I say adventure, because I find every vacation, every trip, every cruise an adventure. I go into each one with anticipation and child-like excitement. I also go into these adventures with expectations. Like everyone, my expectations are associated with my life experiences, attitude, background, lifestyle, culture many things.
Before I go a step further, let me say that Regent exceeded my expectations.
I could stop here, but then, it wouldn't be much of a review, would it?
I wish I could drag my suitcase out again and start packing. If money were no object, and family issues weren't as they were, I'd be waving to everyone from the deck this minute. I'd take my daughter back to Barcelona, where we spent a week, just the two of us, a decade ago. Ahhh, PCB is hard to shake.
First, I feel the need to gain credibility with you readers, and so I do so by telling you a bit about my cruise history. My first cruise was oh, about 20 years ago with Premier Cruise Lines—the Big Red Boat (the precursor to Disney). I can't remember much about it other than it brought my then 3 year old bonus child much joy. I know it wasn't luxury by any means, but we did have fun.
Our second cruise was sometime in the late 90s with Renaissance in the Mediterranean, and it was on one of their very smallest ships (this held less than 100 passengers, so not the ones Azamara took over). It was glorious, a small, yacht-like experience, the highlight of which was sailing through the Corinth Canal where we could almost reach out and touch the sides. We loved it.
I won't bore you with each particular cruise we took thereafter, but I can tell you that I've cruised enough to be a fairly competent evaluator. Let's see, in addition to the ones I've mentioned, there has been Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, HAL, NCL, Royal Caribbean, SeaDream Yacht Club, and a small line in the Galapagos Islands.
We have cruised in outside, inside, balcony and we even treated ourselves to a suite once. We cruised in an Owner's Suite on Royal Caribbean when we took our children and grandchildren to celebrate a milestone. That doesn't stand out as anything particularly special. . .the only thing that comes to mind was being aggravated at my just turned 18 year old son (the same one we took on our first cruise), for drinking (a lot) in the concierge lounge and not being polite. In just the last 11 months, I gleefully sailed on Celebrity, SeaDream, Carnival, and finally. . .drum roll, Regent! The range in cost was amazing, but then again, the range in experience was amazing.
Some of our cruises have been better than others by far, but quite frankly, they were all good, each in their own way, either because of the great deal, the weather, the itinerary or, the luxury of basking in all the luxury of, in this case, Regent.
I am a very lucky woman.
I tell you all these things, not to brag (sadly due to family and economic issues those days are coming to an end), but just so you know that I am objective . . . as objective as a woman suffering from PCB can be.
I should also note that as many times as I have cruised, this is my first official review on Cruise Critic. Impressed enough to finally go to the trouble to do it, I suppose.
Now, next. . .I tell you this, not to have it intrude in your life for a second, but to tell you that life changed forever more when our youngest daughter was diagnosed with a very malignant, inoperable brain tumor two years ago. Quite frankly we don't plan very far ahead anymore, and unlike in the past, we now always buy travel insurance.
It should be particularly noted that we planned this trip over a year ahead, nervous though we were at the time. It was the first time in a year that we "felt alright" about thinking more than a day ahead.
The point is, not that I ever really did, but nowadays, I NEVER go looking for issues or trouble. Instead, I pinch myself everyday and remind myself that I am alive. . .that my daughter is alive. . .and that I am gifted with a life filled with family, friendship, love and joy. And I never have to go bed hungry.
Bottom line, perhaps all this makes a difference in the way I approach adventures. If so, then go ahead and diagnosis me with that rose-colored glass syndrome. I wouldn't blame you if you did.
So. . .after that long disclaimer, let me say that Regent has won my heart.
In fact, I'm downright giddy about my experience with Regent.
Alaska is one of Mother Nature's finest accomplishments. Here are my photos. And since I've already told that story in my onboard CC blogging on the Regent board (re: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1471396), I'll stick to the actual cruise experience in this review.
