Overview: The Mariner has still proven to me to be a memorable experience. It was my third time on the ship. The 1st time in 2001 I went to the Caribbean, the 2nd time was to Mexico in 2005, and this time was through the Panama Canal. All of these cruises were over Christmas and this latest one was Christmas and New Years. *Please Note* I am a 15-year-old teenager. My review may not be as intellectual as others but this is just based from my experience, and I have gone on 11 cruises including this one--so I have experience. 6 of my cruises have been on Regent.
Embarkation: The cruise before us was coming from Asia and had some extremely bad weather, which delayed the ship 5 hours. We were notified 5 days before embarkation (December 21) so we had the whole day to do nothing. We were supposed to arrive at the Los Angeles port around noon and board the ship at 1 PM. Luckily for us, we live in L.A., so we were not in a hotel, waiting for ship transportation. The cruise line had shuffled people around in different nearby hotels and they were not notified as clearly as others about the delay of the ship. The new time for embarkation was around 7 PM. We arrived at the L.A. port at around 6:20, the porters took our luggage, and we went into the terminal, which was quite busy. Now one thing that I heard negatively was that the clerks at the check-in counter were unorganized and slow. This is not the cruise lines fault. These people do not work for Regent. Those people work for whatever ship they are boarding. Our embarkation went smoothly, we were on the ship within a half hour of getting to the dock. *To future guests* Seeing as a ship being delayed 5 hours is VERY rare, my previous experiences have always been very smooth embarkation, rarely any waiting, and when you are on the ship you get your bags very quickly. Also, when you board the ship, the crew is there to greet you, hand you a nice glass of champagne, and directs you to your suite, which is usually ready when you board. Ship: The ship is 50,000 tons and holds 700 passengers. It's not a monster ship but it's not a small one either. It has many public rooms that serve as multiple purposes, strategically placed for different activities. There are 6 elevators: 3 glass ones that look out over the atrium, and 2 regular ones in the back of the ship. Deck 5 has 2 restaurants: Compass Rose and Latitudes, with the atrium staircase going up to deck 7. Deck 5 is also home to the bottom level of the show lounge (the Constellation Theatre), Reception, Travel Concierge, and the Mariner Lounge, a nice place to sit in before dinner. Deck 6 holds the top level of the theatre, the Stars Disco Lounge, Club.Com—the computers, Library, Garden Promenade, the newest edition--The Coffee Connection, Horizon Lounge that overlooks the back of the ship, Card & Conference room, and Signatures, another restaurant. Deck 7 is the lowest deck with suits, but suites are only on half of it. The rest is the Spa, Gym, Shops, and Casino. Decks 8-10 are all guest rooms (Deck 10 is the bridge too). Deck 11 holds the pool and Jacuzzi's, and La Verandah, mainly a breakfast and lunch restaurant but has Italian or Mediterranean at night. Deck 12 has a paddle tennis court, golf nets, walking track (only 11 laps to a mile!), Shuffleboard, bocce, and the Observation Lounge, a beautiful room overlooking the bow of the ship. Since this was a Holiday cruise, they also had nice Christmas Trees and Gingerbread houses around the ship. Suites/Accommodations: Who ever came up with the idea that every stateroom has a balcony (AND A VIEW) was a genius. Not only does the lowest costing room get you a balcony, there are no obstructed views, as all the lifeboats are below deck 7. Every room has a walk-in closet, TV w/ DVD player; a refrigerator with soft drinks and bottled water, a fresh fruit basket and flowers refreshed every day. Our cabin number was 955, and it was a standard suite, nice size. The standards suites can be either 1) a 3-person room where the couch comes out to a bed or 2) Have a separate shower instead of the shower/bathtub combination. Regent is now "all-inclusive", which is nice. Probably a lot nicer for older people who drink alcohol unlike myself but this now means all drinks are included, (Unless you buy a more expensive bottle of wine at dinner) and no extra costs. Gratuities are included. The only extra costs are for personal items of course, ie. Shore excursions, Photos, Boutique purchases, etc.
The library was cut down due to the installation of the Coffee Connection so its supply of books is limited. It also holds a large DVD library, but they could buy a lot more DVD's, newer releases!! On the in-suite television—which has now been changed to flat screens—they have limited channels due to the reception they can get. Since my cruise was over New Years, we were questioning the reception we would get for the big football games. So many people requested for the Rose Bowl, they ended up showing the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, and a few others. They were in the room TV's along with the big theatre where they served hot dogs, popcorn, chips, etc. One thing that probably separates Regent from the big thing is the number of announcements. In the morning you might catch the cruise director giving an announcement talking about the days activities, and at sea days at noon you will always here the captain come on and talk about the weather and our location, but that's IT. They started a new way of showing announcements—on the television. Every day, you can hear all about the announcements (in more detail then in the daily program) on channel 1—Mariner Today. Other channels include 3 movie channels, that they show 3 different movies every day. They also receive Fox News, CNN, ESPN, and a few others (reception permitting).
