This was our 9th Regent cruise, our 3rd on Voyager. It tends to be our favourite ship, although we have not cruised on Mariner. (The Paul Gauguin doesn't count; it's in a league of its own, and no longer part of the Regent family.)
We chose this route for the time of year, the embarkation port (Rio), and the value--since this was kind of a "vertical crossing", we thought it would be a good way of testing our tolerance of sea days--we'd previously had two in a row on the Paul Gauguin, but here there were 7 scheduled sea days, with the longest stretch being 3 in a row. This turned out to be plenty for us, not sure we would do a crossing, at least not for another decade.
After a fantastic pre-cruise stay in Rio, we boarded the ship and peeked immediately into our splurge Penthouse B suite. Again, this was an excellent value on this itinerary and it was very worthwhile, although I would not do this on most itineraries where the additional cost over a standard suite is considerable. But the PH is lovely--not a lot bigger than standard, but laid out wonderfully well, with an extra window, and squareish rather than long. We also loved having a butler; this was a real treat for us. Our room was spotless and maintained very nicely throughout with good service from both butler and stewardess.
The ship is in fine shape, having been refurbished about a year ago. Loved the enlarge Coffee Connection. Did not notice a lot of other changes except for the dining room decor--the seating in Compass Rose is really dreadful--the chairs are much too big and heavy for the room and make getting around very awkward. Why couldn't they choose something light and airy like La Veranda?
Dining was fairly uniformly very good, although steaks disappointed us several times.
We had breakfast most frequently in La Veranda, and it got very high ratings from us--the staff were very gracious and helpful. We breakfasted in Compass Rose several times, and that was very nice too, although food service was sometimes extremely slow.
Lunch was shared between La Veranda and Compass Rose, both very good, with the odd foray into the Pool Grill buffet. The weather was terribly hot for much of the cruise, so eating al fresco was not too comfortable, and yes, the tables were always crowded. But I dipped into the buffet at times anyways, but sat in La Veranda in the cool!
We dined three times in Signatures (once for a private function), and the food was great. We only got into Prime 7 once, and I had an excellent meal (Dover sole), although David a disappointing one. Reservations were hard to get there, although walking by at dinner time often cadged a cancellation. We also ate in La Veranda several times and had surprising great meals--we were very pleased with this, since I had remembered the food being rather tired. Compass Rose dining was also very good, although again with a slight inconsistency in the quality of meats. Soups everywhere were excellent!
Provisioning had problems in Rio with produce, so we saw yellow tomatoes most of the cruise; other shortages were covered pretty well, since I didn't notice them.
Onboard activities were numerous, although between sitting on my balcony (fortunately the shady side for most of the trip), and napping, we didn't do much--made it to trivia a couple of times, too late to play, did music trivia (badly done), a dance class that was fun, and the white elephant auction, which was really fun to watch. I really did not like the cruise director, Lorraine. Why can't they relax a bit and act like humans?
Entertainment. Hmm. I don't want to dismiss the Mabel Mercer Foundation since we did not attend more than a few minutes at a time. I could not stand what the male singer was doing to Cole Porter, so we left. I missed seeing KT Sullivan, but others thought she was good. The house band is very good, I must say, with a good pianist. The dancers/singers who do the shows at night, let's just say, they are babies. They are talented, but the shows are very over-produced for my taste. The lounge pianist was fine, not great. The duo in the Voyager lounge was quite good, but nobody paid them any attention most nights, kind of sad (one corner is smoking, which means that many people avoid this place--they should cut out smoking there completely.) "PTV At Sea" put on some interesting lectures, but after a while the US-centric discussions got me down--don't really want to think about politics on a cruise anyway, but some focus on the rest of the planet would have been nice. We did learn that this program is designed to induce major donors to commit to public television, so now we know--I would not bother doing this again.
The itinerary was very nice, given that it was, as I say, a vertical crossing. We got to go over the equator, and the pollywog induction ceremony was wild and woolly, with many passengers being doused with goop and then thrown into the pool (I demurred.) We missed a port because of engine problems, but this doesn't phase me, this happens enough that I was not too put out. Weather at this time of year, south of and close to the equator is extremely hot. If I went at this time of year again, I'd stick to the temperate parts of South America. The crowd was also fairly geriatric, although quite varied in age (from 50's to 90's), and country (well over a hundred from the U.K. for example.) And again, San Juan unexpectedly turned out to be the highlight--what a wonderful port!