My wife and I are in our late 50's, financially comfortable with me still working. By 2008 were status post 4 yearly cruises with Princess. At the time, we had gotten increasingly tired of the non-stop promotions and hand numbing signing for what seemed to be everything, and for that and many other reasons decided to cruise Galapagos on the Celebrity Xpedition in the Spring of 2008. As it happened, it was an ALL inclusive cruise, and we enjoyed that so much that we decided that our 2009 cruise had to be on an all inclusive cruise line. Seeing rave reviews about Regent SS, and ready to step it up, we decided to give this cruise line a try and selected a 12 night Southern/Eastern Caribbean r/t from Ft Lauderdale in March of 2009 on the Navigator. Our verdict of the entire cruise experience with Regent is conflicted, because there was much good to say about it, but unfortunately also some bad, with us not yet having made up our mind as to whether the "good" outweighed the "bad" to the point where we today can decide whether we would do another cruise with Regent. For now, we will have to leave it at a "maybe" - we need to let more time pass to see which memories are left standing.
Our trouble started by not receiving our cruise documents by 14 days before departure. We had filled out the guest information form and noted to Regent that it did not permit entry of information of permanent U.S. residents (Green Card Holders) and did not allow passengers with foreign passport to have a U.S. address. They never got back to us - and then when we inquired about why we had not received the cruise documents were told that we had not provided the requested information on the Guest Information form. We had to inquire, they did not alert us. By 3 days pre-departure, we and our travel agent were still tussling with Regent about the fact that their form did not permit us to enter our information (with their web-site having been down for passengers from October 09 to departure in March 09). Regent was rigid, unapologetic and impersonal in their communication to the point that we by 2 days before the cruise felt that we may not be able to go because they were still unable to get our documents. Finally on the day before the cruise we received a curt email requesting our Green Card information, provided it and on the day of traveling to Ft. Lauderdale were told that the documents had been issued and were waiting for us at the pier. That meant we had to go to the pier without luggage tags or ticket which made for a fun and speedy security clearance before we could get to the Regent desk - NOT!! Awful, horrendous experience, and not a recommended way to start any cruise!
Once checked in and on the ship, things definitely took a turn for the better. The Navigator is a wonderful ship. We boarded at noon and were greeted by a very nice staff and served a glass of Champaign. We had chosen a Penthouse suite (1014) and found it spacey and comfortable. Huge walk-in closet (almost a cabin in its own right). Nice, though not overly roomy bathroom with a somewhat narrow shower enclosure, especially for a big guy. The bathroom floor and walls were covered in marble with oodles of luxury soaps, shampoos and lotions.
Very comfortable bed, nice sitting area with lots of shelves and cabinets. The veranda is a little disappointing, and not bigger than mini-suite verandas on Princess. A chilled bottle of Champaign and 2 glasses were readied and amn elaborate flower arrangement was a nice touch. The suite had a 32" LCD flat screen TV and multi-system (region-free) DVD player. There was an iPod with approximately 2500 tunes provided and an iPod amplifier to play it. We didn't check the music choices as we brought our own iPod. Suitcases arrived before departure. We had a butler assigned, and he supplied us with everything we requested (and the ship could provide: we had an elaborate made-to-order breakfast and lunch served in our "suite" with the help of an ingenious coffee table extender and the Butler would get special drinks, wine, campaign and espresso drinks whenever we requested it. He delivered elaborate "canapés" in the afternoon; kept our fruit basket freshly supplied and also kept the in-suite fridge well supplied with cold drinks, beer and ice and the in-suite bar supplied with 2 liters of common alcohol (we chose vodka, gin). The rooms was kept immaculate with 2 scheduled cleanings a day (including evening turn-down) and it happened swiftly and was complete quickly after the "service" sign was placed on the door. The ship offered organized bridge, chess/checkers, bingo, casino tournaments, puzzle solving gatherings, and pet owner get-togethers with picture and story exchanges. It had a cell phone node that enabled all cell phones to connect to their carrier for a roaming fee ($5/min billed by our T-mobile we just found out!) - the ship charged $7 if using their satellite phones. There was a pretty strong wireless Internet (for a fee: $65 for 4 hours) that made me able to connect without problems from our suite at all times. In addition, the ship offered a computer center with 5 available somewhat dated desk-top computers. It had a library with a limited book, DVD and game inventory. There was a large swimming pool, 2 hot tubs, a large theater, a full service Spa, a smoking room, a caviar bar, a couple of shops (one jewelry and one clothing/general). Everything except Internet, cell phone, caviar, shop purchases, casino and excursions were included in the up-front price > all in all not a bad way to spend 13 days on this our