This cruise was from Venice to Istanbul for 14 nights which included Split(Croatia), Santorini, Crete, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Rhodes, Kusadasi and Istanbul(Turkey). Our great experience on Regent's Paul Gauguin some 2 years ago sailing around the islands of French Polynesia was also a key factor in selecting this cruise. As such the Paul Gauguin cruise created a bias within us as to what our expectations of the Seven Seas Mariner were.
I shall begin and say that overall the cruise was amazing and all the tours we took were very well done and organized. The coaches were only 50% - 60% full and on all our tours the guides were very good to excellent. It allowed one to see many different cultures and history. It was very well organized and the crew were extremely efficient, polite and made sure everything was done correctly.
Regent definitely have the best cabins. Large, spacious, the walk in robe is just brilliant and the bathroom permitted two(2) people in there at one time. Everything was well maintained on board, the majority of the crew were great, service in most cases was very good, the provisioning of bottled water for the land tours was well received but for some reason there was something not quite right and the atmosphere was not the same as on Paul Gauguin.
The crew were absolutely great especially cabin steward(Jade), Sylvester & Jaimee(Verandah), Mehendrah and his staff in Horizons Bar, The Polish entertainment duo in Horizons, the sommelier who made sure our wine was correct every evening(Signatures & Prime7) were brilliant. The on board tour staff who were brilliant in making sure everything went to plan. The only concern we had was that we thought the eastern Europeans (generally) were not as friendly or relaxed as the Phillipino crew members. We have noticed this on other vessels with other cruise lines we have been on.
We also felt that the Verandah restaurant was great especially with their special buffets(EG European night with fresh local sardines etc.). The food was done extremely well and was always hot. The choices and quality were great for us.
Some of the small issues with Regent were related to the catering aspects of the cruise(land tour catering was brilliant with all local foods made available). Service in Signatures, Compass Rose and Prime7 we thought was quite fast and doing a count to 3 in French(Signatures) and the waiters lifting the lids off the meals was a bit "over the top". In hindsight we both believed that the service criteria is very much American style. We found other non-American passengers thought the same. In general the meals in these three(3) restaurants were OK but it could have been improved upon. Yes, my "blue" steak was always cooked to absolute perfection but for some staff to persist in calling it "Pittsburgh Blue" was a little to American for me especially when globally it is regularly identified as "French Blue" or "Blue".
The wines initially offered to us were interesting. Serving the American whites and reds was OK but unfortunately I cannot drink them, as I have even when I lived in the USA suffered extreme headaches etc. from them. Interestingly a lot of the waiters were aware of this issue also from previous passengers. Fortunately they had Chilean and Italian wines which were great. Also serving an Australian wine called Skipping Jack to Australians is not a good idea especially as it is a bottling company that produces the wine from grapes from various wineries in the South Australian area. The same with Irish Coffees after dinner. When will they stop using cream from a pressurised can. Fortunately the barman was able to get real cream for a real Irish Coffee.
The breakfast buffet was very good in general terms. Enjoyed all the different cheeses, smoked salmon and mackerel etc. Not sure why it happens but the slices of the smoked salmon and Carpaccio were quite cut thick when they should have been thinner. Also the pastries were tasteless. The croissants were quite small and very crumbly every day.
Room service meal was an absolute disgrace. We had it once and never again and no matter what time we got back from a shore tour we always ate in one of the restaurants.
Disembarkation in Istanbul was a shambles but we suspect that this was not Regent's fault. It just felt like you walk down the gangplank and you were no longer the responsibility of Regent. Also the charge Regent wanted for transfers to the airport were way over the top. We had private transport to our hotel and then hotel to airport and it was still some $USD140 cheaper. Something to be aware of.
We realise that these are minor gripes but in the end we felt that RSSC has a reputation of 5 star to maintain and be a leader in the field of small to medium size cruise vessels. Yes, in general they still maintain an extraordinary cruise vessel level and yes we would sail with them again. It is just we felt something was not quite right with some aspects of the vessel.
We also realise that the majority of the passengers are American and therefore Regent have to cater for their needs more than other nationalities.