We just returned from our inaugural, “all inclusive,”11-night cruise with Regent Seven Seas. There were six travelers in our party. Our journey was to the British Isles on the Navigator. The trip met but did not exceed our expectations, with a few minor and two major disappointments. Despite the few problems, we found this cruise to be enjoyable and close to a luxury experience. This was our 13th cruise overall.
Regent is known for including Business Class international air travel as a part of its packages. Their booking for us went well. The chosen air itinerary was efficient and our British Air flights were comfortable and well-serviced.
The Pre-Cruise in London, purchased by two of us, was fair. We were housed in a very nice hotel with a good room, included and good breakfasts, and an incredible, central location (we could walk in 10 minutes to Buckingham Palace and to many of the major sites). The two tours we took were mixed. The London tour was fantastic while the second tour to the English countryside including Bath and the Cotswolds was disappointing and a waste of time (with way too much bus time). A second day in London seeing the sites we missed and perhaps visiting some museums would have been much more desirable. Our transfers to the hotel and to the ship on the third Pre-Cruise day went flawlessly.
The Navigator is an old ship and it shows. But it is clean and extremely well-serviced. It met our expectations. The smaller ship, with under 500 passengers, was quiet and a nice change from the frenzy of larger ships. We never waited in line (even for the buffet; by the way, the buffet was the best ever in our travels). At the pool, the well-appointed chairs and lounges always had availability. From our perspective, smaller is definitely better than larger, though you sacrifice a larger diversity of amenities and entertainment options, aspects we did not miss. Service largely met expectations and was excellent. We felt pampered!
In our cabin, the only disappointment was consistently low water pressure. However, the service provided by our cabin attendant and her assistant was superb. The room had a walk-in closet, large bathroom with a small shower and conventional tub. There was a sleeping area and a “living” area with a new large TV. The food was very good—not excellent though. Service in the main dining room (Compass Rose) and the Buffet was great. The two specialty restaurants, though, were disappointing. The Italian restaurant (where the buffet is converted into an evening venue) had marginal food and poor service. Our waiter ignored us, did not respond to requests and had an “attitude,” the only truly bad service while on board. The Prime 7 restaurant had adequate service, but food taste and quality were not up to par. We’ve had better specialty restaurant experiences on “main stream” carriers like Holland America, Celebrity, and, even (at times) Royal Caribbean. The 12-person entertainment troupe and band were excellent—as good as or better than on much larger ships. Bar service was truly excellent, with great offerings, superb bar attendants and bar tenders. Other entertainment offerings were okay. We found all to our liking, but the music at the piano bar and elsewhere was “outdated,” with a lot from the 1950s to 1970s, perhaps in keeping with an older clientele (we are in our 60s and thought we were on the younger side!).
Our two major disappointments involved disembarkation and the included excursions. Disembarkation was completely botched. Regent arranged a 4 am departure from the ship to enable us to make a 7 am Aer Lingus connecting flight from Dublin to London. This was unavoidable. However, the roughly 30 people leaving at that time were taken to a bus and our luggage was already in the dark cargo hold below the bus. We were asked to identify our bags to ensure they were on the bus. It was still nighttime. It was 4 am! There was no light other than from the bus. Bags sat randomly all across the hold (maybe 100 to 125 bags). It was impossible to see all the bags (many of us used our cell phone flashlights). You had to contort yourself to get even a fair view. A few of us had difficulty finding our bags and asked that some of the “first row” bags be removed. Grunting, the few personal resisted (there was one young woman from Regent without any authority or real understanding of what was happening, two ship's crew or port stevedores—and the bus driver). I could not locate one of our large bags. I was told staff would find it and send it on. I refused saying they should find it now. The staff insisted that I had overlooked the bag. I had not. They began unloading all of the loaded bags. Mine was not there. One crew member was dispatched to look for it and, lo and behold, he came back with it a few minutes later. At 4 am time was wasted (my apologies for holding up other passengers) and, more importantly, no thought was given to this process. A more traditional approach of identifying bags in a lit area and having cruise personal take them to the bus would have solved this problem. We guessed that Regent decided that its very hard working staff (I mean this sincerely) needed their sleep and that the few passengers leaving at 4 am (based on flights chosen BY Regent) could fetch for themselves, including looking in the dark for their bags under a bus in a parking lot without lights. If 4 am is a reasonable departure time, as selected by Regent (after all, they booked our flights), it should be a reasonable time to have the process fully staffed. Foolishness and enough to make us think twice about booking again with Regent...but the saga continues...
