We just (2019) went on an Alaskan Cruise. Alaska.... Spectacular!
Alaskans are justifiably proud of their state! As we found out in Alaska size does matter (as we were reminded constantly!). Alaska is BIG! So big they consider Texas "Cute" :-) So BIG that if the outline of Alaska is superimposed on the outline of the "Lower Forty-Eight It stretches from COAST-TO-COAST!
BTW... most of the t-shirts appear to be somewhat of an exaggeration :-).... I'm just sayin' Alaska!
It's also stunningly beautiful in its big way!
The Cruise itself on the Regent Seven Seas SS Mariner was somewhat disappointing.... I'll get the bitchin' out of the way in this first section and then get on with the day-by-day Travelogue. I'll cap it off with a overall review at the end.
Regent is billed as one of the worlds premiere cruise lines so we gave it a whirl. On the second day of the cruise one of the starter engines for one of the main engines failed stranding us overnight in Ketchikan Alaska. That might have been marginally OK if they had let us off the boat to go explore Ketchikan (again) at night... but no, that didn't happen. Instead they kept quiet about the issue even though everyone could see that the departure time had come and gone. A 4:00 pm departure had slipped to 4:30 AM with no information forthcoming from the Captain or the Cruise director.
And even as we got started it was easy to see the ship was not running on both main engines and was just limping along! The constant TV presence of our Cruise Director, Andy, still extolling the wonderful sights we were about to see in Juneau suddenly shut off without a word leaving only a blank screen.
Finally mid-morning there was an announcement.... Andy informed us that due to the (only just now announced) engine problems. we would be skipping our stop at Juneau and would have another lovely day at sea on our way to Skagway. The passengers grumbles were louder than both engines when working.
I was disappointed because Juneau would have been our first Glacier experience! In my opinion it was unconscionable of Regent to keep us, the passengers, in the dark for so long on the status of a mechanical problem.
It also blows my mind that a mission critical part was not stored on the ship. Sometime in the early afternoon we all heard and felt the second engine start and the ship jumped back up to a brisk 15 knots. Too little too late to save our Juneau stop....
In any event... while a major stop on our voyage was canceled we were still going to go to the face of the Hubbard Glacier, one of the four largest Tidewater Glaciers on the planet, and the largest in North America, on the next to last day of our trip.... Right?
That day comes and several passengers, including myself, are on the top deck freezing our "you know whats" off. As we started to round a bend in the Fjord called Disenchantment Bay we were faced with a monstrous wall of dense fog still several miles ahead. The Captain and the Passage Pilot made the decision not to enter the fog because of some significant icebergs floating about. A second major disappointment was about to rear it's ugly head... This one weather related :-0
"Disappointment in Disenchantment Bay..." Kind of apt! Oh, the irony of it all!
Really, I have no issue with the safety decision that was made... just disappointed (again).
The next day was Seward and the end of the trip. Getting home was no problem... seeing what we were there to see was the issue. The two major issues.... First... Regents fault (IMHO) and the second weather and scheduling.
Oh well, we liked what we saw and experienced in Alaska so much that my wife and I agreed we would return in a year or so and give a different cruise line a chance!
This is presented in a day-by-day sort of travelogue style. I will post a separate page with an overview of the Regent Mariner.
The complete review will be somewhat lighter on the food than the day-by-day and will be more an overview/highlights/lows based on our impressions of the Regent Seven Seas Mariner, the crew, the entertainment, and of course, the food!
A complete review is follows....
We booked a Concierge Suite on Regent and were "treated" to an extra day in Vancouver at the Four Seasons. I liked this idea not because of the extra day in Vancouver but because we arrived a day ahead of the cruise to minimize any possibilities of travel snafu's. The Four Seasons itself was nice but somewhat tired.... definitely showing its age. The hotel's neighborhood was fine and great for walking. Looking at the hotel food offerings we opted to go outside. At the recommendation of one the hotel bell staff we tried the nearby Cactus Club Restaurant. It was great!
The next day we boarded the ship around 1:00 pm and just explored.
That evening I had scored a early reservation (it was the best I could do) at one of the Regent Signature Resturants, Chartreuse French Restaurant. I was excited to try what Regent called "Modern French Cuisine".
While the dining room was well appointed and comfortable the initial service, and later the food, were a disappointment.
