First look: Inside the most expensive luxury cruise ship ever, Regent’s Seven Seas Splendor
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Luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises got a lot of buzz three-and-a-half years ago when it unveiled its first new ship in more than a decade, Seven Seas Explorer.
At $450 million, the 750-passenger vessel was the most expensive luxury ship ever built, and it wowed the cruise world with its opulence (think: Soaring ceilings, inlaid marble floors, crystal chandeliers and Picassos on the walls, to name just a few high-end touches).
Now, the line is out with a sister vessel that, by at least one measure, is even more over-the-top.
Dubbed Seven Seas Splendor, the 750-passenger ship cost more than $600 million to build, the chairman and CEO of Regent parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Frank Del Rio, said during an unveiling event last weekend.
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“You never say, ‘no money is spared,’ because this is a business, and financial considerations are always important,” Del Rio said while talking to travel agents in Seven Sea Splendor’s two-deck-high Constellation Theater. “But, really, this is the most expensive ship ever built on a per-bed basis. I can’t think of a place where we said, yeah, let’s do it this way because it’s cheaper.”
Indeed, if Regent was cutting corners, we didn’t see it while touring the ship.
TPG was among a handful of media outlets to get a sneak peek at Seven Seas Splendor during the event, and we found it lined with as much high-end Italian marble (46,000 square feet), crystal chandeliers (more than 500, we were told) and high-end art as we’ve ever seen on a Regent ship — or any other luxury cruise vessel, for that matter.
This is what you would expect from Regent, of course. Known for its luxury focus, the 28-year-old brand has long operated some of the world’s most elegant ships. Regent is sort of the cruising equivalent of the hotel world’s Four Seasons chain — a brand promising beautiful accommodations, refined food and pampering service.
Regent ships also are priced a lot like a Four Seasons — that is, they’re not inexpensive (more on that below). The unveiling event took place in advance of Seven Seas Splendor’s first sailing out of Miami with paying passengers. Here are some of our first impressions:
The suites on board are sweet
On Seven Seas Splendor, there are two kinds of accommodations: Fancy and really, really fancy.
For starters, every single one of the ship’s 375 cabins is a suite. Even the very smallest of the accommodations measures 307 square feet, which is none-too-shabby for a cruise ship.
Every room also comes with an ocean view and a balcony. Unlike on many ships, there isn’t a single windowless “inside” cabin to be found.
Still, it’s in the bigger cabin complexes at the front and back of Seven Seas Splendor where things get really impressive.
Seven Seas Splendor is home to one of the most elaborate and expensive cruise ship suites ever conceived.
Dubbed the Regent Suite and located above the bridge, the $11,000-a-night complex sprawls over 4,443 square feet — nearly twice the square footage of the average American home. Its master bedroom offers a bed with a handmade mattress that cost more than $200,000.
The Regent Suite is just one of an array of megasuites on Seven Seas Splendor. There are a dozen more that measure in the 1,000-square-foot to 2,000-square-foot range. There also are accommodations in the 500-square-foot to 1,000-square-foot range.
Among the biggest megasuites (other than the Regent Suite) are four sprawling Master Suites at the back of the ship that measure as much as 2,108 square feet. They each have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large living room and two private balconies.
Note that the square footage totals mentioned above include balcony space, so the actual indoor living area isn’t quite as big as it sounds. Only 71% of the Regent Suite’s 4,443 square feet of space is found in its interior, for instance. The rest comes from the balcony.
Still, at all levels, the suites on Seven Seas Splendor are among the most enticing in cruising.
The Restaurants are elegant and familiar
As is typical for Regent ships, Seven Seas Splendor offers an array of elegant and high-end restaurants, all of which are included in the fare.
Regent regulars will be familiar with the choices. They include Compass Rose, the international cuisine staple of all Regent ships. There also are versions of the Prime 7 steakhouse and La Veranda casual restaurant found on all Regent vessels.
Outposts of the Asian eatery Pacific Rim and French restaurant Chartreuse (found on some but not all Regent vessels) also are on Seven Seas Splendor.
While the restaurant names will look familiar to longtime Regent customers, some of the culinary offerings will be a surprise. In a major overhaul to menus, the line has added more than 200 new or updated dishes across the various venues.
