Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Regent Seven Seas - Shake Up and (Hopefully) Shake Out of the Navigator

When Prestige Cruise Holdings purchased Regent Seven Seas Cruises from Carlson it really had no idea how bad things were on one of the ships, the Navigator.  And since that day it has struggled with pretty much unthinkable conditions ranging from "little things" like brown water to defective air conditioning, to total losses of power (known as a "dead ship" condition), pipes falling apart, etc.  And then there is the shaking...aft on the ship presently shakes so badly that you can literally watch the bar counters flex, your drink walk across a table and feel your teeth shake.

That, however, is planned to be a thing of the past.  The Navigator is shortly going into an extended drydock for an extensive "stem to stern" mechanical makeover.  Folks, laying up a cruise ship for a month or more is very expensive, but in the case of Navigator it is long, long overdue.  And, as a result, I do have a concern that - as happens all too often in the boat biz - when you open things up expecting X you find X, Y and (how can that be?) Z.  But with such a long drydock I think PCH and Regent have anticipated there are going to be some unanticipated surprises.

Clearly PCH and Regent have taken the problem head on and shows there is now a long term commitment to make something good out of this ship and, therefore, it signals (at least to me) that Regent may be looking at expanding rather than contracting its fleet.  But that is another topic for another day!  (Maybe not a too distant day.)

Now, what is it that is going to be happening? 

First, there has been a new stern designed for the ship, changing it to extend out and create more of a ducktail (think longer, tapered and rounded) with sponsons (underwater structures, port and starboard,  projecting out and back to change waterflow).  In addition, Navigator will be getting two new screws (propellers).  By the way, there is tremendous engineering that goes into the design of propellers so that a certain amount of water is pulled through, at certain velocities, without creating the wrong kind of turbulence and without various harmonics wreaking havoc.  The design is, hopefully, going to eliminate the seriously debilitating vibration issue.  Even if it does not totally eliminate the vibration (and remember it is a ship, so no matter what there will be some vibration) there is going to be a vast improvement.

Second, every system from air conditioning to plumbing to electrical are going to be throughly inspected and corrected.  As many of you may know, Regent has already identified quite a number of issues and has put some stop-gap measures in place (to prevent things like going "dead ship") and has been using the time up to the drydock to put a plan of action into place.  To me this is a far greater challenge than the vibration.  With the vibration issue you can engineer a solution and simply fabricate and weld on the solution.  With these sort of old systems, you essentially are going to war with a beast!  (Can you tell this sort of stuff gets me excited?!)

Third, and there has been a bit of misinformation on this posted around the internet on this subject, the interiors are going to be getting makeover, but really nothing of huge note other than the installation of Prime 7, Regent's signature steakhouse.   And the rather drab interior is going to be getting a bit of a colorful uplift.  More specifically:

Prime 7 will have a similar palate as do the Voyager and Mariner with green and golden hues, leather, polished granite and burnished woods.

Compass Rose (the main dining room) is going to get new armchairs, deep color carpets and draperies, and new china, silverware and glassware.  (There is no mention of increasing the number of tables for two, which is a bit of a disappointment.)

La Veranda will remain La Veranda at all times (no more Portofino) and will serve a varied menu in the evening.  It will remain the casual dining/buffet experience for breakfast and lunch.  I am unsure if it will have waiter service in the evenings, but presume it will.  It will receive new furniture (I am not sure if it is just chairs or if the variety of table sizes will be increased), carpets, drapes and dinnerware. 

The Pool Grill will be expanded to become a legitimate grill with, you guessed it, a legitimate grill.  (Note there has been published comment that this will be a new installation on Deck 11, which is incorrect.  It will (ironically?) remain by the pool on Deck 10.)  I am not sure if there will be expanded seating (which has always been in short supply).

The various bars and public spaces will also be getting facials (if not facelifts).  The terribly underutilized Stars Lounge will no longer be a designated "disco", but will be given an upscale "estate" feel with new  furnishings, carpets and curtains.  (I am thinking akin to Celebrity's Michael's Club - a compliment).  Galileo's (my favorite lounge if the vibration is eliminated...will be similarly updated and the deck aft of it (which is the best spot on the ship will be made more into a outdoor living room with sofas and chaises.  The Navigator Lounge will also be similarly buffed up, as will the remaining public areas.


The Spa is being taken over by Canyon Ranch.  Other than a new operator (and I was not impressed with its operation on the QM2 - not that any at sea spa operator does much for me) I am not sure that much will change, though I anticipate some new equipment even if only because it is proprietary to Canyon Ranch.

If all this goes according to plan, Regent may well have a ship that I can - as far as hardware - begin recommending rather than advising to avoid.  I sure hope so...and I see no reason that should not be the case.