My wife and I recently cruised along the Alaskan coast and chose for this cruise to try, for us, a new cruise line for this latest adventure: Regent Seven Seas and their ship, the Navigator. We had an inkling regarding the quality offered by Regent Seven Seas when we received the most comprehensive and detailed joining instructions and tickets well prior to departure - some 58 pages worth and really a mini personal brochure.
As part of the Regent package we flew with BA to Seattle and Alaskan Air to Anchorage. We spent a pre cruise night in the Anchorage Marriott hotel before making the 2 1/2 hour coach transfer to the embarkation port of Seward along the very scenic Seward highway.
Seven Seas Navigator is a small cruise ship with capacity for 460 passengers. Regent operate an 'All Inclusive' system on their cruises which includes unlimited choices of ship's excursions, all alcoholic drinks and gratuities.
We had booked a Deluxe Balcony suite and on arrival were very pleasantly surprised to find spacious accommodation, contemporary in style, and extremely well fitted out. All suites enjoy marble bathrooms with bath, a separate walk-in glass paneled shower and an abundance of L'Occitane toiletries. There is also an extensive walk in wardrobe with additional cupboard storage space. The suite fridge was also well stocked but hey, who wants to drink in their suite when there is a social life to be had and bars open all day. There are no inside cabins on board Seven Seas Navigator and, for those who may be interested, there are four launderettes.
On arrival all suites were available for occupancy and a welcome glass of champagne was offered at embarkation in addition to the bottle of champagne awaiting in the suite. Seven Seas Navigator is not a big ship and it was very easy to find one's way around. The sailaway party was well attended, why shouldn't it be, the drinks were free.
By way of a social introduction Regent organise, within an hour of sailing, a 'Block Party'. On an announcement by the Cruise Director passengers are encouraged to grab a glass and step outside their suite door to meet their neighbours. Staff members are in attendance while the Cruise Director and Hotel Manager attempt to meet every passenger.
There was no formal or semi-formal dress code and elegant casual was the dress order. However, after 6.00pm approximately 60% of men did wear jackets.
There are three restaurants on board, all operating a single sitting 'freestyle' dining system for all meals. An 'Al Fresco' poolside grill is available from 6.30 am till late.
The main restaurant, The Compass Rose, operates an open seating dining and waiter only option for all meals: no reservations are required. The dinner menu in particular was a very comprehensive one and each evening was enhanced with two selections taken from the ship's main speciality restaurant, Prime 7. For those wishing buffet style meals both the veranda and Pool Grill were open for breakfast and lunch.
The two speciality restaurants are Prime 7 and Sette Mari at The Veranda. The former, principally a steak and seafood fine dining restaurant does require pre booking. The latter, an Italian style brasserie, was again operated on a freestyle basis.
Considering its size Seven Seas Navigator has a particularly large theatre, well tiered with additional side balconies, multiple entrances and aisles, and drinks tables at all levels. Navigator's production show team, The Jean Ann Ryan Singers and Dancers, were a very talented group of ten and apart from putting on four production shows they also featured in other entertainment venues both professionally and socially. Music for all shows and early and late evening dancing were courtesy of the ships eight piece orchestra. Cocktail piano music was provided by two additional pianists at selected cocktail bars.
One particular show that should have particular mention was 'Cirque Navigator'. Despite the ship's and production team's size, this proved more spectacular than the cirque du Soleil show we recently saw on Celebrity Eclipse: that was some achievement.
Navigator has a small but comprehensive library, an Internet venue, gym, spa and a selection of retail outlets, the ubiquitous Art gallery and of course a casino.
Staff and crew numbered 375 in total and these were drawn from 40 nationalities to look after 460 guests. Guest nationality balance was American 395, British 48 and the balance from a number of other nations.
This was obviously a port intensive cruise and there was one tender port, Sitka. At this port the tenders were run so efficiently that tender tickets were dispensed with almost immediately.
Comprehensive port lectures and local interest lectures were given by Terry Breen, a most knowledgeable and authoritative lecturer who has produced an even better cruiser friendly guide book to Alaska's Inside Passage.
The joy of a small ship in this particular environment is the fact that it can get much closer to the faces of the Glaciers. This was particularly well demonstrated on day one when we sailed amongst the crystal blue icebergs that had recently broken from the Hubbard Glacier.
Ports visited were Sitka, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan before finally disembarking in Vancouver. By far the outstanding visit was to Skagway where we took the opportunity to take the White Pass Scenic Railroad to Fraser in British Columbia, Canada and then continue by coach into the Yukon before returning to Skagway via the Klondike Highway.
We did experience occasional vibration but this was mainly when navigational manoeuvres were being made in confined water areas but it was never a problem that affected our sleep or comfort.
Overall this was an excellent cruise and the perfect way to do Alaska and we felt we had particularly good value for money and an enjoyable first time with Regent Seven Seas. The ship engenders a nice intimacy and we met and became quite friendly with many like minded discerning cruisers. In most areas Seven Seas Navigator certainly deserves its 6 Star rating though we would add that restaurant wise food and service quality lacked the depth offered by the Cunard Grills' experience: Entirely expected when considering the numbers being catered for at each meal in The Compass Rose. We would certainly have no reservations in recommending this ship and company to anyone who is considering a cruise with Regent Seven Seas, particularly over a short cruise period.
We disembarked in Vancouver - a simple and efficient affair - and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel while spending 3 days exploring this delightful city with its excellent restaurants.