We just returned from a 30 night – back-to-back cruise on Explorer (Haifa to Rome and Rome to Miami). The first two weeks were in a F1 suite and the second segment we were in a Grand suite. This review is very long so I’ll separate sections so you won’t have to read things that you are not interested in.
We flew Air Canada (Regent deviated air) from Vancouver to Tel Aviv with a stop in Toronto. The first flight was in a 777—200 aircraft which seemed fairly new. Business Class pods were very comfortable. Service and food was good. The next flight was on the new 787 Dreamliner. Pods were the same as the 777-200 but this plane felt a bit older but was quieter. Flight attendants are not happy with this plane as there is very little room in the galley). We would fly Air Canada again (either type of aircraft).
Returning to Vancouver we were on American Airlines (with a stop at DFW). Not being a fan of U.S. based airlines, we were quite surprised at how lovely the plane was (777 again). While very different than Air Canada, the pods were very comfortable – surprising to have lie-flat seats for a 3 hour flight. Food was very good and the service was excellent. The flight out of Miami was delayed 1 hour due to a computer module that needed to be replaced. The Captain kept us informed of what was going on and was very pleasant. He let us know that he was flying at a greater speed which uses more fuel but would keep us closer to schedule. Flight attendants served drinks and the temperature of the plane was kept at a comfortable range. For passengers with connections, the television screen showed the departure gates and a map of the airport. I give American Airlines an A+ for this leg of the flight.
Unfortunately, the second leg was on a 737 – on time – Captain didn’t really say anything – old fashioned seats and poor food (service was good). We were surprised and not happy to see that the front seats on the 737 aircraft are no longer considered “First Class” but was instead “Business Class”.
We were picked up promptly by Regent and driven to the ship. Since we were in an F1 suite (moved Grand Suite for second segment), there was no overnight at a hotel and, if we wanted transportation, we needed to arrive the day of the sailing. While this would not work under most circumstances, the ship was not leaving Haifa until the next day so the risk of flying in the same day was minimal.
Boarding was simple and easy. We had lunch in La Veranda and headed to our suite.
We were on the Christening cruise so we are familiar with the ship. We knew that the F1 suite was the same size as a concierge suite but that the balcony was smaller. We feel that these suites are laid out better than either the PH suite and, in a few areas, better than the Grand suite (more on this later).
The ship was as pristine as it was in July. We noticed that there was more artwork up and that the Meridian and Explorer Lounges had the back wall – behind the alcohol bottles – completed (they had been non-descript before are now lovely and match the décor perfectly).
The much hyped infinity pool was open for the first segment but closed for repair(?) on the second segment. No one really was by or the infinity pool when it was open – no one checked to see what category of suite we were in (at one point this area was only for certain categories of suites). My DH went in and it was like going into the sea – very rough. However, it was warm and he enjoyed it for the few minutes that he tried it out.
The Observation Lounge is beautiful but gets very crowded so we tended to go to the two other lounges. We really did not miss having an aft lounge – perhaps because we generally prefer looking out at where we are going rather where we have been.
The loudness of the entertainment in the Meridian and Explorer Lounges was a big issue on the first leg of the cruise. In the opinion of many passengers, music before dinner should be background music – not so loud that you cannot hear one another. The Explorer Lounge featured Nature’s Rhythm (arguably the best group on Regent). When the music was loud, we could not even appreciate their beautiful harmony. The Meridian Lounge usually had a fine guitarist playing. Usually, the sound was low but one night we had to leave the lounge as the sound level was not tolerable. In fairness, they were working on keeping the sound down before dinner and hopefully this will not be an issue in the future.
The theater is also a bit loud – depending upon where you sit. In terms of sight lines, we were in the balcony for two musters and must agree with posters that say that the sight lines are not good. However, if you simply avoid the big columns in the theater downstairs, the views are fine. There is still an issue with the stairs in the theater – perhaps it would be better to have a string of tiny lights embedded across the carpeting where the steps are.
There are so many lovely seating areas on the Explorer which passengers enjoy (reading, chatting with fellow passengers, working on their computers, people watching, etc.)
The pool and pool deck is lovely. The “smoking area” is mostly enclosed and keeps the smoke away from passengers. Smokers indicated that this was a good place to meet people and chat. The Pool Bar was a popular hangout during the second leg of the cruise. There are more shaded areas on the pool deck and also the deck above so people can lie in the sun or shade – as they wish.
The design of decks 5 and 6 really work well in my opinion. Having Compass Rose, the Constellation Theater, the Casino and two Boutiques on the same deck (4) just made sense to me. On Deck 5 is Destination Services, Reception, the Cruise Consultant, General Manager, the “Café” (we all still call it Coffee Connection), the Spa, Pacific Rim and lots of seating around the deck.
