This was our forth Explorer cruise which pretty much shows how much we love this ship. We have sailed over 350 nights on Regent (on all the ships) and find the Explorer the top of the line.
To back up a bit, we flew to Miami from Vancouver, B.C. using our own air and took the air credit. We flew American Airlines which is a mediocre airline at best but it did get us there. We also took the hotel credit as we were a group of over 100 people (customers of a travel agent) and had special events in Miami for two days prior to embarkation.
This was a transatlantic cruise with only 3 port stops so there were mostly Regent repeat customers on the ship (that preferred having the ship be the destination). We stopped in Bermuda for 2 days which was okay. IMO, Regent is making too many stops at this port and we are getting tired of it.
Our second port was Funchal which we love. Madeira is a lovely island with great food and scenery. We took an "included" excursion that took us across the island where we had lunch at a local restaurant. The food was delicious. Most of us tried "black scabbard" fish (only available in Madeira and Japan). It is the ugliest fish that I've ever seen but tasted great.
Our last port was Gilbraltar, U.K. where we visited a farm in Spain. This required going across the border which, according to our tour guide, is getting more difficult to cross every day. Thankfully, it was not an issue. The farm is amazing - they have cork trees, cows, and the famous black pigs. The farm is thousands of acres and is completely organic. Most of the feed for the animals comes from the trees. The pigs eat the acorns and is praised as some of the best ham in the world. We visited their new school and petting zoo which was lovely. This was followed by tapas (the amazing ham was included and is the best we have ever tried) and sherry. This is the first time that we have done the same excursion twice. IMO, it was worth it. Destination Services on this cruise did an excellent job (something that I have not said before about this department).
We stayed in the Master Suite which was the best suite we have stayed in on the Explorer - not just because it is a Master Suite but because of the layout. We have also stayed in a Grand Suite, Concierge Suite and F1 Suite on the Explorer and have toured other suites. Besides for the Master Suite, we also like the Concierge/F1 Suites (identical except for the balcony) and the Seven Seas Suite. We are not fans of the PH suites.
Food on Explorer remains excellent - in most dining venues. Our favorite on this cruise was Chartreuse - especially for lunch. Great food and impeccable service. Our least favorite was Prime 7 due to inconsistent food. Compass Rose is always wonderful as long as you dine early or late. Going to Compass Rose after a special event can be chaos. For instance, after the Captain's Reception, 200-300 people immediately go to Compass Rose. There is no way any restaurant can provide excellent service when everyone arrives at the same time (unless you are at a wedding and the choice of food is very limited and prepared in advance).
Service was also excellent. If anyone has a problem with food or service on any Regent ship, the key is to let the Food and Beverage Director or the General Manager know about the issue. They will do everything within their power to make it better. If you do not say anything, there is no way they know that there is something that needs to be fixed. On our last cruise, there was an issue that I reported to Daniela, F&B Director (which was corrected) but on this cruise, there was nothing negative to report.
We are not big into entertainment, however, the entertainment on this cruise was the best that we have encountered on the Explorer. Cruise Director John Barron is determined to raise the entertainment level up a notch. So far, he is accomplishing his goal.
This is a two bedroom suite. The living room has a piano, a nice bar and is a good size and comfortable. Both bedrooms are the same size and have desks and good storage space. The master bathroom has a very large Jacuzzi tub and double sinks while the second bedroom is quite a bit smaller but does a nice shower. The wraparound balcony is amazing and massive - it even has a table for six if you wish to dine al fresco. Since this is an aft suite, you can normally use the balcony more than you can in a forward suite. On this cruise, however, the seas were rougher than anyone has experienced on a transatlantic cruise and the winds were high so the only time we could utilize the suite is when it was in port.