Regent Seven Seas has a long reputation for luxury in the world of ocean cruising, while Viking, a trendsetter on the rivers, is the new kid on the block on the oceans. Viking doesn't like to use the word "luxury," but it's certainly created a product that has drawn the attention of many luxury cruisers. So, it's natural to compare the lines.
Viking or Regent Seven Seas? It's a question we hear surprisingly often. In truth, the cruise lines are quite different: Regent Seven Seas is an all-inclusive luxury line, while Viking offers a mostly inclusive upscale experience. Let us help you figure out which cruise line -- Viking vs. Regent Seven Seas Cruises -- is right for you.
Both Viking and Regent Seven Seas have small fleets that are growing. While Regent Seven Seas has been sailing the oceans for two decades, Viking is new but has come on strong out of the gate.
Viking Ocean Cruises is building at an exceptionally fast rate, with at least one new ship on the books every year through 2027. But the fast pace doesn't sacrifice quality; its ocean ships share a nearly identical blueprint, which has been a fan favorite since the first ship, Viking Star, debuted in 2015. Viking's ships are perennial winners of Cruise Critic's Cruisers' Choice Awards for categories including best overall and best value. Current ships in the fleet also include Viking Sea, Viking Sky, Viking Sun and Viking Orion. Viking Jupiter is slated to debut in 2019.
The cruise line could build as many as 16 new ships by 2027 -- that's in addition to the six already sailing or being built by Fincantieri shipyard. Twelve of those will match the current 930-passenger blueprint, while as many as four are being called "special" ships and will be built by Vard, a subsidiary of Fincantieri. Little is known about these ships except that Vard says they will be environmentally friendly.
Regent Seven Seas' fleet of four ships puts a premium on passenger space. Its smallest ship, Seven Seas Navigator, carries just 490 passengers and debuted in 1999. Mariner (2001) and Voyager (2003) are twin ships that carry 700 passengers, while flagship Explorer, which started sailing in 2016, can hold 750 people. When Splendor debuts in 2020, it will also carry 750 passengers.
Regent regularly refurbishes its older ships, resulting in a fleet that generally feels fresh. The line's small ships and low passenger capacity can make for a more intimate experience, and the high space-to-passenger ratio means you never feel crowded. Like Viking, Regent Seven Seas is a perennial award winner, taking home prizes such as best luxury cruise line and best cabins in Cruise Critic's Editors' Picks.
Passengers looking for a more inclusive experience will be happy with Viking or Regent Seven Seas. Both cruise lines offer inclusions other high-end brands don't, and neither of them will leave you feeling nickel and dimed.
A cruise on any of Viking's ships includes all meals, wine, beer and soft drinks at lunch and dinner, one (occasionally two) shore excursion in each port, entertainment, enrichment, Wi-Fi and access to the impressive LivNordic thermal suite.
It will cost you extra for gratuities, wine and beer outside of meal time, spirits, shopping, spa and salon services and premium shore excursions. Viking can provide airfare and pre- or post-cruise transfers, but those cost extra. The cruise line routinely extends offers for items such as discounted airfare. There is no casino onboard any of the line's ships. Viking cruises generally start at anywhere from $250 to $450 per person per night, depending on cabin category, itinerary and season.
Regent Seven Seas is the most-inclusive cruise line in the market today, and as such, the initial price paid up front is, unsurprisingly, among the highest in the industry. A cruise on any of Regent's ships includes all dining, drinks (including premium wines and spirits), gratuities, entertainment, enrichment, a choice of shore excursions in every port, Wi-Fi, mini-bar stocking and replenishing, and access to the ships' steam rooms and saunas.
Depending on the cabin category and ship booked, cruise fares also come with round trip airfare on domestic flights, business or first-class airfare on intercontinental flights and pre-cruise hotel stay with transfers. Some cabin categories come with butlers. With Regent, you won't have surprises on your bill at the end of your cruise because virtually everything is covered by your fare.
You will pay extra for shopping in the onboard boutiques, spa and salon services, premium excursions, the most expensive wines and liquors, wine pairing dinners and gambling at the casino or playing bingo.
Regent Seven Seas cruises generally range from $400 to $700 per person per night. Pricing depends on suite category as well as itinerary and time of year.
When it comes to decor, Viking and Regent Seven Seas couldn't be more different. While both are gorgeous, Viking focuses on simplicity and comfort, while Regent emphasizes opulence and sophistication.
Viking's chairman and CEO, Torstein Hagen, is Norwegian, and his ships reflect his heritage. The decor is simple yet beautifully Scandinavian through and through. Expect bright spaces that rely on natural light, simple lines, muted tones and white-washed woods. Even the fabrics have a Nordic flair.
