Very good food, tired cabin, food service ranged from very good to terrible, crew needs hospitality training

Seven Seas Mariner Cruise Review to Alaska
Experience: 4-6 cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 3

Overall Rating:

2.9 out of 5
Seven Seas Mariner

7 Night Glories Of The Pacific Northwest (Anchorage To Vancouver)

Sail Date: July 05, 2017

Ship: Seven Seas Mariner

Cabin Type: Balcony

Traveled As: Couple

Reviewed: 1 year ago

Review Summary

Summary: Exploring Alaska was an awesome, unforgettable experience, and traveling by cruise ship was an excellent--and comfortable--way to explore much of that huge state without having to relocate from hotel to hotel. It was also very convenient to have virtually all cruise-related costs (e.g., drinks, tips, most excursion fees, etc.) included in one overall cruise price. However, while the food ranged from good to excellent, the condition of the ship and the quality of its service were less than five-star. The ship: While most public areas were attractive, the ship is old and overdue for an overhaul. Our cabin was comfortable but much in need of renovation (holes in curtains, stained marble floors in bathroom, sticking drawers, nicked furniture, stained chair and peeling paint on veranda). The dining areas and lounges were attractive but had some deteriorated and corroded window seals, which detracted from the view and the experience. The caulking in the teak decks by the pool was loose or deteriorated in many places. Many on-deck lights and fixtures had been painted over so many times that the different layers of paint and drips were visible. When leaving and boarding the ship at ports of call it was possible to see that portions of the ship’s hull paint were peeling or discolored. Dining: The food quality ranged from good to very good in the two restaurants that were open to all passengers, and from very good to excellent in the two special restaurants that were restricted primarily to upper-class passengers. The included wines were acceptable but nothing special; “premium” wines were available at substantial extra cost and were not what I would consider premium. Service in the lower-class restaurants ranged from good to terrible; in the two upper-class restaurants service was very good to excellent. Given Regent’s very high prices for even the smallest cabins, the fact that lower-class passengers were discriminated against in access to the two better dining venues was quite aggravating. During the booking process I was told I could reserve one meal in each of the upper-class restaurants prior to boarding, which was true, and I was repeatedly told by Regent’s booking agents that after boarding I could reserve additional meals in the two upper-class restaurants, which was totally untrue. Other service: Service in the lounges ranged from very good to terrible. Cabin cleaning, bed-making, etc. service was very good. Crew: Most crew members were friendly and helpful; however, several were the opposite (not just one or two individuals on one or two occasions, more like six or seven crew members on multiple occasions each). Some destination services staff were pleasant, but one was dour throughout the trip and did not seem to like assisting passengers. In general, the crew who interact with passengers would greatly benefit from upgraded hospitality training with a focus on improving food service and the overall passenger experience (perhaps linking crew advancement and modest bonuses or benefits to performance). Further, most of the crew are non-native English speakers and/or have strong accents, which often led to misunderstandings and poor service; ongoing brush-up English courses would greatly improve crew service for, and interaction with, passengers. (For Regent’s high prices the service should be more like that offered by a top hotel chain such as Ritz-Carlton.) Excursions: There were many interesting and enjoyable shore excursions to choose from, most at no additional cost. The quality of the on-shore guides was good to fair; one spent as much time talking about herself as about the rainforest we were walking through, and knew little about the history of the area. Some cruise lines are apparently working to upgrade the quality of their excursions and guides, something Regent might want to consider. Spa and fitness: As might be expected, the Canyon Ranch spa is expensive. The fitness area is small and its equipment is limited and not up to date. Entertainment: Most or all of the performers were new to the ship and seemed a bit ill at ease or uncertain; their routines were not all that entertaining. For me the most enjoyable event was the performance put on by the crew near the end of the cruise. Wi-Fi: The ship’s wi-fi was very slow and erratic, and crashed at least a couple of times daily. Health: Our cabin, the dining venues and the other public areas were kept very clean at all times. Hand sanitizer stations were available at numerous strategic locations in the public areas throughout the ship, though perhaps only once or twice in my 7-day trip did I ever see a crew member use the sanitizers in the public areas; I assume (and hope) that sanitizer stations were available, and used, in the behind-the-scenes areas frequented by the crew. Toward the end of our cruise it was announced that 11 crew members and passengers had come down with a flu-like illness and were restricted to quarters. The captain declared a Code Red Influenza condition and instituted preventive measures such as removing books and board games from the ship’s library; offering free medical consultations to passengers who thought they might be ill; leaving public restroom doors ajar so visitors did not have to touch the door handle; discouraging hand-shaking; encouraging passengers to cover up with a tissue or elbow when sneezing; and having crew members with rubber gloves serve food to passengers at the buffets in lieu of self-service. Contrary to the CDC’s recommendations on influenza control for commercial ships, paper towels were removed from the public restrooms and passengers had to use tissues to dry their hands. Another lapse: I watched a worker sanitizing on-deck handrails by wiping only the tops of the rails, not the sides and bottoms, which people’s fingers inevitably touch when they grip the rails. The very good news is that the flu problem was successfully contained and only a very small percentage of the Mariner’s passengers and crew came down with the flu. Upon completing my cruise I did a bit of research and learned that last year the Mariner was cited by the CDC for connecting “potable [drinking] water hose to [two] black water [sewage] collecting tanks.” This astonishing error was apparently corrected as soon as the CDC inspector caught it, but I was surprised to learn that the ship’s procedures and supervision were not in place to prevent such a potentially disastrous error from occurring in the first place--and that the ship’s supervisors and management did not know of the problem until informed by the CDC. Value: Regent’s pricing seems to be the highest in the cruise line business but given the shortcomings noted above the value is only fair. For such high prices passengers should receive outstanding service and accommodations. Bottom line: As a result of my recent experience on the Regent Mariner I definitely would not consider booking on the Mariner again until after it is renovated in 2018; I suppose there will be no way to know if any crew hospitality training and English language improvement efforts have been implemented without traveling on the ship. In any case my trip did not live up to Regent’s glossy advertising, so when I book my next cruise I will be looking closely at the offerings of other lines, especially Ritz-Carlton, which is world-renowned for its service and luxury and is entering the cruise business. Perhaps Ritz-Carlton’s presence will raise the performance bar for all cruise lines, including Regent.