first luxury, all inclusive cruise. A day on the cruise would go something like this: Breakfast was served at a time and order we filled out the evening before, Our Butler would come and set up a nice table with tablecloth and everything we had ordered, stay and serve the first cups of coffee while tiding up our suite. We did try breakfast in the Portofino and did not like it much. The buffet was standard fare and we did not like that you could not order your eggs/omelet directly by the cook preparing them, but had to order them through a waiter making for sometimes lengthy waits and more than once getting the omelet mix wrong. After breakfast and showering, we would then either go on an excursion if in port, or if a sea day relax in our suite/veranda until lunch, which we either took in our cabin or went to the Portofino buffet restaurant to get (there also was a lunch offering on the deck - with more barbecue items) as well as formal lunch in the main restaurant, the "Compass Rose". The lunch buffet in the Portofino was a mixed experience. The salads and fruit selection was excellent, the main (hot) courses were few to choose between and too often bland. One hot soup was offered (as well as a chilled), and I did not find any to my liking during this cruise. A pasta station was staffed by a delightful woman with thick Italian accent who would prepare a delightful spaghetti dish of your choice. More relaxation, a nap and then we were ready for our pre-dinner drinks, which we took in the small cosy "Navigator Lounge". We then went to dinner in Compass Rose. The menu, which had been put in our suite in the afternoon (you can have it served there by the Butler) would successively take you through a selection of 5 starters, 3 soups (1 always chilled) 2 salads, 2 pasta dishes, a sorbet "palate cleanser" and 5-7 main courses, always including 2 "stables" every day (rib-eye steak and grilled salmon). Then a fairly decent cheese selection with each evening feature a different cheese country or area and finally a choice of about 8 different desserts that changed daily. Complimentary white, rose, and red wines was liberally poured. Specialty coffee could be ordered (i.e. Irish coffee) a could liqueur/cognac. The food selection and presentation was excellent, but the taste sometimes a little bland, especially the garnish could be quite nondescript in taste. The main course usually was excellent. The quality of the main wines was in our opinion good and usually from a different country/region each evening. There was a separate wine list with high-priced "premium" wines - but we did not feel it necessary to go there at all. The service was always courteous, but much too rushed, and with much too long waits for food and service when busy. The poor waiters seemed to be worked to death while trying hard to provide personal and pleasant service failed miserably because there were too few of them. Courses flew in and empty plates off the table when the service finally started. On some days a special "wine tasting dinner" was offered in the Portofino, where about wine makers were present and served their own wines as well as explained about the wines and how they were paired with the food. We found these evenings great fun in all aspects, and got to taste some phenomenal. The wine makers were a fun crowd to be with. We returned to the Navigator Lounge after dinner for an after dinner drink, and then either returned to our suite or went to the live entertainment de jour or went to the casino for some gambling. While this went on our cabin had been turned down and once back there and in bed, we would watch either a DVD we had brought or select from 100's of movies that were on-demand and could be saved and resumed later at the point where you saved them. So the following may seem a little odd. Because you would think that if we got asked whether we would travel in the same way in the future on the same cruise line with the luxury, all-inclusive concept we truly enjoyed, that we would answer with a loud YES! - but the problem is, that is not our answer - at best it is a careful "perhaps". One one hand, there is no question that this was a wonderful way to cruise: everything is paid for up-front, the staff and service are terrific and the ship well maintained, clean, spacey and comfortable. On the other hand, as the days passed we found that the other passengers were perhaps a tad more different from us than what we bargained for and were used to. For example, of the 490 passengers on the cruise, My wife and I with our 58 years for sure were among the very youngest. The vast majority were 70-80 years plus, and in conversation it was too much like talking with our parents, with interests and a life we really could not relate well to. Even though there were 2 person tables, there were only few of them, and often we were given the choice of either waiting ~30 minutes for a 2 person table or had to join a 6-8 person table with people we did not know. Once there, we became involved in what too often seemed like idle conversation of little interest to us (complaints about this that and the other, health problems etc. etc.). Very different from our Princess and Celebrity cruises where we always seemed to be able to find compatible couple to connect with. Not so on this cruise. My wife and I would nod and participate best we could while our invisible eye-lids shut down and the brain when into "idle" followed by "escape" mode!. So the last week we always waited for a 2-person table so we could avoid this to us awful ritual.
