Navigator Cruise Review -- Feb/Mar 2013 -- Eastern Caribbean
Even better than last year!
We chose this Navigator cruise because we wanted to celebrate a 60th birthday in the Caribbean. Having really enjoyed our first cruise with Regent on the Navigator the same time last year in the Western Caribbean, we really looked forward to another great time -- given our high expectations we were not disappointed with the ship, the service or the fantastic weather. The itinerary was attractive to us because we liked the idea of visiting different Caribbean islands, all with seemingly different characters and histories.
We stayed over night in Miami at the Hampton by Hilton in Downtown Bicknell -- we booked it ourselves and it was superb -- a great start to our special holiday. We arranged the transfer to the cruise terminal and registration and arrival to the ship was smooth and efficient. A brief champagne reception and a chance to enjoy the facilities before our suite (1109) was announced ready -- which was not all that long. The real frustration was the additional two hours that it took for our suitcases to be delivered to our suite.
We chose a Penthouse Suite A (1109) as we had booked that on the last cruise and loved it -- high up and towards the bridge -- close enough to see the captain and his senior crew maneuvering the ship in and out of the port and to hear them spot a female whale and her calf swimming off the starboard bow -- a great sight. The suite was all that we remembered -- spacious, very well equipped and tastefully furnished. That said, one small criticism last year was the lack of coffee making facilities. This has been addressed with a large, ugly and wasteful Illy coffee machine -- great coffee but it only did espresso measures so to get a long cup, eg. americano, you had to press the button once every minute and 5 times to filter the coffee.
Our butler, Immanuel, was great -- personable, respectful but also with a sense of humour. He was attentive at all times and went out of his way to ensure that we were well stocked with champagne and pre-dinner canapes such as prawns, crab claws, olives, etc. Nothing was too much trouble. Our joint steward/stewardess Nick and Ni-Made were delightful -- they kept the suite spotless, topped up with all the luxury toiletries and, with Immanuel, decorated our suite beautifully for the 60th birthday celebration. They chatted with us daily, used our names and always ensured that we were happy and enjoying the cruise. Our chats were never forced and they showed genuine interest in us, as we did in them.
The 10 night cruise was really beyond expectation -- even after a great cruise last year. The destinations -- all with inclusive excursions, were varied and interesting. We visited Nassau, Puerto Rico, St Barts, Antigua, St Lucia and St Martin. From swimming with dolphins and taking part in an off-road safari to a tour of St Lucia and some great beaches to visit, the excursions were well organized and managed and we never felt that it was just going through the motions -- each tour was unique and offered different experiences.
The dining experiences on board were to a high standard overall. Last year we rated La Verandah as the best overall and Prime 7, the steak house style restaurant, the least. However, Regent decided to expand Prime 7, reduce the size of La Verandah and 'convert' La Verandah into 'Sette Mari' -- an Italian styled restaurant in the evenings -- in our view, a big mistake. The main restaurant, Compass Rose, became our favourite this year because the service was excellent, the restaurant was brighter and the staff just faultless. Prime 7 was much improved as they cooked the steaks correctly first time -- however, the restaurant is too dark and somber -- we had to ask to be moved to a table with better lighting so that we could read the menu! La Verandah has lost out in all of the changes -- it was average this year (clearly lacking the touch of Stefano, the Maitre d', who was on leave) and the conversion in the evenings to Setti Mari has been a backward step. We ate there in the evenings only once because it was uninspiring and cramped -- the new pasta station, which was hardly ever used, has absorbed so much space that we were practically brushing shoulders with other diners on neighbouring tables. Because of the reduced space, even at 8.30 pm, we were turned away and asked to return in 20 minutes -- this never happened last year and was a regular occurrence this year. The food was not that special and when we gave feedback to the staff during the meal it was received grudgingly. To be fair, in the mid-cruise review that Regent always asks clients to complete we raised our concerns re: Setti Mari and both the restaurant manager and the executive chef made personal contact with us to apologise and to invite us back -- the executive chef even offering to cook for us personally.
The entertainment programme was as extensive as last year and very ably led by the brilliant and vivacious cruise director, Lorraine. Every day there was something special and, for a small boat, was quite exceptional, including Cirque Navigator, a take on Cirque de Soleil. With themed pool side events such as TexMex, seafood barbecue and ice sculpture demonstrations to a 50th Anniversary Bond event and a live Beatles' late night show and dance, there was something for everyone. The orchestra/band was very skillful and talented in performing a range of live music across various genres. If we had one criticism it is that the main evening shows were too much Broadway oriented and could have had a greater element of international music and/or more West End show content.
Great weather and a good range of free excursions ensured that we had a great 10 day cruise. The ship's captain adjusted the speed of the ship according to the sea conditions and so we had a very smooth cruise -- even saw a whale and her calf alongside the ship during our last day at sea. Reports of some other reviews that the ship vibrates has not been our experience on this or last year's cruise.
Some reviews about the Navigator and the quality of service have not been complimentary at times. Our experience is that if you engage with the staff and develop a rapport, the service is even better. Sometimes, we have seen some passengers treat the staff as little more than skivvies and others just like to find fault. When we have a problem we use the channels provided to raise our concerns. On the few occasions that we have had problems our issues have always been addressed professionally and with courtesy. May be that's a factor in why some people's experience has not matched that of ours. We're already looking for the next cruise on the Navigator.