Fresh out of the ship yard in Ancona, looking pristine white and with that new ship smell, Regent Seven Seas Splendor sat ready and waiting to accommodate its first wave of 750 guests on a 3-night cruise to Rome via Dubrovnik.
We stepped on board for the very first time, greeted by welcoming crew who shared our excitement as the carpets crunched beneath our feet and we were handed a glass of Champagne. What immediately hits you is the light, airy, subtle tones and shades of beige, an enhancement of the décor and design of sister ship Seven Seas Explorer. The privilege of being the first to use that fresh set of fluffy towels, open the gorgeous smelling L'Occitane toiletries, use that new set of cutlery and sit in the carefully laid-out chairs and sofas, was rather overwhelming.
I relaxed into my spacious accommodation, a Penthouse Suite on Deck 6. You can walk around this stylish suite in a square - from the long lounge, with refreshments unit, Illy coffee machine, Vero water system, crystal chandelier, sofa and grand chair, to the picture perfect bedroom, through to the marble bathroom, complete with multi-jet shower and his 'n' hers sinks, and into the large walk-in wardrobe, big enough to organise all your clothes without fighting over who gets the most hanging space.
The attention to detail is luxury personified, with velvet-lined drawers, every amenity you could possibly think of and stylishly lit rooms with spot lights, wall lights, lamps and light-up mirrors - there's no chance of stubbing your toe in the dark in this suite! The deep veranda accommodates two sun loungers, a table and two chairs, making it suitable to relax on, whatever the weather.
Seven Seas Splendor is a work of art from bow to stern. From Picasso and Miró to Matta and Lam, there's a masterpiece in every lounge, restaurant and corridor. The Meridian Lounge on Deck 5 differs from Seven Seas Explorer, and has been moved to create a lengthy view from the Constellation Theatre down to the Pacific Rim restaurant, which is guarded by my favourite piece of art work on board, a bronze oriental dragon.
Dining in Pacific Rim was a personal highlight. This Pan-Asian fusion restaurant has such an appealing menu, I dare you to try and limit your selections here! You must try the tempura lobster - just delicious. Pacific Rim is just one of seven dining venues on board. Chartreuse offers French cuisine in intimate surroundings; Prime 7 is the amazing seafood and steak restaurant (if you can't decide what to choose, opt for the 'Surf n Turf' dish of fillet mignon and lobster tail for the best of both); La Veranda offers a wide range of dishes for breakfast and lunch, then transforms into Sette Mari in the evenings for an Italian dinner experience. The best thing about La Veranda/Sette Mari is the over-water alcove setting, enabling you to dine over the side of the ship, 11 decks above the ocean.
Compass Rose is the elegant main dining room on Deck 4, reached by a casual stroll down the atrium's striking grand staircase, complete with an amazing chandelier and Versace crockery. Coffee Connection is your one-stop-shop for light refreshments, pastries and sandwiches throughout the day, and last, but certainly not least, is the Pool Grill. This casual venue offers a selection of hot and cold dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If, like me, you have an interest in food (and are a big fan of MasterChef), I highly recommend you sharpen your cookery skills at the Culinary Arts Kitchen. The two-hour classes cover knife skills and cooking tips whilst you create and taste dishes based on the destinations you're visiting. Their state-of-the-art cooking stations are expertly laid out, as you follow the Head Chef to prepare and cook up to four meals with the help and guidance of two sous chefs - all whilst the backdrop of the ocean passes by through floor-to-ceiling windows. You even get to keep your apron and take the recipes away to recreate at home.
After all this indulgence you may wish to work off some calories, and on board Seven Seas Splendor you're certainly not short of options. Visit the Serene Spa to take part in an exercise class, run into the sunset on the treadmill or be treated like a VIP by the resident gym instructor, who has trained George Michael, David Tennant and Geri Halliwell, to name but a few. If getting hot and sweaty isn't your thing, walk along to the his and hers sections of the spa for a massage, beauty treatment or simply time to unwind in the sauna, steam room, cold room or infinity pool.
Towards the aft of Deck 12 you'll find the jogging track, a bocce court, 18-hole putting green (which is harder than it looks, so I was very pleased with my two holes in one!), paddle tennis court, a golf net to practice your swing, table tennis and the ever-popular shuffleboard. In addition, Deck 11 hosts the pool with two Jacuzzis, a large selection of comfortable loungers and inviting cabanas.
As the evenings draw in you can spend your time in one of the three lounges on board, each offering a variety of entertainment, and find your next favourite beverage from the new cocktail menu. Splendor's resident pianist and talented singing duo can be found in the Meridian Lounge; the resident DJ will play hit after hit in the Splendor Lounge; and for me, the pièce de résistance on this ship is the gigantic Observation Lounge.
With panoramic views across the bow and over-water alcoves offering views down towards the stern, it's tastefully decorated with a mixture of seating options, all of which are centred around the dancefloor and grand piano. Sit in here at any time of day to fully enjoy the sea views or the chance to spot, as I did, the graceful porpoising of a pod of dolphins. Alternatively, head to the Constellation Theatre over Decks 4 and 5 for the after-dinner show.
Our backstage tour of the theatre gave us a behind-the-scenes insight into the planning, effort and work that goes into each performance. This was such an interesting experience, looking at the space the entertainment team have to operate in, the efficiency needed for costume and set changes, and understanding the process of coming together as Splendor's resident performers. After four months training in Miami these young, talented crew members were bursting to deliver an energetic and enthusiastic inaugural performance of their show, 'Boogie Wonderland'. With four other brand-new shows created primarily for this ship, you'll certainly be in for a treat before bedtime.
This all-suite, all-balcony ship balances comfort, elegance and intimacy with choice, variety and style. The only difficulty with this ship is remembering to remove the 'u' from 'Splendor'! With a new Explorer Class ship on the horizon for 2023, it will be exciting to see how Regent continue to perfect the luxury cruise experience.