As we were unpacking the cruise director announced there would be a block party, which we had never heard of before and was a nice way to meet the neighbours in the corridor with a glass of wine in your hand. The Captain and senior crew along with the Cruise Director dashed around to each deck to introduce themselves. All very good so far and clearly different to other cruise lines.
From this point onwards our view of Regent changed and took a dive downwards. Firstly we had very high expectations as it had been sold as a 6* cruise line and first impressions of the public areas and our suite were not quite up to the mark. The Navigator is over ten years old and looked both tired and poorly maintained, however we did not want to come to any hasty conclusions so we went for a walk around the ship to get accustomed to the layout.
We noticed that the external woodwork, paintwork all needed attention, the glass/windows on most decks was dirty and especially on the Compass Rose main restaurant (more on this later). The dEcor is all browns and wood with stained carpet and our shower had cracked tiles and mouldy grout and sealant (see photo)
Lunch in La Veranda was awful, the presentation of the food was poor, the service was slow, indifferent and you had to wait to get the attention of the staff to get even a glass of water. There were certainly enough staff but no one was keen to help. Now we know that first day lunches can always be a bit noisy and cramped but this was far worse. We did try the La Veranda restaurant again for breakfast and lunch later in the cruise and the service was the same each time, we never bothered again and stayed in the Compass Rose main dining room.
The food, service and ambience in the Compass Rose was good but nothing special. We had an experience of finding the end of a latex glove in my wife's curry about half way through the cruise. Although taken seriously, an apology was only provided after we had chased the issue with the Customer Service desk. Compensation was reluctantly provided as a bottle of wine.
Now you are probably aware that all drinks are included when on board so although we are not big drinkers a glass or two of good wine with our meal would have been nice. On each night there was a different red and white serving wine, which on 90% of time was so bad we had to buy from the wine list. I may be a little fussier about my wine than most people but the poor quality of the wine had not escaped the notice of our fellow passengers.
About halfway through the cruise we were all given questionnaires to fill in about our experiences to date. This was heavily pushed by the Cruise Director and General Manager so we filled it in and put down both good and bad points as follows;
1. Butler and Cabin Attendant
2. Compass Rose food and service
3. Free films included on TV channels
4. Spa/Gym - good for a small ship
1. The price of UK booked tours and excursions and those available in dollars on board was about 40% higher. e.g Grand Alaskan train from Seward to Anchorage at the end of the cruise was the same price in Sterling as it was in Dollars.
2. Our shower was giving out only a trickle of water, shower drain blocked and toilet blocked.
3. Windows in Compass Rose are filthy.
4. La Veranda is crowded and poor service.
5. Coffee Barista surly and tried to fob us off with filter coffee when asked to provide an espresso.
6. House wines; Red generally poor, had to buy off wine list
No one answered, replied, questioned or even acknowledged any of these issues and the only way they were resolved (especially the shower remembering we are on day 4 of a 7 day cruise) was by us chasing them.
With regard to the excursions we tried to book them six months in advance but most of the good ones were already full, so you go on a wait list. During the cruise we found out that the tour descriptions we often wrong and inaccurate so it all became pot luck. What is the point of having them included if you can't do what you want and then when you do get something its not what they describe in the booklet. It seems you could also do more than one tour a day, but this meant that most of did not get what we wanted.
Back to the windows in Compass Rose. They were filthy so you could not see out of them. As we were on an Alaska cruise and everyone is looking for whales, dolphins and seals is sort of the main attraction during dinner. What happened is that the following day to our filling out the questionnaire the dockside windows were cleaned and the other side left dirty for the rest of the trip. I very much doubt I was the reason anything was done.
In the end our shower valve was replaced and the drain cleared out so we had a working shower. Surely someone would have noticed this on previous trips. Again it only go sorted as I chased and 5 days into the cruise we had a shower in the cubicle instead of crouching in the bath.
Entertainment was good, although maybe biased to an older crowd as they kept dwelling on the 1940's! Actually the best night was the last night when the staff did a sort of cabaret and all the Elvis impersonators come out the engine room.
You maybe thinking that I have not mentioned the ports. They were as expected and a bit like stops you get in the Caribbean, lots of cheap T-Shirts and souvenirs but little else unless you go father afield. There is of course the rain and overall we were very lucky with the weather.
I took a photo of my questionnaires and emailed them to Regent. The Customer Service Manager in the UK only called me when told to do so by our Agent. We discussed the issues and how disappointed we were. He told me that according to their surveys responses 96% of people were happy and I had to assume by this that he meant I was an awkward anomaly. I did talk to many other passengers and realised that a large percentage were first time cruisers so if you tell them this is 6* cruising then what else do they have to compare it against. We were offered $200 off a future cruise.
My only conclusion is that Regent used to be a great Cruise Line with many loyal customers. In my very humble opinion I understand that Private Equity has now moved in and I guess changed the ethos of the original business to the extent that passengers are far less important.
Regent Cruises are expensive and mis-sold as 6*, we will never cruise with Regent ever again and have just cancelled a trip on Oceania. Not because we know anything about them, but due to the fact that they are a sister company and I will not pay money to them again.
Here are my 10 reasons to avoid Regent;
1. Navigator is a poorly maintained ship with variable service
2. Regents claim of being 6* would be 4* at best in my books
3. There is no value in having wine included if its of poor quality
4. The excursions booking is all pot luck
5. Don't trust the descriptions of the excusions
6. La Veranda is the worst "canteen" we have ever experienced on a ship
7. UK purchases are 40% higher than those made in the USA in dollars
8. Don't bother to complain unless you want to chase them all throughout the cruise to get matters resolved
9. Check your food for bits of latex glove
10. You will not get anything resolved on your return
Save yourself a lot of money and aggravation and find another cruise line.