First a caveat on this review: We are not generally cruise enthusiasts, have only cruised twice previously, and generally prefer other means of travel and vacationing. We are however, very well traveled and been privileged to enjoy many first class and 'starred' restaurants, resorts, and other accommodations in many parts of the US and around the world.
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary (ship as major destination) and timing (our 30th anniversary). This was our first cruise with Regent and we chose them because of good reviews and reputation, and ship size and amenities.
Pre-Cruise: We were well pleased with our communications with Regent although most of our dealings were through our travel agent. We used their air arrangements (due to the open jaw of this cruise, it would have been very tough to get a better deal) and were completely satisfied with the scheduling. Our documents all arrived well in advance of the cruise and were easy to understand and very nicely presented. We didn't have any trouble using the pre-booking system on the web site to book dinner reservations and excursions.
Embarkation: Our flight was met by a Regent rep and we were taken to the pier where we were checked in immediately and boarded, greeted by staff, offered champagne and directed to LaVeranda. We were seated and our drink orders taken. This being our first Regent cruise, we did have to ask about the buffet but lunch went well and after only a few minutes exploring the ship, the announcement was made that our cabins were ready. On our floor, we were met by our Stewardess and taken to our suite, where our chilled French sparkling wine was waiting. My husband doesn't particularly care for champagne and I found the Bouvet to be fine. Our luggage arrived within a reasonable period of time.
Room/Stewardess, Butler - Our Butler was always prompt and checked our preferences regularly to make sure everything was to our liking and ready. Our afternoon appetizers and breakfast orders always arrived right on time (and delicious). He returned our laundry the same day we sent it out. Our stewardess was also very prompt, did a beautiful job keeping our suite in perfect order and was unfailingly cheerful and pleasant.
Our suite was incredible with plenty of space to stow all our things and beautifully decorated and maintained. The bathroom and bed linens were lovely as were the Regent robes and woolen throw and given the coolish Atlantic weather, very handy. The bathroom had beautiful fixtures. My husband loved the Hermes toiletries and even though I travel with my own toiletries, I used the Regent brand soap and bath gel and found them quite nice. The containers are very badly designed, though.
Food - we found the food ranged from very good to excellent. (The appetizers passed at large gatherings such as the captain's welcome may not have reached the very good level according to my husband, but that was the exception.) Our dinners were beautifully (and always cheerfully) presented and the wine selections were fine. We enjoyed our dinners in Signatures the most, but that is a personal preference based on a love of French food. Compass Rose can get incredibly busy from time to time and the staff handled those situations very well.
Excursions - We found the excursions to be well managed and enjoyable. There was always a Regent employee on each excursion, and the local guides were very good. The Regent destinations desk did a great job of organizing an afternoon of extra excursions when we arrived in Funchal several hours early. We had beautiful weather which made everything better, of course.
I took the Cordon Bleu cooking class which I thoroughly enjoyed. The chef, Frederic Lesourd, was delightful and the classes and social events (dinners and cocktail parties) were really fun and of course, the food was fabulous. It was very nice that the CD, the captain, the staff captain and all the senior chefs at various time attended these functions. The special, in depth, galley tour was great and certainly gave us an appreciation for the challenges they face providing an excellent level of service. It was also interesting to have the chance to talk to these professionals about their jobs.
We also attended most of the wine tastings provided by the group of vintners on board. We found their experiences as wine makers very interesting and the tastings were fun.
Personnel - Having read several comments on this board regarding crew dissatisfaction, I tried to watch for signs of that. We were always greeted with smiles and friendliness and I couldn't detect false notes in the crew's interaction with the passengers or with one another. They seemed to truly enjoy making the passengers happy.
Shop - We didn't spend much time in the shop but found the personnel helpful. The last evening, realizing that we still had on board credit to spend, we made a hurried visit and the staff was very helpful.
Casino - My husband joined several tournaments in the casino and enjoyed himself, particularly because he won occasionally.
General Ship - We thought the ship was just beautiful, well designed and elegantly decorated. We didn't use the outdoor space on top as much as we would have on a warmer cruise and really didn't spend much time in the lounges. The internet/coffee/library area was a great asset to the ship (we thought the library very well stocked and used it extensively).
Spa - I visited the spa twice and I found the employees to be very pleasant and good at what they do. I thought the prices were at the upper end of land-based spa prices. The treatments weren't the very best I've ever had, but they were very good.
Gym - I attended several exercise classes and used some of the equipment in the gym. The classes were pretty typical of broad based exercise classes. The instructor, Emanuelle, was very enthusiastic.
Entertainment - The Platters concerts were a delightful surprise and such fun. We also attended Krew Kapers and enjoyed the chance to give the employees a round of applause!
Debarkation - The process went very smoothly, we didn't even have time to sit down in the theater before our group was called. Luggage was handled well both at the ship and the airport which made check in very easy. I seriously dislike the necessity of putting your luggage in the hall the night before, especially in this day of more and more airline regulations, but I don't see any way around it.
Although Regent's fares are high, I think that the quality of the entire experience and the all inclusive policy make this a good value for the discerning traveler.