In Compass Rose, for example, there’s a new grilled branzino served with cauliflower rice (cauliflower rice seems to be everywhere these days). Also new was a Malaysian-style braised beef short rib that came with a curry sauce and jasmine rice. It’s great to see Regent adding more Asian-influenced dishes in Compass Rose.
One of the edgier new appetizers at Pacific Rim was a “smoking” dry ice sashimi plate (the dry ice causing the smoking effect). But I skipped that in favor of a wonderfully presented tuna tartar. The latter was served with a mirin-and-soy sauce, and a carrot-ginger dressing.
Design-wise, most of the venues look similar to their counterparts on Seven Seas Explorer — which is to say, they are stunning. Seven Seas Explorer is known for some of the most spectacularly designed restaurants at sea.
One restaurant that did get a bit of a tweak was La Veranda. It now features over-water alcove seating, thanks to a clever bit of reengineering of the ship’s exterior walls. The alcoves jut out over the ocean.
There’s a new (and hipper) drinks menu
With the debut of Seven Seas Splendor, Regent is diving head first into the trend toward ever-quirkier craft drinks. The ship is home to 19 new signature cocktails made with fresh fruits, natural spices and garden-grown herbs, and served with all sorts of garnishes in picked-specifically-for-the-drink glasses.
In the name of research, I tried a number of the new concoctions, including the Bonne Soiree — a mix of Woodford Reserve bourbon, Chambord and citrus bitters that was slung my way in a coupe glass. It had an oversized ice sphere plopped in the middle.
Other than finding the giant ball of ice a bit in-the-way (don’t worry — I got around it), I found the Bonne Soiree quite bon. Its citrus and raspberry notes were delightful. Of course, I’ll probably call anything with bourbon delightful.
The new drinks menu also includes a lineup of fancy gin drinks that incorporate new-for-Regent Fever-Tree premium tonics and all sorts of spices, herbs and fruits.
Nearly all signature cocktails and the new gin drinks are included in the fare (as is typical for drinks on Regent ships) and will be rolling out to other Regent ships starting later this year.
The flow is better in public areas
When Seven Seas Splendor’s sister Seven Seas Explorer first debuted, it was widely praised as one of the most elegant and luxurious ships ever built. But critics did have a few small gripes, mostly having to do with the flow around some of the public spaces in the vessel’s interior.
The footprint of Seven Seas Splendor is very similar to the Seven Seas Explorer, as both ships are part of the same Explorer Class series. But Regent made a few significant changes to the design of Seven Seas Splendor that go a long way to improving this flow.
The change that will immediately stand out to anyone who is familiar with Seven Seas Explorer is the grand staircase in the ship’s central atrium has been completely turned around.
A major focal point of the vessel’s interior, the staircase now cascades down from the public areas on Deck 5 toward the magnificent, marble-floored promenade on Deck 4. This promenade leads directly into Seven Seas Splendor’s main restaurant, Compass Rose.
This is as it should be. The Compass Rose restaurant, and the adjacent Splendor Lounge and Casino, are where passengers coming down this stairway will likely be going.
On Seven Seas Explorer, the staircase inexplicable takes passengers in the opposite direction of these venues and unceremoniously drops them in front of an elevator bank.
Not far from the top of the grand staircase, on Deck 5, you’ll find another notable design change. The locations of the craft cocktail-serving Meridian Lounge and The Coffee Connection cafe have been flipped. The Meridian Lounge is now on the starboard side of the vessel (to the right, if you’re facing the front of the ship). The Coffee Connection is on the port side.
This little change greatly improves the flow of Deck 5 as passengers now can stroll between the deck’s various venues along a single, port-side corridor. The old configuration resulted in a less intuitive walkabout for passengers on the deck.
One more little design change I absolutely loved: Regent has added outdoor seating at The Coffee Connection. On a pleasant day in a warm-water locale like the Caribbean or French Polynesia, you now can take your latte outside.
Yet one more alteration to the design of the ship is the addition of new, glass-enclosed seating alcoves along the sides of the Observation Lounge at the front of the vessel. They offer views forward, to the side and backward all at once.
