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Rebecca Norrbom, a travel consultant for Holiday Cruises & Tours in Las Vegas, was suffering from withdrawal symptoms after a day away from the new Seven Seas Explorer ship from Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
“I tend to be a little cynical about new ships and their claims,” Norrbom said. “But this one went way beyond my expectations. “
Norrbom, who worked for Princess Cruises, Cunard Line and Viking Cruises before she began sailing luxury ships as an agent, says the advance promotion and renderings didn’t do the ship justice.
“It has been well worth the wait for a new Regent ship, and for once, they didn’t hype it enough,” she said. “I think if you boil down what made it go so far beyond the publicity, it’s the details. The amount of thought and care that went into this design and goes into the service and onboard product is breathtaking.”
Norrbom says the $10,000-per-night Regent Suite is a good example.
“We were all so impressed when we came in and saw the bedroom, sitting area and so on, and then we realized what we were looking at was the guest area,” she said. “The master bedroom, bath, spa and seating area were way beyond that —1,500 square feet more we hadn’t even seen yet.”
Norrbom was also impressed by the onboard artwork, chosen by Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., parent company of Regent.
“It fits together, but not in a mechanical, set way,” she said. “You can tell that it was individually chosen, not ordered in a group.”
One thing that surprised Norrbom was Seven Seas Explorer’s ambience, which is much more reminiscent of a luxury hotel than a ship.
“There was no sense of spatial limitation; everything was open, and the mix of bold colors and chic whites brought it to life,” she added. “And you want to look up — there are hundreds of crystal chandeliers and individual pieces of sculpture, different from one another. In the Compass Rose main dining room, it’s like being in the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum in Seattle. Everywhere, even the most useful items are pieces of art.”
With the chef as the highest paid member of the crew, it’s no surprise that Norrbom found the various menus outstanding, from the traditional dishes on the left side of the Compass Rose menu — she says the filet mignon was the best she has ever tasted — to the more adventurous right side of the menu, with choices such as beef carpaccio.
Norrbom and her roommate both have food allergies, and the accommodation they received was extraordinary, she says. The staff gave her an envelope each day, and she checked off what she wanted.
“They cooked the food in different pans to be sure there was no trace of a problem, and they made us feel perfectly comfortable about it all,” she said. “At every restaurant, before we walked in the door, they knew about our allergies and were prepared for us.”
Norrbom was also impressed by the intelligence and practicality of the food service, particularly the menu list of main dishes, sauces and sides.
“Instead of asking them to substitute, you just put your own choices together,” she said. “It’s all seamless and easy for the staff as well as the guest.”
When cruising, Norrbom usually dines off the ship as much as possible to sample the offerings in port, but she says Seven Seas Explorer’s onboard dining was so good that she had to force herself to even check out landside ice cream. Even so, she missed the “cronuts” (the croissant/doughnut blend invented by New York chef Dominique Ansel) in the onboard cafe until the last day.
“They were unbelievable,” she said. “I was so mad I didn’t know about them earlier.”
Now freshly home, Norrbom is already setting up a cruise night event for September. She says prospective guests will come from clients who are “already quite spoiled, very upscale, want to do A&K and to feel the ship was built for them.”
While baby boomers are right in the crosshairs of this target, she sees a strong market among the affluent 40- and 50-year-olds who have less time and need to be assured of a perfect vacation.
“People who do not compromise will love the decor and service, and they’ll want to come back,” she said. “No matter in which category they stay, you can’t go wrong placing a client on this ship. I felt like the most important guest in the world. It makes you remember again why you love this industry.”