Firstly I should advise you that this is rather a long article about my recent trip so you might like to pour yourself a drink of some description before you settle down to read it………..
What an incredible six nights I spent on board the ultra luxurious, no-expense-spared, new ship to the Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet – Seven Seas Explorer.
The invitation had been offered out by Regent to a select number of their international trade partners & journalists to come and experience the ship themselves. It was a privilege to have been included and to now have the opportunity to feed back my thoughts.
From the moment we embarked in Civitavecchia the ‘wows’ started. It quickly became apparent, that there was going to be one around pretty much every corner – a ‘wow’ that is……..
Explorer is undisputedly and unashamedly opulent. The US$450 million that has been invested in building and fitting her out are as clear as the oceans she is sailing on. Her Inaugural Seasons are in the Mediterranean prior to re-positioning to the Caribbean for 2016/2017 winter months.
Her 750 guests accommodated in the utmost of comfort within her 56,000 gross tonnes makes for one of the best space ratios at sea. The cruise we were on was pretty much sold out but at no point was there a queue or any feeling of anything other than having plenty of space. Just for comparison purposes, I’ve selected Azamara Quest who accommodates 716 guests (so similar capacity), and is 30,277 tonnes. So, her space ratio is 42.2 compared with Explorer’s 74.66 ! To compare this fabulous lady against some other luxury cruise lines – Silver Spirit’s space ratio is 66.6, Seabourn Odyssey 71.1, Crystal Serenity 62.6.
Let me run you through some facts, figures and ‘wows’:
- 4823 square metres (51,914 square feet) of balcony space
- The Regent Suite up on Deck 14 – imposing double doors with a Picasso on either side entice you into the massive 413 square metres (3,875 square feet) of decadent opulence. Your Savoir No 1 bed in the Master Bedroom cost US$150,000 and you have your own personal in-suite spa retreat, sauna and jacuzzi. Sadly we didn’t get to view as it was (and is for most of inaugural season and onwards), occupied !
- 900 kgs of lobster can be enjoyed during an average 14 night voyage
- On the maiden voyage 2148 bottles of champagne and 5712 bottles of red/white wine were ordered
- The chandeliers on board were incredible – all 473 of them
- 4262 square metres (45,875 square feet) of marble run throughout the ship – that’s equal in size to 16.5 tennis courts
- There is a third Picasso on board – I’ll let you find that when you cruise on Explorer (can’t give all the secrets away)
- There is over 1 acre of granite on board Explorer
- Double height areas to be found on approach to Canyon Ranch Spa and Pacific Rim providing an incredible and most unusual feeling of spaciousness on board.
- Secret dedicated private, intimate restaurant for top suite guests (not shown on deck plan)!
- Tibetan Prayer Wheel – outside Pacific Rim restaurant – what an incredible piece. The ship had to be specially reinforced to take the weight of this.
These range from Veranda suites 274>341 square feet (25>31 square metres) right up to the Regent Suite mentioned above. We were allocated a generously proportioned F2 Superior balcony suite (forward on Deck 7) which had a lovely orientation with the bed/s facing the window and balcony door. Plenty of drawer storage within the suite itself along with a very spacious dressing room area. Also plenty of both European/US power sockets and mirrors. Excellent modern flat screen TV that can be pulled out and swung around into optimum viewing position. The twin sink ensuite, also with plenty of storage areas, was enhanced with a generous ‘tub-style’ bath and separate wonderful shower – 415>464 square feet (38>43 square metres).
Where to start…….. A diet I think ! Not quite sure what I’ve put on but it’s unrealistic to think I haven’t as the food on board was incredible, especially in the gourmet / fine dining venues where you will be spoilt for choice. In order of preference for me it has to be Pacific Rim, Chartreuse and Prime 7. I didn’t have a chance to try out La Veranda when it became Sette Mari at La Veranda (buffet style Italian), in the evenings. This restaurant and Compass Rose on Deck 4 are available to you whenever and with whomever you choose to dine with. There are NO charges for any of the other fine dining restaurants but you are advised to book as far ahead as you are able. Just as a test, for the second evening we dined in Chartreuse we just turned up without a booking at about half seven and were seated at a table for 8 within half an hour.
My favourite selections in Chartreuse (French style dining with a bit of a modern twist), were the Fois Gras, Lobster and Mont Blanc dessert.
