While not experienced cruisers, we have been on five previous cruises over the past 25 - 30 years with Carnival, Norwegian, and Holland America. We chose this cruise due to an invitation from my sister to join her and her husband on what ... Read More
While not experienced cruisers, we have been on five previous cruises over the past 25 - 30 years with Carnival, Norwegian, and Holland America. We chose this cruise due to an invitation from my sister to join her and her husband on what would be their sixth Regent cruise (they booked their seventh while onboard). We found the itinerary interesting which included Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British ports and loved the departure port (Barcelona) having spent a week there last year.
Our journey began with a flawless and on-time flight on Delta through Atlanta to Barcelona. Delta One (their version of business class) was comfortable, the food was delicious, and I was able to sleep a few hours during the flight. We arrived in Barcelona Sunday morning before a Monday cruise departure day to an expectedly chaotic airport where we discovered Barcelona is second to Miami as the busiest cruise port in the world. Our bags were retrieved and turned over to representatives available at the airport and we were on a bus headed for the Fairmont hotel an hour after landing. Our hotel, the included pre-cruise selection by Regent, was very nice and located within a large garden-like area with beautiful grounds. Very quiet and relaxing. Regent representatives were onsite to assist with tours or cruise inquiries although we didn't require their assistance. The provided breakfast Monday morning, the day of the cruise, was high quality with plenty of choices to satisfy everyone. We had a couple of hours to relax prior to boarding our assigned bus to the pier. Bags were retrieved from our room the morning of departure. After a relatively short (45 minute) bus ride to the pier, we were ready to board.
The embarkation process was efficient, easy, and relaxed. We experienced our first memorable interaction with a Regent employee during this process. A gentleman from the entertainment team greeted us with a smile, checked us in, invited us to the show that night, and sent us on our way. A great first impression even before we boarded the ship. Once onboard, we immediately noticed the quality, beauty, opulence, and luxury of the décor, design, furnishings, and atmosphere on the ship. Also, a wide variety of artwork could be found throughout the ship, some of which matched my taste, while some did not. We were aware of the hype surrounding this ship and reality matched the hype. Undeniably, the ship itself is beautiful in every imaginable way.
Our cabin, a Concierge D on deck 10, was located steps away from the elevators and stairs and beneath the library above. The efficiency of the cabin design was impressive by being able to face the very comfortable king size bed toward to balcony so that from the bed we could see the sea or port. An abundance of drawer space (we didn't use half of them) could be found throughout the cabin. The closet was very large in relation to the cabin size and fully accommodated what ended up being our exaggerated over packing. The bathroom was impressive as well with two sinks, a separate tub and shower, and beautiful marble finishing throughout. Pre-cruise, we were attracted to a separate tub and shower, however; after a 12 night cruise, we never used the tub. Similarly, pre-cruise we appreciated that an illy coffeemaker would be located in our cabin yet we never used it. Our balcony was large, approximately 115 sq. ft., and had high quality furnishings including two large wicker reclining chairs, full size chaise lounge, and a table large enough for two people to enjoy a meal. The balcony angled toward the front of the ship which provided an unobstructed view forward without the need to lean over the railing. Furnishings, fixtures, and finishes inside the cabin were consistent with what would be found in four or five star hotel junior suite.
Contrary to certain reviews, we found the dining onboard to be excellent without exception. Every meal was high quality, well presented, without lengthy wait times, and flavored deliciously. We dined at each specialty restaurant twice, ordered room service breakfast six times, and tried all other dining venues except the pool grill multiple times. I had seafood, veal, beef, and pasta main course dishes and all were great. Service was outstanding. Wines offered were very good and our glasses were never empty. Desserts were, unfortunately, too tempting to avoid. Frankly, absolutely no complaints related to food whatsoever. We experienced none of the issues to be found in reviews critical of dining venues located on the ship. We were left assuming we were either very fortunate or simply easy to please. Notably, the design, décor and atmosphere in the three specialty dining venues is truly unique and beautiful.
