BACKGROUND: We were first time cruisers with Regent Seven Seas Mariner. We booked because of friends who had told us about the cruise line and we were not disappointed. From the booking with Justine Workman of the cruise line who helped us with the reservations and shore excursions to answering any questions we had right up to date of departure. She was terrific and always promptly responsive.
TRAVEL TO PORT OF EMBARKATION: We traveled on our own. We received credit for not taking the included flight to Venice. We were on Delta on frequent flyer tickets, and we purchased the Economy Comfort seats. On the Boeing flight which has seating of 2-3-2 the additional room was minimal,and next time we will go for the Business Elite on the trip over since the seats are recliners and good for sleeping. On the way home from Rome we were on an Airbus A330 and had 2 seats on the side in the Economy Comfort area and they definitely had more room. This is very important for my wife as she has some difficulty with her knees and legs, which cannot be cramped for hours-like 8 or 9. The service on the flight home was superb, very attentive. We would give a high five for the service and flight. Upon arrival at the airport we had arranged for transportation to our hotel by Viator, which was terrific. We checked in at their desk and then walked to the docks about 10mins on a covered walkway from the terminal to the docks where our water taxi was waiting. We shared it with two other couples and it took about 45mins to 1hr to get to the hotel, but what a great way to arrive in Venice. It was fabulous and very convenient at a reasonable rate--given the prices for water taxi in Venice. We were taken to our hotel's own dock and met by the bellman there.
HOTEL; Included in the cruise is a pre-cruise hotel stay. Since we went over a day earlier so we would have more time in Venice, we had to secure a hotel on our own. We booked with the Hilton Molino Stucky on Guidecca Island across from Venice proper. It was rated 5star Luxury and certainly the room was very comfortable, and the over all hotel very nice, but we felt it was a 4 star at best. There were many cruisers for the Mariner staying at the hotel. The room was a typically sized room which was very clean, comfortable and definitely provided an excellent sleep. The morning breakfast which was included was adequate, but certainly not up to a 5 star standard. We were disappointed with the service as well, not attentive at all, which was surprising given the overall good reviews we had read. The hotel has a free shuttle to Piazza San Marco which runs very timely. While we were there the America's Cup World Series was competing. This was May 18,19,20, and as a result the shuttle during race time had to drop us off across the Guidecca canal at the Vettere vaporetto stop which then necessitated a 20 min walk to the Piazza San Marco, which turned out to be a good thing as we saw parts of Venice we might not have been able to explore with our short stay. On Saturday we checked out and caught the shuttle to San Marco, and then transferred to the shuttle provided by San Clemente Palace Resort which was the hotel included with our cruise. If we had any question of the 5 Star nature of the cruise, the hotel stay put that all to rest. It is 5 Star +! The resort is on its own island about a 20 min shuttle ride from San Marco. It is a renovated 12th Century Monestary with a church built in 1135 on the grounds. They are working with the government to get the ok to somewhat restore the church. The church is all cleaned up and there are many original fresco on the walls to be amazed by. The hotel has scented toilet paper even in the public restrooms, if that tells you anything. The room was beautiful with a very large bathroom and every conceivable convenience. We had a ground floor room which opened to a large courtyard, and we are sure they have far more elaborate accommodations, but we were very pleased. Excitement during the night there was a 5.9 Richter scale earthquake about 4 AM...no damage. Everyone felt it, particularly the women, as we found out during conversations both in the hotel and then later on board the ship. Then about 4 days later there was another quake in about the same area NW of Bologna and it killed several people. Again no damage to the Venice area that we heard of. After a very 5+ Star breakfast buffet we met some other people who were also on the cruise and then we all caught the 12:30 pm shuttle to the ship.
