My husband and I just returned from a great week's vacation on the Navigator. The ports included Cozumel, Belize, Santo Tomas de Castillo (Guatemala), and Key West. This was our second Regent cruise, the first being in the Baltic in the summer of 2006 on the Voyager.
Our flight from DC to Fort Lauderdale was an object lesson in why you should always fly in the day before, if you can. The weather was perfect in Washington when we left, and most of the trip was very smooth, until we were suddenly diverted to West Palm Beach because of high winds and storms in Fort Lauderdale. We sat on the ground long enough in West Palm that the storm caught up with us, and held us on the ground there until it blew through. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale two hours late, at a time that would have been uncomfortably close to departure if it had been the same day.
We had booked a room at the Marriott Harbor Beach Spa and Resort, using points from previous business travel. We had booked a few months in advance, and the person taking the reservation apologized that since we were using points, we'd have a room facing the city rather than the ocean. We hardly minded, since the room at this pricey resort was "free" and we'd be on the ocean for the next week.
When we arrived, we found that the hotel was fully booked for a business convention - so we were upgraded to a large suite on a high floor, with living/dining room, separate bedroom, and beautiful views of the beach and ocean from three balconies. It was a very nice start to our vacation!
Early the next morning we saw the Navigator arrive in Fort Lauderdale, gliding past our windows into port. I joked to my husband that I was "watching my ship come in". The short taxi ride to the port was easy, and Regent received us very graciously. We arrived at 1 pm so we were able to board immediately. A buffet lunch was available at the pool grill, and we passed the time pleasantly with that. The rooms were ready at the precise time promised - 2.30 - and our bags were waiting for us when we arrived.
After unpacking, we acquainted ourselves with the ship. We had both been very happy with the layout and the appearance of the Voyager, so we found the Navigator to be very different. It does not have the open public spaces that the Voyager does; they seemed small and dark in comparison. The ship altogether has a more intimate feel than Voyager, which is reasonable given its smaller passenger capacity. Navigator has only two restaurants for dinner, compared with Voyager's four.
The staff on Regent ships are very attentive without being obtrusive; a perfect combination, as far as we are concerned. The cabins are very spacious and comfortable, and we love spending time on the balcony.
The reason I entitled this review "rocking and rolling" was because the first day out, a sea day, was extremely windy, with 10-15 foot seas. Many passengers took to their beds, and the rest of us lurched around the ship like drunks. I have long sailing experience, so I was not ill, and my husband was also fine. However, it did continue all day and well into the evening, and by then I had gotten enough entertainment out of it.
This was our evening at "Portofino", the specialty restaurant, and many tables were empty because people had not been able to face going to dinner. There was a wine tasting set up outside the main dining room, but people (including myself) were not eager to stumble from table to table trying to keep our footing. One older man fell, and they quickly seated the rest of us at our tables before that happened again. Since Portofino is up on Deck 10, the rocking was more apparent than on lower decks.
I did not find the food at Portofino to be any more "special" than in the Compass Rose (the regular restaurant), but I admit I was eating lightly that evening. We also didn't anticipate the "comical" musician, whom we found very disruptive to conversation, and who was not nearly as amusing as he thought he was.
We did our excursions through Regent, as we had done in the Baltic on Voyager. We find them to be good value for the money, and well organized in general.
Cozumel: We did the Atlantis submarine excursion to Chankanaab. Each passenger has his or her own large porthole through which to view marine life, and you go down to 50 then 100 feet. The coral reef has had a lot of damage from hurricanes in recent years, but it is still interesting to see, and the fish we saw were spectacular. That was the highlight of Cozumel, which we found to be a tacky tourist town otherwise. I see no reason why we would return there in future.
Belize: This was the highlight of the trip, for me. We took an excursion up the New River, pausing to see wildlife along the way - herons, crocodiles, a nest of bats (which flew out at us when we got too close!), and beautiful birds who "walk" on top of the water lilies. The boat took us to the park where the Lamanai Mayan ruins are, and we had a beautiful walk to the ruins under a canopy of palms (which helped shield us from the rain). There were two temples which we saw, and the guide was very informative about their history. The boat trip back was at high speed, and some people ducked behind the seats to avoid the wind and rain; I just regarded it as a free facial dermabrasion treatment, and would not have missed a single thing we saw on the way out or back.
Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala: I am amazed by the reviews I've seen which say this port is not interesting, or that they just got off the ship to shop in the port terminal. I can't imagine docking somewhere and not exploring! We went to the archaeological park at Quirigua, about an hour's drive from the port. Again, we had very knowledgeable guides, who could explain the meanings of the carvings on the giant steles in the park, which date to the eighth century. My husband is a terrific photographer and took some wonderful pictures of these amazing artifacts.
Key West: We did not do an excursion here, but walked around on our own. Once we got off Duval Street, which is "turistaville", we found it very interesting. We visited the Hemingway house, and had a wonderful time at the butterfly conservatory down at the southernmost end of Duval.
Overall, we were very happy with the cruise. We met very interesting people, and we find that "open dining" facilitates these meetings and conversations. One reason we initially chose Regent was that we did not want to eat at a set time with all the same people every night. Fixed seatings for dinner come at two times: Too Early and Too Late, and on Regent you can be seated anytime from 7 to 9. We always said we'd be happy to start a table or join one, and we had very interesting conversations with a wide range of people.
My husband spent some enjoyable time in the casino (roulette is his game), and even came out a little ahead. The evening shows were not to our taste, and any time we have tried them (on both Regent cruises) we leave early. They are probably geared to an older, more traditional crowd; on Regent, we are "youngsters", since we are in our early 50s. However, the small orchestra on board, the combo in the Galileo lounge, and the pianist, Tonee Valentine, were wonderful.
Regent also gives a lovely cocktail party for those who have cruised with them before, with endless champagne and beautiful hors d'oeuvre.
We are looking forward to sailing on Mariner next, to complete our tour of Regent's major ships. [It will be awhile before we get to the South Pacific, so the Paul Gauguin will be out of our experience for some time, yet]. Voyager remains far ahead of Navigator in our estimation, but we certainly would not hesitate to take Navigator again if it had the itinerary we wanted. We are now "2 for 2" on Regent and it would take an amazing itinerary/price combination to make us change to another cruise line.