The “Business Center” (formerly computer room) is tiny with 4 computers and the “Computer Guru”. There are two computers in the library that are not connected to a printer. IMO, more computers are needed and can be put in various parts of the ship (there is room for a couple of them next to the puzzle). They just finished putting routers (hope this is the right word) throughout the ship so the internet is generally good everywhere. The issue remains the number of people on at the same time. Still, using my “cheapo” HP small laptop, I was able to do almost everything that I needed to do in my suite. Apparently people that want to do large downloads, uploads, pictures and other things that slow down the connectivity were having difficulty.
La Veranda – not enough can be said about how much better the layout is than on other ships (prior to refurbishment). The Explorer also has a huge – partially covered area outside where you can dine al fresco. At night, a wall in LV slides to reveal an open kitchen (not planned on other ships to my knowledge). La Veranda/Sette Mari is a very comfortable space
Chartreuse/P7 – As noted in my other posts, Regent has apparently adopted CC’ers name for Prime 7 as you will see “P7” on the glass doors. This gave us a chuckle. I put these two restaurants together in this review as they are quite similar in layout (but not design). IMO, the prime seats are at the far back of the restaurants – next to the slanted windows. However, as much as we love the back, in warm weather the windows will likely put out a lot of heat. We enjoy the design of both restaurants
Compass Rose -- Either you love it or don’t. We love the design but understand that there are areas in CR that get very noisy when the venue is full. This is one restaurant that you really need to see for yourself. We found an area that fit us perfectly – it was quiet and had an intimacy that other areas didn’t necessarily have.
The Café (aka Coffee Connection)
Very popular area – larger than on other ships. Very nice – well laid-out. Slightly off topic…… events like Meet & Greets are done in the Meridian Lounge which is right across from The Café. So, if someone wants a snack, coffee or tea (alcoholic or not), it is easy to obtain and take to the lounge.
Pool Deck - I don’t recall if there are heaters on the pool deck in the area where you eat on other Regent ships. One area was heated and during hot weather it seemed air conditioned (to a point). The buffet is similar to other ships (exceptions noted in the “Food” section which follows).
We found the food on the Explorer a step above what was offered on our previous cruises (we have been on a lot of Regent cruises
La Veranda – Having a grill in LV is nice. In addition to burgers (also available on the Pool Deck), they offer steak, chicken, fish, lamb chops and I don’t recall what else (choices change daily). The pasta station is next to the grill. There is someone to take your order from either the grill or pasta station (remember your table # so that you don’t have to go back and check). There is Regent’s delicious ice cream available in LV at lunch (also on the Pool Deck where you can have your ice cream topped with Kahlua or other delicious liquors). We enjoyed LV very much!
Pool Grill – Nice offerings and most are quite good. I would not order Lobster Nacho’s again and would not recommend it to anyone that knows what nachos typically are. There was no salsa available and the “sauce” put over the nachos is a thin sour cream (I have long thought that Regent needs a chef that is familiar with Latin cuisine). They also have flatbread, pizza, chicken wings, etc.
Sette Mari – Similar to the Voyager or Mariner – just has the open kitchen. It seemed that there were less items on the antipasti bar but you are served so much food in this restaurant that it is difficult to have a plate from the antipasti bar, eat the antipasti items set out on your table plus soup/salad and a main course (followed by the delicious dessert bar). Note: Soup, salad and entrées are served to you – only the antipasti bar and dessert bar are buffet. Also, on some evenings (generally when the ship is in port late), Regent puts on a special “themed” buffet that is open later than usual.
Chartreuse – We really love this specialty restaurant (which is also open for lunch every other day except Sunday and is open on sea days). If you visit this restaurant, order a soup. The presentation is unique and the soups are delicious. Our favorite lunch item is half a chicken with mushroom sauce – very moist and flavorful. I had rack of lamb twice in Chartreuse – both times were perfection. The “French Onion Soup” in Chartreuse is authentic rather than the soup in CR which is delicious but full of cheese and bread.
Prime 7 – This is also open every other day except Sunday and is open on all sea days. While we didn’t like this quite as much as Chartreuse for lunch, the dessert presentation is unique (cannot describe – you need dine there to see it). Our one dinner there was good but not as good as the steak in CR. We did not order the crab legs which is one of their signature dishes.
Pacific Rim – We have tried to like this restaurant (have dined there 5 times during our three Explorer cruises). I love Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisine but it needs to be authentic. “Asian Fusion” to me is “Asian Confusion”. My DH liked the Korean lamb chops and I enjoyed the Tempera Lobster but know how fattening it is and only ordered it twice. There are no desserts to our liking. All is not negative, however, the sake menu is great. I have learned to enjoy cold sake and had quite a bit of it (without getting high or drunk).