The entertainment we found enjoyable and, well..............entertaining. Other reviews indicate entertainment leaves something to be desired yet we attended three stage productions, the cruise director John Barron's show, his assistant's show, and every performance by the two guest performers with Will Martin's shows being the best. The shows were an hour in length which we found to be perfect. We didn't expect Lady GaGa, Adelle, Elton John, or a Broadway theater production of Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables to be performing on the cruise and therefore we appreciated the quality of the entertainment available. Additionally, we were always able to find comfortable seats available in the theater without obstructed sightlines. We also scheduled two cooking classes in the Culinary Arts Kitchen and thoroughly enjoyed both. The instructing chef made it fun with her energy and enthusiasm and by playing music and serving wine while teaching. Both classes were full (I believe 18 is capacity) which further added to the fun atmosphere. The facility itself is state of the art. Finally, we scheduled five appointments in the Canyon Ranch spa and were pleased with their services and facility. I had a massage that I would rank as good as any I have ever received.
Service on the cruise is where the separation occurred between great and extraordinary. The meaningful difference maker for us. Nice ship, itinerary, tours, food, and entertainment - otherworldly service. One example: 6:30 am I go to the coffee shop to get a latte for my wife which Andre gladly prepares and a green tea for me. I then head to the pool deck where the fresh juice bar is located and pick up a celery and orange juice for my wife and head back to the cabin with my hands full. As I walk through the pool area the attendants who are changing the terry cloth covers on all the pool loungers smile and wish me a good morning. As I approach the door, one stops what he is doing and runs to open the door for me and asks if I need further assistance. As I near the door to our cabin, from behind me appears one of the captain's staff members from the bridge and he asks me if he can open my cabin door for me with his master key. This is only one example of many other incredibly positive interactions with Regent staff members on the ship. The training program must be world class because we never encountered anyone who wasn't pleasant, wasn't eager to serve, and who wasn't genuinely kind. The crew seemed happy. At dinner in Prime 7, our excellent server Ruth's assistant, who I would guess to be 21 or 22 years old, engaged in conversation with us and twice said how much she loved her job. How many 21 or 22 year olds in the U.S. would say how much they love their jobs? From beginning to end, we had no complaints whatsoever regarding the service we received and we compliment Regent for their very effective hiring and training practices.
We experienced eleven ports while on our cruise and found many points of interest, cultural experiences, historical significance, and beauty at every one. All tours with the exception of Lisbon met or exceeded our expectations. Most notable tours included a D Day Landing Beach tour in Normandy and a wonderful dinner at Chateau Du Tertre in Bordeaux. We had high quality guides who were knowledgeable and understandable. Each bus would depart about half full. Very efficient system for organizing tour departures on the ship. We never waited more than ten minutes before being directed to our bus. The one complaint I have from the entire cruise experience is related to the tours and, unfortunately, I believe the issue is beyond Regent's control: passengers go on tours they should not take due to physical limitations. We were provided tour descriptions online before the cruise, after we boarded, and each day with the newsletter; all of which made abundantly clear the physical requirements of each tour and the physical limitations that should prevent someone from taking certain tours. On every tour, in my opinion, people were present who should not have been. Certain participants placed unreasonable expectations on the guides due to their limitations. A man fell down stepping off the curb in Lisbon and somehow the guide was implicated? Another guide was rudely told to slow down because a couple couldn't keep up. One guide was told to slow down by a woman who said her back hurts when she climbs stairs. And lastly, a guide was asked to be available at the port to help a couple back to the ship. Very frustrating and my heart goes out to the guides and what they must endure. Regent can't be placed into a position of evaluating each passenger's physical ability before every tour. Passengers need to read the information, readily available via multiple sources, regarding the tours, and be honest about their ability to take the, clearly stated, more physically demanding tours. Again, my only complaint during the entire cruise.
Disembarkation was difficult only because we didn't want to leave. The process itself was easy as long as your luggage was outside your door on time and you were listening for your number to be called indicating it was time to disembark.
In summary, we had a wonderful and memorable trip and thanks to Regent for performing so incredibly well every step of the way. To perform so well requires outstanding organization, training, quality control, accountability, and teamwork. It was fascinating to watch the team work so well together and deliver so well time and time again. Partly attributable to my sister telling me to prepare to be spoiled and partly because of the price, our expectations were very high yet Regent consistently met or exceeded our expectations. Consequently, we are now hooked and booked an Alaska cruise in 2020 while onboard. Read Less