(Updated 1:40 p.m. EDT) -- Regent Seven Seas Splendor set sail from a scorching Southampton, UK just past 7 p.m. local time today -- marking the first Regent cruise ship to resume sailing in 18 months.
Seven Seas Splendor is sailing at half capacity with a mix of media, trade partners and senior Regent executives including President & CEO Jason Montague -- who last cruised on Splendor in March 2020, just before the pandemic shut down travel.
The line has also flown in 23 passengers from the U.S. and Canada who have all sailed 1,000 or more days with the line.
Speaking to Cruise Critic onboard, Montague said: "We christened the ship 18 months ago… but being back onboard almost feels like just the other day we christened it.
"It all went away, I don't remember it right now -- that's the magic of being back onboard."
Montague said the most emotional moment was yesterday when the 23 Diamond (1,000+ nights) and Commodore (2,000+ nights) passengers came onboard for the first time for a pre-cruise dinner:
"We flew them in special because we wanted them to be the first ones back on the ship, so when they came onto the ship for the first time we had all our staff cheering them.
"It was very emotional, they were coming back on, there were tears. It was like coming back home. This is their home."
After being christened in February 2020, Seven Seas Splendor had just two revenue sailings before operations paused due to the global health pandemic.
Montague explained the long pause to resume operations was because, "We wanted to do it right".
"We require 100 percent vaccination of all the guests and the crew and it took time to get to a point where everyone had vaccinations to move forward."
Regent also conducts a mandatory pre-boarding antigen test for all embarking passengers, along with mandating mask wearing and social distancing onboard, in line with local restrictions (though these may change depending on which country the ship is operating out of and to).
Regent chose to restart from England as it was part of the original published itinerary and they wanted to create minimum disruption for guests, Montague explained.
Seven Seas Splendor will sail the English Channel for four days, calling in at the UK ports of Portland and Falmouth. It was due to call in at Bruges and Amsterdam, but a tightening up of COVID-related measures in The Netherlands means the ship is staying in English waters.
The ship will then head to Barcelona offering Mediterranean cruises until November before heading across the Atlantic to Miami in November.
Regent is the the third and last of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands to resume operations; Norwegian Cruise Line restarted sailings aboard Norwegian Jade in July. NCLH's third brand, Oceania, has resumed operations with Marina departing at the end of August on its first sailing.