This cruise went from Barcelona to Dubai. We stopped at so many wonderful ports and checked off many things from our bucket list that this just may be the best cruise we will ever take.
Seven Seas Navigator: This ship holds about 660 passengers. Although that is small for a ship today, the Navigator’s amenities seemed more than adequate compared to larger ships. It has two specialty restaurants (steakhouse and French) in addition to the standard dining room. There is also a top deck aft buffet which becomes an Italian restaurant for dinner with waiters and a menu. There is a large, comfortable showroom, a casino, library, internet café, coffee and snack corner, card room and several lounges. Outdoors offers a pool and two hot tubs, a golf driving cage, paddle tennis, croquet/bocce court, a 5-hole mini golf course and shuffleboard.
Cabins: Our cruise began November 6, 2016 and the ship had just come out of a 3+ week renovation. Nearly everything in the cabins and public areas was brand new. We had a mid-range cabin, suite 760. The marble bathroom was spacious with counter space shelves, a tub and a separate shower. I loved the walk-in closet with a safe, shelve area, drawers and plenty of hanging area and thoughtfully included four padded hangers for formal wear. My only complaint was that the small dressing table with a padded stool was basically unusable since the drawer open no more than 5”. The stool was too low to use and it was all too close to the bed. I found the desk opposite the couch to be much more practical. Our two stewards were excellent and always asking if we needed anything – wine, beer, etc. added to our refrigerator.
Food: The menu was exceptional both in quality and variety. Steak and lobster were available every night. The pool deck grill, in addition to the standard hot dog/hamburger fare, often featured an ethnic or theme buffet on the side which was not the same as what was at the inside buffet. We were pleased with the preparation and selection no matter where we ate at any meal.
Service: The staff was without exception friendly and very eager to help despite the fact that gratuities were included in the cruise cost. There were some problems in the main dining room during the first week because many staff had just come on board after the ship came out of dry dock, the menu had changed, and the kitchen had been revamped. In addition, the waiters were being trained to use iPads as well. There were many passenger complaints which were certainly heard since the Regent CEO was on the cruise and had a question and answer session early on. I can definitely say that service in the dining room improved to a large degree during the second and third week of the cruise. However, the food was always served graciously and the wine stewards made sure that your glass was always full.
Ports: Our 21 day cruise went from Barcelona to Dubai via the Suez Canal with stops in Rome, Jerusalem, Petra and Luxor among many others. There were no tender stops; one had been scheduled for the Amalfi Coast but Naples was substituted when rough weather threatened the stop. I was surprised by the variety and quality of the shore excursions in general. With the exception of only one port, the guides at each stop were very good. Buses and transportation options were modern and safe. If meals were included in the excursion, they were at four star or better hotels and generally included alcohol.
Shipboard activities: This was our first Regent cruise and the onboard activities included things I had never seen before. There was the standard bridge play, bingo, dance lessons, Smithsonian lectures and trivia. However, most afternoons included group games such as silly putting contests, bean bag tosses, and similar types of games. For any of these activities, participants were given “Regent point” cards instead of the usual pens and luggage tags like other cruise lines. At the end of the cruise, a table was set up to redeem the points for things such as golf balls, baseball hats, tee shirts and sweatshirts. There was also an Arabian deck party, a country fair (each of the ship’s departments set up game booths and passengers played to get raffle tickets which were drawn to award spa packages, boutique gift bags and bottles of wine), and a block party (everyone carried their wine glasses into the hall and cabin stewards passed appetizers and poured wine in each hallway while passengers mingled).
Entertainment: Evenings in the showroom featured song and dance productions, a concert pianist, a comedian and more. Surprisingly, the very best stage entertainment I have seen on any of the many cruises we have taken was provided by the ships’ cruise director, Ray Solaire. He gave three performances which showcased his extraordinary singing voice (Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera got a long standing ovation), his puppets and ventriloquism, and magic tricks.
