The world of high-end cruising is no stranger to superlatives. Each new ship takes to the seas flanked by an armada of adjectives hailing the finest dining, glitziest entertainment and fanciest suites – but the Regent Seven Seas Explorer outdid them all. When she made her debut in 2016, she was proclaimed by her creators “the most luxurious cruise ship ever built”.
Six years later, how does the claim hold up? The facts and figures certainly provide some justification: the ship’s complement of 548 crew lavish their attention on the residents of just 373 suites – an enviable ratio even at the top end of the cruising market – and each cabin comes with a private balcony. The bathrooms are, collectively, clad in more than an acre of marble, more than 500 chandeliers adorn the ship’s ceilings and the walls are lined with 2,500 works of art, one of them an original Picasso.
Yet the opulence extends well beyond fixtures and furnishings. The food (see below) is impressive by any standards, and exceptional given the challenges and constraints of serving a large number of people at sea. But the real luxury is space. On a recent sailing from Athens to Istanbul, the ship felt roomy and relaxed, even with most cabins occupied. There’s a good reason for that, said Luxury Travel magazine: “Explorer has one of the highest space-to-passenger ratios in the industry.”
All that comes at a cost, of course. Later this year, Explorer will begin on a seven-night voyage from Canada to Alaska, for which the entry level price is £6,539 per person. That is, however, likely to be the full cost of your holiday: it includes return flights, full board, transfers between the airport and port, as many shore excursions as you wish – and even gratuities for the staff delivering five-star service in some of the world’s most inhospitable latitudes.
Even the smallest cabin on Seven Seas Explorer comes with a queen-sized bed, a separate living area with a sofa and desk, and an eight-square-metre private balcony. All the rooms are luxuriously appointed: thick carpets, marble surfaces and hardwood furnishings complete the five-star feel.
Ascending classes of suite add more space and more onboard privileges, all the way up to the spectacular regent suite. Four times the size of the average British home, it spans the top deck and offers panoramic views from its wraparound balconies. Facilities include an in-room spa with sauna, steam room and solarium – and a Steinway grand piano built specifically for the suite. Guests staying in what Regent describes as “the most luxurious address at sea” are treated to a private caviar service, a cocktail party for eight guests, a personal butler and guaranteed restaurant reservations.
Restaurants, bars and entertainment
Regent’s approach to dining sets it apart from many other cruise lines. With six restaurants, each offering a different a la carte dinner menu (as well as 24-hour room service), your only problem is likely to be food-related fomo. Three of the restaurants – the Pool Grill, the Italian themed Sette Mari and Compass Rose, which serve international classics – are open to all-comers. Reservations are required at the other three: the pan-Asian themed Pacific Rim, the opulent Prime 7 steakhouse and Chartreuse, where French favorites come with a modern twist.
The quality and variety of food on offer is remarkable, and all of it, including fine wines, are included in your fare. So too are drinks at any of the ship’s numerous bars, each of which has its own character. The glass-sided Observation Lounge, for example, is the ideal venue for a champagne cocktail at sunset, while the elegant Explorer Lounge lends itself to an after-dinner scotch.
Live music is laid on most evenings, not only in the bars but also the Constellation theatre, where the Regent Symphony Orchestra accompanies a variety of singalongs, musical revues and other performances. Karaoke night, another crowd-pleaser, takes place in one of the (well sound-proofed) lounges.
Excursions and activities
The program of excursions depends, naturally, on where your cruise takes you, but whenever the ship is in port you will have a range of trips to choose from. Between Athens and Istanbul, tours included a guided visit to the archaeological site at Philippi, a small-boat trip to the uninhabited island of Rhenia and its picturesque beaches, and a river cruise down the Bosphorus, among many, many others. In Alaska, excursions include whale watching, glacier trekking, small-boat trips through fjords and sightseeing tours through mountains and forests. Private or small-group excursions are available at extra cost, as are helicopter and seaplane trips on some voyages, but the rest are included in the fare.
Regent Seven Seas Explorer will spend much of 2023 in Asia, Australasia and Alaska. The Tongass Exploration voyage, departing 6 September, will cruise from Vancouver to Seward over seven nights, with fares from £6,539 per person.
Holden Frith was a guest of Regent Seven Seas Cruises; rssc.com