We were the first in the restaurant (at our appointed time) and service was, for lack of a better word.... inattentive. For being the first customers it took a while to be noticed and seated. The sommelier was slow in visiting the lone table we were occupying . Then the sommelier immediately tryed to up-sell me to a $225 bottle of wine. Hmmmm, I had asked him what the featured wines were that evening. Regent advertises as an "all-inclusive" cruise and indeed they are. Two wines were included that night, as in every night, a red and a white. But.... If I had not noticed the tiny prices following some of the selections I would have purchased a $125 to $300 bottle of wine. When I quizzed him about the menu he reluctantly confirmed the there was indeed an "upcharge" for those particular premium selections. I told the sommelier please just bring the "house red" after I was clued into the rules. He was visibly disappointed at the lack of the sale :-)
The waiter came to the table immediately after the sommelier vacated and told us of that evenings chef's special choices then left us to peruse the menu.
He returned after an appropriate amount of time and left with our order.
For appetizers my wife ordered Escargot and I ordered the seared Duck Foie Gras. Entrees were roasted lobster for her and double cut Lamb ribs for me.
The Escargot were terrible. Served in a disgusting gravy of some sort they were rubbery and served removed from the shells, a good indication they were (possibly) frozen or even from a can.
My Foie Gras was somewhat better. It was nicely displayed and presented with three little apricot dots arranged on the plate. Taste was meh... rather tasteless and bland.
The entrees didn't fare any better. My wife's entree, Roasted Lobster with Scallop Mousseline, Green Asparagus and Fava Beans, was displayed well but was extremely overcooked resulting in a tough, tasteless piece of unrecognizable meat.
My lamb was delivered beautifully presented and flanked by two Chickpea Fritteres. However I had ordered the lamb medium RARE. It arrived terribly overcooked and tough. As a result of this criminal treatment of what likely started as a decent piece of meat it was largely tasteless and tough.
My desert, Creme Brûlée was well presented and tasty while the wife's Napoleon was inedible.
All-in-all, not a good start for what Regent touted as;
"Nothing can elevate travel quite like cuisine. That’s why we take so much pride in creating exquisite dining experiences that are nothing short of superb. Experience all the wonderful flavors and delightful scents of choice cuisine from around the world." (direct from the Regent website)
I was worried we had made a culinary mis-step..... More on the food as we move on through the voyage. One spoiler though, just because I don't want to Leave Ya' Hangin'.... It got immediately better with only one notable exception. More on that later :-)
We continued to explore the ship and found it to be well appointed and realized with plenty of bars and entertainment options.
The evening was finished off with a Show in the Constellation Theater. Featured that night was "Matilda with Patrick Murray. Billed as "Jamaica's Number One Comedienne" Matilda is a ventriloquist's dummy and the alter ego of Patrick Murray. Together a charming and funny duo!
After leaving Vancouver we spent the night and a full day cruising the inside passage as we made way to our first real Alaskan port, Ketchikan. The day was uneventful and we listened to a lecture and ate Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
Now would be a good time to brief you on the Breakfast and Lunch options on the SS Mariner.
Breakfast and Lunch were served in three places aboard ship. You could have breakfast or lunch buffet style at either the Pool Grill or the La Veranda Restaurant... or a sit down, order from a menu, breakfast or lunch in the main dining room, the Compass Rose.
We tried all three options during the trip and settled for the most part on the La Veranda on deck eleven for almost every breakfast and most lunches (when on board). I must say I was never disappointed with any of the breakfast or lunch venues. Variety was good and taste and quality was very good for every choice we made for both breakfast and lunch.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship and dinner.
I won't sugar coat it.... after the previous nights dinner experience I was a bit apprehensive! We went this time to the main dining room, The Compass Rose. The Compass Rose itself is a beautiful, well appointed space. comfortable and open. We were warmly greeted and promptly seated and quickly approached by the wine steward and waiters immediately after. We ordered appetizers and entrees and sat back to wait. The food quickly arrived and presented to us with a minimum of fuss.
Our first course was a Crab Cake/Tower for her and Profiteroles with a Caviar Concoction for me.
The Crab Tower was delicious with a delicate mayo based remoulade dressing siting atop what appeared to be a avocado and tomato base and topped with cucumbers and a de-shelled crab claw (how did they do that?!?). My Profiteroles and Caviar was well presented and was tasty as well.
She ordered Seared Scallops and I had a fillet with baby veggie's. Both arrived well presented and perfectly cooked to order. Taste, texture and doneness on the scallops was right on target.
