We were on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager for the 10-day Western Caribbean including Cuba.
This was our first cruise with Regent and will likely be our last. We wanted to try out Regent (along with other upscale/luxury cruise lines) after cruising with many others. This was our 49th cruise overall.
We have cruised on Seabourn several times and most of my comparisons are with Seabourn, since they are both comparably priced and target the high-end luxury cruising market.
There were differences between Regent and Seabourn. Most significantly, you get “free” shore excursions included with Regent, while you pay for them separately on Seabourn. We have also sailed on Viking Ocean, where the shore excursions were included. However, on Viking Ocean, the “free” included shore excursions were very limited, usually a 2-3 hour bus tour. Regent had many more free/included excursions in each port.
However, these “free” shore excursions are clearly part of the fare. You pay for them in advance. At our port of call in Cozumel, we were to tender in (which doesn’t make sense in the first place, since there is plenty of dock space for up to 8 ships and we are a luxury ship—you would think they would pay for the dock space). But due to “high swells” when we arrived (we didn’t see any—no whitecaps, no swells and I have pictures to prove it), the Captain decided to skip the port. We were scheduled to do the Dolphin Swim & Ride, which would normally be a $129/pp shore excursion. If we were on Seabourn and had scheduled that shore excursion, then the ship canceled the port call, we would be refunded that money. Not so on Regent, since it is “free” with your cruise fare. Well, yes, it is “free” but you definitely pay for it as part of your cruise fare. No compensation, nothing. So Regent makes money by skipping a port (vs. other cruise lines that lose money by skipping a port, since they have to refund all shore excursions). So Regent is financially incented to skip a port. Not to mention that there were 8 other cruise ships in Cozumel and we were the odd one out. So why we were tendering in the first place? I have no idea. Cozumel is an island without a protected harbor. Yet plenty of dock space. So Regent was apparently too cheap to pay for the dock space (even when they decided they could not tender), which is unfortunate. The average age onboard is probably 70-75 years old, which might explain why they decided not to tender in Cozumel. A bunch of old people might have difficulty tendering if the seas had swells, so let’s skip the port and save a boatload of money. Easy decision for the Captain. Bad decision for the passengers who wanted to go ashore.
The shore excursions, in general, were poorly managed and not at all what was advertised. You would think for a cruise line where virtually everyone is taking your shore excursion, you would have the shore excursions part down pat. Not so. For example, the times in almost every port were highly variable, with start times and end times varying by as much as an hour from what was originally published. And, due to the high number of guests participating in the shore excursions, the wait times were often excruciating. We once waited over an hour and a half in the theater for our shore excursion to start. Also, what is published for the shore excursion is often not what you actually get. One example was a “Farm to Table Experience” where we were supposed to make a stop at a well-known Havana restaurant, then visit two of the farms that supply the restaurant, then back to the restaurant for lunch. A total of 4 stops. Instead, we skipped the restaurant altogether and went to a pig farm that supplied the restaurant, then had lunch on picnic tables there. Not the farm to table restaurant experience that we signed up for. But because it was “free” there was no compensation nor refund. Very disorganized and very poorly managed, which was surprising. We thought the shore excursions would be top-notch. They were not.
On the plus side for the ship, the Constellation Theater was quite nice for a ship this size. Much larger and nicer compared to the show lounge on Seabourn. It is two levels and good sight lines throughout the theater. The production show cast was new for our sailing, yet they were quite good in the choreography and dancing category. The male vocalists lacked power and one in particular (Elliott) was consistently off key (he has forever ruined “Roxanne” for me), but the female vocalists were better. A disappointment is that the opening night “entertainment” was the port lecturer. Many people in the audience either left or fell asleep. Other than the production show cast, which did 4 shows, there were only two other entertainers onboard (a singer and a magician), who each did 2 shows. A prior cruise director filled in (very nicely) for another show when one of the performers could not make it due to the ship skipping Cozumel.
