"A stunning improvement" is what I can best say to sum up my recent voyage on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner. My previous experience on this ship three years ago (see review on that ill-fated Asia cruise below) was nothing ... Read More
"A stunning improvement" is what I can best say to sum up my recent voyage on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner. My previous experience on this ship three years ago (see review on that ill-fated Asia cruise below) was nothing compared to this cruise. While this is still not as "perfect" a ship as Regent would like for it be, it finally comes pretty darn close.
We sailed for 26 days (2 cruises B2B) from Ft.Lauderdale to Vancouver. While I had been to all of the ports we visited before, this was a trial run to see if Regent had improved its game since being rebranded. For those not in the loop, Regent was previously known as Radisson until the Spring of 2006. And while I'm not a complete Regent convert, one more cruise this good might just make me a brand loyalist.
Accommodations: The Seven Seas Mariner was the cruising world's first all-suite, all-balcony ship. And, 6 years after its inaugural cruise, the suites are still the finest at sea. Plus, I was lucky enough to board just weeks after the Mariner's drydock, so the rooms were extra plush. The carpets and soft goods in the rooms were redone, while the line's new bedding is the best I've experienced anywhere. In fact, the rooms are so comfortable, I was unable to wake up early several days and would retire to my suite for afternoon naps (and I don't take naps). The bathroom products are Aveda accompanied with plush linens. And each room has a terry cloth robe and slippers. I am a long time "Crystalized" Crystal Cruises loyalists, but even I have to admit that Regent's Accommodations blow Crystal right out of the water.
ENTERTAINMENT: The Mariner has two main entertainment venues. The primary one is the bi-level Constellation Theatre which is home to the main production shows, as well as various entertainers and regular movie showings. It is a comfortable room with good sightlines, as long as you are on the first level. It is impossible to sit on the second level without the railing blocking your view of the stage. The other room is the Horizon Lounge, located at the stern. This is a much more intimate room in which trivia, Bingo, teatime and varying cabaret acts take place. There is also a dancefloor there, but I rarely saw it used.
The Mariner is not a ship to sail on if you're looking for round-the-clock entertainment. The crowd is unusually low-key and the ship turns into a ghost town once the clock strikes 10pm. The production shows are alright - for a smaller luxury ship that is. The Peter Grey Terhune Singers & Dancers do three shows - "Thoroughly Modern Broadway" (the usual schtick showcasing numbers from Broadway musicals that is a prerequisite on every cruise ship), "Here, There and Everywhere" (the Beatles-themed show) and "Beyond Imagination" (a disastrous assault on the unsuspecting guests that makes little to no sense). The other nights were filled with lounge singers, ventriloquists and comedians. Compared to Crystal where entertainment fills much more time with late night Liar's Club, Name-That-Tune, buffets, 50's night and lavish shows, Regent is quiet to boring. For night owls like myself, the only real place to hangout is the casino or the Internet cafe. The most exciting night onboard was a Rock 'N Roll night that took place late and drew a crowd of, oh, about 8 people (3 or 4 of which were asleep in their seats and drooling on themselves). But Dionne, the Assistant Cruise Director, and Louise, the Social Hostess, did a great job of trying to draw enthusiasm out of the dreary crowd.
SERVICE: Perhaps the most improved aspect of the Mariner since my last trip is the service. During our last cruise, the service was poor most days. Servers in the dining room would ignore guests and stand around talking to each other. Other staffers were grumpy or downright rude. That was back in the Radisson days. Now as Regent, there is perhaps not a better staff at sea. Sure, there were some weak links - the sour Travel Concierge Desk staff or the Reception Staff whose only talent is to look confused and say "no" - but, overall, the employees on this ship could not do enough for us. Servers were friendly without being unprofessional, attentive without being obtrusive and genuinely cared about the happiness of all the guests. In fact, the best staff at any hotel or on any ship is the dinner staff at Latitudes (the alternative Asian-fusion restaurant). I can't describe in words how warm, welcoming and wonderful they are. It just has to be experienced. And you can't walk past a stewardess without her giving a smile and a hello. And, unlike last time, the officers are a prominent part of the scene and make great efforts to get to know the guests. Perhaps our funny and friendly Captain had set an example for the rest of the ship. Regent finally has a strong grasp on customer service and is almost to the level of Crystal. If Regent can train it's staff to embrace Crystal's "never say no" policy, this will be the best, most polished group of people at sea. Also of note is the ship's Guest Service Manager, Berniece. As a Guest Service Manager in the hotel industry myself, I respected her ownership of all guest issues and resolve to correct anything not up to par. As a nice touch, Berniece sent me a thank you note after I filled out a mid-cruise evaluation in which I pointed out a couple of areas that were not up to expectations. And besides the note, she made sure to correct the issues immediately.
FOOD: Another major improvement this time around centered on the food. The Mariner has a main dining room (Compass Rose), the aforementioned alternative venue Latitudes and a Cordin Bleu alternate restaurant (Signatures). In addition, La Veranda is a casual alternative in the evenings. The food could not have been better. Everything was cooked to order and menus were inventive and appealing. It seemed as if each meal was better than the last. I'm already getting misty-eyed thinking about the duck springs rolls in Latitudes and the vegetable burritos from Compass Rose. I miss them! In addition, the line offers burgers, sandwiches and other casual food on the menus in case you need a break from the endless list of upscale dining options, which we did on occasion.
PORTS: Our ports-of-call were Gatun Yacht Club, Panama; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Huatulco, Mexico; Acapulco, Mexico; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Los Angeles, CA; Port Hueneme, CA; San Francisco, CA; Astoria, OR; Seattle, WA; Prince Rupert, British Colombia; Skagway, AK; Juneau, AK; Sitka, AK. The ports were mostly fine - even the reviled Port Hueneme wasn't as bad as I had heard. At that port, Regent offered a very interesting shore excursion to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, which was a highlight. The main misses for me were Sitka and Juneau. Yes, fabulous shore excursions are offered in those ports. But the main towns are crowded, claustrophobic tourist traps. Long gone are the quaint storefronts and pubs. Now the sidewalks are full of long racks overflowing with Alaska t-shirts and row upon row of trinkets and other assorted crap in the store windows. Much like the Caribbean, Alaska is becoming overrun by ships, tourists and money-hungry locals. Ports such as Astoria and Prince Rupert were refreshing as they are enough off-the-beaten-path that you can enjoy the quiet uniqueness of the towns. And you can never go wrong with Seattle or San Francisco, both fantastic metropolitan havens. Our day in Seattle was especially wonderful. Port times on this cruise were shortened, unfortunately, due to one of the disabled pods on the ship. And, in some ports, times were shortened even further due to rough seas that slowed us down (we only had 5 hours in Seattle and 4 hours in Sitka!!)
OVERALL: Regent is finally worthy of the "luxury" title. I was consistently impressed and many surprises were around every corner. Service (for the most part) is sincere and consistent, the food is amazing (the best at sea) and the suites are the like floating palaces. Plus, the intimate size of the ship allows you to get to know the staff as well as your fellow passengers. And now that everything is all-inclusive, Regent has become one of the best bargains going. I did experience service issues (such as the butler telling me I had to buy my own lint brush when I asked him for one, or the ship's photographer losing three of the four formal photos he had taken of me and my family with no apology, or the server in Signatures telling me that I could not order a plain green salad because it was not on the menu) which do stand out in my mind. Coming from Crystal where every request is a possibility, I was surprised by some of the discrepancies. But, overall, this was a fantastic trip. And I would not hesitate to sail with Regent again (in between Crystal cruises, of course!) Read Less