In Prime 7 I went for their variation of Fois Gras (incredible), their superb surf and turf main with lobster (as opposed to the Alaskan Crab option), and something sinful for dessert that I can’t remember the name of.
In Pacific Rim, which we did on the last night, my only regret was not having experienced it earlier on and then tried to get in again ! On the recommendation of other industry colleagues who had visited this dining venue before us we ordered delights such as : Snow crab, Beef Tataki and Crispy soft shell crab, followed by Canadian Lobster Tempura, Aromatic Duck, Stir Fried Asian Greens, Regent Fried Rice (to die for) and Cantonese Stir-Fry egg noodles. As if that weren’t enough, we dived into a selection of desserts off their menu. All in the interests of quality control of course.
Not to be overlooked, is the Pool Grill where we had lunch on a couple of days – the lobster nachos were delicious. Also, La Veranda proved to be a lovely place to have a relaxed breakfast and/or lunch, specially as you could opt (and we never had a problem), to have a table on deck outside. There was always a fabulous selection of temptations both healthy and not so much, at both breakfast and lunch time. The Eggs Benedict were a delight, as was the American-style crispy bacon.
You may quite rightly have gathered at this point, that I am rather partial to seafood 😉
Images of our dining choices are in the photo album/s that I have provided links to within this article.
The Wow-factor has to start somewhere and for me I guess, it was upon arrival, walking in on Deck 4 and seeing the incredible, mahoosive, crystal chandelier which hung from the top of Deck 5 into the Atrium on Deck 4.
In the main part due to some of the staggering facts and figures mentioned above, moving around the ship proved to be an adventure in its own right, finding all the incredible places to dine, to simply ‘hang out’ have a coffee, or something stronger, and all the wonderful seating that you could ‘hang out’ on.
The Culinary Arts Kitchen for example, forward on Deck 11, offers a great opportunity for any foodie-guests travelling (and lets be honest, that accounts for most at sea), to expand their skills. The sleek design of this area with the work stations curved in shape makes it very aesthetically pleasing – and the area has great views out to the ocean too. Culinary Arts Kitchen Classes are currently priced at US$89 per person, per class. The aim is for guests to primarily enjoy themselves while learning techniques that the chefs use daily, acquiring a skills repertoire that they can transfer back into daily life at home and adventure with different cuisines, recipes etc. In addition to the courses there are also Gourmet Explorer Tours specifically designed for certain ports at a selection of different prices.
The Constellation Theatre forward on Decks 4 and 5 is a wonderful space and unlike some of their competitors, still offers a drinks service (though I think once everyone’s seated and the show is starting/underway, it does stop). I didn’t personally get to experience this much on our 6 night experience as we dined too late to take advantage. We did see the end of a couple of shows and one was a rather incredible juggler.
Decks 4 and 5 offer up the Explorer and Meridian Lounge respectively – each comprise lovely comfortable furniture and are set up for different ‘activities’. The Explorer has a Dance Floor and Meridian a small stage for performances by resident musicians. The Explorer has a slightly ‘darker’ feel about it with its enticing leather chairs and mahogany wood columns. Either would be more than suitable for your pre and/or post dinner aperitif. However, my favourite was…..
The Observation Lounge up on Deck 11, forward. Beautiful fabrics adorn a wonderful selection of seating with plush beautifully covered coordinating/or contrasting cushions. Of course, as the name suggests, the expansive wrap around floor to ceiling windows provide an amazing view. This venue is also where afternoon tea is provided if you struggle to get from lunch to dinner ! Have to confess that I didn’t sample afternoon tea. There is music here from a pianist or other of the ship’s musicians both before and after dinner/show time.
The incredible pool deck areas on 11 and deck above on 12 really were wonderful. An abundance of lovely seating options and some unusual additions that you won’t find on other cruise lines such as the canopies over selection of sunbeds on Deck 12, port and starboard, and over the jacuzzis by the pool on Deck 11. Great al fresco dining at the pool grill. An ice-cream bar that you may prefer to forget I’ve mentioned, the ‘capsule’ for any smokers and of course a lovely bar area if you like to sit there to watch the world go by sipping a glass of bubbles, or whatever your preference happens to be. Deck 12 also offers plenty of sporting activities for the more active guests – Paddle Tennis, Golf Nets, Crazy Golf, Shuffleboard, Jogging Track and Bocce Court (part of the Boules family).
