After a four year break from our last Regent cruise (Voyager just before conversion to all-inclusive format), we sailed with much apprehension on Navigator. After having read reviews of excessive vibration, brown water, and inadequate public space, as well as individual stories of service gone wrong, we expected little from the “old Russian ship in disrepair”. While we didn’t, by any means, encounter the six star experiences that we exchanged our dollars for, we did have a wonderful time on a well styled and well-maintained ship, notwithstanding inevitable occasional lapses. We especially enjoyed the size and intimate atmosphere aboard Navigator.
Our detailed perspective of the elements of the cruise experience most important to me and my wife:
Cabin – our veranda (Concierge Class) cabin was essentially identical to how we remember this cabin class on Voyager, which is to say roomy, well laid-out, functional and reasonably well appointed. The Veranda itself is slightly on the small side, but functional. Closet space was very good and very accessible; toiletries were of high quality. The two criticisms (of sorts) are bedding – good, but not six-star luxurious like Oceania, and electrical – no 110v U.S. style outlets at or near the desk (luckily I brought adapters). CNN and ESPN would be welcome additions to the minimal channel lineup by satellite feed; there were good, current choices of on-demand movies.
Ship Stability and Ride – no problems on this voyage. Our cabin was located slightly fore of the mid-section on deck 8 which was close to ideal in many respects. If we were not made aware of the infamous vibration issue prior to boarding, I believe there were only two times we would have noticed it – once in the Seven Seas Lounge and once in La Veranda – each time for about 10-15 minutes. Since we were looking for it, there were other times we observed vibration, but we don’t think it was worse than that on most other ships in the small to midsize range. There was very little observable roll of the ship which was retrofitted with ducktail stabilizers several years ago. I doubt that because of its design that I would sail this ship around the British Isles, on a trans-oceanic voyage, or around the horn of SA, but then Regent does not deploy Navigator in these regions as far as I know.
Food – we met the executive chef in an AMEX-sponsored galley tour. In discussion he indicated that Regent and Oceania get essentially all their provisions from the same supply sources and the common parent (Prestige Holdings) in Miami exclusively stocks the ship for voyages of up to 7 days, allowing some replenishment in the Caribbean for longer voyages. Menus are dictated by Miami; it is therefore unclear how much the executive chef ultimately has a role in the taste of the meal. Our bottom line: in general we found the food to be less inspired and ultimately not as good as on Oceania Riviera (we have no recent experiences on the R Class ships), with the possible exception of a slight favoring of Prime 7 vs. Polo Grille. We also felt that most food onboard was inferior to its counterpart specialty (e.g. upcharge) restaurant on Celebrity, which upcharges from a much lower base price. Individual restaurant comments are below:
Pool Grill – much improved vs. what we remember of Voyager, with expanded dedicated grill area and expansive, comfortable seating. Grilling of foods was a particular strength on the Navigator. As was the case throughout the ship, mixed drinks were generally good to very good and premium to initial tier top shelf liquors were used. Regent was very generous in their always available and constant offer of alcoholic drinks.
La Veranda – highly variable service. There was minimal menu variation particularly for breakfast; a mediocre omelet station; food was otherwise generally good to very good, but not great. La Veranda closes early (2:00 p.m.) for lunch, so we often missed this venue on port days.
Prime 7 – well done. The menu was not as expansive as Polo Grill on Riviera, but food was very well prepared and service was excellent; we could not get a second reservation.
Sette Mari – the biggest disappointment among the food venues. We encountered terrible service from our seemingly rookie waiter and sommelier. While the menu offered a reasonable number of choices the preparation was not as good as Toscana on Oceania or Tuscan Grille on Celebrity
Compass Rose – when we found dinner menu items that resonated with us they were generally well prepared, tasty and of moderate, but satisfying proportions. Occasionally spices that should be used in moderation (such as lemongrass) were overused, but this was not epidemic. On most nights multiple appetizers appealed to us, but for the first time on any cruise we found both the soup and salad offerings to be quirky and totally unappealing throughout the entire cruise. We placed special orders for several dinners and interestingly observed that the [Red Ginger] Miso Glazed Sea Bass put into the Regent playbook was not nearly as special as when prepared on Riviera. As was the case throughout the ship, featured/included wines were very weak, especially the reds. Most seemed to be $8-$10 bottles trying to imitate wines that are only good at higher price points. When pushed most of the sommeliers were able to describe other included wine offerings of a better quality. We found a light, pleasant but generally underwhelming German Riesling and a Tuscan red of acceptable quality and mostly stayed with them. There were excellent premium wine offerings (we purchased one bottle) at very reasonable and, in some cases, bargain prices.
