Carlson, which launched RSSC in 1992 by combining Seven Seas Cruises' Song of Flower with Radisson's Diamond (both ships have since retired from the fleet), picked up the luxury Regent Hotels five years later. The crux for the company has long been that the cruise line, which pioneered many of today's most significant luxury accouterments, from all-outside staterooms to all-balcony suites to butler and concierge services, is upscale while Carlson's Radisson Hotels, which share the name, are resolutely mass market. The small-but-growing Regent chain of hotels, with properties in places like Shanghai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Berlin, Zagreb and Beverly Hills (and with nine new-builds on the way) seemed a better fit.
The name change itself won't mean much to passengers once they get used to it. But more significant evolutionary features were announced today as well. For one, the fleet of four ships will, throughout the next 18 months, receive significant upgrades that include wireless capabilities (and improved computer connections), new bedding that will feature down comforters and Egyptian cotton linens, and Regent-branded bathroom amenities. Staterooms will all get flat screen televisions, DVD players and new clocks. Higher end suites receive as well iPod music systems (with Bose speakers). And cell phone access will be available even at sea.
What was intriguing -- even more than the upgrades which, let's face it, all luxury lines (and even most mass market ones) have to offer to compete -- was the fact that the company is hoping to wrap around this new name a new philosophy onboard. The aim of course is to distinguish it from competitors such as Seabourn, SeaDream and Silversea. "Our intent is to go far beyond simply renaming the ships," Nelson said. "We are redefining luxury and what it means in today's world."
In her new definition, based on focus group-style research with RSSC passengers, Nelson described today's luxury using four keywords: "choice," "exclusive access," "intimate ambience," and "personalized experiences." This, she noted, "is this generation's definition of luxury."
"It's not about where you've been," Nelson said, "but about what you've experienced there."
Beyond that she addressed the issue of RSSC's goal to provide the highest level of service, describing the Regent philosophy as it applied to its service staffers as "to hear without being told, to see without being shown, and to know without being asked. That's the Tao of Regent."
Which is a bit interesting because, at the food-stingy lunch-hour reception following the presentation, several of us who requested Diet Cokes were told "sorry, you can only have wine, Champagne, Perrier" or some kind of exotic juice.
The most interesting part of the new philosophy, part of which is already in place with cruising's first dedicated travel concierges onboard each ship, is the line's commitment not only to its Circles of Interest enrichment programs but also its efforts to provide customized sightseeing while in port, no matter how small the group.
While soft furnishings additions will take place over an 18-month period onboard RSSC's four ships -- Mariner, Navigator, Voyager and Paul Gauguin -- physical adaptations will begin with Seven Seas Mariner on April 18 (and then occur as vessels go into regularly scheduled dry-dock sessions).