Friday, December 26, 2008

An Open Letter from Mark Conroy, President of Regent Seven Seas Cruise s - A Refreshing Admission.

On December 23, 2008 at 6:37 p.m. (at the close of business, so effectively on Christmas Eve) Mark Conroy, President of Regent Seven Seas Cruises took the unusual step of posting an open letter on Cruise Critic which was clearly in response to some of the now more consistent posts about the declining quality, inconsistent service and changes on Regent cruises.

Mr. Conroy wrote (and I have highlighted a few things) as follows:

Dear RSSC Guests and Cruise Critic Readers,

I’ve been an avid reader of Cruise Critic for many years and have always found it, along with direct feedback from our guests, to be an invaluable feedback tool and a great way for us to keep our finger on the pulse of our company and our product.

After reading some of the most recent threads, I wanted to take a few moments to provide you all with some insights, address some of the concerns that you have voiced, and provide you with my personal reassurance that Regent Seven Seas Cruises is still the same luxury experience that so many of you have come to know and love.

There has been a great deal of discussion about changes and I will be frank, yes, there have been changes. And while we all know that change can be unsettling, I want to assure you that any changes we have made or are in the process of making, are based upon feedback from our guests, travel agent partners and team members aboard the ships and here in Fort Lauderdale. Feedback and insight from you is something that has been critical to our success and has been our proverbial guiding light.

In the interest of providing you with some keener insight, I want to step back to earlier this year when there was a change in ownership. This change allowed us as a company to change from one that was a very small part of a large corporation to one that was part of a smaller and very focused organization. With that change, we as a company saw tremendous opportunities to not only undertake initiatives that we would not have in the past, but to also challenge ourselves to find new ways to make the experience better and shine brighter. The $40 million dollar renovation and refurbishment of the Voyager and Mariner are probably the most obvious examples of our new mindset and our commitment to the Regent Experience.

And the investments don’t stop at the way the ships look and feel, we’re raising the bar in every conceivable area - the culinary experience, onboard amenities and entertainment, crew recruitment, crew training and most importantly, crew retention. It’s the stellar group of officers, staff and crew that have made RSSC the cruise line it is today and we will never lose sight of that. We’ve made some great enhancements to our training and benefits for the crew in the way of increased benefits, enhanced health coverage, overtime pay and dedicated Crew Resource Managers. We’ve also brought greater consistency to our crew scheduling and the vacation time they spend ashore. Ultimately, we want every crew member to leave the ship at the end of their contract with an assignment letter to return for a new contact. That’s not to say that you won’t see some new faces as we will continue to recruit and add new staff aboard ship and in the shore side operations.

We’ve been very fortunate to be able to welcome some new members to our family this past year, some of them returning RSSC veterans. Robin Lindsay and Franco Semeraro, who head up the Vessel and Hotel Operations, are both veterans of the luxury cruise and worked with me when in RSSC was just a small fledgling line with only the Radisson Diamond and Song of Flower. They were instrumental in establishing RSSC as a premier luxury brand and then went on to spend a good number of years at Silversea. Michael Coghlan, the General Manager of the Voyager, also hails from Silversea and has an admirable resume of accomplishments.

There are also plenty of familiar faces amongst the new. Steph Armegol and Bernhard Klotz, whom many of you may have met, still lead our Hotel and Culinary operations teams. Of course, Captains Dag and McNeill, General Managers Engelbert, Guiseppe and Philippe, just to name a few, all happily remain.

With the Voyager refit behind us, and the completion of Mariner’s refit only a few short weeks away, we’re in the home stretch. With that, the majority of changes and enhancements in the product will be complete and we can focus on fine-tuning our product and its delivery. The fine-tuning aspect is one that will be ongoing and once again, we’ll be counting on you, our guests to provide us feedback on what you like and what needs attention, just as you have always done.

That’s not to say that in the midst of these changes that we will not have hiccups. We’ve had a few and while some companies might like to think they are perfect, we know we are not. But we try hard to be as close to it as possible, we give it our all and pour our hearts into it. And if something is not right, we will do everything we can to set things right.

For those of you sailing in the coming months, I encourage you to judge any of the changes on their own merits, I’m confident that you will see that they have been made for the better. And if something is not quite right, please make sure to let any of the staff or department heads know so they can take corrective actions.

I’ll be out and about on the ships a great deal in the coming year, as I am sure Frank, Robin, Franco and Ken will be as well, and look forward to hearing your thoughts. In between, I’ll be reading Cruise Critic and be chiming in on occasion, as time permits.

I wish you all a safe and joyous Holiday Season and a great New Year.

Sincerely,

Mark Conroy
President, Regent Seven Seas Cruises

While the letter is refreshing on its face, I have to wonder why it is it took so long to admit to everyone that Regent was not delivering the luxury product it charges such a high premium for. I have consistently commented that Regent's food is not "luxury", that its amenities were downgraded to essentially "common", that its crew training and performance was poor and, most importantly, there was very little consistency of product on the same ship, no less across the ships.

So for all of those that have felt I push Seabourn to a fault, I have always called it as I see it. As they say, "The proof is in the pudding." Seabourn has gone over the top to try and make its service not only consistent on each cruise and across its present ships, but on its Seabourn Odyssey as well. You will not see a similar letter from Pamela Conover...because it simply isn't necessary. (No, Seabourn is not perfect, but "fine tuning" is its way of life...not a new concept.)

So, in this economy, you just might want to ask yourself, "Do I want to spend my money on Regent's work in progress or on Seabourn's consistent luxury product?"

Honestly, if Regent's pricing was more in line with the reality of its product I might well say, "Go for it", but not yet. (I will be posting on this subject soon.)

I wish Regent all the best in its endeavors and, to be sure, I want it to succeed; for competition and alternatives are great for business. But until the product is proven...and after years of telling me "All is well" when we now have read Mr. Conroy's honest admission it was not...Regent is not going to get my endorsement.

I am pleased with Regent's words and its announced commitment to make Regent the luxury product it once was. I can't wait to be able to, once again, recommend it!