This was our second cruise on Regent. We worried that our first trip on Voyager was just a case of infatuation and reality may set in on the Navigator. We worried that it was smaller, that some reviews said it was crowded, and some reviewers felt the bloom was off the rose. Not so.
In this review I hope to concentrate on our ship experience rather than the ports. I posted port details and pictures on the Regent forum. If you are interested, you can find it here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1902226
About us - we are recently retired, bi-national, and extensively traveled. We tend to be low key. We like cruises so we can "taste test" a region and decide whether we want to re-visit on our own. We enjoy each other's company and don't particularly care to make friends while on the cruise or to be known by name by staff. I mention this because some people do like the opposite and it seems that Regent gets a sense of what you need and provides it.
We have sailed other cruise lines and disliked the crowds (1200 +, so not HUGE), the photographer, the set seating and dinner times, and, especially, being nickel and dimed every time you blinked. After one cruise, I nick named Celebrity, SELLebrity! Even pastries at teatime were an extra charge! This is another thing that I love about Regent. I really like everything being included. I grew up with a very frugal attitude and have practiced this all my life. When faced with constant decisions to spend money or not, I tend to fall on the side of not. Regent allows me to indulge myself - I'm less stressed and more in the moment. Yes, we paid upfront but it is so wonderful to feel pampered and indulged without the mental cash register ching- chinging in my head.
Our embarkation in Vancouver was seamless. We had to vacate our hotel by noon, so I had the bright idea of delivering our bags to the ship so we could then walk around Vancouver a bit. Off to Canada Place we went, delivered our bags to a porter, went through a door and before we knew it we were through customs and checking in with ship staff! Onboard at 12:15 pm, glass of champagne in hand, heading up to the Veranda for lunch!
Our suite was ready by 2:30. We were greeted by our cabin steward who was really perfect for us - efficient and friendly and not constantly underfoot. (This is in contrast to the suites with butlers...we upgraded at the last minute on Voyager to Penthouse C which included a butler. The service was just too much for our tastes.) Our suite was on deck 7 forward. This was an ideal location as we were close to the elevator banks and really close to everything. My only criticism of the suite was that I didn't like the artwork. In fact, I didn't like the artwork throughout the ship. This surprised me, as I loved the artwork on Voyager. Navigator's art was darker and somewhat derivative.
Food in all the restaurants was consistently good. I had the chance to tour the galley and I was very impressed with its organization and its cleanliness. I asked the Executive Chef how they could possibly cook meats and fish to the desired temperature. He explained the clever system and throughout the week it worked perfectly. All the food was beautifully presented and very good. The menu was varied and you could easily choose a great meal to suit your dietary needs. The Sommeliers were low-key and knowledgible. For example, they went out of their way to get us some sweet wine (Canadian ice wine, in this case) whenever we had a starter of fois gras. Room service was efficient and professional. When food is delivered, they set up a table that is stored behind the couch, cover it with linen and serve your meal - very nice. We also used room service for hors d'euvres. The cheese tray was varied with 3 types of cheese as well as fresh and dried fruit; hummus platter included pita, olives, and raw vegetables for dipping. Wine and champagne were available in the suite with a quick phone call as well as hard liquor if you cared to make your own pre-dinner cocktail.
Excursions were handled very well. The choices were diverse and there was no crowding. Your excursion tickets were waiting in your suite with the time and place to meet printed on them. Most meeting points were on the pier rather than in the theater. I MUCH preferred this to the system on Voyager.
We didn't really take advantage of the entertainment options with the exception of the Cirque show and Crew Capers. Both were well done. The crew show was very funny and very touching. If you are stuck in your suite for some reason, there are many on-demand movies to watch. You can also take DVD's from the library.
The ship itself was lovely. It is a small ship but the interior spaces are well thought out. We were blessed with perfect weather but I can imagine that the public rooms would get a bit tight if the weather was lousy. We had breakfast and lunch on the aft outside deck of La Veranda every day. It is equipped with heat lamps. We also loved cocktails on the aft outside deck of Galileo's. This is partially a smoking area but it was not really a problem for the non-smoking side. If I had one suggestion for management, it would be to put more seating out there. It was an incredibly lovely place for sail-away.
If you have never taken a Regent voyage, I encourage you to do so. We already have our next cruise booked - Asia and India in 2014! We had an absolutely wonderful time, in a wonderful setting both on and off the ship. This is an ideal ship for an Alaskan cruise. We would go again in a heartbeat!