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Onboard Explora 1 (Sept 25- Oct 13) with Hank


Hlitner
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On 9/26/2023 at 8:16 AM, happy cruzin said:

I think our 14-day Caribbean sailing on November 3rd might just be the test case for that concern!

I look forward to your report, I am just after you on November 17. I'm a bit worried about having booked it with my kids, but we only have two sea days (unfortunately back to back). 

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Another day at sea as we make our way towards Quebec.  After 5 days aboard it is very clear that this line is all about decent cuisine, and we think the overall food here is the best we have enjoyed on any ship!

 

This morning we decided to try the sit down breakfast in Fil Rouge.  I had their “Signature” egg dish which is a poached egg on a bed of cream spinach covered with yuzu hollandaise sauce over a brioche and topped with caviar.  A variation of eggs Benedict that really works.  Also keep in mind that all the bread products are baked aboard.  I decided to try their black coffee.  It was “americano” and not the typical coffee enjoyed by many North Americans.  A reminder that this is a euro-centric cruise line.
 

Last evening we returned to Sakura for another wonderful meal.  We decided to start off with a sushi lobster roll which was amazing.  All the sushi, sashimi and like are hand crafted, to order, by two sushi chefs.  Sushi (and many related items) are available for both lunch and dinner in Sakura (there also is some sushi in the Emporium) and it has all been outstanding.

 

 I had a simple main of scallops on a pea based sauce and topped With some caviar.  Relatively simple, but also an elegant dish.

 

Since we are having fun trying many different dishes, I also tried an interesting starter of duck confit served with watermelon, mint, cashews, etc.  A fantastic dish that could easily be served in a Michelin restaurant.

 

I suppose one could nit pick and find something negative to say about the cuisine.  But the good completely overpowers the few faux pas.  
 

Hank

 

 

 

 

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20 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

Another day at sea as we make our way towards Quebec.  After 5 days aboard it is very clear that this line is all about decent cuisine, and we think the overall food here is the best we have enjoyed on any ship!

 

This morning we decided to try the sit down breakfast in Fil Rouge.  I had their “Signature” egg dish which is a poached egg on a bed of cream spinach covered with yuzu hollandaise sauce over a brioche and topped with caviar.  A variation of eggs Benedict that really works.  Also keep in mind that all the bread products are baked aboard.  I decided to try their black coffee.  It was “americano” and not the typical coffee enjoyed by many North Americans.  A reminder that this is a euro-centric cruise line.
 

Last evening we returned to Sakura for another wonderful meal.  We decided to start off with a sushi lobster roll which was amazing.  All the sushi, sashimi and like are hand crafted, to order, by two sushi chefs.  Sushi (and many related items) are available for both lunch and dinner in Sakura (there also is some sushi in the Emporium) and it has all been outstanding.

 

 I had a simple main of scallops on a pea based sauce and topped With some caviar.  Relatively simple, but also an elegant dish.

 

Since we are having fun trying many different dishes, I also tried an interesting starter of duck confit served with watermelon, mint, cashews, etc.  A fantastic dish that could easily be served in a Michelin restaurant.

 

I suppose one could nit pick and find something negative to say about the cuisine.  But the good completely overpowers the few faux pas.  
 

Hank

 

 

 

 

FANTASTIC THANK YOU 

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2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

"This morning we decided to try the sit down breakfast in Fil Rouge."

 

I hate to be a bother, sir, but if it isn't too much trouble, would you be so kind as to post their breakfast menu?

 

Thank you kindly, in advance.

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This evening, we dined, for the first time, in the Mediterranean Yacht Club restaurant.  Along with the Fil Rouge, it is the other non-reservation main dining venue that is always open for dinner along with some lunches on sea days.   This might be the least popular restaurant on the ship and we think it has to do with their menu.  That being said, we now realize the menu does have more to offer than it might seem at first glance.  DW and I split two tapas dishes (potato bravas and an Iberian ham platter) which were both pretty good and typical of tapas found throughout Spain.   For her main, DW had the mushroom risotto (she is an expert on this dish) and proclaimed it excellent.  I had to the Osso Bucco and it was also quite good (EJ should provide a marrow spoon with this main).

