We boarded the Voyager in Monte Carlo on November 3 and disembarked in Ft. Lauderdale on November 19. Our sixteen day journey included port stops in Barcelona (overnight), Valencia, Malaga, Casablanca, Agadir, Lanzarote (Canary Islands) and Funchal (Island of Madeira) and eight nights crossing the Atlantic Ocean on the southern route. The seas were moderate throughout most of our sixteen day journey. On only one night the show was canceled out of concern for the dancers' safety. And on that night I didn't think the ship rocked much at all. The temperatures ranged from the upper fifties in the evenings to the mid-seventies during the daytime. We experienced only one significant period of rainfall during the crossing; so the weather was near perfection.
The ship was fully booked for both segments. On the Grand Crossing, ninety-five percent of the passengers were Regent repeaters, a testament to the quality of the Regent product and the importance of customer satisfaction in the luxury cruise segment of the cruise industry.
The ship was in excellent condition. Our cabin on deck six was in great shape. The oh-so comfortable bed and luxurious linens made sleeping easy. We loved being on deck six because it was an easy walk to everything happening on the ship except the activities on deck eleven.
The service on the ship was usually excellent with a number of very high moments and few lower ones. The entertainment was consistently quite good. And the food was excellent, the best we have experienced on our seven Regent cruises.
We enjoyed all of the port stops. We toured most of them independently; but the two ship's tours we booked, a half-day tour of Valencia and a half-day tour of the Southern part of Lanzarote, were very good. This was our first crossing and it won't be our last. Regent booked the right amount of additional entertainment and enhancement lectures; so we had to make time to squeeze in an occasional nap. It is a real treat to stay put on the ship and enjoy the full ambience of a Regent experience. While we saw people of all ages on both segments, the demographic of this trip was the oldest we have seen on any cruise. The passengers were delightful. We met lots of interesting new friends. And we particularly enjoyed meeting a number of folks we had already "met" on the internet, stellar folks all.
This cruise met or exceeded all of our high expectations in every respect. The most popular person on the ship seemed to be the Regent Cruise Consultant who was busy booking future cruises every moment of the day. We managed to squeeze into her office to book one, too.
There was only one aspect of this cruise that was new to us. This is the first time we have cruised Regent since the company went all-inclusive. To us, this change brought immensely higher value to our cruise experience. We were particularly pleased to see that Regent includes a full range of high quality spirits under the all-inclusive umbrella. We asked that our cabin be stocked with Johnnie Walker Black scotch and 12 year old Glenlivet single malt scotch; and two one litre bottles were cheerfully and promptly provided. We didn't drink more because alcohol was included in the price of the cruise (If you know us you know that would be hard to do!). But we did drink differently as, apparently, did a large number of the passengers. We spent more time drinking and socializing in the lounges. This made the trip even more interesting and more fun. The entertainers love the change because they prefer performing for a nice sized audience rather than an empty room. And all the bartenders and waiters we talked to are happy with the change even though they are busier because the passengers are happy and the paperwork is history. We also noticed the change to all-inclusive has prompted a lot of passengers to try a wider range of drinks. I regularly heard all kinds of exotic drinks being ordered. My partner Fred joined that crowd.
Things we missed. Though minor, there are several things we missed on this cruise that we have enjoyed on previous Regent cruises. The first is what I would call the "royal welcome aboard". When we have boarded the ship on previous Regent cruises, a uniformed officer welcomed us aboard at the top of the gangway and a waiter standing by his side immediately handed us a glass of champagne. We found this grand first impression, this special welcome, as delightful as it is impractical. The impractical part of it, of course, is juggling cameras, carry-on luggage and a glass of champagne at the same time. The "royal welcome" wasn't offered on either segment of this trip. Instead, a low level company staffer stood at the top of the gangway to say "welcome" and direct us to the Constellation Theatre to check in. When we entered the Theatre a waiter handed us a glass filled with an inch of champagne. Practical? Yes! Special? No!
Another minor thing we missed on this cruise is having a team of two attend our cabin. Regent has switched to a solo cabin attendant system. The ship's officers we have queried about this say this isn't a cut but "a reorganization." They say it introduces a higher level of accountability to the system. I'm a skeptic about that. Under the new single attendant system it often takes longer to get our cabin serviced in the morning simply because the attendant can only do one cabin at a time. We are relatively early risers. On previous cruises we became accustomed to going down to breakfast in Compass Rose at 8:00 and returning to a cabin that had already been cleaned. No more. Let me be clear, our solo cabin attendant Heiden was perfection. We were totally satisfied with her service. We'd just like to see her have an assistant so the two could service the cabin more expeditiously.
We also missed receiving an alphabetical list of passengers on each segment of the cruise. This really helps us sort out the full names of the delightful people we have met on the ship.
