Registry: Wallis & Fortuna
At 50,000-tons this is the largest ship in the Regent fleet, but for only 700 passengers, making it very roomy.Best For People Who Want
A low-key but luxurious cruise with refined service and fantastic cuisine, on-board enrichment programs, and visits to multiple portsShould Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Lively nightlife and a frantic casino and a liberal smoking policy.Onboard Experience
Seven Seas Mariner is the largest ship in the Regent fleet, but it still embodies the concept that less is more. A smaller than usual ship (50,000 tons) with fewer passengers (700) means much more attentive service and what is currently the highest space per passenger ratio in the cruise industry. Even if Mariner's fares, starting at about $350 per person per day, sound exorbitant, as the world's first all-suite ship, all the suites with balconies, with no tipping and no charge for wine or cocktails, soft drinks or bottled water served with dinner, in today's world Mariner delivers what it promises.
Mariner also proves a luxury ship does not have to be so small that one misses much of what is found on a standard cruise ship. It has a fair-sized casino, a beautiful observation lounge, a selection of alternative dining venues, plenty of onboard shopping not featuring gold chains by the inch, a generous library, an Internet center, a card room, a conference room and a cigar smoking lounge with cognac and similar indulgences available.
A new policy aboard Mariner, and all ships in the Regent fleet, is the banning of smoking in all suites and balconies. Smoking remains permitted on board but is limited to the pool bar area, the casino (at the bar only), the Connoisseur's Club smoking room and a section of Stars Nightclub.Decor
Tasteful, yet soothing, the elegance of Wedgwood blue carpets and light maple banisters surrounding frosted glass pillars. Huge windows throughout brighten up the interiors by bringing the sea and the sky inside. There is an abundance of marble, including inside the suites' bathrooms.Public Rooms
Even though the lobby is at the bottom of an ultramodern atrium, there is no bar in sight. But one will find the entrance to the tender loading ramp - a convenient way to avoid long snaky lines with the crew pushing through to get to their private quarters. The rest of the ship contains exactly what it needs, a main theater for evening entertainment and daytime enrichment lectures, a large observation lounge, a pre-dinner bar near the entrance to the dining room, and a cigar/cognac room for the so-inclined. The reception area remains relatively tranquil and uncrowded.
Even on sea days, there aren't so many activities as to force choices between them. There are computer classes, enrichment and bridge lectures, a daily art auction, and a film in Constellation Theater, Mariner's main show lounge, in which a combination of banquettes and comfortable chairs are arranged to allow ample room to stretch one's legs, or for audience members to easily navigate to their seats, and sight lines are good. Tea time in the Horizon Lounge, with its terrific expansive views through picture windows aft and to either side, is very popular. There are also bingo and trivia quizzes in late afternoon.
The small casino offers craps, roulette, slots, table poker and a small number of blackjack tables. Make hay, or lose your shirt, while the sun shines; the tables are open only about four hours during the day even on sea days, and don't reopen until 9 p.m.
Musical entertainment is typically provided by a harpist, a pianist, and a vocal duo that pops up in different lounges at different times. There's also an orchestra in the well-designed Constellation Theater. The nightly entertainment comprises three production shows per cruise, alternating with the usual shipboard comics, singers and instrumentalists.Cuisine
Each night Compass Rose offers a red and a white selection from the ship's extensive wine list, with other vintages available for purchase. The main dinner selections include an appetizer, soup, salad, pasta and main course, with two or three choices of each (except for the single pasta dish). In the European tradition, the main course is followed by a cheese selection, an after-dinner drink, and dessert menu. In addition to the categories on the main menu, the nightly six-course tasting menu includes dessert and a palate-refreshing sherbet. Dinner features four additional specialty menus: "Low Carb, Light & Healthy," "Vegetarian" (lacto- & ovo-appropriate), "No Added Salt," and "Simplicity" (pasta with tomato sauce, plain steak, chicken breast or salmon). A children's menu is available only during the Alaska season.Restaurants
Recalling classic ship architecture of yesteryear, the principal dining venue, Compass Rose, is on a single level, amidships, with plenty of space between the tables. The service is sublime. You can choose to dine alone or with tablemates of your own choosing, or allow yourself, in a spirit of friendliness, to be seated with strangers, perfect and otherwise. If the maitre 'd is on his game, he will seat you with passengers with whom you have already made acquaintance.