Entertainment: Daytime entertainment: The entertainment in the morning/afternoon has always been very top notch. This was no different on this cruise. It is instructed by the social staff--the singers and dancers from the Broadway cast. They are all extremely nice and make all of the activities fun. All the activities vary whether you are in port or at sea but range from Bingo to Bocce Ball to Ping pong tournaments to Trivia to inside mini golf tournaments. They feature 2-3 lectures a day on various topics that relate to our surroundings and even though I do not attend, I heard very good things about them. They show a movie in the theatre every day—attendance is never very large but they do have popcorn that makes the deck smell good. ? Evening Entertainment: Peter Grey Terhune is Regent's Broadway Company that produces shows for all of their ships. They have always done an excellent job with that and continue to do so. The cast consists of 4 singers and 6 dancers. They performed 3 big Broadway shows on my cruise. The first one was "Ballroom Bravo", a dancing sensation including two world-champion ballroom dancers that came from Russia. The second was "Harmony", a show that mainly featured the singers, and the third was "Broadway in Concert", a big Broadway show with lots of favorite Broadway music. The Regent Signature Orchestra backs up every song, at every show. They have a few solo artists that play in lounges, which are all very nice. However, one point that the evening entertainment slacked in was the alternative performances. They had 2 comedians, a magician, a pianist, and 2 vocalists. All of which were very talented but lacked a certain "pizzazz". I know that the cast does a lot of work performing but if they could add just one more show, it would make up for the so-so other entertainment.
Children's Club: Club Mariner is only offered on select cruises and is really not given enough credit. Yes, if you do not go in the holiday season or the summer there are going to be NO children on board. HOWEVER, if you go over the Holiday season there will be at least 40+ kids on board, no doubt. On my cruise there were about 50 passengers ranging in age 1-18. (21 is the legal drinking age on Regent.) The children that came to the kids club are delightful, well-mannered children and the counselors are the best. During port days they have certain hours that they have activities, usually 2 hours in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, and 2 at night. On sea days they extend them so that children have more to do. They sort out fun activities like board game tournaments, beaded creature making, movie nights, and even cookie decorating in the galley. Those activities are for children ages 5-12, they do not allow children under 5 into Club Mariner without an adult present at all times. For teens 13-17, they offer the same times in the day, with slightly varied activities (in the same location as the children) but they are very flexible with what the teens want to do. My 2 youth counselors Carlie and Donna were very nice and fun. The only drawback of Club Mariner on a cruise line like Regent's is that they are not prepared for children. During the day our activities take place in the Stars Disco lounge (because it is not used in the day) and at night we are put into the conference room. They are both fine locations but they could really step it up a notch if they were to build a new ship (which is in the talking stages), at least make some kid friendly facilities and use them for storage when its not time for kids.
Service: Service on Regent is perfect. On some cruise lines the waiters forget about you, and on some they are right next to you, watching every move you make, waiting to help you. I can't stand EITHER of those, so I'm lucky Regent is right in the middle. If the waiter sees you need help they help you but you are free to do what you want, when you want, wherever you want. They are always prompt. The room service does not take long for delivery and the cabin stewardess does a very quick and efficient job. They are all very happy, smiling, and will do anything to please you. Ports/Shore Excursions: We had 5 ports of call on our ship, as it was mainly an "at-sea" cruise.
Our first port was San Diego, California. This was kind of like the first day because it was 1) an American port 2) Lots of people embarked here instead of L.A. and 3) This was the night we had the lifeboat drill and sail away party. San Diego was a good place to get any last minute items you needed, they had a free 10-minute shuttle ride to Horton Plaza, the big mall in San Diego, and of course you could hit the Zoo, SeaWorld, and the Naval Ship across the water.
Our next stop was Cabo San Lucas. We arrived later in the afternoon, around 1 PM and were only staying until 6 PM unlike San Diego where we stayed all day. When I was in Cabo my dad and I took a boat from the pier to the bay and ate at the Office restaurant on the beach, then went back to the ship. Cabo is a very nice port for shopping and tourist things but I have been there many times so it didn't interest me to shop.
After Cabo we went down to Puerto Chiapas. This was by-far one of the worst ports I have ever been too. They have 9 cruise ships a year—which basically states they are NOT ready for the rush of people. At the dock there is a small little mall that has a few small nice shops and a big arena in the middle to watch some traditional dancing. That whole thing is very nice, but then they offer a shuttle that goes down town. Why we took it I do not know, but it was just not a place you want to go when you are on a luxury cruise.
