This is my husband and my first Regent SS cruise. Our past cruise lines include Paul Gauguin, Azamara, Celebrity, HAL, Princess.
Port-intensive Itinerary was the main reason we selected this cruise. Secondary reason was to try an All Inclusive (including excursions) cruise. Our last experience of all-inclusive was Paul Gauguin, and we loved it!
Hotel stay the night before
Small ship-Understated elegant
No formal nights
Lining up for excursions
This is a superfantastic itinerary. I cannot find words that would do these places justice. Every port was worth seeing, feeling, and understanding. (our favorites were Ephesus, Corfu, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Venice.) The view as our ship approaches the ports was breath-taking. These cities are beyond words. They must be experienced.
Hotel Stay the Night Before
Grand Hyatt in Istanbul was where we stayed the night before our sailing. It wasn't just the hotel that added to the Regent SS experience. It was the all the extras such as free internet, free scrumptious breakfast, and the "club" benefits that blew us away. This was the start of the Regent Cruise, and Regent certainly made an unforgettable first impression with this hotel and the extra service provided.
We chose this cruise based on its port-intensive itineraries. This cabin is a spacious suite, love the walk-in closet and the marble bathroom. Prefer to have bigger shower, and no tub.
However, this port-intensive sailing did not allow us cocooning and indulging much in this gorgeous suite! And that is unfortunate.
Being on deck 6, we had no problem with noise. We did have a minor inconvenience--the base of the shower slopes away from the drain, which caused the water to pool while showering.
We never used the tub. I could not bear to waste so much water taking a bath, on a ship! I am sure it is a welcome relief for longer trips.
We were particularly impressed with the room service. Their phone etiquette was superb. They made us feel our call was very important, and our requests were top priority, even though I could hear the raucous in the background. (they were still in the midst of busy meal time.)
The food was delivered to us promptly, and the table was set up for us, with attention to every detail. We felt very pampered, in our robes! We enjoyed our room service, even though it was only a couple of times.
This all-inclusiveness seemed to be a big draw for us newbie passengers. As CC Travelcat has pointed out, there was a higher % of newbies on this sailing. (Another observation: I noticed lower age group of passengers in their 20's, 30's, 40's)
And we newbies seem to enjoy and embrace this all-inclusive feature.
It is liberating not have to sign for every cocktail, coffee, or water bottle. For someone who is not into drinks, I was amazed with how much I really enjoyed sitting at the Coffee Connection, with a cup of Cafe au lait, reading my ipad; or watching the sun sets at the back of Horizon Lounge, sampling a glass of apple martini. Surprising to me, these "Little pleasures" added much "value" to our Regent SS cruise experience.
Ship & Service--Overall
Ship --We like the size of the ship. The stairs are great for people like us who rarely take the elevator. Being on 6th deck, we were close to most services: the Service desk, the destination desk, the library, Coffee Connection, the theater (where we gathered almost every morning for excursions.)
The decor was understated elegant. We like that.
It seemed to us, Regent takes maintenance seriously. Almost every night, something was done to the pool deck in addition to being washed. Overall, the ship seemed very well cared for.
Service--Service to us means connection with us guests. Having someone anticipates my needs because they know my likes and dislikes is HUGE for me. For example, when I sit down at dinner in Compass Rose, my waiter will bring my cup of hot tea instead of ice cold water, without asking me again. He already knows. That, is service to me.
Given to us by an experienced Regent fan--CC Travelcat, a tip for getting consistently good service in the main dining room Compass Rose: Choose the same table, with the same waiter as often as possible. And in order to do that, you have to be earlier than 7pm.
We can attest to that--it worked for us. We had the same waiter, the same assistant, and the same sommelier. And at 6:30pm when it was before the "storm", we were able to enjoy personable service, and deeper connection with the staff. My husband and I find much pleasure in that. After 7pm, it was impossible. The crew became too busy.
This is the reason why I prefer fixed time dining. With fixed time dining, the crew has a rhythm and they have buffer time, allowing them to connect with their guests.
