This was our second cruise with Regent, the previous one being in 2005 on Seven Seas Voyager when they were called Radisson. Since then we have had a couple of cruises with Silversea. Our last cruise on Silver Spirit wasn't such a good experience so we thought we would give Regent a try again.
We booked a G suite on a guarantee basis and were pleasantly surprised to find we had an upgrade to a Seven Seas Suite. The larger suite with 1.5 bathrooms and a huge balcony made quite a difference to the enjoyment of our cruise but we would have been happy with the G suite we booked.
We had some concerns about the BA flight Regent booked (14.25 arrival in Barcelona) actually getting us to the ship for the 18.00 departure but the flight was on time and the flow through the airport and the transfer were completed quickly and we were on the ship by around 16.15. Our luggage arrived at our cabin shortly afterwards. This suite came with a butler but unlike Silversea the butler does not unpack for you which was fine for us as we then knew where everything was at a later date (see comments on Butler later).
The ship and our cabin were very nice and spotlessly clean everywhere. It was tastefully decorated throughout but not brash. After 10 days we decided that this size of ship was just about right for us. The ship we think was almost full but it never felt busy or crowded and there is a good area to walk round the deck to work off the excesses of food and drink. The only time there was a bit of a crush was at the departure of the excursions. Now that many of the excursions are included in the price they are of course very popular. So from 07.30 till 09.00 in most ports there is a steady stream of people into the theatre where Regent marshal all the groups before going ashore or into the tender. The excursions are incredibly well organised and we found that the quality of the tours was equally impressive. The coaches were never more than half full (they ran several coaches rather than fill them up), the guides were excellent and the itineraries were really good also. One small comment we passed on to Regent was that it would have been good to know whether a snack or a full blown lunch was provided on some of the excursions as this was not clear before the trip. There is a danger that the cruise becomes too busy as you try to cram in as many excursions as possible. We booked one in every port but by the time we got to Rome we decided to have a more leisurely day on the ship and handed our tickets back for someone else to use.
The fairly early starts for excursions meant that breakfast had to be taken a bit earlier so we tried the buffet in La Veranda but were disappointed by the choice and quality particularly of the hot food. Likewise for lunch we didn't find the buffet particularly appealing and certainly nowhere as good as Silversea. We never tried La Veranda for dinner.
We switched to room service for breakfast every day after that and the cooked breakfast was much better with everything freshly cooked. This is where our larger cabin was an advantage as we had a separate sitting room with a large dining table. On our day at sea we tried breakfast in the Compass Rose restaurant but the ordering process and service were fairly slow so ok if you are not in a hurry.
We had dinner in Compass Rose every night (except for the night we managed to get a booking in Prime 7 -- make sure you book on line as soon as possible as it is heavily booked) as we found the food and service good. We found a waiter on our first night, who was very efficient and knowledgeable about the food and we ensured that we had one of his tables every night. We did hear others complain that the staff were not very well trained but we had no problems. The quality and choice of food was good but perhaps not as good as Silversea. If you like "red meat" then the food is good for you as that is what they do well. The Filet Mignon in Prime 7 and sometimes on offer in Compass Rose is superb and if you ask for it well done it appears exactly right with no pink bits in the middle.
We avoided the on deck barbeque night as previous experiences were not good. Lunch at the pool grill is good with freshly cooked food and on some days the menu is expanded with a buffet. Afternoon tea was disappointing as the scones were poor as was the clotted cream. I won't even mention the standard spray on cream!! The selection of sandwiches and cakes were also disappointing most days but on some days they had a chocolate theme and if you are into chocolate then this would be ok as a platform with all the goodies was set up on the dance floor.
On the whole the wine offered was reasonable but biased towards Californian wine which we don't care for. We tended to ask for an alternative related to the country we were visiting. We had no trouble getting an alternative although some of the wine waiters are not particularly knowledgeable about wine.
The house champagne wasn't great so we stuck to other drinks of which there was an abundant choice. The coffee on board was also not to our taste in any of the restaurants or self service machines. If you like a good cup of coffee then head for Coffee Connection on deck 6. This area also does a light breakfast so can become a bit crowded especially on the day at sea.
We seemed to get very hot in the middle of the night in spite of having the aircon set low. We heard others complaining of the same problem and the people in the next cabin slept with the cabin door open so not sure what the problem was??
There was no bridge or galley visit offered on this trip for some reason??
We didn't sample much of the entertainment as we preferred a quiet nightcap in the Observation Lounge. Sitting up there with a cognac whilst anchored off Monaco was very pleasant indeed and we watched a number of great sunsets whilst sitting up here on Deck 12.
The musicians on board were very good and provided a varied selection of music.
Our Butler, we suspect, was new to the role. He was very friendly but didn't show any initiative at all. He provided everything we asked for but had to be asked every day. So for example, when we asked for some crisps/snacks to have with our drink on two consecutive days we sort of imagined he might bring them every day -- no, we had to ask him again. Also he delivered our breakfast when we ordered room service and regardless of what time range we put on the card he always turned up 10/15mins before the earliest time. Even when we resorted to putting an actual time on the card there he was at the crack of dawn!! We also had some problems with the quantities of breakfast as we always seemed to have twice the amount we thought we had asked for (don't like to waste food!). As I said previously the butler does not do a pack or unpack service unlike Silversea. The other nice little touches weren't there either such as taking a pair of shoes and cleaning them or cleaning sunglasses and specs. We asked him to try to book us another table in Prime 7 but he never came back to us to say whether he had tried or not. So really the butler didn't add much value to our cruise as room service or the cabin stewardess could have done most of what he did for us. As we didn't expect a butler or pay for the suite we were allocated then it was not an issue for us.
We had to leave the ship fairly early (08.40) but Regent had laid on a short tour of Istanbul for us to ensure we didn't arrive at the airport too early for our flight. This has been a complaint of ours on previous cruises but it seems the Cruise Lines are listening. As it was we were still at the check in desk 1.5 hours before the desk opened and the airport lounge is of course "airside" so you have to check in first. Istanbul airport is fairly chaotic and all the luggage is x-rayed as you enter the departure hall. Regent had organised people to take the luggage from the tour coach and get it through the x-ray machines but the tour guide did not explain what was happening to us very well so there was some confusion. Also the passengers went through the security area and wandered off before the luggage was x-rayed. Unfortunately the security staff wanted some of the luggage opened and the owners weren't there to open it.
So in conclusion we had a really good cruise and considering all the excursions we had included in the price we think it was good value for money. Was it a six star cruise? Well nearly but Regent need to keep their finger on the pulse to make sure that standards don't slip particularly in La Veranda. Will we cruise with Regent again -- yes definitely if we can get it at the right price.