OCEANS AWAY!

seven_seas_webCruising The Seven Seas

With a price tag of $450 million, the Regent Seven Seas Explorer is being touted as the most luxurious ship at sea. Does it live up to the hype?

It’s been a busy year for the cruise industry. Carnival’s new line Fathom became the first to emphasize voluntourism; Royal Caribbean debuted the world’s largest ship, Harmony of the Seas; and Crystal Serenity made a historic voyage through the Northwest Passage. But few launches were more anticipated than that of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new ship Seven Seas Explorer. Regent had promised that its first new vessel in thirteen years would be “the most luxurious ever built,” and expectations were high.

If luxury today means putting a premium on space, sophisticated décor, and damn good food, then the ship is a resounding success. The 750-passeneger Seven Seas Explorer has revived the elegance of a grand, early-twentieth century ocean liner for a modern—and decidedly less stuffy—clientele. So you can have your lunchtime fill of champagne and caviar under the main dining room’s aqua-blue Preciosa chandelier and still leave the Louboutins upstairs—the staff won’t bat an eye if you’re wearing sandals.

The man behind the ship is Frank Del Rio, the president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Regent’s parent company. He oversaw the design direction, including softening the look of the pool deck’s steel with a combination of stone, wood, and fabric, and weighed in on the art selection. (Why yes, those are two Picassos and a Chagall hanging in the Prime 7 Steakhouse bar.) “The design had to be timeless so it would still be relevant in twenty years,” Del Rio explained on the pre-inaugural sail from Barcelona to Monte Carlo. As a result, all 375 staterooms have spacious balconies (averaging 138 square feet, the industry’s largest); marble bathrooms; and thoughtful, function-focused elements like retractable bedside lights and plenty of drawers—because if there’s one truth sure to stand the test of time, it’s that no one wants to spend a vacation bickering over storage space.

Lavish touches abound in the public areas. Outside Pacific Rim, the Pan-Asian fine-dining restaurant, there’s an enormous, hand-cast bronze Tibetan prayer wheel. The piece is so heavy, the ship required extra steel reinforcement for its installation. And the staterooms themselves are brimming with sumptuous design elements, especially the Deco-themed Grand and Explorer Suites, which have walls paneled with emerald leather. Most over-the-top is the $10,000-per-night, $4,443-square-foot Regent Suite, with its two bedrooms, living room, marble-topped bar, and custom Steinway grand. Sticker shock aside, consider the inclusions—unlimited food and drinks, a private car and driver in every port, and Canyon Ranch treatments to be enjoyed in your own in-room spa—and it beats out many hotel suites in terms of value.

But back to the food. Del Rio said that the highest salaries on the ship didn’t just go to the captain but also to the chefs. The investment was well worth it: Seven Seas Explorer has elevated cruise-ship dining, with several specialty restaurants that cater to sophisticated palates. In lieu of New American cuisine, you’ll find gojuchang-spiced lamb and snow crab with yuzu syrup at Pacific Rim. Or head to the Parisian-inspired Chartreuse for refined Continental fare, like Emmental soufflé with a delicate soubise sauce of steak tartare topped with a dollop of Aquitanian caviar. Because if you’re on the most luxurious ship at sea, you can never have too much caviar. Seven-night Mediterranean voyages from $7,199 per person, all-inclusive, with unlimited shore excursions and business-class airfare.

 

Launches To Watch

Seabourn Encore

Setting sail next month, the 604-passenger Seabourn Encore will be the line’s largest vessel to date. Highlights include interiors by Adam Tihany, the designer behind Per Se and the Beverly Hills Hotel, and a specialty restaurant from Thomas Keller. A sister ship, the Seabourn Ovation, is scheduled to follow in its wake in 2018.

 

Crystal River Cruises

Crystal Cruises is taking to Europe’s rivers. The Crystal Mozart relaunched after an overhaul this summer, but we’re most excited for the 2017 debut of two purpose built river vessels; Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler. The cabins—most of which are more than 230 square feet—will be among the largest in the market, and all come with butler service.

 

Silversea Silver Muse

The 596-passenger Silver Muse, debuting in April, will be Italian line Silversea’s new flagship. Of the ship’s 289 rooms, an impressive 62 connecting suites will accommodate groups, and guests will have no fewer than eight restaurants to choose from, including Kabuki, for sushi and teppanyaki, and Regina Margherita, for poolside pizza.