Regent Seven Seas Splendor: Is this the most luxurious cruise ship ever built?

How do you top Regent's Seven Seas Explorer, the "Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever Built"? It's a question passengers might ask themselves as they skip aboard Seven Seas Splendor, Explorer's new sister vessel, which belatedly began its inaugural sailing season in September, 2021 — more than 18 months after the ship's pre-pandemic launch. Boasting Christie Brinkley, the American model and actress, as its godmother, Splendor is "luxury perfected", according to Regent. And while that sounds more low-key than Explorer's bombastic trademark, there's nothing understated about Splendor's price tag: €422 million ($A670 million) — making it more costly than its predecessor and other, larger cruise ships unveiled in recent years.

So where has all the money gone? Well, for starters, there's more than $US5 million ($A6.7 million) of contemporary art, including works from Spanish legends, Picasso and Miro. Then you have 500 crystal chandeliers, uber-lavish carpets, gold trimmings and a staggering 4200 square metres of Italian marble strewn across the blingy public spaces and 375 all-balcony suites. Combine this with all the mouthwatering, artfully-presented food and drink, and Splendor is a boon for luxury-minded travellers, especially those with a penchant for Instagram (upload envy-inducing snaps as you cruise using the fast "free" ship-wide WI-FI).

Splendor's most coveted spot is the ravishing Regent Suite, which sleeps six and costs on average $US12,000 (approx. $A16,000) a night. Along with its counterpart on Explorer, it's the biggest suite at sea (412 square metres) and crowns the top (14th) deck on the ship's bow. It's kitted out with ornate artefacts, bespoke furniture, a grand piano, a glass-enclosed solarium, personal sauna, steam room and spa treatment area, plus a giant wraparound balcony with a whirlpool and (usually) dreamy sea views. Regent Suite guests have a dedicated butler, access to the ship's "secret" dining room and a personal car with driver and guide in every port.

What really ups the ante is the bed in the master bedroom, promising "the most natural, deeply relaxing sleep in the world". Regent's president and CEO, Jason Montague, who occupies the Regent Suite on our pre-pandemic preview cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Barcelona, says the goal with Splendor is to "raise the bar", retaining the best bits of Explorer and making subtle enhancements to cement Regent's position as the leader in high-end, all-inclusive cruising. "It's all about the details," he says.

While guests in Explorer's Regent Suite must "make do" with a Savoir No. 1 bed valued at $US150,000 (approx. $A200,000), Splendor's VIPs have a $US200,000 ($A270,000) Hastens Vividus one made by four master artisans in Sweden. This pine-framed bed has a mattress filled with horsetail hair, cushioning flax, slow-grown pine, high-quality wool and cotton, with the linen comprising batiste mako and down from Alaskan geese that is said to keep bodies at the correct temperature.

There are 14 other suite categories on Splendor, all coming with 24-hour room service, L'Occitane products, and a welcome bottle of champagne. At entry level there's the chic, cosy 28-square metre Veranda Suites. If your budget allows, there's the Deluxe Veranda (33 square metres) or, even better — and which I can recommend from personal experience — a Concierge Suite (38-43 square metres), which has a roomier lounge area, walk-in closet and separate bath-tub and walk-in shower in the marble-clad bathroom. Book a Penthouse Suite (52-60 square metres) or above and you get a butler.

I sleep well in my king-size Elite Slumber bed (retail price: $US4490, approx. $A6000), though one night the sea, lashed by the Mistral wind whipping off the south coast of France, is pretty choppy. Then again, this is in February, the European winter. The sea is serene for most of Splendor's voyages, with the ship poised to spend the 2021/22 northern hemisphere winter in Miami and the Caribbean and return to Europe — to the Mediterranean, the UK and Scandinavia — between April and November.

