Lounges / Bars: We enjoyed a pre-dinner drink in the Observation lounge almost each evening. The complimentary drinks were of high quality. Grey Goose vodka, Tanqueray Gin, and other good spirits were available at no additional charge. You are free to walk out of the bars with your drinks and enjoy a seat on the deck etc. They serve some little appetizers in the pre-dinner hours as well. The music was very enjoyable.
Shows: We caught a couple of the shows and they were very good. The theater is all the way forward and had plenty of seats.
Shore Excursions: We found all the shore excursions to be enjoyable and not overly crowded. We were waitlisted for 3 excursions and were cleared for one of them. Additionally we just showed up for one that was full and waitlisted during the boarding process. 5 weeks before sailing many of the "free" excursions were fully booked. Regent needs to charge people $50 if they no-show their free excursion. It seems people book and don't show up nor do they bother to cancel. Then the waitlist can't be cleared and the tour goes with empty seats. The Shore Excursion team does a great job. They are up early and work very hard to make the process go smoothly. The quality of the excursions was top notch as well.
The Ship: The Mariner is a basic but very nice ship. There's few bells and whistles. There are nice quiet areas, plenty of privacy, and room to roam. I guessed that there were 450 guests aboard. It turned out that the ship was almost full with 687. I don't know where they were all hiding and I don't want to know! I felt like we had the ship to ourselves most of the time. Also, there were very few public announcements. There was a morning shore excursion announcement and an evening departure announcement. The television and a daily briefing page left in your room had all the information you needed. It was up to you to plan your day and enjoy it announcement free.
Last Day- Leaving the boat was well organized. Coded bag tags and announcements of when your checked luggage would be available on the pier were being made. I wasn't impressed with the hectic pace or the feeling that I was being rushed off the boat. The Cruise Director's TV show explained how busy the crew was, how they need everyone off the boat, new guests were arriving soon, they had to depart that afternoon.... Let me say this.... I DONT CARE! Schedule an extra day in port and don't make me miserable because you scheduled too little time in port. Last impressions are lasting impressions. This was the one and only time I felt rushed and burdened with the crews woes. Im sure it's the same on other lines. However this one is supposed to be better than the rest.
You can take the Port of Barcelona public bus for a couple of Euros. It takes you off the dock. From there you can walk across the street to the metro. Taxis were available shipside as well. For about 4 Euros each were were able to get to Barcelona Sants station and check into our hotel. It took under 1 hour to get off the ship and arrive at the hotel.
Overall impression: Regent lives up to the standard they set. The service the crew provides overcomes any short fallings in most cases. I look forward to my next Regent Cruise.