Our cruise from Mumbai (Bombay as it is referred to in India) to Bali had a pre-cruise option for three nights to the Taj Mahal. We took advantage of this option so we flew into New Delhi rather than Mumbai.
For this, our 14th Regent cruise, we had Regent arrange our air. We were not confident about our skill in negotiating transportation in India. I will also say upfront that I have not had a desire to visit India but my DH did. From the start my intention was to be open to this new and possibly very different experience. Regent booked us on British Air, Business Class from Vancouver to Heathrow with a 2 hour layover and then continuing on to New Delhi. The flights were excellent -- on time -- no problems.
When we arrived in New Delhi we waited until all of the luggage arrived and one piece of our luggage was still missing. We must have waited for close to an hour. Then my DH had to file a report with the airline. All of this took so long that we were fairly certain that there would not be a Regent representative waiting for us for transportation to the hotel. Fortunately we were wrong and we were able to get the bus to the hotel. There were people on the bus that must have waited for a very long time for us.
Now for the review:
Starting with the pre-cruise trip to Agra, Regent did an amazing job coordinating three nights in three hotels plus the plane trip back to Mumbai.
Taj Palace, New Delhi -- the best of the three hotels -- lovely accommodations and exceptional food. This was an excellent choice and we certainly appreciated the ability to check in when we arrived at the hotel (approximately 8:00 a.m.)
Regent offered 3 Â½ hour tours to "Old Town" or "New Delhi" for a cost of approximately $100.00 per person. We booked a 3 Â½ hour "small group" tour to Old Town for $31.00/person that included a stop for Chai tea and lunch. We were the only people on the tour and it was a highlight of our trip. IMO, it pays to check out reputable private tours when you are in India.
ITC Mughal, Agra -- this is a rough one to review. The food, service and grounds were very good -- no complaints. However, the accommodations are so poor that I feel this hotel should be dropped. There was one couple who were given a room that had not been cleaned from the previous occupant. Some rooms lost power and, from what I've heard, all of them were dirty and needed refurbishment.
On the plus side, Regent had a cocktail party on the lawn of the hotel with local dancers. It was truly lovely and again, the food was superior (just don't go to your room :-(.
At 9:30 p.m., we received a phone call that our luggage had arrived. It first arrived Delhi and was sent via courier to Agra. What a relief:-)
Marriott in Jaipur -- definitely the most beautiful hotel -- it appears new. The only negative at this hotel was the food which was the least appetizing of the three hotels. No reason to change the hotel -- just ask them to provide hot food and to serve it on time as we were on a tight schedule.
The buses and tour guides used were very good. It was an incredible -- if tiring -- 3 days. Unfortunately, too many passengers had not done their homework and complained that the India was too hot and too dirty. I cannot for the life of me understand why this is Regent's fault.
The flights to Mumbai were delayed (again -- some blame Regent for this) and some passengers did not arrive on the ship until 8:00 p.m. This was hard on the passengers who had to get up at 6:00 a.m. but was also hard on the crew....... over 400 passengers arriving on the ship late caused a lot of work.
For the better part of the first week, the passengers were complaining about everything. Some passengers did not want to dine with people they did not know because all they heard was complaints. I am sure that reports of this will filter back to the home office. In my opinion, there was nothing Regent could have done better. Regent passengers were taken care of every step of the way. We were given food, free flowing wine and beer and very good service.
Excursions -- I think I have said enough on CruiseCritic on this subject. In my opinion, no one can handle 500+ passengers going on an excursion at approximately the same time. Destination Services has improved a lot in this area....... still, as of this time, I will try to avoid "included" excursions. Sitting in a full theater waiting for the ship to be cleared is not a happy experience. I have to wonder why tours are booked at the same time the ship arrives? Okay -- I still love Regent but hate the excursions. One excursion had three busloads of passengers complaining and asking to go back to the ship. Only one bus load talked the driver into taking them back. It was a 7 hour tour that should have been no longer than 5 hours.... it was hot with poor air conditioning. I felt that we should have been taken back to the ship. They did a vote and we unanimously wanted to return. This is something to think about for the future.
Since boarding the Voyager on December 1st, we have received excellent service and food. There is an exception to the almost perfect service. We made a difficult decision to change butlers mid-cruise and it was a fairly good decision. Our first butler seemed to argue every point with us. The "new" butler was upbeat and communicative and we enjoyed being around him. There is a "but" to this story. Towards the end of our cruise, he started talking about Oceania and how their pay and benefits were better than Regent. He quoted very specific salaries, etc. He complained that his salary never goes up -- no matter how many contracts he has. And, he said that Regent employees want to work for Oceania as they have a completely different system and also receive great tips.
On the last night, it was apparent that our butler was waiting for a tip. It is interesting because I do not tip individuals on Regent -- not in 14 cruises. However, it was Christmas and I did want to give the butler a Christmas gift ........ up until the last 2 nights. The discussion of Oceania salaries and tips was uncomfortable. Then, he was rarely at the cocktail party we had and when the G.M. came to our suite, I had to pour his wine. This was very different than cocktail parties we have had in the past where there is always a Regent crew member present to serve guests. Then, when he was obviously waiting for a tip, I was no longer interested in giving him anything.
I call Captain McNeil, General Manager, Franck Galzy and Cruise Director, Paul Reynolds the "Dream Team" of Regent. They are, IMO, the "standard" that every officer should be held to. Everything seems to run perfectly with this team. I have long said that, in my opinion, Franck should be the top G.M. (if there were such a position). There are excellent G.M.'s on Regent but it would help if they all were on the same page (so to speak). Franck has the respect of both passengers and crew. I speak with the crew a lot and they universally are happier when Franck Galzy is on board. General Managers could be even better than they are with a little guidance from Franck.
Paul Reynolds is just great -- not enough words to describe how much we enjoy this gentle, kind man. We are so happy that we will be on the Mariner with him in March.
So, finally, you may wonder what I thought of India -- the one place that I did not want to visit? Well, I am happy that we went, had a very enjoyable time and learned a lot about a very complex country. I am not a warm weather person and the weather on the entire cruise was in the 80's with lots of humidity. Fortunately our suite was nicely air conditioned. Would I go back to India? No -- don't think so...... but there are few places that we do return to.
Regent provided a most boring and miserable "included" excursion prior to taking us to the airport in Bali. One stop was so bad that few people even bothered getting off of the bus. Those that did returned to the bus within 2 minutes (not understating the time).
Regent booked us on Cathay Pacific from Bali to Hong Kong and then on to Vancouver. What a great airline! The Business Class lounge in Hong Kong may be the best lounge we have visited. For those of you taking these long flights, planning for a shower in the lounge is a great idea. After departing the Voyager at 7:30 a.m. and arriving in Hong Kong 9:00 p.m., a shower was wonderful. Being able to change clothes and feel fresh before the next flight makes a difference. The showers in Hong Kong (and Heathrow) are actually full private bathrooms -- very clean and comfortable.
This was another wonderful cruise. We look forward to our March 20th Miami to Barcelona cruise on the Mariner. When we step foot on the Mariner, we'll be "Platinum Seven Seas Society members" (free laundry )