What sold us on this cruise:
The two features that sold us on this cruise was the itinerary and the all visas would be included. Getting visas to some of the more exotic places is a real challenge, so having that as part of the trip's inclusivity was great.
Besides that, being on a grand voyage we'd also get almost all the perks the top tiers of Seven Seas Society members get including my favorite: free laundry and dry cleaning. I can't say this is typical on Regent, but it was a great differentiator on this trip.
Upon embarkation we had a bit of a rough start, I have to assume because port authorities in Cape Town did not allow Regent personnel to help with embarkation. The impression was terrible. We got herded into a tent, with no one telling us what to do, I deduced that we had to sign a statement that we didn’t have Ebola and then “optionally” put some of our luggage through a bag x-ray. There didn't seem to be much enforcement so who knows what the purpose of lugging our bags around was anyway. To use an analogy: this was like being invited to a grand ball and arriving in our finest having to wade through raw sewage to get to the front door of the palace, and then trying to forget all that with a glass of champagne.
The first thing my wife noticed while first walking through the ship was the lack of flowers. During past cruises there were a lot more plants and orchids in our room, rest rooms etc. The new décor was interesting, I suppose the trend is to move away from wood grain (I personally love wood grain and the old style of the explorer lounge). My wife noticed that the lighting outside the Horizon lounge in the bar area was very bright, perhaps it needs a dimmer? Otherwise it might serve a very good place for the security officer to perform interrogations :)
I also noticed that there were no pens in our cabin, most likely an oversight that we did rectify through our steward. Speaking of housekeeping, now even standard cabins have both a steward and stewardess as a team which is an excellent idea. It solves getting your cabin cleaned quickly and efficiently and solves almost all issues regarding cabin needs.
We have sailed on Regent more than any other line and can't help comparing the current cruise with our past ones. Ever since our first cruise it seems more and more obvious how the company has been applying cost savings and cost control measures. Having been in the corporate world myself, I can certainly understand it from the corporate and investor side however, the risk is to make sure your customers can’t tell the difference, otherwise you are on the very bad trajectory of the airlines. I haven’t met anyone in recent times that ever says airline travel is a joy. I'm sorry to say that on each new Regent Cruise, the accounting side of the company seems to shine, and repeat passengers tend to be left wanting. I realize it is very difficult to maintain the level of luxury and "features" that existed in the past while still making money, but it is sad if it can't be done. To be fair to new Regent cruisers, I don't think what we're referring to as lacking would even be noticed since as a new passenger you're evaluating the cruise as is, and not comparing to something else. Don't shy away from Regent because of this. Regent is still an excellent cruise line, it just isn't as good as Raddison used to be.
On the entertainment/lecture side, it seems we experienced a watered down version of what we used to have. On this cruise, aside from the destinations loop on TV there were no destination lecturers which really diminishes the ultimate experience one could have in visiting new places. While the handouts etc. are fine, having an experienced traveler on board who can give you tips on where to go, what to see, the history etc. is really important. I had heard a rumor that the destination lecturers had their stipends eliminated by Regent which, if true is a pretty short-sighted way of cost controlling. I am aware of the new partnership with the Smithsonian, but that didn't help us on this cruise.
While the on-board entertainment has been good, its still a “lite” version of what we use to get. In past cruises, especially trans-oceanic, we’d have the destination lecturers, special interest lecturers and possibly up to two celebrity speakers such as Terry Waite or a former Apollo Astronaut. On this cruise we have a very good aviation historian who I enjoyed – but he was not essential to the itinerary we were on, and a very nice cook book author who I’m afraid was misplaced. She should be doing cooking lessons in the Horizon lounge with small group not a show and tell in the theater. I was surprised there wasn’t an astronomer on board as we’ve had on previous cruises to help us enjoy the unique experience of viewing the night sky in the middle of the ocean.
Needless to say with such a small group of speakers we couldn't have Liar’s Club or other game shows since there just were'n't enough lectures/entertainers on at one time to do that. We had Name that Tune on some evenings which was good but we used to have all sorts of other games after the show in the evening. Fortunately Teatime Trivia was very popular and fun.
On the positive side our cruise director Jaime Logan and his wife Dana along with the singers and dancers were top notch. To us they made all the difference and salvaged our entertainment experience. We found all of them very approachable, and the shows were absolutely fantastic. Some shows were repeated in our second segment, but we enjoyed them as an encore. All these people work tirelessly to put on a great show 24/7 and make our cruise stand out. Bravo to all of them!
On our second segment we had an excellent author and historian to help us enjoy the ports of southeast Asia. What a shame she did not get on in Cape Town.
I have never sailed on Oceania, but I have talked to other frequent cruises who have sailed on both and the consensus is that Regent is a pre-paid pre-packaged version of Oceania now, rather than a true luxury “whatever satisfies the customer” line that it used to be.
Kudos goes to all the onboard staff, who despite having one hand tied behind their back by corporate rules still manage to make our voyage wonderful.
If there's one thing that works on Regent is that pretty much any standard cabin is great. Ours was no exception and we found the location mid-ship on deck seven to be perfect. The only thing that seemed to work too well was the air conditioning. At no time could anyone say it was too hot. However the dryness was terrible for getting colds etc. and astonishing when travelling through some of the most humid parts of the world! Thank goodness we had an outdoor veranda to re-hydrate!