The entertainment, which we on bigger ships had experienced as being quite good whether in the form of comedians, magicians, production shows or a combination of the above was abysmal on this small ship - a total waste of time. The music played on the ship was clearly selected for the 70-80+ clientele and not to our taste at all. So that made us realize that for us there is no "perfect cruise", that whether going with an all-inclusive "luxury" cruise or a main-stream mega-cruise a la Princess, there are pros and cons and which outweighs the other we haven't figured out as of yet. On one hand, we really enjoy the large "normal" cruises, where you can still get a large cabin and veranda, good food, but then will have to pay for tips, booze, soft drinks and many other things on top of the cruise price, but with fellow passengers that are more similar to our age and background, and where because of the size of the ship (2-3000) there are many, many more choices for things to do and see and with much better entertainment. The food on the Navigator was perhaps a step above Princess, but not by much - and certainly not in regards to buffets, and not enough to make this a determining factor - we have always felt the food on Princess was quite good. And maybe 2000-3000 passengers on a single ship sounds like a lot, the ships we have been on with those numbers have been so big that we did not feel they were any more crowded than what we felt on the Navigator. Actually we find the overall dining experience on Princess better where there typically are up to 10 different dinner venues of all sorts whereas on the Navigator there were only 2: the main restaurant and a small Italian specialty restaurant in the evening with little chance of establishing personal relationship to any of the waiters which we so like to do on Princess, due to the Navigator waiter staff being stretched way too thin. We did inquire with the cruise consultant aboard as to a 14 day San Francisco-Alaska-Vancouver cruise in 2010 for us in a large suite and 2 of our friends, and after assuring us he would get back to us within a couple of days (we met with him the second day), he send us a letter that he would need a couple of more days before getting back to us, and finally on the last day we received a form letter from him directing us to our travel agent because he was "too busy". We found this unbelievable shortsighted and silly, especially in these economic times, as we could have plunked down money for a $40,000 trip and now felt slighted and basically blown off as in "you are not really important to us".
So there seems to be some deficits in key parts of Regents organization as how to treat customers commensurate with the aura of luxury and catering to the well heeled the seem to prefer to project. Their very poor land based costumer support, cruise consultant support, the like we have never experienced with Princess or Celebrity combined with clearly catering to the pre-Baby-boomer age group makes me seriously wonder where Regent is headed 10 or so years from now.
So while Regent with a little effort could have "bagged us" for a 2010 cruise, we have decided to return to Princess in 2010 (and made a reservation for 15 days on a trans-Panama cruise in a Vista suite for us and a mini-suite for our friends). Our conclusion is, that one will need to drink a lot and live high for a Princess cruise to be as expensive as a Regent Navigator cruise. On our Tahiti cruise 2 years ago, a mini-suite with veranda for a 10 day cruise on Princess cost $3000/person in cruise fare with an additional $4,000 for all the extras at the end of the cruise (and we did not hold back with caviar, wine and booze). Regent has a ship at Tahiti as well (Paul Gauguin) where a 10 day cruise to the same ports and with the same size cabin cost $6,000/person, but then was all inclusive. On this Navigator trip we ended up with a $2,000 extra bill (mostly for excursions, Internet and caviar) for 12 days.