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At first glance, it was hard to discern anything special with the large piece of metal — flat at the bottom, curved at the sides — being lowered onto a drydock by a massive white and red crane in a slow-motion, precision operation.

But with a large, festive crowd assembled to watch, it was clear that this was not just any other day at the Fincantieri shipyard in Ancona, on Italy’s Adriatic coast. What we were witnessing was nothing less than the keel-laying ceremony for what its owner says will become, upon completion, the most luxurious cruise ship in the world: the Regent Seven Seas Splendor.

When it enters service, in early 2020, the Seven Seas Splendor will become the fifth cruise ship in Regent’s fleet. It has been designed to accommodate 750 passengers, all of them in lavish suites with sea-facing balconies and enjoying what Regent calls an all-inclusive high end approach.

Following the tradition of the coin ceremony,  Regent Cruises CEO Jason Montague and the shipyard’s director Giovanni Stecconi welded three coins into the keel of the ship: a Roman coin, honoring the origins of the city of Ancona; an 18th-century Spanish coin, a hint at its planned maiden voyage between Barcelona and Miami; and a special commemorative coin.

The Seven Seas Splendor is  structurally the same as the Seven Seas Explorer, in service since 2016, but the difference is in the details.

Regent says that the first day of bookings for the Seven Seas Splendor earlier this year was the best single sales day ever in the company’s 26 years of existence. (The maiden cruise, from Barcelona to Miami in February 2020, goes for $7,699 and up.)

So, what is all the hype about?

Passengers will have to wait about a year and a half to get onboard the Seven Seas Splendor, but we got an early glimpse of the full-size mockups of the Penthouse and Concierge suite that have been built at a nearby Fincantieri facility.

These are the two most common types of suite onboard, with 55 and 140 of each respectively onboard. They take the middle ground between the single, palatial 4,443-sq ft Regent suite and the entry-level 307-sq ft Veranda suites.

Ranging from 561 to 642 sq ft (including balconies up to 192 sq ft balcony), the Penthouse suite is particularly popular among Regent’s customers. In comparison to those on older vessels, the suites on the Seven Seas Splendor will be fitted with some incremental improvements.

For example, designers have reengineered the bathroom, opening a second access to it, making it accessible not only from the bedroom, but through an expanded storage room with extra space for suits, nightgowns and shoes.

Similarly, some materials and decor elements have been changed to make them more functional, without compromising on elegance. The color palette has also been updated.

Concierge suites are slightly smaller (332 sq ft plus a balcony up to 115 sq ft) but they have a rather unique feature: sea-facing beds.

As simple as this sounds, this unusual layout has required devising some imaginative solutions, such as the fitting of retractable TV monitors that unfold from the side walls so that they do not to obstruct the sea views.

Between the Regent and Penthouse suites the ship offers several other suite types. The design of all these is also going to be updated, except for the Grand Suites, which are going to remain pretty much as they are on Seven Seas Explorer.

What is also going to remain the same is the product onboard. Regent’s all-inclusive approach, which includes a dedicated butler service for the top-tier suites — from Penthouse upwards — will stay the same.

The Splendor’s sailing schedule kicks off with a Barcelona-Miami 14-night journey. Then, the ship is  expected to sail to California, before returning to the East Coast for another Atlantic crossing and spending the summer season cruising the Mediterranean.

Featured image (a rendering of the Seven Seas Splendor) courtesy of Regent 

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