You can see Hagen's touch all over, from the gorgeous Explorer's Lounge, dedicated to Scandinavian explorers, to Mamsen's restaurant, with its black-and-white-photo homage to Hagen's mother, and the Owner's Suite, which is decked out in things that make the chairman happy -- things like ABBA music and good wine.
The design features are homey yet classic, and passengers love to flop down in the Living Room with a book or grab afternoon tea in the fantastical Wintergarden, which features simulated birch trees and wrought-iron screens. If you've been on one ship, you'll feel at home on the others, because the design is almost the same from one to the next.
Like Viking, Regent Seven Seas' ships reflect the taste of parent company President and CEO Frank Del Rio, who is a fan of fine art and bold decor. Del Rio famously picks each piece of art you'll see on his ships, and it means passengers might come across paintings by Picasso or Chagall. But it's not just the art that's stunning: Regent's ships feature gorgeous crystal and blown-glass chandeliers, acres of marble and granite, and impeccable fabrics.
The company calls flagship Explorer the most luxurious cruise ship in the world, and it has invested in getting the rest of the fleet up to that standard. In 2018, the line completed a $140-million refurbishment project that added Explorer features to the rest of the existing fleet, modernizing public spaces and cabins and bringing on restaurant concepts from Explorer. Shared spaces are comfortable yet opulent, with marble-topped tables, leather chairs and fresh-cut floral bouquets everywhere.
Viking and Regent Seven Seas both offer longer itineraries to interesting ports that many of the bigger cruise ships cannot reach. A few "shorter" itineraries -- those of 10 days or fewer -- are available to the most popular cruise regions, like the Mediterranean and Caribbean. But for the most part, you can expect longer sailings. Both cruise lines also offer world cruises of more than 120 days.
Regardless of which you choose, itineraries are port intensive, though longer itineraries might have more sea days for relaxing.
With the company's roots deeply embedded in Scandinavia, it's no surprise the cruise line does Norway so well. Viking passengers who sail to Norway will feel connected to the region, with excursions like crab or salmon fishing, and traditional dishes served onboard. Ships offer cruises that follow in the footsteps of the Vikings. Additionally, Viking offers a handful of Northern Lights cruises in winter.
Viking also takes a unique approach to the Mediterranean, visiting during off-peak times -- like the winter -- when other cruise lines move their fleets elsewhere. The benefit is that passengers get ports like Barcelona, Venice and Rome virtually to themselves.
Regent offers fascinating South American itineraries, including one that takes passengers into the Amazon. Cruises hit interesting ports in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, French Guiana and the Falkland Islands, among others. Journeys combine land and shoreside visits, giving passengers a chance to immerse themselves in destinations.
In Alaska, Regent shines with its enrichment, partnering with an anthropologist who essentially spends her summer onboard Regent's ship, providing fascinating insight to passengers on the vistas people are seeing. Captain and crew make certain passengers know when there's wildlife to be seen, pointing out whales, bears and eagles along the way.
Fares for both cruise lines include at least one excursion in every port, and they also provide transportation for passengers into towns and city centers when necessary. Both are also able to create customized tours, for a fee, for passengers.
Viking's included excursions tend to focus on the biggest highlights of a port, so you might do a tour that includes a small amount of walking in a city center along with some time on your own to explore, grab a bite and shop. For the most part, only one included option is available in each port, but these tours are usually good and will give you a solid taste of the port's history and culture.
Viking offers premium excursions for a fee. These tours tend to be capacity controlled, so groups are smaller. Excursions might include wine tasting at a castle or an evening of flamenco dancing.
Shore excursions are included in every Regent Seven Seas cruise, and passengers will appreciate the variety of tours on offer. You can book bus tours, more active options like biking or hiking, foodie experiences or walking tours -- all included. Most are designed to last around four hours, so passengers can take a morning tour, get back onboard for lunch, and then take a different tour in the afternoon. Guides are excellent, and feedback is encouraged.
The cruise line offers premium excursions for an additional fee. But the fee is likely less than you'd pay if you booked it on your own. Premium experiences might include private wine tastings or helicopter tours of glaciers. These tours tend to be smaller group tours, and they often will last a full day and include lunch or dinner.
If you're looking for space, comfort and attention to detail when it comes to your cabins, both Viking and Regent Seven Seas deliver.
Every cabin on Viking's ships has a balcony, and there's room aplenty even at the smallest cabin, which comes in at 270 square feet. All cabins, regardless of category, feature Viking's distinctive Scandinavia decor, with fabrics in soothing grays, blues and reds, along with lovely patterns. They also include comfortable seating areas, bedside USB and power outlets, included on-demand television with a good variety of programming, stocked mini-fridges featuring snacks and soft drinks and plentiful storage space.
