We stayed at the Anchorage Hilton hotel the night before our cruise began, because it was suggested and arranged by Regent. Excellent central location--walk to restaurants and several sites of interest. The hotel seems stuck in a time warp from at least 20 years ago. Its "Alaska" lobby decor is dated, a Starbucks outpost notwithstanding. The room decor, again, was greatly in need of updating, though it was clean and in good condition. Forget the name "Hilton" as lending any panache; this could just as easily have been a Holiday Inn.
Several other cruise ship passenger groups were also staying at the Anchorage Hilton. Regent, from the get-go, was unfailingly efficient and seamless in its planning. They’d met us at the airport, and transported us and our luggage to the hotel. On Cruise Day, they were transporting us and our fellow Regent passengers, and our luggage, by bus from the Hilton to Seward, the cruise embarkation town about 2.5 hours away. Anchorage, a town of about 26,000 had some well-reviewed bistros and a few museums (that we didn’t visit) but its downtown area seemed small and uninterestingly modern—it could have been a small town anywhere. I admit we didn’t do much exploring. I’ve since heard that Seward is more worth seeing; next time I’d consider spending my overnight time there.
Details on the Seven Seas Mariner: An all-balcony, all-outside cabins, ship. 8 passenger decks; 2 specialty restaurants (one French--Signatures, one Asian-Fusion--Latitudes) plus a restaurant-style dining room (Compass Rose) and a buffet-style dining room; a coffee bar with specialty coffee drinks to order, soft drinks, and snacks (including wonderful chocolate chip and cranberry-oatmeal cookies); a pool; a spa with sauna and steam room; a fitness center (no charge); several bars and lounges; casino, library, theatre; children’s programs (though not as child-oriented as many other cruise lines); dry cleaning and laundry service; self-service laundry; internet café (no charge); two shops; and an observation deck with more comfy chairs, coffee, beverages, and snacks. There is no additional charge for room service or to eat in the specialty restaurants (or anywhere else), and excellent house wines, or any other beverages of choice, are included with dinner
We made online reservations in advance for the two specialty restaurants. Latitudes had one set menu with wines. The service was charming (just this side of unctuous), the food excellent. Our favorite though was Signatures, with outstanding food, not just for a ship, but for a top-flight restaurant anywhere. We liked it so much that we decided to have a second dinner there, and we enjoyed it as much as the first.
On all Regent cruises, gratuities are included in the fare. To show their appreciation, passengers may make a contribution to a crew welfare fund. Most other Regent cruises have a couple of formal nights; however, the dress code for dinner on the Alaska cruises was described as “country club casual” with no formal nights. Service was beyond excellent, it was almost embarrassing.
Every suite had a vanity-desk and sitting area. Marble bathrooms had robes and slippers, great lighting and we had combination tub-showers which had grab bars. We (there were three in my party) were in two non-“master” suites, 1045 and 1055, each with a single bedroom with a king bed. Every suite has a CD/DVD player, TV. There is a free library on board for borrowing movies and books. No alarm clock, but there were automated wake-up calls. Each cabin has a fully-stocked mini bar (no charge for anything consumed) plus they will stock two large bottles of liquors/liqueurs of choice.
Our walk-in closets each had a safe. The beds were dressed with fine linens and duvets. During the unpacking and packing days, maids laid protective canvas covers on the beds, on top of which were placed the suitcases. Our balconies had nice wooden chairs and tables. TV stations were pretty limited: CNN, FOX (sometimes), two channels showing the ship’s bow and weather reports (which seemed not to vary), a channel describing some of the excursions, and an infomercial channel for Regent cruises. There were reading lights on either side of the bed. Bathrooms had robes and slippers for use during the cruise; great towels. Toiletries (Aveda brand) included shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and bath gel. There was housekeeping service twice a day.
Daily programs included lectures on art (no doubt related to the on-board auction) and Alaskan history and geography; games such as daily trivia, board games, bingo, and cards; computer classes; photography tips, evening shows and films, the casino, etc.
The ship was wheel-chair-friendly and a few of the excursions were described as being suitable for people in wheelchairs or with limited mobility.
There were some days at sea (once or twice even in port) when none of us had cell phone service.
The highlight of highlights of our cruise was the excursion we took through the Tracy Arm Fjord to view the Sawyer Glaciers. Blue ice! We also very much enjoyed Sitka and Skagway. The excursions we took in Sitka were a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center, followed by an easy guided nature walk through the Sitka National Historic Park. Afterwards we took a "wildlife viewing cruise", and indeed saw diving whales, otters, eagles and bears.
Juneau was a bore but we had only a few hours there because we'd started on the Tracy Arm excursion, boarding a catamaran directly from our Regent ship, before the Regent ship landed at Juneau. The Tracy Arm excursion boat had a cabin, though we were on deck most of the time, and the excursion was six hours, and worth every minute. That evening we went on an evening whale-watching excursion that was excellent,dinner provided on board the excursion boat.
At Skagway we'd opted for a Chilkoot Trail Nature Hike and Float. We felt the hike much too arduous (not in terms of distance or stamina, but in terms of required steep rock climbing in deep woods. Sneakers weren't sufficient; we really needed hiking boots. The float down a placid river (not whitewater) afterwards was a relief. Most people had taken the Yukon Train excursion, and seemed to enjoy it.
Our only disappointing port stop was the last one, at Campbell River, BC. It's only about 30 miles from Vancouver, but a waste of time as far as we're concerned. We'd heard that Regent has gone into partnership with the town (or the Canadian gov't) to turn Campbell River into a well-touristed cruise port, but so far it's not ready for prime time. A few tents set up at the pier for tourist souvenir shopping, and the rest of it looked like a generic small town with a few strip malls and no charm.
Be aware that the huge number of jewelry stores you see in each port are often owned all or in part by the cruise lines. There are no jewelry bargains. Look for the shops that show signs saying "locally owned and operated." Don't go to Alaska without insect repellent, especially if you will be in woods or out at night. The local joke is that the mosquito is the state bird. For outdoor viewing of the Hubbard Glacier (on board the Regent Ship) we needed layers of warm clothing, waterproof outwear, hats and gloves. For our daytripping in ports after that we needed jackets, sweaters, jeans and sneakers, and we often ended the day by tying our jackets around our waists.