Courtesy of Regent

 Regent Seven Seas Explorer cost $450 million. Does it live up to the hype?

October 20, 2016

It’s been a busy year for the cruise industry. Carnival’s new line Fathom became the first to emphasize voluntourism; Royal Caribbean debuted the world’s largest ship, Harmony of the Seas; and Crystal Serenity made a historic voyage through the Northwest Passage. But few launches were more anticipated than that of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new ship, Seven Seas Explorer. Regent had promised that its first new vessel in 13 years would be “the most luxurious ever built,” and expectations were high.

If luxury today means putting a premium on space, sophisticated décor, and damn good food, then the ship is a resounding success. The 750-passenger Seven Seas Explorer has revived the elegance of a grand, early-20th-century ocean liner for a modern—and decidedly less stuffy—clientele. So you can have your lunchtime fill of champagne and caviar under the main dining room’s aqua-blue Preciosa chandelier and still leave the Louboutins upstairs—the staff won’t bat an eye if you’re wearing sandals.

 Courtesy of Regent

The man behind the ship is Frank Del Rio, the president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Regent’s parent company. He oversaw the design direction, including softening the look of the pool deck’s steel with a combination of stone, wood, and fabric, and weighed in on the art selection. (Why yes, those are two Picassos and a Chagall hanging in the Prime 7 Steakhouse bar.) “The design had to be timeless so it would still be relevant in twenty years,” Del Rio explained on the preinaugural sail from Barcelona to Monte Carlo. As a result, all 375 staterooms have spacious balconies (averaging 138 square feet, the industry’s largest); marble bathrooms; and thoughtful, function-focused elements like retractable bedside lights and plenty of drawers—because if there’s one truth sure to stand the test of time, it’s that no one wants to spend a vacation bickering over storage space.

Lavish touches abound in the public areas. Outside Pacific Rim, the Pan-Asian fine-dining restaurant, there’s an enormous, hand-cast bronze Tibetan prayer wheel. The piece is so heavy, the ship required extra steel reinforcement for its installation. And the staterooms themselves are brimming with sumptuous design elements, especially the Deco-themed Grand and Explorer Suites, which have walls paneled with emerald leather. Most over-the-top is the $10,000-per-night, 4,443-square-foot Regent Suite, with its two bedrooms, living room, marble-topped bar, and custom Steinway grand. Sticker shock aside, consider the inclusions—unlimited food and drinks, a private car and driver in every port, and Canyon Ranch treatments to be enjoyed in your own in-room spa—and it beats out many hotel suites in terms of value.

 Courtesy of Regent

But back to the food. Del Rio said that the highest salaries on the ship didn’t just go to the captain but also to the chefs. The investment was well worth it: Seven Seas Explorer has elevated cruise-ship dining, with several specialty restaurants that cater to sophisticated palates. In lieu of New American cuisine, you’ll find gojuchang-spiced lamb and snow crab with yuzu syrup at Pacific Rim. Or head to the Parisian-inspired Chartreuse for refined Continental fare, like Emmental soufflé with a delicate soubise sauce or steak tartare topped with a dollop of Aquitanian caviar. Because if you’re on the most luxurious ship at sea, you can never have too much caviar.

Seven-night Mediterranean voyages from $7,199 per person, all-inclusive, with unlimited shore excursions and business-class airfare.

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