Seven Seas Explorer debuted in summer 2016 as Regent Seven Seas Cruises' largest ship and self-proclaimed "the most luxurious ship ever built." Now that the ship's been sailing for more than a year, we wanted to know if the ship provides a great cruise experience. In other words, does it have substance beyond its chic and often opulent decor? After four nights onboard, here's our call:
We stayed in a Superior Suite, which might just be the perfect size suite for a couple if you don't need something gigantic. The bed faces the windows across the living area, which made the room seem more spacious than when you stare at a wall. The walk-in closet had several full-size drawers, plus shelves and tons of hanging space, and there was additional storage in the desk/vanity unit and a shelving unit under the TV. The bathroom was one of the best we've had, with modern black-and-white decor, lots of marble, a full-size tub and -- this sealed the deal --a large, rectangular glassed-in shower with two shelves for toiletries, a shave bar and a light so you could actually see what you were washing. The balcony was large with a dining table and reclining chairs. The higher-level suites keep the same gorgeous and modern decor, but offer more space and amenities -- until you get up to the lavish, but very livable Regent Suite, with its private spa, multiple balconies and designer living spaces.
It's different at the entry-level. The Veranda and Deluxe-Veranda Suites on Explorer are among the smallest accommodations in Regent's fleet. The 10 Veranda Suites (219 square feet of interior space) feel cramped, especially in the bedroom where the European king-sized bed overpowers the space and a small closet, lacking in drawers, is positioned a bit too close to the bedside table. (To put this in context, most mainstream lines' standard balcony cabins are 185 to 195 square feet inside.) The Deluxe Veranda Suites are akin to Seven Seas Mariner's at 253 square feet interior, but smaller than entry-level suites on Voyager and Navigator. Both categories are beautifully decorated and with large balconies; however, a member of Regent's sales team told us she doesn't recommend these suites for past Regent passengers.
We loved the choice of dining on Explorer, all complimentary. The new menus in the main restaurant, Compass Rose, offer a large array of always-available and daily dishes, including 13 types of meat and fish offered each night with your choice of sauces and sides. Four evening specialty options -- French, Asian, Italian and steak -- each pair beautifully designed venues with mouth-watering dishes. Even the pool grill features a large menu, with choices for everyone. We heard no complaints about reservations and know folks were able to get seated as walk-ins in the specialty venues.
Our least favorite restaurant was Chartreuse. It's one of those places where if you order correctly, it can be delicious, but it's easy to order the wrong thing. Plus, service was not impressive during our embarkation-night meal. Our Dover sole at dinner was chewy and a main-course endive salad at lunch was tiny and tasteless. Tablemates who ordered escargot and French onion soup were disappointed that they were too experimental and not the recipes one would expect. Know the restaurant serves modern not classic French fare, so you'll have a better experience if you're expecting more innovative dishes rather than old standards. We're not saying you should skip it -- but you might want to ask the waiters for recommendations of the most popular items and order those.
Lounges and Evening Activities
We were fans of the lounges and public spaces on Seven Seas Explorer. It got to be a running joke in our group that we'd try out all the different couches and armchairs and comment on how comfortable the throw pillows were. (They're really comfy!) Each venue had its own look, and all the seating nooks were inviting, from the daytime Coffee Connection to the dimly lit and hopping Explorer Lounge. Better still, the lounges had people in them -- not always the case on some small luxury ships. Whether it was evening name-that-tune, karaoke or just drinks and dancing, there was always something going on at night and people out and about taking advantage of the fun (and free drinks!). We went to three shows -- all of which were packed -- and while the acts weren't always to our taste (we preferred the musical revues to the guest ventriloquist), the majority of people enjoyed them, laughing and applauding loudly after show-stopping numbers.
Spa and Fitness Center
The Canyon Ranch SpaClub is gorgeous, with a butterfly theme that shows up in dramatic wall decor and even furnishings like the reception desk. The two-sided fitness center is expansive for a luxury ship, and even when popular with sea-day fitness buffs, it never felt crowded. We tried a spa ritual (massage plus body wrap, with exfoliation), and felt so relaxed afterward. Men's and women's saunas offer an aromatic steam room, cold room and infrared sauna, and the infinity pool at the aft of the spa is a luxurious hideaway.
We did have a few quibbles. We've found Canyon Ranch spa prices on cruise ships to generally be higher than Steiner's, and this was the case on Explorer. For example, a 50-minute massage starts at $180, an 80-minute hot stone massage at $272 and a 100-minute ritual at $356. We enjoyed the complimentary thermal suite, but wondered why the heated loungers were used more as a pre-treatment relaxation area rather than as part of the suite. Finally, the Deck 6 entrance to the gym is rather hidden at the end of a suite corridor, and if you haven't found it, you have to walk through main public areas in your gym clothes to get to the main entrance of the spa.
We'd heard some complaints about Explorer's service, and were curious to experience it ourselves. For our needs, the service was fine, but it was not as intuitive as some of the other luxury lines we've sailed this year, like Seabourn or Silversea. Tablemates waited an overly long time for orders to be brought from the pool grill on a busy sea day; no one is offering to carry your plate at the buffet; we hardly ever saw our room steward; when ordering tea at the cafe, we were told to get it ourselves.
On the other hand, the head sommelier was everywhere, checking on her staff and making recommendations for guests. The entertainment staff did a great job of scheduling new activities and printing new daily programs on the fly when we found out on arrival that it was too rough to tender to port and had an impromptu sea day; they even arranged for an important football game to play in the ship's theater due to passenger requests. Our server in Prime 7 handled a complicated food request, based on dietary restrictions, perfectly and really showed she was listening. And most every crew member we interacted with was friendly and personable.
Despite some quibbles, we loved the ship. For us, it was the perfect size: small enough that we never felt crowded or herded, yet big enough to have choice in dining and activities. We found the decor to be inviting rather than fussy, and were excited to try out the different venues. We're generally independent, so didn't feel the absence of fawning service, even though there were a handful of times when we thought it could stand to be improved. The inclusivity of the line (drinks, tips, even tours are covered by your fare) makes for a worry-free ship -- that is, if you can afford the luxury cruise prices. We've cruised on, and enjoyed, some of Regent's other ships, but after just a few days, we're convinced that Explorer is our current favorite of the four.
--By Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor