Could Regent Seven Seas’ Grandeur be the ship for clients who ‘don’t cruise’?

By Linsey McNeill
27/06/2024
Home » Could Regent Seven Seas’ Grandeur be the ship for clients who ‘don’t cruise’?

Cruise-sceptic Travel Gossip Co-Editor Linsey McNeill went onboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ newest ship Grandeur, which launched last year, convinced that holidays on the ocean weren’t for her. So, did it change her mind?

It was as Grandeur slipped almost silently into Istanbul during breakfast at the end of our seven-night cruise, sailing so close to the city’s iconic Blue Mosque that I felt I could reach out and touch it, that I finally understood just why so many people love cruising.

The realisation had started to take seed a few days earlier in Santorini, as I watched the sun sink into the Aegean from my capacious balcony on Grandeur and I thought ‘ah yes, some things are so much better viewed from the sea’.

When my friend and I had boarded Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ shiny new ship in Dubrovnik, three days into its 10-night Athens to Istanbul voyage, we were labouring under the illusion that at 50-something we were still too young for cruising. It wasn’t really our thing, we said, it would probably be quite staid, too dull, we agreed, too like a floating retirement home. How wrong we were.

While some of our fellow guests on Grandeur were retirees, the average age was younger than I’d expected, with a few middle-aged couples, one or two mother-and-daughter duos, and three or four groups of friends, possibly in their late 40s/early 50s. It was, in the main, a well-heeled, quiet clientele, some of whom were evidently previous Regent Seven Seas guests. 

Most stuck to the ‘elegant casual’ dress code, blending in perfectly with the ship’s understated glamour, which made me feel more like I was in a smart city hotel than on a cruise ship.

First impressions

There isn’t really a wow factor when you step onboard Grandeur into the large reception lounge filled with formal grey velvet sofas centred around an almost unnoticed Fabergé egg in a glass case (just one of the 1,600 pieces of incredible art onboard), but it oozes cool sophistication.

Grandeur boasts that it offers the most space per passenger of any ship, and this was evident from the moment we arrived. Check-in was calm and relaxed as we were handed flutes of champagne to sip while completing the formalities, then we glided in one of the stylish gold and glass elevators past an impressive 40-foot long ‘Enchanted Tree’ tapestry up to our Superior suite on deck seven, where another bottle of champagne was waiting for us.

The cabin

Our Superior suite – which was about 35% larger than the entry-level Veranda suites –  was plenty big enough to put any fear of cabin fever right out of my mind. The spacious seating area, vanity table, marble bathroom with twin sinks and a tub as well as a large walk-in shower, plus the decent sized walk-in closet between the bathroom and bedroom, felt luxurious. Book a Concierge suite and the layout is the same, but you’ll receive a one night pre- or post-cruise hotel in the fare.

Our suite also had a mini-bar stocked with soft and alcoholic drinks, all included in the price, and a large plasma TV. In fact, the only thing it lacked was a sound system, which I think was an oversight. Also the hair dryer was a bit flimsy and at odds with the quality of everything else in the suite, but yes, I’m being picky.

The slightly cheaper Veranda suites also have the separate seating area but they have smaller bathrooms without a tub and only a standard closet; personally, if clients can stretch to at least a Superior suite I think it’s worth it, certainly on a week-long cruise. Grandeur also has several higher categories of accommodation, all of which look divine online (and come with their own butlers) but I didn’t see them in real life. 

Almost all the 372 cabins on Grandeur have expansive balconies and ours, on the port side, always seemed to be perfectly positioned for sightseeing as we sailed in and out of Kotor in Montenegro, the Greek island of Santorini, Kusadasi in Turkey, Kavala in eastern Macedonia and, finally, Istanbul.

In fact, our balcony with its two comfy loungers was our favourite place for a delicious and relaxing breakfast, especially as room service is also included in the fare.

The dining

Regent Seven Seas is known for its exceptional cuisine and regular guests will be pleased to note that Grandeur offers the same dining options as its sister Explorer class ships. All the restaurants onboard are excellent (I recommend the tasting menu in the main restaurant, Compass Rose) but it’s definitely worth eating at least once in all three of the speciality restaurants; Prime 7, styled on a 20th century New York steakhouse; the modern-French Chartreuse; and the Pan-Asian Pacific Rim.

Unlike on many cruise lines, all Regent’s speciality restaurants are included in the fare, but you need to book in advance. It’s advisable to book asap before boarding, though guests staying in Concierge suites and higher benefit from priority reservations and should be able to get a table once on the ship.

Prime 7, which is where you’ll find not one but a trio of Picasso’s adorning the walls, appears to be the guests’ favourite, and I certainly couldn’t fault the tasty filet mignon, and I would have returned just for the Caramel Popcorn Sundae. I particularly liked Prime’s bar area, which I’d recommend for pre-dinner cocktails (but watch out, their vodka-martinis are strong!).

In Chartreuse, my duck with Morello cherries was delicious, and I could have happily eaten any of the appetizers at the Pacific Rim every evening, especially the tuna tartar and the duck and watermelon salad.

No reservations are required for the Compass Rose or Italian-themed Sette Mari restaurants, but the latter is smaller and therefore you need to arrive early if you want a table for dinner, especially on its veranda, which is lovely.  It’s easier to get a table for the buffet-style breakfast or lunch and I’d definitely recommend sitting outside on a sunny day. In fact, one of my favourite moments of the week was lunch on the veranda under the shade of a parasol, after a fantastic but hot tour of ancient Ephesus, while gazing at Kusadasi, shimmering in the afternoon heat.

For a real treat, don’t miss the weekly caviar and champagne breakfast in Sette Mari too. For a more relaxed breakfast or lunch, the Pool Grill – which offers a small buffet as well as table service – is handy if you don’t want to smarten up too much.

The spa and gym

I’m not sure the spa area quite lives up to the grand entrance, down a long lantern-lined corridor, but it was certainly pleasant enough with a hair salon, nail bar, treatment rooms for facials and massages, saunas, steam rooms and an ice room.

At the rear, there’s a lovely quiet deck with hot tubs and sun loungers, which is a great spot to relax.

The gym is surprising large for such as small ship, with two very well-equipped fitness rooms and an exercise studio, so there’s no reason to put on any cruise kilos! There is also a selection of classes from yoga to spinning, but after attending an early morning HIIT workout let’s just say I didn’t bother to go back. I also had a free ‘body composition test’, found out I have no visceral fat issues so promptly went to indulge in afternoon tea in the Merdian lounge, where white-gloved waiters were waiting with a trolley filled with delicious cakes and tea served from solid silver pots.

The pool

Even on a lovely sunny sea-day, there was no shortage of empty loungers around the pool which was just about big enough for laps if there were only one or two people in there. Staff circulated with glasses of iced water and took drinks orders. 

If you wanted to get away from the band that occasionally played, you could always escape to the peaceful sundeck on the higher level.

The excursions

Of course, one of the best things about cruising are the ports of call, and Regent Seven Seas offers unlimited complimentary excursions at every stop.

During our Mediterranean cruise we hiked up an active volcano in Santorini where we also swam in hot springs and experienced a wine tasting; we explored Kotor in Montenegro; the ancient ruins of Ephesus in Turkey; and the streets of historic Xanthi in northeastern Greece.

We found all the complimentary excursions were excellently organised with little time spent waiting around, but for something more personal or more in-depth, private tours are available at an additional cost.

One niggle we had is that there wasn’t enough information provided online about each of the excursions, such as the type and length of the walks. The staff at the destination desk onboard were very helpful, describing the excursions in detail and patiently answering all of our questions, but it would have been useful to have that information before making our selection online. We saw some people walking up the volanco in sliders or sandals, and one poor woman was clearly struggling to make it back down in the heat. I’d suggest calling Regent in advance for more details.

The entertainment

I must admit, by the time we’d finished dinner on most evening we’d missed the shows in the Constellation Theatre, but we did catch the end of a bizarre performance in which ‘Canadian Crooner David Nevin’ was singing ‘Pretty Woman’ to a slideshow of female icons including Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai and the late Queen Elizabeth, and we saw the beginning of an ‘American Idol-inspired’ show Ignite the Night, but left after 20 minutes.

The Grandeur lounge was lively most nights – the karaoke evening seemed especially popular – and there were various bands playing throughout the week in the Meridian Lounge, plus quizzes and pianist in the lovely, expansive Observation Lounge. Like most ships, Grandeur also has a casino.

I expect single travellers would also enjoy the many early evening solos social events organised throughout the week, also in the Observation Lounge.

Daytime entertainment is pretty low-key with activities such as cross-stitch, bridge and mah-jongg (no, I haven’t a clue what that it is). There’s a cookery school on some days that looked like fun (but you need to book well in advance), and on the top deck there’s crazy golf and Pickleball.

There’s also a beautiful, well-stocked library, which would be a great spot to curl up with a book on a cold seaday.

What is the key selling point?

Aside from the fine dining and the elegant décor, from the multi-million dollar art collection to the crystal tree canopy in the Compass Room and the simply exquisite glass Bonsai Cherry Tree outside Pacific Rim, what I loved about Grandeur was the feeling of space. 

The ship is large enough to have all the facilities you require but not so big that you feel you’re in a floating Vegas hotel. During our cruise I was told the ship was nearly full, but it never felt crowded, never noisy, there were no queues (although we were turned away from the Sette Mari restaurant once), and it was always possible to find a quiet spot.

The fact that everything except spa treatments, shopping, flutters in the casino and dry cleaning is included in the price also made it very relaxing.

And the negatives?

Service, which is normally excellent on cruise ships, was a little unpredictable. Housekeeping was always incredible, and our laundry (also included in the fare) was whisked away in the morning and returned in the evening without fail. It was only in the restaurants and some of the bars where I felt the service was sometimes a little lacking; slightly grumpy waiters, drinks and plates plonked down, sparkling water served with lemon instead of a requested lime – little details that shouldn’t be overlooked on a five-star ship. Perhaps it was because the crew were coming to the end of an eight-month stint, they might have been tired, but it could have been better.

Would I recommend it?

Well, let’s just say that after I disembarked and later watched from the terrace of my hotel as Grandeur sailed away from Istanbul I really wished I was still onboard! So yes, I’d definitely recommend it to clients who love the finer things in life, especially foodies, who don’t want 24/7 entertainment. 

Linsey McNeill was a guest of Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

The cruise line has just announced details of its next class of ship, Prestige, the first of which is expected to debut in 2026. Watch this space!

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