Putting our faith in the fulsome praise on travel websites and in guidebooks, we decided to give Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a non-Harper-recommended line, another chance. We booked an Alaskan cruise from Seward to Vancouver, hoping our experience might compare favorably with our memories of Seabourn, Silversea and Crystal. Unfortunately, our experience on the Seven Seas Navigator proved, once again, that glowing reviews in the press do not necessarily translate into top-notch service. Small differences became apparent as soon as we arrived in our suite. Instead of the bottle of Perrier-Jouët we enjoyed on Silversea or the fine Nicolas Feuillatte we received on Seabourn, a bottle of Bouvet Brut from the Loire Valley sat rather unimpressively in the ice bucket. As the cruise progressed, it became clear that the friendly, overworked staff had trouble keeping up. Our suite would sometimes not be tidied until well into the afternoon, spots chronically marred wine glasses, dirt collected on the deck above the pool, and tap water tasted like salted chlorine. How puzzling that Regent, with rates comparable to those of our favorite lines, would overlook these details.
Our confusion turned to frustration, however, when staff members made more major gaffes. Headwaiters should not, for example, conspicuously roll their eyes at guests who bring flaxseed meal to sprinkle on their morning pancakes. Nor should bartenders eject perfectly sober guests from a lounge. In a mood for some fresh fish and salad from the pool grill, we assembled our lunches and, feeling a bit chilly, brought our plates to the panoramic lounge. After settling at a table, we ordered drinks from the bar. When the bartender brought over our wine and noticed our lunches, he explained that we had to leave because food was not allowed in the lounge (the very lounge where, in two hours, high tea would be served). We hadn’t been tossed out of a bar since undergrad. We always enjoy Alaska immensely and would not hesitate to return, but when we do, we will put our trust in a longtime travel partner such as Entrée Destinations, American Safari Cruises or The Midnight Sun, and not travel press hype.