This cruise was my fourth. I've sailed Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean. I'm an avid traveler and chose this cruise based on the terrific itinerary. My DH and I traveled with my parents who have sailed on Regent Seven Seas Mariner five previous times. Bottom line: The wonderful ship environment was not matched with equally above average excursions. Since the excursions were included in the price, we felt that we should take the offered excursions. Regent did not offer a credit for any excursions not taken. I selected this particular cruise because of the outstanding itinerary, but the excursions left so much to be desired that I will search for an upscale cruise that doesn’t include the excursions in their prices. I want to use Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor to find better quality independent excursions. In general, the tours were too crowded to be effective.
We planned a pre-cruise excursion in Rome and Venice and did not use Regent for hotel or air arrangements.
Embarkation: Regent was unable to tell us the terminal area in Venice until the very last minute. As we were to depart Venice on a major holiday, the ship was directed to a different port on the outskirts of Venice. (Port Marghera). Three days before departure, they informed us we were to go to the usual terminal (Port Maritima) and then take a bus from there. As a result, my privately arranged transfer had to be re-arranged due to the late notice. There was no way to drop off luggage and return to Venice without paying the exorbitant Venice transfer fees. The Embarkation process was quick and easy, with buses waiting for the 45-minute drive to the other port.
Ship: The ship was in lovely shape. The rooms were amazing. They were significantly larger than any of the previous cruise ships I've sailed. We stayed in a standard veranda room. The bathroom was huge, although as noted by others, the bathtub ceiling and shower head were low. The public areas were very nicely appointed and comfortable everywhere. One afternoon, the toilets would not flush on the port side. These were fixed by the time we returned for the day.
Service: All of the personnel we met were friendly and seemed truly committed to doing a good job. I particularly appreciated the cruise director and her staff. We noted that bar service was sometimes slow to take an order or forgetful to bring a napkin with our drinks. The wine stewards were not as attentive at times as well. Waitstaff were very good about getting the orders right and offering great suggestions for the meal.
Activities/Entertainment: We enjoyed trivia and tea most afternoons. (Tip: look for diversity on your team). We won enough points to get some logo'd gear at the end. The gym was never too crowded and had a very sufficient set up. We didn't use the spa or pool, but there were always plenty of lounge chairs available. Dr Paula Smith provided terrific lectures on Corfu, Athens, Ephesus, and Istanbul. They were presented when the ship was underway so that all passengers could attend.
Dining: My parents noted that the dining was improved from their previous Regent experiences. I appreciated the variety and quality of the food. Naturally, I didn't like everything I was served, but that's true anywhere. Sometimes what you order isn't what you expected. The Prime 7 and Signatures food was as good as hoped. I appreciated that a Signatures or Prime 7 dish was on every Compass Rose dinner menu also. I was disappointed in the sound level at Signatures. We could barely talk for the first half an hour of our meal. We had a late seating and the sound level improved after the room emptied by half. I'm not certain if there was another location in the room that would be quieter. Be wary about planning a romantic dinner there. The Prime 7 maitre d' did a nice job of arranging a Happy Anniversary surprise for my parents. La Verandah was lovely for breakfast. We ate outside virtually every day. The selection was broad. My husband enjoyed the liberal servings of smoked salmon that he had daily.
Excursions: The excursions disappointed me significantly. Regent’s cruise questionnaire was not designed to solicit feedback on individual excursions. My observations:
Venice: No tours offered for embarking guests
Dubrovnik: City Tour. 25+ guests on the tour with no earphones. You could only hear the tour guide if you got very close to her. In order to try to be heard she stopped in places that were in the full sun. About half the group abandoned the tour in disappointment, making it fine for the rest of us. The tour was short enough to allow for a hike on the city walls prior to returning on a Regent bus.
Kotor: We were unexpectedly tendered at this port. Tendering was a mess that day. We waited for nearly an hour before we were taken ashore. Again the tour was too large for the guide to be heard unless you huddled around (Town of Kotor and Bay of Kotor Heritage). People abandoned the group again.
Corfu: Unless you paid for a Regent Select tour, there were only two tours on Corfu. So 700 passengers went to two places. Plus every other cruise ship in Corfu went to the same places also. There was no staggering of the starting times within one tour, so people on the last bus had to wait significantly longer than those on the first. At the Achilleion Palace they provided the “whisper units” that made it easier to hear the guide.
Zakynthos: The tendering was much smoother on Zakynthos. This island is off the beaten path for most Greek Isles tours, but we enjoyed it very much. We were also lucky enough to be in a small group due to a large number of no shows. The local taverna stop with traditional dancing was a highlight.
Athens: We took the long Acroplis, Plaka, and New Museum tour. The Acropolis was a madhouse. Again, we were in a very large group with no audio support provided. The group probably waited 45 minutes for people taking a pit stop or being inconsiderate in returning on time. This didn’t extend the trip, just reduced the information presented. The Plaka lunch provided was good although everyone was disappointed that the “free wifi” at the restaurant didn’t work.
Santorini: We paid for the Food and Wine Trails upgrade. We didn’t get what we paid for. It was to include stopping at two wineries, but instead it stopped at only one. We only tasted three wines and that was during lunch and not separately as stated. These were tasting pours, not lunch pairings. At the end of the meal, dessert wine was tasted without dessert. The tour was to include two town tours as well. One stop just walked us to a square with instructions to meet there in 1.5 hours, the other location was just a drop off and a chit to take the gondola back to the port. I went to the Destinations Desk upon our return to report that the tour did not meet the advertised plan. I asked for some consideration as we paid $179 per person for this tour. The manager was sympathetic as appropriate but he needed to discuss this with the “head office”. Three days later we received a courtesy discount of 10%. I’m surprised the manager wasn’t empowered to take action right on the spot. 10% seemed an insufficient discount as well. The letter we received did not acknowledge the detailed problem or any planned corrections, just noted the discount as “goodwill”.
Marmaris: Daylan River and Caunos. The River tour included an interesting boat ride. Note that there are only a few rock tombs to see. The photos on the website are basically all of them. The one-hour extension of the river cruise to Istuzu beach was a waste of time. The boat just cruised among the reeds and you couldn’t see the beach. The river runs behind the beach and the boats didn’t stop to let us out to see the beach. The Caunos site wasn’t very interesting compared to Pompeii or the upcoming Ephesus. The water was lovely here, I wish we had gone to a beach instead.
Ephesus: Regent didn’t offer a tour that included both the Virgin Mary’s house and the Terrace houses, so we did an excellent private tour instead. Some people on a Regent’s tour passed us in the Terrace houses. I watched for a bit and realized they spent only 1/3 the time that we spent visiting these amazing houses and again it was a large group. The people near the back couldn’t hear at all. We were glad did not have to attend the carpet sales pitch either.
Istanbul: Although we overnighted in Istanbul, we didn’t arrive until 2:00pm and couldn’t take any excursions with Regent on debarkation day. The tour guide for our Blue Mosque and Topaki tour was rude, he walked faster than people could keep up, told everyone that it is usual for people to be left behind, and begged for tips at the end.
Debarkation: Fine as we were the first off the ship as we arranged a private transfer.