Having previously experienced SS Mariner in April 2015 we were really looking forward to taking a voyage on the new SS Explorer in Sept 2016. It was a 10 night cruise from Venice to Monte Carlo with various interesting ports of call along ... Read More
Having previously experienced SS Mariner in April 2015 we were really looking forward to taking a voyage on the new SS Explorer in Sept 2016. It was a 10 night cruise from Venice to Monte Carlo with various interesting ports of call along the way. The ship has been described with many superlatives and the anticipation levels were high.
Please note: Long review warning!
We enjoyed pleasant overnight stay at he Marriott Hotel in the Venetian lagoon. Lovely hotel, excellent setting/position, great rooms and very good service. The downside was that outside, particularly the roof top pool, it is infested by wasps! Unfortunately, my wife got stung on the foot a couple of hours prior to us boarding the ship - and spent the next 8 days with a badly swollen foot and leg, which caused a few problems - but she overcame it all stoically in the end.
On arrival at the ship you can't help but be impressed. It is certainly luxuriously appointed and the opulence of the public spaces is very grand indeed. When we arrived in our Seven Seas Suite, despite having some idea what it might look like, the impact was still overwhelming. The furnishings and decor are lavish and bright, the space is utilised very efficiently to include a glass topped dining table/chairs and a desk area within the main living room and a large, separate bedroom. The main bathroom is huge with a jacuzzi bath, 2 wash basins, large shower and separate toilet. We also had a "guest" bathroom in the entrance hall - this was a very practical and well appointed feature too. In act, we preferred the wash basin & tap arrangement in there to the main bathroom tbh. It had a more homely feel too - with a deep red decor. The balcony, more later, was huge well (but not brilliantly) appointed and a great place to sit with the daily canapes and a glass of wine as you sail out of the various ports. Remotely controlled curtains and a very large, walk in closet/wardrobe are additional features to this suite.
All the dining venues were superbly appointed and, with one exception, we enjoyed first class meals in idyllic, contemporary surroundings in all of them. More of that later.
The al fresco dining at La Veranda was larger than on Mariner and we were able to take full advantage of that at breakfast and lunch due to the superb weather that we encountered on this cruise. Thus, we never had breakfast in the Compass Rose and we preferred La V to the room service breakfast - which as superbly laid out by Yudi, our friendly and helpful butler when we did chose that option. Regent breakfasts en suite don't quite do it for me tbh. They are great for early departures on tours, and we did that a few times, but I've yet to have decent scrambled eggs and the restricted menu options/lack of flexibility (or thinking, "I'd quite like something else now") is always an issue on any ship.
As I indicated above, all the public rooms are spectacular and lavishly appointed. None more so than the dining rooms and the lounge areas. Quite why there are so many chairs and settees in the main Reception are I'm not sure, they do seem to be rather superfluous to requirements there. Equally, the Meridian and Explorer lounges could be a tad larger in order to accommodate sufficient guests on the occasions that something of general popularity occurs within them. Whilst they are adequate most of the time, there were odd times when they were simply not able to fit everyone in. The trio, "Nature Rhythym" who performed in the rather darkly appointed Explorer Lounge most evenings were lively, versatile and very entertaining.
We were delighted to find that the lounge pianist, Ross Rannallo, whom we had met on Mariner was also performing on this ship. He occupied the wonderful Observation Lounge most evenings and that was always a great after dinner location for us. Great pianist, wide & cosmopolitan repertoire - vocals may not always be that great but hugely relaxing atmosphere in very comfortable surroundings. Enjoyed the odd cocktail, including a few "Grasshoppers" in the subtle and delightful Obs Lounge! Even won a couple of music quizzes, which we don't normally bother with tbh. Earned some Regent Reward points and were handed some more by a very kind American couple who we'd met whilst competing as well as elsewhere on the ship - thanks for that. Came away with a tot bag, a bookmark and a tee shirt as a result!
The theatre is very good and the entertainment we saw was fine, not great but ok. Enjoyed the 2 shows by the "Opera Girls" and the 60's show "Revolution" was pretty good too. Gave some stuff a wide berth but the Asst Cruise Director, David Nevin, provided a decent vocal performance too,
All our meals were outstanding bar one. Hugely impressed by the range and service levels in Compass Rose - which was far busier than we'd known on Mariner. You can get lobster or a range of steak & other meat options any evening as well as the daily choice, which was vast. The new pan Asian restaurant, Pacific Rim, was, quite frankly, out of this world. Incredible food in an amazing and staggeringly beautiful venue - with service that would rival anything you could experience on land. The beef tataki, soft shell crab and tempura lobster were beyond magnificent. Fortunately, we managed a second booking in there and the sushi and Miso glazed black cod were just as fantastic. Our experience in P 7 was similar, I just couldn't manage all the 10 oz filet mignon, gratinated potato and creamed spinach! The Maitre D in Pac Rim, Daniela, who also appears in La V, was always extremely courteous and very helpful - the staff under her charge are magnificent too. This is a world class restaurant, as good or better than any we'v eaten in anywhere in the world.
