Ultra-luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises made waves a few years back when it introduced free, unlimited shore excursions on its worldwide voyages. It bumped the line up to a new level of inclusiveness that even luxury travelers were unaccustomed to, and became the benchmark by which many other luxury cruise lines are measured.
All that inclusiveness comes at a cost. A weeklong voyage in the Med will set you back about $7,000 per person, while a seven-day trip up to Alaska runs just over $5,000 per person. But if you take a moment to get over the sticker shock, Regent’s all-inclusive approach is not only more relaxing, it makes good financial sense too.
Regent offers up all but its most top-shelf beverages on a complimentary basis. That means soft drinks, sparkling water, specialty coffees, beer, wines, spirits and the like are all included whenever and wherever you’d like.
If you were paying for drinks on a non-luxury line, a beer will set you back $6; a glass of wine $12 (at least) and a martini $14. Even if you don’t drink, specialty coffees can run as much as $5 on other lines, while soft drinks are about $3.
Imagine you have a $3 latte each morning on a seven-day cruise – for a total cost of $21. Couple that with two glasses of wine per day for a weekly total of $168 per person, and two cocktails or martinis per day at $14 a pop, or $196 per week. Just with those few beverages alone, you’d be looking at a bar tab of $378 per person. And that’s being moderate.
On Regent, you can enjoy what you want, when you want – for no additional cost.
Tipping is neither expected nor required with Regent. With tipping on some mainstream lines pushing the $15 per person, per day mark, that would amount to $210 in gratuities for a couple. Let’s assume your travelling companion has the same bar tab habits as you, and also spends $378 on beverages for a week. Coupled with gratuities, you’d have an onboard account that totals $966 – nearly a thousand dollars over the ticket price of the cruise. And we haven’t even reached the most expensive part yet.
Regent began offering a selection of free shore excursions a few years back, to more than a few raised eyebrows. After all, shore excursions in certain destinations (we’re looking at you, Alaska and Northern Europe) can be prohibitively expensive, whereas more basic tours in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean seem to have down-to-earth pricing.
Still, the fact remains that, for many destinations, shore excursions that break $100 per person aren’t uncommon, and excursions that can push into the $400 and $500 territory aren’t uncommon.
Let’s take Alaska for example. On an average Alaskan cruise, you’ll visit four ports of call. If you want to do the Mendenhall Glacier Adventure Hike, Gastineau Guiding will charge you $89 per person. With Regent, it’s included, saving you almost $200 per couple.
Conservatively, if you did one excursion in every port valued at $100, you’d spend $400 per person, or $800 per couple. That brings the old onboard account, if this were a non-luxury line, to $1,766.00 – nearly two thousand dollars over the ticket price. If you took two excursions in each port of call (which, in Alaska, is possible on longer-duration calls), that number jumps to $2,566 in extra charges.
If you’re booking an inside stateroom on a big mainstream ship, the price differential isn’t enough to be worth the luxury plunge. But if you’re booking a suite on a big mainstream ship, your onboard expenses could well exceed what you’d pay for an entry-level Regent cruise, where practically everything is included.
Some Regent cruises will throw in either complimentary economy or business-class airfare as long as you’re near a major US or Canadian gateway city (think San Francisco, Toronto or New York). WiFi internet access is also included on every Regent cruise, and that can save hundreds of dollars in internet access fees. Sure, the internet on a ship is never fast – but if your email takes two minutes to load, that’s two free minutes on Regent and a ton of money on other lines.
Regent also throws in free transfers between the airport and the ship. That might not make much of a difference in Vancouver, where a cab will run you $35, but it does make a difference in Seward, where the transfer to Anchorage International takes 2.5 hours and comes at a steep cost in some cases. Ditto for the port of Civitavecchia, which is a 90-minute transfer (at best) from central Rome.
Which brings us to the most important quantifier of all: the Regent difference.
Like other luxury lines, Regent offers a distinct advantage for that price of admission, and that comes in terms of creature comforts. Everything onboard a Regent ship is the best of the best, from the professional yet friendly staff to the ship’s spacious, all-suite accommodations. You’ll get pillow menus, better toiletries, premium liquors, higher-quality food, a more spacious ship, and better overall service. You’re not a passenger on Regent; you’re a guest. A valued guest that is part of an exclusive club, no matter where you sail to.
It’s that graciousness, quality and exclusivity that keeps cruisers coming back to Regent Seven Seas year after year. And the overall value, with almost everything included in the cost of the cruise, doesn’t hurt either.