When Regent Seven Seas Splendor was christened in February 2020 by supermodel Christie Brinkley in Miami, few realised the ship would only leave the Florida port twice before being locked down in March. But 18 months later Splendor crossed the Atlantic to Britain for its Return To Sea cruise – a four-night test sailing from Southampton – before welcoming passengers on its inaugural round-Britain cruise. Following Splendors’ return to sea in September 2021, Regent Seven Seas Explorer was due to relaunch from Italy in October, with Mariner sailing from Miami in December, Navigator in January 2022 from Miami and Voyager in February 2022 from Spain. Even more exciting for Regent Seven Seas fans was the announcement of a new ship – Grandeur – coming in November 2023 to join a brand that claims to be “the world’s most luxurious fleet”.
In fact when its sister ship Explorer was launched in 2016 it was announced as the most luxurious cruise ship ever built, a claim that is bound to be made again when Grandeur – the third Explorer class ship, is launched.
Although all ages are welcome onboard – and there are special youth programmes on selected voyages – these are ships more suited to grown-ups.
If you’re not out on one of the complimentary excursions you can relax around the pool, go to the gym or use the spa infinity pool and facilities where everything is included except beauty and hair treatments.
In the evening there’s a selection of the best speciality restaurants at sea – all complimentary – with free drinks in the bars and restaurants and different shows each night in the theatre.
But if you must spend money there are jewellery and clothes shops, premier label wines and spirits available, or you could go to the casino.
The WOW factor
As well as the wall-to-wall luxury, it has to be the exceptional restaurants – from steak house to Asian fusion with French and Italian in between.
Even the buffet – not self-service due to Covid protocols – is as far from the motorway service café style of much bigger and older ships as it’s possible to be.
And they all feel like proper restaurants, too, with their own entrances and maitre d’ rather than just being a space with tables and chairs.
As for the food itself, it is top quality and plentiful: from oysters and prawns at the Pool Grill to the 32oz Porterhouse steak in Prime 7.
There are no inside cabins on this 750-passenger ship and all their cabins are suites, from the 14 entry-level Veranda Suites with balconies to the $11,000 a night Regent Suite, which comes with its own spa bathroom including a sauna, heated ceramic benches and unlimited complimentary spa treatments.
The Regent Suite’s bed alone cost $200,000 and there’s a huge sun deck with its own Jacuzzi, a grand piano in the lounge and the ship’s head butler at your beck and call.
A Picasso print hangs in the master bedroom, the living room includes a glass box-style conservatory and when the ship is in port you have access to a complimentary car and driver.
No wonder Regent Seven Seas President and CEO Jason Montague calls it “the most exclusive address at sea”.
If the Regent Suite is like having your own private yacht, the other suites are more than comfortable and spacious enough for most of us.
From the Penthouse Suite up they all have separate seating areas with double access to a large balcony that has loungers as well as table and chairs.
L’Occitane and Guerlain toiletries are kept topped up in marble-effect bathrooms, with his and hers sinks and roomy walk-in showers, and there’s access to the drawer-lined walk-in wardrobe from the bathroom and the living area, which has a fridge and coffee machine.
There are also large TV screens on the bedroom and living area walls, with a choice of news channels, films and information about the ship and ports – including booking for restaurants and excursions.
Only the Concierge Suites, Superior Suites and Veranda Suites have no screened off living room but they have a sofa and desk in the space beside the balcony and – very popular – the beds face the sea.
Unfortunately, there’s no coffee machine in the Superior and Veranda Suites (which seems a bit mean) and only a wardrobe rather than walk-in closet in the Veranda Suites.
“Every restaurant is a speciality restaurant in its own right,” says CEO Jason Montague and it’s true that steakhouse Prime 7, French restaurant Chartreuse and Pacific Rim with its Pan Asian offerings have an ambiance and quality that would demand a cover charge on other cruise lines.
