We recently returned from the 6/18 Monte Carlo to Venice sailing. It was our first cruise, and we traveled with my mother (who has been on this ship several times) and our two kids ages 11 and 13. The hotel Columbus was fine- small, pleasant staff but had tiny bathrooms and was far from the main part of town.
Embarkation at the port of Monaco was super-easy and well organized, and the trip to the port from the hotel took only five minutes.
The ship was lovely and much like we were expecting. We did not want to go on a 4,000-person super ship even though there may have been more activities for the kids on board. The staterooms were a good size and all had balconies. I don't know that I could live without one! The walk-in closet and the bathroom were good sized considering it is a cruise ship. The service in almost all areas was excellent. No employee ever passed by without saying hello. The cost is high but it is so nice to just go to the bar or restaurant and order without having to pay extra for everything. And we sure ate and drank our money's worth. We enjoyed the daily updates from the captain. We also loved the "view from the bridge" channel on TV.
The restaurants were generally good. We mostly stuck with La Veranda and Compass Rose, and the food and service were consistent and solid. We had a really fantastic meal at Signatures. The only real disappointment was Prime 7. The food was mediocre at best ("beefsteak tomatoes" should not be sliced thin like carpaccio, HELLO!) and the service was frankly the worst on the entire ship. We sat for 15-20 minutes at a time with no one to even come by and fill our water, let alone bring our courses. I was not impressed and would probably skip it next time.
For a ship that doesn't normally cater to kids, there were a lot of families on board. The kids club staff were enthusiastic and the schedule was good. This itinerary had no days at sea, so we were busy every day off the ship anyway. To be able to return and send the kids to be with their new friends was nice, and our kids had a blast. They wanted to do almost every activity there was. The entertainment staff that stars in the shows were also very, very friendly and went out of their way to include the kids.
The shore excursions were supremely well organized. Tour guides were uniformly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, buses reliable, and there were none that I regretted doing. The only one I'd question is "Best of Rome and the Vatican," which cost extra and we didn't realize that "the best of Rome" meant driving by some famous landmarks on a bus and then having two hours to explore on our own before meeting up after lunch. That part could use some work. We actually begged the tour guide to let us off the bus at the Colisseum because our kids wanted to go inside. (He did let us, and later when we met up with the group, several people told us they wished they had taken our lead.)
The excursion to Taormina and Mt. Etna was VERY worth the extra money. Taormina is beautiful, they gave us a fabulous lunch, and the volcano was amazing. And three cheers for the bus driver, safely negotiating all those hills and switchbacks! We also thought they did a great job with Pompeii- we learned so much. I wish I didn't have to choose between Pompeii and Capri, so I guess we'll have to go back. ;)
Disembarkation was a hot mess. It was pouring rain, and there were not enough shuttle vans to take us to the terminal building several hundred yards away. Once we got our luggage, there was another 100 yard walk to the bus. I'm not sure why the Port security wouldn't let the buses pull up closer in the rain. But, it is impossible to hold an umbrella and pull two suitcases. The older folks were huffing and puffing and it was not a good scene. Who wants to get on a 9 hour flight in wet clothes? I think Regent could have planned better for the weather and made things a bit more convenient for everyone.
A few things could use improvement. Though the ship is immaculate, the decor is straight out of 1983 and some of the carpets looks awful- like they were wet at some point. There needs to be some major redecorating going on. I personally hate the creepy mesh art in the elevator bank and think they need something more impressive.
There were a couple occasions where an event was called for a certain time, and they started setting up almost an hour before they were supposed to. When in Montenegro, there was a party on the pool deck that night. As a result, they had asked in the daily Passages for everyone to plan to clear the area near the pool at 3:30. But, they never even put out 1/3 of the usual pool loungers, and then started making us all move at 2:45. It was very aggravating to have climbed a mountain in the heat that morning and wanting to take a swim, only to be told that we had to leave 45 minutes earlier than scheduled. And they were rude about it, not "I'm so sorry for the inconvenience" but more like "this is what we are doing so just deal with it." Some of the staff functioned well in their roles, but seemed to freeze or panic if you asked them to do anything "above and beyond" their routine. For example, we asked our steward if by some small chance we didn't make it back to the ship in Venice by 11pm if he could roll our luggage into the hallway (since we had dinner reservations at 8pm) and his response was "If you no be back, you call front desk and they help you." Really? I guess he wasn't expecting a tip??? He also seemed a little irritated if we were not out of the room early so he could clean it. (Sorry, buddy! It is my vacation!)
The boutique was nice but after 10 days of seeing the same things over and over, it would be nice to have a little variety in the offerings.
Overall, we had a fantastic time. Compared to some stories I have heard from friends about other cruise lines, our complaints are few and far between. I would definitely recommend the Mariner to others and hope to be able to take another trip in the near future.