Sette Mari (LA V converts to an Italian restaurant at night) was also spectacularly good) - again, far too easy to over at in here. The appetisers served prior to a starter of the hors d'houevre option are superb. The main courses we had were incredible - a surf and turf with largest King Prawn (described a a "shrimp") I've ever seen was superb. The chicken, beef/steak and other options were all wonderful too. One slightly quirky wine waiter in here, found him a bit weird & off hand tbh but others including the versatile, industrious and pleasant Olga (who works around the pool bar all day) and the ever smiling George were all terrific.
Chartreuse was a disappointment in comparison to the other dining venues. We were seated at a table for 2 - at the rear, facing out towards the pitch black outside in an already very poorly illuminated area! The food quality and service failed to match the others - bland tasting, lukewarm duck was served here and we discovered that we should have received a complimentary cocktail, which was never offered. We felt like we'd been seated in "the naughty corner" and had no feeling for the general ambience of the restaurant because of that.
The Spa is good, had a great massage and the steam room is top notch. The infa red sauna is not popular and is just plain odd tbh. Who wants to sit in a sauna that doesn't get hot or make you sweat? The spa deck a bit of a condundrum too. It is all a bit claustrophobic and regimented. The pool itself is superb but the area is under used, probably a good thing because if 10 people were there it would be far too busy. I'd say that is an ill thought out and badly laid out facility for a luxury ship tbh.
The rest is nearly all good - the library is a bit small & limited, another surprise on "the most luxurious ship ever built". The sports deck is superb, enjoyed the 18 hole putting course greatly.
The pool area is very pleasant, you can actually swim a few strokes in the pool!
We visited some wonderful places and all the Regent tours we undertook were well organised and very professionally operated. Loved the Krka national park in Croatia (my wife missed this due her foot injury) - wonderful views and amazing waterfalls, good lunch, albeit a bit late in the pm, included too. Did Kotor on our own this time - that was spectacular too. Taormina was beautiful and quirky but we were slightly disappointed with Amalfi - the boat ride to Positano lifted that particular excursion and Positano itself seemed far livelier and more interesting than Amalfi tbh. Prior to those 2 trips, Corfu town and the Achilleion Palace was a lovely excursion, as was the later visit to Elba and Napoleon's former residence - Porto Azzuro was great spot for a break there. We were just sad not to see Portofino - as we were unable to land there due to the swell and tendering difficulties. The last day was spent in the port of Genoa. Unfortunately, so e did not get to visit Portofino at all. Maybe next time? We gave Ravenna and Rome (been there a few times and it's a long day from the ship) a miss due to being too busy with other things tbh.
So, this was a magnificent trip on a truly wonderful ship. We met some really amiable & friendly people, amazingly several from our home City of Nottingham but others too. Is Explorer fantastic and luxurious? You bet it is. Would we sail on her again? Yes, next week if possible please. Regent provide a marvellous product and this is another incredible ship. The negative comments have to be put into perspective - they are observations and considered thoughts but, overall, we had a truly remarkable and memorable holiday in some of the most luxurious surroundings you could imagine.
However, there are some really fundamental design flaws in this ship in my view. Notably;
*** No outside forward seating or viewing areas beyond the pool and the deck above. There is an abrupt wall that prevents you from viewing sail ins/outs from outside unless you are on deck 12 above the pool. Equally, if you want to sit outside, you have to sit by the pool or the jogging track! All the seating is magnificent and comfortable - but it is all crammed into the relatively confined space around the pool ad the deck above. That is not good. The crew seem to have some good, elevated relaxation areas on the decks above but the guests don't!
*** The spa area needs a re-think in respect of design and facilities. It fails to attract guests but it could't cope if more than a handful ever arrived!
***No aft facing lounge - i.e. like the Horizon Lounge on Mariner & Voyager. the Explore & Meridian lounges are too similar in function and layout, if not decor.
****The sun loungers only recline to about 60 degrees - so it is impossible to lie at a comfortable sun bathing angle. Flat out is ok on your stomach, but not on your back. that is really strange.
***We had a lavishly appointed suite with a huge balcony - massive settee, dining table and 2 chairs - and 1 sun lounger. Not sure why, on a balcony you could play football on, that you only get 1 sun lounger between 2 of you.
I'd suggest that all of those issues detract, slightly, from this ship being quite as magnificent as it could, very easily be. Yes, they may be minor flaws and they don't ruin your experience, but so much detail has gone into the at work and fixtures and fittings - a bit more attention to the simple practicalities might have helped. I hope that Regent address some, if not all, of these points with their planned offering in 2020.
Looking forward to further adventures on Voyager in 2018 (Hong Kong - Bangkok) and, as we purchased a future cruise certificate on board, another one at some time too! Read Less