Breakfast in Compass Rose isn't very different from that at La Veranda, the Deck 11 buffet, but at lunch and dinner you'll have a wide range of choices of cuisine of many lands. There are special "Light & Healthy" options, and vegetarian, salad, sandwich and pasta choices too. La Veranda is a large, pleasant space that occupies nearly the entire aft half of the Pool Deck, with seating for about 50 under a canopy on the fantail. Elegance prevails at both breakfast and lunch, with white linen and sterling tableware, and there's always a staff member chomping at the bit to help you to your table. Indeed, even the omelet chef insists on delivering personally that which he has prepared for you. At dinnertime, La Veranda becomes Mediterranean Bistro, Mariner's casual alternative restaurant, featuring a different Mediterranean cuisine every night (no reservations required).
Make your reservations for the 100-seat Signatures, one of only two Cordon Bleu restaurants at sea (the other being on Regent's Voyager) the second you board. The 70-seat Latitudes, whose family-style fusion cuisine pays homage to Mariner's Asian destinations, is considerably less popular. Reservations can be made with each specialty restaurant's maitre d', with waiters in Compass Rose, or through the butler in upper category suites. There is no additional charge for these restaurants.
There is, though, a separate menu for 24-hour room service. During dinner hours, guests may also order from the Compass Rose dinner menu to be delivered to your suite; the butler will set a table with full service and bring you each course separately.Service
From the moment a white-gloved steward warmly greets you as you board, and then escorts you personally to your cabin, you're apt to feel as much a guest on a friend's private yacht than a paying customer. Attentive yet unobtrusive, the European staff is friendly and efficient, and always willing to go the extra mile.Tipping
Though not banned, tipping is neither encouraged nor expected.Entertainment
Mariner has a show lounge, but don't expect the laser-driven razzle dazzle of a 3000-passenger ship. Production style shows are slightly pulse raising tributes to memorable musical eras, and other nights will feature an instrumentalist such as a violin or piano virtuoso playing the recognizable classic pieces perfect for lulling you back to your suite for bedtime.
Club.com, the Internet cafe, is an airy, open space with plenty of terminals and an expert standing by to help you when needed.
Passengers can convene for games, reading or communal jigsaw puzzle-solving at The Garden Promenade, whose 24-hour self-serve coffee/espresso/cappuccino machine is complemented by trays of mini-pastries at breakfast time and by finger sandwiches later in the morning.Cabins
To be perfectly correct, Mariner doesn't have cabins, it has only suites. The smallest stateroom is 301 sq. ft., and all have private balconies, large closets and marble bathrooms. Standard amenities include an in-cabin bar set up with wines/liquors of your choice (two bottles per person), beer, water and soft drinks, a TV, VCR, safe, refrigerator, a European king-size bed (converted to twins on request), bathrobes, hair dryer and lovely toiletries replenished each day. Beds are wonderfully comfortable, with fine Anchini linens and duvets.
The Horizon and Penthouse suites are the most popular; at 627-sq. ft., the Horizon Suites are located on the aft end of the ship and boast enormous balconies that overlook the ship's wake. At 449 sq. ft., the Penthouse Suites have a separate sitting area and large private veranda.
The 2,002 sq. ft. Master Suite has two bedrooms, 2-l/2 bathrooms and enormous balcony space. Suites in the top seven categories (Penthouse Suites Category B and above) include butler service.
Six staterooms are equipped for handicapped passengers. Self-service laundry facilities including detergent and ironing boards are located on stateroom decks.Fitness/Spa
The spa, operated by Carita Paris, offers full service hair, manicure, pedicure, and waxing services, sauna and steam bath, facials (from $60 through $185), and a range of body treatments and massages, including reflexology, Shiatsu, Swedish massage and aromatherapy (from $60 through $195). You can get massaged in-suite at the rate of $120 for 50 minutes.
