As much Canadian lobster as you want. Prime filet mignon on the menu each night. Unlimited caviar at Sunday brunch. Just three of the culinary indulgences on a cruise line with the motto, “Luxury Refined”.
Regent holds a unique place in the world of cruising. The high end brand of parent Norwegian Cruise Line, its five ships are in the rarified ultra-luxury category but Regent stands out by offering a complete all-inclusive package. Included in the price are a spacious suite with balcony, all meals (including specialty restaurants), drinks (including beer, wine, spirits and cocktails), tours (with a wide variety of choices in each port), gratuities, airport and hotel transfers, even laundry and pressing. In some categories first class flights and pre-cruise hotels are included.
As soon as we boarded Seven Seas Splendor, Regent’s newest ship, for a week long Caribbean cruise from Miami the luxury and service stood out. Walking around with welcome champagne in hand, the 46,000 square feet of fine Italian marble on walls and floors and more than 500 stunning chandeliers created an ambience unlike any we’ve experienced in 25 years of cruising. The ship, launched in 2020, has a capacity of just 750 guests, all in balcony suites ranging from an impressive 307 to more than 4000 square feet. The crew of 550 provides the best staff to guest ratio at sea. Their friendliness, training and attention to guest needs were evident all week.
We were in one of the smaller suites but were impressed with the layout and generous storage spaces including a walk-in closet. The long couch and convenient work desk were separated from the bed area by privacy blackout curtains while the balcony with its generous table and two cushioned wicker chairs was one of the largest we’ve ever seen. The bed itself was extremely comfortable with high thread count sheets and excellent adjustable reading lights. There were several convenient USB and power outlets. The small fridge could be filled with whatever complimentary drinks we wanted. The marble lined bathroom included a large shower area with both a regular shower head and a rainforest-style shower.
Our suite was near the back of the ship so we could occasionally hear engine rumble, especially when getting underway or docking. But we think the general room soundproofing is excellent since the ship was full and we didn’t hear a sound from any of our neighbours.
Rooms are cleaned and refreshed twice a day with newspaper summaries (from the USA, Canada, Britain and other countries) put on the bed each evening along with tomorrow’s schedule (the spacious library includes a daily, full edition of the New York Times). The large, high resolution TV had many free movies available but satellite broadcast channel choices were limited.
Regent continues to excel in its culinary program. The Hotel General Manager, Anatoli Makaev, told us that food costs, per person, are the highest at sea. Regent, he said, is spending three times more for food than before the pandemic. Unlike other lines, there have been no cutbacks in quality or quantity. Chefs continued to get paid during the Covid years and their commitment to guest satisfaction is evident.
For a ship with fewer than 800 passengers, the restaurant and menu choices were remarkable. Every evening in the main dining room, Compass Rose, guests could choose from an “Always Available” menu (from Alaska Crab to New Zealand lamb) or the daily specials including the Executive Chef’s six course “Gourmet Tasting Menu”. A healthy Spa menu was also available. Good quality red, white, rosé or sparkling wines were offered without extra cost each day, even non-alcoholic wines if you wished. Three uniquely decorated specialty restaurants offer French cuisine (Chartreuse), Asian fare (Pan Pacific) or Steaks and Seafood (Prime 7).
The large buffet restaurant on Deck 11, La Veranda, has an excellent selection of breakfast and lunch items. White tablecloths are standard throughout the area (most unusual for a cruise ship buffet) and are a classy touch in the evening when much of La Veranda becomes a fine Italian restaurant, Sette Mari. Coffee quality in the buffet was only fair but outstanding brews were always available at the 5th deck Coffee Connection.
Seven Seas Splendor has a well equipped fitness center and a Spa at the stern of the ship. We discovered the uncrowded Infinity Swimming Pool as part of the Spa and preferred it to the large, main pool on Deck 11.
Splendor’s entertainment was, as expected, of a high caliber with a dozen talented singers and dancers, accompanied by the ship band, putting on several complex main stage productions in the evening. The Regent Signature Orchestra, the Cocktail pianist and a DJ also played music for listening or dancing each evening in several lounges throughout the ship. We were disappointed that the ship’s entertainment did not include a string quartet or even a solo cello or harp. Classical music would have been a lovely touch in the pre-dinner period.
There was no shortage of games and puzzles throughout the ship. Trivia, Bingo, darts, shuffle golf and beanbag toss were among several ways guests competed for coveted Regent points and prizes at the end of the cruise. We were also pleased to see and hear a retired history professor give illustrated lectures about subjects ranging from Mayan civilization to the Caribbean connection in World War II.
The ship itself was clearly the star of our week-long cruise from Miami but the itinerary was fascinating too. We docked in Roatan, Honduras, for an island tour and swim, then stopped the next day in nearby Belize, the only English speaking country in Central America. Sandra joined a tour to a spice farm where the two chefs from the Culinary Arts Kitchen collected spices to be used in a hands-on cooking class back on the ship. In the meantime John visited a typical Mayan village off the grid where a chocolate maker showed how cacao beans were harvested and turned into the popular sweet treats.
Our planned stop in Costa Maya, Mexico, was cancelled because seas were too rough to dock but Cozumel was more tranquil and we relived our youth by boarding a two-person mini speedboat and racing through choppy water with other boats before stopping for a snorkel in warm, pristine waters filled with tropical fish.
Seven Seas Splendor has been called, “the most luxurious cruise ship in the world”. In many ways it’s true. But later in 2023, Regent is launching Seven Seas Grandeur, a sister ship to Splendor. With subtle improvements, Grandeur is now likely to claim the “most luxurious” title. It will be fun to find out.
A few more photos from our trip. Click to enlarge.
All photos by John and Sandra Nowlan – All Rights Reserved
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