The cruise ship billed as ‘the most luxurious ever built’ made its maiden call to the UK today at the start of an 11-night voyage round Britain and Ireland.
And it was clear soon after I boarded Regent Seven Seas Explorer in Southampton that the £350million ship lives up to its hype, dripping opulence and elegance which sets it apart in the increasingly competitive luxury cruise market.
Take as a starter the 4,443 square foot Regent Suite, which you enter through ornate doors bordered each side by a Picasso. This two-bedroom apartment has its own spa retreat, sauna, outside hot tub, bar, £113,000 bed – and £390,000 Steinway piano designed by Dakota Jackson. The walk-in wardrobe to the master bedroom alone could rival some other lines’ smaller cabins for size.
The Regent Suite’s bathroom, spa area, sauna, outside hot tub and deck
The lucky occupants are offered a private luxury car and driver in every port and, along with guests in the next two lower grades of suite, have access to a private dining room.
No wonder the price of this apartment is an eye-watering $10,000 (£7,750) a night.
It’s easy to see where some of the millions were spent on Seven Seas Explorer. Another £390,000 went on a two-ton Tibetan prayer wheel at the entrance of the Pacific Rim restaurant. An unexceptional-looking vase cost £15,000. Oh, and look, there’s another Picasso.
Of course, only plates by Versace would be good enough for the excellent food.
Each of the six restaurants has its own distinctive character. As well as the pan-Asian dishes in Pacific Rim, guests can enjoy Parisian dining in Chartreuse, steaks in the surroundings of a private London club in Prime 7, the contemporary look of Compass Rose and the feel of the 1960s Italian Riviera in La Veranda.
Even the Pool Grill serving burgers, pizza and fresh salads has a refined air.
No expense or trouble is spared for the 750 passengers. With 552 international crew, the pool and the surrounding loungers are kept sparkling clean. The spa has its own corridor. All the lounges are discreetly inviting and the theatre seating has the vibe of an upmarket jazz club.
With artwork and sculptures everywhere, this isn’t the glitz and bling you get on some cruise ships. Everything looks valuable, impressive, sophisticated rather than showy.
Every cabin is a suite with a balcony. And if you think it all sounds too grand and expensive, you might be wrong. Because Regent’s fares include flights, shore excursions, premium drinks, speciality restaurants and free wifi, it claims the cost per person per day can actually work out cheaper than taking a smaller suite on a ‘premium cruise line’ ship twice the size.
Seven Seas Explorer will call in to Newcastle on Monday then continue its voyage with stops including Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool before returning to Southampton on June 14. The ship will be back in the port again for a ten-night cruise in September.
All pictures by author, except for exterior shot.