We have reviewed all our previous cruises which were on-board RSSC’s Mariner and Voyager in the Mediterranean but this time we wanted to try the new Explorer and enjoy the convenience of a Southampton round trip which meant our holiday could begin with a comfortable car journey.
The Seven Seas Explorer has been in service for less than a year and is described by Regent as ‘the most luxurious ship ever built’. As with Mariner and Voyager, the vessel is very spacious both in terms of cabin sizes and public areas. Although we sailed full, at no time on board did we feel at all crowded. The staff to passenger ratio is amongst the highest of all the cruise lines so that service is always at hand.
We have always found service on board Regent ships very good but on Explorer it was even better! As many of the crew seemed to have started on the Explorer, Regent has done a really excellent job of training them up to its wonderful standard.
As most excursions are included in the fare on Regent, they are of course very popular Almost all the excursions began with a bus ride and we were disappointed to find that Regent seemed to be filling the buses almost to capacity whereas in the past they have only been two-thirds full at the very most – takes the edge off the ‘luxury’ tag a bit to be on a crowded bus. Generally, the tours and the guides were of a high standard.
The main dining room with no reservations required and you can choose to share or not, as you wish. Sunday was a sea day so we had the chance to try the famous Brunch in CR - very impressive! But so difficult to decide where to start and, even more, where to stop. For dinner, we found it important to eat early, say by 7pm, to avoid a wait unless willing to share and to avoid the front section where the noise level could be very high. The food was adequate rather than exceptional and the large rectangular area, combined with the lack of any features gives the ambience of an, admittedly upmarket, refectory. The menu lacks the variety that we have found previously - I know there is the 'mix & match' of different entrees and sauces but think the chefs must find it rather inhibits creativity. The sauces also tend toward the bland - certainly the green pepper was almost flavour free.
At breakfast and lunch we enjoyed the copious buffet including a selection of hot dishes and, in good weather one can eat al fresco. Compared to Regent’s other ships, the layout was much improved.
At night La Veranda becomes Sette Mari, an Italian restaurant with a la carte ordering of main courses and a buffet for starters and desserts. No reservations required or permitted and very popular so that a wait for a table was not unusual. We dined here on only the last night of the cruise when there were many tables free and enjoyed the pasta and lamb chops particularly.
A French restaurant available by reservation only. Our first dinner was to have been in Compass Rose but there was a long line and, rather than wait for a two-top, we accepted the offer of a table in Chartreuse. I'm not sure but it seemed to me that it was a bigger venue than Signatures had been (the previous French restaurant on Mariner & Voyager). Although it was our favourite, not many seemed to share our preference if the availability of tables at short notice was a reliable indicator. The service from all the staff was both efficient and charming. The food is to our tastes generally although the slow-cooked beef ribs were lacking in flavour but not in quantity! We were keen to try the rack of lamb but were deterred by reports that it could be tough. Otherwise the meat and fish were top quality. The cheese soufflé was consistently excellent as were the desserts.
A steakhouse type restaurant available by reservation only. We also tried Prime 7 which is definitely bigger and better laid out than on the older ships. Again it was not full at any time that night. We enjoyed P7 which seemed to be the most popular of the speciality restaurants we actually visited. It is a very consistent, quality product but we are not great steak eaters - 6 oz is more than enough for us - so we don't seek extra visits.
An Asian – fusion style restaurant available by reservation only. We were not overwhelmed by Pacific Rim. While the ingredients were fine, the spicing was too bland to our taste. It was very good to find an Alsace Gewürztraminer on offer - although the Sommelier described it as German. Luckily there were no French passengers within earshot!
Being critical, we did not take to the layout of Compass Rose – too much the feel of a banqueting hall – but liked the new (to us) menu. We also found the Observation Lounge rather dark but perhaps that was a product of the rather gloomy weather – it certainly seemed more roomy and better laid out than on the other ships.
The Explorer may or may not be the most luxurious ship ever built, but it is certainly very well appointed, sails beautifully and has a marvellous crew. We received food and service better than on any of our previous Regent cruises. As many of the crew seemed to have started on the Explorer, Regent has done a really excellent job of training them up to its wonderful standard.
We were in an E category ‘concierge’ suite amidships on deck 6 and it was generally excellent in terms of space, fittings and finish. The king-size bed was extremely comfortable and as it faces the sea, provides a lovely view to wake up to. There were two handbasins, a bath and a spacious shower all in marble. There is also a large walk-in closet with ample storage. Two minor criticisms: first the curtain separating bed from sitting area is too close to the end of the bed so that we couldn't use it at night for fear it would cause trips if we had to stumble around in the semi-darkness at night. Second, the tiles on the floor of the shower and nearby were beginning to show yellow/brown staining. They are regularly cleaned, of course, so it would seem to be the effect of water lying on them as the drainage was unable to cope quickly with the copious output of the shower.