We are relatively new to cruising. We have been on Azamara, Holland America and Viking River. We were really excited about the "Tropics, Temples and Towers" cruise offered by Regent Seven Seas due to the itinerary and the all-inclusive nature of the cruise line. We had heard great things about Regent, although I was concerned about some recent reviews I read on Cruise Critic about the decline of Regent. I wish I paid more attention to those critical reviews!
A major attraction of the cruise was a three day pre-cruise land trip to the Taj Mahal. While it sounded like a great idea, Regent was clearly overwhelmed by the 440 people who signed up for the pre-cruise. Our hotel in Agra (ITC Mughal) was a disaster. It had no elevator for mobility impaired guests. A number of people lost electricity during their stay and we were given a filthy room and received no satisfaction from an insolent manager. We were told by the tour operator for Regent, Ventours, that it did not like to use this hotel because they had deteriorated do much. But they did use it and we suffered!
Regent descriptions of the pre-tour were highly deceptive. A quote from the tour description of Day 2, as we depart Delhi, "Another highlight is the earliest surviving Islamic monument, The Qutb mosque..." One would expect we would see the mosque. No such luck. Fortunately we had hired a private guide to take us around Delhi the day before, or we would have seen nothing. Quote from Regent tour description: "In the late afternoon, depart to see the Taj Mahal, experiencing its changing hue at sunset." Once we arrived at the Taj we were told we had to leave by 4 PM to get back to the hotel for dinner. In fact the Taj closes at 5:30, so you could not be on the property at sunset. Unfortunately we began to question our decision to use Regent even before the cruise began. Much time was spent on buses driving from Delhi to Agra and Agra to Jaipur. The flight from Jaipur to Mumbai was late and we went directly from the Mumbai airport to the dock, seeing only what we drove by on the way to the ship. Another disappointment! Embarkation was quick and efficient. No lines. We had been used to introductory ship tours for new passengers to learn the layout of the ship, but this was not something Regent offered.
While we were attracted by the inclusion of excursions in the cruise price, we discovered that was a huge mistake. Because the excursions are free, everyone signs up for them. There are 20-30 buses in every port taking 500-700 people out every day. With so many buses, the quality of the guides was very inconsistent. Two different buses on the same tour had very different experiences based upon their guides. In general the excursion descriptions were much more glamorous than the actual excursions. With a little attention by Regent management the quality of the excursions could be much improved. If you are used to booking your own excursions outside the cruise line, you will find Regent's excursions very disappointing. The ports we visited ranged from boring to interesting. The highlights were Cochin, Singapore and Borobudur in Semarang, Indonesia. Some of the other ports could have been more interesting with better guides or perhaps a different excursion. We also enjoyed our post-cruise stay in Bali, which we did NOT book through Regent. We did hear complaints on the flight home from some who booked Regent's Bali extension. If you do visit Bali, stay at a Komaneka property. We found them on TripAdvisor and we could not have had a nicer stay.
The ship itself is one of the nicest we have been on. The cabins are wonderful; large, walk-in closet and large bathroom with tub and roomy shower. The three lounges on the ship are different sizes and well used for many functions during the cruise. The two level theatre is also nice. A major drawback is limited spa/fitness space. The exercise equipment was often busy and the group exercise room was too small and many classes ended up over subscribed. The locker room and related facilities were also much too small for the size ship.
Overall we were disappointed in the food. It was not as good as any of our previous cruises and service was often poor. It took over 2 Â½ hours to eat dinner in the main dining room, Compass Rose. My wife ordered a steak in Prime 7 "medium well" described on the menu as pink in the middle, to be served a blood rare steak. After sending it back it was returned at best "medium rare." But the biggest insult of the evening began when the waiter asked my wife where she bought her dress. OK, so that was a compliment, except he then asked "How much did it cost?" When my wife deferred answering he continued to repeat the question. This is fine service? During our first few days on the ship the dish I was served was not what I ordered at least four times. One time would be a mistake. Four times is a crew that does not care. There seemed to be an inconsistency in the training and quality of servers in the dining rooms. Some servers were great and others were mediocre. Overall it appears that management is not paying attention.
While it is fine to require a dress code in the formal restaurants, there should be some place you can have a casual meal after a long day of touring. On most other ships, the buffet space would be used for that purpose. On the Voyager, the buffet becomes a sit-down Italian restaurant in the evening. While it can be a nice alternative to the main dining room, you lose the more casual dining option of many other ships.
We had heard that Regent was not known for its entertainment. We can verify that. Our reference points are similar size ships at Azamara, so size is not the issue. Two different pianists in the first four nights, followed by a violinist demonstrate poor planning. The big shows were OK, with the Cirque show being quite good. We were also accustomed to a much more proactive cruise director who would warm up the audience before the shows and charge everyone up for the next day after the show. We witnessed no such enthusiasm from our cruise director. On two days, the projector failed during two enrichment lectures. The technical staff was unable to fix the problem, ending the enrichment lectures. One would think after the first day, management would have researched and fixed the problem. Based upon other cruises we have been on, we were surprised by the general lack of visibility of the General Manager and Cruise Director during the cruise.
On seas days a number of activities were provided. The enrichment lectures from Terry Bishop were excellent. He has a humorous and enjoyable way of presenting information. The cooking and cocktail demonstrations were OK. One demonstration was on making sugar decorations. While interesting at first, it is not something that most of us will ever do. The highlight of the activities was bridge lessons from Lyde and Curt McReynolds. Lyde is outstanding. Her enthusiasm for the game is contagious and her teaching methods patient and engaging. We wished for more sea days so we could have more lessons! If you are interested in bridge and have the opportunity, take lessons with Lyde (based in Carmel, CA).
The captain, John McNeil, was great. He was highly visible and engendered confidence in his abilities. He participated in many activities and mixed well with the passengers. He was clearly the bright spot in the management of the ship.
We understand that 70-80% of the passengers were repeat Regent customers. Regent offers returning passengers many amenities that result in a very loyal following. We did hear complaints from a number of repeat passengers that this cruise was not indicative of Regent. We have no other reference point but this cruise. There is another review of this cruise on Cruise Critic. I suggest you make a list of all the problems cited by that reviewer during the cruise. While we had similar experiences the conclusion of the reviewer confounds me. How can a "luxury" cruise line run such a sloppy operation? You should carefully read other reviews who suggest that Regent is living on its past reputation. In conclusion, the ship itself is very nice, the food and entertainment are mediocre, service is inconsistent and the excursions leave much to be desired. Many of these problems are indicative of a management that is not paying attention to details. Based upon our previous cruises, Regent did not live up to our expectations. We will not be returning to Regent any time soon.