On the other hand, with daily tour excursions, getting to dinner at fixed time is inconvenient and unrealistic sometimes. It comes down to individual preference: what adds to a good cruise experience for each one of us. For my husband and I, connecting with the crew and fellow passenger (at least at dinner) is an important part of an unforgettable cruise experience.
During this cruise, we somehow had fewer opportunities "connecting" (more than a simple hello) with the crew, and with fellow guests. Not sure of the reasons yet.
No Formal Nights
With the luggage weight restriction, and long flights for us from West coast Canada, the less we bring, the easier it is. PLUS, our focus was the ports and excursions. No formal nights allow us more freedom and enjoyment.
Even though there were no formal nights, we find fellow passengers dress very elegantly in the evening. To me, one does not have to be in formal gowns to look beautiful, respectful, and elegant. NO Formal Nights was a big PLUS for me.
This was an interesting feature we wanted to experiment. I have always organized our own excursions with private organizations in ports. We were not fans of cruise-organized tours--large groups, standard cookie cutter tour packages, a bit bland and too big of a group for us.
However, what I like about this all-inclusive is the fact we do go to ports every day, with knowledgeable guides. I did not do any planning, organizing, and risking. It took the worry out of my mind.
My favorite excursions: biking in Croatia; climbing the Volcano in Santorini, visiting the Terrace Houses in Ephesus. I have to admit, the Regent excursions DO include some interesting visits to local restaurants, winery, or hot spring (or cold spring, in Santorini's case.) we wouldn't have selected if we were on our own. We thoroughly enjoyed them.
The flip side is the waiting in line, in the theater in the morning of the excursions. (We felt as we were in elementary school, waiting to be called to the principle's office!) The tour group was 2 or 3X bigger than the 8 to 12 people group we are used to. Being in a larger group, the guides had logistics to consider (waiting for us to go to WC, for example). Also, we had less individual time. We were on a tighter schedule. The tour could not be altered or customized to suit us. These are all understandable.
Overall, I think Regent did a superb job providing many interesting excursions for us to choose from. I am not sure if we guests appreciate the effort and the amount of organization behind the scene Regent did to make it happen for us. For those of us who are planners of tours and excursions for ourselves, I certainly appreciate it.
The quasi full-service/self-service in La Veranda and the Grill was a bit awkward for us. Or maybe we were not used to it.
We had our breakfasts and ONE dinner at La Veranda.
For breakfast, the egg order is brought to our table. This was awkward for us, in that, we almost always forget to check our table number before lining up at the buffet stations. Because the egg station is not a separate station, the line up clogs up the line for all stations. The line gets longer due to the fact a staff will have to take the time to write down my table number on a little piece of paper. The line gets even longer. When we have excursions, which means we have very little time in the morning to enjoy our breakfast leisurely.
We had dinner once at La Veranda. We wanted a casual, less formal environment. Less formal in La Veranda meant we helped ourselves with salads, but our main course will be taken care of by our waiter. The main course took a very long time, and we noticed how flustered and confused the staff were. Mistakes made not only at our table, but also others. It was not a good night for them. Fortunately, we had lovely table mates, the waiting time was filled with lively conversation.
I was told La Veranda may be going through a major change. And this was their transition period.
I do hope Regent keep this option open. Some days, we prefer the self-serve, non-rigid, minimum service buffet style dining, selecting what we want to eat, and how we want to eat, without offending others.
Food Quality and Presentation
Food is very personal and subjective. For a cruise line, be it 5 star or 6 star, satisfying the taste buds of many different cultures is an impossible task and unrealistic expectation, in my opinion.
With that in mind, the only dish that did not meet our expectation was fish. They were overcooked in Compass Rose as well as in Signature. However, my Sea bass one night in Compass Rose was moist and delicious.
What impressed me tremendously is the food presentation. Every dish was an art on display. The food quality was good, and rich.
The Champagne caviar on Sunday was a treat. That was nice.
The only one part of an excursion we did not enjoy was the carpet store at the end of Ephesus tour. We did not care for the well-orchestrated sales pitch. That was anti-climatic after such a fantastic Ephesus and Terrace Houses tour!
Summary--I think Regent is worth a try for anyone considering an all-inclusive cruise.