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Regent Seven Seas Announces Plan For Big Improvements

I know I seem to be beating on Regent Seven Seas Cruises and that, at times, it just seems unfair.  So with this post I am conflicted.  Do I cheer for Regent’s below mentioned commitments to improve its product or do I rehash what I have been saying for years:  Regent does not deliver what it promises…and at industry high prices?

On the operational side of things:

Cancellation Fee – Regent charges a $200 “Administration Fee” for every canceled booking.  The concept baffles me and I think insults the client.  I never charge a fee and think it is repugnant to what the travel industry does.  Obviously Regent is feeling the heat on this, so they have converted this charge to a future cruise credit.  So, you don’t get the $200 back unless you book another Regent cruise. It is improvement, but just seem cheap; especially for a luxury product.

Shore Excursions have a history of disappointment on Regent.  Back when it was Radisson, the tours would a great value, both in price and experience.  Then things changed.  I do not need to catalog the consistently disappointing experiences I and others have had or the shoddy manner in which Regent’s tour desk and executive offices have handled the disappointed and disgruntled passengers, other than to say, “ripoff” and “abuse” are two words that come to many people’s minds.  With the new Regent “tour inclusive” program (for select 2009 cruises and all 2010 cruises), Regent is promising the same quality tours and no packed buses.  As noted, I am not sure this is a good thing.  Not only does it make you pay for tours you do not want to take (and I am sure there are many that will not take them), it sets things up for three or four buses to head toward a destination that previously only one or two would (degrading the tour experience to one similar to that found on a mass market line) and, of concern, sets up a situation where the heretofore problematic tour desk responds with “Hey, it was free, so what do you want me to do about your problem?” [To be sure, this may seem unfair, but there is an old say, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  I would much prefer that Regent fix the tour problems and then expand it, rather than expand it and hope the problems resolve.  We shall see.]

Regent is taking back its crew hiring, so it will be doing it directly.  It is not taking this step because all is well.  In fact, it has been repeatedly reported that crew have been expressing to passengers their concerns over the changes and what it mean.  Along this line, I am baffled how reports of how fantastic the crew is comes right along with how many service problems there are.  I am not sure if it is a situation where some cruisers just know how good service can be, so they assume Regent is providing top service, if it is cheerleading or if it just propaganda/marketing.  The fact, is that Regent has acknowledged a serious problem (and kudos for that!) and it will be addressing the problem aggressively (kudos for that too!), but alas, I must observe that there is no question that the service product UNDENIABLY has not been been consistently provided.  (I know my favorite reader of this blog will rate this post a “1” for speaking the truth, but alas all I can say is “Don’t shoot the messenger” and, as may be the case, try a true luxury line (Seabourn or SeaDream, for example, and see the difference.)

Regent is also going to significantly increase its food budget.  Again, this speaks for itself…and it has been a long time in coming.  There are those that have raved about Regent’s food, but I have been baffled by what comes out of the galleys.  Clearly Regent is owning up to this weakness as well…and changes are coming.  To be sure, throwing money at the problem is not the answer, but I think Regent get it and I greatly look forward to the improvements once planned and implemented by the right staff.  Please keep in mind that food is very subjective.  I, personally, do not go “Ohhhh and Ahhhh” over an enormous slab of beef staring at me from an oversized plate as some have raved about at the new Prime 7.  While some love that stuff, to me it is not a gourmet experience.  Give me an elegantly prepared piece of beef with a beautiful presentation.  As for the main dining room, the experience is serious lacking and the changes are past due and greatly appreciated.

Regent’s computer system is a mess and it is not known when it will get better.  Passengers are consistently complaining onboard, the travel agent booking site is down, and Reservations is struggling with various issues.  This will be correct, no doubt, but it is taking a long time and I am not aware of the end being in sight.  I do not know if the problems are related to upgrades or reorganization, but regardless it is something that should never take this long to address.

I also understand that Regent is going to be improving its lecturers and entertainment.  I really don’t have any solid information on this.  One site says that Regent is going to be changing from the generally used concept of giving a guest lecturer a free cruise in exchange for a few lectures to a fee-paid approach.  That may work, but I have no idea what the budget is, what the topics will be, etc.  Also, I am not a big fan of the shows…mostly because they really aren’t that good, even though I regularly hear (from most lines) that now they are making real improvements.  This is not a biggy for me and I really don’t expect huge improvements.  What I would like to see is improvement in the consistency of the Themed Cruises.  One cruise is great, another is OK and yet another is a “no show”.  I was on a wine cruise that was truly well done.  I was on a caviar cruise that was lacking in the extreme (and was really just a sales pitch for gimmicky flavored roe).  I know the recent chocolate cruise had virtually no chocolate.  Consistency of product is key here.

Hardware Improvements – The Voyager and Mariner have both undergone their public space improvements, installation of Prime 7 steakhouse, new deck furnishings, coffee, pizza and ice cream facilities, etc.  From what I am hearing the public space improvements are quite nice and make a big difference.  The only concerns are the reduction in number of lounges by the pool (due to the needed increase in dining tables – tough to balance this one!), and the chairs in the main dining room (Compass Rose) which are very heavy and uncomfortable for some (caused by the chairs which were ordered being delayed and, therefore substituted – It is hard to make a good decision when your options are limited due to the fault of others).  Also, with Mariner having its long-damaged pod replaced, I am interested to see if there will be changes in itineraries which reflect her increased speed.

As I final note on hardware, the Navigator (the little sister) is going to have to wait another 1 1/2 years for her facelift:  April 2010.  I do find it curious that it is pushed off so long.  Why have a ship which is not a consistent product? Cashflow is one thing, but it makes me wonder – yet again – if she is really going to stay a part of the Regent family. 

So, after writing much, I am very pleased with Regent’s plans; its ownership of past problems; and, its optimism.  Now, I look forward to the execution of these plans and making me a believer…a believer that I once was!

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