The nearby fitness facility, open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m., has adequate equipment rather conspicuously weighted toward aerobic conditioning. Organized physical activities and classes are offered on Deck 12, also home to the ship's jogging track, or in the fitness center's aerobics room. There are a paddle tennis court and golf driving cages at the aft end of Deck 12, a main pool and three whirlpools.Attire
Except in Alaska, where the nightly dress code is country club casual, there are two formal nights per cruise, with men asked to wear either tuxes or dark suits. There are a couple of informal nights, and several country club casual nights.
Our cruise from Venice to Rome was fantastic. The crew was very friendly and gave great service. We'd like to single out a few individuals: The cruise director, Jamie, was terrific. Our suite stewardess, Nina, was the best. In the dining areas, Abigail, Bish, & Rubin were very friendly and attentive. In the boutiqe, Samantha, was unbelieveby helpful, courteous, and friendly. She's a true asset to this cruise line. We're planning to cruise with Regent Seven Seas again.
First...I hate cruises. After 11 six to nine month deployments on carriers and cruisers during a 36 year Navy career, I hate cruises. My wife likes them. This was our fourth, one being the Delta Queen which was fun but doesn't really count. I am ready to go home after five days, unfortunately they usually last seven. Our Seven Seas Mariner cruise was ten days and neither of us wanted to leave. A great experience. Well worth every penny, which with free liquor and no tipping, compares favorably with comparable rooms on lesser "cattle boats".
The ship had a great open ocean ride for its size. Roll was well controlled by the stabs, pitch was moderate and you can't do anything about heave. Just enough movement to screw up my golf swing in the cages and help us sleep.
Check in: When they say 3:00, that's what they mean. No checking in at noon and getting lunch on board. I had been forewarned, the entire ship had been chartered the cruise before and all 704 pax were dumped at Pier 66 while we were having breakfast. They universally raved about the shipbut the Radisson reps let me know that the ship is closed until 3:00 so the crew can catch their breath and have one decent meal together every week or so. We showed up a little before and found a terminal full of really ticked off people. The Mariner reps, being French, didn't give a rats. At the appointed hour we squeezed through a tiny door to the next room where we checked in by deck. The process took seconds, provided you had passports and credit card and didn't ask any questions. Lots of people asked questions. Photographer was available for Kodak moment but as with the rest of the cruise, you had to ask. No cameras in your face. Assumed that was because a significant number of the old goats didn't appear to be with their wives. Greeted with flute of Champaign and crewmember who took carry on, led the way to room where a bottle of Champaign waited icing in a silver bucket. Stewardess (tall, blond Icelander) arrived to ask about our preference for set ups and soft drinks for the fridge and to take our order for the two complementary bottles of booze to be provided. The buzz started in the elevator, left somewhere around Daytona driving home.
Room: We bought the cheapest but received a four category upgrade. Everyone seemed to get an upgrade within type (suite, penthouse, etc.) Some paid for modest penthouse and ended up in 1220 sq ft quarters with butler. Our room was near to the Penthouse, only much narrower. Had the large bath with mirror in the tub, walk in closet with umbrella, king size bed, sitting area and balcony. Very comfortable. Next time will spring for your size room for the extra width. The washer/dryers on each deck were out of commission for some reason. The gave us a $100 laundry credit.
Crowd: The ship was reported to be full but we hardly saw a soul. Absolutely no crowds. Restaurants were never more than half full, plenty of room in the theater, lots of space around the pool. They must have stayed in their rooms because they weren't to be seen about the decks. No lines to leave the ship in port and walked off by ourselves when debarking. Where on earth did you cruise people come up with "disembarkation"? Only event to till a room was when the Cruise Director ( who sang at Dodi's funeral) gave a talk on the royal family. It filled the Mariner lounge. My wife said it was enjoyable, I was at the wine tasting.
