This was our third Navigator cruise, our ninth on Regent overall. Although we had a wonderful time, we feel that Regent has gone downhill overall. We're not sure if they have reduced their staff, or if the inclusiveness of tours, or a combination of both, as led to the decline.
Embarkation was a total cattle call, with us all crammed in the Fort Lauderdale holding area for what seemed like an eternity. I am sure this is a port thing which Regent has no control over. However, Regent's computers failed just as they were to start the boarding process, and so they had to move all of their equipment onto the ship to commence boarding. Why they didn't just leave all their equipment on board in the first place, I don't know.
The ports were wonderful - Port Canaveral, Savannah, Charleston, Hamilton (Bermuda), and Nassau. We took Regent-sponsored tours in each port except Nassau, and they all turned out well. My only issue is, now that tours are included, it seems EVERYONE on the entire ship feels they must take a tour just because it's "included". Therefore, each morning, it's a cattle call in the Seven Seas Lounge. Even though our tour tickets stated a certain time - e.g., 8:30am - we often ended up not leaving until an hour later. It was a bit irritating just sitting in the lounge waiting for our bus to be called, thinking "we could have slept another hour" or "we could have had a sit-down breakfast rather than a grab-n-go". It was never this way before the tours were included in the Regent fare. It used to be much more personalized, and we used to leave right at the time on our tour tickets - e.g., 8:30am!
The food was excellent at Compass Rose - although the service was a bit lacking. Getting seated at this venue became so strange. We'd be greeted by the maitre d', then absolutely RUSHED to our table. I literally had to run a couple times to keep up with him. And I'm in my heels and the ship is in strong motion (more on that later). Anyway, it used to be that I would be gracefully offered the gentleman's arm and pleasantly escorted to the table at my own pace. Those days are gone. My only guess is, they are short-staffed in the restaurant. However, there was never anyone behind us waiting to be seated. Maybe they are doing double-duty, delivering food as well?
Our experience once at our table was fair - you could tell some of the waiters were stressed out, wiping their brow, and once again, in a hurry. One night they missed two of my courses, and on another, I got the wrong meal. On another night, we had to flag someone down for wine after our courses were being served (wine glasses were never replaced from the sitting before us so they must have assumed we didn't want wine). But like I said, the food was excellent. Very flavorful, excellent presentation and perfect portions.
Prime 7 was excellent in all regards. Our steaks were prepared perfectly and our requests were met, service was efficient and friendly. They seemed genuinely happy to have us there!
Now...La Veranda is another story. We walked up to the maitre d' desk and no one came. Waited, waited. Finally, we walked into the restaurant a bit further and were told we'd have to wait for a table, but in the meantime, feel free to take a look at the food items along the buffet. OK, so we did. And waited. And waited. There were only two other parties in the entire restaurant, so we found this to be very strange. Then after we got seated, we waited. And waited. Finally, our waitress comes and says, "Are you OK?" We said yes, but we were just wondering when we could order? Oh! Well, apparently now the La Veranda is TOTALLY buffet-style. It used to be that your waiter/waitress would welcome you to partake of the antipasta bar, and then you would order your Primi and Secondi courses from the menu. We tried to explain that to our waitress and she firmly told us, "No, it's always been this way." Umm, we've been on this ship twice before, and we know how it used to work. Again, she said that it's always been this way - this time in a downright rude manner. By this time we were insulted and embarrassed enough to get up and leave. (And this is something we don't ever do, we are very easy-going!) Oh well, lesson learned: back to Compass Rose!
We ate lunch at the pool grill every day and it was excellent. Always fresh and tasty. We had room service for breakfast several times and it was always RIGHT on time, hot and delicious. I always requested berries for breakfast - they are not listed on the menu card - but my wish was always fulfilled.