We have chose the Ostia Antica excursion and are taken to the original port for Rome which was on the coast many years ago but the river has silted in and the Mediterranean is nowhere in sight. The tour was very good with our guide giving us a lot of information about the ruins we saw. The cemetery for the town came first with streets, portions of walls, some mosaic floors and the remains of a theater all on the tour. We were not rushed and were surprised at how easy it was to visual what the must have been like so many years ago.View All 8 Ruins of Ostica Antica Reviews
The tour was informative and everyone was surprised at how well preserved much of the town was. Many details had been left untouched due to the mud flow which engulfed Herculaneum when Vesuvius erupted. The town had been a resort on the shore of the Mediterranean and many residents tried to flee by boat. When there were no more boats, they took shelter in the arched brick warehouse spaces of the harbor and many skeletons attest to their horrific end. The walls and even roofs, in several cases even the second stories, remain with mosaic floors and painted walls, food stalls and sidewalks still in existence. In November, it was sunny when we got off the bus here and everyone left their umbrellas in the bus. Unfortunately, it poured halfway through the tour and many got wet trying to find shelter.View All 79 Herculaneum Reviews
The town owes much of its existence to the Knights of Saint John who planned the city as a refuge to care for injured knights and pilgrims during the Crusades in the 16th century. We had an excellent tour starting at the Dingli Cliffs which was a photo stop and could have been skipped, then on to Rabat and Mdina. In Rabat, we went down into St. Peters Catacombs. There are steps down and everything is well lighted. Mdina was a total surprise... a medieval walled city of large homes of the very wealthy, churches and monasteries. I highly recommend this tour.View All 5 Dingli Cliffs Reviews
Our morning tour is to the main Bahai Temple, a monastery called Stella Maris and the German colony. Although the Bahai religion does not hold any sort of services where they gather as a group, they do have temples. I’m not sure what the purpose of the temples is but this one was established by The Bab, a man who founded the religion in the 19th century in Iran. We are given a private walking tour down 400 steps through magnificently manicured gardens to the Shrine of the Bab where he is buried. The walk was very easy as most of the steps had railings. The view was superb of the harbor. We were allowed to go inside the shrine to see the supposed tomb of the Bab. We also visited the Stella Maris monastery which is located on top of Mount Carmel. This monastery from the 19th century is only the latest to be built on the top of the summit. It contains a cave called Elijah's cave. The cave is supposedly where the prophet Elijah hid from Queen Isabel and King Ahab and is also supposedly where the Holy Family stayed when they fled to Egypt. It is hard to believe this would be the case given how high on the mountain it is. It is ultimately called the Cave of the Madonna. The grotto is located inside the church and a few steps in front of the altar allow access to what is essentially a curved rocky wall.View All 3 Mt. Carmel Reviews
It took approximately 2 hours to drive to Petra, approximately 80 miles from the port. There was a short stop for restrooms and to take advantage of the store where the restrooms were. The prices seem awfully high;it was mostly typical souvenir stuff. Once we arrived in Petra, the bus parked in the parking lot and we walked down through the gate past the Visitor’s Center along a gravel road toward some hills and finally into the Siq. a thin split in the mountain almost a mile in length but only 10 to 20 feet in width with walls on either side that rise hundreds of feet to the sky. The colors of the rocks were wonderful. There were many carvings along the path including tombs and niches with carved representation of their gods. When we exited the Siq and had our first glimpse of the Treasury. You first glimpse it through a narrow opening. It is as wonderful as photos make it seem but add in at least 300 tourists, assorted camels and donkeys plus postcard and trinket sellers into the photo if you arrive early in the day. It only adds to the magic. One interesting fact which we had not heard before is that the image of the Treasury everyone knows from the Indiana Jones’ movie is that there is actually another level to it which has been recently discovered. Although you can no longer go inside, you can walk to the area near the steps and look down into an excavation which has uncovered more doors and columns below. From reading a non-fiction book called “Married to a Bedouin”, I learned that the Siq and the areas around the Treasury were subject to frequent flash floods once the first inhabitants, the Nabateans, left the area. The sand and debris left by the floods eventually built up high enough to cover the lowest level.
After a pause for photographs of the incredible Treasury, the camels and even just the tourists, we continued walking until we reached the Royal Tombs and could see many more tombs higher up on the cliff faces in all directions. We also passed a Roman-style amphitheater which held 6,000 people. It was then time to leisurely walk back on our own to the Visitor’s Center and continue about a block farther to a Movenpick hotel nearby for a typical Egyptian buffet lunch. Total distance walked was about 6.5 miles according to a friend's GPS. While the walk to Petra was downhill to the end of the tour at the Royal Tombs, it was uphill to coming back. There were plenty of offers for camel rides back as far as the Treasury and then it was possible to take one horse carriages through the Siq but the asking prices were about $50 for the carriage ride and I had no problem walking. One caution: they tell you a 10 minute, 1 mile horse ride is included from the ticket entrance to the Siq opening but they do not mention that the horse owner expects a $5-10 tip. Not exactly free.
The Movenpick Hotel was immediately next to the gates and everyone from the ship had a nice buffet lunch of Egyptian foods including wine and beer. The tables were arranged very close together so it was warm and crowded. We finished earlier than some and enjoyed time sitting in the airy atrium adjoining the restaurant.View All 92 Petra Walking Tour Reviews
Skip the excursion to Mughsail Beach and Job's Tomb. The beach has a blowhole ... no big deal. Job's Tomb is a long drive to a small building with a cloth covering a rectangle on the floor. Our guide was terrible and barely spoke English. We could easily have skipped this port.View All 6 Job's Tomb Reviews
. We went to the breathtaking Sultan Qahoos Grand Mosque where we had to remove our shoes, cover our heads and wear long pants. It is one of the largest in the world. It has one of the largest handwoven Persian carpets as well as a 46 foot Swarovski crystal chandelier. Completed in 2001, it can hold up to 20,000 worshippers with men and women in separate areas. The guide was very good to explain everything about the mosque, showed us the ritual washing procedure in the special room with multiple spigots and small seats at each one. Secondly we went to a souk. Lastly we went to the Ritz-Carlton on the beach for a wonderful lunch. The Ritz-Carlton is probably a 6-star hotel and cost approximately $350 a night. It had a large clean beach with brilliant blue water, many palm trees on a large grassy area, many beach lounges and overall just looked like a wonderful place to stay.View All 13 Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque Reviews
Rhodes is wonderful in the old part. You can imagine the crusaders in the castle and walking along the streets. We first visited the Grandmaster's Palace and then the Crusader's hospital. The palace has been reconstructed but is still worth seeing. The hospital contains mostly statues and old antiques. The drive around the city and island afterward was also interesting.View All 28 City Tour Reviews