Our next stop was Puntarenas, Costa Rica. This was the one port we decided to take a shore excursion in. We got off the ship onto a nice air-conditioned coach bus and took an hour drive up to a park, where we went on a Sky-Walk Rainforest and suspended bridge tour. It was very beautiful to see but could have been a little more exciting.
The Panama Canal Transit is technically not a port but I will talk about it anyway. When the canal pilot isn't driving, he comes on the intercom to tell you about the next lock or some of the history of the canal. It's a very fascinating voyage. The whole canal takes about 8 hours to go through and you can watch it many different ways in any of the public room windows.
Our final stop was in Cartagena, Columbia. We only stopped here because legally, since we went through the Panama Canal, we had to stop in a South American country since we were now in the Atlantic Ocean. I did not get off the ship in Cartagena but I heard mixed reviews about it. You had to find a cheap taxi into town, and then there was some good shopping. You can buy some nice jewelry and Columbian coffee, but the cab could be as much as $40 each way, and it was about a 7-minute drive. Overall the ports on this cruise were not the best, but the days at sea made up for them. The ship is full of things to do and there is never really a need to get off even when you are at port.
Food: There are 4 main restaurants on the Mariner. The Compass Rose is the main dining room, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner (but really shines in dinner). La Verandah serves all 3 as well but shines in its breakfast and lunch. Le Cordon Bleu sets itself up in Signatures, the alternative-reservation only French restaurant. And finally, you can indulge in Indochina style cuisine at Latitudes, another reservation only restaurant. I have never eaten at the Compass Rose for breakfast or lunch but that is only because La Verandah is a buffet while the Compass Rose is a sit-down lunch. At dinnertime in the Compass Rose you are welcome to dine whenever you want—the dining room opens at 7 and seats until around 9. You can eat by yourself or dine with other guests, but you are not assigned to a certain table/waiter/fellow guests/time to eat. The Compass Rose menu is very well laid-out and the back page even has a "Light and Healthy" section, a "Vegetarian" section, "No Added Salt", and "Simplicity" which has plain chicken, pasta, salmon etc. La Verandah has a fabulous breakfast buffet, however, it stays the same every-day. They have 2 large buffets with fruit, pastries, cereals, hot items like bacon and eggs, someone toasting bread/bagels, etc. They also have 2 custom-made omelet chefs that deliver your omelets right to your table. At lunchtime you can find almost ANYTHING from roasted turkey to spiral ham to spaghetti. They have a large salad bar and even have mini sandwiches. Another lunchtime option is the Pool Grill where you can get the basics; Hamburger, Hot Dog, and fun stuff like Cajun Chicken Sandwich, grilled shrimp sandwich, and many other options. They deliver them right to your table and are very quick and efficient. Finally, almost every day they have a lunchtime buffet outside. Every day it has a theme and every day the theme is different. One day it will be "Tex-Mex", the next "Champagne and Lobster Brunch" and even "German Bratwurst" day. Those are all delightfully laid out and always delicious. For dinnertime at La Verandah you can find either Italian Steakhouse or Mediterranean Cuisine. (They change it halfway through the cruise) I prefer the Italian Steakhouse much more, but both are very nice. The first part is a wonderful buffet and the next course is served to you, whether it be chicken, steak, or fish. Signatures is my least favorite restaurant but it is still VERY GOOD. They are an all-French cuisine restaurant that serves delicious food like duck, lamb, escargot, foie gras, etc. It is an amazing presentation and the service in there is very nice. Latitudes is the Asian restaurant, my 2nd favorite. Half of the cruise they are "Indochina" which is just a fancy word for Asian and the other half they were "Thai". I did not get to try the "Thai" menu but I heard it was just O.K. The presentation in Latitudes is impeccable. It's a very small restaurant and only holds about 20 tables. They serve the whole menu to you in small portions—no ordering. All the food at "Indochina" is incredible, amazing taste and you can get more of anything you want. The newest edition to the Mariner is The Coffee Connection, a delightful little coffee shop in the middle of the garden promenade. It is no charge for any specialty coffee drinks, and it's really like a Starbucks at sea. They have a large refrigerator that holds bottled water and sodas that passengers can use at any time. On the side of the Coffee Connection is a small buffet that they use for snacks. During the morning they have fruit, pastries, cereal, and bagels. During the afternoon they change it to fruit and cookies. Around the corner is the high-tech latte machine open 24/7 and juice and cookies always available. Last note on food, room service is available 24 hours a day. During dinner hours you can order anything from the Compass Rose menu into your suite, and they have a large menu. It comes promptly and efficiently, and they come in and set it up for you.
Overall: Regent has never shown me something that would not make me want to come back. I plan on going on my next cruise on Regent and I know I will have a good time. The service, food, ship, and overall experience is like no other. They really out-do themselves on multiple levels