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Culture / Travel

The Most Luxurious Cruise Ship Ever

$450 Million Ship Wows, But You’ll Need a Luxury Travel Expert to Ensure Smooth Sailing

BY // 10.05.16

With a price tag of $450 million and a royal christening by Princess Charlene of Monaco, the Seven Seas Explorer — Regent Seven Seas Cruises‘ newest vessel — immediately commands attention.

Coined the most luxurious cruise ship ever, Regent’s Explorer is not only the first new cruise liner from the brand in more than 10 years. Its nearly half a billion dollar price tag also makes it the most expensive cruise ship floating the Seven Seas.

The Explorer’s hefty price tag isn’t just for jaw drops. Regent spared no expense to ensure that this ocean liner is truly like no other. Plans for the ship’s development began nearly six years ago, as leaders of the company began surveying lifelong cruise advocates, current clientele, target demographics, luxury travel agents, and more to develop a highly curated experience at sea.

For Jim Strong, a luxury travel consultant and the owner of Dallas-based travel agency Strong Travel, Regent’s upgrade was long overdue.

“In my opinion, there needed to be an elevation to the level of luxury offered by a cruise line through an ocean liner cruise ship,” Strong says. “[The Explorer] is very much a curated ship. From the decoration and the artwork to the restaurants, chefs, and the captain, everything is curated by individuals at [Regent’s] main office and put together to compete in a highly competitive field. You’ll walk away knowing and understanding that this, by far, is the most luxurious cruise ship on the water.”

Strong Travel owner Jim Strong
Strong Travel owner Jim Strong

Years of planning resulted in the floating spectacle that is now the Seven Seas Explorer, a 750-passenger vessel equipped with 375 all-private balcony suites — an amenity almost unheard of on most cruise ships.

As Strong puts it, “Other ships just don’t compare. [The Explorer] is essentially a boutique luxury resort at sea.” And if anyone is an expert in luxury, it’s Jim Strong.

His travel agency, Strong Travel, made its debut in 1975. His mother, Nancy Strong was (and still is) the brains behind the operation, starting the company with just $500.

Now, more than 40 years later, Strong Travel is responsible for an excess of $40 million in luxury vacation sales. You can chalk that up to the fact that Strong’s agency has secured some of the strongest international connections across the world in the travel business — be it luxury hotels, private tour guides, or restaurant managers. Or maybe it is Strong’s ability to go the extra mile.

When one of his clients damaged her phone in Venice, Strong obtained a replacement phone, updated the device in Dallas, then flew over 5,000 miles to deliver the replacement phone personally.

For Strong, luxury travel knows no bounds, which is why he personally endorses the Seven Seas Explorer.

“You can put [the Explorer] up against a lot of five-star boutique hotels across the world, and it will stand against them very well,” he says.

PRICING THE PERKS
With one of the highest space ratios on any cruise ship and the largest balconies at sea, you can expect to pay a pretty penny for an Explorer excursion.

The eight- to 14-night itineraries, which encompass destinations such as Caribbean/Panama Canal, Northern Europe, The Mediterranean, and Grand Crossings, range from $6,799 per person to upwards of $60,000. The 3,875-square-foot Regent Suite lives up to that price tag. It comes complete with an in-room spa treatment area — a first at sea, with a personal sauna, steam room, and treatment area.

While the figure may seem steep at first, the ship’s amenities and all-inclusive perks soften the blow for those looking for a beyond special travel experience. At a cruiser’s disposal? A glistening salt water Infinity pool; a fully stocked business center; a casino; a two-tiered, 694-seat theater; the Canyon Ranch spa club; state-of-the-art fitness center; a jogging track overlooking the ocean; a sports area complete with shuffleboard, putting greens, golf nets, bocce court, and paddle tennis; a culinary arts kitchen complete with cooking instruction; and more.

All-inclusive offerings include international business-class airline accommodations, explorer tours, meals, Wi-Fi at sea, libations (minibar included), and more.

“The ship’s all-inclusive nature and large amounts of space and public areas make the Explorer a great ship for first-time cruisers, because you don’t feel confined,” Strong says. “This ship also gives cruisers a lot more time in the ports, so you have a lot more time to see and do. You get three full days in many destinations. First-time cruisers have the ability to enjoy their itinerary with more time on the shore.”

DINING AT SEA
Seven restaurants grace the Seven Seas Explorer, ensuring that the ship’s luxury travelers are never forced to repeat a meal.

Pacific Rim provides diners with flavors reminiscent of Asia. Pan Asian dishes such as Korean barbecue lamb chops, wok-fried beans, eryngii mushroom and gochujang dressing, hamachi sashimi, Peking duck salad, and crispy soft shell crab grace the menu.

Modern French fare comes courtesy Chartreuse. Say bonjour to French-inspired plates including terrine de foie gras au Sauternes — duck foie gras terrine with sauternes jelly, toasted brioche, and marinated apricots; filet de veau aux framboises et rhubarbe — roasted milk-fed veal fillet with raspberry and rhubarb marmalade and sautéed Swiss chard; and artichaut poché et crème d’asperges aux truffes — poached artichoke, truffled white asparagus custard and fondant potato on watercress sauce with parsnip and beet crisps.

In the mood for traditional fine dining? Head to Prime 7 for everything from filet mignon to a côte de boeuf.

Enjoy breakfast and lunch at La Veranda, where dishes such as grilled lamb chops with Spanish sherry sauce, pan-sautéed Mediterranean sea bass, and authentic pizza are served while guests dine al fresco on the restaurant’s open-air veranda.

Channel the Italian Riviera at Sette Mari at La Veranda. Antipasto, homemade pastas, and decadent desserts are waiting.

Coffee, pastries, and gourmet sandwiches join forces at The Café.

The Explorer’s flagship restaurant, Compass Rose, serves excellent continental cuisine.

For a ship of this magnitude, it’s only right that you dine like a king.

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