We had tried to get a group of friends together to tour the British Isles for a few years, but it never happened. My wife and I decided to take a British Isles cruise on Regent's Explorer instead, and are very glad we did.
We used the included business class to arrive in Southampton a day early. We mainly used the day to shake off jet lag, and the next day used the hotel's complimentary car service to get to the port at around 12:30. Embarkation was a breeze; we were the only passengers there, and had a choice of 10 people to take care of us. We had cocktails on the pool deck, and were in our room with our luggage just after 2:00. That couldn't have been easier.
The room was an F2 (Superior) suite. It had a large walk in closet, with more hangers than we needed (and we overpacked). The bathroom was nice with double sinks, a bathtub and a separate shower. All of the surfaces were luxurious marble. The bed was very comfy and faced the veranda, the veranda was big and had nice wicker chairs,and our room attendant dropped off a bottle of scotch and a bottle of bourbon. No complaints about our room at all, and it was one of the bottom end suites!
We spent some time touring the ship, and were frankly amazed at how nice all of the public areas were. It's maximum luxury, almost obsessively so. Everything was spotless and appeared to be in perfect shape. Explorer has been in service for about three years, and looks like it's a brand new vessel. It's supposed to be refurbished this fall, but the passenger-visible areas don't seem to need it.
We split our dinners between Compass Rose (the main dining room) and the specialty restaurants. We like to eat late, and that made it easy to get additional reservations at the specialty places. We can honestly say that we didn't have a single dish that we were unhappy with. The service was also great, everything was perfectly paced. One or both of Prime 7 and Chartreuse are open for lunch each day, and that was really nice. All in all, it couldn't have been better.
We don't pay much attention to the entertainment. Since we eat late, the show has usually started by the time we're ready. But what we did see was pretty good. Cruise director John Barron's show was excellent. He's really a great CD, the best we've run across. They had an Irish flute player that we liked. The real highlights were two groups that John brought on board. In Belfast there was a troupe of musicians and dancers that told the Belfast story. But the topper was in Liverpool where he had the Cavern Club Beatles on stage. They are the house band at the Cavern Club, the place the actual Beatles play hundreds of times. The theater was definitely rocking that night!
1. The theater has too many obstructed vision seats. The steps are tricky when the lights go out, and we saw a woman fall and break her ankle. She had to be airlifted off the ship the next day.
2. British weather.
1. Literally everything else.
Took the ship's included tour to the Glengoyne distillery with a stop at Loch Lomond. A nice day.
Took the ship's food tour of Belfast. A local guide took 10 of us to 5 different places where we got to meet the owners, and eat and drink their specialties. There was a reasonable charge for this tour.View All 3 Culinary Tour Reviews
A long day, and only fans of the old British TV show The Prisoner would think it was worthwhile. The tour had a charge that seemed excessive for what we got.View All 1 Portmeirion Village Reviews
We had a great time on the HOHO bus, and followed it with a visit to the bars on Matthew Street. The highlight was when we visited the Cavern Club, the Beatles old hangout. It was epic!
The Storehouse visit was fun, although too crowded. We had the bus drop us off in the Temple Bar area, and that was kind of fun, but too crowded. Dublin is a crowded place!View All 22 Guinness Storehouse Reviews