Roughly 20 million people take at least one cruise a year. Survey a sample of those consumers as to why they enjoy traveling in that fashion and, more often than not, you’ll get one of three answers: the serenity, the sights and the endless food spreads.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises knows all of this. But rather than focus on one or even two of those areas like some of its high-end brethren, this Miami-based luxury line boldly aims to steer the industry in all three categories.
Our Forbes Travel Guide editors appreciate the company’s confidence, but we had to see if the brand could pull off the trifecta with our own eyes. To do that, we tagged along on Seven Seas Voyager’s Monte Carlo-to-Barcelona trip (next departure is July 2018), a seven-night trek with stops in Rome, Capri and other fancied European cities in between.
Regent Seven Seas is all smiles these days because it knows the newest ship in its fleet of five, the 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor, is less than two years from its maiden voyage. Of course, if you want to experience stylishly smooth sailing right now, Seven Seas Voyager has 350 all-suite cabins with your name on them. Refurbished as part of a major enhancement in 2016, the 670-foot ship looks good from the dock and absolutely purrs on the water.
Inside, you’ll find nary a blemish on the polished stair rails. The restaurants are plentiful. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub is laudable. If a Forbes Travel Guide rated property ever took to the ocean, at first glance, it might feel like this.
The onboard event calendar is also robust. Some nights you’ll want to tap your toes to the Regent production cast’s Dancin’ Fool while other evenings you’ll feel more like karaoke and the casino — yes, there’s a multi-table, 20-plus-slot gamer’s paradise aboard.
The night before the boat leaves Monaco, you’ll likely stay at Fairmont Monte Carlo, a fabulous property with a rooftop pool, a Nobu restaurant and cloud-soft beds. (A pre-cruise hotel stay comes as part of your package.) The Seven Seas Voyager’s rooms, with their fine European linens, glass-enclosed shower and daily-replenished bar, are nearly as stellar.
Step into the redesigned penthouse, concierge or deluxe category accommodations, filled with contemporary design touches and Guerlain toiletries, and you’ll be even more impressed.
If you’ve been on a cruise, you probably have a story, be it good or not so pleasant, that surrounds the cuisine. Taste and thoughtful presentation are never an issue on Seven Seas Voyager. We did everything in our power to catch the culinary team on an off night, but were not successful. At a themed all-you-can-eat buffet, we found a charcuterie plate masterfully presented and chicken cacciatore perfectly seasoned.
We knew we had the kitchen fooled when we swapped our Prime 7 steakhouse reservation time at the last minute, but the staff proved thoroughly prepared, delivering fresh seafood and smiles as if it was waiting to serve just us.
We even tossed off our flip-flops and buttoned up for the ship’s most elegant meal at Compass Rose. No way they could ace an American hamburger and Thai red chicken curry with the same zeal, right? But again, we were amazed at what all the galley could get done.
If you think Regent Seven Seas sails from the competitors solely with its gastronomy, feast your eyes on its dizzying, all-inclusive activities roster: cheese-and-wine tastings in Provence; guided Rome tours; drives up the Amalfi Coast. This isn’t your great aunt’s cruise.
Well, actually, the travelers on Regent Seven Seas’ trips do skew a bit older, but they’re an active bunch who’s more than willing to lace up their comfortable shoes for a good trek. (We can only imagine what kind of shape they’ll need to be in for the tome-full of shore activities planned for October’s 66-night, Miami-to-Sydney journey on Seven Seas Mariner.)
If you’ve been on cruise day trips where you’re plopped on some dock and told, “Okay, we’ll see you back here in six hours,” you’ll be happy to know that the tours offered here are often with guides who pack plenty of knowledge and patience in their fanny packs.
The bus ride between Florence and Pisa, for example, isn’t terribly captivating, but with the guide’s personal anecdotes and little-known facts, the trip goes by in a hurry. By the time you get to your destination, you’ll be almost as excited to see Campo dei Miracoli as you are the neighboring Leaning Tower.
But Regent Seven Seas is as motivated to nurture your body as it is your mind. In 2017, the company debuted an initiative called Seven Seas Wellness where a certain number of excursions have dedicated physical and mental components to them. Options on the Monte Carlo-to-Barcelona cruise range from vitamin-infused facials at the onboard spa to Roman bath experiences in Sorrento.
We even participated in a tai chi class in Marseilles’ Imperial Garden. The movements were so exhilarating, and the views of the Old Port below so majestic, that we hardly noticed the local kids at lunch staring at us the whole time.
Affable martial arts teachers, quality tour guides and others in similar positions are what make a vacation on the seas memorable. Not every cruise gets this. We can’t name one time when we re-boarded the boat from an excursion and weren’t greeted with a “Welcome back, sir” from the attendant. The same cordiality came whenever we ordered a drink, requested an extra towel or asked when the next round of trivia was starting.
But while everyone we encountered had a pleasant demeanor, one particular employee stood out most — cruise director Ray Solaire. A jolly, older gent of slight stature and sterling voice, Solaire was the man behind the morning PA announcements and the evening ventriloquist show. One day we were coming back from an onshore diversion and noticed a line of Seven Seas Voyager staffers singing and clapping for us, as if they were genuinely happy for our return. Solaire, of course, was leading the cheers.
When you dock for the last time in Barcelona, you’ll want to return the applause to Solaire and his team for showing you a side of Europe (and the cruise industry, for that matter) that you didn’t even know existed.