Splendor on the Waves

We board Regent Seven Seas’ newest cruise ship to discover the latest luxury at sea


When you’re sitting on the pool deck of a cruise liner in February surrounded by occasionally choppy seas, you might expect some slight spray. And as I relaxed with my friend on the deck loungers, the odd drop of salt water was a small price to pay for the chance to soak up some Mediterranean sun.

But for the ever-obliging staff of the Regent Seven Seas Splendor, the cruise line’s brand new ship, not even the waves should disturb the passengers. The crew plied us with soft woollen blankets and were constantly on hand with drinks and nibbles.

“Does Madam need anything else?” we were asked, with profuse apologies for any failure to control the spray.

Luxury means different things to different people: plush bathrobes with top of the range toiletries, cocktails on tap, an infinity pool where you can swim overlooking the ocean. Onboard Regent’s newest launch, that all comes as standard.

The added extras are provided by the army of ever-smiling crew who seem never to be more than a few steps away.

To diners of a certain age, it doesn’t get more indulgent than a waiter with a box of prescription glasses, allowing you to choose between the Dover sole with caper butter and Tuna tartare with avocado without even having to reach into your bag for your specs.

This is not just luxury, but luxury perfected — so promises the tagline of this latest opulent addition to Regent’s exclusive fleet, which cost close to a billion dollars. 

The younger sister of the Seven Seas Explorer, the subject of Channel 5’s Secrets of the World’s Most Expensive Cruise Ships, by cruise ship standards  Splendor is relatively petite, catering for up to 750.

Setting sail on her maiden voyage, we left all our daily worries behind on dry land as we embarked at Rome for the short cruise to Barcelona.

With a glass of bubbly thrust into our hands as soon as we stepped into reception, hereon in, every little whim would be catered for during this taster cruise around the Mediterranean. 

On board, the staterooms consist of 375 suites, all with sea-facing balconies and opulent marble bathrooms. If the run-of-the-mill luxury we experienced in our suite — ultra comfy beds, walk-in wardrobe, flatscreen TV, L’Occitane products, personal room attendant — doesn’t hit the mark, there are even more lavish options.

The Regent Suite is the opulent crowning glory: a cool £9,000 a night unlocks the door to a magnificent penthouse apartment with 1,300 square feet of veranda space and 270-degree ocean views over Splendor’s bow. 

Add to that a well-stocked bar, a wireless smart coffee maker and an in-suite spa, not to mention an electric teeth-whitening kit. And if you don’t fancy mingling with the hoi polloi, your dedicated butler will arrange for the meals of your choice to be served in situ. 

The highlight, however, must surely be the master bedroom where an original Picasso — one of two onboard — overlooks the king-size bed with a $200,000 Hästens Vividus mattress.

Your eyes do not deceive you: this mattress crafted by artisans from horsetail hair, among other things, comes with a price tag of more than £150,000

If you can drag yourself away from the suite’s unadulterated luxury, a car with driver and guide awaits you at every port. For those not in the Regent Suite, there’s still an impressive portfolio of excursions, including 65 new itineraries. 

Stopping in Livorno, we joined a trip to the charming Tuscan city of Lucca, followed by wine tasting at a nearby vineyard. Which still left time to discover some of Livorno’s Jewish heritage, on a private guided trip from Milk & Honey Tours, which specialises in Jewish heritage tours worldwide.

This vibrant city welcomed its first Jewish residents in the 16th century, exiled from Spain and Portugal. Here, the community flourished in the tolerant atmosphere of religious freedom.

Jews played a prominent role in business and the arts — their most famous son being painter Amedeo Modigliani, whose family home now operates as a museum. 

Our knowledgeable guide Elisa also took us to the Museo Yeshiva Marini which temporarily housed the community’s religious services after its shul was bombed during the war and until the new one — an unmissable 60s landmark with beautiful interiors — opened its doors in 1962. 

Every artefact recalls a different aspect of the history of this community, now numbering just 500. By far the most impressive is an ornate golden aron hakodesh, somehow transported from Spain by those fleeing the Inquisition.

With more time, our tour would also have visited the Viale Ippolito Nievo cemetery, where many of Modigliani’s family are laid to rest, as well as the Vettovaglie Market, with a Kosher butcher and stalls selling an array of products which were originally introduced to the city by Sephardi Jews.

Fresh produce from local markets is often used in Splendor’s Culinary Arts Kitchen too, led by executive Chef Kathryn Kelly. Two-hour sessions in this teaching kitchen allow 18 participants to learn to cook delicious, if fairly basic recipes.

With considerable hand holding from the expert, we whipped up two dishes which both looked and smelled amazing. 

And if you’re worried about choppy waves robbing you of your appetite, the ship’s proportions are designed to stave off sea sickness, though “preventatives” are always on hand if necessary. It’s an offer I did not refuse as Splendor features seven unmissable dining venues. 

There wasn’t a morsel of disappointment from any of the meals, wherever we ate on board, from Asian-style Pacific Rim to the patisseries in the Coffee Connection. Kosher food is also an option if you prebook.

For us the highlight was unquestionably the gala brunch in Compass Rose which wouldn’t have been out of place at a black-tie wedding.

A running track, tennis courts and even a mini golf course mean you can work off the feasting, as well as exercising under the watchful eye of George Michael’s former personal trainer in the Serene Spa & Wellness.

If that sounds too much effort, there’s pampering too plus a packed schedule of entertainment featuring music, comedy and West End-style shows, a card room, library, cigar lounge and even a jigsaw puzzle corner.

Docking in Barcelona early enough to see the sunrise was magical. Yet bidding farewell to Splendor as she headed for the Caribbean was bittersweet — our life of luxury over as we headed to the airport for a low-cost flight back to reality. 


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