Regent Seven Seas Cruises is one of the top luxury cruise lines in the world, operating a fleet of four ships with global itineraries. I had the pleasure of sailing onboard the Seven Seas Mariner with our friends
to the Caribbean in December.
Our itinerary was a ten-night "Mayan Magic" voyage that sailed roundtrip from Miami to Cozumel, Costa Maya, Santo Tomas (Guatemala), Roatan (Honduras), Harvest Caye (Belize), and Grand Cayman. As this was the voyage immediately before Christmas, the ship was fully decked out in holiday regalia, with Christmas trees, lights and festive trimming throughout.
Seven Seas Mariner is the first ever all-suite, all-balcony ship. So you can't go wrong even when you sail in the entry level category. At 252 square feet, the suite has a separate sitting area, vanity, and a marble bath with tub & shower. Every suite has a walk-in closet outfitted with fluffy robes and slippers, a safe, Illy espresso maker, and a mini bar. A nice touch is black-out curtains that separate the bed from the sitting area so if one wants to lounge on the sofa, the other can still sleep in darkness.
One of the hallmarks of luxury cruising is the small ship experience and improved service levels. At just 700 guests, the Seven Seas Mariner is served by 445 staff, ensuring full attention to detail. Luxury cruising also means an all-inclusive arrangement onboard, and Regent is the most inclusive of all the luxury lines. One price includes airfare, transfers, accommodations, all meals including specialty restaurants, unlimited Wi-Fi, all beverages including top-shelf liquor, all gratuities, all taxes and fees, and the one element that sets Regent apart - unlimited shore excursions. Basically, once you pay for your cruise, you can actually disembark with a $0 bill. But that's if you can resist the call of the duty-free boutiques, spa and casino!
The Mariner was launched in 2001, and she is showing her age. While the public areas are well kept and certain lounges have been refitted with new furnishings and upholstery, some of the suite furnishings are well worn. Our balcony chair cushion had a big hole in the seam and some of the varnish and carpeting were visibly in need of replacement. The good news is, the Mariner will be going into a twenty-day dry dock in France this April, where she will receive a stem to stern makeover. Suites will be completely refreshed, the pool deck will be redesigned, lounges and restaurants will be updated.
There are plenty of areas for guests to enjoy during the day and evening. The Observation Lounge on the top of the ship offers a great view of what's ahead and is usually a quiet space to escape with a book. At the opposite end, the Horizon Lounge looks aft and has a cozy outdoor corner to curl up for a good read, or a good nap.
The pool deck is very spacious, with thick terry-covered pads on lounge chairs. A nice touch is double loungers for couples to cuddle up, except the one I laid down on was very lumpy. I do take comfort in the fact that this will also be addressed in the upcoming dry dock. There are plenty of deck chairs to go around, and there are also larger rattan sofas and chaises to stretch out on at other areas on deck.
Food and Beverage
The food onboard our cruise was exemplary, one of the best shipboard dining experiences that I have enjoyed. On port days, we ordered room service breakfast from a large menu with cold cereals, fruit, pastries, as well as bacon, eggs, waffles, pancakes and French toast. Breakfast is also served in the Compass Rose dining room and La Veranda buffet, as is lunch. On sea days, there are themed lunches at the Pool Grill - Tex Mex, Greek, Asian - in addition to burgers, chicken wings, wraps and sandwiches. Daily afternoon tea is served at 4pm, including a sinful chocoholic version on one day.
Dinner is where Regent shines. The Compass Rose dining room introduced a fully customizable menu last year. On the right side of the menu are the executive chef's daily specials, with no less than five appetizers, two pastas, eight entrées including Canyon Ranch spa cuisine, and five desserts, complemented by feature wines changing daily. On the left side of the menu is a list of "always available" items. Not just fish, steak and potatoes. There are tiger prawns, sea scallops, lobster tails, grilled salmon, ribeye steak, filet mignon, pork chop, rack of lamb, roast chicken. Add lobster bisque, prawn cocktail, Caesar's salad, a variety of veggies, potatoes and sides, and choose your accompanying sauces for a meal made just the way you like it. Feel like selecting the chef's special but want to add a lobster tail to your entrée? Crave sautéed spinach, or must have a shrimp cocktail every night? Just ask and you shall receive. Everything we ordered was perfectly cooked, and tasted delicious.
The two specialty restaurants are exceptional. Each is by reservation only and both are booked solid throughout the cruise. Signatures serves French cuisine - think foie gras, escargots, duck breast. But there is also lobster ravioli, veal tenderloin, roast rack of lamb. Crème brûlée, port wine poached fig, warm chocolate torte, and gourmet French cheeses seal the deal. During the dry dock, Signatures will be replaced with Chartreuse, which will elevate the French fine dining experience an extra notch.
Prime 7 steakhouse is where we had another unforgettable meal. This is not for the faint of heart (or vegetarian)! Serving U.S.D.A. Prime New York strip, bone-in ribeye, prime rib, filet mignon and porterhouse (including a 32-ounce slice for two), your decision is made even more difficult when you throw in Alaskan king crab legs, Maine whole lobster, Dover sole, lamb, pork, and veal chops. But you must save room for the nine desserts on the menu which include banana cream pie and molten chocolate cake.
A third dinner venue is offered every night, La Veranda buffet transformed into Sette Mari, an Italian eatery which does not require a reservation. A selection of cheeses, olives, bruschetta, meat balls, and breads are brought to the table, with more available at the self-serve station. Then it's onto your choice of soups, salads and pastas. Mains include veal, pork, steaks and a delicious seafood cioppino with chunks of lobster, fresh fish, shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels in a white wine tomato broth. The must-have desserts include tiramisu and panna cotta.
