Very good voyage---Actually we did a back to back, so started in Rome.
21 Atlantic Crossings (Lisbon To Miami)
Sail Date: October 13, 2014
Ship: Seven Seas Mariner
Cabin Type: Balcony
Traveled As: Couple
Reviewed: 3 years ago
Review SummaryThis was a very good voyage. We did a back to back, beginning at Rome and ending in Miami. It was our second cruise on the Mariner which gives us 61 days sailing on her (120 total on Regent's three ships). We were pleasantly surprised after coming on board, as earlier in the year the ship went through a refurbishment that did a lot for keeping it in "ship" shape. Particularly noticeable was that our cabin looked brand new and numerous changes on the pool deck, like a third hot tub, had been added. We had just came off a cruise on one of the brand new gigantic vessels (another cruise line) which we shared with 3500 other passengers. That also was a pretty good voyage but we really prefer the smaller vessels, in the 50,000 gross ton range with passenger space ratios above 50. So we continually remarked how nice it was to have some "elbow" room for a change. We do prefer the Seven Seas Voyager over the Mariner since we dislike butler service (Been there done that) we go the top Concierge suite level. We love the size of the concierge suites on the Voyager and Navigator but those category suites on the Mariner are relatively small; actually they are about the same size as the mini-suites on Princess and HAL ships (The only other two lines on which we sail). Matter of fact, some Princess ships have larger mini-suites. I'm not certain where Prestige Cruise Holdings are headed in this regard. It appears to me that unless one goes the butler route, the cabin size will be mediocre on most of their ships. On their other line, Oceania, a non-inclusive line, the non-butler cabins are almost dinky compared to mini-suites we have become accustomed to. If so, and if Regent gets rid of the Navigator, the only large non-butler cabins Prestige will offer will be those on the Voyager. Almost every aspect of the voyage was good to excellent. Shore excursions were all well organized from beginning at the muster station on the ship to the modern coaches where all guides were understandable (English) and familiar with the historicity of and general knowledge of the region being covered on particular excursions. Matter of fact, one of the best guides, if not the best, we have ever encountered was on the Canary Island of de la Palma. Regent kept their coaches to about 50-70% capacity so there wasn't crowding like one experiences on other lines. On excursions where lunches were provided, sometimes the meals were exquisite. We really like the all inclusive feature of shore excursions being furnished as part of the base price. Generally speaking, meals were on par with those served on Princess and HAL, no better or worse. One noticeable and humerous experience in that regard though involved Frank Del Rio. FDR is a guy that has made quite a name for himself in the cruise industry, suffice to say he is currently CEO and Chairman of the Board of Prestige Cruises which owns Regent and its sister line, Oceania.
As I previously mentioned we had just came off a three week cruise on a very large liner so when we got on the Regent ship, in Rome, and headed to Lisbon it was like a breath of fresh air. No crowds at dinner, relaxed environments everywhere. Most important, the food and service was out of this world, to the point I wondered what I had previously been thinking about when comparing Regent to be on par with HAL and Princess, even though we had previously accumulated about 100 days sailing on Regent. For example, I swear on that first segment we had caviar ever night and sometimes during the day. Real caviar, Russian sturgeon. And the staff was all over you, particularly during meal times.
After beginning our second segment at Lisbon on Oct 13th we began to notice something, the previous exotic dinners weren't quite so scrumptious anymore and we hadn't seen caviar since, furthermore, it seemed like a portion of the staff disappeared, things were now getting rather hectic in the main dining room at times. Not to say it was bad, but just a noticeable decline. We were puzzled as to what happened. Then we found out Del Rio was on that first segment; along with a small party he brought on board to help celebrate his birthday. They got off in Lisbon. Bet they took the caviar with them.