Things we particularly appreciated. Attention to food quality was a focus on this cruise. Since the dining experience is very important to us, we really appreciated our interaction with both the Executive and Corporate chefs. They are delightful "people persons." They were present in all the dining venues and open and accessible to all passengers. They cheerfully and patiently answered everyone's questions and made it clear that they were striving daily to expand and improve the quality of the dining experience aboard the ship. They entertained even the pettiest complaints with interest and patience. They clearly set a tone that inspired and motivated the hospitality staff who worked for them. At the beginning of the cruise the dining experience in Signatures was off. The service was superb. But there were serious kitchen problems. The Executive and Corporate chefs had those problems corrected in a matter of days.
We also appreciated the high standards of service we regularly experienced. All of the ship's crew appeared to be cheerfully eager to please. We pre-ordered a special breakfast early in the cruise. When we walked into Compass Rose the next morning, the waiters recognized us immediately and had our breakfast on the table within a matter of minutes. It just doesn't get any better! The bartender at the pool deck bar, Alfonso, knew our morning drink preferences on the second day of the cruise. (Yes, we ordered a Bloody Mary before lunch and gin and tonic after lunch!) Most of the waiters on the ship knew within a few days that my partner Fred wants fresh pepper on almost everything short of ice cream and I don't. Those are the touches that attract us to the "luxury cruise" experience!
We only booked two of the ship's tours since we prefer to either book private tour guides or strike out on our own. But we really appreciated the fact that Regent used only half of the bus seats on the tours we booked. This insured (1) quick boarding, (2) a window seat for all and (3) a reduced chance of having to cope with "difficult" passengers. We experienced no "difficult" passengers and the tours were most enjoyable.
And, among many other things I might mention, we particularly appreciated the persona of Knute, the ship's captain. As long as he keeps the ship afloat and running on schedule, we really don't need to meet or know anything about a ship's captain to keep us happy campers. But Knute made a huge positive impression on us. He was everywhere on the ship mingling genuinely with all of us and seeming to enjoy the cruise as much as we were. He didn't just have guests at "his table," though he, indeed, did that. He was often seen at dinner dining with guests at their tables. At lunch, he was regularly seen standing in line at the pool deck buffet filling his plate and then seeking out a welcoming table at which to dine. He was welcome at everyone's table! At special events he was seen standing in the crowd enjoying the fun with all the rest of us. And none of this was manufactured or "staged." It was totally genuine. It was a great pleasure to watch an extraordinary leader at work! His officers emulated his behavior. It made a difference.
Finally, as a burn the candle at both ends kind of vacationer I particularly appreciated those five hours we gained cruising in a westerly direction. I needed the extra sleep!
Low moments. I don't expect perfection on any cruise so I was delighted that there were only a few lower moments on this one. They all happened in the area of programming. The first occurred on our first evening aboard. There was no show scheduled for that night. I presume that is because Regent no longer hires enough performers to offer a theatre performance every night of the cruise. Sad, but hardly a deal breaker for us. Instead, we were invited to the Constellation Theatre for a thirty minute "presentation" which included the introduction of several Regent staffers and a five minute "teaser" by the Peter Terhune entertainers; in other words, twenty-five minutes of hype and one tune from the next night's show. Halfway through this I whispered to my friend sitting next to me "This is really tacky." She agreed. It was like inviting me over for dinner when your refrigerator is empty and spending the evening telling me what a great chef you are and how tasty the meal will be tomorrow. It wasted our time. It ruined the otherwise free evening the entertainers had to themselves. And it violated Regent's "no hype" policy. To top it off, the cruise director told us there would be no show that night "out of courtesy to our tired guests who boarded the ship directly from the airport." Give me a break! Most of us had gone to the effort and expense to arrive at the ship rested and ready for a show. Nobody bought her explanation.
I was also disappointed in one of the enhancement lecturers. He was an excellent speaker with an impressive resume and apparently a very pleasant gentleman. But he was speaking on a variety of current public policy issues from a very partisan political prospective. His comments were red meat for those on his side of the country's current political divide. They loved him. But his comments were really cold water poured on those on the other side. Booking him was, in my opinion, unwise and unfair in that all passengers are paying the tab. This situation could have easily been avoided by either booking a journalist or some other commentator who would offer a more balanced presentation or a point and counterpoint duo.
The lowest moment of the cruise occurred in the Constellation Theatre on our third night out. The pianist Pearl Kaufman performed that evening. She was magnificent. The theatre was packed, the audience thrilled by her performance. She was total class. She finished to a standing ovation. Then the cruise director strolled on stage. She thanked the Voyager Orchestra who had backed Kaufman and, of course, the artist herself. She then said "You know, there's one thing I haven't seen enough of on this cruise, hugging. I want you to hug the person who came with you." Then, "Now hug the person on the other side of you." And then, "Oh, no, boys. You aren't supposed to be doing that." How low rent! That kind of stuff might still get a laugh during happy hour at the Podunk Tavern. But it is totally inappropriate following a stellar performance like Kaufman's and for a luxury cruise ship audience.
It was a wonderful cruise. I'd do it again in a heartbeat and will book a westerly crossing again when the opportunity presents itself.