This was our third Regent cruise with two more booked in 2013/14 so obviously we are fans (but not necessarily cheerleaders!). Overall it was a great way to spend Christmas letting someone else do all the work and as usual the cheerful and professional staff were absolutely terrific - with one exception I'll discuss later.
The pre-cruise hotel, Bali Hyatt at Sanur, was fine for the couple of nights we stayed there but it's starting to look very tatty, especially the rather austere concrete accommodation blocks. Evening dining options were extremely limited and it took almost an hour to be served a simple meal in an almost deserted restaurant. Apparently the chef was "busy". Doing what!? The extensive hotel grounds and gardens are beautifully maintained and worth exploring.
Transfer to the ship docked at nearby Benoa was quick and painless, as was actual embarkation. We didn't join the throng for lunch, preferring to find a quiet spot with a long, cold beer! Suites were ready at 1.30pm and our suitcases were waiting for us there. By now, we are very familiar with Voyager's layout and "look" and everything was as we expected although I have to say that despite the immaculately clean and freshly painted exteriors some of the carpets, decor and furnishings are starting to look rather tired and worn in places. Some fresh artwork in public areas wouldn't go amiss either. It all needs a bit of a "lift". The Christmas decorations were tastefully done throughout with some magnificent (real) gingerbread houses with all the trimmings placed strategically around the ship.
The food was up to its usual high standard in Compass Rose and particularly good in Signatures. We didn't eat at Prime but heard glowing reports. Breakfast and lunch at La Veranda were good too but I remain unconvinced about the Sette Mari concept in the evenings. I also know I'm in the minority on this one so you'll have to give it a try and decide for yourselves! The wine choice was extensive, although we did have to work at tracking down an actual list, but disappointingly few Aussie and Kiwi wines. There was a major changeover of crew/staff in Bali and its fair to say things were a little hit and miss for a couple of days but they quickly got into the swing of things and everything was great after that. Our young Balinese cabin stewardess was lovely, if a little inexperienced, and any items we did have to remind her about, eg, fresh fruit were quickly replaced. The bed is blissfully comfortable but I missed a couple of firmer pillows which apparently weren't available.
This cruise called at Exmouth, Geraldton and Perth in Western Australia and Kangaroo Island near Adelaide in South Australia and I have to say that with the exception of Perth none of these small towns are really geared for cruises. It's partly a question of geography but they also lack a lot of the infrastructure required for a sudden influx of visitors and in the case of Exmouth there isn't much to visit anyway! The Destinations staff did what they could with the very limited options available but it must have been a very disappointing introduction to Australia for first timers. NW Australia has some magnificent scenary but it's really only accessible by land or the very small "expedition" type ships that ply that coast. We had plenty of sea days (a big plus for us) and were blessed with blue skies and calm seas during our 3-day crossing of the notorious Great Australian Bight. Many other cruisers haven't been so lucky....
And speaking of the Destinations staff I have a bit of a whinge. Why do they always seem so indifferent. Do they put up this "barrier" as a defence against the barrage of complaints and other problems from "difficult" passengers? Before our arrival in Melbourne I was concerned to read their info sheet about the city, much of which was plain wrong, and some completely obsolete information about the public transport system here and how to use it. I explained to them that they risk the wrath of a lot of irate and frustrated passengers who might try to follow these incorrect instructions and was met with blank stares and shrugs. They just didn't seem concerned. They even admitted they knew the info sheet was wrong but sent it out anyway. Huh?
The shop was a major disappointment and a huge missed opportunity for Regent. The range of items on offer was pretty dire with no "local" things like Aussie pearls, opals, etc and other special gifts for people to buy at Christmas. The H. Stern jewellery outlet stocked high and low end stuff but nothing to tempt us either way. We could have purchased a valuable collectors item at the Park West art auction but resisted the temptation.
We don't usually see much of the live evening entertainment and this cruise was no exception so I can't comment on the offerings we missed but we heard some good reports, especially the violinist whose name I forget (sorry!). The Regent musicians, soloists and bands, were excellent, very good indeed. Our Cruise Director was Paul Reynolds who was usually dashing about the ship on his way to something important which meant he didn't have much time to stop and chat which was a pity.
So, all in all we'd give this cruise 8/10 and we look forward to our Northern Inspirations cruise on Voyager in June.