The fillet was SLIGHTLY beyond my requested medium-rare temperature but still tender and tasty.
We both had some sort of dessert but for the life of me I can't remember what. I think I just had a nice Cognac.
Regent employs a great pianist, Mr. Nick Messina, on this voyage and we made a point of listening when we could.
Time for Beddy Bye :-)
Ketchikan is the state of Alaska's southeastern most major settlement. Downtown Ketchikan is a National Historic District. With a population during the Summer of around 8000 it is the fifth-most populous city in Alaska, Incorporated on August 25, 1900, Ketchikan is the earliest incorporated city in Alaska and is called "Alaska's First City".
Because of the "Japan Current" Ketchikan enjoys a relatively temperate climate for Alaska.
We enjoyed our time in Ketchikan walking around the city before going to a freakin' Crab Feast.
Before the feast we went on a bus trip and then a small boat into the St. George Inlet. we saw some Bald Eagles and pulled up a crab trap to play with some crabs (yes, I know what that sounds like :-)
Heading back to the small boat dock restaurant The George Inlet Lodge we indulged in our feast. It was all served with a generious heaping of wit and wisdom from Asley our Charming Young Lady (I never thought I would live long enough to use that term... But there it is!!) of a server. It was very simply, a salad, a cold beer, and a never ending pile of the best Crab I have ever eaten.
After eating ourselves into a coma on the freshest, most delicious, Dungeness crab you can imagine we staggered back to the bus and onto the ship. We were just in time for "High Tea".....
I won't say too much about "High Tea". In short it is something most cruise lines are now offering and consists of tea and something sweet such as pastries/cookies/cupcakes kind of offerings. Regent's take on "High Tea" was OK but variable. I'll post pictures of the times we attended and indulged.
So did we skip dinner that night?.... No! Absolutely not! It was back to the Compass Rose for late dinner.
We thought to keep it light (Yeah Right!) because of the Crab Feast that afternoon but TEMPTATION reared it's ugly head :-)
In the SPIRIT of keeping it light we both ordered a Strip Cocktail. Two large Jumbo Shrimp (a nice oximoron for your enjoyment :-) nicely delivered in a cocktail glass and displayed with a cucumber slice aside a endive leaf sitting atop a lightly dressed cole slaw. The shrimp were perfectly cooked to exactly the right temperature. Firm and snappy to the bite.... just perfectly a step beyond medium-rare (as they should be). The slaw was the perfect complement to the shrimp.
For entrees I ordered the Seared Scallops on this evening (again, in the interest of keeping it light :-) and my wife ordered the Dover Sole. As in the previous evening the scallops were well presented and perfectly cooked. My wife's Dover Sole on the other hand was overcooked to the point of being dry, tough and tasteless. Again, a bit of inconsistency from the kitchen made for a disappointing end-point.... This time for only one us.
Dessert was fine for both of us. She ordered a Soufflé with a Vanilla Anglese and I ordered a Creme Puff thing. We sampled each others desserts and pronounced them worthy :-)
We finished off the evening wandering about the various entertainment areas of the ship.
We were supposed to leave Ketchikan at 4:00 that evening.... It didn't happen! While we should have left Ketchikan at 4:00 pm in the evening we actually left at 4:30 am the next morning. And, When we left we were obviously NOT sailing at full power and were just limping along.
Mechanical issues stranded us overnight in Ketchikan and kept us from Juneau Alaska. This was significant, at least to me, because it prevented us from our first close encounter with a glacier. Mendenhall Glacier was now a total miss.....
We should have left Ketchikan at 4:00 pm the evening of the previous day. We actually left at 4:30 am the next morning. When we left we were obviously NOT sailing at full power and were just limping along.
Because of our late start we spent another "Wonderful Day at Sea" skipping Juneau entirely.
I call this the "The Not Juneau Alaska Tour"
Another day of wandering about the ship while the ship wandered about at half speed for a good part of the day.
Another breakfast and lunch at La Veranda. Another dinner at The Compass Rose.
I was a bit disturbed about missing one of our major stops so I blew off the ritual dinner "Food Porn" pictures for the most part. The waiters tried their best recognizing the passengers were upset at the itinerary change. The Compass Rose was near deserted and only started filling with glum faces as we were leaving.
