Personal Background Information:
My husband and I are Kiwis, namely from New Zealand. This is our first cruise, and we undertook to do one for his 40th birthday. With the help of an amazing travel agent specializing in cruises, we decided on the Seven Seas Navigator for 10 days, travelling the Western Carribean, in and out of Fort Lauderdale.
Travel To Port of Embarkation Air New Zealand - fabulous!! - Auckland to San Francisco Virgin America - SFO to Fort Lauderdale - wow!! Internet service inflight. How much better can it get?
Hotel Info (if any) In SFO, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency SFO Airport. Its Tripadvisor reviews were appalling, but we really quite liked it. Everyone was super-friendly, and the facilities were great, especially for the price. $139 including an upgrade to the Regency Club.
In Fort Lauderdale, we stayed at the Marriott Harbour Beach & Spa. It was really nice, but I don't think I'd pay the $450 rack rate per night. The room wasn't much nicer than the Hyatt, although the grounds were well-cared for.
Embarkation Smooth and seamless...a great welcome to the pampering we were about to experience.
Stateroom We just loooove our little stateroom. It was in the centre of the ship. It has a balcony but is one of the smallest on the ship. It's perfectly formed without feeling cramped, and is much nicer than most hotel rooms. There are beautiful wood fittings everywhere, the walk-in closet is gorgeous, so is the desk and shelves. The curtains are sumptuous. The bathroom is marble, with a shower AND bath. I expected to have to make some sacrifices for space, but it's beautiful, just beautiful. And I love the balcony, and sat out there to meditate or just watch the waves go by.
Ship Info At 490 passengers, the ship feels intimate and spacious. The ship was fresh out of dry dock and beautifully outfitted. Everything feels like luxury - when we were on day excursions, we looked forward to getting back to our "womb".
Dining I couldn't tell, either from the Regent website or from Cruise Critic that the quality of the food would be so nice. So many courses! So many plates! So little room in my stomach! And the wines were lovely too. When we didn't like the wine that was being poured (and I have something against Chardonnay), they happily poured a different one.
My chief level of concern was whether my dietary preferences would be catered for, and they were!! Top marks awarded here. Each night after stuffing myself on far too many courses at Compass Rose, I would return to the room to find the next day's menus tucked into my door. I ticked my choices, and the chefs did their very best to accommodate me. I realize that sometimes this meant cooking a separate version of something; for instance, I know that they made special sugar-free sorbets for my intermezzo. ;-) I sing with joy at being so looked after. The maitre d, Luis, and the deputy head water, Manuel stood out as being exceptional, and invariably made me feel as though we were dining amongst friends. A big fuss was made for my husband's 40th birthday, with singing and a special cake.
Staff & Service The staff were all gorgeously friendly, took their jobs seriously and made us feel truly pampered. It can't be easy offering such a high level of service consistently, but they did it, and did it well. I came away having given our address details to several of the crew, making them promise to call in when they come to New Zealand. Entertainment Sorry, can't comment on entertainment: my husband and I didn't take in a single show. We did, however, love the visiting mixologist, Adam Segar and his inventive cocktails. We are inspired!
My husband loved the Connoisseur Club, aka the cigar bar. S
Shore Excursions The shore excursions ranged from the sublime (the Mayan ruins at Tikal) to the ridiculous.
I heard other people complain about the quality of the tours, but all I can say is that they obviously aren't arranged by the people working on the ship. They aren't of the same high quality that we had come to expect from being on the ship.
What we did: Costa Maya, Mexico: - I was appalled at the extent of the devastation from their 2007 hurricane. Obviously they have tried to rebuild as best they can, but it's still in nascent stages and no one can do anything about the wastelands of dead mangroves. We did the 2-tank dive, which was cool in that we saw turtles and got to swim in the blue water. Then it was Mexican food on the beach at Mahajual, and a dash back to the ship in a taxi in the sudden downpour.
Roatan, Honduras On Roatan, we just did our own thing. Hired a taxi for the day ($50 + tip) and got an island tour. The driver wasn't particularly interested in us as people, but gave us a fine tour and stopped where we'd requested. My husband wanted cigars, and we got some cool souvenirs at a shop called Yabba Ding Ding which was outside the port complex. The prices weren't much better outside the port complex though, just for reference! We had lunch at Half Moon Bay, and watched the waves and the wild weather. That was the last bad weather we had on the tour, until disembarkation day.
Santo Tomas, Guatemala: - I really enjoyed gliding into the port in the early morning. It was really beautiful and felt like we were really travelling to exotic places. Well, I guess we were, but without the dusty, bumpy bus ride and risk of dysentery... Guatemala looks very much like a third world country with attendant problems of corruption, rubbish strewn everywhere and lack of education; and that makes me feel sad. We did the "Route of the Mayans by Air" tour, and while it was expensive ($749), I'd say it was worth every penny. We flew up to Santa Elena and then bussed to the ruins and walked around. The lunch afterward at Maya Internacional hotel was decidedly average, but probably the best option around those parts! Our chartered plane waited for us and took us back to Gautemala City, past the shacks, McDonalds and third world spendour, back to the dizzying luxury of our ship. That felt a bit strange, and a bit wrong.
Cozumel, Mexico: Here, a group of us organized our own diving expedition with Aldora Divers; ably aided by the ship's concierge, Martha. This was the best diving on the trip; and I especially enjoyed our second dive which was a drift dive. Then off for some more Mexican at a tacky-looking place called Tiki Tok (upstairs towards the southern end of town), for surprisingly good food & service; especially compared with Pancho's Backyard, where the ship staff recommended we go the previous night. Rather disappointing, I thought!
Cayman Islands: On learning that we only had 4 hours in Grand Cayman, we cancelled our Shore Diving excursion and just did our own thing. We grabbed a taxi to the Marriott at Seven Mile Beach, rented chairs and snorkels and just did the beach thing. Ahh.
Disembarkation Well, the end HAD to come. It was less a disembarkation than an ejection from the womb.... The staff were very friendly and efficient, but I can't help but feel sad that it's over.
Summary In short, we loved our Regent experience. Truly, deeply loved it.
There are some rather negative reviews on Cruise Critic about the Navigator. In fact, some are so negative (staff don't care, room smelled like sewage, it's gone downhill, they're cost-cutting) that I panicked after we'd paid our deposit, wondering if we'd gone with the wrong cruise line.
But I can honestly say that I don't know what those people are talking about. Sure, everything has a downside, a negative; and even the nicest of people have bad days...but the Navigator is a beautiful ship with fantastic service. A 10-day cruise will leave you feeling pampered, relaxed and wishing that life could be like this all the time.
What I really loved: The elegant casual dress code: I looooved getting dressed up and wafting around om tropical breezes among beautiful surroundings. Who wouldn't? I would even have loved a few formal evenings, but the lack of a mandate didn't mean I couldn't wear a strapless dress, so I did for our night at the captain's table.
The all-inclusive price tag: We really loved not being charged drink by drink, and not feeling the pressure to tip. Being able to have whatever you want, whenever you want it is very lovely, liberating and indulgent. Champagne cocktails after dinner, while sitting on the couches at the stern of the ship in the warm night air... the boys smoking cigars... why not?
The other people on the boat: There were some really interesting, really nice people on the cruise. Despite a profusion of massive diamonds, we didn't encounter any snootiness, just friendly, interesting people on holiday. We kept running into the same group of 6 or 7 couples, and I'll say we've made some new friends for life.