Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Regent Seven Seas Voyager and Silversea Silver Spirit - Why and How I Write This Blog

The past days have been very busy for me, personally, but also very interesting for me professionally.

It appears that some of my readers, I guess, read this blog because they perceive me as the Andy Rooney (curmudgeon) of the cruise blogosphere.  While I may have earned that reputation through speaking my mind, I want you to understand that I actually do speak my mind and do not rant or criticize just to write or keep up readership.  The Regent Voyager and Silversea Silver Spirit are two cases in point.

Regent Voyager - The Regent Voyager is on a Caribbean cruise and one of its engines has failed.  This has not left the ship without power or services, but required one port to be skipped so that she could arrive early this morning in San Juan so that repairs could be made.  It appears the guests have been kept fully informed, missing Antigua hasn't been a huge disappointment (and, regardless, Regent would have been within its rights to skip the port for a host of other reasons) and it appears that once the part(s) that are needed are installed the Regent Voyager will be on her way...on or close to schedule.

So when the problem occurred I started to receive emails asking me to write about how bad the ship is, what a terrible thing it is that Regent let down its guests again, claiming damage to the ship was clearly as a result of poor management, etc.  Folks:  SHIP HAPPENS!  I won't write any of those things, because I don't believe it is fair, accurate or appropriate.

These emails told me a couple of things: 

- First, Regent still has a lot of work to do.  It has well and truly alienated a very vocal and significant portion of its client base.  (Honestly, I think I probably fit into that category.)  It must find a way - probably though hard work and simply consistently getting it right - to regain the shine of the  previous management's self-declared "Six Star Luxury" moniker.

- Second, people have tagged me as being "Anti-Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line" when that simply is not the case.  I do not get my jollies (sorry, Santa) bashing Regent.  I have, quite vocally, expressed my frustration with so many of the prior management's decisions which - by design, IMHO - were to cheat the guests and make them feel special while picking their pockets.  Its prior incarnation just kept that movie line in my head, "Son, fat, dumb and happy is no way to go through life."

But the new management of Regent Seven Seas Cruises has done much to improve the line, to change its focus to on value rather than the absurd Six Star Luxury fraud (albeit I really hate the find demeaning the "free", "free", "free" marketing approach).  Yes, there is work to be done.  Training still needs to be improved to the point that the curious "I need to dine where X is the waiter because his service is great" is gone (as service should be great everywhere!).  Cuisine needs to be improved to the point where meals are consistently excellent everywhere, not "hit or miss" as reports in Prime 7 and Compass Rose have consistently shown.  There are others, but you get the point.

So with literally every cruise line having an engine problem at some point, I cannot report the present Regent issue to be a disservice to its guests or its handling improper. If that changes I will let you know. 

Silversea Silver Spirit - Why have I been so quiet about the new Silversea ship?  Because I really don't know a darn thing worth reporting on.  I have read the hype, the true marketing and the wishes, but I haven't seen any real information.  As I remain very concerned about Silversea's financial situation and my inside information as to fit, finish and training of staff leave me nervous, I do not want to push a product I am not presently secure in supporting.  But it is my hope and desire that Silversea weathers its financial storm, get is right with the Silver Spirit and that it succeeds, for in this business competition is a great thing.

Consider the changes in luxury ships over the past few years.  Dining options have significantly expanded, spas have become destinations, fitness centers expanded beyond treadmills, entertainment options have improved, unique ports of call are the norm (oxymoron??), passenger space is even greater and suites are truly "sweet".  Without the competition Seabourn would not have committed to building the Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn or Seabourn ???? (enter the contest!).  Silversea would not have the Silver Spirit (or named it so similar to the Seabourn Spirit!).  And Oceania and Azamara Club would not target those that might want a taste of the luxury, but don't want to pay the price...or need a suite....providing a higher level of service, cuisine, amenities and ports than the premium and mass market lines. 

So you can depend on me to say what I think, whether you agree or disagree, and not to say anything when I really don't have anything to say.  But, most importantly, if you are interested in booking a cruise remember that I, as your travel agent, will give you my honest, experienced and impartial opinion...not to push you to particular cruise line, but to assist you in your determination of what is the best cruise line, the best accommodation and the best itinerary for you -whether it be the top suite or inside cabin, a luxury or mass market ship, an itinerary in Asia or the Caribbean.