Only the top-end suites feature bathtubs, but all bathrooms include large showers, heated floors and fogless mirrors. Toiletries are from Freya and exclusively for Viking passengers.
At the top end is the Owner's Suite, a beautiful 1,319-square foot space that includes a 156-square-foot balcony, boardroom, stocked wine rack/cooler, large living area and private sauna.
None of the cabins across Regent Seven Seas' fleet are inside rooms, and only a handful -- on Navigator -- have window views rather than full balconies. On Navigator, the smallest suites come in at 301 square feet and go up to 1,067 square feet. Suites on Voyager range from 306 square feet to 1,216 square feet, while those on Mariner run from 252 square feet to 1,204 square feet. On Explorer, the smallest suite is 219 square feet, while the largest is 3,206 square feet.
Cabins feature padded headboards, large living areas and sizable balconies that are large enough to allow passengers to dine on them. Bathrooms vary from ship to ship, but you can count on a lot of marble and high-end toiletries from the likes of L'Occitane, Guerlain and Bottega Veneta. Some cabins have bathtubs, while others include showers with rainfall showerheads and small benches.
All passengers, regardless of suite category, get mini-bars set up and replenished daily, fresh fruit, unlimited bottled water, a fair amount of storage space, 24/7 room service and a wide selection of on-demand movies and television programming.
At the very top end is the famous Regent Suite on Seven Seas Explorer, a gorgeous two-bedroom suite that includes a personal spa (with unlimited spa treatments), a $90,000 bed (with a mattress stuffed with horsehair) and incredible views thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows.
Gourmet food is the focus for both cruise lines, which emphasize fresh ingredients and creative dishes designed for a wide variety of palates.
Viking added outdoor seating to its two main dining venues: The Restaurant and World Cafe, the buffet. When the weather is pleasant and the ship isn't moving at top speed, the outdoor space is the best spot to eat. Even if the weather isn't perfect, windows in the restaurants can be opened to let in fresh air, a unique feature among cruise ships. The Aquavit Terrace, just off the ship's main buffet, has floor-to-ceiling glass doors that can be thrown wide-open, blending indoors with outdoors.
Hagen's roots also play into the menus, which are heavy with Scandinavian staples. The Restaurant features always-available options like a fantastic poached salmon (a Hagen favorite from home). Mamsen's, likewise, serves Scandinavian comfort food, like waffles and pea soup.
Viking has two included specialty restaurants, Manfredi's and The Chef's Table. Each passenger is permitted at least one dinner in each venue per cruise. Manfredi's serves rustic Italian food, while The Chef's Table has a rotating menu that one night might focus on Mexican dishes, another on Asian cuisine.
Regent Seven Seas ships have one main dining room, called Compass Rose, and a number of specialty restaurants, all included in the price of the cruise. Passengers are entitled to at least one dinner in each of the ship's specialty restaurants. All ships have a steak restaurant (Prime 7) and an Italian option (Sette Mari), while Explorer additionally has Pan-Asian restaurant (Pacific Rim). All but Navigator have French restaurant Chartreuse.
Menus at all restaurants are vast, and dietary restrictions and preferences are easily accommodated. Compass Rose has one of the largest menus of any main dining room at sea, and it allows passengers to pick from a few dishes from specialty restaurants each night.
Food quality is high, and there's something for everyone at every restaurant. Regent Seven Seas chefs are even willing to accommodate off-menu orders, within reason. Passengers who choose to dine in their cabins in the evening can order off the menu at Compass Rose, with courses delivered all at once or one at a time.
Both Viking and Regent Seven Seas offer adult-centric experiences, but only Regent allows children to sail.
You won't see any kids on Viking, because, by cruise line policy, no one younger than 18 is permitted to sail.
It's not uncommon on Regent Seven Seas to see parents sailing with their adult children, who might bring their wee ones. It's unlikely you'll see kids on longer cruises or voyages when children should be in school. Many cabins can accommodate three passengers or more.
The minimum age to sail Regent is 12 months, and the kids who sail tend to be slightly older and used to spending time in an adult environment. During holidays and over the summer, Regent can -- and does -- bring onboard extra staff to attend to the kids, even setting up programming divided by age groups. There are no kids club facilities, and in-suite babysitting is not available.
Choose Viking Ocean Cruises if you want to travel with like-minded adults on the newest fleet in the cruise industry; decor that's focused on Scandinavian designs and comfort; a mostly inclusive cruise fare; and ships that are deliberately identical so as to focus on the itinerary as much as the vessel.
Choose Regent Seven Seas Cruises if you want to travel on all-inclusive ships featuring every luxury you can imagine; a variety of included high-quality shore excursion choices; suites that feature butler service; and decor featuring lavish touches like marble and granite along with crystal and glass chandeliers.