Regent market their all inclusive Regent experience as including a pre cruise "luxury” hotel stay although I believe that this will be limited to the more expensive suites from 2014? We were disappointed to learn some time after booking the cruise that our hotel was to be the Sheraton Golf which is situated near to the airport and in a semi industrial area and a long way from Rome, our starting point for the cruise. We had spent a day there with Seabourn post cruise in May 2013 but not stayed over. My review of this hotel has more detail on Tripadvisor. This hotel is certainly not "luxury” and I commented on this when Graham Sadler answered questions on Cruise Critic and you can read his reply for yourself!!
Regent ‘s representatives met us at the airport luggage belt and took our luggage straight away. We then followed them to the waiting coach but unfortunately the coach wouldn't start. The driver seemed to be expecting a problem and didn’t spend any time trying to fix it. Instead he told us to get off and onto the spare coach behind the first one. It was a pity we all had to get on and off especially the less mobile. The driver also insisted on some carry-on luggage being put into the hold of the coach in spite of the fact they carried some fragile items. The rule seems to be anything with wheels goes underneath?
The transfer to the hotel was quick but then it went downhill. Check in was slow as was check out but more on TA. Breakfast was included but not dinner.
The transfer to the ship was supposed to be staged with those who had been in the hotel longest going first but ended up being a bit of a free for all. We were supposed to be on the 13.00 bus but as check out was 12.00 we were in the lobby and there was space on a bus at 11.45 and we were put on it. The check in at the port was slick with about 10 desks in a quayside building completing the formalities and we were on the ship in no time. We did think the welcome on board was a bit lacking and there was no one on hand to help with the carry-on luggage as on previous cruises. The welcome drink of barely a half a glass of champagne on boarding was a bit poor also.
Lunch was available for all on deck 11 on boarding at the Pool Grill and La Veranda.
Suites were available from 14.30 and an announcement was made on board when they were available. The luggage appeared soon after 14.30 and I did a bit of self service and collected ours from the lift area.
We had an F suite on deck 8 which was fine especially in the rough seas leaving Rome (lower the better). We didn't find the suites tired but the long corridors are a bit drab. The safe in the suite is very small and remember the thick door protrudes into the safe quite a bit so don’t try to force it shut. There is only room for some jewellery and a few credit cards but not much more. Forget putting your i-pad in there or your expensive camera. Our suite had been converted to a walk in shower with no tub which was ok for us. It still has a pull out washing line if required.
The suite was generally kept clean but the mini bar top up was a bit erratic. We did get our two bottles of spirits in the suite promptly after asking the steward he did not ask us if we wanted drinks unlike on previous Regent cruises. We had to prompt the cabin steward to give us a new loo roll after a few days which he did but he didn’t leave a spare then two days later we suddenly had 4 in the suite?
The air con in the suite seemed to switch off through the night? Even when we had it on full cold we sometimes woke up in the night very hot. We heard others complain about the same problem.
Room service for breakfast on first morning wasn't great with no cereal delivered, the wrong bacon and cold toast. We used it only once more on our final morning and it arrived 15 minutes early (06.15) and the order was wrong again. No drinks were delivered and we asked for orange juice and coffee?
The Compass Rose food was generally ok but not special. On our first night we were disappointed but it improved after that. The Strips of beef we had were definitely a cheaper cut. The Compass Rose service was very variable depending on when you dined and your seating location. At 18.30 our normal dining time the service was generally ok but we did have a problem when dining an hour later with friends. Our group of 4 had two cold starters (which were supposed to be hot), a wrong salad, one undercooked and one overcooked duck, and some stale bread. It also took the wine waiters 25 minutes to get an alternative bottle of wine to the one on the menu.
The service at 18.30 on the last night was also very poor. There seemed to be a shortage of wait staff with some serving stations left un- manned. I took this up with the restaurants manager but he said that there was not a shortage of staff and that the problem was that all that passengers came in at the same time. This was obviously not the case as there were numerous empty tables close to where we were sitting. Some passengers came in after us and left before but I suspect some passed on their desert.
The design of the buffet breakfast/lunchtime restaurant La Veranda is not as good as on some ships (e.g. Silver Shadow). The buffet area is restricted and gets quite crowded. Service was also a bit variable. Sometimes we had to chase staff to get a coffee refill which is not 6 star service. There was no smoked salmon on the buffet at lunchtime many days which I missed although we did have trout and mackerel which was nice. When we did get salmon it was quite tasteless? The salad bar lacked variety as did the pasta bar. After our 10 days I found it quite boring and was glad I wasn’t going all the way to Rio. We tried the Italian restaurant twice and it was very good. It was not as popular as Compass Rose so only half the restaurant was used but it seemed to have more staff and the service was very good.
Our one and only dinner in prime 7 (booked on the internet in advance) was very good but the wine on offer was poor. The Sommelier rose to the occasion and got us a bottle of Châteauneuf du pape which was nice. We tried to get a second booking but no luck as this restaurant is very popular.
We didn’t try Signatures as the menu is not to our taste. Our friends tried it and liked it and were able to secure another reservation.
The chef Kelly appeared at most meal times but if you had a complaint he couldn’t get away quick enough.
Coffee corner is very popular and generally understaffed but serves a good cup of strong coffee. The tables are not cleared very well and they sometimes run out of cups. The self service machines frequently run out of milk.
Bent forks, dirty bowls, several wait staff offering drinks, or no staff offering drinks generally there seemed to be a lack of supervision and attention to detail that a ship of this quality should have.
The organisation of the tours as usual is excellent. Gathering in the theatre and exchanging your ticket for a bus number works for me. Some tour guides this time however were poor one even resorted to asking the driver what things were en-route so that they could give a commentary. They assume no one can speak their language and some make inappropriate comments about the guests. There is also no flexibility in tour itinerary in bad weather even when whole bus rebels on some tours the guests decided that they would desert the guide and take the shuttle bus back to the ship.
It was a big disappointment that we missed out Valencia from our itinerary and had to spend another day in Barcelona. The Captain was worried we wouldn't be able to dock at Barcelona in time for our flights due to a storm in the area but as we had an overnight in port was that likely? Three large Costa ships managed to dock ok on the day we were scheduled to dock and one even did a very slick turn in the harbour whilst we had breakfast.
I did find the people who were presumably measuring up for the upcoming refit annoying as they spread plans and tools over tables and the floor and had loud conversations in open bars and areas where passengers were trying to read. They also took over restaurant tables outside in the sunshine and had lunch whilst fare paying passengers had to take a table inside.
Some entertainment staff also took a prime table when they had family and friends visiting. Surely they should follow the captains lead and take a table in a corner at the end of the restaurant.
Cruise director Lorraine was hardly ever seen unlike some others.
The dress code on Regent has become more relaxed. No formal nights now on shorter cruises. T shirts were in evidence in the evening in Compass Rose. We even saw one couple in coffee corner in their nightwear at 11.00 not a pretty sight!!
Overall the trip was as usual good but Regent has somehow lost its sparkle. None of the staff apart from the cabin steward knew our name, no one carried our food from the buffet to our table etc. They were all warm and friendly but I think the supervision and direction was lacking. Some of the issues could have been caused by the recent typhoon in the Philippines and some of the staff having to go home but that is giving Regent the benefit of the doubt. We will still cruise with Regent but will try some others next year.