For those of you unfamiliar with Regent, do yourself a favor and go to Cruise Reviews section of Cruise Critic and read the article on Regent. This will give you an idea of what to expect, but, hopefully my review will give you some additional insights. We do not consider ourselves seasoned cruisers, having only 5 cruises between us, on everything from a now defunct Greek line to Princess to Regent. However, we do consider ourselves as well traveled, having been all over the world. We like great food and wine, expect good service and first class accommodations. We're not big into the casino scene or late night entertainment, but love history, sight seeing, beautiful scenery and meeting interesting people.
After a wonderful trip on Navigator from Vancouver to Anchorage in August of 2011, we looked for another trip for this year. Our travel agent is based in Scottsdale, Arizona and mentioned that they were putting together a group of clients to do the October 14-24 trip from New York to Montreal. We readily signed up and looked forward to seeing New England and Canada from Navigator.
Arrived one day prior to sailing on a balmy fall day in New York City. Our transfer from La Guardia to the Intercontinental Times Square was a private town car with a former NYPD officer as our driver. He regaled us with stories as we entered Manhattan, even pointing out his favorite restaurants along the way. We were quickly checked into the Intercontinental and were disappointed to be assigned a handicapped accessible room on the third floor. It had two queens, rather than the requested king, and had a lower hanging rod in the only closet, which meant our suit bag dragged on the floor. As it was only one night, we made the best of it and set out to explore the hotel and neighborhood.
We had a fabulous meal at Keens Steakhouse (72 W. 36th) - do try the famous mutton chop! After a good night's sleep we went to the pre-cruise buffet and met some fellow passengers. Service was poor at the buffet and after trying to track down more coffee, we made a bee line for the closest Starbucks.
I usually judge a pre-cruise hotel with one simple question - would I come back on my own on a future trip and the answer here is simply no. The nearby Westin is a better hotel for a comparable price.
Embarkation was not as smooth as it could have been. We were told to wait in a lower level ballroom and only come out to the transfer area when our number was called. Needless to say, we waited and waited well past our 1:30 PM departure time. It was finally about 2:30 when we were called to identify our luggage and board the bus. Fortunately we had a nice, scenic drive along the west side of Manhattan, passing the Intrepid and the construction of the new World Trade Center. Emerging from the Brooklyn/Battery Tunnel, it was a short drive to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, which is a huge and beautiful facility. As we were the last bus from the Intercontinental, it was a breeze getting on board. We went to our suite and leaned out on the balcony to see the Manhattan skyline to our right and to our left, in the distance, the Statue of Liberty. A bottle of champagne was chilled and waiting as were envelopes containing all of our excursions and spa appointments.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around, re-acquainting ourselves with the ship. Dinner was at Setti Mari, which was new for us. The La Veranda is turned into an Italian themed dining venue for dinner only. Ala carte choices are excellent, including primi and secondi courses of pasta, chicken, seafood and beef and veal. We ended up dining in Setti Mari more than any other restaurant during the entire cruise due to the intimate size of the space, enthusiastic staff, headed by Stefano, and the excellent antipasti buffet and scrumptious dessert selections. All wines were Italian unless you requested something else, which we did occasionally. Scheid Chardonnay was excellent and something I can't find in my hometown.
Sail Away was spectacular, with the Manhattan skyline ablaze with lights, Lady Liberty holding her torch and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge straight ahead. We went to the upper deck to crane our necks as we sailed under the bridge and then returned to our suite to turn in and get ready for Newport, Rhode Island. The suite's are really fantastic. Plush bedding, flat screen tv, comfortable seating and oodles of storage. The walk in closet is stocked with built in drawers, three different hanging rods, with wooden hangars, a long row of hooks, belt/tie rack and a safe. The marble bath is spacious with a small tub and walk in shower. Bath products are L'Occitane and the towels are plentiful and appear new. I appreciate the built in vanity area, with good lighting and a portable magnifying mirror. Robes and slippers are standard, as is a huge umbrella, extra blanket and a fully stocked beverage refrigerator.
