We completed a cruise in Venice and began a new one on the same date. As the cruises were booked months apart, they were considered by Regent to be separate cruises (different booking numbers, etc.)
The only travel we did for this cruise was to move from one suite to another. This was handled beautifully by our super butler, Perag. We were moving to a suite that was not normally handled by Perag but he requested to move with us. The butler for our new suite, Ronnie, graciously agreed so we were able to have him with us for the full 20 nights. The only difficulty we had in changing suites was that our passports did not follow along with us. Reception almost did not find them at the end of the cruise. When they were found, they were "upstairs" and they had concluded that we disembarked May 3rd and were traveling without them!?
Guests that were continuing on to this cruise were given the option to take an included tour of Venice (a good way to get us off the ship so they could clean, etc.). It was an excellent tour. We returned to the ship and found our new suite ready and we were anxious to continue our adventure.
We enjoyed Venice tremendously. My view of Italy (which was set in my mind after a week in Rome 20+ years ago) was changed instantly when we arrived in Venice. The city is clean, safe (this was a problem in Rome), easy to navigate, and simply a beautiful, amazing place to be. Whatever tour you take in Venice, I advise allowing time to walk around St. Mark's Square. Although a bit touristy, it's vibrant, full of shops (some quite upscale) and gives you a real feeling for the city. Do you know how the famous "Bridge of Sighs" got it's name? Answer a bit later:-)
The first four ports were repeats of what we had just done (Ancona (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Kotor (Montenegro) and Corfu (Greece). A few words about each:
1. Ancona -- why does Regent stop there? It is a lovely bay with nothing byt a but of tourist shopping). Some passengers left their excursions to go back to the ship.
2. Dubrovnik - walked around Dubrovnik this time rather than taking a tour. We enjoy Dubrovnik -- an unusual city. We were surprised to learn that most of the crew on Regent are now permitted to go ashore in Dubrovnik.
3. Kotor -- No tour last cruise. This time we went on the "Historic Kotor and Seaside Resort of Budva). Very good good with time to walk around the loely city of Budva. Unfortunately we were thre too early and most places opened as we were leaving (more about this later).
4. Corfu -- Again, we did not take a tour as we had done one on the previous cruise. All I can say is that Corfu was much better on the tour than it was walking around.
Being on a 10 day port intensive cruise (no sea days) tires you out. We were fortunate that we were repeating some ports so we created our own sea days (not as good as the ones where Regent has activities during the day).
Taormina (Sicily) was our first "new" port and the beginning of our time on the Italian Riviera. We took the Sicilian Wine Road tour. This was booked for the area we would drive through rather than wine tasting (which was fine). The views were amazing. Mt. Etna spewed smoke the entire time we were there. Locals said that the smoke and small explosions given off by the volcano was allowing it to release pressure.
Sorrento was the best excursion we have taken in our years of travel. "Positano and Lunch at Ristorante Quattro Passi". The cost of this tour was $179/person and could be paid by on board credits. This two Michelin star restaurant exceeded all expectations by a mile. Everything about this excursion was amazing. This tour is limited and should be booked as early as possible. We were wait-listed and were fortunate to clear the wait list. Note: Thankfully, this tour was by mini-bus -- much nicer and smaller groups (2 mini buses with approx. 12 passengers each).
Oddly enough, since we had just visited Positano, the next port was Amalfi/Positano. Yes -- another sea day:-)
Florence (Livorno) is a very long ride from the port. Most excursions were 9+ hours. We opted to go for the Hills of Lucca and Wine Tasting tour -- only 5 1/2 hours. At the risk of sounding like a recovering wino, we selected this tour as it drives through Tuscany and stops at a winery with beautiful views of the area. It was a lovely tour. The port was the most miserable looking place we had seen on the two cruises. Fortunately things improved immensely a few miles away from the port.
Last but certainly not least was Portofino. We cancelled the Cruising the Italian Riviera excursion as we had been doing that for days and the port is so vibrant and lovely that we had to go in and walk around. It is hard to have a "favorite" port. . . . however, this one is very special.
Answer to the question: We were on the Bridge of Sighs. Prisoners walked over this bridge on their way to a really miserable prison. They would look out at the canal for possibly their last look at Venice. . . . and they would sigh. Okay -- so most of you knew that but I didn't and found it interesting.
The excursions on Regent are very difficult for some of us to accept. Being on a luxury cruise typically does not mean long lines and 390 passengers on 16 buses going to the same place (at somewhat different times). Some comments:
1. Destination Services is doing a much better job despite the long lines we sometimes encountered getting into the Constellation Theater. According to the Asst. Cruise Director, they were able to get 650 passengers off of the ship in 45 minutes (he noted that it should have taken a half an hour.)
2. Having buses leave 15 minutes apart and take different routes is good in theory. Attention is not paid as to whether it makes sense for a bus to arrive at a winery for wine and a lovely food spread at 9:00 a.m., arrive for lunch at 2:30 p.m. when you left the ship at 8:00 a.m., or arrive at a shopping area when everything is closed. This was happening repeatedly.
3. Passengers pay little attention to the announcements in the theater that asks you to take your seat and wait for your bus number to be called. This complicates the process as the announcements to depart the ship are only made in the theater. Unfortunately, some passengers are willing to do almost anything to get a front seat (including removing the "Reserved" sign that is meant for disabled persons).
4. More attention should be paid to restroom stops. Waiting 2-3 hours after breakfast for the first stop is a bit long for some people. It would be helpful if Regent literature explained that coins are needed for the restrooms in many places. Without them you can not get in.
I cannot imagine how 650 people on various tours and buses on a small island could be handled efficiently. So, if it can not be handled correctly, why is Regent allowing unlimited buses on these tours?
Somewhat related to excursions is the fact that there was a majority of passengers new to Regent on both cruises. We really enjoy chatting with "newbies". New passengers to Regent may not find the excursion process as irritating since they may be used to traveling on ships with 2000+ passengers and Regent is definitely not crowded compared to that. However, new passengers to Regent who have sailed on Silversea, Seabourn and Crystal may see the all-included excursion crowds/lines to be akin to a cattle call.
Excursions are set by corporate so I am not considering them in my overall rating.
The service on both cruises was exceptional. Food in Compass Rose was very good to excellent. Food is subjective. My DH and I had the same meal at the same time and had different opinions. If what you ordered is not to your liking, please say something. It will be fixed or something else will be prepared for you. Prime 7 was good (better on the last leg) and we avoided Signatures on the second cruise.
The crowds in Compass Rose that affect service is something that really cannot change. When someone said that the service was slow I asked what time they arrived at CR. The answer was usually between 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. -- the busiest times. I cannot think of any restaurant, that does not accept reservations, that can handle 200-400 guests arriving at the same time. IMO, they do a wonderful job handling the crowd -- it is just a bit slower than at other times. We receive impeccable service if we arrive early (before 7:00 p.m.)
I noticed on this cruise that La Veranda was also full to capacity on several nights. They may have to do a lottery to dine in the soon to be opened Sette Mari at La Veranda since there is no reservations:-)
Bottom line is that Regent is still exceptional. The staff, starting at the top, will do anything within their power to make your experience as perfect as possible. I can not stress enough how important it is to let the General Manager, Food and Beverage Manager or Dining Room Manager know if you are having concerns or difficulty. If you wait until the end of the cruise to tell them you did not like something, your experience was not as good as it should have been and Regent was not given the opportunity to make things right. They do care -- very much!