Prime 7 has a classic Manhattan vibe, Chartreuse has a yellowy-green décor reminiscent of the French liqueur and Pacific Rim makes a massive impression, if only because of the dragon sculpture that dominates its entrance.
It’s hard to fault any of the food on Splendor and even the less formal restaurants feel like special occasion dining.
Compass Rose is the biggest, with nearly 400 seats and a wide-ranging menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a décor that would make you swoon in a land-based restaurant.
La Veranda is the buffet dining room but actually looks like a regular restaurant with no banquettes or plastic chairs in sight.
It’s open for breakfast and lunch and in the evening one half remains open as Sette Mari At La Veranda, serving Italian classics with copious glasses of red wine.
The Pool Grill & Bar is well sheltered from the elements but offers al fresco dining and sea views at breakfast, lunch and dinner – including lots of sea food and barbecue specialities.
There’s also In-Suite Dining, 24 hours a day, with the dinner menu based on dishes served in Compass Rose.
Covid protocols mean that, although the ship is only expected to sail at 60 then 80 percent capacity, many of the tables are left empty to maintain social distancing.
There is no date yet for a return to 100 percent capacity, but it’s worth noting that booking for the smaller restaurants is essential even when the ship is not full.
Carefree sums up the lifestyle on Splendour. The pool deck has plenty of loungers and massive circular sun beds where you can curl up with a book while waiters bring you cocktails or glasses of fizz.
The pool is for cooling off rather than swimming and the decktop Jacuzzis are always popular but for those who prefer a more peaceful experience the Serene Spa’s infinity pool at the back of the ship on Deck 5 is free to use, as is the steam room, sauna and heated ceramic loungers.
The Spa also offers a full range of paid-for treatments – from luxurious facials to soothing massages – and it’s under the Deck 6 Fitness Centre, where classes for Pilates, yoga and meditation are free although you can pay for one-to-one training.
As you’d expect, the gym is full of the best equipment – spinning bikes, treadmills, Techno Strength Machines etc – but if you don’t want to be quite so active you can play paddle tennis on Deck 12.
The top deck also has a bocce court (a bit like boules) and shuffleboard plus a putting green – the equipment is neatly stored in chests nearby – and a golf net for practicing your golf swing.
One of the most impressive facilities is the Culinary Arts Kitchen, with 18 cooking stations in three curved rows so it’s easy to follow the teacher, who demonstrates achievable dishes then helps you through the process if you need it.
And of course there’s always Afternoon Tea to look forward to at 4pm every day with the cocktail pianist in the Meridian Lounge.
Talking of cocktail pianists, he’s back entertaining in the Observation Lounge at the front of the ship on Deck 11 every evening from 6pm to 7.30pm.
This pre-dinner drinks time also has livelier music in the Splendor Lounge next to the Compass Rose restaurant and even Dancing Before Dinner some nights at the larger Meridian Lounge on Deck 5.
After dinner the Constellation Theatre brings you Splendor Production Cast shows – crowd-pleasing singing and dancing probably aimed more at the American market than European.
Then it’s back to the lounges to dance to a DJ set, a live band or even the pianist’s repertoire if you’ve had enough cocktails.
Seven Seas Splendor is spending autumn 2021 in the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic to Miami in mid-November, when it will focus on return trips to the Caribbean. In April 2022 it returns to Barcelona for Mediterranean cruises and in May it will start a northern Europe season, with some Southampton departures before heading back to the Mediterranean in September.
There’s a special offer of reduced single supplements available for its seven-night Sunset Over Istanbul cruise, a round-trip from Piraeus, Greece, departing November 4, 2021, with an overnight stay in Istanbul and calls at other Turkish ports Bozcaada and Kusadasi, plus the Greek islands of Rhodes and Santorini.
Prices from £5,195pp, two sharing, including return flights, unlimited shore excursions, unlimited WiFi, complimentary drinks and no dining surcharges (023 8068 2208; rssc.com).