This was our third cruise on the Mariner, our second relocation crossing, and our first since the last refurbishment. Overall, we were highly impressed by the condition of the ship. The food was consistently excellent. Service levels were also extraordinary, and even a notch above past cruises. The staff was consistently friendly and helpful. One word of advice to would-be first time Regent cruisers. Do your research. There are no wave pools, climbing walls, trampolines, or ice bars on the Mariner. The clientele is decidedly older than average.
The favourite activities seem to be bridge, tea time, and trivia contests. At times the ship seems as much a floating luxury retirement home as it is a floating luxury resort. The pace is generally slow; the evenings end relatively early. This is absolutely perfect for us; it may not be perfect for you. This itinerary was particularly heavy with sea days. Again, this is what we look for and enjoy, but if you want to hit a different port every day and seek out excursions, you might not have enjoyed this cruise as much as other itineraries.
Cruise Director Jamie Logan did a great job hosting and organizing events and communicating information to the passengers. We stayed in a Seven Seas Aft stateroom for the first time instead of our usual Horizons View, and we fear the spacious and tasteful surroundings, and especially the expansive deck, might have ruined other choices for us in the future! The butler and stewards provided unparalleled service throughout.
As part of this cruise, Regent offered a pre-cruise safari option at several game reserves in South Africa. We stayed at the Botlierkop Game Reserve near Mossel Bay in the Western Cape region. This was an unexpected highlight of the whole trip. Excellent food and accommodations (in an air-conditioned a luxury-appointed tent away from the main lodge), knowledgeable and friendly guides, and an up close chance to see many animals in the wild. We were fortunate to see African elephants, giraffes, rhinos, impalas and black impalas, lions, eland, nyala, wildebeest, water-buck, bontebok, Cape buffalo, springbok, crested guinea fowl, blue crane, jackal buzzards, Cape zebras, and many types of indigenous plants and insects. It was a busy and magical few days, and we’d love to go back and do it again.
We only have a few small quibbles with this cruise, as explained below, but none of these things detracted from our overall extremely positive and enjoyable experience. We will continue to sail on the always-excellent Mariner!
Some people we spoke to felt that some of the excursions were not adequately explained by Destination Services and, as is the custom with Regent, included some long bus rides to places where short stops occurred. My wife, in particular, did not enjoy an excursion to Swakopmund on a Sunday, because many attractions were closed that day. Destination Services came in for some criticism because of this.
That said, some of the things we heard from other passengers, either directly or through ship scuttlebutt, in the nature about complaints concerning the lack of attractions and services in Namibia, suggested that these folks did not do much of a job researching their itinerary before embarking on the cruise. It is the rural west African desert, people! There is not much here, and what is here is always far from everything else. What did you reasonably expect?
Soon after we left Namibia rumours began to swirl about the presence of several single male passengers, apparently paying guests, who were employed by jewellery stores in Rio, and who were approaching other passengers to sell them jewellery and tours in Rio. This is apparently against Regent policy, but as they were paying guests it seemed little was done to curtail this activity. Let me stress, we heard about this from others and did not experience it directly.
One final matter deserves attention. We had to miss our stop at Saint Helena due to a mid-Atlantic medical emergency that required the Captain to get a critically-ill passenger to hospital. Rather than turn back to Namibia or even Cape Town, he chose instead to increase speed and make haste for Rio de Janeiro. All aboard were disappointed in missing Saint Helena, and some passengers even claimed that this port was the sole reason they took this trip. Some of the more cynical passengers even speculated about the real reasons for speeding to Rio, to the point that the Cruise Director had to explain publicly that the extra fuel costs and dockage fees to get the passenger to hospital in Rio was costing Regent upwards of $175,000 USD. This is the second time we have experienced the Mariner having to change schedule to address the needs of an ill passenger. In both cases we believe the Captain and crew acted professionally and responsibly with the best interest of the passenger in mind. We were totally comfortable with the actions taken by the Captain and crew in this difficult situation.
We fully enjoyed this cruise on the Mariner and look forward to visiting her again soon.
Pristine condition, large public space, and a fantastic private rear-facing deck. A great cabin for entertaining and for sea days. You won't feel cramped at any time!
A good tour that would have been better if less of it was in a bus. Otherwise, interesting and informative. We especially appreciated hearing stories from former inmates of the prison.
Highly enjoyable, especially appreciated using the open air 4x4s to get around. The botanical gardens were a highlight. One word of caution: Rio traffic is noisy, smelly, and constipated!