A look inside what's touted as the most luxurious ship ever built

Compass Rose - aqua and cobalt Preciosa chandelier of hand-blown crystal droplets evokes an underwater feeling Compass Rose - aqua and cobalt Preciosa chandelier of hand-blown crystal droplets evokes an underwater feeling

Grand entryways, gold leaf, exquisite inlaid marble floors, hand-blown crystal chandeliers, vast private balconies, a $10,000-a-night suite with its own spa. Lobster, caviar and foie gras at your beck and call.

All are elements of Seven Seas Explorer, which Regent Seven Seas Cruises touts as the most luxurious ship ever built.

'I'm blown away,' said Richard Molander, president and ceo, Travel of America, one of the line's top retailers who sailed on a Mediterranean preview cruise in advance of the naming ceremony in Monte Carlo tonight. Princess Charlene of Monaco is the godmother.

'Timelessness' was the overriding goal, said Frank Del Rio, president and ceo of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Seven Seas Explorer's visionary.

'I wanted the ship to be timeless, as relevant to the luxury market 20 years from now as today,' Del Rio said. As it's been 13 years since Regent introduced a ship, this one 'had to be extraordinary, make a statement and shine a real bright light on the Regent brand.'

Seven Seas Explorer has nearly an acre of marble, half of it from Carrara, Italy, and nearly an acre of granite. All the stones were individually selected. There are 473 crystal chandeliers throughout the ship, custom Versace and Bernardaud china, artworks by Picasso, Miró, Chagall, Weidemann, Arranz Bravo and other masters.

The detail even extends to the ceilings throughout. There are no visible steel girders on the pool deck, where ceilings are covered in decorative metal and wood, and the walls are finished with stone. 

'The sky was the limit for our designs,' according to Kim Lanza, project manager for iCrave, the firm that designed the double-deck Constellation Theater; the French specialty restaurant, Chartreuse; the steak house, Prime 7; and La Veranda, the indoor-outdoor dining spot. iCrave used details like handmade mosaic tiles and hand-blown Murano glass sconces, silver and gold leaf, natural stones and luxurious fabrics.

'Every millimeter was looked at,' Lanza said.

For the entryway to Chartreuse, 'We were thinking of a romantic stroll down a rainy street in Paris,' so the stones are matte and glossy to suggest wet and dry. The room has Art Nouveau details, and a 'garden' section in the back, with big windows over the stern, has green and white marble with gold inlays to suggest a trellis pattern.

There's a grand entrance to many spaces. Regent president Jason Montague said he was stunned by the monumental crystal chandelier cascading above the atrium, the first thing passengers see when they embark.

A long, curved, sweeping entryway leads to the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. 'You walk down this path into a place of serenity and quiet,' said Greg Walton, vp of CallisonRTKL, which designed the SpaClub and Fitness Center, Pacific Rim restaurant, Observation Lounge, Culinary Arts Kitchen and Penthouse and Grand suites.

'A classic core with a modern twist,' is how Michal Jackiewicz, ceo/partner, Tillberg Design, the ship's coordinating architectural firm, described Seven Seas Explorer. Tillberg created the atrium with its monumental Chelsom chandelier and curving staircases, backed by a lobby brightened by more chandeliers that leads to the main restaurant, Compass Rose, also designed by Tillberg.

Compass Rose is dripping in four types of marble, with metal inlays. Inspired by the sea, the room's centerpiece is a stunning aqua and cobalt Preciosa chandelier of hand-blown crystal droplets evoking an underwater feeling. Other golden chandeliers suggest sea urchins, and columns are finished in handcrafted mother of pearl.  

While luxury means different things to different people, rarity or uniqueness is certainly a key factor, according to CallisonRTKL's Walton. The $500,000, cast-bronze Tibetan prayer wheel his firm commissioned from UAP of Australia for the vestibule of Pacific Rim, the pan-Asian restaurant, 'you're not going to find anywhere else. It is luxury because it is the only one in the world,' Walton said. The prayer wheel weighs about two tons.

Travel agency owner Molander was particularly impressed by the spaciousness of the all-balcony suite Seven Seas Explorer. At 56,000gt, it carries just 750 passengers, served by 542 crew.

Seven Seas Explorer is characterized by spacious suites with balconies that average 138 square feet. Premkumar, one of the ship's butlers, said 'Guests feel the luxury, and they like to spend time in the suites. They can have a party on the balcony with eight or 10 people or dine in,' with meals served course-by-course.

The $10,000-a-night Regent Suite, designed by Tillberg, is literally the top address. Deck 14 was added to the ship to make room for this 2,917-square-foot apartment with its 958-square-foot wrap-around balcony that has an even loftier view than that of the captain's on the bridge, three decks below.

There's an in-suite spa with separate sauna and steam rooms and unlimited Canyon Ranch spa treatments. The Savoir No. 1 master bed alone cost $150,000. The marble entryway is flanked by two Picassos, and there's a $250,000 custom-made Steinway Arabesque grand piano by Dakota Jackson. Residents get a private car and driver in every port.

Some hotels charge more than $10,000 for their top suites, but don't offer anything near the perks that come with the Regent Suite, Montague noted, while Del Rio said the price will probably be going up because it's 'selling too easily.'

Having several architectural firms design the different suites gives them distinctive looks. Dakota Jackson's Seven Seas and Explorer suites have details like green leather wall coverings, while CallisonRTKL's Grand Suites, all the way forward, have large bathrooms with sea-view tubs and showers with full-length windows onto the private balcony.

When it comes to dining, the goal is to emulate the quality of Michelin-star restaurants, even in the main Compass Rose where in addition to vast choices of appetizers and entrees that change daily, the menu offers deluxe 'always available' items. If diners want Dover sole, lobster or caviar every night, they can have it, said Franco Semeraro, svp hotel operations for Regent.

One of the agents cruising this week enjoyed the foie gras so much she ordered it three times during a single dinner, and the waiter didn't bat an eye.

'The highest paid person on board is not the captain,' Del Rio said. 'It's the chef. We have to pay top dollar to get top talent.'

Posted 13 July 2016

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review

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