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The invitation was for dinner and a concert aboard the newly refurbished Regent Seven Seas Mariner. What transpired was a unique experience:  Opera Australia stars Larina Gore and Simon Kim sang their way through the classics, accompanied by pianist Tahu Matheson, who also happens to be Opera Australia’s head of music.

All of this in the intimate Constellation Theatre, after dinner at the ship’s new Chartreuse Restaurant.

Regent Seven Seas specialises in cultural experiences. The line’s ships are covered in art, some by the likes of Picasso and Chagall.

So perhaps no surprise that this 36-night circumnavigation of Australia aboard the Mariner after her multi-million dollar refit would start with an amazing meal – think foie gras and lobster tails – and an exclusive concert from Australia’s greatest opera company. Regent is one of Opera Australia’s supporters, after all.

Mariner, first in service in 2001,  has had a huge amount of love and attention lavished on her as part of Regent Seven Seas $125 million fleet upgrade. And she looks like new, sporting fresh restaurants, retiled pool deck and suite upgrades.

When Cruise Passenger visited at the weekend, the ship was positively sparkling, with dozens of Christmas trees and ginger bread houses.

The famous Compass Rose, with its Versace plates and chandeliers, looks splendid. Seven Prime, the traditional steak house, could have been opened just a few days ago.

Carpets, curtains – even the upholstery on the chairs – have been totally reimagined. And there is a new library.

We love Regent’s attempts at cornering a phrase for its ships.  When it launched its newest vessel, Regent Seven Seas Explorer, it was dubbed “the most luxurious ship ever built”. For Mariner, its “Exceeding the loftiest expectations for luxury”.

Chartreuse is new to Mariner. The menu includes many French favourites from escargot, cheese soufflé and steak tartar to Dover sole and lobster.

Our after dinner concert was a delightful musical dessert, before the ship headed off at midnight with her 800 guests on an extraordinary adventure around Australia and on to Asia.

Among the high spots: tickets to the Australian Open and a New Year’s Eve party in Bali, Indonesia.

See more here.