I will try not to be too long, but I wanted to submit a thorough review for all those that are considering a first Regent cruise. There are some things I didn't know but wish I had, and I also want to review the ports and excursions as most were very enjoyable.
First, we booked directly through Regent. Our experience was less than we expected from a luxury line who promised great service--just little errors and mix-ups here and there that could have been avoided. Apparently, they are well known for having less than perfect internal systems and it is very useful to have a travel agent who is very familiar with Regent. Also, as I didn't know before, most agents will give you some onboard credit to spend, which is always nice!
Our airfare was included with Regent, and I wasn't aware at the time of booking but you can elect to take a credit and book your own airfare OR at least do airfare deviations, which I probably would do next time. We had no problem, but we could've had a non-stop flight home if we had deviated which would have been much nicer than our connection at JFK.
We were on a 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise sailing from Barcelona to Rome. We had an included one-night stay at a hotel in Barcelona and all transfers are included. Again, you can request to receive a credit and book your own hotel and transfers. This probably would have been good, especially if you wanted a specific hotel or non-bus transfers. We didn't have a problem and all the Regent folks in Barcelona were helpful. They sold us a day tour to Montserrat and then transferred us to port around 2:30. If you don't buy the tour, you are still transferred as agreed.
Finally, we were on the Mariner! She is a lovely ship and we were received quickly and with a glass of champagne. As soon as we boarded they announced that our suites were ready, so we proceeded to Suite 730, mid-ship. We were very pleased with the size and location. There is a bathtub/shower combo in this suite, which is unusual (most of them have been updated to a shower only). The combos are very short and my 6'3" husband had quite a time trying to shower, so request a shower-only suite if you want one!
We dined in Compass Rose the first night and two additional nights and always found it delicious with very good service. The wines and other drinks were fine with us; we always could find something we liked very much. We tried La Veranda several times for lunch and dinner and found it to be hit and miss. We felt it the food quality was a little spotty here, but we always found something we liked and the service was always wonderful. The cheese selections were a particular highlight. We had room service breakfast every day and sometimes for dinner and it was good, not great. A couple of times things were forgotten, but it was quickly remedied. Prime7 was by far our best dining experience. The steaks were delicious and there were many delicious sides from which to choose.
We found most of our excursions very enjoyable. Our first, to Marseille, was disappointing because it was on a Sunday in traffic with very few shops open on a gloomy day. Probably will not need to go back there. However, Monday's tour, "WINE TASTING AND PROVENCAL HILLTOP VILLAGE" was very nice. Yes, it was as part of a tour bus, but those hilltop villages were beautiful and the winery was a great experience. We went back to the ship at lunch and lounged by the pool (there was always PLENTY of room) and watched sailboats off Saint Tropez. Tuesday we took "JEWELS OF THE COTE D'AZUR - NICE, EZE, MONACO" and it was very nice. It was a long one and we wondered if we'd like it that long on a bus, but the area was so wonderful and our tour guide so good that we had a great time. Monaco is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Wednesday we were docked in Livorno and I scheduled a private tour outside Regent (RomeCabs: they are excellent!) to take us to Pisa and Florence. It was a highlight and I'm glad we took a car instead of worrying with the herd in all that traffic. Thursday was "POSITANO AND AMALFI" and we actually only made it through half of this one before heading back. It was a tender port, so we were really exhausted after tendering to the port then taking a water taxi back and forth to Positano. We just didn't have any energy left for the Amalfi portion after all that. Friday we did "ANCIENT POMPEII" and were delighted with our drive to and tour of Pompeii, complete with guide and headsets. Pompeii was crowded so it was really nice to have a guide and headsets so you didn't get too lost. After that, we went back to Sorrento and enjoyed a wonderful local meal. We could definitely go back to Sorrento!
It is hard to articulate that "extra something" that Regent provides. It's little things like them always providing staff outside the ship when docked or at the pier in case of tender, smiling and ready with cool water or fruit punch. Also, there was only one lunch that felt somewhat crowded, but that was the only crowded dining experience we had. There were always plenty of chairs around the pool and we were usually alone in the hall and with only a couple handfuls of people in the Observation Lounge after dinner. We had a great time and found Regent to uphold its end of the bargain as far as service and comfort go.
So...would we ever go on Regent again? It would depend on the itinerary, but probably. They would at least always be in the top of the short list. Since the excursions are included, Regent may not make sense if you want to schedule your own tours. Yes, the suites are very nice and food is better than average cruise fare (but not always excellent). However, I think, unless money is truly no object, you would be smart to check in detail the pricing of other luxury lines before making a decision on Regent. This is true especially if you don't desire the inclusivity of drinks and excursions.