We chose this cruise so that both my wife & I could experience some places neither of us have been before, and I could revisit a few ports/experiences I enjoyed just under 50 years ago when I was in the Navy.
Embarkation in Tokyo was interesting. Well done, but extremely unique. At the pristine Tokyo Cruise Terminal, we were first received in a large open room where, behind folding tables, initial screeners checked our paperwork. We were then ushered behind a folding screen to another area where stacking chair seats were provided as we awaited further processing . . . noticeable in both areas of initial contact in the terminal - there wasn't a splinter of permanent furniture (perhaps the supply chain hasn't caught up to this new terminals outfitting needs). From those stacking chairs we were ushered aboard . . . that's right, no key card or any such "kit" normally provided in the terminal ashore. Once aboard, we were snaked thru Compass Rose for the onboarding & key card process provided by local Tokyo personnel using Compass Rose busboy stations as their desks. It all worked, just unlike than any other onboarding experience we've had in the past.
Food quality was superlative. I never had a bad meal in any venue. That said, service still is "rusty" from the COVID shutdown, and needs some tweaking. Key example - at breakfast in La Veranda, there appears to be zero coordination between that key, high demand breakfast spot's staffing levels and the day's excursion departures. A rush is predictable in the hour & a half to hour prior to when the bulk of excursions are scheduled to depart. On several occasions, there simply was no place to sit . . . this was because a third of the tables were not reset after previous diners had departed. The lack of prompt reset the result of inadequate staff for serving coffee, water, etc. let alone resetting tables. Thankfully, we'd learned very quickly on previous sailings Aug 2022-forward to snag a table first before getting food - even if it meant standing over an unset one, flagging down a staffer, and waiting while the table was reset. Otherwise, you will likely have a plateful of food and no place to sit. Service in Prime 7 & Pacific Rim was a well-oiled attentive machine - elsewhere, consistently inconsistent. One final example - one night in Chartreuse, seated all the way aft in the corner, we were not only not offered the welcome glass of bubbly, but also even after bread service had occurred AND our order taken, we still hadn't been offered ANY liquids until I flagged down the Head Sommelier who happened to stroll thru our area. Rather than grab bottles & give us a splash, he told one of his wine servers to attend to us when she was done with another table of six, apparently the Head Sommelier hasn't learned the primary rules of six-star luxury, attend promptly to the customers' reasonable requests & no job is beneath you.
Our 9XX Explorer Suite didn't disappoint - we'd sailed 12XX Explorer Suite in the Med last Fall. While both suites were outstanding, I'd pick the "smaller neighborhood" of Deck 12 over the "larger community" of Deck 9, all else being equal. We enjoyed everyone we met during Block Party (Regent's 6pm party in the hallways, usually the 2nd or 3rd sailing day). The only thing I'd change in the Explorer Suite is the closet which, unlike the closet in the Penthouse Suites, is too narrow for two people to "operate" in at the same time. Aside from that, interior and veranda are exceptionally roomy & well appointed - comfortable for two or a cocktail party of 6-8. The suite was right off the elevator lobby and, in the bedroom, we heard absolutely no noise whatsoever.