During Thursday’s keel laying ceremony for the Seven Seas Splendor in Ancona, Italy, Giovanni Stecconi, director of Fincantieri’s shipyard there, said the new 750-passenger Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) vessel and sister Seven Seas Explorer launched in 2016 are setting “a new quality standard in the super luxury segment.”
Stecconi described the two vessels as “a superior quality of ship” and said the 55,000-grt Seven Seas Splendor will be the “queen of the fleet” when it launches in 2020.
Emphasizing that no detail or expense is being spared to create “a new work of art from bow to stern,” Jason Montague, RSSC’s president and CEO, was eager to guide media, including Travel Agent, through mock-ups of the Penthouse and Concierge Suites at the Port of Ancona.
Check out our on-site photos of those suite mock-ups in the slide show above. The two mock-ups represent the majority of the suites onboard, said Montague.
Meticulous Attention to Detail
Calling the suites onboard “lavish” and “palatial,” Montague said they will provide the excellence, comfort and grace that luxury guests expect.
In that regard, RSSC is looking at even the smallest details, said Montague: “So where the light fixtures are, where the art work is going to be hung, where the plugs are, every single detail you can think of…we walk through.”
“We have 55 Penthouse Suites that range from 561 square feet up to 642 square feet,” Montague told reporters touring the mock-ups. “The difference is the balcony space.”
With elegant, classy blue and silver accents, the Penthouse Suites have an entirely separate living/dining space, plus the master bedroom and bath. Pocket doors leading to the bedroom slide open or shut.
“The one big change we’ve made [in the Penthouse Suites] is the walk-in closets,” Montague said, noting that on Seven Seas Explorer, people previously entered the bathroom and closet area only from the master bedroom, but “now you can enter the closet right when you walk in” via a second entry door. Of course, luxury guests can still enter through their master bedroom, too.
Robin Lindsay, executive vice president, vessel operations, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), emphasized that the Penthouse Suite closets on Seven Seas Splendor are actually “40 percent larger.” They also have new cubby holes for storing shoes or other personal items.
One other notable change? The sink in the entertainment bar area will be eliminated, even though it shows in our mock-up photos. Officials said their feedback showed guests really weren’t going to make use of it. Removing it also gives the butler more space to operate when serving guests en suite.
The new ship also has 140 Concierge Suites, the most of any suite class onboard. They range from 415 square feet to 464 square feet.
What’s new? Most notably perhaps is that the colors for the Concierge Suites are a little lighter than they were on Seven Seas Explorer. Look for light tan and cream hues to create an airier, more spacious feel.
In addition to the lighter look, “what’s special about that suite -- to me at least -- is that the bed faces the ocean,” Montague said, plus he believes they have a great walk-in closet and bathroom.
The closets in these suites also will have cubby holes for storage. In addition, techies will love that there will be more American outlets near the beds; guests have USB ports there, too.
Important to note is that “some of the things that we’ve changed have not been corrected here [on the mock-ups] yet,” Lindsay explained. But once the mock-ups are finalized, “these will be exactly what will be built onboard.”
Steph Armengol, the line’s vice president of hotel operations, said that for the interior design, the architects are based in Florida, Sweden and Italy.
The Creation Process
How did the line know what the guests wanted? According to Armengol and Lindsay, the foundation for changes was based heavily on information and suggestions from crew members onboard the ships – everyone from the captain to the housekeeping crew, and, to a great extent, from the brand’s loyal guests themselves.
Guests really know the brand, “so it’s very important to listen to them and use their feedback,” says Armengol. Roughly 70 percent of the line’s guests are repeaters.
In addition, luxury travel advisors who sell the product also provided suggestions, he said. After compiling all that feedback, “when we started the project, we just had tons of notes,” according to Lindsay.
“We start off by looking at the drawings,” Lindsay stressed, but “then we build these mock-ups and we spent hours and hours and hours sitting in the mock-up…and working through the process of ‘living’ in it.” That could entail 10 or 20 hours over a period of a few days.
Lindsay said: “And we ask ourselves, ‘what would you do differently? Where would you like more space?’…Every single detail we walk through.”
RSSC plans to reveal detailed plans for other suite categories later.
New ship aside, whenever Montague gets onboard his brand's ships -- at least a couple of times a year -- he asks crew members about guest feedback.
Which ship do guests like best? Interestingly, loyal RSSC guests are generally split “one fourth each” between the brand’s four existing ships, he said. Clients new to the brand typically see what’s on Seven Seas Explorer and are sold on booking that, but it does vary by client.
For example, those guests seeking a more traditional maritime feel and a bit more intimate ship often choose Seven Seas Navigator.
Montague said that top-notch hardware is important. But while the line spends a lot of money to refurbish and build ships, it’s the crew that make the experience unfold for guests, he stressed.
During the keel laying ceremony on Thursday, Montague thanked all the brand’s crew members and said without them, the line wouldn’t be where it is today -- building another new luxury ship.
Any Expedition Interest?
Travel Agent asked Montague if RSSC has any upcoming plans to wade into the expedition side of luxury, as its prime ultra-luxury competitors have done? Expedition cruising has been identified by travel industry research as one of the hottest trends.
For example, Silversea Cruises has its own expedition brand, Silversea Expeditions. Crystal Cruises is building its first expedition vessel, Crystal Endeavor. In this year’s Alaska season, Seabourn also outfitted a ship with an expedition team and Zodiacs to deliver a luxury expedition feel.
That said, Montague quickly answered “nope,” and reiterated the line’s brand philosophy and what it believes is most important: “Our focus is to be the best on ocean cruising. They’re different business segments. We want to make sure we excel in just the ocean segment and not try to spread ourselves too thin with different business models.”
More From RSSC
Staffing on Seven Seas Splendor? Armengol told Travel Agent it will be exactly the same as on Seven Seas Explorer.
Currently, there are 20 Explorer Suites and Seven Seas Suites on Seven Seas Explorer that were designed by Dakota Jackson. Travel Agent has now learned that these same suites on Seven Seas Splendor (with the Explorer Suites to be renamed Splendor Suites) will be designed instead by TSI. These are Explorer/Splendor Suites 918, 919, 920, 921, 922, 923, 1004, 1005, 1008, 1009, 1010, 1011, 1204, 1205, 1206 and 1207, plus Seven Seas Suites 701, 702, 801 and 802.
As for enhancements in services or suite offerings on the new ship, the line plans to keep whatever is working on Seven Seas Explorer. But, “we’re going to make some improvements too,” he stressed. “It’s just a little too early” for specifics, though. Agents can expect details in the coming months.
Armengol did note that whatever the line plans in that vein for Seven Seas Splendor also will be added to the entire fleet.
As for drydock hardware refurbishments/updates, Seven Seas Mariner was just updated, and Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Navigator were completely refurbished in 2016: “That means we’ve touched every area of [each] ship,” said Lindsay.
But there is strong consumer anticipation, in particular, for the new ship. In fact, when the line initially opened reservations a few months ago, it had the biggest booking day in its history.
Seven Seas Splendor’s inaugural cruise will be a 14-day repositioning voyage from Barcelona to Miami in February 2020, and then it will operate several Panama Canal and Caribbean cruises before returning to Europe for summer 2020.
Montague's overall perspective? Simply put, he said, “Seven Seas Splendor will perfect luxury.”