I would like to give a bit of back ground info on myself so that when reading this review you can judge if it is relevant to what you deem important in your cruise experience. My husband and I are in our late 50's early 60's we have over 250 days on Seabourn, 150 days on Silversea and 60 days on Regent. We sailed the Navigator for a month and loved that ship (even though I felt it was a little crowded at times). We sailed on the Mariner in Nov/Dec 2018 and enjoyed the cruise experience very much. We would sail on either of the three lines mentioned but the itinerary comes first for us. In fact we have a Silversea cruise booked in June 2019, I will be taking my mother on the Voyager in August and we have a Seabourn cruise booked in February 2020. In this review I won't go into the ports because there have been live blogs done of this cruise so I feel that is redundant. What I will do is talk about the on board cruise experience. I'm a positive person and I'm aware how fortunate we are to be able to vacation in such a luxurious way but want to give both the positive and negative views of our latest cruise so it may help others in selecting a cruise line that suits their needs whilst also giving a realistic view of what to expect and not what the glossy brochures portray.
Cruise director: John Baron is probably my favourite cruise director. We sailed with him on Seabourn (his first actually) and then again on both Mariner cruises we have taken. He is friendly, approachable a good entertainer (his show was really enjoyable) and a great trivia host. We have also sailed with Marla (his assistant) on Seabourn many times and it is always nice to catch up with her.
Compass Rose and both specialty restaurants. Food was very good at all three of these restaurants.
Wine: I feel Regent along with Silversea offer the best wines on any cruise line we have been on. I also really appreciate the wine tasting of non revenue wines that Regent does. I wish other cruise lines did this. The selection of beer and spirits is very good.
Cocktails: The best of all three lines as mentioned above. Yes, Seabourn has this new mixology cocktail menu. Very trendy but honestly IMO not as good as Regents offerings.
Shore excursions: I know a lot of guest really enjoy having the all included shore excursions. I'm not a fan really as I like to do a bit of both and I know I could do that on Regent but I feel in some way I have already paid for these so I may as well take them. I find I'm far more adventurous when sailing Seabourn or Silversea as I do a bit of both the cruise lines excursions an independent excursions. Having said that I can not fault both the organization and the tours themselves. They are as good as anything that you would pay for on either Silversea or Seabourn. We did two tours that included lunch and both were a highlight of the trip.
Room Service: I really like the way Regent handles room service. You place your order and then they call you just before it arrives to your room. We often have breakfast in our room and it is so nice to get this call and be ready for when it arrives. Seabourn and Silversea call you after to ask how your food was and inform you that they are going to pick up the tray. Every time! This gets annoying and feels somewhat disingenuous. Also when you ask for a glass of Champagne from room service they bring you a bottle. Seabourn will bring you a glass. So kudos to Regent for that.
Quietness and stability of the Mariner: This ship rides so smoothly in rough seas and we had a couple of days of those. The noise insulation is very good. Never heard our neighbour or any guests in the passage ways. No vibration that we felt.
Breads: My husband loves bread (french bread in particular) and I will agree with him that Regent has the best bread of the three cruise lines. Crusty French bread and great artisan breads.
Internet: My husband is Tech person and he finds it very important to have good internet access so he can keep in touch with his business. He appreciates that you can have multiple devices connected in your room.
The not so good:
Waiting two hours to be served lunch in Compass Rose. I later spoke with Ricky (Food and Beverage Manager) and he explained they were implementing a new ordering system and had some teething problems. This did get better as the cruise went along. We did get numerous apologies for the wait. He also let know that on our last cruise there were only 500 passengers on board and that this cruise they was at capacity with a full ship.
La Veranda: I can not tell you how disappointed we were in this venue. Crowded beyond acceptable. Extra tables were put in the walkway on both side of the buffet and whilst this was appreciated by guests trying to find a table it made the buffet even more crowded. A full ship with early spring weather (some sunshine but mostly cool) and the Veranda could not handle the passenger numbers. Management needs to have a good look at this problem. Perhaps offering a special menu in Compass Rose for lunch to entice more passengers to dine there at lunch would help. We just avoided going there as it was a disaster. People bumping into one another. Dishes running out (seafood platter) and people waiting in queues for 10 minutes to get a portion. They just did not cope with the amount of guests trying to dine here. People couldn't find a table, food running out, long waits for it to be replenished. I also found the food here to be unimaginative. This is where Regent falls down. Seabourn's buffet is so much better in variety and quality. I will say the pizza was good but honestly that was about it. Regent makes the best burger as sea I have ever tasted. That is where the good ends. Look at what Seabourn and Silversea do at night on their pool deck. A real alternative dinning option. The buffet on the Mariner for lunch is not great at the pool deck. They had a Mexican buffet and Greek one day and that was just okay but they could really improve on the food offerings here.
Afternoon Tea: Again this is an area where Regent falls behind the other two lines. Chocolate afternoon tea. Same tea bags that you can get in any venue and a couple of the cakes were still frozen. If it is not a special afternoon tea event, you get a small buffet and an offering of tea bags. Both Seabourn and Silversea have a tea selection which is served at your table and on Silversea a tower of afternoon tea snacks. Some times we like to skip lunch and just do afternoon tea but we did not do this on Regent.
Entertainment: Some good and some not so good. The pianist Nicky was fantastic. The Duo at the bar at the back of the ship are great in the disco but not really suited to pre- evening dance music. An example of this is that we had a full ship and only 4 or 5 couples dancing. They are not great and we had them on the last Mariner cruise as well. Seabourn wins out in this regard as they have a trio and a guitarist and also a pianist so you have much more choice. Silversea is about the same as Regent. The guests entertainers were also a mixed bag. The Australian entertainer was very good. The Filipino vocalist who won The Voice (or something similar) was good the first night but not so good the second night. The entertainment is not the most important part of a cruise for me but I do like to dance before and after dinner and we did not do much of this on this cruise as the Duo was really not good.
As you can see there are more positives than negatives and we really did enjoy this cruise. Having said that we have never experienced so many little hiccups on one cruise before. Yes, no cruise is ever going to be perfect or perfect for every guest on board but there were a lot of little hiccups that I have not mentioned. These hiccups happen on all cruise lines but on this cruise there were more than usual. I have tried to be honest and balanced in my review as I think this helps perspective guests set their expectations and helps them to select a cruise lines that works for them. I usually like to end my review with would I cruise on this ship again. Well, yes and no. I would not cruise Mariner on a cold weather cruise where there was a possibility of a full ship. I would probably cruise Mariner again a hot weather cruise if the itinerary was right but it may not be my first choice.