What does it take to be the Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built (TMLCSEB)? That was the goal Regent Seven Seas announced for their newest ship, the Seven Seas Explorer. Statistically it gives passengers more space than any other full-size luxury ship from major line. As far as staff to guest ratio, Seabourn’s Odyssey class has a slight edge. But the proof is in the cruising and I had the opportunity to sail for two nights to see if the Explorer is truly TMLCSEB.
Boarding the ship in Miami we entered on Deck 5 which features the grand staircase, atrium and huge crystal chandelier. The glass, wood and cream walls are set off by indirect lighting and ornate metallic elevator enclosures. Having just sailed on one of Uniworld’s ornate riverboats, the subtlety of the design was refreshing. Chrome, bronze, dark wood and indirect lighting were themes repeated throughout the ship – even in the suites. In the Compass Rose a blue crystal ceiling light was the visual centerpiece. The furniture was early 20th century modern, but comfortable. The only wrong note was the atrium with rectangular windows and sculpted walls giving the impression of horizontal stripes. It was just a little too subtle for my taste.
My Stateroom and others
I was assigned a Concierge Veranda Suite on Deck 7. With 332 square feet of interior space and a large veranda it is the largest non-Penthouse cabins I had ever seen. The veranda featured two chairs, a chaise lounge and a nice size table – definitely a comfortable place for a room service breakfast. The bathroom included a rain shower, plus a bath / shower combination and twin vanities. The closet was massive and actually larger than the ones in the Penthouse. The room featured an Illy single cup coffee maker that had personality issues. The huge TV offered several news channels and a wide range of movies and archived TV shows – including many travel and culinary programs. If you seek current sports programming – that might be an issue. The TV faced the sofa but swung on a hinge so it could face the bed as well. Champagne and fresh fruit greeted me. There were beer and sodas in the fridge and guests can request their choice of premium beverages to be available in the room. The desk was a bit narrow for a full size laptop, but the USB connections at the bed made charging my devices easy. The bed was extremely comfortable as you would expect.
The Concierge category pricing includes a pre-cruise luxury hotel night and other added amenities. The F1 and F2 categories are the same size but don’t include the concierge extras. The G category are slightly smaller and the H category are the smallest suites. The Penthouses offer two separate rooms and a considerably larger veranda.
The other larger suites have many stunning features, but I will only mention one. The Regent Suite, at nearly 4000 total square feet, is so popular that Regent has plans to raise their price next year. It features two bedrooms, two and a half baths and a private spa with it’s own Sauna and Steam Rooms. And some rather bizarre lamps and sculptures.
It is rather difficult to get a full sense of the cuisine offered on a 2-night cruise. I think they should have given us a week, don’t you? Here is what my colleagues and I thought. The options were amazing. In the Compass Rose, the menu featured more options than any other ship menu I’ve ever seen. One side of the menu was available every night and featured a wide selection of meats and seafood which could be cooked a variety of ways, plus soups, appetizers and sides. The other side featured that night’s special options. Seafood and Pasta items were favored by my friends and judging from empty plates all but one item were highly rated. I had the Peking Duck which was delectable. The other night we ate in Chartreuse, the French restaurant. We had deconstructed soups which were good, but a bit salty. My entree was lobster and scallops with a mild sauce and fava beans – very nice. I had an excellent Caesar salad and a foie gras appetizer with apricots.
At Breakfast, my Eggs Benedict was as good as I’ve ever had – fresh with yolks still runny. The buffet offered a huge variety considering the small number of guests on the ship. Lunch when we boarded offered the buffet, plus some grill items which could be ordered to be delivered fresh to the table.
On the second day the ship offered a seafood buffet that reminded me of some very expensive hotel brunches I’ve had.It feature sushi, marinated fishes to be fresh grilled and chilled shellfish including whole split lobsters, Alaskan King Crab, shrimp and oysters on the half shell. Amazing!
The theater was beautiful and spacious. The production show was called My Revolution and it was the best big production I’ve ever seen on a small ship, featuring a dozen singers and dancers performing songs from the British invasion. All performances were solid, but a couple of the singers really blew the roof off. The second night featured an excellent comic. I highly recommend sitting on the lower level. Because the stage is so wide, views from the upper level can be limited.
I stayed on the ship the one day we had in Nassau, but my friends all participated in the Swim with the Dolphins and had a wonderful time. You probably know that Regent Seven Seas offers free shore excursions with their cruises. While some premium excursions include a surcharge, the vast majority are free and those with the surcharge are discounted. The all-inclusive concept creates a quandary for any hospitality organization. Where do you draw the line when top-quality competes directly with fiscal discipline? This is, in my experience, the one area where Regent Seven Seas occasionally fails to reach their goal to be the most luxurious of the luxury lines.
The service was always friendly and never overbearing, which can sometimes happen on luxury cruises. I was a bit surprised at the inexperience of some of the staff who seemed to still be learning the ropes. Since the Explorer was launched in July, many in the original group were probably recently replaced. I don’t see this as a long term issue, especially given the very positive attitudes of the entire staff.
I was not surprised when I went to the front desk to ask for a computer mouse (I’d left mine at home) and one was delivered to my suite within 30 minutes. That is the kind of service you can expect on Regent Seven Seas.
The designers and decorators have arguable accomplished their goal of creating TMLCSEB. If luxury is visual appeal, I think the Explorer is the most beautiful cruise ship I’ve ever seen. If luxury is comfort, then we were nested in pillows all night and day. If luxury is being catered to, I was always able to get what I wanted. If luxury is not waiting in line, then I was never delayed.
And how much does all this luxury cost? Regent frequently has the highest price among the luxury lines, but when you consider what you would pay for all the extras that are included in their price, it is often the best value in the luxury market. Air is included – starting in 2017 business class for international cruises. Shore Excursions are included – that would cost you $100 or more per day for each guest. And unlimited internet comes with your price.
Nothing is perfect, but the Seven Seas Explorer seems to be as good as luxury cruising gets. And the Seven Seas Explorer is TMLCSEB.