We booked our cruise over 6 months in advance after researching for a service-oriented cruise. We initially had booked with Oceania but cancelled and rebooked with RSSC because their advertising "misled" us to believe that the customer service experience would be far better. We opted for a butler level suite as we are service junkies and are used to high-quality service in our daily lives. The first problems arose after booking but prior to the cruise - due to "computer issues" we had to re-input our guest information 3 times and in the end, the cruise documents that were sent to us were wrong and I had to spend more time to correct the information; aside from that the cruise representative was not helpful or particularly competent. We opted to arrange for our own private transfer to the port and I can't tell you how glad I was to do so as we left the hotel at about the same time as the Regent cattle herding and it was impersonal, disorganized and truly chaotic (we arranged for a towncar ourselves for less than 200euro - Regent wanted to charge us 4 times as much!). Fortunately, we arrived at the port before everyone else so we had a perfect boarding experience (in hindsight, this was more likely due to the fact that no one else was boarding at the same time). All around, our 1st day was practically perfect and we were very pleased and relieved.
Unfortunately, our 2nd day was drastically different - terrible customer service, noticeable decrease in quality of services and food. It was night and day - I guess they figured they could stop trying after you were onboard. Our first port was changed to Naples (instead of Sorrento/Capri); however, our shore excursion remained the same. Naples is a terrible port - nasty. Fortunately, we thoroughly enjoyed our "free" shore excursion to Pompeii - guide was a nice elderly man who was very knowledgeable and entertaining(despite a few too many corny jokes), too many people on the tour but the guide provided headsets so that we didn't miss any information.
2nd port: Amalfi/Positano. Beautiful surroundings but disorganized and unacceptable tour. Everyone met in the theater which began the cattle-herding. Then were squeezed into a tender boat (far too many people) and tendered to shore only to find another chaotic meeting place with a tour guide who was an elderly man with a bad attitude and a very quiet voice, let alone clearly incapable of guiding the tour. Unfortunately our group was 38 people and half of the people could not hear a word he was saying (no headsets either) - despite several people speaking up, no improvement was made and we decided to returning the pier to speak with the excursion "director" in an attempt to obtain a few suggestions for us to pay for an alternative (we would have done anything from a local double-decker tour bus to a private driver). She was very unhelpful and seemingly unconcerned. The only advice she had was to wait for the last group to arrive because they had less people (only 27!) - so we opted to wait at the peir for our boat transfer to Positano. Our excursion began at 8:15am and the transfer boat didn't leave Amalfi until after 10am - even after our group caught up to us, we waited almost an hour on the transfer boat so that the rest of the Regent groups could transfer at the same time (even though they had the benefit of sleeping in and starting the day later without waiting like we had to do). Again, terrible chaotic and crowded. Positano was beautiful but the "tour" portion lasted about 5 minutes (just to walk up some steps). By the time we returned to the ship, we felt that we just wasted 6 hours of our lives to something we could have done in a 15 minute boat ride past the two seaside villages. We wish RSSC would have provided more details in the excursion description as we would have opted to sleep in, relax and maybe take in an extra spa service.
3rd port: Florence/Pisa. Due to the terrible experience from the prior day, we booked a last-minute private excursion through Regent for this stop - Although it costed us more than $1600 to do so, we were glad as both our driver and our Florence guide were wonderful. It was a shame we had to do this in order to experience a satisfying tour though. However, if you make the mistake of booking with Regent and have expectations for good service and experiences, I highly recommend booking private tours as even the paid group tours RSSC offers seem crowded and disappointing. Florence was wonderful, Pisa was picturesque but VERY commercialized. We apparently returned to the ship prior to the cattle herding (but after 5pm) and as a result, boarded and missed the staff welcome ceremony, which was unfortunate.
4th port: Monte Carlo. We opted to back out of our group tour again because of the poor previous experience. We slept in and then went to shore on our own - which was great because we missed the crowds at tender time. Taxis are few and far between so we ended up hiking up to the casino (not for the faint of heart) but had a good experience and were able to secure a taxi easily from the casino back to the pier.
5th port: Saint-Tropez. We made the mistake of trying the group excursion again. And again a horrible experience. Port Grimaud was a planned development community build in the 1960s that was very uninspiring - they made it very touristy and attempted to mimic a Venice style village - but it was poorly done and unsuccessful in their aspirations. Took an unguided boat tour - in a residential canal that had absolutely no appeal...and then had some free time to experience not-so-friendly service and a local restaurant. Very cheesy and a waste of time. We had spa appointments booked for that evening and the tour was running late so in order to avoid further disappointment, we exited the tour upon returning to Saint-Tropez and missed that waling tour. Again, this involved a bad tender experience with excessive waiting and a crowded tender boat.
6th port: Provence. We again opted for a private tour - this time it was $1900 - but again, it proved to be worth it because we had an enjoyable time. The guide was not worth it and we were put in a van instead of a towncar as requested but thankfully, I had been to this part of France before so I directed the day and provided my husband with a very guide overview of some off-the-beaten-path stops (in addition to the popular Avignon, we went to Pont du Gard, Arles, the castle in Torascon).
Out of time, but so much more I could say. Butler service was disappointing, food and waitstaff were disappointing... The only thing that was good was a response and temporary improvement in service when we complained to the executive concierge. Although, this improvement was temporary. Restaurant officer was great. Room service was inedible. Last day of service was dreadful - couldn't find anything edible and service was virtually non-existent. Debarking was horrible as well as service from the Regent staff at the port in Barcelona -they should be fired. Definitely left us with the impression that all they care about was shoeing us off fast without any cares about service and focusing on putting on a good show for the next group's first day. Our total cost was over $20,000 for a "6-star cruiseline" that provided 3-star service and experience.
We will book our next cruise with another cruiseline.