 

The surprise, for us, was the ridiculous design of the restaurant.  It is a relatively large venue with a very attractive bar and two attractive large lounge seating areas (with nice sofas and chairs).  The bar and seating areas takes up a lot of space....but for what?  The bar is only open during dining hours (6:30-9), has no entertainment, is not mentioned in any onboard info, and seems to be entirely unused.  According to two of the waiters, these areas have never been used by anyone!  Ever!  But they take up space that could have been used for at least another dozen tables (which might be needed when the ship if full).   To my untrained eyes, this just seems like a terrible waste of space, and I would love to know what was in the minds of the designers and cruise line when they planned the venue.   Nothing that will impact cruising, but just a simple observation.

 

Another thing that is different on EJ (when compared to most other lines) is that, with the exception of the marine department (i.e. Captain, Staff Captain, First Officer, etc) nobody wears officer uniforms,  On most lines you can tell a lot about the staff by simply noting the number of stripes (rank).  On EJ, the hotel staff dress in black suits.  A supervisor is dressed similar to the General Manager.  I guess this fits with the philosophy of making this more like a hotel/resort than a cruise ship.  Again, not a criticism but simply an observation.

 

Hank

 

 

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Thanks for all your input and reports, and I agree with your judgement that the line is promising and luxurious experience with top food, which they appear to be delivering.

 

I was expecting this to also include top quality wines and spirits and so far I’ve only seen an 11 page list of expensive additional cost wines and champagne. Are you able to provide a list of included wines and cocktails, please?

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11 hours ago, Hlitner said:

This evening, we dined, for the first time, in the Mediterranean Yacht Club restaurant.  Along with the Fil Rouge, it is the other non-reservation main dining venue that is always open for dinner along with some lunches on sea days.   This might be the least popular restaurant on the ship and we think it has to do with their menu.  That being said, we now realize the menu does have more to offer than it might seem at first glance.  DW and I split two tapas dishes (potato bravas and an Iberian ham platter) which were both pretty good and typical of tapas found throughout Spain.   For her main, DW had the mushroom risotto (she is an expert on this dish) and proclaimed it excellent.  I had to the Osso Bucco and it was also quite good (EJ should provide a marrow spoon with this main). - Many thanks to your wonderful review!... It seems EJ is providing wonderful food!...

 

The surprise, for us, was the ridiculous design of the restaurant.  It is a relatively large venue with a very attractive bar and two attractive large lounge seating areas (with nice sofas and chairs).  The bar and seating areas takes up a lot of space....but for what?  The bar is only open during dining hours (6:30-9), has no entertainment, is not mentioned in any onboard info, and seems to be entirely unused.  According to two of the waiters, these areas have never been used by anyone!  Ever!  But they take up space that could have been used for at least another dozen tables (which might be needed when the ship if full).   To my untrained eyes, this just seems like a terrible waste of space, and I would love to know what was in the minds of the designers and cruise line when they planned the venue.   Nothing that will impact cruising, but just a simple observation. - They'll certainly have it corrected on EJ2 onward, and once EJ1 comes for her first yearly mandatory wet dock later next year. Even by watching the videos out there of the venue I find it strange. They have suffix lounging space elsewhere for the whole pax count and they'll need certainly more restaurant tables for them all ASAP.

 

Another thing that is different on EJ (when compared to most other lines) is that, with the exception of the marine department (i.e. Captain, Staff Captain, First Officer, etc) nobody wears officer uniforms,  On most lines you can tell a lot about the staff by simply noting the number of stripes (rank).  On EJ, the hotel staff dress in black suits.  A supervisor is dressed similar to the General Manager.  I guess this fits with the philosophy of making this more like a hotel/resort than a cruise ship.  Again, not a criticism but simply an observation. - This seems a new trend, at least on the luxury market. I watch several videos of a Brazilian guy whom is a concierge employee on Crystal and their new uniforms are pretty much similar to a 5* land hotel rather than a marine uniform. In Crystal's case a gray suit with blue shirt and blue tie with no stripes, just a pin with employees name, nationality, languages, and possibly rank.

