Cruise Dates: November 28 thru December 10, 2009 Eastern Caribbean Cabin 609
Well, after several requests, I am going ahead with the review. I was reluctant at first because we did have some problems and I didn't want to sound too negative or picky.
So I guess I will start with the things about the cruise which we really did like:
• The staff were very friendly and the bar and restaurant service was superb (Colonnade service was inconsistent)
• Loved the never ending "free" caviar - I ate it every day!
• Loved that they had 2 outside bars - the Patio Bar, on the pool deck, and the Sky Bar, one deck up overlooking the pool (we hung out at the Sky Bar at noon almost every day). Both were open in the evenings as well.
• Liked that the Patio Grill was open in the evenings for a very casual option (we only ate there once in the evening and it was very good, but not so great at lunchtime)
• Yes, we also liked that they still have black tie evenings (I know we are in the minority on this one, but we do still enjoy dressing up a bit every once in awhile for dinner, and so we did! We will likely still do so occasionally on Regent even though they are now all Elegant Casual evenings)
• On my birthday, they had some lovely chocolate cake with a candle for me at dinner, and when we got back to the room, I had balloons, a bottle of wine, strawberries with white chocolate mousse and 2 glasses of Cognac waiting for us.
• Loved the Nic-Nac peanuts from Germany at the Sky Bar! (My husband had me track down some to order for his Christmas present!)
Now for the rest of the story...
The feelings were not so great beginning with embarkation process. Our documents said we could board at 1:30pm. We arrived around 1:00pm and along with lots of other folks, waited in the terminal building around 30 to 45 minutes. When we were allowed to board, we were herded to the dark and dreary "Grand Salon" where we were told we had to remain until our rooms were ready! They were serving canapEs and champagne, but our side of the room was totally ignored for the first 20-30 minutes, until my husband got up and went to tell someone "in charge". We finally got something to drink, but the environment sitting there was not at all pleasant. They need to take a cue from Regent, who allows you to wander the ship freely when you board and even have lunch at the pool grill! Yes, we all understand our rooms are not ready, but we don't need to be corralled and held captive! After about 45 minutes, we had had enough. We grabbed our things and made our way out of there. The hotel director was "guarding" the elevators and asked us where we were going. We just insisted we were going up on the deck and kept walking - they weren't very happy with us! As it turned out, we walked by our room and it was ready anyway, so we dumped our stuff and went out to get some fresh air and a cold beer from the Sky Bar.
The room was spacious - similar to the Voyager, but I did not like the layout very much. You could tell whoever designed it did not spend a lot of time actually living in one these staterooms. (I think the Regent staterooms are much more thoughtfully designed and laid out.) I like to be able to unload all of my stuff and stash it on the shelves and in cabinets. The Odyssey bathroom had 2 sinks (which some people like but we don't care that much about). This severely limited the vanity space available, and there were only 3 VERY TINY glass shelves to one side of the sink - barely big enough to hold just our medications! So, we actually ended up covering up one of the sinks so we would have more counter space! Also had to store a few items underneath the sink. The closet was about the same as what we are used to on Regent, but the cabinets and drawers in the suite were quite small (shallow). Needless to say, we felt there wasn't enough storage space. Plus all the cabinets had these pressure closures things they called "clicks". They nearly drove me crazy trying to get them opened and closed. And, maintenance had to come repair them 3 times during our 12 day cruise because they wouldn't stay closed! There was no desk, and the single plug was located down on the floor. Fortunately I always travel with my multi-plug power strip, but the plug was very hard to get to. The television is very small for the size of the room - I could not really see the screen well from the bed. Although it has an iPod dock, the sound quality was awful (sound actually just came through the TV speakers). Fortunately we had our portable iPod speakers which we always carry with us. There was a small vanity with a portable magnifying mirror. The magnifying mirror was nice, but the light source at the vanity was not sufficient to use for putting on makeup. There was a plug over at the vanity, but too far away from everything else in the room to be useful.