Although we did not try it, room service also includes items from the Compass Rose menu at dinner time, so if you feel like hibernating, you can still enjoy a lobster and steak dinner served course by course in the comfort of your suite.
One of our favourite hangouts was the Coffee Connection, a pleasant coffee bar with bistro-style seating. Open daily until 6pm, this is the place to have a specialty coffee, freshly made to order (and spiked with your favourite liquor if you so desire). A variety of food is available here throughout the day, from continental breakfast of pastries, breads, cereals and fruit, to deli meats, cheeses and sweet treats at lunch. Cookies and cakes appear in the afternoon. If you're in a rush, there is also a self-serve coffee machine just around the corner churning out all the concoctions in to-go cups.
Regent's open bar concept made it easy to indulge at any time of day. The restaurants and La Veranda feature a rotation of red and white wines from global vineyards, but if the wine of the day isn't to your palate, you can always ask for something different. And if you fall in love with one vintage, feel free to ask for it every day and it will be poured for you. A good list of domestic and international beers, cocktails and premium spirits are on the bar menu, as is champagne. Specialty coffees, teas, sparkling or still bottled water and sodas are also complimentary throughout the ship. The in-suite minibar is stocked with soft drinks and beer and you can also order full bottles of liquor for your suite, and everything is replenished as required.
Service onboard a six-star cruise should be splendid, and Regent almost gets a perfect score from me. The majority of the service I received onboard was excellent - especially at the Pool Grill where servers came to offer drinks and they delivered food orders promptly. Service in La Veranda during lunch time though, was hit and miss, highly noticeable when dining at the open-air section in the aft. Due to its popularity, turnover of the tables should be faster than it was, and more staff should be assigned there to look after guests. Dinner service at all venues were excellent, especially in the Compass Rose where servers had to keep up with all the customized meals that my friends and I enjoyed. Room service deliveries were efficient and always on time, and they offered to set up the place settings in the sitting area or on the balcony if preferred.
We usually enjoyed a cocktail before dinner at the Mariner Lounge, conveniently located outside the Compass Rose. Service was slightly spotty, as we noticed that many servers were also looking after drink orders in the Compass Rose; therefore, service to the lounge guests suffered. A few other guests made the same comments, but after it was reported to management, the situation was quickly rectified.
My suite service fell short - although the team of two stewards kept the suite clean and tidy, they often missed important details such as replenishing glassware and bath amenities. I think that this is a training issue that can be easily resolved. The service blips are forgivable but when one is paying a premium price, it should be near flawless.
Entertainment and Activities
Activities are quite laid back onboard Regent. During the day, there are cooking demonstrations, enrichment lectures, spa seminars, and the ubiquitous bingo, ballroom dancing classes, and bridge. Other ways to occupy oneself might be the spa, casino, duty-free boutiques, the puzzle corner, and the library. There are nightly shows in the Constellation Theatre, with a troupe of vocalists, dancers and featured musicians. There is music for dancing in the lounges, but otherwise evenings are spent with cocktails and friends. This is not the cruise to expect rousing deck games or all-nighter discos.
Regent offers complimentary unlimited excursions at every port, which we found to be of excellent quality, and included high ticket tours such as swimming with dolphins, full day tours with lunch, visits to Mayan ruins, snorkeling trips, and submarine rides. These tours on other cruise lines would be priced close to US $150 per person or more. Every tour we took was well organized and executed, and included transportation on new and comfortable coaches with knowledgeable and professional guides. While at Harvest Caye, a private beach day, guests were given free access to kayak and boat rentals, and the thrilling zip line which otherwise would cost US $89 for non-Regent guests. This further illustrates the value of a Regent cruise.
Overall, the cruise was fantastic and met but did not exceed my expectations due to the ship's age and the aforementioned service issues. The dry dock and further training will address these matters, so I would not hesitate to recommend Regent if you are looking for a no fuss, all-inclusive experience with an uncrowded, resort-casual ambiance. You will find yourself refreshed, recharged and utterly spoiled.
Lastly, you may think that a luxury cruise is out of the budget for you. I suggest that you have a second look, and not make a decision based on price alone. Sure, Regent's prices can sometimes be twice as much as a non-luxury cruise, but when you add up all the "extras" that are not included with the other cruise lines, you'll see that the gap narrows, and sometimes Regent is even less. And don't forget, there isn't a big onboard bill of drinks, excursions, Wi-Fi and tips to face at the end of your cruise. Sailing on a luxury, all-suite ship with gourmet food and personalized service, there is no comparison to any of the big ship, mass-market lines, and your experience will be superior. Regent is so confident in their value proposition that they actually created an excellent Value Comparison piece
which you can view here - the bottom line will surprise you.
Ming Tappin -
Ming took her first cruise in 1991 and was immediately hooked. She took a cruise every year after that, and she had so much fun researching and learning about cruising, she enrolled in travel school and became a travel agent in 1994, specializing in cruises. A marriage and a move to Vancouver two years later, Ming began working in the administration side of the cruise business, helping travel agencies promote cruises to their clients through marketing, promotions and training. Today, Ming continues to work closely with cruise lines and travel agents, and she cruises several times every year to broaden her experience. Ming has sailed on 45 cruises with 17 cruise lines, with many more on her list still to try.
In 2015, Ming created her own company
Your Cruise Coach, and began her career as a cruise journalist serving the travel industry. She has been published on three leading Canadian travel industry websites and currently has a cruise column in a travel industry magazine distributed to 8,000 travel agencies across Canada. Ming also writes for the consumer - her goal is to educate the traveling public on the value of a cruise vacation, and share stories of her cruise experiences to help travelers make informed decisions. Ming can be reached at