My husband and I are new to cruising – we’ve always preferred to base ourselves somewhere on land and spend time finding our way around ourselves. However, we decided to do this once-only voyage because we really wanted to see something of Alaska and this seemed to be the most efficient way of doing it. Our daughter and a friend of hers were travelling with us. After quite a bit of trawling through CruiseCritic for opinions, we settled on the Seven Seas Navigator (that plus the fact that its schedule fitted in with my husband’s), and I guess it all went pretty well because now we’re planning another cruise ...
Because it was only going to be a one-time thing, we splurged and went for a larger suite with a separate living room and a wrap-around deck, plus an inter-connecting cabin for our daughter and her friend; this added element of luxury may have influenced our overall impression – whatever, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and generally the RSS experience (a few caveats however, see later). Our suite was great, we really did enjoy the extra room, and the bed was supremely comfortable; our butler was good (well, we didn’t really ask that much of him but he was pleasant and obliging, although in retrospect he could have given us a little more information about some of the things we were entitled to); the cabin staff were excellent, always had a welcoming smile and addressed us by name; we thought the food in all the restaurants was excellent (I now need to go to boot camp!); our tours were mostly pretty good; in fact, the service almost everywhere was exemplary.
There are a couple of issues which I think are worth raising:
1. In terms of Regent’s presentation of what they are providing, a major one is the pre-cruise deal. This is referred to in the RSS literature as a “luxury hotel package”, and it simply isn’t. In our case it was the Anchorage Hilton, which is dated, shabby, and under no stretch of the imagination could it be called luxurious. The room we got was tiny, poky, no sign of the work-station (which, according to the Hilton’s own advertising, every room is supposed to have), and not particularly clean – hair and “unidentifiable splashes” in the bathroom, perfectly easy to wipe off because I eventually did it myself, but it had not been done by the cleaning staff; stained carpet so thin it was ‘wrinkled’. Yes, we should have complained but we didn’t because after all, it wasn’t as if we were spending much time in it. We also assumed that all the rooms would be the same, but then our daughter’s room, when she and her friend arrived, was noticeably more spacious, so maybe we were just unlucky. Whatever, the overall presentation of the hotel was certainly not remotely upscale and therefore totally misrepresented by the RSS advertising.
2. We found the food served at all the restaurants on the ship very good indeed, and the service was also usually good. That said, we tend to eat early and that worked well for us – as others have also noted, if you get there at the same time as everybody else you will no doubt wait for service, just as you do at restaurants. I also agree with the reviewer who advised sticking with the same seating area and wait staff – they get to know you and your preferences and the whole experience will be more pleasurable.
3. This is just by way of general information. We booked a suite which gave us a front wrap-around balcony (Deck 8). It was fantastic on the day we were cruising to the Hubbard Glacier because we were lucky enough to have wonderful weather for that, so we had uncrowded and unobstructed views of the truly astounding scenery. (I literally could not stop taking photographs and can now bore my friends stupid for 6 hours straight!) This, however, is not the norm. I did not know until I went there that actually Alaska gets A LOT of rain, at least in the south-western part where we were cruising, in fact that part of Alaska is mainly covered with temperate rain forest. In other words, your chances of getting good weather are relatively slim, and if that is your reason for choosing a suite with a wrap-around balcony, forget it. It would be really advantageous to have a gate or door dividing the side part of the balcony from the front deck part, so that when it’s windy you could at least use the side balcony. We suspect that there is meant to be something of the sort because the cabin floor-plan shows a barrier between the two areas; however in reality there was nothing, which made our entire wrap-around balcony unusable most of the time because the wind was too strong (whereas our daughter’s balcony next door, even if the temperature was chilly, was quite sheltered from the wind by the wall between her and us). As another reviewer noted, the sun-loungers, table and chairs out front were not able to be used because they were strapped down so they couldn’t be blown around (and that didn’t work too well either – we heard a couple of big thuds one afternoon and looked out to find the wind was so strong that two of the chairs had actually been blown out of their protective strapping and had crashed into the side furniture … and it was too windy for anyone to put them back that day!). That area would only be useful in a calm, tropical climate.
4. We did a selection of tours in the various ports of call, some free and some not. In general they were ok, I would just question Regent’s assessment as to whether or not a particular cruise is too strenuous or not. I didn’t do the dog-sledding with my husband and daughter because the description said it was not recommended for people with back problems, which I have slightly. I understand that Regent should be cautious but they might be overdoing it – according to my husband the dog-sledding was very gentle, there was no risk to my back, and I could have done it with no problems.
All in all, though, it was for the most part a thoroughly luxurious experience and as I said before, we are now planning another foray into cruising which we hope will be with Regent.