Just back from the last Regent Baltic cruise of the season, Stockholm to Southampton. Overall a great cruise, with better than expected weather and great ports. Since this is the last trip of the season, no one will be able to use this review for the current year, but I think it will be helpful for those planning for next year.
The flights, transfers and loading
Flew from Washington Dulles to Copenhagen on SAS Business /First and had a great flight, service and food. Arrival in Copenhagen was early, and we cleared security and passport control in a breeze. After prowling the shops we settled into the SAS lounge until our one hour hop over to Stockholm. Meet and greet was prompt, we rolled our bags onto the bus and were downtown in about 45 minutes. Hotel was Scandic Grand Central. This was supposed to be the upgrade. Not a bad place but if you are thinking Grand Hyatt or even newer Hilton, it is not. I cannot compare to other Stockholm hotels, but if I was going back I would try something else. Transfers to the ship were right on time and check in was a snap, done on board in the showroom. Disembark was again right on the promised time despite docking 30 minutes late. We were on an 11:15 Virgin Atlantic to Dulles and our bus also included people on an 11:00 to Chicago. We were all nervous of the time, but even in Thursday morning rush hour traffic we were at Terminal 3 in less than 90 minutes and sitting in the Virgin Upper Class lounge two hours before our flight. Flights home were great and we had no complaints.
This was our sixth Regent but first on Voyager. The layout is efficient with most public space on decks 4, 5 and 11. This ship is very similar to Mariner. We had a Penthouse C in the back of the ship. For the extra dollars you get a very nice deck and butler service. You also get the automatic Business upgrade and upgraded hotel. The Deck was nice and much larger than the standard cabins. The rear location was also nice if you enjoy watching the wake which we do. The Penthouse suites on Mariner are much bigger than on Voyage and a better value. However the ones on Navigator are no bigger so it is probably a better value on Voyager than Navigator. There is no more vibration than on any other cruise ship I have been on. Honestly, I tried to notice anything extraordinary as reported by some passengers, but other than accelerating and decelerating there is nothing noticeable. A ship is a large piece of machinery and there is vibration even when docked, but nothing that should keep you awake. Also there were no unusual odors except from some varnish smell the first day from touching up the rails of our balcony.
Everything we had was excellent to very good. Ate at all the venues with highlights being the noon grills on the deck for lunch (fish, sausages, and burger buffet), the veal chop in Seta Mari and the return of Beef Wellington in Compass Rose. This had been missing our last two trips (though they would make it if you requested it) and I am glad to see it back on the menu. Wines were good and multiple choices were always available. Nobody pushed us to buy off the reserve list though we did one night. Prime Seven and Signatures were good with Signatures being better. Two complaints here, Compass Rose is really understaffed. I discussed this with the management on board, but honestly one night our waiter was dealing with 28 passengers at one time. You would never see this in a high end restaurant. The other venues on board had enough staff, but for some reason they are trying to do it in Compass Rose without enough people. The second complaint is the people trying to get into Prime Seven and Signatures every night. They are rowed up begging most nights and it just amazed and amused me. I guess it should not bother me, but it clearly puts pressure on the staff to deal with this. Prime Seven is ok, but it is no better than a Morton's, Fleming's or Ruth Chris at home and who eats at those places more than once a month, much less multiple times a week. Signature is good, but no better than Compass Rose, except for the staffing.
The shows were standard, there were four production shows and we saw two. There was a flutist and pianist that we missed and a singer that was very good who performed twice. We enjoyed him and he actually got a Regent crowd to stand up and dance in the showroom. Excursions were generally good and I thought with one exception (afternoon tours in Amsterdam) the destinations services team did a good job passing out bus assignments and getting people on their way. We did three tours with extra charges of which one was worth it and two were not. In Bruges we did a tour with a Chocolate demonstration which my wife really enjoyed. The tour was good and the demo was entertaining, at least to her. We did the water and fortress tour in Helsinki and it was not worth the extra money. Basically we rode a ferry out with a 20 minute sightseeing talk, did a too brief tour of a small fraction of the island then had to ride a common ferry back to the square with a long walk back to a shuttle. The big bust was the Evening with the Tsars at Catherine's Place and dinner. The ride across town was in horrible rush hour traffic. The three busses took between 2 Â½ and 3 hours to get there (the return late at night after rush hour was 45 minutes). The tour is the standard tour with the one exception that we were allowed to take pictures in the Amber room. There was a brief little show with costumed characters as Catherine and her lover hosting a two song concert with a champagne toast. Then we had a dinner at the palace with banquet food and a folk show. I would not recommend this to anyone. Save your money, go see this palace with another tour. We got back so late we cancelled our first tour the next morning. Also you do not eat until after 9pm. We were warned to eat beforehand so we were prepared.
This is a port intensive cruise. You are up everyday touring and have very little ship time. There is only one sea day. Some people like this combination but I do not. If you do, this is your kind of cruise as you will be busy every day. Paul the cruise director was on this trip along with Giannmario who had just relieved John McNeal as Captain. I like both of these guys and they did a good job. Raffeal was just leaving as General Manager and I also think he is one of the more approachable senior Regent staff.
Overall a great cruise, but I will likely be looking to return to the Navigator for my next Regent trip as it is still my favorite ship.