Luxury encompasses the entire passenger experience. The physical environment of the ship is part of this experience, and the Seven Seas Explorer does present an environment that is richly decorated and often spacious, but the passenger ... Read More
Luxury encompasses the entire passenger experience. The physical environment of the ship is part of this experience, and the Seven Seas Explorer does present an environment that is richly decorated and often spacious, but the passenger experience suffers some of the same faults that I have encountered on other Regent ships.
After a rather bad experience on a recent cruise on the Seven Seas Voyager (previously reviewed on Cruise Critic), we were hesitant to take another Regent journey. However, we had already booked this trip, the itinerary was one that had great appeal to us (one of the few that have three full days in St. Petersburg), and several friends who had been on the Explorer raved about it, so we decided to go ahead. The cruise was certainly an improvement over our one on the Voyager, but not quite perfect.
Our suite, a Concierge E level, was indeed one of the best cabins we have had on a cruise ship. It had plenty of sitting room, was well furnished, had a very comfortable bed and a large balcony, and more than enough drawers, cabinets and closet space. The bathroom was also well designed, with two sinks, a tub and a very good shower, and again plenty of drawers and shelf and counter space. Although the Explorer offers even larger suites, we saw no need for anything bigger.
Regent appears to have spared no expense in outfitting the common areas of the ship. Furniture and fixtures were over the top. Of course, décor is a personal matter, and I found some of the areas to be overdone, some clashing of various styles, and the art was not to my liking, but I would not downgrade the Explorer for these reasons as others do love the way the ship is outfitted.
One of the disappointing parts of the cruise was the food. Presentations were always very well done, but the taste often did not live up to expectations. The specialty restaurants were especially disappointing. Service was exceeding slow (way past leisurely) to the point where we started a meal at 7:00 and were not finished until after 10:00, missing the evening show. In Prime 7 I had the Prime Rib, one of my favorites on previous Regent cruises, but the meat was lacking in flavor and texture. In Chartreuse I had the “rack of lamb,” actually just two lamb chops that were overcooked. In Pacific Rim I had the lobster tempura, finding the lobster to be tough and flavorless. But the Pacific Rim is beautifully decorated at least. We were able to get only one reservation in each restaurant, not understanding why some people seemed to be able to get multiple reservations. But we found that one was enough. We actually preferred meals in the Compass Rose and especially Sette Mare, where service was much better (and much improved from previous Regent cruises). The breakfast and lunch buffets lacked variety from day to day, but there were plenty of choices. The specialty restaurants were also open at lunch with a limited menu and offered a sit-down alternative to the buffet, but the hours were limited and often closed before morning excursions returned. The sommeliers or wine stewards did not seem to know much about wine, always suggesting a wine before they knew what you planned to eat.
The Constellation Theater, where the big shows are held, is a disaster. None of the balcony seats, and less than half of the main floor seats, have good sight lines. The acoustics are bad and muddy the vocalists. Speakers are badly placed and often the singing appears to be coming from the back of the theater rather than from the performer. In fact, for a while I thought they were lip-synching, but there was an instance where a singer had a microphone failure and you could hear her natural, unamplified voice and it was quite lovely. The singers and dancers were quite talented and gave good shows, although the choreography was a bit repetitive at times. The cast also made an effort to socialize with the passengers, which was a very nice touch.
The excursions were mostly good, although we optioned for independent tours in St. Petersburg as the Regent included tours were primarily only half day and didn’t allow you to get to much in this marvelous city. For most of the tours Regent did not provide personal audio systems, making it hard to hear the guides. Almost all the tour groups from other ships did seem to have the audio systems. The departures for the tours were most unpleasant. People were asked to wait around the theater and then there was a mob scene with pushing and shoving when a tour was called. We have never had this type of problem on other cruise lines and Regent needs to find a better way.
The enrichment lectures were a big disappointment. In an area rich in history and culture, the speaker, chose not to talk about any of the ports but instead all but one of his lectures were about the Vikings, pertinent to the region but not worth so many lectures. And the lectures were generally rambling collections of facts with no real take home points. The speaker was part of the Smithsonian lecture program and unfortunately he gave the Smithsonian a bad name.
There was a paucity of activities during sea time, and most of the activities seemed to be promotions for the spa or the boutique. The Cruise Director, who should be responsible for the passenger experience, did not seem to be directing anything, but only acted as an announcer or an emcee. He appears to have been hired for his singing ability rather than for any administrative or guest relations abilities. He was probably the worst cruise director of the many cruises I have been on. Read Less