Embarkation

4 out of 5
The Regent booking agents repeatedly told me I could make additional reservations at the restricted restaurants as soon as I boarded; this was untrue. Otherwise, embarkation was a fairly smooth process and we were able to board and have a bite of light lunch before getting into our cabin.

Ship Experiences

Food and Dining

3 out of 5
The food quality ranged from good to very good in the two restaurants that were open to all passengers, and from very good to excellent in the two special restaurants that were restricted primarily to upper-class passengers. The included wines were acceptable but nothing special; “premium” wines were available at substantial extra cost and were not what I would consider premium. Service in the lower-class restaurants ranged from good to terrible; in the two upper-class restaurants service was very good to excellent. Given Regent’s very high prices for even the smallest cabins, the fact that lower-class passengers were discriminated against in access to the two better dining venues was quite aggravating. During the booking process I was told I could reserve one meal in each of the upper-class restaurants prior to boarding, which was true, and I was repeatedly told by Regent’s booking agents that after boarding I could reserve additional meals in the two upper-class restaurants, which was totally untrue. The very good food quality is offset by the poor service, hence 3 stars.

Onboard Activities

2 out of 5
The fitness center was small and the equipment was outdated. The wi-fi was weak and usually crashed multiple times every day.

Entertainment

3 out of 5
The performers were new to the ship and seemed ill at ease; room for improvement here.

Children's Programs

Happily there were not very many children on the ship, and most--but not all--of the time their parents or grandparents kept their behavior in bounds. This ship is oriented toward an older (gray-haired) demographic as opposed to children; Disney and Princess are more children-oriented.

Service and Staff

2 out of 5
Most crew members were friendly and helpful; however, several were the opposite (not just one or two individuals on one or two occasions, more like six or seven crew members on multiple occasions each). Some destination services staff were pleasant, but one was dour throughout the trip and did not seem to like assisting passengers. Waiters seemed poorly trained and their supervisors did not seem to have a handle on the problem. In general, the crew who interact with passengers would greatly benefit from upgraded hospitality training with a focus on improving food service and the overall passenger experience (perhaps linking crew advancement and modest bonuses or benefits to performance). Further, most of the crew are non-native English speakers and/or have strong accents, which often led to misunderstandings and poor service; ongoing brush-up English courses would greatly improve crew service for, and interaction with, passengers. For Regent’s high prices the service should be more like that offered by top hotels and top restaurants.