I should also note that I religiously crunch numbers when it comes to booking a vacation, and they have to work for me. We had originally booked Crystal (which we love also, by the way), for an almost identical itinerary, but when I started working the numbers, Regent showed up as being about $500 less. This was true even after factoring in Crystal's As You Wish Ship-board credit (Crystal is currently not all inclusive, but that will be changing in 2012), so therefore, when allowing for the (much) larger standard stateroom, all drinks and excursions, and our desire for a less formal experience, well, bingo. I couldn't dial our TA fast enough. I'm rational and penny-pinching like that.
We stayed in a category E suite, deck 6 mid-ship, and loved the location. It was so easy to take a few steps in the morning to grab that ever-perfect double shot cappuccino in the Navigator Lounge.
Thanks to the good advice from Regent posters on CC, we paid extra to be in category E in order to avoid the dreaded aft vibration. That was good advice. I know that the vibration was LARGE and obvious in Galileo's (although after 2 Bombay Sapphire martinis, it was no bother whatsoever), and so being a light sleeper, I probably would have been bothered with an aft suite.
Oops, sounds like I'm starting out complaining. Oh well, since I jumped in this side of the pool, might as well get to the other side.
Food. Ah, that subjective topic. Over all, we thought the food was very, very good. Never had a bad dinner in Compass Rose. Never had a bad lunch or breakfast there either, for that matter. Service was always charming, albeit a bit slow at times. Don and I never minded the pace—it was obvious that the staff was working as hard as they could--but once we ate with another couple who was anxious to get to the show, and they were a bit annoyed. THEY affected our experience far more than the slow service.
My advice to any new-to-Regent cruiser is to find a server you like as soon as possible, and ask for him each time. It's kind of the way a mass cruiser might have of duplicating the getting to know you, and therefore good service (at least perceived) that comes from sitting at the same table each night.
Couldn't go wrong with a burger poolside. . .the best on any ship, in my opinion. Served with sweet potato fries, well. . .yum! Also, I loved the soup in every venue on the ship, hot, cold, didn't matter. And the salt bread sticks? My goodness. . .to die for!
Prime 7 was the only big let-down for me regarding food, although the service was good. We dined there twice. The first time was with another couple. I ordered surf and turf, and quite frankly, the steak was so salty that it was inedible . . .and I love salt! Had I been very hungry, I would have sent it back, and I really never do that. Actually, everything seemed "over-salted," and my husband and table-mates agreed. The second time we went, I made a point of saying "no salt" on my steak, thinking this was the way to give them a second chance. Unfortunately, they must have felt that left them with no choice for seasoning because then everything was relatively tasteless. Too bad there was not an in-between. Btw, the server told us on our second visit before we ordered that there had been other complaints about the salt, and it had been "corrected."
And finally, I'm swimming fast to get to the other side, in the "dumb rules" category, I only experienced one. My advice to Regent is to empower the crew to disobey dumb rules. Every. Single. Time.
One night we, along with two other couples, stayed a bit late in Galileo's. Not real late, mind you, after all, did you see our pictures? Just late enough that food was only available via room service. Not knowing this, nor caring, I suppose, I asked our server if we could get some pizza to nibble on. It was obvious he tried every way in his mind to work it, but finally after some discussion with me, just said I would have to get it through room service. Bless his heart, he even called and ordered it for me. . .to be delivered to my suite. . .are you following me not to Galileo's 'cause that wasn't possible.
No problem, I understand rules, don't agree with dumb rules, but it wasn't his rule. I easily went down to the suite to get it. . .took it from the room service waiter, and to his astonishment, and to everyone's I passed, I smiled, lifted it up to my shoulder like a professional, and took it up to Galileo's. No biggie for me. But it shouldn't have been that way. Agree?
Whew, now I'm on the side I want to be on, so I can reveal the true and memorable Regent experience.
