Posted September 4th, 2017, 10:16 AM
I am returning to Regent in a couple of months after a few years of using another cruise line and/or non-cruise vacationing, but my last couple of cruises on Regent were after they had started to include many of the excursions in the up-front fare. From discussions on the Regent board, I gather that my experience still holds.
Regent does use buses, but does not pack them as tightly as main stream lines. You'll find this with all of the lines that are considered luxury, whether the excursions are included or not. But, other than the number of people on the tour, the excursion is largely the same as offered by its sister line, Oceania.
The exception to this "no packing 'em in" practice can be in the ports that are more exotic (for lack of a better word) and there is very little tourism infrastructure. They are more likely to tightly pack in these ports because of limited availability of transportation, guides, etc. World cruises are more likely to go to these ports, so there is greater likelihood of running into this issue on a world cruise. Again, this is not limited to Regent's included tours. I ran into this on last year's world cruise on Crystal, and that line does not include excursions.
I think it's true of all cruise ships that excursions are a mixed bag--some are great, some mediocre, some awful. And to some extent, it's a matter of taste. An excursion with lots of shopping is my definition of travel hell, while to others an excursion without shopping is a non-starter. Asking on the Regent forum or on the forums for the individual ports can help you sort which are which. Also, learning to read the excursion descriptions with a critical eye helps.
Note that some Regent excursions do involve an extra charge, just not as much as on a ship that is not inclusive of excursions. Those do tend to be a little more personalized, but the extra money is not necessarily a guarantee of that.
What I have found--on Regent and otherwise--is to do a mix of ship's excursions, private guides, and just heading out by taxi, on foot, or by HoHo or local bus/subway. It does involve some planning and research, but at least to me, that's half the fun. For example, we had great experiences with private guides in Bali, Singapore, Melbourne, St. Helena, and Mumbai. We had wonderful ship's excursions in Kerala, Fujairah, and Ho Chi Minh City. In Zanzibar and Bangkok, not so much. HoHo buses in Dubai did the job admirably. A taxi engaged at the port gave us a good tour of Bora Bora. In Fiji, it was a disaster. And so it goes.
On world cruises, there are often opportunities for off-ship side trips: leave the ship for an inland adventure and meet the ship at a later port. Sometimes they are included in the fare, such as to Petra and Beijing on Regent. Both were wonderful, and extremely well done (same with Beijing on Crystal). Others, you pay extra for, and can do through the ship or on your own. Regent "extra" off-ship excursions in Egypt were well-done, as was one to Xian. My TA set up off-ship excursions for us for a safari in Africa, and it was wonderful. Those who did the ship's safari also found it wonderful, but they paid a lot more for a similar experience. My TA also set up our side trip to Angkor Wat. We paid somewhat less than the ship's trip, but had one guide for the two of us and a wonderful experience. Those who went on the ship's trip were disapointed (this was Crystal, but the same issues would apply on Regent).
Sorry, I got a little carried away, so probably too much info. But hopefully you can find something helpful in the above.