As myself and my colleague Marie arrived in the port, there she was; pristine, stylish and proudly floating ready to welcome her first guests. Sister to Explorer, famously known as the 'world's most luxurious ship' and star of her own television series, we couldn't wait to see what eagerly anticipated Seven Seas Splendor - the latest addition to this luxury cruise line's growing fleet - had in store.
After a red carpet arrival and a seamless check-in, we boarded the ship as guests of her preview cruise, her first sailing from the shipyard where she has been constructed over the last couple of years. Even more momentous, this is the first new cruise ship to be launched with a female captain at the helm, and as female guests ourselves, we took great pleasure to hear Captain Serena Melani welcoming everyone on board over the tannoy.
From the moment we stepped inside, the Champagne continuously flowed. Regent Seven Seas prides itself on being the most inclusive cruise, and this couldn't be more true! From Champagne and speciality cocktails, to room service and boundless world-class cuisine - you could quite happily spend your days simply revelling in the food and drink for your entire cruise. Add to this the abundant shore excursions, spa facilities and entertainment, and you have yourself an amazing value, truly luxurious experience at sea.
Regent Suite Deck
We were soon notified that our Penthouse Suite was ready, where we opened the door to find our luggage waiting. We entered the dining/living area, where there was a mini bar area and doors into the spacious bedroom with the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in, complete with floor-to-ceiling doors which led to our fully furnished private balcony. The beautiful bathroom comprised twin sinks and an incredible shower with jets at every angle, connecting to a walk-in wardrobe with space for all your belongings, even for a world cruise. Every detail of this suite has clearly been thoughtfully designed, from the layout, functionality and technology, to the sumptuous materials, lavish furnishings and elegant interior details. This was consistent across all of Splendor's suites, from the stylish Veranda Suite to the awe-inspiring Regent Suite, located at the top front centre of the ship. This jaw-dropping suite is complete with Picasso artwork at the entrance, a grand piano, fully stocked bar, two bedrooms, a huge balcony with Jacuzzi and a private spa. Some accommodation comes with even more indulgent inclusions, with Concierge Suites and above including pre-cruise hotel accommodation, transfers and early access for dining and shore excursion reservations, while Penthouse Suites and above include a private butler, which we found incredibly helpful as he recommended dishes in restaurants and showed a genuine interest in ensuring we made the most of our time onboard.
This attentive, personalised service is a significant part of the experience. Seven Seas Splendor boasts 542 crew members attending to the 750 guests, priding themselves in anticipating your every desire before you even realise yourself. Regent Seven Seas has 86% staff retention, with training managers onboard each ship to ensure consistent safety and service standards across the fleet. As we met members of the team, it was clear they were proud of the ship, the company and relish the opportunity to interact with guests, who in turn return again and again and often become more like friends.
Sunday Brunch at Compass Rose
From the moment we sat down for our first dinner and a black napkin instead of a white one was discreetly placed on my black dress, I knew we were in for a treat! If anything about Splendor was to rival the surroundings and service, it would be the dining. There was a fantastic choice of venues and styles of cuisine, you are spoilt for choice! It is recommended to pre-book, but every beverage, dish and venue is included with your stay, and you will want to experience as much as possible! We were lucky enough to experience the Asian-style Pacific Rim, where we savoured the best sushi we have ever had, gourmet French restaurant La Chartreuse with a mouthwatering Emmental soufflé starter, and a grand finale at Prime 7 with a superb Surf & Turf special. Each dish left our tastebuds truly tantalised, and this didn't end at dinner. A room service breakfast is the perfect way to enjoy a lazy morning in your suite, while La Veranda has an extensive buffet and al fresco dining at the back of the ship - don't miss Pool Grill either, the truffle burger is delicious. However, the pinnacle of our dining delights was Sunday Brunch at Compass Rose, an elegant setting with a live pianist and a stunning presentation of culinary delicacies. From breakfast favourites and Sunday roasts at the live cooking stations, to seafood surrounding a perfectly carved ice sculpture and show-stopping sweet treats, such as croquembouche to a drizzling chocolate fountain, it was nothing short of outstanding.
As if breakfast, lunch and dinner isn't enough, there's also Afternoon Tea at Coffee Connection, along with a selection of bars for sundowners. Watch the sunset through the panoramic windows of the Observation Lounge, or sample the cocktails of Le Meridian Lounge and Splendor Lounge, both with different live music, such as a pianist, live band or DJ each evening. The Constellation Theatre also provides brilliant entertainment following dinner - from all-singing and dancing shows, to stand-up comedy.
Further to the dining and evening entertainment, Splendor is home to the Culinary Arts Kitchen, which I highly recommend booking in advance. This state-of-the-art kitchen workshop has ocean views and several cooking stations that are set up in advance of your arrival, with the equipment and ingredients already measured out, meaning even beginners can easily participate! Chef Noelle Barille gave great insight and instruction as we spent two hours learning new skills while preparing and tasting dishes inspired by the region we were sailing through. As we cruised along the idyllic Italian coast, we cooked stuffed olive canapés and Mediterranean-style sea bass. Each dish was simple but delicious, and we were given the recipes to bring a taste of Italy to our own kitchens when we returned home.
As well as the dining experiences, the ship's wealth of facilities made our day at sea fly by. Those seeking a leisurely afternoon will love the swimming pool with heated Jacuzzis, as well as the inviting spa, available for all guests to use, with an infinity swimming pool at the back of the ship and a selection of thermal experiences. For the more active, there is a state-of-the-art gym and fitness studio with classes including spinning and sunrise stretches, along with the running track and games including paddle tennis and a putting green on the top deck. Recreation even extends to an onboard casino, card room and puzzle area - there really is something for everyone and we were definitely kept busy!
Meanwhile onshore, a choice of excursions are included in your journey, ranging from walking tour to tuk-tuk experiences, all with knowledgeable guides ensuring you make the most of each port. Our first port of call was Dubrovnik, where we opted for the city walls walking tour. Our transfer into the historic city was seamless, with our guide by our side for the full duration. She had grown up in Dubrovnik and her local knowledge gave us a true insight into life in Croatia, sharing fascinating history and enough facts to keep us interested and engaged. As part of the excursion, we also enjoyed free time to explore at leisure, before returning 'home' to the ship.
By the time we reached our disembarkation in Rome, we were truly enamoured with the ship, the service and Regent Seven Seas' core values. Everything is designed with the concept of space, choice and time at the forefront and this comes across in every aspect living up to their vision of being 'an unrivalled experience'.