The bartenders were tip-top as usual. Alan, who we know as a bartender from prior Regent cruises, is now the Head Bartender and he runs a perfect show. Every one of the bar staff got to know our favorite drinks, I considered them mind-readers! Jan, Elvis, Vasylyna, George, Marilyn, Eric, Jerel, Teran, Laura, Ronald - all A-1.
Housekeeping was amazing as always. That is the one consistent aspect about Regent that I absolutely love. Our stewardess Evangeline never missed a detail. In fact, I brought on board a bunch of bottles of Vitamin Water and put them in our fridge (I love the stuff and I had never seen it on a Regent ship) - by the end of the cruise, magically, more Vitamin Water was showing up in our fridge. I guess they have it in the gym (which we never go to, ha!). But that was a very nice touch, for Evangeline to notice my obsession with Vitamin Water!
Entertainment: We don't normally attend the shows (except the Krew Kapers show) - but we had heard that the Cruise Director, Ray Solaire, was not to be missed. We watched the show and it was indeed amazing. He is a very, very talented man! Imagine my shock and disappointment when I complimented him afterward in the hallway, and he blew me off! Honestly, he looked at me like I had two heads! There was no smile, no "thank you" or "oh, I haven't met you, what is your name?". I chalked it up to, he was having a bad day/tired/stressed, whatever. Well, that is, until we met another couple on board who had a very similar experience. I won't go into it, because it's their story to tell, but that did not sit well with us. He's all enamored with everyone, we have heard such great things, so why this? The only thing we could figure was that the four of us were among the youngest on the ship, so we weren't as worthy of his time as the older guests. Bad move on his part, considering we have a lot more years to spend on cruising! It just made me kind of sad.
Anyway, thank goodness for Cody Yancey Dopson, the Assistant Cruise Director. He was recently promoted from entertainment, and he is so personable, talented and obviously very happy to be in his new role. Gavin, who plays the piano in the Stars Lounge nightly, was excellent as well!
One major difference between the last two times we were on the Navigator until this time: ventilation! Our suite was always on the warm side, even though we kept the setting down as cold as it would go. Air was just barely seeping out of our vents. We mentioned it to the front desk and they said they'd have maintenance look at it, but it never did improve. Additionally - and this is a pretty major one for us - cigarette smoke. It seemed to permeate everywhere. As soon as we walked out of our suite we could smell it. Then when we walked down into the public areas, it just got worse. And I am not talking about the connoisseur club or the other designated smoking areas. I'm talking EVERYwhere. So that put a damper on the cruise as well. I really think they have an overall ventilation issue, because the smoke never used to be that bad, and because the air temperature used to be consistent throughout the ship. On this cruise, Galileo's was always frigid (a welcome change after our hot suite), and some guests we met said their suites were freezing cold (lucky them!). So bottom line: they seem to have an air distribution issue of some sort.
Lastly, there were very rough seas which really put a damper on things. Of course it's not Regent's fault; in fact, they made the best of it. The front desk was always ready with our "daily dose" of meclizine. We had never been seasick before (and we have been on smaller ships than Navigator), so it was quite a surprise for us. Some of the crew were sick as well, and there were lots of glasses and liquor bottles broken, items flying across tables, guests falling down at breakfast. From what we understand, some guests even flew home once we got to Bermuda (which was mid-cruise) - they couldn't stand the thought of going on to Nassau and Fort Lauderdale. When you combine rough seas with the infamous vibration problems of Navigator, it doesn't make for an enjoyable cruise. Much as I love our Navigator, she's a tired little ship and I suspect she'll be retired soon.
I realize this review sounds pretty negative - I struggled on whether I should post it at all. Others who were on this cruise may have had a completely positive experience (I really hope so!). But we are just making comparisons to our prior experiences on Regent (we are gold members, so we have several nights' experience and I guess we have been spoiled by the quintessential "Regent Experience") -- but this just did NOT live up to what we have come to expect. That, combined with Regent's ever-rising fares, makes us somewhat inclined not to cruise this line again.