When we got to the room, none of the drink requests that we had made online were there (they finally got us fully stocked by the next day). There was also NO SAFE! The stewardess said the safe had been taken out some time ago because if was malfunctioning. I called guest services and asked about when the safe would be replaced. Their response was that they had no extra safes to install! I was essentially told too bad, nothing can be done, your SOL, and not given any options. After I hung up and steamed about this awhile, I called back and told them I was not happy and this was unacceptable - still no help. I finally asked if they had any safe deposit boxes on board, and the response was "oh yes, in the purser's office" - why hadn't I been offered this before? Reluctantly, I eventually marched down to the purser's office (which by the way, was not marked in any way, and I had to ask 3 staff people before anyone was able to show me which door to go in). The "safe deposit boxes" were actually little double lock file cabinets which were located in the middle of a busy office with several desks and people working. Needless to say, there was no privacy whatsoever when I wanted to access the "box". This whole thing was a real hassle throughout the cruise. To me the worst part is that reviews on some of the boards mentioned that the safe problem had been going on for a while - there is no excuse for not having adequate replacements. (Unlike Host Dan on Cruise Critic, they did NOT upgrade us to the Owner's Suite!)
Our stewardess was very sweet and for the most part, tried very hard, but I felt there were some training issues here. The tiny shelves in our bath room were never dusted for the entire cruise, and were pretty dusty by the 12th day. Our balcony and the windows were not cleaned until I finally specifically asked the stewardess to do so, ON THE SIXTH DAY OF THE CRUISE. The windows were so bad we could barely see out. I was trying to be patient, as we had cruised through some volcanic dust on the second day of the cruise which made quite a mess all over the ship, but 4 days later, I should think that at least the windows and balcony should have been cleaned (we actually had wiped off the handrail, chairs and table ourselves).
We were in suite 609, which is fairly far forward. We did notice some of the vibration and shuddering others have reported. We typically don't mind the vibrations that much (we always book a Horizon suite on Voyager, and there can be significant vibrations in those suites sometimes, but we love the location); however, the creeks and moans and squeaks in our Odyssey suite were pretty bad, making it difficult to sleep at times. On a new ship like this, you wouldn't think there would be so much of this. The rooms located forward like ours was are also QUITE loud when the ship drops or weighs anchor. This wasn't terribly bothersome to us, as we are early risers and were usually already awake when the anchor was being dropped, and having a beer on our balcony when the ship was departing. However, I did hear some folks complaining about this.
We also had some trouble with room service. We always have breakfast in our room - everyday on every cruise we take. So, I am pretty consistent about filling out my little card and putting it on the door before we retire. In fact, I always fill it out before we go to dinner, so that just in case (LOL) I have a little too much to drink, I'll already have the breakfast order taken of and don't have to worry about figuring it out when we get back to the room. The first incident with room service was on the second day of the cruise. When our breakfast order did not come within 15 minutes of our requested time, I called to check on it. The fellow answering the phone said that there was no time indicated on the card. Although I find that hard to believe, I gave them the benefit of the doubt this time, although I was a little miffed that they did not bother to call us to find out what time we wanted delivery. They had it there within about 30 minutes, so I forgave them this time. Then, 5 days later, it happened again. I am certain that this time I did not forget to include the requested delivery time, as I had my DH double checking the card for me each time, just to be sure. On this morning, we had an early departure for a shore excursion, so I was pretty upset when I called room service to check on our order, and the guy once again told me there was no time indicated! He insisted he had the card right there, and there was no delivery time. We had to leave the room in 30 minutes, so having it delivered then was not an option. So, I had to go scurrying down to the Seabourn Square to grab us a couple of muffins so we would have something on our tummies. I told the guy from room service I would like to have the card brought to my room so I could see for myself that there was no requested delivery time indicated. Guess what? The card was never delivered - wonder why??? No apology was ever delivered either!!
