It’s been five years since I last stepped foot on a Regent Seven Seas’ ship. Back then, Seven Seas Mariner provided me with something of a landmark experience; my first taste of ‘true’ luxury cruising and a barometer against which I would measure every future voyage and – perhaps unfairly – every ship I was fortunate to sail on.
Last week, I was invited aboard the new jewel in the Regent crown, Seven Seas Splendor, for a 3-night voyage from Rome to Barcelona, via Livorno. During this time, I had ample opportunity to sample the dining options, the onboard programme and one of the complimentary shore excursions offered by Regent in Tuscany.
Suite Life, Splendor-style
A huge slice of luck meant that I had been allocated a Splendor Suite for the voyage (I was not expecting this – if anyone from Regent is reading: THANK YOU). Located on Deck 10, just a short walk from the Bridge, the Splendor Suite measures approximately 655 sq.ft and boasts a spacious living area, an amazing stone/marble bathroom and a separate bedroom with a super comfortable king-size bed.
As is the case with many of the higher suite grades, a private butler is provided for the duration of the cruise but apart from requesting a little extra water, I didn’t feel the need to bother him. Still, it was reassuring to know that he was always close by if I needed anything.
Due to the nature of the voyage, my dinner reservations had already been made for me. This was probably for the best as it meant I didn’t need to spend ages agonising over which restaurant to choose.
Aside from the first full day and my final morning (when I ordered room service due to an early start), breakfast and lunch were taken in one of the two alternative venues; La Veranda and the Pool Grill. Both offer buffet-style options alongside dishes that can be ordered from a menu. In La Veranda, this is generally Italian-themed, while the Pool Grill menu features a choice of burgers, sandwiches and other light bites.
Unfortunately, the cruise coincided with the outbreak of the Coronavirus so self-service at the buffets wasn’t an option. Instead, staff were on-hand to dish out anything you wanted. This level of caution also extended to Coffee Connection, but it wasn’t really an issue as there were more than enough staff members around to ensure you never had to wait.
I dined in Prime 7 on the first two nights of the voyage. Prime 7 is one of three speciality restaurants on Seven Seas Splendor and is a popular fixture on the other ships in the Regent Seven Seas fleet. If you love meat or fish, then you’re advised to reserve a spot here. The starters (‘Tuna & Avocado Poke’ and ‘Goat Cheese & Portobello Tart’) and mains (‘U.S.D.A Prime New York Strip’ and ‘Grilled Chicken Supreme’) were absolutely delicious, though sadly, I am unable to comment on dessert because it would have been risky to try and fit any more food into my stomach…
On the final evening, I had a reservation at Chartreuse. Generally, I am not a huge fan of French-style fine dining, but the food in Chartreuse really took me by surprise. I should also mention that the wine was paired perfectly to the dishes I ordered (smoked salmon followed by Rossini-style beef), and unlike Prime 7, I still had room for a lovely apple tart and ice-cream as a dessert.
Onboard Seven Seas Splendor
Nothing really tests a ship’s onboard experience than a sea day. Fortunately for me, I had one the day after visiting Livorno, so I made an effort to get into the swing of things, Regent-style.
Here are a few of the things that really stood out:
– It’s quiet onboard – REALLY quiet. There appears to be so much space and at times you can roam the corridors and not see anyone. Even the public areas have an air of ‘hush’ about them.
– You never queue for anything – it doesn’t matter which lounge or bar you visit, the service is nearly always on a one-to-one basis.
– The onboard entertainment programme is packed! There’s something going on nearly every hour; from cookery classes and afternoon tea to quizzes and games on the sports deck. In the evening, there’s Broadwayesque musical performances and stand-up comedy in the Constellation Theatre, and live bands in the smaller Splendor Lounge.
– All of the suite accommodation is fantastic – I can’t imagine anyone would book a suite on Seven Seas Splendor and not be happy with it.
