We embarked on our journey on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer with a distinct mission: to see how many crystals half a million dollars will buy.
So immediately over the gangplank, we headed straight to the lobby for a peek at its legendary chandelier.
As with everything on this opulent new ship—which has been billed as the world’s most luxurious—the Swarovski masterpiece exemplified quality, not quantity, and was truly a sight to behold. Shaped like an upside-down bell and extending a full story high, its thousands of crystals cast an almost sepia tone upon the lobby. An artistic matte gold staircase curved perfectly around it, and around that on the lobby above, Art Deco–style white leather furniture was perfectly placed on Italian marble floors inlaid with intricate designs. A musical trio played softly, unobtrusively, in the atrium.
The chandelier was just the first delight in a weekend full of them. There was the fine art, chosen by hand by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio. The ship feels almost like a floating museum, complete with a Chagall, a pair of Picassos and dozens of other pieces, many bold and abstract, some that he found in Cuba (where he was born) during a family vacation. A two-ton Tibetan prayer wheel at the entrance to Pacific Rim, the Asian-fusion restaurant, not only cost a half million dollars to acquire but required that the floor be reinforced in order to display it.
There was also the blown glass, with lit walls of vases on display, Lalique and Murano, and glass light fixtures crafted in Italy—surely a piece for every taste. Completing the picture were the floral displays, elegant calla lillies, picture-perfect roses, a sweet, little orchid greeting us in our cabin. The Explorer is a painstakingly curated collection of all things beautiful.
Yes, a $150,000 Bed
The Explorer’s suites have been a topic of discussion since the ship was christened this past summer in Monaco. A sneak peek at the Regent Suite, the largest in the line (and second largest at sea), revealed sumptuous furnishings throughout, a $250,000 Steinway Arabesque piano in the living room, a bed with a $150,000 price tag (that is not a typo), and its own spa with sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi. For relaxing afterwards, side-by-side chaise lounges made of heated tiles faced out over the sea.
For groups, an exciting feature is the test kitchen, with several granite-topped bays and industrial stainless steel appliances. Here, the staff can host cooking classes or culinary team-building challenges. Charters of the ship are possible if booked far enough in advance and include use of the Regent Suite. Foodie team building is a specialty, such as a paella cook-off done for one group in the Constellation Theater.
In line with its mission of ultimate luxury, the Explorer’s restaurants are a sight to behold, from the French Art Deco Chartreuse to the elegant Compass Rose, where sea-blue Chihuly-esque glass light fixtures meet beveled mirrors and guests dine on specially designed Versace china. It’s here that our waiter innocently asks, after a luscious feast of foie gras and lobster pasta, if we would like yet another plate of agnolotti. What, and not have enough room for the chocolate mousse?
The Regent Difference
Regent CEO Jason Montague outlined the differential between his line and others to our group one morning, explaining what he referred to as its “value proposition.” Montague’s love for the ship is apparent; he frequently refers to it as “my baby” and to its warm and attentive staff—some who have been with Regent for 25 years—as “family.”
It’s critical, he says, to realize that although the price point is high, it’s because of all it includes (round-trip air, unlimited shore excursions, pre-night hotel package, Wi-fi and much more). “If you group all that together, Regent is a comparable product in the suite market.” And with more staff, more space and a greater variety of cuisine, “We surpass the other products.”
The synergies between Regent, its fairly new parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and sister company Oceania have strengthened the Regent brand even more—especially its entertainment product, says NCLH’s Del Rio. The full-length musical production and absolutely hilarious talent show by the crew were proof of that.
In the end, I kept thinking that my most memorable experience on the Explorer was not the fabulous artwork or cuisine or the over-the-moon suite—it was the people. Those folks in the talent show. Hearing them express their pride in this new masterpiece of a ship, and share how they put their faith in Del Rio to protect the integrity of the brand during the Norwegian acquisition, assured me that the Regent experience is, indeed, good as gold—and worth every cent.