Pre-Cruise We had air inclusive on this cruise. Regent booked us on Lufthansa out of Seattle with a stop (and 4 hour wait) in Frankfurt. Flying out of Seattle on Lufthansa was quick and easy. We were booked on Business Class and were able to use the lounge prior to the flight. They use the British Air lounge in Terminal "S" one of the nicest lounges we have seen in the U.S. Contrary to most reviews on Lufthansa, the Business Class seats and service were very good (A330-330 one of the newer planes).
The "Business Class" flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul was okay from a service standpoint, however, the seats were economy (6 across 3 and 3). The middle seat was blocked off so no one sits next to you. Not impressive.
Regent's transfer to the Ritz Carlton in Istanbul was fine. Beautiful hotel. It seemed that the Regent passengers were assigned to lower floors. Our first room was next to the elevator, looked out at a wall and had stained carpets. We were moved to a room on the 3rd floor that was just fine. Included an excellent buffet breakfast.
Embarkation Embarkation was easier than we have experienced. Customs in Istanbul was a breeze and, of course, Regent does a wonderful job of getting you through the preliminaries and up to lunch in La Veranda.
Condition of the Ship Condition of ship 2 months prior to dry dock: We were on the Voyager two years ago and felt they needed to replace the carpeting. It isn't worn or dirty, it just looks like there are water marks from large spills everywhere. It seems that they purchased the wrong carpet for the ship. A CC poster that apparently knows about carpet said : "It's called pile reversal/watermarking/shading. It's a common occurrence." In any event, it will be replaced in dry dock. Everything else is sparkling, and clean really looking good.
Suite We had a Penthouse B suite (we booked this in order to have Business Class included in the fare. The cabin (818) was in a good position you could not feel any type of vibration. Although the Penthouse suites are only 15 sq. ft. larger, the square configuration makes them considerably roomier.
Service The service was wonderful (with a couple of exceptions). We really do not need a butler, however, we asked him if we could have a table set up for 13 in Compass Rose on the next night. He checked and called the next morning to advise me that this is not possible, but, at 7:00 p.m., if we give our suite # to the person in Compass Rose, they will put us in two tables next to each other. We arrived in Compass Rose 6:45 p.m. and was greeted by Anna (she is delightful). She was not aware that we needed table(s) for 13 however, asked us to wait 3 minutes, they would have a table set up for us. This was done and we had a great table with service (Lionel's section) that was absolute perfection.
There are more Canadian's working on board than I have seen in the past very nice young people with a great attitude. We even found someone from the U.S. working on board. Seeing staff from North America was different (in a good way).
Dining Compass Rose was exemplary. Their filet mignon, and other meat dishes were particularly well prepared. Lunch in Compass Rose was equally delicious.
La Veranda for breakfast and lunch was good. However, during a very slow lunch period, the service seemed to fall apart. The staff were all chatting to one another and looking out of the window while plates stacked up on our table. At 1:00 p.m., additional staff was added and the service suddenly became great once again. On the positive side, I was not aware that they have champagne for breakfast on Sunday as well as caviar (prepared beautifully self service).
Latitudes continues to serve delicious food their servers are always the happiest and most fun of any servers on board. We will miss Latitudes.
Signatures was disappointing the halibut was dry - not even up to the caliber of Compass Rose. The other CCers on board had great experiences in Signatures. We are looking forward to trying Prime Seven Steakhouse next year on the Voyager!
The lounges have been quite good. The appetizers are definitely a better quality than a couple of years ago. Even the presentation is a bit better. Note: There was nothing wrong with the appetizers during our last Voyager cruise - the preparation is different and they are presented in a more modern way.
Ports Istanbul the port side of the ship is the place to be when in Istanbul especially if you are docked there overnight as we were. The view is magnificent. We found a lovely restaurant (actually an old home where we dined in the backyard) "Giritli". With such a short time in Istanbul, we wanted to try as much authentic food as possible. They serve 12-17 cold appetizers (depending upon fresh vegetables that are in season we had 17). This is followed by three hot appetizers: calamari, octopus and a flakey pastry with spinach inside. Then you select your fish and dessert follows. Dinner includes Turkish wine (all you can drink) and their national drink "Raki". Great food, nice people. They make sure you have a taxi for you when you are done.
We walked to the Blue Mosque (next to Topaki Palace). There were simply too many people (mainly tours) for us. Interesting area did wait to go through the Blue Mosque.
Rhodes - unique and wonderful. We did a 2 hour taxi tour and walked through the old town looking at shops. There are many taxis parked by the dock. They all want to give you a tour. We politely refused many times. The last driver followed us trying to convince us that we needed to take the tour. We were pleased that we agreed (40 Euro).
Kusadasi - as beautiful as the ruins probably are (and we have seen many), we opted to have an authentic Turkish bath (a local facility - no name - just "Turkish Bath" near the post office - walking distance from ship). It was quite an experience - not for everyone, but, it was great for us (only 18 Euro's each).
Mykonos - stunning - a great walking city (if you can walk up the stairs and hills). We walked to the very top of the hill - what a view!
Santorini - Captain Dag made a very appropriate statement about ports in general. Many new cruise ships are built every year - getting bigger all of the time. However, the ports do not get larger. The week before, 6 cruise ships were in port in Santorini (11,000) people. It took up to 2 hours to get up to the top of the cliff and about the same to get down. People could hardly walk - it was just too crowded.
Last week there were 10 ships (plus the Voyager) scheduled to be in port. The Captain made the wise decision to change the itinerary so that we would be in Santorini with only two other ships. We visited the same ports - the order in which we visited them was changed. Santorini is everything people say about it and more. Unique, beautiful - definitely worth the visit. We took a local bus to Oia (a place that should not be missed). I recommend getting in and out of Oia as early in the morning as possible as it will no doubt become overrun with tours later in the day.
Nauplion (spelled many different ways) - a nice, laid-back city. Not a whole lot to see. There is a fort - 898 steps up hill. My DH made it to the top - I stopped at 272 steps (I still had a great view of the city).
We were surprised at just how different each island was. We enjoyed them all.
Post Cruise There were many Regent passengers that were put up at the Athens Intercontinental Hotel because the flights to some cities would not get us home the same day (Regent paid for the cost of the hotel). We were aware of this way in advance. They offered a 3 hour city tour of Athens for $15 per person. Just about everyone took the tour. By the time we reached the hotel, the rooms were ready. Breakfast was included, and, since we had to leave the hotel at 3:00 a.m., were able to order breakfast from room service (rather strange eating at 2:00 a.m., but it was delicious). This is a lovely hotel.
One of the flights back on Lufthansa from exceptional (Frankfurt to Portland) - amazing service as well as food (must be that great German food loaded onto the plane?
In conclusion: We have been on five Regent cruises. I have reviewed and rated two prior to this one on CC. This is the first time I feel 100% that it deserves a "5" rating.