 

Hank

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, English Tim said:

I was expecting this to also include top quality wines and spirits and so far I’ve only seen an 11 page list of expensive additional cost wines and champagne. Are you able to provide a list of included wines and cocktails, please?


Here’s the included wines as at last week - not as extensive as some lines but plenty of variety and quality is good (for included wines)

 

IMG_4120.thumb.jpeg.156b291aea012b70e711fe8530798b8a.jpeg

 


The cocktails lists vary from bar to bar - and of course the bar staff are happy to make up anything they have the ingredients available for - we had fun designing our own cocktails on a number of occasions 

 

Here’s an example of what’s on offer in Sakura - it will give you idea of the selection and cost of additional spirits - not that Sakura has some specialty themed cocktails - no surcharge - and they were very nice 

 

IMG_4442.thumb.jpeg.da101cbc7cae65fbb16c05619b80d720.jpeg

 

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IMG_4454.thumb.jpeg.2573f8c2081ede70fc08d8bb40af1d38.jpeg

 

 

 

IMG_4449.jpeg

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4 hours ago, Nunagoras said:

This seems a new trend, at least on the luxury market. I watch several videos of a Brazilian guy whom is a concierge employee on Crystal and their new uniforms are pretty much similar to a 5* land hotel rather than a marine uniform. In Crystal's case a gray suit with blue shirt and blue tie with no stripes, just a pin with employees name, nationality, languages, and possibly rank.


I don’t believe the concierge staff have worn uniforms in the past on Crystal so not sure it’s a change with new Crystal. They may wear uniforms on formal occasions but it’s not their day to day dress 

 

Some lines like Crystal do have a lot of crew in uniforms eg Cruise Directors but Explora tend not to. Interestingly when I spoke to Monique - quasi cruise director (not her official title) as I can’t recall the names Explora call her role she confirmed her ranking around the ship was senior when she explained she would be one of the last people (a handful) to leave the ship in an emergency 

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35 minutes ago, Stickman1990 said:


I don’t believe the concierge staff have worn uniforms in the past on Crystal so not sure it’s a change with new Crystal. They may wear uniforms on formal occasions but it’s not their day to day dress - If said guy's position is the same he had some 3 years ago on old Crystal; I'm sure he had a black uniform with stripes. Maybe he was on other position not concierge related.

 

Some lines like Crystal do have a lot of crew in uniforms eg Cruise Directors but Explora tend not to. Interestingly when I spoke to Monique - quasi cruise director (not her official title) as I can’t recall the names Explora call her role she confirmed her ranking around the ship was senior when she explained she would be one of the last people (a handful) to leave the ship in an emergency - Of course she would be senior position round ship. "Cruise Directors", whatever their real titles among the lines, main and noble task is to be an intermediate from the bridge to the passengers. Make the muster drill announcements and any emergency calls is still among them or their team's responsibility. Only on more recent times they've become more like entertainment leaders and sort of public relations to the companies. I've never seen a CD in an uniform both on RCI or MSC on all my cruises to date, nor on similar positions on the smaller EU river companies I went on, other than on very specialty occasions. But things are definitely changing across the board. Near military uniforms are not mandatory on the mercantile naval industry, they're just a tradition from the Victorian era, when the British crown had the monopoly of certain transatlantic crossing lines. On the cargo transportation nobody is uniformed whatsoever by the norm. Cruise lines are simply relaxing that across the board, as cruises are becoming a kind of holiday more akin to going on a similarly ranked land hotel experience. The first doing so seems to have been Virgin where other than the marine officials nobody would have near military uniforms and they don't have a proper CD as well as far as I know. EJ is following suit. New Crystal apparently as well.