Wine service was exemplary. It's one thing to have included wines, and pour only table wines. . .this my friends, was an entirely different situation. The wines we were served were all good wines, at least they met our standards. A few times I asked for something different after being allowed to sample the wine they were pouring at the time. The request was quickly obliged, and even suggested. We only purchased wine one night and that was for our anniversary dinner. Even then it wasn't that we felt it was necessary. . .just that, well, we felt we should spring for something for our anniversary. Silly, eh (I must have picked that up in Canada)? Never once did we feel pressure to purchase wines from the reserve list.
Our glasses were never even half-empty (couldn't resist). This was true for water glasses, wine glasses, and cocktail glasses. I found myself waving those pouring people away. . .well, perhaps I'm exaggerating. I didn't wave them away often.
Our excursions as a whole were very good. Some were less so due to weather, but to whom do I complain? The excursion staff was great. The excursions were handled efficiently, no waiting or lining up at all. We were wait-listed for two included excursions and they both cleared, so I think that happens more than not. In other words, fear not.
Regarding entertainment, we didn't go to every show in the evening, but when we did, we were very pleased. Thought the comedian's talent exceeded his being stuck with a gig on a ship—very, very funny! The Krew Kapers performance was awesome. . .not the least bit cheesy because it was performed with such heart.
Loved Ray, the cruise director. He's got it all down. And Terry Breen, as the onboard naturalist? Well, Regent must know that she is a treasure because she has been with them for years. Can't say enough good things about her and the enhancement she provided for this nature itinerary.
We found fellow passengers to be fun, interesting and congenial. We particularly had a great time with a few people we met. I loved the relaxed, yet elegant dress code. I found that people dressed just perfectly for dinner, not stuffy, but never sloppy either. We found it to be just right for the itinerary. Heck, we found it to be just right for our current lifestyle.
Our suite was downright divine. No wonder Regent always wins the awards for stateroom categories on Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler.
Duh. Large. Walk-in closet. Great bathroom.
I can't tell you the number of times I took a delicious nap curled up on the bed, wrapped in the cozy wool throw while Don was reading on the sofa.
Again, service was great in the suite as well as everywhere on the ship. Our steward Clive was extremely attentive, and each time we had room service, we felt very important. The little portable table kept behind the sofa is quite handy, and so even room service was served as though we were in a fancy hotel or restaurant.
We had a bottle of Glenlivet, my husband's drink of choice, waiting for us in the suite when we arrived, and within a couple of hours, my requested bottle of Bombay Sapphire showed up. I'm still at a loss as to why Clive knocked on the door on day 2 or 3 with a bottle of B & B. The only time that was mentioned was tongue-in-cheek on Regent's CC discussion board. I can only surmise someone was paying attention, and it was a case of "why did the little lamb love Mary?"
Which reminds me. . .why did the little lamb love Mary? Well, at the risk of discounting your memory and/or intelligence, it was because Mary loved the little lamb. That simple.
Indulge me for a brief soapbox interlude, please. When we travel, we generally find great service everywhere, not every time, but most times. My husband and I enjoy engaging people and we never miss an opportunity to thank people sincerely for their efforts and hard work. I try to remember service people's names and use their names when I see them. . .I mean genuinely use their name. After all, they seem to go to the trouble to remember lots of customers' names, so would it trouble me to remember a few of theirs?
We found that every time we threw a great big glad-to-see-you smile at Eduardo, Yuri, Alberto, Mara, Daniella, etc., etc. we got it back, ear to ear.
I could go on and on, but I won't. Aren't you glad?
I could say much more about the crew, but rather than be repetitious in this already too long review, I would direct you to the comments I've already made about the crew beginning with post #173 (see link above) as I was posting live from the ship.
Not to discount anyone's experience, because it was what it was for that person, but honestly, when I have read negative reviews about the Navigator, I can't help but assume it had to do with the time of year (too many kids on board), itinerary, something, anything other than individual crew members or Regent or the ship. I'm simply baffled.
Our experience was luxurious, as it should have been for the cost, and the little things were made even bigger by the crew and the overall experience.
Would I sail Regent again?
In a heart beat. Send me a lottery ticket. Maybe this once I'll get lucky.