We have always wanted to cruise through the Panama Canal. After looking at lots of options (and no longer paying college tuition for our youngest!) we decided to take a splurge trip and booked the Regent Mariner. We are 61 and 66 years ... Read More
We have always wanted to cruise through the Panama Canal. After looking at lots of options (and no longer paying college tuition for our youngest!) we decided to take a splurge trip and booked the Regent Mariner. We are 61 and 66 years old and have cruised on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Princess. This was our first luxury cruise line.
We were told to be prepared to be spoiled. Perhaps we heard that too often and set our sights a bit too high. It was a very nice cruise, but I would not say we were spoiled. (For reference, our last cruise was with Princess, in a Club Class mini-suite. That suite was a bit larger, and we felt the Club Class dining service was equal to, and in some cases, better than our experience on Regent. However, the food on Regent was superior!) I will say we were very spoiled by only 615 guests on the ship! The 2nd day we were wandering around on decks 5 & 6 and saw no one! This was middle of the afternoon!
We were in a concierge cabin, so the night before the cruise we were in the Regent hotel- the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills! The hotel was amazing. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet and met some folks that morning that we regularly saw throughout the cruise. It was a great start to the cruise! Buses were very timely- our gathering time was listed as 11:30, the folks giving us the slip said come between 11 and 11:15 - she was right - the bus was leaving the hotel at 11:30! Once we arrived at the port there were quite a few people ahead of us - we waited around 30-45 minutes for our group to be called to check in. There was a nice waiting area with comfortable chairs. (Would have been nice to have coffee / water service.)
There is an Illy coffee maker in each room- only problem, we could not figure out how to turn it on! The on/off switch is in back, next to the cord - very difficult to find, a neighbor told us where it was! Our refrigerator was stocked with various sodas and 2 types of beer. There was also a bottle of champagne, on ice, waiting for us when we arrived. A small bowl was kept filled with various fruit. We popped the champagne on "Block Party" night and then another bottle showed up! I had the stewardess remove it as I knew we were not going to drink it.
We had 15 minutes of ship to shore time included with our room. I had to ask as to how to use it. (dial 50, wait for the dial tone, then 1, and for US calls the area code and number) I checked our account on the tv the next day and saw that we were billed for the time (I think it is at $7 or so per minutes - and we had gone just over the 15 minutes- so it was a lot!) I asked at Reception, and they had it removed. Since this was an included perk, I felt that it should have been taken care of without me having to ask to have it fixed.
Be prepared for hot and VERY humid if you decide to take this itinerary. We had heavy rain in one port, and rain a few other times, mainly at night. The lightening shows at night were fantastic!
There were beginner Bridge lessons offered. We have zero experience and went to the classes. We definitely learned a lot and enjoyed the folks we met through the classes. There were just 4 of us for most of the classes!
We went to only a couple of the shows. I would highly recommend the Krew Kapers - ours was at 5:30 the 2nd to last night. There was also a magician / comedian that did 2 shows, we enjoyed both!
Ports were Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Acajutla (El Salvador), San Juan del Sur (Nicaragua), Puntarenas (Costa Rica), Cartagena (Columbia) and then disembark in Miami. We took all Regent excursions, booking 2 extra charge excursions.
In Ensenada we took the "Taste of Mexico" excursion. We boarded a bus drove out of the port and around the nearby area, with the guide pointing out different buildings (including the new aquarium that has been under construction for 4 years - she said hopefully it will be open the next time you visit!), we also stopped at the large square where she pointed out different statues and told us a bit about the country's history. We then stopped at an Opal store. The owner talked a bit about Mexican Opals- 10% of Opals are from Mexico. We went through the store and into what is probably normally a bar. Tables were set up with 8 people per table. A chef was there to lead the class. He talked about a number of different chilis, their hotness and what they were used for. Also passed them around for everyone to smell. We then "made" our own guacamole, green chicken enchilada, and beef tostada. All of the ingredients were prepared for us, a little chopping for the guacamole, stirring and assembling was all that was needed. Margaritas were for sale - $4 each (large glass) or unlimited for $20. Sodas were included. After we were finished there, we boarded the bus and they took us to a shopping area where we had 20 minutes to shop. I would recommend this excursion - just a little amount of walking, some history, and tasty food. We were able to list our email addresses, and they sent us the recipes from the day.
Next stop was Cabo San Lucas. We took the "Salsa and Salsa" excursion. The location was very close- but the bused us up the hill (very nice in the heat!). We made 6 different salsas, all the while free margaritas were being poured. Also made 1 margarita at our tables. Then had a short Salsa dance lesson. The salsa making went a little long - but the entire excursion was fun, and tasty!