Food: Fabulous, as Anne Campbell described. This was our first experience with open seating. The tables for two were very popular. The greater/seater would try to put you at a larger table with the intent of building a group. That, for us, with a couple of exceptions, was a disaster. Large percentage were loud, pompous, conceited, demanding, boors. My wife and I enjoyed eating alone, just talking to each other, instead of listening to a table full of (well, never mind). In any event, you sat where he put you, no asking for that table over there. French, remember? Compass Rose served excellent breakfasts. Lunch was a bit overdone. Who wants five courses at noon, with wine? Dinner was a gastronomic experience, every meal being memorable. With open seating, your order was taken and the courses began arriving, not waiting for the whole room to be fed before moving on. Glasses were kept full with absolutely exquisite wine selected to compliment the evening's menu. My wife figured I drank the equivalent of three glasses during white wine only meals, about five if red was served with main course. Service was French, prompt, professional, friendly and helpful. The buss boys were on a par with the waiters of other cruise lines. The French did not appreciate guests getting too friendly with them. Never left without feeling a $20 tip was appropriate. La Veranda, again never crowded, no matter when, was buffet breakfast which we didn't think worked if you wanted something hardy. We took lunch there trying for one sensible meal per day. If you were fetching or frail, a waiter took a plate and walked you through the line, explaining each offering while building a magnificent lunch of French prepared god knows what. I tagged along fixing my own salad. Could eat inside or outside . Evening meal at La Veranda was Mediterranean, a fun diversion. They didn't appreciate my asking what they were going to do when the sea gulls discovered La Veranda. The two specialty restaurants were billed as reservation only but in fact they only reserved about 70% capacity so there was a good chance of being seated if you just showed up. Signatures, the Cordon Blu was a disappointing experience for us. Three courses versus the C.R.s' five and the food didn't appear to be prepared any better. Some raved about the place and ate there as often as they could get in. Latitudes, another fun experience, was a sampling of Indonesian and south sea island fare. Once was enough. The buffet around the pool was about the same as La Veranda except they kept steaks, chops, sausage, chicken and burgers on the grill. Room service was by courses. Having dinner served on the balcony while sailing down the river leaving Charleston was easy to adjust to. Tea time in the proper British tradition but no midnight buffet, probably because that crowd would have had a coronary. After a couple days out, we would go to the restaurant through the bar. Would hook up with people we wanted to eat with and get a larger table. As I said, when left to the maitre'd, it was a disaster.
Dress: Pretty much as you described. Everyone (except me) dressed up one notch from that required. Yes, required. No showing up in jeans saying this is all I brought, now feed me. Coats went on after six, required or not. When coats were required, ties optional, everyone (except me), wore a tie. Casual, everyone (except me) wore a coat. This crowd just naturally felt better dressed up.
Entertainment: Plenty to do but you had better be able to take care of yourself. The usual bridge, lectures, crafts and bingo during the day. A whole room full of computers for classes and keeping in touch. The evening show started at ten, a little late after three huge meals and all that wine. No expense spared on sets and costumes. Troupe was young and energetic but a bit stiff. Comic was hilarious, magician unfortunate. Was nice being able to order a ginger ale without digging out charge card.
Tipping: No tipping and they mean it. You would rarely have the same waiter twice. They got genuinely annoyed when you asked to sit in a certain waiter's station. Didn't see our stewardess the last evening or morning. Would have liked to have said goodbye. The management said we had already been charged the equivalent of their tips and that they receive it in their salary. Not having to shell out the obligatory 15% each time you order a drink was nice. We were told not to tip the stevedores because the company hired them from the city for the day and they were well paid. However, when the fellow piled our bags on his dolly and asked about tips for the porters, I paid.
The ship: Again, as you said, no vibration, anywhere, anytime. No propeller shaft. The drive system is essentially two 8,500 horse power electric trolling motors suspended beneath the hull. No rudders. A retired ship's master and I exhausted the second officer's English so he called the captain, who is most enthusiastic about his new toy. The bridge is 22nd century, the nav system, GPS (which doesn't translate in French) and autopilot are totally integrated. Other ships say they are, however........ One lady, being booked on this summer's Alaska cruise, demanded to know how the system was going to detect whales and ice bergs. But, seamanship consists of punching in where you want to go and what time you want to be there, and then sit back and let it do its thing. The captain thought it impertinent when I opined what would happen to the electric motors when the shaft seals inevitably leaked, and when the pods got sheared off on an uncharted rock. Little old lady said she was sure the captain had spare pods. The captain looked pained. But, he can spin the pods 360 degrees and turn the ship on a dime. With bow thruster, moving out from the pier sideways was possible.
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 onat 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.
By way of footnote on food and beverage, one of my partners ordered a bottle of wine for our cabin which never arrived.
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.