– The ship handles inclement weather excellently. We experienced some pretty rough seas on the second night and again during the sea day. Captain Serena Melani kept everyone informed as to what was coming, and even at its worst, the ship was reassuringly steady and powerful.
One of the main advantages of cruising with Regent is the number of free excursions that are available on each voyage. In Livorno, we were offered a number of tours, both in the local area and in Florence. Feeling the need to burn off some of the previous days’ calories, I opted for a morning cycle tour of the medieval city of Lucca.
Regent’s excursion programme runs like clockwork; within 20 mins of leaving my suite, I was on the coach bound for Lucca. Upon arrival, we picked up our bikes and set off on a two-hour ride around the city where the very knowledgeable local guide informed us on everything from its main export (it’s Italy’s tissue capital) to Napoleon’s successful conquest of the city which saw his sister, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, installed as the ‘Princess of Lucca’ in 1805. It’s a great place to visit and is brimming with history and amazing architecture. If you’re visiting Livorno and have the opportunity to visit the city, I’d highly recommend it.
The itinerary planning even left us with an hour for a bit of independent exploration on foot before we were ushered back onto the coach and returned to the ship just in time for lunch.
In 2015, the cruise industry was immeasurably enhanced with the arrival of Seven Seas Explorer. Claimed to be “The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built”, Regent delivered a vessel of such quality that she not only delighted guests but also became the star of numerous television documentaries.
So how do you follow a ship like Seven Seas Explorer? Well, if you’re Regent, you embark on a new build which doesn’t claim to be the ‘most’ anything. Instead, you take all the best elements of the fleet, fine-tune them and arrive at what Regent deems “Luxury Perfected”.
Despite the similarities on the outside, Seven Seas Splendor is certainly not a sister ship to Seven Seas Explorer. Step inside and you will soon realise there’s enough to differentiate the pair. For starters, the interiors feel brighter and the public spaces airier. While the bold use of dark woods, black marble and gold trims is still present, the colour palette is used more sparingly on Seven Seas Splendor. This didn’t go unnoticed by my fellow travellers either; the most common description being that Splendor is less ‘masculine’ than Explorer.
There’s also a number of physical changes that won’t go amiss to the eager eye. Coffee Connections has been extended and now has outside seating, the position of the Grand Staircase now faces the Compass Rose restaurant, and Penthouse Suite guests can now access the bathroom from a second door, as opposed to those on Explorer where the only way to get to the bathroom is via the walk-in wardrobe.
As I sat in Barcelona awaiting my flight home, I had time to reflect on my time aboard Seven Seas Splendor. She is without a doubt the most luxurious ship I have ever set foot on. I considered the range of dining options; all of which presented a headache for anyone who loves to eat and is passionate about high-end cuisine. I also thought about the staff and the service, which is personalised, friendly and really adds to the onboard atmosphere.
There’s also the fact that Regent Seven Seas is a truly all-inclusive cruise line. It still surprises me that you can eat and drink till your heart’s content, visit new places on a diverse range of excursions, enjoy premium-level entertainment, receive outstanding service and yet, the bill comes to £0. That’s ZERO pounds. When you add up all the different elements, there’s a good argument to suggest that Regent Seven Seas offer outstanding value for money when compared to other luxury cruise lines and holiday-types.
From an environmental standpoint, it’s also nice to see another major cruise line making the effort to become more sustainable. Gone are the days of plastic water bottles being handed out when you leave the ship. These have now been replaced with stainless steel, refillable bottles which you can use throughout the voyage and keep once you return home. We were told that this was one of the many steps Regent Seven Seas are taking in order to protect the world’s resources and that they are now focusing on changing the plastic amenities in the bathrooms, as well as migrating to in-port charging and power usage.
Finally, at a talk given by Regent’s executive team, it was confirmed they have already turned their attention to the fleets next addition. I’m sure you will agree that this is very exciting news, but it did lead me to wonder: How could they possibly top something as magnificent as Seven Seas Splendor?
Luxury Perfected, indeed.