Whichever captivating port Splendor calls in at, guests have a choice of "complimentary" shore excursions. Docking at Livorno, the gateway to Tuscany (and the home town of Serena Melani, the first female captain to helm a new ocean cruise ship at launch), we're tempted by a self-guided jaunt to Cinque Terre, cycling around lovely Lucca and wine tasting in the medieval village of Bolgheri. Ultimately, we can't resist the highlights of Florence tour. In some ports, Regent also has extra-fee options, such as helicopter rides and exclusive visits to private castles, gourmet adventures and "Go Local" tours, which pledge an insider's point of view.

Guests who've travelled on Explorer will find Splendor's library, bars, lounges and restaurants are largely the same, albeit with refined decor and menus. Coffee Connection, near reception, has a new alfresco terrace and the baristas will fix you up a decent flat white on request. A snarling cast bronze dragon now welcomes you into Pacific Rim, a pan-Asian gem where I really enjoy the sushi, sashimi and black miso cod with sake cocktails. An improved dessert selection includes mango Thai basil sorbet, matcha white chocolate ice-cream and coconut tres leches with green cardamom vanilla sauce.


At jazzy American-inspired steakhouse Prime 7, the signature Surf & Turf — filet mignon and lobster tail or Alaskan king crab legs — with truffle fries is a trusty choice (or you could share the 32oz/900g Porterhouse steak). For a zesty dessert, try the key lime pie. Chartreuse, meanwhile, delivers some of the finest French cuisine at sea, accompanied by good Gallic wines. You might be partial to frogs' legs in a garlic cream sauce with rutabaga — or lobster bisque with armagnac followed by seared Barbary duck breast, glazed turnips, candied morello cherries and sour cherry mustard.

There's vegetarian and vegan-friendly fare among the offerings at La Veranda, which does breakfast bloody marys, lunch-time buffets and evening Italian specialities. Don't miss Compass Rose, the ship's majestic main al carte restaurant, especially for the weekly Gala Brunch — a sumptuous riot of champagne and seafood, cheeses and charcuterie, chocolate fountains and macaron pyramids.

Despite all the decadence, a Regent cruise is a pleasingly laid-back experience, with the on-board dress code swinging between "casual" (T-shirts and shorts OK) by day to "elegant-casual" (dinner jacket for men optional) in the evenings.

Although, for me, Splendor doesn't quite make the same dazzling first impression as Explorer — the grand staircase and atrium chandelier that you see upon boarding the ship, while sleek and beautifully-crafted, aren't as jaw-droppingly ostentatious — overall, the design tweaks, the superb service and reliably delicious food and drink provide all the ingredients for an equally glamorous, ever so indulgent cruise.



Biotec facials, Mediterranean seaweed wraps and caviar revitalising rituals are among the bookable treatments at the new Serene Spa & Wellness.


Fitness classes include sunrise stretches, pure-form pilates and yoga flow vinyasa. Swim in the ship's expanded outdoor pool area and play tennis, ping-pong or try some golf putting.


 At the gorgeous two-tiered Constellation Theater, a youthful cast star in shows like Diamond Run — a fast-paced jewel thief yarn performed to songs by Shirley Bassey, Madonna and others.


Regent has teamed with Hennessy to offer "tasting journeys" with this iconic Cognac producer.


Top chefs teach you how to make everything from Sicilian arancini to Floribbean delights (Caribbean and Miami fusion cuisine).



RSS Splendor has a seven-night Barcelona to Venice cruise, departing April 19, 2022. Availability is limited, but concierge suites are available from $A11360 per person. Pre-paid gratuities are included, as are unlimited beverages like fine wines, signature cocktails and premium spirits. See


Regent has implemented a new multi-layered SailSAFE program, which includes enhanced health and safety protocols, with more hand sanitation stations and upgraded medical-grade on-board air filters. All guests and crew must be fully-vaccinated (at least two jabs) at least 14 days before departure. Face coverings are required for all crew and recommended for guests, unless local regulations stipulate they are mandatory. Regent strongly encourages all guests to take a COVID-19 PCR or antigen test at home, three to four days before travelling to the ship, as an added precaution.

Steve McKenna was a guest of Regent Seven Seas Cruises.