I had read so many reviews about how wonderful the food was; we had great expectations which never materialized. Again, I recognize that in this particular area, personal preferences play a huge role. The food was quite good on a few nights, not quite as good on others, but nothing really spectacular in our opinion. Two meals we really enjoyed were the Osso Bucco, and the Lobster Thermidor . We both really like fish, and tried several different dishes during the cruise, but they were terribly bland and tasteless (tasted like they were poached or steamed, but that's not how they were described on the menu). Once the fish was undercooked and inedible. Anyway, during the course of the 12 days, I think we ended up ordering lamb chops from the "classic fare" menu 2 or 3 times, because the other choices were not too exciting. I will add that we had dinner at the Patio Grill one night, and the fish there was grilled to perfection! I think it's nice to have this outside casual option, but we typically enjoy the ambience of the dining room in the evening, so we only ate at the Patio Grill one night. We also ate one night at the Colonnade, and ate lunch there a few times. The food was okay, but we felt the service was not quite up to speed, especially at lunch time. Another interesting thing was that the Colonnade typically served the same things as the main restaurant, with the addition of some standard dishes like salmon or a steak dish, which they offered every night. Seems to me they should offer more variety. We would probably have eaten there more often in the evening if they had offered something different than what was being served in the main dining room. Here's a sample of a couple of menus.
We had lunch at the Patio Grill most of the time, even though it was pretty unexciting. They typically had the same things every day (salad bar, hamburgers, hot dogs, some sort of very dry grilled chicken), with one "specialty" dish, like fried calamari, or lamb kabobs. Their hamburgers couldn't hold a candle to those on Voyager! And alas, no steak sandwich either!! We really missed our grilled fish, which we typically have for lunch almost every day at the Pool Grill on Voyager - they did not offer any grilled fish at all for lunch at the Patio Grill.
On Regent ships, our favorite after dinner hangout is the Observation Lounge, so of course we had to try the Observation Lounge on Odyssey. Needless to say, there was no Frankie Holiday or Jerry Vasi, and it was a pretty quiet place, but the piano player was okay. The dEcor and lighting is very bright, even at night, and it has a totally different ambience (doesn't have what I consider that "cozy" feeling like I get on Voyager). The worst thing was, there is NO dance floor in the Observation Lounge?! So, we ended up just dancing next our table. Kind of silly (LOL)!
Believe me, I am no health nut or exercise junky, but I do try to walk a couple of miles every day. I really missed the nice walking tracks I am used to on Regent. Some folks were walking around the Sky Deck, and I tried it, but it was a very small loop with lots of obstacles (lounge chairs and people everywhere, and trying to maneuver through the Sky Bar area was a challenge). I just gave up. A ship this size should be able to have a larger walking deck. I stuck my head in the gym one day, but it seemed very small and crowded, so I didn't go back.
We didn't go to any of the evening shows and also did not use the spa, so I can't comment on those.
We were also pretty disappointed that they had to cancel our beach day and caviar in the surf. That is one of the things that really attracted me to the cruise! But, of course I don't fault the cruise line for that - we have to blame it the weather Gods! It was just too rough for the staff to safely transport all the stuff over to the beach.
I recognize that much of how we perceived the cruise boils down to what we are used to. We have about 100 days on Regent, and our other cruise experiences have only included a couple of Princess Cruises many years ago, a Windstar cruise, and the Queen Mary 2. I have read many reviews by frequent Seabourn cruisers who tried Regent for the first time, and did not like it all. I am sure we need to keep an open mind, and we might try Seabourn again; but, at this point, probably only if there was an extraordinary itinerary we could not get elsewhere, or there was a great bargain.
Don't let me give you the impression that we had a rotten time, because that's NOT true - we had a GREAT time - we always do! It's just this time, after 12 days, we were really ready to get off. We were on the Voyager for 30 days once and STILL did not want to get off!
We are looking forward to returning to our beloved Regent and the Voyager this May. We think the staff is just the best there is! We also think the food is a bit better. (Although we have been on a couple of cruises with Regent where the food was good, but not outstanding - I think a lot depends on the chef at the time.)