Appetizers.... The Alaskan Crab Tower once more for her and a Beef Carpaccio thing for me. The Crab Tower was once more delicious. The Beef was well presented and tasty. The texture of the beef was very good.... sometimes a problem with Carpaccio but this was great.
I don't remember what we had for dinner because I was so teed off.
We finished the evening with some heavy drinking (well ME anyway) to drown our sorrows and disappointment.
Interestingly, I met, and conversed with, a sweet lady from the UK who upon seeing me the next morning called me the "Charming Young Man From the Evening Before"!! Interesting only because I am not young for one.... and opinions do vary widely on the other!
Skagway was the US gateway to the gold of the Canadian Yukon. Known as a rough and tumble town it was sometimes referred to as "Hell on Earth".
Most famous citizen Randolph "Soapy" Smith.... Criminal and con man!
Current population about 1100 in the summer and 500-600 in the winter with approximately 1,000,000 (!) visitors per year!
After breakfast at the La Veranda we did a couple of excursions starting with a ride on the Scenic White Pass Railroad in the morning. A train ride up the side of the mountain and into Canada and back down. Spectacular scenery well presented and narrated by our guide Demitri.
Back to the ship for a quick lunch and then finishing with an Alaskan Street Car ride/tour and a walk around the big town of Skagway in the afternoon.
I liked Skagway's vibe which was less touristy than Ketchikan and seemed more the essence of Alaska.
Back to the ship and surprise! Hey! Time for DINNER!
Tonight was our second speciality restaurant reservation. This time at Regent's steakhouse, Prime 7. We had been by the restaurant several times on the way to the Compass Rose and it was always busy and packed.
We had a late reservation at 8:30 pm on the 30th. We showed up about five minutes early and were asked to wait in the lounge area. No big sacrifice for me but the wife grumbled a bit. The Maitre D' came and collected us at 8:33.... Perfect!
After being seated we were immediately approached by our waiter and the sommelier. The menu as suitable for a steakhouse was simple and to the point featuring mostly beef offerings with a few chops, seafood and poultry choices.
We made our orders and sat back with a little of the house vino.
A Palate cleanser of Tomato Bisque was delivered to the table followed closely by the appetizers. The presentation on her appetizer was very nice but I can't really remember just exactly what it was :-0 As I recall it was a salmon something or other and she enjoyed it. My appetizer was billed as Foie Gras Sliders. It came out looking like two tiny little hamburgers, which I thought entirely appropriate for a steak house lead-in and were delicious.
Our entrees arrived. She had ordered King Crab and I had ordered a Bone-In Ribeye.
Mine was delicious! This was at least a pound of steak-y delicious-ness. Billed as a Prime, Dry-Aged piece of meat, it was cooked perfectly to my ordered medium-rare temperature with a beautiful seared crust on the outside. It was all I could do not to pick up the bone and start gnawing away at the steak like a wild animal. Luckily I was able to control myself and waited until the end of the meal before making a fool of myself.
As delicious as my steak was my wife's King Crab was not. She certainly received a big ol' plate of Crab. But that plate was overcooked, dry and lifeless. She could finish only a small portion of the total before calling it quits. I definitely felt bad for her and told her so between mouthfuls of my perfectly done steak!
Dessert was Cheesecake for me and a Berries in Creme Anglaise for her. Both were a good choice and satisfied that Dessert Jones....
We said thank you to our stellar waiter Rochcelle.... and headed out.
We caught the last five minutes of the show and headed to a quiet spot at the bar for a Mai Tai (Her) and a nice glass of Bourbon Neat for me.
Sitka is a large town for Alaska. It is also occupied pretty much all year long with the population barely doubling in summer :-) First established as a Russian Fur Trapping outpost it remains an important fishing community.
We did a tour called "A Taste of Sitka" that featured a stop at a native indian park complete with many elaborately carved and beautiful totem poles and a stop at a local restaurant for a small sample of fresh caught Salmon.
Appetizers.... Don't remember
Entrees..... For her Roasted Pike. Very overcooked and dried out. Sorry, but all of the delicate fish taste she so enjoys was hammered out of this one.
My Veal Chop on the other hand was cooked perfectly and the delicate taste of veal was well represented.
Desert was a Meringue Pie and a Raspberry Cake, Although Meringue is not generally my thing it was very good!
Off to the entertainment venues!
We were supposed to go in on the last day of our sail on the SS Mariner through Disenchantment Bay to the face of the Hubbard glacier . The Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America and is a stunning seventy-six miles long, over five miles wide, and over one thousand two hundred feet deep where it meets the sea!