In Acapulco we did the "Nature encounter hike and swiim" - first stop was to see the cliff divers - very impressive. Then off to board a glass bottom boat to go over to a nearby island to hike to the top. Nothing to be seen under the boat- we spotted 2 fish. They offer hiking sticks when you get off the boat (our boat was called the Titanic!). The hike is a good one- well deserving of the "3 people" Regent gives it! Pretty steep in parts, a bit slick on some moss and leaves. We were sweating and out of breath in parts. The view from the top of Acapulco Bay is very nice. Break up top, then back down to our boat and then to a hotel for lunch and a swim in their pool. The water was VERY refreshing!
El Salvador was the next port. Acajutla was extremely welcoming to us. They are just starting to see cruise ships, and this was Regent's first time in this port. The bus we were put on for our "Buggies and Thermal Waters" excursion (extra charge) was small. Two seats on one side, one seat on the other and a fold down jump seat. The drive was quite long. We went first to the thermal waters- saw them bubbling out of the ground, and then a few more minutes to the location for lunch and a swim. The "pools" were nothing like the pictures Regent was showing on the cabin tvs. These were actual swimming pools right next to where we ate lunch. The water was milky looking. Only a few people went in the water - one pool was very hot, the others were various temperatures. This "resort" I guess you would call it is nothing like any of us expected. They are just starting to build the area up for tourists. It started sprinkling and then raining, then REALLY raining. At that point my husband and I decided that we were going to skip the buggies- we knew that they were on dirt roads, and with that much rain, it was going to be a mess and dangerous. About this time, the guide announced that the buggies were being cancelled for safety reasons. The other bus had gone to the buggies first - they came back drenched. We were glad to get into our small bus and start the 1 1/2 hour ride back to the ship. I would not do this tour again, nor go to this port again.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua had to be cancelled due to high winds and a large swell. This was a tender port and not safe for us to do so.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica was our favorite port. We did the "Aerial tram and river cruise" excursion (extra charge). Great excursion! Our guide was very good, giving us lots of information about her country. We went on the river cruise first, seeing lots of crocodiles, many species of birds, and iguanas. Then we were off to the denser rain forest for our tram ride. We were split into groups of 8 plus a guide for the approximately 1 hour tram ride. We did not see much wildlife - but enjoyed the scenic rain forest and all our guide had to say. Lunch was next and then back to the ship. I would definitely recommend this excursion!
Finally made it to the Panama Canal! WOW! We wandered all over the ship, front, back, down to deck 5 to watch through the windows as he ship rose up in the canal. Definitely the highlight of the trip!
Cartagena, Columbia was the final stop. We did not get off the ship as I had a terrible sore throat. Pretty sure the difference between outside high heat and humidity and the inside a/c had something to do with it. We had brought cough / cold medications with us, they were put to use. At breakfast that morning, I asked the waiter if they might have any lemon / ginger tea - he said they might, but, he would make me some fresh lemon and ginger tea. This was one point where I felt spoiled by Regent! I was very grateful to this gentleman!
Dinners - we had reservations in Chartreuse the first night and Prime 7 the second night. We were able to get one more reservation in Chartreuse later in the cruise, at a 4 top, sharing with a couple we had not met. Other dinners were spent in Compass Rose, Pool Grill and Setti Mari. I had scallops a number of times - all cooked perfectly; my favorite was in Chartreuse! The often talked about Carmel corn Sundae in Prime 7 is definitely an interesting looking dessert; I preferred the carmel corn and left most of the ice cream! (I asked the waiter if just the carmel corn could be ordered- he said sure!)
Lunch - lots of options - pool grill and La Veranda were our regulars; we ate lunch once in Compass Rose.
Breakfast - our go to was Compass Rose. We highly recommend the "Frozen Blueberry and Banana Bowl" - a scoop of frozen pureed blueberries sitting on top of small cubes of various fruit (including bananas) and sliced almonds on top. Also of note, we ordered eggs Benedict twice, even though they were not on the menu. We had room service twice for breakfast on early excursion mornings. There are 1/2 hour delivery windows- they delivered quite close to the start of the window. Another quick option in in the Coffee Connection - cereals, toaster with various breads, fruit, yogurts; easy way to grab something quick.
All in all, this cruise was a bit long for our taste - we feel that a port or 2 could have been skipped, decrease the length of the cruise by 2 days (and decrease the price!). It was expensive, about $1,000 per day for both of us.
We met some very nice people on this cruise. We also came upon some snobby people that wanted to make sure everyone knew they had 200+ nights on Regent. Overall the crew was a bit too formal for us (always being called "madam" was a bit too much for me). We did have some nice conversations with some of the crew. For some reason, we were invited to dine with ships' officers two different times; once with the General Manager and again with the Head Concierge!
Will we travel on Regent again in the future, maybe. Will depend on the itinerary and if we feel it would be best with a smaller ship / less passengers. We definitely liked that part of this cruise a lot! Read Less