Regent Seven Seas Cruises went all out to inaugurate the Seven Seas Explorer — the line’s first new vessel since 2003. Luxury Travel Advisor attended the black-tie event on July 13 in Monaco. The ceremony was highlighted by the attendance of Monaco’s royal couple, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene, the ship’s godmother, and capped off with a spine-tingling concert by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, under the Mediterranean moon. This giddy excitement infused the ship’s inaugural voyage, where we found an exceptional experience with top-of-the-line facilities, unique shore excursions and delicious food.
Perched on deck 14 at the bow, the Regent Suite is like an over-the-top suite in a five-star hotel. The bed alone cost $150,000. These opulent digs measure 3,875 square feet, with an additional 958-square-foot balcony that affords the same sweeping sea views as seen by the captain from the bridge. The industry veterans and travel advisors aboard the Explorer were unanimous in their praise. A private in-room spa (a first at sea), works by Picasso adorning the walls, a grand piano and a marble bar are such luxurious facilities that guests would be hard-pressed to leave for shore excursions! But guests of the Regent Suite have their own private car and guide waiting in each port — one of the many inclusive amenities. The Regent Suite has proven so popular that it’s nearly booked for the ship’s inaugural season.
Even the starting category of suites is sumptuous by industry standards. The ship has 375 suites, each equipped with a marble bathroom, custom-built closet, interactive flat-screen TV with complimentary on-demand movies, and a balcony (these furnished verandahs rank as the largest in cruising today). We particularly liked the Grand Suite (1200), directly below the Regent Suite at the bow of the ship, and the Explorer Suite (1012). The Penthouse category suites come with daily canapés, an in-room Tablet and personal butler services. The Concierge Suites make up the majority of the ship’s accommodations; the king-size bed faces the balcony, so you can appreciate the ocean views. The suites in this category and above are stocked with binoculars, illy Espresso makers and cashmere blankets, and they also get priority online shore excursions and dining reservations.
Another standout feature of the Seven Seas Explorer is the Culinary Arts Kitchen, a brand new concept. Designed as a professional facility with individual cooking stations, the kitchen offers a range of culinary classes teaching everyday chef techniques and recipes that can be reproduced in guests’ home kitchens; the classes also explore local cuisines from each port of call. To complement these classes, Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly has developed an exclusive new program of culinary tours, which allows guests to experience the local culture in each destination. Near Portofino, for example, we met with a local artisan for an olive oil tasting, then traveled by coach to Recco village, a foodie mecca, for a pasta-making demonstration, followed by lunch comprising local specialties, including the famous cheese-covered focaccia. There are two other types of “Gourmet Explorer Tours” — one includes a Michelin-starred dining experience and the other features a market excursion. Note: The “Gourmet Explorer Tours” are a premium product, and cost an additional fee; most Regent shore excursions are free of charge
Cuisine also takes center stage onboard. At the Christening ceremony, Frank J. Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., equated this food experience to Michelin-starred dining. We spoke with travel agents who explained how the Explorer’s excellent culinary offerings took away any argument about typical cruise vacations. Chartreuse serves contemporary French cuisine — on the menu, you’ll find a cheese soufflé, duck breast with candied Morello cherries, roasted lobster with scallop mousseline, and 72-hour Sous Vide Beef Ribs Rossini — while Pacific Rim is a beautifully designed Pan-Asian restaurant on deck 5. Standout dishes include the Nobu-inspired “Miso Black Cod”and the Korean-style Barbecue Lamb Chops (Tip: Book tables as far in advance as possible. The Prime 7 also requires reservations.) Compass Rose, the flagship restaurant serving European-inspired specialties along with vegetarian and Canyon Ranch SpaClub cuisine, is decorated with a dramatic blue ceiling fixture and Versace place settings. In the evening, the casual daytime eatery, La Verandah, transforms into an excellent Italian restaurant called Sette Mari. The social hub of the ship is the pool deck, and the Pool Grill serves an appealing breakfast and lunch featuring local specialties (like Spanish tapas in Ibiza).
The elegant Canyon Ranch Spa offers treatments like the Ageless Oxygen Boost Facial and Canyon Stone massage, while the gym has all the latest, top-notch equipment so you can work out while appreciating the ocean views. A beautifully designed library is stocked with books from The New York Times Best Sellers list, and the sports deck (12) features shuffleboard, a golf putting course, a bocce court and paddle tennis. What was the inspiration behind the Seven Seas Explorer? In a Town hall-style meeting in the Constellation Theater, Del Rio explained that since Regent hadn’t launched a new vessel since 2003, they couldn’t just create another cookie cutter ship, they had to strive for the exceptional. “It’s a trophy ship for the one percent, as wealth and success ought to be celebrated; no one should have to apologize for being able to take a $10,000/night cruise.” Designed by some of the world’s top architects and constructed in Genoa, the Seven Seas Explorer is decked out with more than one acre of marble, one acre of granite, 250 crystal chandeliers and 2,500 original works of art. Del Rio said that good return on investment — per diems and occupancy — justify the product.
Regent has over 60 percent repeat clients, and guests are willing to pay a premium. Judging by the response in the marketplace, with solid bookings for the inaugural season, Regent’s bold move has paid off. They’ve ordered a second ship for delivery in 2020. And they’ll invest $125 million in other Regent ships, so that by Spring 2017, they’ll have “the world’s most luxurious fleet.”