The cooking school is back — and better
Cooking schools at sea are suddenly all the rage. Even budget line Carnival recently added one. So, it perhaps should come as no surprise that Regent is doubling down on the concept.
After adding its first cooking classroom at sea in 2016 on Seven Seas Explorer, the line has built a second one on Seven Seas Splendor.
In size and layout, Seven Seas Splendor’s Culinary Arts Kitchen, as the venue is called, is nearly identical to the cooking classroom on Seven Seas Explorer. It has 18 individual cooking stations tricked out with top-of-the-line induction cooktops, stainless steel sinks and all sorts of cool cooking equipment. It’s backed by floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the ocean.
But, during an abbreviated test class in the space over the weekend, it was clear the programming has been revamped in a major way.
More than a dozen new classes have been added with a focus on dishes from the destinations where Seven Seas Splendor will be sailing.
During the session I experienced, we started with a lesson on a fried, stuffed-olive appetizer from the Le Marche region of Italy where Seven Seas Splendor was built. We then tried our hand at poaching fish in a Spanish style that tied to the ship’s transatlantic crossing to Miami from Spain. Instruction in making a French Toast-like dessert themed to the ship’s new home in the Caribbean rounded out the experience.
While our test session only lasted about an hour, the typical class that Regent plans for the space will be two hours long. The sessions will cost $89 per person.
The ship is spacious … really spacious
One last thing to note about Seven Seas Splendor is that it’s one of the most spacious ships at sea. Its “space ratio” — a measure of how much space there is per passenger — is nearly 74. That’s about twice the space per passenger as many mass-market vessels.
What a space ratio like that means is you will never feel crowded on Seven Seas Splendor, and you’ll rarely encounter a line anywhere — whether at the boarding area or at the poolside grill.
If you’re the kind of traveler who only stays at the most luxurious, pampering hotels and resorts on land, and you have the bankroll to afford them, Seven Seas Splendor is your kind of cruise ship.
It truly is one of the loveliest, most luxurious ships at sea — full stop. It’s also all about perfect service. The ship sails with 551 crew members to serve 750 passengers. That’s not quite the one-to-one ratio that is the Holy Grail of luxury cruising. But it’s close.
Of course, Seven Seas Splendor isn’t for everyone. Regent sailings tend to draw a large number of older travelers in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Many are retired, after years of very successful careers, and they’re spending some of their nest egg exploring the world in style. The average age for the line’s passengers is in the mid-60s.
If you’re a younger traveler looking for a luxury option at sea, keep in mind that you may be in a distinct minority on board a Regent ship.
What it costs
In general, Regent ships are among the priciest vessels at sea, and Seven Seas Splendor is no exception. Many upcoming sailings on Seven Seas Splendor start at more than $1,000 per person, per day.
Keep in mind that such starting prices are for the smaller suites on the ship. Larger suites on Seven Seas Splendor can cost several times more, depending on their size. As noted above, the biggest suite on the ship, the Regent Suite, costs $11,000 a night for two.
Such daily pricing means that, for a typical, nine-night voyage from Venice to Barcelona that includes stops in Croatia, Italy, France and Monaco, you’re looking at a fare of nearly $10,000 per person for a smaller suite. A bigger suite could set you back anywhere from $14,000 to nearly $50,000 per person.
If this seems a bit insane to you, don’t forget that this a very high-end luxury product.
And remember, fares at Regent are incredibly all-inclusive. In addition to a suite, all meals and onboard entertainment, fares include nearly all drinks onboard including fine wines and spirits. It might actually be difficult to spend a dime when out for the evening on Seven Seas Splendor.
Fares also include business-class international flights to and from the ship from the U.S. and Canada, unlimited shore excursions in ports, unlimited internet access, gratuities for crew and ground transfers.
Passengers staying in higher category suites also get an included one-night, precruise hotel package.
Just about the only things you’ll pay for onboard Seven Seas Splendor are treatments in the ship’s spa, and the cooking classes.
Seven Seas Splendor will spend the next couple months sailing out of Miami, San Diego and New York City before moving to Europe for the spring, summer and fall. European itineraries will include voyages to the French Riviera, Greek Islands, Iberian Peninsula and United Kingdom.
Planning a cruise for 2020? Find everything you need to know here:
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Featured image courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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