Cameras were checked and rechecked.... Parkas and foulwaether gear donned and snugged up tight. The big day comes and several passengers, including myself, are up early on the top deck freezing our "you know whats" off. As we started to round a bend in the Fjord called Disenchantment Bay we were faced with a monstrous wall of dense fog still several miles ahead stretching from mountain to mountain across the bay. The Captain and the Passage Pilot made the decision not to enter the fog because of some significant icebergs floating about. A second major disappointment was about to rear it's ugly head... This one weather related :-0
Whether right or wrong, for better or worse, we were told we could still see the glacier as that bright line across the top of the fog bank in the picture on the side.... I, for one, would have rather NOT HEARD that little tidbit!
Disappointment on Disenchantment Bay how apt is that?.... Ironic or not???!!!
This second MAJOR disappointment on this short voyage was hard to take.
After returning to the cabin to lick and bind my wounds (metaphorically speaking of course!) I emerged and prepared for....., You Guessed It!.... LUNCH and DINNER!
We ate at the buffet at La Veranda for lunch once more. That evening we were going to eat in same space but in the Italian version of La Veranda.... Sette Mari at La Veranda.
The buffet lunchtime venue transforms into a more formal, menu driven, Italian eatery after 6:00 pm.
We were seated promptly (no reservations needed) and were greeted almost immediately by the wine steward who presented a nice Italian Red (Chianti) and Italian white (Pinot Grigio).
While we perused the menu a nice assortment of bread and anti-pasta was brought to the table.
Because of the bread and anti-pasta selections we forewent any appetizers and directly ordered our entrees.
It was Sea Bass for her and Veal Scallopini for me.
Both arrived looking good and well presented,
Her fish was once again overcooked and somewhat dry. Taste was good according to my wife. I have a fish allergy that prevents me from eating certain fish and Sea Bass is one of those fish.
My order of Gnnocci arrived in a pesto sauce. The little dumplings were soft and pillowy. With a great taste and perfect consistency.
My Veal was presented in a generous portion and much larger than I would normally associate with the word "Scallopini". Overall the taste and bite were very good.
Dessert was Tiramisu which was serviceable but not stellar.
This was to be our last dinner on the SS Mariner.
Debarkation was fairly well organized but had a few hiccups.
Debarkation occurred through an exit on Deck 6. Luggage was tagged and picked up from the cabin the night before.
We had our breakfast and then made our way to the Coffee Connection area on deck 6 to wait for the call to exit and board the buses that would take us to Anchorage.
The only sore spot was the ladies toilets on deck 6 were closed for whatever reason (men's was fine).
My wife had to go down one deck to get to a bathroom..... That would not have been that much of an issue but all of the other ladies-in-waiting had to do the same. Immediately a line formed. There were of course other public bathrooms but on the higher decks and not as convenient. As the traffic became heavier in the one bathroom the toilet paper ran out and was not replenished.
It seemed to be a not so fond farewell....
The bus ride to Anchorage (2.5 hr) was fine but stretched to 3.5 hours because of an accident on the one highway to Anchorage.
Upon arrival, because our flight was in the evening, we were taken to the Anchorage Hilton to a "Hospitality" area arranged by Regent.
For the end of a supposedly "high-end" cruise this being called a "Hospitality" area was rather weak.... It was an old, no longer used, restaurant at the top of the Hilton. It was a bit tired looking and had little in the way of amenities. No water, hours old coffee, no hot water, and only a tray with a few cookie crumbs still there. No one replenished anything as long as we were there.
There were people to help us with the shuttle transfer to the airport at our designated/selected time.
We went out for lunch and settled on a nearby restaurant called "The 49th State".
It was a nice casual place and had cold freshly brewed beer and upscale pub grub. We ordered a pizza featuring Reindeer and Elk sausage that we enjoyed very much. When in Anchorage it would be a good lunch or evening meal stop!
We wandered about downtown Anchorage for another hour or so and returned to the hotel for our trip to the airport and back to "The Lower 48"
I've published a full review preceding this Day-By-Day if interested. It is a little lighter on the day to day food and ship experience and concentrates on the overall experience and my personal opinion of our voyage on the Regent SS Mariner.
I'd love to hear your opinion on the review or your personal experiences with any of the Regent cruises that you may have taken.