So what do you get on a ship that’s said to be the world’s most luxurious?
Well, there’s plenty of conspicuous consumption: champagne, caviar and lobster on tap, a suite costing US$10,000 a night which comes complete with a bed worth US$150,000, a grand piano and a personal spa decorated in gold leaf.
But there is much more to the Regent Seven Seas Explorer than just being able to eat your fill of foie gras off Versace place settings and guzzle premium wines from crystal goblets. There is real class and refinement.
As far as cruise ships go, this one is a very personal work of art. There are 2500 paintings and sculptures, including two Picassos and a Chagall. Exquisite inlaid marble floors and chandeliers dripping with the best Czech crystal, vast private balconies and public spaces, a cooking school …
It cost US$450 million to build (though whispers have it it went some US$30 million over budget) and the project was very much the work of the line’s CEO and Present Frank Del Rio.
The vessel was put through its paces in the Mediterranean this week during what is called a “shake down” cruise, designed to make sure the chefs can create the very finest fine dining and the butlers know how to butle.
Cruise&Travel Asia sailed aboard her ahead of her christening in Monaco by Princess Charlene. Our verdict: in an ever-growing luxury market, this ship sets standards others are going to find hard to beat.
Seabourn, Ponant and Crystal Cruises are all expecting new-builds in the luxury sector, and smaller vessels from Scenic and Crystal in the expedition sector will also step up capacity.
But Explorer is a floating palace. The detail and finishes are nothing short of extraordinary. There is an acre of Italian marble and granite, and almost all the steel of the ship’s hull has been covered in some kind of decoration.
Asian cruisers are a target for this new breed of decadent cruising. Mr Del Rio told us he was already planning Explorer II (a working title) to be completed in 2020 – and it may well be targeting China: “China has got the world’s biggest number of billionaires, more Gucci bags, more Rolex watches than anywhere else.”
Mr Del Rio makes no apologies for his claim that he has built the most luxurious vessel ever: “Good old conspicuous consumption – that’s all over. Luxury is back to reward success and not to vilify wealth. It’s more than OK to enjoy the best of the best.”
He spent two years scouring galleries to accumulate the art, spending US$6 million. Some have already been discarded as they simply don’t work now that the ship is built.
The Explorer carries only 750 guests, and boasts one of the highest space ratios in the cruise industry. It has 552 crew members – 1.36 guest-to-crew ratio, new French and pan-Asian restaurants, a Canyon Ranch SpaClub and a huge gym.
It also boasts one of the biggest suites afloat. The two-bedroom, 4443 sq ft Regent Suite comes complete with an in-room spa retreat decorated with gold leaf, two Picassos on the wall outside, a US$150,000 main-room bed and a custom made Steinway Arabesque piano by famed designer Dakota Jackson.
It was marketed at US$10,000 per night. Now Mr Del Rio says the take-up has been so strong that he may have undercharged. The price is under review.
A first for any cruise ship, the Regent Suite features a master bathroom spa retreat that delivers all the pampering comforts of the Canyon Ranch SpaClub without leaving the suite. A treatment area, full sauna, ceramic heated relaxation lounges and multi-jet shower are at guests’ 24- hour disposal.
The line’s fares include all-suite accommodations, round-trip air fares in North America, highly personalised service, acclaimed cuisine, fine wines and spirits, internet access, sightseeing excursions in every port and all gratuities.
Asia and Australasia Vice President Steve Odell said the all inclusive offer made the ship a win-win for passengers and the industry.
Mr Odell, an experienced veteran of the luxury cruise market, said he believes the Explorer is “a game changer”.
Find out more at RSSC.com.