Ship's appearance: Other reviewers have remarked on the poor condition of Mariner's carpeting and I can verify those comments. The rugs look like someone randomly tossed full buckets of water on them and instead of evaporating the water stained the carpets with a mottled, dark hue throughout the ship. I wonder if there was a septic issue at some point. There were occasional faint odors of sewage at odd times amidship on deck 6 and in some hallways. Luckily for us the odor did not seep into our cabin. Notice I call it a cabin, not a suite. It really wasn't much larger than a typical balcony cabin on most ships. Admittedly the bathroom was much larger and there was a walk-in closet so the lack of size in the living area was offset by this. Still to call it a suite is somewhat ambitious. You would have to upgrade a few levels to get larger accomodations.
Consistently good I would say. Not in the class of parent line Oceania by a long shot but still better than most. Excellent breads, rolls and baked goods. Sette Mari, the Italian restaurant, had a nice variety of entrees that kept us going back a few times. They put out appetizers of meatballs, fried mozzarella, chunks of pecorino Romano cheese and olives at our table among other antipasti items available at a buffet. All were very tasty. We're Italian ourselves and therefore a bit picky but we had no complaints with Sette Mari. Compass Rose items were at least passable to very good. Steakhouse Prime 7 and Signatures, the French restaurant were good but not memorable. I had a tasteless veal chop in Prime 7 and just about every time my wife ordered lobster anywhere on the ship she complained that it was tough and overcooked. Breakfast and lunch buffet items were not as varied as we are used to but the quality was fine just the same. Still enough that you would come to appreciate are there. Many passengers ate their lunches at the Pool Grill and it seemed to be a big hit. Forgive me if I don't rate too many individual dishes because it would just take too long.
The culinary highlight of the cruise in our opinion were the daily teatimes. At sea(there were 8 sea days on this crossing) the pastry chef held themed teatime desserts that were truly spectacular. In addition to the traditional scones and finger sandwiches they put out French crepes one day, specialty cheesecakes the next, chocolate the day after that and so on. We ended up skipping desserts in the restaurants at night and loaded up at the teatimes. Much praise to Regent Mariner for taking a mundane snack activity and turning it into an event that everyone on the ship looked forward to on a daily basis.
A mixed bag. The best musical act was Les DeMerle, a drummer who once played for Lionel Hampton and later Harry James. You might think he was a bit ancient but he actually got these gigs when he was in his early twenties back in the 60's. He led the ship's orchestra in some Big Band classics and it was top grade stuff all the way.
The guy who had me scratching my head was somebody named Bill Prince. He was a non-descript chubby little guy who came out with a mortarboard on his head and a clarinet in his hand. The show I saw he played movie themes on the clarinet and asked the audience to name the song and the movie it came from. "That's right! That was Chim Chim Cheree. From? Right! Mary Poppins! Very good!" He did this for 30 minutes. I wonder if 50 years from now when my kids go on a Regent cruise some old guy with a Stratocaster guitar will say, "That's right! That was Born to Run. By? That's right! Bruce Springsteen! Very good!"
From the ridiculous to the sublime. The classiest activity of the whole trip was the lecture series by former U.S. Ambassador Samuel Hart. I learned more about U.S. foreign policy in his 6 talks than I got from reading the NY Times in the last ten years. All cruise lines should consider this brand of enrichment series. It was the first of its kind I've experienced on a ship and I hope not the last.
General activities were not exactly plentiful or challenging. There was a daily trivia contest which was very well attended and competitive but many ships have 3 and sometimes even 4 trivias a day. Mariner would have been well advised to add at least one more daily trivia game to the schedule considering the popularity of the one they held. With 8 sea days it would have helped.
Do you like slots? If you do, I hope you like really old slots. I think Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin themselves played these very machines in the old Sands Hotel. There wasn't a single modern slot machine in Mariner's tiny casino. The video poker machines had no simple Jacks or Better games. Every game was bonus based where the best you can get for 2 pair is even money. A rip-off to be sure. A complete overhaul is in order here.
Regent really shined when it came to organizing their shore activities. We were met at the baggage claim in Miami without having to search for the Regent rep. After everyone was gathered we were driven to our hotel(for us it was the Conrad, an upscale Hilton property). Regent's rep was visibly accessible at the hotel. She told us when to meet the next day for transfer to the pier for check-in all of which went smoothly. The included shore excursions were well planned and went smoothly as well, as did disembarkation. A Regent rep guided us to the right bus for our trip to the Barcelona airport where another rep walked with us to the American Airlines counter. Attentive and caring service throughout was the norm on the entire cruise. We had a very good time, met some terrific people and ate some very good food. Still some of these things can be had on less expensive ships. Maybe the service won't be matched by other lines but cuisine, entertainment and activities don't set Regent apart. For the price they should.