For more peaceful activities you may like to visit the small business centre to catch up with some emails (deck 5 midships), pop in and see the on board consultant to discuss a future cruise or put your head in next door to that to make your dinner arrangements. All these are in the same vicinity and opposite is where you’ll find the shore excursions and reception desks. The library offers up a lovely ambiance too, located nearby the Observation Lounge on Deck 11. More fabulous seating/lighting and usual shelving for a great selection of reading material.
Absolutely not to be missed is the Canyon Ranch Spa which can be approached ‘unmemorably’ via Deck 6. To approach with wow’s go in via Deck 5, from reception area, past The Cafe on your left and Meridian Lounge on your right, past puzzle corner and then down the gradual slope into the spa. Look out for the wonderful right hand wall that changes colour as you move past it. FABULOUS. The double height of this area really does add to the incredible feeling of space. There are more wonderful pieces of art and lighting to note. The Spa is divided up into ladies and gentlemen – mirror images of themselves. You’ll be spoilt for choice – ample luxurious and relaxing treatments rooms along with a fantastic Infrared Sauna looking out onto the infinity pool and lovely seating area aft of the ship. A Cold room with cube seats that are heated, an aromatic steam-room, Experiential Shower area and fabulous relaxation lounge with four lovely heated loungers. The infinity pool is just wonderful. We selected a few hours to while away in this area when a lot of guests were ashore so it was as if we have our own private pool! Such a fabulous conceptual thing to have when you are afloat. There is of course also a gym (aft Deck 6), hairdressers, nail salon etc.
For the card players amongst you there is a great Card Room on board if you fancy a few hands of your favourite game. On select voyages you can participate in an ACBL Tournament.
There are of course a couple of boutiques on board (Deck 4), though there were really only open on 1/2 evening that we were on board as all our departures were late sailings as we weren’t actually travelling that many nautical miles each evening. Nonetheless on one of these evenings I did manage to spend a small amount of money on something sparklie ! Located in the same vicinity is the ship’s casino which was also a lovely space for those who are partial to a occasional flutter.
The last area that shouldn’t be forgotten for those who appreciate a fine cigar along perhaps, with a small libation, is the Connoisseur Club forward on Deck 11. Another lovely room with ‘come sit on me’ seating, more lovely artwork, fine glassware. As with many of the public rooms on board Explorer there is the plush and wonderfully inviting smell of leather enveloping you in their surroundings. Quite a ‘private-club-like’ feeling to this area – nice……..
Seven Seas Explorer herself appears to effortlessly glide through the water as an ice-skater does on ice. Was hard to even know that you were at sea. Admittedly we were in the Mediterranean but even so – the cruising experience was considerably smoother than I have experienced on other ships.
The only negative thing I would say is that whilst without exception, all of the personnel I crossed paths with on board from the waiting staff, suite stewardesses/butlers up to the highest ranking officers/Captain were very inter-active & engaging with the guests, there is room for improvement in some areas on the service front. It wasn’t that service was bad per-se, there was just a feeling that it wasn’t working cohesively in certain parts which is more likely than not simply part of the ‘bedding-in’ process on a new ship. It isn’t practical or realistic to expect hundreds of ship’s staff to be thrown together in a close working/living environment and for them all simply to hit the ground running like a well oiled machine. That sort of ultimate perfection takes a little longer and I am in no doubt that it will come.
IMPORTANT things you should know about RSSC:
- Their prices are going up on 01 SEP 2016 so if you are interested in booking it would be great to do so prior to that (or at least to get me holding an option for you).
- Asian Adventures – they have a lovely selection of ‘added value’ voyages Jan 2017 through to May 2018. Three night pre or post cruise land programmes that cost you ABSOLUTELY nothing. Such things as Temples of Angkor Wat, Beijing & The Great Wall Experience, A Sampling of Singapore, Jewels of Hong Kong, Chaing Mai, Essence of Bangkok, Sydney and Beyond, Magical Bali, Land of the Gods, Kiwis, Waiheke and Waitomo, New Zealand Countryside & Wineries, Marvels of Dubao & Sharjah or Opulent Cities of the Emirates.
- There are some great deals running the moment but when they are done they are gone. Just contact me to explore further.
I do hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and am here at your disposal when you’d like to discuss ANY of your future travel requirements, whether they be via air, land or sea.