We have cruised about ten times in the past on larger mass market lines and this was our first luxury line. Once we compared the cost of everything, airfare, gratuities, excursions and beverages it really wasn't much more expensive. We believed that we were getting a superior product for a slight price difference and we were correct.
We flew to Anchorage from Dallas on American Airlines. We had heard conflicting reports about the ability to upgrade to first class when using Regent Air. I can't speak about other airlines but on American it was no problem.
Regent booked some passengers at the Hilton and some at the Sheraton. We were at the Sheraton. We really didn't have a preference for this one night stay. We all boarded the same bus and dropped off the Hilton guests first. There was a bellman there to greet the bus and assist with luggage. At the Sheraton, it was very different. We were dropped off at a side door and had to make our way through the hotel with our luggage on our own. To be honest, it was mildly inconvenient but worsened by what I had witnessed at the Hilton. Otherwise, the Sheraton was perfectly fine.
We opted for the train ride from Anchorage to Seward and I would say this is a not to be missed experience. It was simply breathtaking. The train was filled with Regent only passengers so it gave us an opportunity to meet and get to know some of the folks we would be spending the week with.
We were checked in for the cruise on board the train so when we got to Seward we just walked right on board. This was another very noticeable plus. Getting on or off the ship was a breeze. Literally, we did not ever wait for even a moment.
Suite the suites are very nicely appointed and spacious. There was a walk in closet and a large bathroom complete with tub and shower. We did have a balcony but I didn't think it was necessary since we were always out and on a public deck. One morning we were out on our balcony and the door behind us locked so we were trapped outside. Fortunately, we were able to get the attention of our neighbors and they called security to rescue us. So, if you do get a balcony, there appears to be a bit of a design flaw in the door lock.
Service The service was excellent but honestly, we have always found the service to be excellent on all our cruises. The difference on Regent is that they were able to go a bit above and beyond due to the all-inclusive nature. One thing that did surprise us was that our suite attendant never introduced herself to us. I noted that on the mid-week comment card. I wasn't looking for action (we, of course, had figured out who she was) but I did think it was odd. What a surprise when our suite attendant showed up at our door and confronted us about the comment! She was quite nice but it put us in a very awkward position. So be mindful of what you say on that mid-week comment card! In fact, I would recommend that you save any non-positive comments for the end of cruise card unless you want to be placed in the position of defending your comments. On the one hand, I am pleased that they take comments very seriously. On the other hand, I really don't want to take on the responsibility of training the staff while on vacation.
We especially enjoyed that the sommelier came to our table each night to describe the selected (and included) wines for the evening. We only purchased an upgraded bottle one evening so that was a very nice touch. We never felt obligated or pressured to purchase.
Food The food was very good but, in my opinion, not excellent. No meal stood out as fabulous but then no meal stood out as inedible either. The dining experience, in general, was significantly better than the larger lines. It was a more elegant, relaxed environment and the wait staff seemed to have more time to tend to each table. The one or two special requests we made were granted without issue. I especially liked the destination dishes that featured local Alaskan seafood. I had read conflicting reports about wine service but we found it to be impeccable.
Drinks Hands down this made a difference. Even if you aren't big drinkers it is very nice to have all beverages included. Extremely nice. We were under the impression that we were going to be asked if we wanted beverages for our suite but that never happened. I am assuming that if you want something, you need to request it. As I mentioned before, our suite attendant never formally introduced herself so we really didn't interact with her until a few days into the cruise.
Fitness Center - This was a disappointment because I like to work out daily. There were only 4 treadmills and a few eliptical machines. Because I had difficulty getting on the equipment I decided to "do the stairs". Apparently, I was not the only one frustrated by the fitness offerings because there were others doing the same thing. You couldn't run or walk on deck because it was misty and wet (and therefore slick) in the mornings.
Excursions We selected included excursions except one, Tracy Arm.
For most of the outdoor excursions (especially those that involved glaciers) we wore long underwear, fleece, waterproof jackets, waterproof boots, gloves and hats. Those that didn't really weren't able to fully appreciate the activity since they were forced to stay inside the boat for long periods of time. We were quite comfortable and happy that we packed what we did. We did not see a single mosquito on any of our excursions.