Our routine was established last August on Navigator - while I get ready, my husband gets us a latte and mocha from the espresso bar on the 6th deck, then we decide where to catch breakfast. We usually did La Veranda, though lots of hardy souls browsed the pool deck for cold options and ate under heat lamps. Choices in La Veranda run the gamut from pastries, cereal, fruit, meat, cheeses to made to order eggs, pancakes, and the best french toast you'll have anywhere. We always approached either Stefano or Alan, who manage the restaurant, and asked to be seated. Upon being seated we were always promptly offered water, coffee and juice and asked if we wanted to order or go to the buffet. If we were in a hurry to catch an excursion, we usually did the buffet, but found they were super fast with made to order items as well. We never had to wait for a table and almost always had a window seat.
Excursions were handled well by meeting in the theater area and trading your pre-planned excursion tickets for a tour number. When called, you were escorted to the gangway and either were tendered or walked off the ship, depending on which port we were in. (By the way, I booked all of our excursions on line back in April). Representatives always met you on the dock and off you go. Most Regent excursions are included in the cruise price, with a few exceptions. For example, we did pay extra to attend a Seafood 101 Cooking Course at the Culinary Institute of Canada (trust me....worth every penny!) A few excursions were spectacular (Acadia National Park) and a few were duds (Sydney Walking Tour), but all in all, very enjoyable. Many people wore comfortable clothes, lots of jeans, khakis, layers and sturdy shoes.
Our post excursion routine was either reading by the pool - yes, I said pool, or playing team trivia in the Galileo Lounge. We had unseasonably warm, sunny weather and calm seas. We always changed for dinner and my husband was glad he brought two sport coats as most gentlemen wore a jacket after 6:00 PM. I saw few dresses on ladies, but lots of nice slacks, beautiful sweaters, scarves and the occasional bling. We did dine twice in the reservation-only Prime Seven. Steaks and seafood are king here and the service and atmosphere are top drawer. Compass Rose is your other dining choice and is by far the largest dining room. I really appreciated the addition of some Prime Seven entrees on the Compass Rose menu every night. We ended up in Compass Rose three nights, one of them as guests of the General Manager, Davor. I can heartily recommend any opportunity you get to meet the officers and crew. We learn so much every time we meet them. The captain, Daniel Green, was everywhere. He was often at the gangway when we entered or exited the ship and could usually be spotted in the restaurants dining with staff and passengers.
After dinner you have a few choices. Entertainment takes place nightly in the theater, or you could opt to go to the casino or have a drink in one of the lounges where a piano player or the orchestra might be playing. We often stopped by the computer room in the library to check email or read the news. WiFi is available, but expensive. If you reach "Silver" status as a frequent Regent traveller, you receive free WiFi, but as we discovered, it was not consistently reliable.
With only one sea day, we saved our spa appointments for the day we cruised the Gulf of St. Lawrence. My husband was skeptical that he would get a really intense massage on a cruise, but was raving about the quality of his deep tissue massage. My hot stone pedicure was fabulous. Spa services are provided through Canyon Ranch and are top notch. Again, we booked these services directly through Canyon Ranch at Sea before we left home. This is important as we noticed people trying to book last minute treatments and not being able to get their choice (if at all).
All in all, Navigator is a great ship. Small size - 480 passengers, large crew, excellent dining, beautiful public spaces and large suites. The crew are phenomenal. We were usually greeted by name everywhere we went, wait staff remembered our drink preferences - whether is was Perrier, Diet Coke, Grey Goose Martini - up, twist, no vermouth, non-fat latte, mocha with whipped cream....Chardonnay, Dark Beer...they never missed a beat. I admit to having favorite staff - Elvis, Navin, Austin, Eduardo, Stefano, Alan and, of course, Davor and Capt. Green.
To improve the experience, I would recommend a few things:
1. Update your computer/wifi system. We found the computer area too small, the equipment dated and it appeared that the servers were overwhelmed when everyone was online at once.
2. Expand your gateway airports to include regional airports. Free airfare isn't really free if it's only out of a handful of major cities. We are 6 hours from either Detroit or Chicago and are forced to pay extra to get to the cruise.
3. Allow us to rate excursions and other non ship processes. Although very interested in seeking survey feedback on-board, there was no mechanism to report on the quality of the pre-cruise hotels, transfer process, or each excursion.
With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the east coast, I am grateful that we had beautiful weather and hope everyone stays safe on Navigator (I think she's in Sydney, Cape Breton Island today). Happy Cruising!