July 9, 2013

Reflections on My First Sea Cruise: Regent Is a Winner!

My only cruise experiences before this Alaska adventure were a Nile River excursion in the 1980s and a Yangtze River cruise in the 1990s, just as the Three Gorges dam was being built. I've always preferred traveling on my own and have avoided group tours. But time marches on, so I'm ready to consider other options that will allow me to continue traveling, something I've always loved.

I booked the Alaska trip after I'd already signed up for a Venice-to-Barcelona 11-day cruise in August. On that cruise, I'll be joined by the three younger generations of my family. One reason I decided on the Alaska cruise was to test the Regent Seven Seas Cruise line, which I booked for both.

Regent and I Hit It Off
I selected Regent after talking with a couple up the street who have gone on many cruises and used different cruise lines. They rated Regent No. 1 for reasons that appealed to me: smaller ships (500 to 700 passengers compared to 2000-plus on the big boys), no-tipping policy, great accommodations, great room service 24/7, excellent food, and exceptional shore excursion. Regent's most-cited negative is a plus for me: its sedate night life with no late-night disco parties.

Regent also offers a more casual dining atmosphere than its luxury competitors. They did suggest "casual elegant" for dinner attire. I had been nervous about this suggestion and was greatly reassured the first night when I was invited to dine in the ship's fanciest restaurant at a table with two of the ship's managers. Two couples joined us: a man in a tux with a woman in a gorgeous gown, and a man in an open-neck shirt with a woman in a very nice, but not formal, dress. I relaxed.

My stateroom was bigger and better than I'd expected. The "living room" was spacious:

The TV offered several channels with information on the cruise, including one showing the view from the captain's pilot house. Current movies were available on other channels, and the ship's library was amply stocked with movie DVDs.

Since I agree with Sartre that "Hell is other people for breakfast," I ordered room service breakfast every morning:

I spent lots of time sitting on my balcony. The unusually warm weather even allowed me to sit out there several times for my 4am "joy of quiet" hour.

I slept well every night in the luxurious bed. The cabinet in front of the drapes at right contains a small refrigerator stocked with soft drinks, beer and snacks -- all gratis.

The bathroom was as upscale as the rest of the suite:

The swimming pool was not designed for laps:

I took in the evening cabaret show several times. It was more Cirque du Soleil than Broadway musical, since it featured some good acrobatics.  This shot was taken on the final night when the excellent staff showed that they also were also talented entertainers.

Other shipboard recreational offerings also were a good fit for me.  Pickup bridge games were possible every afternoon and I enjoyed this one day.  Also the day's schedule also set an hour each day when "Friends of Bill"  could meet if they wanted.  I checked the designated room a couple of times but didn't see anyone there. Since I rarely go to meetings any more, this wasn't a problem.

Based on this trial run with Regent's Navigator, I'm looking forward to the family's cruise in August on Regent's slightly larger Mariner. I've even begun looking at their cruises around South America, part of the world I've yet to see. 

So little time, so much still to see and do.

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