Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name: Cheerleading (Yuk!) - Calling It Like It Is Would Be Nice! UPDATED

On the last night of my Seabourn Spirit cruise, after enjoying much interplay with the waitstaff, it was time for dessert.  The menus were passed out, the orders taken and then it was my turn.  I asked for strawberry shortcake.  The waiter was stunned as there was none on the menu.  He offered this, he suggested that, asked if I saw it during tea in the Horizon Lounge, etc., but playing with him, I rejected them all.   He just looked at me.  I then let him off the hook.  I said, "You can't say 'No', can you?"  He then gave a big smile, knowing I "got him".  But then our desserts seemed to be a just a bit delayed and everyone at the table started to blame me, claiming Seabourn must be trying somehow to make strawberry shortcake appear out of thin air.  So I let the waiter know not to try such a thing.

On my cruise I never had a meal that disappointed, but more than a couple that amazed.  I never had a lapse in service...except one morning a poached egg was briefly forgotten.  My room stewardess was sweet and efficient.  The word "No" was never heard.  And even with my lost luggage I had a tailored suit and a tuxedo almost instantly.

On the Cruise Critic board there is a discussion of a present cruise on the Regent Seven Seas Voyager (which, ironically, arrived in Istanbul the same day I disembarked the Seabourn Spirit).  The particular poster - who spent much time attacking me when I posted there - claimed she would call it like it is.  To be fair, in part she has.  You can find it here:  http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=16573296 .

She has complained about the lesser food quality in Signatures, that many do not like Latitudes, that various service lapses occurred in the Veranda at lunch, etc.  She also commented about how two years ago the ship was in need of a face lift as worn interiors and linens were present, but now things are much better.  She also expressed concern about how Regent was changing the itinerary, but did not tell the passengers where they were going; later claiming Regent was extraordinary because the newly chosen ports were wonderful (apparently ignoring the some folks actually choose cruises because of the ports!).  She even claimed Regent was wonderful because she was forced to overnight in Athens because Regent couldn't arrange flights so the put her up in a nice hotel.  Huh?  And she noted that the word "No" was heard more than once.

Then she claims, "The Voyager is just as amazing as it was two years ago. Regent['s]...food (IMO) is wonderful. The suites are incredible... The service is almost always perfect..." Then the finale, from someone who has never been on Seabourn, "If you want a crew member to remember your name, perhaps Seabourn is the right ship for you." 

UPDATE:  There is another Cruise Critic thread discussing the Regent Voyager cruise the week prior (http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?s=626f200d7f9d7be0c83e968631fad7f1&t=855098) and you would think they swapped out ships.  Notably inconsistent service in the main dining room, speciality restaurant and causal dining venue; poor tours (with refunds given); dirty carpets, etc...and one poster claiming it was now time to try Seabourn and another declaring a preference for Silversea.  It makes me wonder if Regent has improved, but more importantly, if it is so inconsistent that I should be willing to risk my money not knowing what product is going to turn up.

I am a strange sort, I guess.  If a waiter forgets my poached egg once, it doesn't bother me.  When the waiters are standing around ignoring me, it would most definitely get my attention.  If the food, no less in the specialty restaurants, is not good, it is not a wonderful thing.  If ports are changed without notice because of poor planning on the line's part (rather than weather, for example), I would tend to be a bit miffed.  If the tours have not been thoroughly check out BEFORE they are offered to the guests and are not as advertised (and this has happend to me on Regent), I would be furious.  If the interiors and linens on my prior cruise were worn, I would not claim the "improved" version this year is "just as good".  If I was forced to overnight from a major city like Athens I would be angry.  And if I heard "No" I would know I wasn't on Seabourn.

So when I was roundly criticized on Cruise Critic by some posters that I was too hard on Regent and that I was somehow trying to gain Seabourn business, I was puzzled and frustrated.  Now I read that the service on Regent is improved - but still has serious lapses, the interiors are better cared for, the food in is inconsistent and the advertised ports and tour descriptions are not honored.  Every person has there own standards as to what makes their cruise great, but a person's ability to have a good time in spite of a cruise line's failures does not warrant rave reviews of the line.

Now more than ever, I am pleased that I can provide my readers with accurate information and not have to deal with that sort of misrepresentative cheerleading. 

Regent is now working to correct many of the errors and poor decisions of the past few years.  There is a lot of work to be done.  This, I am sure, is made harder by the present financial condition of the world and the manner in which Regent was acquired.  But to me, it sounds like Regent is better than it was two years ago...but it has a long way to go before it can worry about the little things like remembering a guest's name.