Early afternoon, and I’m in my favourite spot at the back of the ship, lying on a cushioned sunbed, drinking a vast goblet of freshly pulped strawberry daiquiri.
Beyond the infinity pool, the island of St Helena hovers.
My concern is whether I can summon the energy to polish my cloudy sunglasses — a worry swiftly dispelled when one of the waiters glides by and does it for me.
All that glitters: An elegant staircase and lounge aboard the Regent Seven Seas Explorer
All in all it’s probably the closest I have come to feeling like a rock star, which is pretty much the aim of all those working onboard Regent Seven Seas Explorer, a cruise ship so magnificent that it was dubbed ‘the most luxurious ever built’ when unveiled in Monaco in July 2016.
Since then, she has starred in two Channel 5 documentaries, modestly called Building The World’s Most Luxurious Cruise Ship, and The Most Expensive Ship In The World.
There’s a crew-to-passenger ratio of 542 to 750, which, even as an experienced cruiser with more than 60 voyages under my ever-tightening belt, I find impressive.
And they seem to have a thing about glasses. When presented with the dinner menu one night in the main restaurant, Compass Rose, I realise I have left my specs in my cabin, but in the blink of an eye our maître d’ emerges from nowhere with a velvet-lined box of reading glasses in every prescription imaginable.
Leisurely activities include watching the world go by, and lounging by the side of the cruise ship’s pool — with bar near to hand
It is another of many standout moments on my 12-night voyage, which takes me from Cape Town to Rio via Namibia and St Helena.
The tone is set the moment we leave Cape Town — a city memorably described by Sir Francis Drake as ‘the most stately thing and fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the Earth’ — standing on deck, glass of champagne in hand, watching the majestic Table Mountain disappear.
The view on board isn’t bad either: a tasteful combo of dark wood, hand-crafted chandeliers, gold-leaf decor and even a Picasso.
This quiet opulence reaches its zenith in the Regent Suite, a £9,000-a-night, 4,500 sq ft affair complete with a bespoke Steinway grand piano, unlimited all-in spa treatments, a chauffeur in every port and walls lined with original works of art. The charming butler looks a bit panicked when I ask if I can move in.
Later, at the bar, I’m approached by an earnest American couple asking if I’d like to join them for cocktails.
It soon becomes clear they spotted me slipping into the Regent Suite and are desperate to know how a middle-aged English woman dressed in a second-hand Boden kaftan can afford to sail in such splendour. I leave them guessing.
Crucially, Explorer’s high-end appeal also has to do with its warm and informal hospitality, as I discover early on at the Block Party. A Regent speciality, this proves to be a fun affair where we are encouraged to come out of our suites to shake hands and get to know our neighbours.
Even more impressive, the ship’s female captain manages to meet and greet pretty much the whole ship as she races from deck to deck .
Indeed, Explorer is a wonderfully sociable ship, courtesy of the open table dinner seating in its assorted restaurants, which cover just about all tastes, from the Prime 7 steak house to Asian fusion Pacific Rim.
Wall-to-wall opulence: The £9,000-a-night Regent Suite which features a bespoke Steinway grand piano
Every evening, I meet new friends all of whom are considerably richer than me.
One of the most entertaining is Karen Kondazian, an actress and ex-fiancee of Tarzan actor Lex Barker — who in turn had once been married to Lana Turner.
Her tales of drinking with Richard Burton when he was on Broadway has all of us hanging on her every word. But it is her memories of dating yoga guru Bikram Choudhury (‘Man, he was bendy’) which has us choking on the petit fours.
The general house party feel is enhanced by an eclectic mix of evening entertainment. Our favourite is The Beatles night when we twist into the small hours under the vast crystal chandelier in the atrium.
There is so much to do on board that I could happily never leave the ship, with cooking and dance sessions and every permutation of gym class imaginable, not to mention the Serene Spa & Wellness Centre, a haven of calm.
But even this fervent ocean-goer is tempted onto land by the lure of flamingo-watching and dune-climbing in Namibia’s wonderful Walvis Bay.
Regent Seven Seas Explorer has a crew-to-passenger ratio of 542 to 750
With a robust population of Brits on board, the remote outpost of St Helena is the biggest must-see, although whether we can dock is questionable. Such are the winds that not every ship manages it. Happily, we do, and with luck on our side we are given a personal tour by the then Governor Lisa Honan, who is a delightful host as she tells the story of Napoleon’s exile here and introduces us to the island’s oldest resident, 188-year-old giant tortoise Jonathan, who has made it his home since 1882 and is so revered that he features on the back of St Helena’s five-pence coin.
Finally we arrive in Rio — too early for the carnival but we make our own amusement with our new firm friends, heading to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain to indulge in Caipirinha cocktails, a lethal lime and rum concoction which we drink while overlooking a vast sweep of cream-coloured sand.
Yet even then, I am dreaming of an equally lovely vista — the view from my sunbed through newly polished sunglasses.
The Regent Suite is still available on Regent Seven Seas Explorer on the 12-night World of Fine Art cruise from Stockholm to Southampton on August 28, 2020, with calls to Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga, Visby, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Bruges. Regent Suite from £52,519 pp or verandah suites from £6,679 pp (rssc.com, 02380 682 280).