Ship Quality

3 out of 5
The ship layout was fine; no problems getting around once we learned the basic layout and locations. Regarding cleanliness and maintenance, our cabin, the dining venues and the other public areas were kept very clean at all times. Hand sanitizer stations were available at numerous strategic locations in the public areas throughout the ship, though perhaps only once or twice in my 7-day trip did I ever see a crew member use the sanitizers in the public areas; I assume (and hope) that sanitizer stations were available, and used, in the behind-the-scenes areas frequented by the crew. Toward the end of our cruise it was announced that 11 crew members and passengers had come down with a flu-like illness and were restricted to quarters. The captain declared a Code Red Influenza condition and instituted preventive measures such as removing books and board games from the ship’s library; offering free medical consultations to passengers who thought they might be ill; leaving public restroom doors ajar so visitors did not have to touch the door handle; discouraging hand-shaking; encouraging passengers to cover up with a tissue or elbow when sneezing; and having crew members with rubber gloves serve food to passengers at the buffets in lieu of self-service. Contrary to the CDC’s recommendations on influenza control for commercial ships, paper towels were removed from the public restrooms and passengers had to use tissues to dry their hands. Another lapse: I watched a worker sanitizing on-deck handrails by wiping only the tops of the rails, not the sides and bottoms, which people’s fingers inevitably touch when they grip the rails. The very good news is that the flu problem was successfully contained and only a very small percentage of the Mariner’s passengers and crew came down with the flu. Upon completing my cruise I did a bit of research and learned that last year the Mariner was cited by the CDC for connecting “potable [drinking] water hose to [two] black water [sewage] collecting tanks.” This astonishing error was apparently corrected as soon as the CDC inspector caught it, but I was surprised to learn that the ship’s procedures and supervision were not in place to prevent such a potentially disastrous error from occurring in the first place--and that the ship’s supervisors and management did not know of the problem until informed by the CDC. Regarding the ship's general condition, while most public areas were attractive, the ship is old and overdue for an overhaul. Our cabin was comfortable but much in need of renovation (holes in curtains, stained marble floors in bathroom, sticking drawers, nicked furniture, stained chair and peeling paint on veranda). The dining areas and lounges were attractive but had some deteriorated and corroded window seals, which detracted from the view and the experience. The caulking in the teak decks by the pool was loose or deteriorated in many places. Many on-deck lights and fixtures had been painted over so many times that the different layers of paint and drips were visible. When leaving and boarding the ship at ports of call it was possible to see that portions of the ship’s hull paint were peeling or discolored.

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
Our cabin was comfortable but much in need of renovation (holes in curtains, stained marble floors in bathroom, sticking drawers, nicked furniture, stained chair and peeling paint on veranda). There was a nice walk-in closet that held most of our clothes; the rest fit in drawers in the closet and elsewhere in the cabin. Our empty suitcases fit under the bed. Bottom line: the condition of the room did not match the descriptions on-line and in Regent's glossy publications.

Ship Tip

The Mariner's cabins really need major renovation, so wait to book the Mariner until after the ship goes into dry dock in 2018, and then compare closely with other cruise lines' offerings. Also keep an eye out for cruises by Ritz-Carlton, which is entering the cruise business and should raise the service and luxury bar for all competing cruise lines. Take whatever the Regent booking agents tell you with a grain of salt; based on my experience they will tell you whatever it takes to sell you a ticket.

Ports Of Call

Seward (Anchorage), Alaska

4 out of 5
We stayed with friends in Seward and enjoyed the tour they gave us in their boat, which is similar to water excursions offered by local tour companies. Aside from the boat tour there isn't a lot to do in Seward, although on July 4 every year there is an interesting running race up and down a local mountain. The most outstanding attraction in Seward is the aquarium, which has lots of rescue animals to see (baby walrus, sea lions, otters, etc.)

Sitka, Alaska

4 out of 5
We went on our own into town, which has lots of interesting things to see, historic buildings, and a small but outstanding Native American museum. There is an interesting Russian church but it is open to the public only occasionally. We took a boat excursion and saw all the desired creatures: otters, sea lions, harbor seals and whales; there is room for improvement in the quality of the boat tour narration.

Juneau, Alaska

4 out of 5
It was a rainy day so we skipped the boat tour that went to look at marine mammals and did only the part of the tour that went to Mendenhall Glacier by bus. There is an interesting visitor center and the fairly short walk to the falls by the glacier is well worth it. The state museum in Juneau has a small but nice Native American collection.

Skagway, Alaska

2 out of 5
We skipped the hike/river float excursion due to rain and walked into town, which is full of tourist shops.

Ketchikan, Alaska

2 out of 5
We took the rainforest excursion and greatly enjoyed walking through the forest, though we heard almost as much about the guide as we did about the forest.

Vancouver (Canada Place), British Columbia

4 out of 5
I have been to Vancouver several times, though on this trip only had enough time to transfer from the ship to the airport. Vancouver is a wonderful city and is worth at least a couple of days' stay to see some of the highlights.

Disembarkation

3 out of 5
Disembarkation went well in general. Standing around the ship waiting to disembark was uncomfortable because there are no convenient areas to sit while waiting. We had asked to be in the first group off the ship in order to make a transfer and flight we had booked on our own, and were slightly nervous when we got off only with the third group (it appears that upper class passengers get off first).
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