My 2nd voyage on the Mariner left me with some mixed impressions. In some ways, things were even better than they were the first time (and that's saying a lot since I was immensely pleased by my first experience); in other ways there was a very noticeable decline.
Embarkation was speedy but we were not escorted to the pool deck, told about lunch options, etc.; perhaps they only do that for new cruisers?
Food: In the main dining room, Compass Rose, food was 100% fantastic. Lots of interesting and tasty combinations when it came to menu preparation but the service was spotty. Often waiters would forget to bring a drink, or pepper, or even notice you were sitting in their section! On the other hand, in the two reservations only restaurants (Prime 7 and Signatures) service was outstanding but the menus were identical to two years ago and the food while quite good, is uninspired. The 4th venue, La Veranda was good (not great) in both service and food. Room service was delivered promptly and was completely accurate the 4 or 5 times I ordered from there. The pool grill was consistently good and the specialty themed lunches when they held them were also quite good.
Activities and entertainment: CD Ray Solaire runs a much tighter ship (pun intended) than his predecessor and the games were all very well run. Typical cruise ship fare, they included baggo, putting, bocce, shuffleboard, ping pong, etc. The entertainment I felt was vastly improved with their new production show Le Cirque Mariner and their standard production show which is an assortment of Broadway show tunes but that may just be because the performers were more talented this time around. The main lecturer, Terry Breen, is informative and entertaining and there were a couple of other educational lectures as well. Surprisingly, some of the events that were billed as "lectures" were nothing more than thinly veiled attempts to coerce you into buying something (i.e. art lecture, haircare lecture, etc.)
Excursions: this is where Regent has logged a colossal fail. With the inclusion of excursions, you have practically everyone on board signing up for "free" tours which creates unpleasant bottlenecks every time you land in port. Where you used to have passengers staggering their departure times at their convenience, you now have multitudes departing en mass every 10 minutes. Add this to the fact that Regent does have a slightly "slower moving" population and you end up with long lines getting off the ship and a long wait sitting on the bus at the pier before you can leave for your tour. After a couple of tries with the included excursions, we ended up just paying for our own tours, walking off the ship at OUR convenience and hiring a driver at the port. The added expense was offset by leaving the aggravation behind.
Other than the less than pristine service in Compass Rose, all of the staff were excellent: friendly, helpful, talkative, sociable and could not do enough for you. Service on this ship is a solid A++
I highly recommend this cruise line and specifically this ship for cruising.