My wife and I recently returned from a 10-day Western Caribbean cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner. Our observations follow. For purposes of evaluation, you should know we have taken thirty-five cruises on ten different lines, the last fifteen primarily on Crystal and Silversea.
The best way I can describe our reaction to the physical ship itself is "ordinary." There is nothing particularly impressive about any part of the ship. The public areas in general, and lounges in particular, appear to be standard Hyatt or Hilton fare. The fitness center is small and under-equipped (at the peak hours of the morning, there was frequently a wait for the few elliptical machines, and the assortment of equipment was disappointing). The locker rooms pale by comparison to Crystal. They are cramped with no room to do anything other than shower. For some reason, the locker room does not open until 8:00 a.m. This is particularly inconvenient for those who are in the gym at 6:30 a.m. when it opens. When I asked about this, I was told that most passengers return to their cabins after exercising. Because the steam and sauna were turned on at the time of opening, one would be (and, indeed, was) scalded for the first half-hour or so until the temperature in the steam room regulated itself. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the sauna had not reached any appreciable heat by 8:30 a.m. I cannot tell you what happened after that, as I was long gone by then.
Similarly, the dining rooms are plain with nothing memorable about their physical set-up or facilities.
Although the staterooms are said to be larger than those on Crystal, it is not obvious that they are. I suspect the increase in size is taken up in the walk-in closet. While that is a plus, the rooms are a poor comparison to Silversea and are no less cramped than those on Crystal, which are small.
The service generally was quite excellent in the bars and on deck. There, the service crew could not do enough to please, and I would give it the highest marks. With two exceptions, the same can be said for the cabin service as well. For whatever reason, our room appeared to receive only the most superficial going over (I will not use the word "cleaning") before we arrived, and we found a number of items scattered about the room that ought not have been there: A memory stick and a box of Q-tips apparently belonging to the prior patron lay on the cabin floor and opened in the bathroom respectively; and an empty plastic bag resided behind the couch. Further, our room was neither made up nor turned down by the time we stopped by our cabin at 10:30 p.m. on the night of embarkation. We were not alone in this situation, however. As we made our way through the corridors, the stewardess carts were ubiquitous. I can only conclude they got a very late start for some reason.
The public areas were generally well-maintained and immaculate.
The service in the dining rooms was uneven. Sometimes it was quite attentive. This was particularly true in Indochine and the Italian steakhouse (the name escapes me). The service in the main dining room was haphazard and extremely rushed. Normally on Crystal or Silversea, when one enters the dining room between 8:15 and 8:30, one is finished with dinner two hours later. Here, in the main dining room, it was difficult to stretch the dinner much beyond 9:15.
One of the greatest disappointments in terms of service was the Maitri 'd at each of the restaurants other than Indochine. I found them at best indifferent.
In addition to the excellent service staff in the cocktail lounges and on deck, the pre-boarding check-in was superb. I have never had an easier time -- or a more pleasant experience -- getting on a ship.
Equally outstanding were the young woman who ran the computer room and the staff at the reception desk. They were accommodating, knowledgeable, polite and efficient throughout the cruise.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the staff at the travel desk. We took no excursions. It was not for lack of trying, however. We were interested in two; one was booked and we were closed out. While I do not blame the cruise line for having too much demand and insufficient capacity, one would have expected at least a call from someone to tell us that they were not going to be able to accommodate us. The second excursion in which we had interest was one about which we had some questions which were not answered by the pre-cruise literature. When I went to the travel desk to inquire, the best the attendant could do was open up the tour book and read to me what I had read myself. He was incapable of answering any of our questions and seemed indifferent both to our questions and his own lack of knowledge. As the ship's television had no information on the ports or excursions, we were left without any help whatsoever. Needless to say, we opted not to take the excursion.
The food overall was quite good. We liked Indochine and the Italian Steakhouse very much. (The buffet restaurant on the pool deck is converted at night into a Mediterranean theme restaurant for the first half of the cruise and an Italian steakhouse for the second; while we found the steakhouse food excellent, our sole visit during the Mediterranean phase left us uniquely unimpressed with what we considered to be unimaginative and insipid fare). We also enjoyed the food at the "cordon bleu" restaurant, Signatures, although the wait-staff seemed to go out of its way to be overly pretentious. The food in the main dining room was average as was the food on deck. We never ate lunch in the main dining room, but the lunches in the other facilities were vastly inferior to Crystal and Silversea. (As a matter of fairness, my wife thought the special outdoor buffets were quite good; I did not share in that view).
One of the things that so impresses us about Silversea is the process involving the questionnaire we receive two or three days into the cruise asking us for our thoughts and whether there was anything that could be done to improve our experience. A questionnaire appeared here as well. Whereas on Silversea we received a letter thanking us for our comments and explaining what was being done to resolve the few modest issues that we had, as well as a follow-up phone call, here we received a telephone message which apparently came from a script and bore little relationship to any of the things about which we had commented. It gave us the distinct impression they were paying lip service -- literally -- to the process.
The shops offered the poorest variety and were the least well stocked of any we have encountered. By way of example only, it would be impossible even to find an outfit to wear to dinner on an informal (much less a formal) night, and it would be pushing the definition of "casual" to suggest any of the clothing qualified on such an occasion either. While one should not fairly expect to outfit oneself while onboard, there are occasions when one needs -- or wants -- to pick up a new outfit or article of clothing to replace something which has been lost, damaged, or forgotten. We did not find that option to exist on the Mariner.
The entertainment was fine: the casino was adequate; some of the individual entertainers were quite good; the string group which played in the open bar outside the main dining room and on deck at lunch was terrific; and my wife enjoyed a couple of the shows.
I can hardly fault the cruise line for the itinerary (which we found uninteresting in the extreme). We knew where we were going before we got on the ship and had been to most of the ports previously. Since we intended to spend most of our time aboard ship (we prefer sea days to ports), the fact that there was little or nothing to do in any of the ports was not of concern to us. Had we been looking for an itinerary that offered interesting diversion, this would not have been it, however. I am utterly clueless as to why Belize and Santo Tomas de Castillo were chosen. I agree wholeheartedly with the individual who suggested that the best way to see Belize City is in the rearview mirror of a car, however.
I guess, overall, I would say the cruise was "average." While we would not reject out-of-hand another opportunity to take Regent, it would not be our first choice, and we certainly would not compare it favorably either to Silversea or Crystal.