Excellent Dining: Whether you’re dining in the main dining room or the two specialty restaurants, food is a focus on Oceania.
Small Ships: The relatively small size of the ships makes for an intimate, warm experience without masses of people.
Cabin Size: Cabins, particularly on the line’s older ships, are small.
Low Ceilings: In some areas, the ship’s low ceilings make for a somewhat cramped feeling; in the case of the main dining room, it gets quite noisy.
Few Activities: By design, Oceania generally leaves passengers to their own devices. This is a con only if you need constant stimulation.
Oceania Cruises entered the cruise industry in 2003 when it launched Regatta, formerly the R Two from Renaissance Cruise Lines (which went belly-up after 9/11) and then Insignia (formerly the R One ). The launch created what was essentially a new industry category that the line called upper premium and it’s been very successful, with Oceania adding a third former Renaissance ship to the fleet in 2005 (Nautica, formerly the R Five ) and two new builds, Marina and Riviera, in February 2011 and May 2012, respectively. Oceania and luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises make up Prestige Cruise Holdings, a cruise division of the Apollo Management investment firm, which also owns a big portion of Norwegian Cruise Line.
Oceania truly offers a deluxe or, said another way, upscale, experience. There’s little glitz on board, but its hallmarks dining, service, and itineraries are impeccable. The no-charge specialty restaurants are far better than the norm
Because this line offers a 180-day world cruise, it does feel like you can get just about anywhere on an Oceania ship. There are Caribbean, Panama Canal, and Mexico sailings, as well as Alaska, South America, and Canada/New Zealand. Of course, there are plenty of European itineraries, both in the Baltic and the Mediterranean. And you can go to Asia, Alaska, and the South Pacific on these ships,
As well. Historically, itineraries have been port-intensive, with few sea days, so a busy shipboard agenda is not a priority.
Couples in their 50s and 60s make up the bulk of the passengers, but Oceania’s ships are comfortable for both younger and older cruisers. The line is appropriate for those looking for a somewhat informal cruise, but one with topnotch dining and excellent service.
Food is a focus at Oceania, which offers menus overseen by celebrated chef Jacques Pepin, and multiple gourmet eateries on every ship. Even Oceania’s smallest vessels offer an Italian eatery and steakhouse in addition to a main restaurant, and the food at all three is superb.
While you’ll pay extra for drinks on Oceania, none of its restaurants come with an extra charge, in contrast to ships operated by Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean. Another nice feature of Oceania’s longer sailings is that entrees and featured items are not repeated, allowing the galley staff to show off their skills. Pepin, the line’s Executive Culinary Director, works with Oceania’s chefs to develop exciting and exotic dishes as well as more traditional ones. For snackers, Oceania’s ships offer afternoon tea service, ice cream and sundae bars, and 24-hour complimentary room service. Diners with special needs are catered to with Canyon Ranch Spa Cuisine, and vegetarian and kosher meals upon request.
Oceania does not go out of its way to provide an extensive list of things for passengers to do, in keeping with its informal style and port-intensive sailings. But there are lectures on the ports of call; dance classes and cooking lessons; and the handsome onboard libraries are well-stocked. If you like a lot of organized activities, though, this is not the line for you.
While kids may be on board, it’s mostly up to their parents to entertain them. Oceania’s ships have no facilities specifically for kids and really don’t cater to them
Show lounges on Oceania ships are relatively small. However, there is an eight-piece orchestra for the shows put on by a small team of performers, along with cabaret acts. Depending on the cruise, there may be a string quartet, a flamenco guitarist, a concert pianist, jazz combos, local and regional folk ensembles, and the occasional headline entertainers.
Service is warm and friendly without being overbearing. In the dining room and bars, staff is particularly skillful at getting to know passengers’ names. In the main dining room, service can be a bit rushed (there are more passengers than seats) and tables a hair too close to each other. It’s a much more relaxed experience in the alternative restaurants. Cabin service is excellent, and those rooms with butler service get extra pampering.
CRUISETOURS & ADD-ON PROGRAMS
Cruisetours are a popular way to extend the cruise vacation in Alaska, and Oceania’s brochure includes a 5-day pre-cruisetour package from Anchorage, a combination of rail and bus travel. All
Transfers and hotels as well as most meals are included in the pricing though you can certainly arrange a pre-or-post cruise land tour on your own, often for a lot less money. Oceania also offers hotel packages in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Seattle for pre/post stays. Prices depend on number of days booked.
