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The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built

Compass Rose, Dining Room, Regent Seven Seas Explorer
Compass Rose, Dining Room, Regent Seven Seas Explorer

Kelly Allen discovers the beauty in the understated luxuries aboard the new Seven Seas Explorer.

Regent Seven Seas’ new Seven Seas Explorer has been touted as “the most luxurious ship ever built”. Crafted at a cost of US$450 million (about A$569 million), it oozes extravagance, with hundreds of crystal chandeliers, custom-made Versace place settings, and 2,500 pieces of art including works by Chagall and Picasso. No expense has been spared.

My daughter and I are on a voyage from Rome to Barcelona, and we are both eager to see what all the hype is about. Embarkation is seamless and we are soon standing in the grand atrium with a glass of bubbles, our mouths hanging open in awe of our surroundings. The first impression is very good indeed.

This might sound silly, but my biggest worry about cruising is the feeling of confinement often felt aboard a ship. I needn’t have worried on Explorer. Here in the atrium, open, curved staircases climb opposing walls under the gaze of the largest crystal chandelier I have ever seen. Italian marble gleams underfoot. The area is spacious and bright, and feels more like the lobby of a luxurious hotel than a ship. It makes sense – Explorer has one of the highest space-to-passenger ratios in the industry.

Prior to Explorer, Regent hadn’t launched a new ship since 2003, and it appears they have spent that time well – perfecting this beauty. All of the ship’s 375 suites have spacious balconies, a separate sitting area, walk-in wardrobes and marble bathrooms. Our Superior Suite on Deck 8 was large at just under 40 square metres and stylishly decorated with dark-wood panelling and furnishings in cream and soft blue. The bathroom had a separate tub, double sinks, plenty of drawers and more than enough counter space, and the walk-in closet was very generous in size.

The ship’s masterpiece is the 412-square metre Regent Suite. The two-bedroom suite comes with an in-room spa (and unlimited complimentary treatments), a US$250,000 Steinway piano, and a glass-enclosed sitting area providing views over the ship’s bow. And to ensure a good night’s sleep, there’s a custom-made bed that took one year to construct (rumour has it the Queen of England has the same bed).

Theatre Detail, Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas
Theatre Detail, Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas

The Explorer carries 750 passengers and has a near 1:1 guest-to-crew ratio. This level of service was a welcome bonus when looking to change dinner and excursion plans. We never waited in any lines while on board, even when settling our bill. Regent is known for their all-inclusive offering, which makes for no unpleasant surprises at the end of a beautiful holiday. Premium wine and alcohol, all dining (including specialty restaurants), most excursions, WiFi and gratuities are all included.

Wanting to see as much as possible, we booked excursions at every port and found them all top notch. Luxury coaches with knowledgeable tour guides seamlessly shuttled us around the sights without any hiccups. Our favourite was a half-day trip to the ancient walled city of Lucca in Tuscany. One of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, Lucca was settled by the Romans in 180BC, and much of the original layout has been preserved. We had an unforgettable guided bike ride along the top of the old city wall with free time to wander through the narrow cobblestone streets. My only complaint is that I would have loved to stay all day, with so many boutiques and cafés to explore.

We had one full day at sea during our voyage, and I must admit, at first I was a little apprehensive, wondering how we were going to occupy our time. After a wander around the ship, my daughter and I discovered the state-of-the-art fitness room and Canyon Ranch spa and decided to have a health retreat day. The gym has every fitness machine you could imagine. We started with an abs class and then made the most of the Technogym machines (which keep count of your reps, just like having a personal trainer). After that, we spent several hours enjoying the spa’s steam room, sauna, pulsating rain showers, cool room and private infinity pool on the back deck. Surprisingly, except for the treatment rooms, the gym and the rest of the spa facilities were virtually empty. We finished the day with a massage and decided it was too much effort to get dressed for dinner, so ordered room service followed by a movie.

Library, Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas
Library, Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas

The ship’s masterpiece is the 412-square metre Regent Suite. The two-bedroom suite comes with an in-room spa (and unlimited complimentary treatments), a US$250,000 Steinway piano, and a glass-enclosed sitting area providing views over the ship’s bow. And to ensure a good night’s sleep, there’s a custom-made bed that took one year to construct (rumour has it the Queen of England has the same bed).

Prime Restaurant, Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas
Prime Restaurant, Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas

For me, food is always one of the most important elements of a trip and every meal on Explorer was outstanding. The choices were plentiful with eight restaurants available. The elegant Chartreuse impressed with foie gras and lobster while Prime 7, an upscale steakhouse, served the biggest and most succulent rib-eye I have ever eaten. Our favourite restaurant was Pacific Rim. To enter, you walk past a huge bronze sculpture inspired by a Tibetan prayer wheel, before descending into the spacious dining room lined with dark timber and with pops of brass, olive green and grey. The pan-Asian menu offers delights such as beef tataki, soft shell crab, lobster tempura and miso black cod.

While we were usually exhausted from sightseeing every day, there were some great after-dinner entertainment options. The casino always looked lively and there are four glamorous lounges that often have live music. The highlight each evening was a performance in the two-tiered, 694-seat Constellation Theater, with entertainment ranging from magicians to Broadway-themed shows. If you see only one, make it My Revolution, a new production from Burn the Floor themed around Beatlemania. The show was fantastic, with talented singers and dancers performing all of your favourite songs from the swinging ’60s.

It’s a big claim to declare a ship the most luxurious ever built. But as we disembarked in Barcelona, after five exceptional nights on Explorer, I think I agree.

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