The Compass Rose restaurant (main dining) was a general disappointment. Seabourn offers a very relaxed and elegant dining experience. We expected it to be similar on Regent, but not so. The waiters have 24 people to attend and apparently there is no 1:1 assigned assistant waiter, so they are constantly running. Therefore, any special requests were often ignored or simply forgotten. They were simply stretched too thin to provide high quality service. The food was good, although not as good as Seabourn (or Oceania or Viking Ocean or even Windstar for that matter). The buffet was poor, not even as good as we have seen on mid-tier lines like Princess, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.
We were surprised by the lack of quality of ingredients in the food preparation. We expected top shelf, like what we have seen on Seabourn. That was not the case. An example was serving Atlantic farm-raised salmon. We would have expected Pacific wild-caught salmon. Yes, it is more expensive, but this is a luxury line and we expected upscale dishes. It was very hit-and-miss. On the plus side, the cheese plates for dessert were generally good quality cheeses, consistent with what we have seen on Seabourn. But the other dishes were generally closer to what you would expect from a mainstream cruise line rather than upscale.
The pool deck area is nice with terrycloth coverings on the loungers. They also have a decent-sized gym which was typically not very busy. Most of the older people were laying on the loungers out on the deck instead of exercising in the gym.
The sea days were severely lacking in scheduled activities. Probably the best comparison point would be with Oceania (Regent’s sister company), where Regent was consistently underperforming Oceania. On Oceania, there were activities going on all over the ship throughout the sea days. Not on Regent. Again, an older, more sedate crowd. So maybe being 50-somethings left us wanting more. But we expected at least what we had seen on Oceania. That wasn’t the case. No sports other than “unhosted” meeting of players. I went to two of these and I was the only one who showed up. Eventually I convinced my wife to try out the different sports available around the ship (all of which were otherwise vacant), such as ping pong, bocce ball, croquet, shuffleboard, putting, etc.
The ship itself is old and showing its age. During our 10 days, we had a problem with the entry door to our cabin (where the latch would not securely lock due to warping of the door), our safe (failed twice during the cruise requiring hard resets from security) and the hose in our shower started leaking, requiring replacement. Stuff is just getting old/dated/wearing out. There is visible rust on the balcony railing. The common areas are dated and some hallways smelled musty. Perhaps this ship is due for dry dock soon and they are just letting things go until then.
Our cabin was a good size cabin, similar to a comparable cabin on Seabourn, although Seabourn has much nicer bathrooms and bathroom amenities. Again, Seabourn seems to understand luxury, Regent apparently does not. Even very minor things like toilet paper, on Regent it was the lowest quality, very thin, etc. Small thing, but a luxury hotel would know and understand the difference. As does Seabourn.
Regent provides one free Internet login per cabin, which is better than Seabourn (where you have to pay for Internet unless you are in one of the larger suites). It is a little awkward to only have one login, since only one person can use it at a time, but this is definitely a plus over Seabourn. Like most cruise ships, onboard Internet is slow and spotty, so it didn’t always work. But since it was “free” you simply would try again later. And perhaps being free also impacted bandwidth, with all other guests accessing at the same time. Certain high bandwidth sites such as YouTube were restricted access.
Both Regent and Seabourn offer free gratuities and free drinks. The quality of the wines offered on Seabourn is consistently better, usually $15-$20 bottles while on Regent they are usually $10-$12 bottles. On both cruise lines, you can pay additional to purchase more expensive wines. Both cruise lines also keep the minibar in your stateroom stocked throughout the cruise.
The ship has a free launderette where you can wash and dry your clothes for free, which is nice for a longer cruise such as this. Same on Seabourn.
Overall, the cruise line is not a 5-star luxury experience. It is not a Four Seasons nor Ritz Carlton experience. It’s not even a 4-star experience (Hilton, Hyatt). It is more aligned with a 3-star hotel experience such as Radisson, which is the original name of the cruise line (Radisson Seven Seas) or Marriott or Sheraton. Do not book Regent expecting a luxury cruise. It’s not.