Our 8 night cruise to the Western Caribbean departed from Ft. Lauderdale on March 28th. We initially booked our airfare through Regent but learned that we could book it ourselves with a savings of almost 50%. Flying from the west coast requires an overnight stay in Ft. Lauderdale so we booked into Embassy Suites - a short drive from the airport (note: most things in Ft. Lauderdale are near both the airport and the port).
We were very happy with the accommodations which included free internet access in the lobby and a full breakfast. Across the street is a pub, Waxy O'Connor's where we had a good meal and a nice Guinness! The hotel is walking distance to a supermarket, drug store and liquor store. It also provides shuttle service to the ship every half hour.
Embarkation was fast and efficient. It was interesting to see that many passengers had already boarded the ship by 12:30 p.m. and were dining in Portofino restaurant on deck 10. We were impressed at how "new" the interior of the ship was. The Navigator is beautifully furnished - very tasteful as well as comfortable.
After lunch we went to our suite on Deck 8 (mid-ship). As far as I could tell, the category "D" suites are identical to those on the Voyager. Penthouse suites on the Navigator are the same size and configuration, so, we decided to choose a suite on a lower deck to avoid feeling too much motion and/or vibration.
The vibration on both the Navigator and the Voyager has been a huge topic of discussion on the Boards - yet, I feel the need to put in my two cents. The first day I walked all over the ship in search of the vibration. I heard that it was definitely in the showroom (decks 6 and 7 aft) . . . I felt nothing. Five days into the cruise I finally felt some vibration in an elevator and in a corner of Portofino. It is my belief that vibration is dependent upon the speed of the ship, the motion of the water and the sensitivity of the passenger. My husband was quite aware of the vibration on the Voyager on our Baltic Cruise last year while I was not. We both agree that, at least on this cruise, vibration was minimal and barely noticeable.
Smoking - there is a bit of conflict in Regent's literature on this subject. In one place I read that the only interior place you could smoke was in Star's Lounge. Other literature said that there is a smoking section in Compass Rose and on the port side of Galileo Lounge on Deck 11. The only places I noticed smoking was in the casino and Star's Lounge.
The service on the Navigator was very, very good (with one exception that I'll address later). The Cruise Director, John, seemed to be everywhere at the same time. He is a very energetic person with a great attitude. Unfortunately, this was his last Navigator cruise. Rumor has it that he may be on the Voyager in the future.
The ship size is good and bad. The library/computer room/game room combination was extremely small. The puzzle had to be set up on a table near the elevator. To make matters more difficult, there was a family with three young children that played board games in the library and were laughing and screeching a bit loudly almost every day. This was quite disturbing to some of the people trying to use the internet as well as to guests in the Navigator Lounge across the hall. Children on Regent cruises when it is neither summer, a holiday or school break is a whole other subject that does not seem appropriate to address here.
Lack of dining options became a bit of an issue for us. I cannot imagine cruising for more than a week with basically one restaurant. Portofino, the reservations only restaurant has two problems: 1) it is usually booked every night; and 2) although the food was quite good, the entertainment is the same each evening and does not allow for much conversation at the table. We did have the buffet lunch at Portofino every day and it was fine.
Speaking of food - we learned at the end of the cruise that the Head Chef had left the ship suddenly to go home after her father's death. The Assistant Chef, during a galley tour, shared with us how difficult the week has been on him. The food quality the week of our tour was pretty good but not up to Regent standards. One night we could not cut our grouper - the couple across from us had lamb chops that were pure fat. The grouper issue still puzzles us as we cannot figure out how to cook fish in a manner that makes it impossible to cut. We would have thought that the kitchen could run almost as smoothly with the Head Chef away for a couple of weeks but it apparently cannot.
The service in Portofino restaurant, with the exception of the only female server, was sarcastic at times to the point of being rude. They do have a difficult job since many people are trying to get reservations and are unable to do so. They turn many people away and many fail to show up or even have the courtesy to cancel their reservation. I understand that they are frustrated but saw the poor attitude and service more than one time.
Entertainment -- the entertainment is being changed this month - back to the orchestra and groups vs. single performers. We enjoyed the entertainment they had - especially Tony B.
Shore Excursions - we book shore excursions on our own using local companies. We check them out as thoroughly as possible and find the groups to be smaller and the prices more competitive than those on the ship. Here was our experience on this cruise:
1. Cozumel (with 5 ships in port) - snorkeling for 3 hours in the morning with a group of 15 from a Carnival cruise. Really nice people with their children - well done - a lot of fun.
2. Belize - our favorite excursion - cave tubing. We were picked up at the ship, driven 50 miles to the location and had a wonderful experience sitting in an inner tube, floating down a clear river through pitch black caves with flashlights so we could see crystals, rock formations and bats (sleeping). We were fortunate that no other ships were in port as this excursion can be very crowded. There were only 3 of us and 2 guides.
3. Santo Tomas, Guatemala - like most passengers, we did not do a tour but did visit the marketplace by the ship dock. The residents were a bit aggressive - not our favorite place.
4. Roatan Island, Honduras - this is a real up and coming resort destination. We took a ½ day tour around the island - such a lovely place with very kind people. Regent held a barbeque on a beautiful white sand beach with an area where you can view turtles, sharks and other sea life. 5. Key West - snorkeling tour booked with Regent. Only 7 Regent passengers were on this excursion with 117 Carnival passengers on one catamaran. Beer was being guzzled, everyone was very loud, very loud music. . . this will be our last Regent excursion.
In summary, this is a beautiful ship and the cruise was lovely. The few negatives discussed above were fairly minor compared to the great time we had. The suites are probably the best of any cruise line - the crew makes the passengers feel very special and welcome. The food should be back to normal soon but there is not much they can do about the lack of dining choices. I really fell in love with this beautiful little ship. When we went to Daniel, the Cruise Consultant to book our next cruise (Daniel is great and has a memory like an elephant) we finally had to make a choice as to which ship it would be . . . we will cruise the Mediterranean next year on the Voyager.