 

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54 minutes ago, Stickman1990 said:


I don’t believe the concierge staff have worn uniforms in the past on Crystal so not sure it’s a change with new Crystal. They may wear uniforms on formal occasions but it’s not their day to day dress 

 

Some lines like Crystal do have a lot of crew in uniforms eg Cruise Directors but Explora tend not to. Interestingly when I spoke to Monique - quasi cruise director (not her official title) as I can’t recall the names Explora call her role she confirmed her ranking around the ship was senior when she explained she would be one of the last people (a handful) to leave the ship in an emergency 

I remember a black uniform with gold braid, and the requisite "crossed keys" on one of the Crystal ships.  Harmony?

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As far as wines are concerned if you look at the premium wines offered you will find many that are for  “one percenters” only.  And these are wildly overpriced. On the other hand there are a few very excellent wines that are less expensive than you would pay in an upscale wine shop. 
Ronald, the sommelier in Fil Rouges and Yacht Club is very knowledgeable and helpful. 
in regard to YC not having many guests remember there are only 250 pax on board ship. When full expect close to 900. 

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1 hour ago, Nunagoras said:

If said guy's position is the same he had some 3 years ago on old Crystal; I'm sure he had a black uniform with stripes. Maybe he was on other position not concierge related


Here’s what he’s wearing these days as Head Concierge - I guess we may be talking at cross purposes when referring to uniforms - yes it’s a uniform but not the stripes of an officer like cruise directors and the Captain wear 

 

IMG_0832.jpeg.29f218371b0a57fd46ecfaad06ecfbed.jpeg

 


IMG_0833.thumb.jpeg.f43f70747ac299557f152ff8bfc8d14c.jpeg

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21 hours ago, Hlitner said:

 

The surprise, for us, was the ridiculous design of the restaurant.  It is a relatively large venue with a very attractive bar and two attractive large lounge seating areas (with nice sofas and chairs).  The bar and seating areas takes up a lot of space....but for what?  The bar is only open during dining hours (6:30-9), has no entertainment, is not mentioned in any onboard info, and seems to be entirely unused.  According to two of the waiters, these areas have never been used by anyone!  Ever!  But they take up space that could have been used for at least another dozen tables (which might be needed when the ship if full).   To my untrained eyes, this just seems like a terrible waste of space, and I would love to know what was in the minds of the designers and cruise line when they planned the venue.   

 

 

My personal opinion was that they intended this space to be a very Spanish-style Tapas Bar. We were fond of Vivek, the bartender in MedYacht. When we asked if we could dine from the regular menu at the bar we were told by the ‘whatever they want to call the head host’ only tapas would be served at the bar. I guess that included the lounge seating. So again a very European twist that we would need to adapt to. We were then seated at a very nice table in the main dining area. A table number I will keep to myself for future use. 😀. But as you said, No One used that space at all. Maybe if they had adapted to us there would have been others who have have used it. 

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33 minutes ago, Whipsnade said:

Must admit I do like a little formality. 


I’m a very casual sort of guy….so as long as it’s clear they’re crew then I’m ok with that. I could always tell the hierarchy in restaurants - at least I thought I could 

Despite my slovenly appearance we’re still friends right - 😉😂

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4 hours ago, Whipsnade said:

As far as wines are concerned if you look at the premium wines offered you will find many that are for  “one percenters” only.  And these are wildly overpriced. On the other hand there are a few very excellent wines that are less expensive than you would pay in an upscale wine shop. 
Ronald, the sommelier in Fil Rouges and Yacht Club is very knowledgeable and helpful. 
in regard to YC not having many guests remember there are only 250 pax on board ship. When full expect close to 900. 


The problem with Explora’s premium wine list is that the wines are priced as if you haven’t already paid (a lot) for an ultra luxury cruise. They use the same if not higher markups as premium restaurants on shore. Two examples: I can get a bottle of Dom P for 40% less on Seabourn, and a bottle of Opus One for a whopping 65% less. We order a lot of premium wine on Seabourn because it’s roughly being sold at or slightly above retail prices. We won’t be ordering any on Explora. 
 

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