Regatta Cruise Review by dlb237: Relaxing in the Caribbean
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Relaxing in the Caribbean
This is the third year in a row that we've done approximately this cruise on Regatta - it's a wonderful way to get away from winter in the Northeast US. We like to think of the ship as a wonderful floating hotel where we wake up every morning at a different tropical island - the cruise is port-intensive calling at 8 ports in 8 days on a 12 day cruise.
When traveling to a cruise where weather is a possible factor (e.g., winter in the northeast US), it's a *very* good idea to arrive a day early, just in case something goes wrong with travel. We flew into Miami the day before and stayed at the JW Marriott, in the financial district, downtown. Aside from the usual hassles at the Miami airport, the trip was routine, and the JW Marriott is a very nice hotel. Dinner the night before was at a nice restaurant in the Mary Brickell Village area, and we had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel the next morning.
For those in regular (not concierge or better) cabins, there's More not much point in arriving at the port before about 2pm, as it only results in waiting a while in the terminal, plus once onboard, the cabins won't be available until about 3pm. We took a taxi from the hotel, and arrived a bit before 2pm; we embarked after a short wait, and spent the about an hour in Horizons (deck 10 forward lounge) before our cabin became available.
Our cabin was a B2 balcony (veranda) cabin on deck 6 towards the front of the ship. A balcony makes a big difference, and we would not now cruise the Caribbean without one. This is a nice location on the ship, as it's near the front staircases/elevators, and between decks 5 and 9 where most of the ship's activities are (as well as the Horizons lounge on deck 10), and is convenient to the gangway (or tender dock) which was on deck 3 forward at every port on this cruise.
The cabin was small, but comfortable - the bathroom was tiny but usable (the new Marina ship is supposed to have much larger bathrooms). There was a surprising amount of storage space that accommodated everything we packed. While there were a good number of hangers in the closets, bringing extra hangers is a good idea (but leave the metal wire hangers at home, lest they rust). The flat-screen TV is new since last year, and the in-progress TV system upgrade should be finished by the time you read this. Small tip: leaving the bathroom door open increases the rate of cabin ventilation.
Regatta is small (30,000 tons, less than 650 passengers) by comparison to other larger ships in the Caribbean. We like the ship's size, as it's easy to find one's way around. The crew is international, with heavy representation from Eastern Europe, Central America and the Philippines - overall, service was excellent, although one occasionally has to explain oneself slowly to someone whose first language is not English. A few words in the native language of the crew member (start with "Thank You") go a long way.
The food was excellent across the board. Jacques Pepin oversees cuisine and the results are evident. Among the pleasant surprises were the outstanding fruit sorbets prepared on board, and the variety of interesting food available at both the lunch and dinner buffets (the latter is called "Tapas on the Terrace" but tends to be broader than just Tapas). The only thing we'd knock is that their sushi has considerable room for improvement. Oceania's 4pm high tea has a well-deserved reputation - their pastry chefs do an outstanding job and the deck 10 Horizons lounge is a wonderful setting.
Between the small size of the ship and the port-intensive nature of the cruise, onboard activities are a bit limited, but we really enjoyed team trivia every afternoon after tea. Oceania has cut back on evening "production" shows in the past few years, and now features cabaret-style evening shows, typically with a single featured performer. The base-baritone singer on this cruise (Steve Teague) has an amazing voice - I will remember his rendition of "Oklahoma" for a long time ... that's what it's supposed to sound like. OTOH, the featured piano player was eminently forgettable. The ship has a resident string quartet that plays for high tea and on deck 5 before and after dinner - they are very good, and the music adds a distinct touch of class to the experience.
Disembarkation was orderly and quick, but occurred during rush hour in Miami - we left the ship just before 9am - resulting in a taxi shortage. We joined a shared-ride van to the airport. As Regatta was the only ship in port that day, the Miami airport was not the madhouse that it can be; check-in was quick, and we spent several hours in the terminal waiting for our flight to board (better to have the time and not need it than be worried about missing a flight). The American terminal in Miami is still a construction zone, and nobody has any idea when they'll finally be done.
Overall, we had a wonderful time and will be back on board Oceania in the future.
Port information is in the port reviews, but here's a quick summary: - Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos: Treat this as a beach day or diving day. We found a wonderful conch shell on the beach near the cruise terminal. - Samana, Dominican Republic: Not a good port, no access to Cayo Levantado. Oceania should find another port. - Tortola, BVI: Probably our favorite port aside from St. Barts. Shopping, beach, interesting island. - Antigua: Very busy, four ships in port. Lots of beaches, so not too crowded. - St. Lucia: At the very least, get above the city as the views are spectacular. - Dominica: Great place to go river tubing. - St. Barts, FWI: A little slice of France in the Caribbean with overtones of Monaco. Neat place, but not cheap. - Virgin Gorda, BVI: The Baths are a "must see" attraction. Devil's Bay beach on the far side of the Baths is better than the beach at the Baths. Less
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Cabin review: Regatta Stateroom with Veranda Deck Six
Tiny bathroom, lots of drawers for storage space. Full height/width glass windows/door to balcony. Balcony is comfortable for 2, but not more.
Port and Shore Excursions
Antigua has a *lot* of beaches, so here's how to get to Jolly Beach on your own - go out to Market St., turn right and there will be a bus terminal in a few blocks (note: "bus" in Antigua is usually a mini-van - the same vehicles serve as taxis). Take bus #20 to the end of the line at the entrance to the Jolly Beach resort. About 10min walk straight ahead (direction that bus arrived) is the beach, with the usual amenities to rent, and at least one beach bar. This is an upscale resort area (I had no problem walking into the resort), so better dining options are available in the resort. Bus fare (as of Feb 2009) is EC$3.25 each way (about US$1.25).
The island is still recovering from a direct hit by Hurricane Ike last fall. The small historical museum in town survived and is worth a visit if one is looking for something to do.
We took the Yellow Submarine semi-submersible tour. This goes out to a wreck and the reef; there were plenty of interesting fish and a few sea turtles to see. Visibility depends on the weather - it was a bit murky, but still ok due to serious weather the day before. This was an interesting trip, especially as we don't dive or snorkel.
The beach on the far side of the Baths, Devil's Bay, is a much nicer and less crowded beach than the one at the Baths proper, but there are no facilities (e.g., bathrooms) there whatsoever. To get there, instead of walking down the trail to the Baths, turn left at the ticket office (you do need a park admission ticket) and walk uphill to find the trail from the parking lot to Devil's Bay. It's a longer walk, but well worth it. Taxis are readily available from the yacht harbor (where the tenders dock) to the Baths and back.