In Autumn 2018 we travelled from Athens to Dubai on Seabourn. For Fall 2019 my wife wanted us to complete the journey, starting in Dubai and ending in Singapore. So we picked Regent's Voyager for that 20 day journey, beginning November 16, 2019.
A bit about us: we are later middle-aged, and one of us still works with, happily, a generous vacation allotment which allows usually two cruises yearly. We find that cruises are the busy persons perfect holiday: unpack once, enjoy (usually) luxurious food and service, and see some interesting places...or, during the harsh Canadian winter, just enjoy a Caribbean "sloth" cruise for some sun and warmth!
We are five star with Holland America yet decided a few years ago to branch out into the more "all-inclusive" world, where not everything is ala carte, requiring a chit to be signed. This is not to say that we would not return to HAL for the right itinerary. HAL does a lot of things right, after all. We also have had two cruises with Seabourn (my reviews no doubt can be found on this site). The first was just "good", yet Seabourn senior management truly heard our concerns, urging us to try them again--and we are very glad that we did. Our second Seabourn cruise, the Athens-Dubai one in 2018 on the Encore, was great in all respects.
In May 2019, we gave Regent a try. The Navigator, its oldest ship, took us to Europe in time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. We very much enjoyed that cruise--despite a little creaky, a well run ship providing excellent food and service in all respects. The excellent included shore excursions were a bonus.
So, for our Dubai-Singapore trip, we ultimately decided to return to Regent, this time on the Voyager. I wish I could state that it was as good as our experience on Navigator, yet I cannot. Indeed, in some respects it was not even up to HAL standards of service.
Our main concerns were with the food service and food quality. While food is subjective, it was not only us who found some of it over-salted and under-seasoned. That did improve somewhat. Yet instead of the "a la minute" type of food that we experienced on Navigator, where the food tasted fresh-cooked, on this ship it seemed to us to be more banquet-style of preparation. Side dishes often seemed to suffer from sitting under heat-lamps, revealing a lack of coordination and oversight in the kitchen, and between the kitchen and the various dining venues. For example, on one occasion while my steak was fine, the French fries were like match-sticks--dried out from sitting too long. On other occasions, the wrong side dish would be delivered, an item would be forgotten...it got to the point where we wondered if we could get through one meal without something going awry for either one of us.
Service was lacking the competence, warmth, and friendliness that we usually have on other ships, including earlier this year on the Navigator. In addition to many servers simply ill-trained or inept, some were surprisingly robotic in their approach. This was in all dining venues, albeit thankfully there were notable exceptions. There were some (not enough) individuals who clearly took pride in providing excellent service, and were experienced wait-staff. We always appreciated being seated in their sections.
Our general impression, and we were not alone in this, was that too many new and untrained food serving staff had been recently taken on--and it showed. The area supervisors were doing their best, but could not always keep up. We also wondered if the ship was somewhat short-staffed in actual servers, noting the often apparent lack of service and kitchen coordination.
Yet at the price-point charged by Regent, I am not interested in why things were not up to standard. Rather, I simply expect better. Let alone the luxury cruise bracket (Regent, Seabourn) where we have experienced better, again, on our many HAL cruises service in the main dining room was consistently better than what we experienced this time on Voyager, with the inconsistent, "hit or miss" service at all meals, in all dining venues.
Bar service and deck service was generally very good, with drinks expertly made and promptly delivered. The one exception was the Observation bar, where service was slow and rather inept, provided by table-servers who were, again, new and seemingly not properly trained. The liquor on offer was good, in that the premium, yet not luxury, brands were included. For example, Chivas Regal 12 year old scotch, or a good brand of gin such as Beefeater was included. Yet Sipsmith gin was not on the included list. If you wanted an 18 year single malt, that was an extra. As we flew to Dubai on Emirates airlines in business class, by comparison their included bar list is much more generous than is what is on offer by Regent.
Deck staff by the pool were great--always coming by to offer you water (we were in very warm and humid regions so they did not want people dehydrating) or an "adult beverage". Our cabin steward and stewardess were excellent--always attentive and willing to help. Laundry service, for which one pays, was so-so. Despite my always noting on the card to use cool or cold water, more often than not hot water was used. Some of my items thus shrunk slightly.
The Voyager, which has about 700 passengers if my memory is correct, only has one pool. On sea-days in warmer climates that pool gets very busy, with few loungers in the shade being available. By contrast, the Seabourn Encore, a comparable ship or even a tad smaller, with 600 guests, has two pools: one large one and on a lower deck a smaller plunge type of pool. That helps disperse folks so there is usually enough space for all who want to lounge by the pool.
Shore excursions for the most part all left at or near the crack of dawn. Yet when I am on vacation, I do not like to get up at the same time as I would when going to the office! Not only Regent, but all cruise lines, should have some tours which depart mid-morning when the ship remains in port until later in the day. Not everyone wants to rush off the ship first thing in the morning.
Clearing the ship in India was problematic, with our late clearance leaving some tours to be truncated. While the ship blamed the Indian authorities, it is well known that while the British invented bureaucracy, the Indian government perfected it. Thus, Regent should have practically built in a cushion on certain tour departures, to allow for port-related delays. That they did not is another example of poor organization or a lack of planning.
Our verandah cabin was nicely laid out. Yet we could never get a stronger flow of air from the HVAC vents. Similarly, we could rarely get cool tap water--it was always warm or hot. Try brushing your teeth in warm to hot water--yech. The front desk staff, seemingly disinterested in our concerns, simply relayed a message that the engineering department could not do anything to remediate these situations. Ok then.
Overall, the cruise should have been better than it was. We still had a nice holiday and saw some interesting places. We also met some lovely people with whom we dined or chummed around.
The way Regent addressed our concerns has also left much to be desired. When I brought these issues to the attention of Regent, I was told how invaluable were my observations. Yet the idea of a future cruise credit, to incentivize us to return, was apparently beyond the pale. Moreover, while I wrote to the CEO, the response came from a non-executive in "guest relations".
I contrast this with the seeming personalized response I received from the President of Seabourn after our first Seabourn cruise (which, in hindsight, was better than this Regent experience). Not only did I receive a detailed reply, we were incentivized to return to Seabourn--and are glad we did. Perhaps the lesson learned is that we should not have strayed to Regent? It seems that our business is not as valued by them.