We almost always eat dinner in the main dining rooms or in the speciality dining rooms on all ships and have lunch and breakfast at the lido deck (pool deck) buffets. On the Mariner their buffet is called "La Veranda". On the big ship we had just got off of the pool deck buffet was always very crowded at both breakfast and lunch. However we were sailing mostly in the very north Atlantic then and it was so chilly and windy outdoors the tables there were rarely used, I had noticed that if they were used it would add another 30% seating capacity. So, on the Mariner the outdoor seating was used most of the voyage, and there was ample room inside even to the point where you could expect 30% of the tables to be available and empty. But then, over two days, we experienced torrential rainstorms in the tropics where the outside tables could not be used; the inside tables were then jammed, just like they had been on the huge ship, to the point, at one lunch, we could not find a place to sit and eat. We filled our plates and headed for the stateroom when a crew member spotted us and managed to wrest a couple of seats for us.
All in all we really like Regent and prefer booking them over others. However, with only three ships their itineraries are really limited. We normally book our voyages based upon three decisions, 1. Itinerary, 2. Quality of the ship and line, 3. Price. So far our expenses on our Regent cruises haven't been all that much greater than what we experience on the other two non-inclusive lines when we factor in all the nickel and dimeing associated with all the add-on charges. However, recently we have become aware that we might have been just lucky and happened on to good deals with Regent. Regent may be slowly increasing their rates and reducing their level of service, but we are not certain if that is the case.
As a for instance, we recently decided to do one of those New England foliage cruises beginning with a ground tour that takes in Niagara Fall, (Wife has always wanted to visit those Falls). So we began looking. Princess has a 19 day Cruise tour, beginning with five days on a coach taking in Niagara Falls from a boat, four hotels, etc with the ship portion beginning near Montreal and ending in Houston but then we could add on a back to back for a few more sea days making it 23 days in all. Regent doesn't have any advance excursions that include Niagara Falls or anything close for that matter. We played around with all sorts of ideas and finally decided we would probably book Regent on a back to back which takes in their limited New England cruise and gives us some sea days in the Caribbean, a 24 day cruise in all, and maybe book three advance days in Montreal (which we didn't cost out) and hope to run into a two day tour down to Niagara Falls when there.
When it got down to checking out the expenses, Regent blew our socks off. They want around 3.5 times, $23,510, more than Princess and we don't get any advance sightseeing or Niagara Falls with Regent. I can buy a lot of wine and shore excursions on board Princess for that kind of dough, so I don't get my New York Times every morning or free internet but on Princess we do get 500 minutes for free and another 500 at a very low price. Also, Princess gives us free laundry which Regent doesn't.
Plus the mini-suite and balcony on Caribbean Princess is larger than the one we had on the Mariner and is a just slightly smaller cabin but larger balcony than the one on the Seven Seas Navigator, we would be on if we selected Regent. (The term mini-suite used by cruise lines nowadays is somewhat of misnomer as a suite should mean two rooms, which a mini is not. What they do is put up a curtain you can draw to shut off the portion of the stateroom which has a couch, desk, cabinets, etc from the bedroom. Mini-suites all have balconies, most of the time. A regular stateroom with a balcony is called a balcony cabin. A cabin without a balcony but a window is called a window cabin or outside view cabin and one without is called an interior cabin. After you select a cruise you want then you have to select a cabin type since the cruise price is based upon the cabin. You almost always have to have a cabin for two as single cabins are very rare. Prices though are always given per person, which throws first cruisers off sometimes, because everything is times "two". It isn't like a hotel where the price is per room.)
Another concern about the Navigator we have is that Regent canceled the refurbishment for it and haven't committed yet to a new schedule. From reports it is getting pretty shabby. Some are speculating they plan on getting rid of it after 2016 when their new ship, the "Explorer", comes out.
So goodbye Regent, hello Princess, we booked the Princess Cruise Tour two weeks ago then another 11 day voyage for right after new years, yesterday.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
If doing a back to back, make sure you have a cabin key card that doesn't become obsolete the second segment otherwise you may find yourself off the ship and not able to get back on.