We began our 19-day cruise on Regent Mariner December 3-21, 2007 with a flight from LAX to Auckland on Air New Zealand in Premium Economy. The service was excellent and the flight passed quickly. We spent two days seeing the lovely city, staying at the Sky City Hotel courtesy of Regent, and arrived at the nearby cruise terminal at noon. We quickly were welcomed aboard with champagne, given our keys and offered lunch in the Verandah Cafe. Upon arrival there, we were pleased to see our favorite waiter, Gerry, and spent a few minutes catching up on his family, before enjoying a terrific lunch.
The Ship Our room, a penthouse C, soon was available, and we were pleased with its midship location and size. The penthouse C's have larger square footage than the regular suites, and we really enjoyed the expansive living area and verandah. The C category suites differ from Penthouse A and B only in that they do not have butler service, which we really don't use. Because we were Silver level with Regent, we had free internet and one hour free phone time. The wireless internet worked very well in the room. The only change we would make is the television, which worked but had very limited channels. However, we used the DVD player on the few instances we wanted to watch something.
The room stewardess, Donna, arrived quickly and brought our requests for extra pillows, and bar setup. She did an excellent job of maintaining the cabin during the entire cruise, with a friendly and efficient attitude.
Regent Mariner, which accommodates 700 passengers, was in excellent shape, with the new coffee bar always humming with activity, the internet area active, the Horizon Lounge busy for tea, trivia and bingo. The honor system library was fully-stocked with books and DVDs. Everywhere we went we were greeted by friendly staff, and the passenger contingent was pleasant and well traveled. We were so pleased to meet up with passengers with whom we've cruised Regent before, and meet new friends. We encountered no small children aboard.
Food Another highlight of the entire cruise was the quality and variety of food which sets Regent apart from other lines. Dinner in Compass Rose, the main dining room, was excellent and had a varied menu with well-sized portions. Wines from the complimentary wine list completed each meal. A special reserve wine list, for an extra charge, also is available. CR continues to be our favorite restaurant onboard. Although it is open seating, we would ask to be seated at one of Gerry's tables. His service is absolutely top-notch and personalized. We cannot commend him enough. Besides CR and the Verandah Cafe, Regent has two other dinner venues available, at no additional charge. We ate in the alternative restaurant, Latitudes, twice during the cruise. First, the Indian themed dinner was outstanding. The menu then changed to Polynesian, which was interesting. The final week of the cruise the theme was Thai. Signatures, the Cordon Bleu restaurant was, as usual, excellent and service was first rate.
Each day at lunch, a special poolside buffet was featured. This included a French lunch (fresh grilled foie gras, filet mignon and huge prawns), a German lunch (wiener schnitzel, sausages, smoked pork), and seafood, (crab legs, oysters, shrimp, grilled fish). All lunches included wonderful desserts and, of course, ice cream. On the last day, a special holiday lunch buffet was served, which included roast turkey and goose with stuffing and all the trimmings, as well as authentic German Christmas desserts and a huge gingerbread house. Santa himself made an appearance, and many of the staff wore Santa hats, adding to the festive atmosphere. Of course, Regent being all- inclusive, any drinks or beverages were available gratis.
Excursions and Activities Our cruise first took us from Auckland to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. There we took the Maori Cultural Experience excursion, which was a fabulous tour. It was guided by a Maori resident, who explained many of his ancestral beliefs, myths, and cultural activities. The highlight of the trip was a visit to a Maori marae, where we were welcomed by the elders of the community in an ancient Maori ceremony, which was moving and inspiring. We highly recommend this excursion.
Other ports included Rarotonga, Bora Bora, Moorea, Papeete, and Nuku Hiva. We had a bit more rain during the cruise than expected, but it did not put a damper on the fun! We enjoyed an excursion riding wave runners around the Blue Lagoon in Bora Bora with friends, and the guides provided a great fun tour of the island as well as a stop on a motu for fresh coconut, bananas and pineapple. We also did a private ship excursion Bayliner Sunset cruise with the same friends around the Blue Lagoon, complete with champagne, hors d'oeuvres and a ukulele-playing boat driver. Watching the sunset while cruising the beautiful Blue Lagoon (and around the ship) with our driver singing was a truly unique experience! Bora Bora is a place we definitely will not forget.
Although it was raining on Moorea, the snorkeling and stingray excursion was excellent. The stingrays were friendly and very active, and the beautiful coral and tropical and exotic fish were breathtaking. We explored Rarotonga and Papeete on our own. The shops and markets are easily accessible. We found the people on all the islands very friendly and welcoming, and the scenery stunning.
Regent put on a special activity for all guests on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. The festival/cultural experience with carving, weaving and food demonstrations, along with music and dancing was lovely, despite the rain. Food was cooked in pits in the ground and a large buffet was served. Local craftspeople displayed their wares for purchase, including pareos, pearl jewelry, weaving and wooden carvings. All in all, an enjoyable experience.
The schedule then had 6 sea days, but the time passed quickly with the many activities onboard. There were games, needlepoint, art classes, computer instructions and ballroom dance lessons.
Speakers on this cruise were excellent, ranging from a former Washington Post reporter who lectured on the Middle East, a former British MP who spoke on intelligence and spies and spycraft during World War II and the Cold War. Another wonderful speaker was an archeological historian who spoke on the history of religion and its archeological evidence, and a former actor/sportscaster who spoke on his career.
The Cordon Bleu cooking class was wonderful. This was the second time we have taken the course, and Chef Gilles from the Cordon Bleu in Ottawa was fantastic! The course now has been expanded to be a Circle of Interest course and is longer and more detailed than the previous courses. We had three extensive but fun classes learning techniques and cooking skills. We actually cooked up three excellent meals, which we enjoyed with wine following our work. A graduation dinner with special menu crafted by Chef Gilles took place at Signatures on our last evening. We highly recommend this course to anyone who loves food.
Evening entertainment on the ship varied from Broadway productions to classical music. One innovation was a Dancing with the Stars contest with passengers taking partners from the dance hosts and entertainers. The contest dance-offs were the best attended entertainment as audience members cheered on their favorites. The quality of dancing was terrific and we congratulate the winners, who were awesome!
Because we crossed the Equator on the trip, a special "baptism" of those who had not crossed before was conducted poolside. Actually the crew was "baptized," the passengers just watched and laughed. Now all aboard are official "Shellbacks" and were presented with a special certificate.
In addition, one afternoon the crew put on a special Country Fair, with booths and activities. It was great fun as passengers threw water balloons, raced cars, and threw hoops etc in the booths to try to win prizes. The crew was enthusiastic and great sports, and the fair was a highlight of the crossing.
Additional Information Because of crosswinds and a slight problem with a tender being raised onto the ship, we were slightly behind schedule in arriving in Los Angeles. We were scheduled to dock at 9am, but actually docked at 2pm. Regent really stepped up in this situation, especially because it was the weekend before Christmas. They sent passengers a letter three days before advising them of the change. Regent immediately changed travel arrangements for all those traveling on Regent air. In addition, they offered to reimburse for any changes incurred for any traveler who had to alter plane or other travel. The Travel Desk was helpful in making changes, and all guests were given free internet time and free phone time to contact family, make additional arrangements or changes. This customer service truly is one reason Regent has such a loyal following.
Overall, this was a fantastic, relaxing cruise with excellent service, food and accommodations. Regent continues to be first-rate in customer service. We recommend Regent to anyone who wants to experience all-inclusive luxury cruising.