We chose this particular cruise because we wanted a cruise without the need to fly to and from the ports. We live in southern Switzerland and rented a Hertz car (at the French side of Geneva airport) and drove to Monte Carlo. The reason for renting in that specific location was to avoid the huge drop charges which are incurred by returning a car to another country. We spent two nights pre-cruise in Monte Carlo, staying at the Port Palace Hotel. The hotel was lovely, with a nice harbourside location, yet close to everything in Monte Carlo (well, it is a small place!!). However if we do this again I would definitely pay extra for a room on the 4th or 5th floors to get a better view. Ours was on the 2nd, and we had a great view of the huge yachts moored in front of us, but not much else. We booked on a B&B basis, and the breakfast was very nice - on the 6th floor with super view!! The hotel also has a lovely terrace bar where we had our apEritfs both evenings.
We sailed on Wednesday 7th April. We pre-booked a taxi through the hotel and it came right on schedule at noon. About 12.05 we were in the queue waiting to present our tickets and passports to the Security desk. Boarding was slow - I would guess there were 30 people ahead of us and since the actual security check was at the top of the gangplank it took time. We were directed to the Constellation Theatre for check in which went smoothly and fast. By about 12.45 we were seated in la Veranda for lunch.
We have not been on board the Mariner for two years and we were really pleased with the re-decorations we saw, especially in la Veranda and the Compass Rose (and by the way, I would love to have a set of the la Veranda china at home! It is lovely!!) Another thing I noticed was that the pool was kept full, even when we were in port. For those of us who did not get off the ship very often, this was lovely, even though only one or two people swam - the weather wasn't that warm!
By about 2.45 we went to our suite and were greeted by our Stewardess, Regina. This is the first time we have been in a non-Butler suite for years (husband was economising last year when we booked!!) and I must say I was worried about the level of service. I need not have been. Regina was superb and looked after our every need. She immediately re-did our bed and installed two duvets instead of the one. I think it would be nice if there was a "Stewardess Form" for us to complete before boarding, telling what sort of bedding we would like. I asked for a bottle of Mumm's Cordon Rouge instead of the "mousseux" that had been in the suite and also a bottle of Johnny Walker. She brought them right away.
The new Interactive TV is wonderful...once we found out it was there and then learnt to use it!!
There were around 50 regular posters from the Cruise Critic boards and their spouses and families on board, and with the help of another "CC-er" I had amassed a list of names and suites. On the first evening I met the Cruise Director, Dionne Lochner, and told her that I would like to see her the next day about organising a cocktail for us all. She said that she would handle this and did. The next day she rang, and told me that the F&B manager would be calling me in a few minutes. I then had a call from Davor Manager of F&B, who sorted out the party. His reply to the request was not "why" but "when would you like it?" and that attitude to me sums up all that Regent is, and why we sail with Regent The party itself was on the third night, right after the Captain's welcome (delayed because of long port stays in both Livorno and Civitavecchia to allow lots of touring). It was held in Stars, and the Captain, the GM, the Cruise Director and other senior crew attended. We all really appreciated this chance to meet face-to-face. It was a lot of fun and many thanks go to Davor and his team for setting it up!!
We had dinner the second evening in Signatures with "Orpington T" and his lovely wife, Barbara, and son, and daughter-in-law. Lots of fun and superb food and wines. The following night my husband and I dined at Prime 7 - our first opportunity to do so. We just loved it!! The food was terrific - we had lobsters - and it was nicely presented. Finally that space has an identity and offers a great treat to all. (Especially to us since we live in Europe and Maine lobsters are not at all easy to come by! Apparently Prime 7 has a tank of live lobsters - wow!) We asked the next evening if there was any possibility of a second reservation on any other night...and to our glee secured a table for 2 at 6pm on the night before we arrived in Venice. Other evenings we ate in Compass Rose and enjoyed each dinner. One night there were Soft shell Crabs as a starter. We love these and cannot get them at all where we live. I mentioned this to our waiter, Angel. He arranged for us to have a special lunch of "Soft Shells" the next day in the Compass Rose!!
The overall quality and presentation of the food in all three restaurants (we didn't eat dinner at la Veranda) is excellent. The choices are wide, and you can always ask for something that is not on the menu, such as Filet Mignon with BEarnaise, and we did!
This cruise was very port-intensive. Most people left the ship for most of the day, yet all day long Dionne and her team offered things to do. I participated in a Putting Competition. We attended Tea Time Trivia almost every day. It was the most fun when Dionne ran it herself! She managed to take the "nastiness" out of some of the competitiveness and everyone had a great time. We didn't do too many excursions since I was not feeling 100% as a result of a respiratory infection I had contracted before leaving Switzerland. Nor did we attend any of the shows...early bed was better! We did visit Capri - our excursion was"Capri on the Lighter Side" - had a good guide and spent a lot of time in (planned) shopping and had a nice lunch at la Palma in Capri Town. We also took an excellent tour in Kotor - "Kotor and the Bay of Kotor". Our guide, Bruna, was most informative and we learnt a lot about Montenegro, the former Yugoslavia and especially Kotor. My husband took a walking tour of Dubrovnik. I had planned to, but was too tired so stayed on board. He said that was very good as well. In Venice we did not take tours but went on our own via vaporetto to Torcello for a wonderful lunch at the Locanda Cipriani, a special favourite of ours. I should also add that our arrival in Venice, in pea-soup thick fog, was very disappointing to most on board. Nothing could be done about it, of course...and the seamanship demonstrated by Captain Felice Patruno and the pilot was really impressive. At one point we could hear children shouting "ciao, ciao" but could not see them!! We have arrived in Venice by ship before, so we know what we and all the others missed...
Disembarkation was amazingly smooth. I had expected total disorganisation but instead we were told we could leave (since we had our own travel plans) at any time we liked. We strolled off the ship at 8am, found our luggage with the help of a charming port representative - there were two ships disembarking at once! - and then took the free shuttle to the Piazzale Roma, arriving there just after 8.30am. Hertz had just opened up and by 8.45 we were leaving Venice for the autostrada and were home in under six hours... Two days later we dropped the car in Ivrea, thereby avoiding some 800 EUR in drop charges!! Of course this was also the disembarkation that was dramatically affected by the Volcano and air travel crisis. We were not involved but we have read since of all the wonderful things that Regent did to ensure that its air passengers who were affected were well looked after.
It was a wonderful cruise, made more wonderful by the crew: Our stewardess Regina; Cruise Director Dionne and her assistant Chris; Captain Felice Patruno; Maitres d'Hòtel Delfin and Rommel; waiters Angel and Gerry; Wine Steward Ivan (whom we knew from the Navigator) and last but not least, Helga from Destination Services. Look out for them all when you are on board...they will not disappoint you and neither will Regent and the Mariner!
I only have one criticism - there were lovely lilies in all the lounges - Horizon Lounge, Observation Lounge etc. I love them but they do not love me (and others as well, I think!) Somehow they make me sneeze and cough!! Perhaps a choice of other flowers would be safer.