My wife and I are both 39 and we have been on 2 other Regent cruises before - the PG and the Navigator in the Med. This is the third cruise we've taken with our children, the other 2 being short 4 day cruises on Disney. This is also the first time we've been away from home and family for the holidays.
Overall, the cruise met our high expectations and was excellent in most every way. We would gladly do it all over again, and are planning a trip to Alaska on the Navigator in 2010 with our children. To us it felt like things have gone a little south since we were on the Navigator 2 years ago, but other than the Portofino restaurant, we really could not put a finger on just what. I attribute most to just being in our head and knowing that there is now a new owner. I don't think things have changed for the worse as drastically as I've read about.
The thing everyone talks about is the vibration. 2 years ago we had a midship cabin and did not notice the vibration in the room at all. I only noticed it during the shows and in the Portofino which are both aft. This trip, our cabin was aft, deck 9, and we felt the vibration whenever the Navigator was in motion. It was a low level vibration. Nothing that would wake you from sleep. It only bothered me in the bathroom and I think that was because it was hard floor as opposed to carpet. The vibration in the Stars lounge and Portofino was not at the high level I remember from 2 years ago. At night, the cabin squeaked from numerous locations. It was not loud enough to keep us from sleep. However, when docking in the morning, the aft tunnel thrusters made a horrendous vibration that woke everyone up.
The staff everywhere, with one exception, were fantastic. They were always in good spirits and did their best to fulfill requests. In some areas, they were understaffed as I will note below. The one exception was when my wife was in a fitness class and an older woman came in late. The instructor would not allow her to join the in-progress class and told her to wait until the next class. My wife found this to be a bit rigid considering this is just a CRUISE after all and everyone is on vacation. At our gym back home, people come and go from classes as they wish.
Our cabin stewardesses were Pitchie and Jonaliza and they were incredible. I'd leave her messages on post it notes if we were leaving before seeing her, and my requests were always taken care of quickly and accurately. From getting a new DVD player for the room when the old one broke, to keeping the fridge stocked with Corona and Fanta. They also had to bring in an extra bed each night for us, as well as take it out the next morning. The room and bathroom were kept spotless despite my deposits of sand everywhere from the snorkeling gear. Of course, service varies from person to person.
Service was spotty everywhere during breakfast and lunch. Sometimes there would be 5 people waiting on us and I'd have coffee served before I even sat down. Other times, I'd be half way through my meal before getting a drink. The problem just seemed to be lack of staff. Once I got someone's attention, service was quick. Service out by the pool seemed slow too. The pool deck bar staff and waiters were overworked. I'd like to mention that any time Ben was the bartender and I walked up to the bar, he served me immediately. But many times no one was behind the bar. And it never seemed that busy around the pool except at lunch time. When sitting next to the pool, it could be 10-15 minutes before a wait staff came by to take your order. Sometimes I'd try to flag them down with no luck, and just go up to the bar myself.
Dinners were the exception. We never had slow service for dinner in either restaurant. If there were problems at dinner, I may have missed them as we almost always ate with others and I get so distracted by conversation that I'm not aware of service delays.
The Portofino restaurant was disappointing, but only because we are comparing to what we remember. I think we are in the minority. I liked it 2 years ago when the one area of the restaurant was set up with hors d'oeuvres and wines from various regions of Italy with a poster showing you the region and explaining the growing conditions, grape type, etc. Then, you went into the other part for dinner and the Maitre' De Roberto and one of the waitresses, nicknamed Mona Lisa, would sing. Now the anti-pasta is set up buffet style which I did not care for.
Food is very subjective, so I won't put much time into reviewing it. I will say that of all the meals, we only had one not liked. And that had more to do with misinterpreting the description than the taste or quality. One thing that struck me as odd was that the hash browns were those rectangular frozen kind. Regent should know better for something so simple to make as hash browns.
I really enjoyed the selection of cheeses they offered after meals for lunch and dinner. The wines were all very nice and there were plenty of alternatives offered from regions all over the world. I can't imagine anyone finding something they would not enjoy. The alcohols offered at the bars were top shelf and there was a large selection. For example, 4 single malt Scotches were offered - Macallan 12 year, Glenlivet 12 yr, and Glenfiddich - the other I can't remember.
My favorite spot on the ship was the Navigator lounge. It was never crowded or busy and the Italian Espresso machine became a good friend.
There was only one incident where we were really annoyed. We had booked the Atlantis Tourist sub ride on our own for 10:30 am, with check in at 10:15 at their office which is less than a 10 minute walk from the pier. Because we left Ft. Lauderdale an hour late and the currents were stronger than expected, we anchored off GC very late. The first tender did not leave the ship until 10:00 and takes 8-10 minutes to get to the dock. We were some of the first in line, but they announced that only people who booked tours through Regent were allowed on the tenders. We, along with a few other people complained that the tours would wait for the Regent group, but us with independent reservations would be late and some had cancellation fees, etc. This was not really the major issue though. The major issue was the mass confusion and how no one seemed to be in charge and no one was being allowed onto the waiting tender. The guys on the tender were calling for people to get on board, yet those on the ship kept us waiting. One Regent employee told me not to worry that the sub would wait for me. I knew this was not true. The woman who had announced that only Regent booked tour groups were allowed on the tender looked frazzled and did not know what to do and made other vague statements that made it seem like maybe she could fit us on. I finally asked her outright - are you going to allow us on this tender or not? She said that she did not have the authority to make the decision. There was a mass of people now waiting to get on, and more coming down. So they eventually let us and everyone else get on the tender. I was not so much annoyed with their Regent first policy, but that they did not seem clear if it was going to be enforced or not, and with the general confusion of the entire disembarkation process.
Other minor things I noticed:
In some parts of some hallways the floors are uneven.
There was a terrible garbage smell just as you entered the hall to the aft deck 9 suites. It never went away, and I never complained because we only quickly passed that area. I imagine the cabins closest to the end may have smelled it even in their cabin.
The barrier between our balcony and the next was loose and banged all night, but was fixed the next day after we left our stewardess a note.
Now that I'm done with the complaints, I want to reiterate that this cruise was excellent and overall I left with a feeling that Regent is still a top of the line, 5 star cruise line. There are so many little things that were positive that made the trip special and overshadowed the few small negatives. The gingerbread houses with candy and cookies set about the ship. The staff who made special efforts to interact with our children and make them feel special. The flexibility of all the restaurant staff in fulfilling special orders.
If you are reading this review to help decide if you should take a Regent cruise or not, I say without hesitation, YES, take the cruise.
I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.