Compass Rose – This review is already too lengthy so I’ll be short. Everything on the menu that we tried was good. We had steamed lobster from the everyday menu several times because it is delicious and low in calories (when you don’t have it with butter). The steaks are delicious – the soups are great. I could eat in CR every day and not get tired of it. This dining venue is so popular now that there were a few times when it was at capacity and passengers were offered seats in specialty restaurants.
The Sunday brunch is to die for. The presentation – everything was the best!
Speaking of “the best”, these are the only words I can think of to describe the crew on the Explorer. Don’t worry – only going to mention a few of the many, many wonderful crew members on the ship.
Daniela, F&B Director and her team went over and above for our Meet and Greet. Daniela is on top of everything and is very open with passengers. If something is not right, she encourages you to discuss it with her.
I do not recall who the Restaurant Manager was on our first cruise but Vladimir came onboard in Rome and his made everything that was “good”, perfection. He is on top of everything and interacts very well with passengers.
Risky – my mentioning her on CC has caused her station in CR to be packed. One passenger (one of the very few grumpy ones) became angry when they could not get a table in her section. She is charming, engaging, professional and just plain lovable.
John Barron (Cruise Director) deserves a review of his own. We sailed with John many years ago and was thrilled that he returned “home” to Regent. He brings the level of excitement, laughter and pure joy to a new level. IMO, his show is the best on Regent (I will not be reviewing other entertainers or shows – they were fine but cannot compete with John). He is a very talented, charming man. We look forward to sailing with him again in March.
There too many crew members for me to name. I’ll just say that we did not meet one crew member that wasn’t happy with their job and were working as hard as they could to exceed guest expectations!
Definitely not a lover of included excursions but do enjoy most “Regent Choice” excursions. I will touch on three of them:
1. Rhodes, Greece – Small group of about 17 go to a local restaurant with the Chef of the Culinary Center where you are very hands-on (cooking, making bread and other Greek delights). All of this while sipping Ouzo and drinking wine. After having loads of fun, you sit down to more wine and a meal of all of the items that you have tried making yourself. Giving this an A+.
2. Barcelona – This small group excursion is also with the Chef of the Culinary Center and a Tour Guide (a member of Destination Services was there – it seemed she was there to take advantage of a $300/person excursion as she was not needed and she didn’t show up on any other excursions). We went to the famous Boqueria Market and another, more local market. This was followed by olive oil tasting (fun but not used to sipping olive oil). Then came lunch at a two star Michelin restaurant. This is where the excursion went downhill. The food was all “molecular gastronomy” which meant that there were a lot of things with foam and items that we did not understand and would not want to eat (fried fish bone for instance). The best item I had was “boar cheeks”. I strongly urge Regent to explain the type of food that will be offered. This will avoid unhappy passengers.
3. Madeira, Funchal – Finally, another excursion with the Chef of the Culinary Center. This was a complete hit. Were accompanied only by the Chef (didn’t need anyone else – she handled it fine and there were only 16 or so people). We went for a Madeira wine tasting before going to a lovely restaurant for lunch. Once again, if you wanted to, you could don an apron (my DH did) and work with the bread or skewered meat. The food was delicious – the restaurant owners/servers were delightful. Wish we could do this again when we go to Funchal in March but it is not offered.
As indicated before, we love the F1/F2 and concierge suites. It is hard not to love the Grand Suite with a balcony large enough to be a skating rink. We did enjoy it very much. The closet in the Grand Suite is smaller than in the smaller suites. Also, there was less storage in the master bathroom and no storage at all in the second bathroom. There are a couple of issues that will be dealt with by Regent when the ship is in Miami. One item is the noise from the Constellation Theater that is heard in suite 1200. This goes on during trivia, bingo and up until 11:30 p.m. when there is entertainment. This suite is also very close to the laundry room. While there is no noise from the laundry room, the door slams very hard and is annoying. I would recommend the Grand Suites but would be hesitant to recommend 1200 or 1201.
Passengers were the best! Many of us “met” on Roll Call 18 months ago and have kept in touch all of this time. This was a group of upbeat, easy to get along with people that see the positive in things and in other people. We had two “hang out” spots where we could go and knew we would find other CC’ers – the Pool Bar at 11:00 a.m. and the Observation Lounge at 6:00 p.m. Naturally there were a few (very few) passengers on board that seem to be happy being unhappy.
All in all, this was the best cruise we have been on in terms of the ship, service, food and passengers. As John Barron frequently says, “I am Explorer!”
Great excursion - learned to cook Greek food and drink Ouzo!View All 1 Culinary Tour Reviews