First impressions were excellent. Great décor, amazing attention to detail, breath taking lighting. As on other Regent Seven Seas ships, the design is such that there is very little natural light on the lower decks. This is not really a problem - there is very little natural light in the reception area of The Dorchester, but you wouldn't think of making something of it. And in fact the hotel comparison is quite an appropriate one - the Explorer does feel like a luxury city hotel on a grand scale.
Accommodation is very comfortable indeed, well equipped and with loads of space in our F2 suite, with a huge and welcoming bed, bathroom with tub, separate shower cubicle, double sink and plenty of storage space (a Frank del Rio bugbear apparently).
The bed faced out to sea, with a window and French doors opening onto a very deep balcony. The plus is lots of space; the minus that it is overhung by the deck above, and as a result the suite is rather dark.
We loved the deck area with lots of different types of loungers and sun beds, wide teak walkways, gauzy curtains and lovely low level lighting in the evenings. Seven Seas Explorer really comes into her own with the amazing dining options - we were on for five nights and ate in a different restaurant every evening. What a treat.
The restaurants include the Asian speciality Pacific Rim, a beauty to behold and with an amazing and varied menu. At the entrance, a huge prayer wheel sets the scene before you encounter the charming hostesses at reception and enjoy a very sophisticated dining room, with plenty of options to dine as a couple, or indeed as part of a larger group.
The very special Chartreuse, featuring a classic French menu, is an authentic fine dining experience, with beautiful presentation, charming service and the best celebration of French gastronomy, whilst Regent fans will be delighted to encounter an old favourite, Prime 7, with its unique members-only style, where a mouth watering menu of steaks and other prime cuts merits a high level of forward planning (by which I mean, starve yourself all day!).
For a more informal option, the daytime buffet style La Veranda converts in the evening to a lively candlelit Italian restaurant, Sette Mari, with a menu of alluring antipasti, perfect homemade pastas, enticing main courses and divine desserts.
Probably the most impressive dining space for us was the main restaurant, Compass Rose. Dining in this beautiful room will never be a compromise, and the interesting menu is varied and well presented. So this is not a question of 'when all else fails' - this restaurant is going to be high on your list.
Unusually for speciality restaurants, on some days they open at lunchtime, for a lighter meal and quite a different ambience as you enjoy the sunlight flooding in.
And finally, the onboard programme has been upgraded, so there is lots going on even if you decide not to take one of the numerous included shore excursions.