We were driven to the Dublin Airport. We passed the terminals and were let off the bus in a dark parking lot exclusively reserved for tour buses, some distance away from the terminals. The young lady from Regent, instructed us to find our bags, which were taken off the bus by the driver working alone (with our assistance). We asked, “what now?” and were told we needed to walk to the terminal—no less than a 15-minute hike with each group of passengers having roughly four large bags. No one knew which terminal was “right” for them, there were no signs showing arrivals and departures (why have signs in a bus parking lot?), and we were set on our way. There were airport carts nearby and our group, feeling a bit like refugees, began a slow caravan to the terminals. We passed by Terminal One because it looked old and empty (later we learned that many of us could have completed our arrangements in Terminal One, but no one—especially Regent—informed us of this). We arrived at Terminal Two, seemingly the major Aer Lingus terminal. It looked like a New York Subway at 5 pm on a Friday afternoon—people everywhere with lines of hundreds of people. Even though there is no business class for Aer Lingus on our flight, we were fortunate enough to find their “club” line, which was fairly short, and we were able to check in and avoid the very long lines (we were elated but a bit guilty-feeling after we passed large families who had to endure the long lines). Regent failed us. They could have made arrangements to get us to the correct terminals with our baggage. Instead, it was like being released from prison, “take this bus and your belongings to the city and we hope someone will be there to pick you up” (and this is a purported luxury carrier?). Much of the good from our vacation was undone by this poorly planned disembarkation. We were already tired waking up after a few hours sleep and our moods and physical selves were depleted by Regent’s extremely poor handling of this situation. This most definitely was NOT a luxury experience.
The second negative involved many of our included, self-picked excursions. Way too much time was spent on buses and not enough time in towns seeing the sites. A good example: In Holyhead, Wales we elected to take a tour to one of England’s premier national parks—Snowdonia. The weather was poor, but so be it. Our first stop was a restroom break in a nice town, Caernarfon. There was a fabled castle (which we'd have liked to tour) and nice shops in the town. We were there for 20 minutes to urinate! We then drove through Snowdonia—beautiful. We finally went to another town, bordering Snowdonia, and spent more than an hour looking at stores and bathrooms. The second town was not nearly as intriguing or as nice as the first. This was a recurring theme of our trip. We began calling it “the teasing.” We’d stop for a restroom break in a seemingly great venue, only to drive much farther to find a not as interesting venue. Why? Guides were not to blame—most were wonderful. Much more thought should be given by Regent to excursion venues and routes (and by us, acknowledging that we chose our own excursions from among the “included” list). A guiding precept should be to minimize bus time. If there is a great venue enroute, don’t just stop for the bathroom; allow some time there, perhaps eliminating the second town from the tour. This recurrent theme also affected the pre-cruise and it is, in our view, a significant problem. Regent staff should go on all considered excursions before they are chosen by the line. Tweaking should occur so that the trips are improved.
The bottom line, from this long-winded review, is that Regent generally has great service and staff, nice ships, but has wrinkles that need to be addressed. We had high expectations based on Regent’s claim to be “luxury.” We were committed to trying an all-inclusive cruise and Regent could have had us as a future customer without much more effort had they not botched the disembarkation and had given more thought to excursions. Now, we will continue to search for the “best” cruise line--the one we hope to use for the balance of our travels. They had us hooked, then lost us.
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