Tracy Arm Outstanding. We had a world class experience at Hubbard Glacier. Because of that we thought Tracy Arm would be redundant. The terrain is quite different and I highly recommend it. Some people werent aware of the excursion and by the time they heard about it, it was already full. If it isnt showing up on the list of excursions call and inquire. Also, friends went on the exact same cruise a month prior and werent sign up for Tracy Arm. They showed up the morning of and 6 people didnt show so they were able to go. Just do it. The ship packed box lunches for the trip from Tracy Arm to Juneau which was very nice.
Mendenhall Glacier Native Canoe Adventure The Regent group (no one else was there) filled two 12 person canoes. We all put on the waterproof pants but since we were wearing waterproof jackets, we didnt need all their gear. It did require some effort but since there were 12 in each canoe plus the guide, you could just stop rowing to rest or take photos. This really was a magnificent trip. We canoed among large and small icebergs (literally could touch them) and got quite close to the Glacier. I knew Mendenhall was a popular trip so I was shocked that we were the only ones there. I would do this again in a heartbeat. Then we stopped at a huge waterfall for a snack and had time to relax and take photos. Highly recommend this tour.
Sitka Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest. In a word excellent. We saw some whales at a distance and tons of sea otters.
Wilderness Sea Kayaking Adventure I'm not sure when the Adventure happened. We were geared up in waterproof pants and jackets. Then we took a short ride to the float house where the kayaks were. We got into the two person canoes and started out. After about 5 minutes we realized that we were just going to be kayaking around the large pond. I realize that technically it is sea water but it was the most sedate kayaking trip you can imagine. We were disappointed because we were expecting a different type of trip. Now, the water was crystal clear and you could easily see sea stars (I think that's what they were called) and there were tons of fish. Also, a couple of eagles call the area home. If you are looking for a sedate kayaking trip (and I mean SEDATE) this might be a good option. If you are looking for an Adventure, choose something else. The hardest part was getting in and out of the canoe. In fact for some, it was a real challenge.
Klondike Rock Climbing and Rappelling I would not recommend this trip unless you have rock climbed before (not the back of the ship or indoor rock climbing, but real rock climbing). It was beautiful but extremely difficult. Only 4 of our group of 6 were able to participate. They give you rock climbing shoes but you dont wear gloves. It was hard on the hands and one member of our party was bitten by something and his hand swelled up. The rappelling was much easier but again, only 4 of the 6 felt comfortable participating. If you have rock climbed in the past, you will probably enjoy it. If not, and you want a similar experience, I would recommend the zipline at the same location. We wished we had chosen that.
On the other hand, I am extremely proud that I was able to climb to the top of the cliff (and have photos to prove it).
Skagway by Streetcar I think I was tired from the rock climbing and maybe not receptive but I wish we had skipped this. The trip began by dropping us off to watch a 20 minute film. I really can't address the film since I fell asleep. Then we boarded the streetcar and rode around town. The drivers are dressed up and it is a bit of a show. Not really what we were looking for.
Cruise George Inlet and Crab Feast it was fun and the crabs were tasty. We did see some eagles on the ride to the inlet. Would not repeat but it was enjoyable.
Entertainment Ok, we knew that the entertainment would be lacking but were surprised by how much. Fortunately, a passenger (a musician) was on board and had his guitar with him. We gathered in a hallway one evening and he played the guitar and sang. I won't go into detail because I think this is a very subjective area. I understood that there were not going to be big production shows and that was perfectly fine since we usually skip those on the larger ships anyway. This wasn't really a big deal since the cruise was quite port intensive and we weren't looking for night life.
Dress Code It was very nice to have designated elegant casual dress code for the week. One evening, at about 6:15 we were relaxing in a lounge and we were politely asked to change. I appreciate that they enforce the evening dress.
When you read that Trivia is a highlight for many, it is true. And we did play Trivia a few times. The room was packed at it was fun.
What made this trip spectacular wasn't the ship, the food, the service or the entertainment. It was Alaska. Our first day we were cruising Hubbard Glacier and we all stood for hours, mesmerized as we watched the glacier calve repeatedly. Because of the limited number of passengers everyone was able to get a great view and there was very little noise coming from the ship. We could hear the white thunder and witness the incredible sight. The onboard naturalist provided commentary and made sure we had our eyes on the right spot.
Also, I'm not sure if it was coincidence or by design but we were never exposed to crowds. Regent seems to have a way of completely avoiding crowds. Even when we disembarked in Vancouver it was a breeze. We were whisked right onto a bus and transported to the airport.
We had a great time and would definitely cruise with Regent again.