SHIP: Upon taking the shuttle to the San Basilica vaporetto stop we then had to walk about a quarter mile to the ship's terminal for clearance and boarding. It was all very smooth and efficient, although we met some really great people on the ship and they had had a difficult time getting to the terminal from their Venice hotel...this was definitely not 5star. Our boarding experience was quick and easy and without any hassles. The ship has 700 passengers with about 450 crew and we found them to be very friendly and attentive. This began with Parlita our room stewardess who was always willing to assist with any request. She keep fresh fruit in the stateroom at all times and restocked the requested included wine and spirits promptly. The king size bed stateroom was on a concierge level, and very comfortable. We had selected the room because it has a tub/shower arrangement. My wife is a tub person and does not really care for showers, and would be disappointed if there were no tub option. The ship has apparently converted many of the staterooms to shower only. The amenities provided were all top notch and the service provided by Parlita was excellent. The ship has a no tipping or gratuity policy as it is already included in the fare, and we really appreciated that. We found all the staff to be very attentive, friendly and accommodating. So it appears the staff well taken care of as we never saw any example or display of attitude that would suggest otherwise. The only comment my wife had about the ship was she felt they needed to replace the hall carpeting as it appeared to be worn. Otherwise everything else appeared to be in good repair and superior quality. There is a launderette with 3 washers and 3 dryers on the levels where provided and they were no charge and worked well. The ship was well organized for the daily shore excursions, having all parties meet in the Constellation Theatre at spaced times for use of the gangplank where docked or tender when anchored. The staff was always approachable and helpful. It appeared as the Captain and crew did anything they could to accommodate the passengers. All of our encounters with staff were positive in every way.
DINING: The Compass Rose is the main dining room. We ate lunch there one day and dinner most evenings. There are two speciality restaurants which are included. Prime 7, a NY style steakhouse and Signatures, a continental cuisine venue. Both are superb. We had made friends of another couple when in the cruise and we were both scheduled for Signatures on the same night only different times. The Maitre D changed the reservations around so we were able to eat together, which we note, because of the effort the ship makes to be sure everyone has at least one dining experience in each of the speciality restaurants. The food in Compass Rose was excellent as well, and they offered a selection every night from the Prime 7 and Signatures...which we took advantage of...They have delicious Rack of Lamb! Up on the pool deck, they have a pool grill with typical pool fare, hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, etc. Also on this deck on the FanTail is La Veranda, a white table clothed dining room both inside and out with a wonderful buffet that changes daily. We had several lunches and a dinner, and again felt the food was excellent with an excellent selection. Most evenings we ate in Compass Rose and with a group we had met through the Cruise Critic's Boards..a great idea, only on this cruise there were few who used it, and then only 4 of the participants, including yours truly, actually got together in the Observation Lounge at 6 PM on the 20th...the date of sailing. We usually met in the Horizons Lounge or the lounge outside of the Compass Rose and had a spirit prior to heading into dining.
With all wine and spirits included you might think the ship would not be pouring freely, but contrare the wine steward and wait staff were always asking if you needed more or wanted anything else. If you got thirsty on this cruise it was your own fault, not the ships.
For breakfast we never did any of the dining venues available. We always had room service which was terrific. When we ordered it for 7am, then it usually came between 6:45 and 7 which was perfect as we were able to get ready to go on the shore excursions and have nice breakfast without feeling rushed. The food was always hot and done as requested, we really enjoyed the omelets, fresh squeeze juice and coffee.
ACTIVITIES: We did not partake in any spa services as there was literally no time on our schedule. We enjoyed visiting with the various people we met on the cruise, and felt everyone was very friendly. As a result we expect we will staying in touch with some of them and getting together again in the future and perhaps on another Seven Seas cruise.
ENTERTAINMENT: It seems as though we never get to see the shows. Our dinner engagements always seemed to run late, and after full days on excursions a good nights sleep was had our name on it. During the day we did get with a group and attended the 4pm Afternoon Tea....the scones, clotted cream, tea sandwiches, etc, as well as the excellent teas along with the Trivial contest seemed to be a crowd pleaser, as it was usually fully occupied. The various musicians on board were very good and we enjoyed they at lounge time.
PORT & SHORE EXCURSIONS: They will be covered in more detail below. The only port we were very disappointed with and think the cruise line should consider some other port was Ancona. This was the first port out. The town is dismal, and there are excursions out of the area, but the trips are too long on a bus for the amount of time spent in the locations traveled to. Otherwise we found all the ports to be interesting and we really enjoyed them. Since there is no place to comment below on Positano/Amalfi, we did the tour of both which was very short and disappointing. We really wanted to see much more of both and with only a total of 6hrs anchored there was not sufficient time to explore and nothing offered that really provided sufficient time. We Loved Positano-what we could see in 45, and really did not have enough time to explore Amalfi---next time. We will do it without a cruise.
DISEMBARKATION: So simple, again scheduled well and no issue. We gathered our bags and went thru customs without any questions and met our driver for the ride to ROME! Since we were not taking advantage of the ships offered transportation because we were going to be in Rome for 5days.
SUMMARY: 5 Star+ and we would do Seven Seas Mariner again in a heartbeat if they go where we want to go, and certainly would not hesitate to take any Regent Seven Seas cruise based upon our experience on this cruise.