This was our first cruise with Regent. I have read so many raving reviews on this board I was expecting Regent to take us to another dimension. Compared with mainstream cruise lines, cruising with Regent would be like swapping your girlfriend Phyllis Diller for Christie Brinkley.
We arrived in Athens Sunday evening and checked into the Athena Intercontinental, a hotel arranged by Regent. At 12:30pm next day, we all packed into 3 buses and headed to port. The gods were angry with Athens that day. The city was covered in thunderclouds. Buckets of rain came pouring down. Mixed with garbage and transit strike, city streets were flooded with traffic and rising water. Sewers were plugged with debris. What should have been a 15min ride turned into 2 hours. We could see the ship but could only crawl slowly into the terminal. I swear I saw a turtle passing us on the right. Then things got worse. After going through security, a shuttle bus took us to the ship for boarding -â€" open berth. It was still pouring rain but everyone had to line up outside the gangway. One crew was trying to pass out umbrellas (2 at a time) to passengers near the front of the line. We were all soaked like wet t-shirt contestants, slowly dragging our carryon up the gangway to deck 5, only to see 3 crew members standing there smiling and welcoming us on board. Another crew is handing out cold champagne. Now some of us have not eaten since 7:00am. It is now 3:00pm. The last thing on our mind is cold champagne when you are hungry and wet. As we made our way into the Constellation Theater to check in, we found the line up to be in complete chaos. Some passengers were told to sit until their row was called. However, there was no one assigned to control the crowd. Another line formed on the left side of Constellation Theater and other passengers were moving up directly to the check in area up front. This naturally got people waiting in their seats all upset. After all is said and done, Regent never offered an apology publicly. Regent had to know there would be 3-bus load of passengers coming on board at once. Yet they seemed to be caught off guard in anticipating the crowd; sheltering passengers from pouring rain; and organizing orderly check in. Not a good start for first impression.
We ate most mornings in our stateroom. It took several tries to order breakfast correctly. You had to be very specific with your order. For example, jam will not come automatically with toast, or milk with cereal. On several occasions, some items were missed. One day it was sugar for coffee, another day side of bacon, another day crÃ¨me of wheat. Calls to room service did elicit a quick response for missing items.
My wife has a gluten free diet and this was noted by Regent. Late every evening, she would receive menu for the next day in our stateroom. She would check off her preferences and drop off this menu to Compass Rose first thing in the morning. But there was no guarantee her selections would be available. On some days it was: "Sorry, your dessert not available gluten free" and one day, her dinner request totally got lost. It wasn't until day 4 before she was served gluten free bread. Later in the cruise, some bread/bun felt hard and stale. We cruised with Holland America 2 years ago. They were able to accommodate her diet flawlessly. The kitchen discreetly baked fresh gluten free cookies for days dessert was not suitable. She could select next day's entrÃ©e and dessert immediately after dinner while sitting in the dining room. Her selections were entered into the computer immediately with no fear of getting lost. We were perplexed that Holland America would excel Regent over this area of service since gluten-free diet is not that uncommon anymore.
Excursions were extremely well organized. We were given tickets similar to boarding passes specifying what time to meet at Constellation Theater. A plastic number stub is exchanged for the ticket. Once off the ship, you board the bus marked with your number (which makes you wonder why this system wasn't used during embarkation). There were good guides and not so interesting guides. The excursion in Zakinthos was a trip to nowhere. On the Ephesus excursion in Turkey, we were supposed to attend a carpet weaving demonstration. The guide took us to a building near the dock and watched a lady (who didn't even look Turkish) weaved maybe 2 knots. Before you know it, we were hustled inside a large open room on the 3rd floor with bench seating built along the walls. The store owner gave us a quick presentation on types and quality of Turkish rugs while simultaneously unrolling them like Hollywood red carpet. At the end of his presentation, about 8 burly gentlemen walked in built like members of the Turkish National wrestling team. They were introduced as our one on one advisor. Now, my wife spends at least 30 minutes examining a $2 grapefruit at the supermarket. So this is definitely not the time or place to commit to an $8,000 rug without any clue to quality or value. I tried not to look him in the eyes as I would with Medusa and navigated our way down the stairs. Of course, to make your way down, you had to cut through the leather jacket section ("anything interests you?"); the jewelry section; finally the porcelain section. This was more grueling than a corn field maze.
No doubt Regent has the feel of a country club atmosphere. We shared dinner table with CEOs, elected public officials, Ivy League school alumnus, and retired millionaires. But there was never a moment of pretension or snobbery. The words "thank you" and "please" were commonly heard. During the entire cruise, not one word of profanity was heard. Passengers treated each other with respect and utmost courtesy. The average age of passengers were couples in their late 60's or 70's, but this generation never whined, kept meeting time on excursions punctually, demonstrated what a long happy marriage is all about. In fact, some of my best social time was hanging out in the self-serve laundry.
Our room steward kept everything clean and tidy. Assistant waiter Florin greeted us every afternoon at La Veranda with humor. After dropping off the comment card around day 3, the general manager, dining room manager did contact us to try to resolve the gluten free issue.
Would I cruise with Regent again? The answer is "yes". Regent is indeed a 6 star cruise, maybe not quite 6 shining stars from our experience. However, I would not abandon Holland America and I would also try Crystal or Seabourn given the opportunity. But I believe the law of averages is on Regent's side. The all inclusive concept works. Given the right itinerary and pricing, we will definitely return. Bon voyage.