My wife and I chose this cruise in particular because it was port intensive with many places we've never been, on a brand new ship with a line about which we had heard great things. It was a full 14 days, and we loved the fact that we would avoid the intense summer heat. Over the weeks leading up to the cruise, we had read a ton of reviews and reactions to the ship, both positive and negative, and frankly we had grown a tad apprehensive. Ultimately, we learned there was absolutely no need to be...the experience as an incredible one, but not without a few hiccups. So here goes!
A pre-cruise one night stay in Haifa was included with our cabin. It was a horrendously long day of flying, and we didn't get to Tel Aviv (airport for Haifa) until 11:00pm. A driver was waiting for us, and we set out on the approx. hour long drive to our hotel. All of our pre-cruise excitement basically vanished when we checked in. The hotel was a generic but decent enough looking tower, but the room itself was not up to any even mildly acceptable standard. It felt like a 1960s era Soviet block youth hostile. The room was small, old, horribly outdated, not clean, dank and depressing, with two tiny, hard twin beds instead of the king or queen we had expected. One of the windows would not latch properly, and with a strong wind outside, it felt like a jet engine was blasting inside our room. It's no fun having to change rooms at 1:00 AM, but we had to. What was Regent thinking? Did anyone at the home office bother to check this place out? It started our vacation on a nightmarishly sour note.
Sadly, this was no better. Getting on the bus provided by Regent to the port was disorganized and stressful. Once we arrived, our bags were lined up by the bus and we were told to get a cart ourselves, load them onto the cart ourselves (not easy for anyone because they're so heavy), and wheel them inside ourselves. This whole process was as unpleasant as the hotel.
Thank heaven, everything turned around once we got on board. The ship itself is stunning. The wood and marble throughout is neither dark nor excessive, it's just monumentally high end and beautiful. The spaces themselves are bright and fun to explore. And that staircase in the atrium is amazing. Throughout, the level of detail, the artwork (sadly, there is no guide to the explain it's pedigree), the elevators, the staircases, the theatre, and the design throughout represent a level we've never encountered on a cruise ship.
The design felt lush and rich. We had a Concierge level "D" which was so spacious and comfortable. Loved the bed facing the window, the walk-in closet, and the marble bathroom with full shower, dual sinks and tub. The size of the balcony was a pleasant surprise. It's easily three times the size of the one we had on Crystal.
Imaginative, gourmet, fresh, delicious. We felt it was higher quality and higher end than Crystal, which is no small feat. Our favorite was Compass Rose, where we ate most dinners. The space is beautiful, with the blue glass lighting fixture on the ceiling. Contrary to what we had read, it's not overpowering. It's gorgeous. We had a great meal at all the specialty restaurants. They too are jaw droppingly designed. We liked Pacific Rim the best. It's a very unique take on an Asian restaurant with a fresh and unique menu. La Veranda, the ship's buffet, is nice, but we were a little disappointed. It's very well prepared but somewhat standard breakfast fare. Also, since all the pancakes, French toast etc is made to order on the grill, it's just too long a wait when you have an upcoming excursion. We never ate lunch there, and instead went to the Pool Grill, which we loved. La Veranda turns into Sette Mari at night, an Italian restaurant. Our one night dining there was a chaotic disorganized affair. My veal was rubbery and poorly prepared.
Amazing and so personable. Everyone seems happy to be there and happy to help, and it truly doesn't seem like an act. And there's never any waiting. The cruise director and his staff were so likeable, classy and first rate. He did a show himself which was fantastic.
We loved the three production shows, which were well directed and produced and cast. They're transporting. The booked acts were fine, with the exception of a "comedy magician" who we were excited to see, but who proved to be really bad. The magic was on the level of a children's birthday party, and the jokes just not funny. Find someone better, Regent!
The Ports And Excursions
A definite highlight. We loved Rhodes the best, with an excursion to a beautiful seaside town and a hike up a mountain to a Greek temple overlooking it. For the most part the excursions were informative and well handled, but they can take a turn south with a bad guide. In Cyprus, our guide seemed knowledgeable, but it felt like she was tired and did not want to be there. Her way of speaking was unintelligible, so the tour was a complete failure. So was the one in Palermo, where our guide was completely unprepared and let us wander around the sights ourselves with only a brief and vague introduction on the bus. Our other eight shore excursions (there were a lot of ports!) were quite good. Our takeaway was that Regent needs to do a better job of vetting the guides. I'm sure that's easier said than done but they need to figure out a way.
Also, we were scheduled to visit Gozo Island, but instead stayed on Malta an extra day. It was unclear whether it was because of rough seas or "maintenance" and it was hard to get a straight answer out of anyone as to the real reason. Better communication would have been appreciated.
It's the worst we've ever had on a ship. They need to fix it. Stat!
Our quibbles aside, we'd sail again with Regent, and plan to. The level of service, attention and luxury was unparalleled.
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