Afternoon Tea – did not attend, but understand these are very well done.
Entertainment was the greatest upside surprise. We pushed our dining earlier than usual to make the shows at 9:30. The Seven Seas Lounge is a terrific venue for shows – well laid out; terrific sight lines; comfortable spacious seating; all with an updated, well-equipped stage and excellent sound and lighting characteristics. Entertainment is managed by Jean Ann Ryan Productions – a first class organization. The dancers and singers were beyond excellent and versatile; they also were always present as part of the “team”, helping arrange pool activities, ping pong etc. etc. Special kudos to David Hicks and Elaine Gray (singers) and Alan Grundy and Lucy Witton (dancers), and to Maciek Flont (pianist) and Dan Bennett (comedian/juggler); extra special kudos to Lorraine Weimerskirch, the best, most energetic, and most talented cruise director ever. To see and hear Lorraine perform at the Farewell Beatles Dance Part in Galileo’s Lounge was something special.
Pool Scene – suffers from the trade-off choice that reduced the number of lounges overall, and shaded lounges most specifically to expand the Pool Grill and seating; lounge chairs were plush and comfortable and towels plush and plentiful. A few less tables and a few more shaded lounges would be welcome! The pool itself was much better than Riviera which has a constant almost 6’ depth rather than a shallow end, but there was no secluded Concierge area as on Marina/Riviera. Service was great around the pool with offerings of water, drinks etc. on a constant basis. Music was subdued and almost always background, except for about 60 minutes of generation-appropriate live music in the early afternoon.
Shore Excursions – we took only the included (e.g. free) shore excursions. In the western Caribbean there were plentiful choices of tours that seeming interesting [this did not seem to be the case in most Regent eastern Caribbean ports that we scanned]. With the exception of one tour operator transporting us on 1hr 20min drive on a very old Blue Bird school bus rescued from its chop shop destiny in the U.S., tours were as described, guides were good to very good, and tours were reasonably well-paced. Most of the tours were of duration and quality that should cost about $70-$90 when booked independently. Regent did nothing special that would allow them to label the land tours as six stars, but it was almost mindless and exceedingly easy to plan our land tours for this cruise e.g. high marks for convenience, but only average marks for quality.
Overall – as a group the crew was probably the most pleasant and engaging we have ever experienced; it was great to be able to contribute to the Crew Welfare Fund for the benefit of all crew. We were lucky not to be the victims of any significant negative experience which is often what triggers negative reviews, particularly when problems build upon each other. With the number of people being served and the complexity of the product, random problems are inevitable; we had a great time and did not let occasional lapses interfere with our enjoyment of a very pleasant cruise, albeit one which does not meet its six star promise nor fully deliver value for the price paid.
We have seen Oceania transform and up its game as a result of the delivery of Marina/Riviera. There is no reason that the more expensive sister line to Oceania cannot fully fulfill its six star promise. We hope and expect that upon delivery of Explorer in 2016 that Regent will up its game – come ‘on FDR, it can and should be done before then!!!
Would we consider Regent for a future cruise based upon this experience – absolutely; did this experience make us a Regent first loyalist – no! Regent will always be an expensive choice and only a very good value in a few selective instances; most specifically, we see Regent as good value for those who are heavy drinkers, on a port intensive cruise in areas difficult to plan private tours for those who are not so inclined, and for those who are satisfied with good but not great food. We nonetheless appreciated the ease and convenience of an 11th hour booking with Regent and found that enjoying its strong points, and parking the urge to consider value and overall somewhat minor flaws allowed us to have a great time.