One of the line’s biggest strengths is the human-scale size of its first three vessels. At 30,277 tons and carrying 684 guests, these ships are really small-to-midsize by today’s standards. It’s an informal setting (Oceania calls it country-club casual) without crowds and lines. In 2014, the Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica underwent major multimillion-dollar refurbishments that brought new decor to public rooms, suites, and cabins; Sirena was refurbished in 2016. The overhaul also included the addition of a number of the popular features found on Oceania’s newer ships such as an Italian-style Baristas coffee bar serving Illy espresso drinks and a transformed Terrace Cafe that now boasts a state-of-the-art grill.
Marina – Riviera
Oceania’s first purpose-built cruise ships, these elegant twins are everything that made the line’s existing ships so popular, delivered in a newer, larger, and more elaborate package.
THE SHIPS IN GENERAL
The first brand-new ships built for Oceania, Marina and Riviera burst on the scene in 2011 and 2012, respectively. At 68,084 tons, they’re big enough to offer plenty of public rooms and open deck spaces, but still small enough to maintain Oceania’s intimate, adult-oriented cruise experience. Inside, Marina and Riviera look like classic ocean liners transported to the modern era. The fit and finish throughout are impeccable, and there are just enough dramatic public areas to impart a feeling of grandeur. An excellent example: the two-story atrium flanked by staircases and anchored by a spectacular chandelier manufactured by Lalique. At every turn, passenger space is generous, particularly on the open decks, which are rarely crowded.
Cabins Accommodations range from economical Inside Staterooms to the three massive Owner’s Suites that feature furnishings from the Ralph Lauren Home Collection. These are some of the nicest suites at sea, with regal-looking colors, two walk-in closets, indoor and outdoor whirlpool spas, a grand entryway with a music room and grand piano, and keycard access to a private lounge complete with its own library.
Most guests, however, will likely find themselves in one of the ship’s Veranda Staterooms, which feature marble bathrooms, a private balcony, and a decently sized seating area. Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms add amenities like early embarkation, unlimited access to the Canyon Ranch Spa Club Terrace, and priority restaurant reservations. If you don’t need a balcony, Deluxe Oceanview Staterooms have oversized floor-to-ceiling glass windows an unusual feature for oceanview staterooms, most of which have small, square-shaped windows. These rooms just might be one of the best values on board, with a spacious seating area, marble bathroom, and luxe amenities like a mini-bar stocked with complimentary soft drinks and bottled water, and Oceania’s Prestige Tranquility Bed.
Public areas & activities The one concession to big-ship excess is the casino, which can get busy. The main show lounge is more small scale, hosting comedians, jazz musicians, and the like (no full-scale Broadway-style performances here). The bars and lounges more than hold their own, however. Our favorite Horizons serves as an observation lounge by day and a nightclub by night, with live music and creative cocktails.
Up on the pool deck, a spacious swimming pool is flanked by a pair of whirlpools. Fitness mavens will be happy to know that the ship’s onboard fitness center is as well-equipped as those on ships twice its size, with both complimentary and pay-per-use options like yoga and Pilates. Canyon Ranch SpaClub is situated all the way forward on Deck 14, and has steam and sauna rooms and scented showers. The real feature to write home about is the spectacular Spa Terrace located at the front of the ship; stationed on one of its comfy loungers next to its whirlpool and pool, you can easily spend an entire afternoon here, ordering spa-themed beverages and lite bites for sustenance.
Dining With so many specialty restaurants on board, it’s easy to forget about the Grand Dining Room, which offers up excellent cuisine overseen by legendary chef Jacques Pepin. Surrounded by windows on three walls, this chic venue is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If it isn’t overly crowded, that’s probably because guests are taking advantage of venues such as Jacques, which is intended to mimic the bistros of Pepin’s hometown, Lyon. Menu highlights include mussels mariniere and freshly roasted free range chicken, duck, and lamb. Daily chef’s specials are prepared from fresh ingredients purchased in local markets at ports of call.
Oceania favorites Toscana and Polo Grill are also on both ships. Toscana is sinfully overwhelming, serving half a dozen antipasti and an equal number of pasta dishes, soups, salads, and main courses such as filet mignon and swordfish steak. Polo Grill has chops, seafood, and cuts of slow-aged beef, with all the substantial trimmings. New to these vessels is Red Ginger, which focuses on Asian fusion. You can also opt for the tasting menu at La Reserve. Limited to just 24 guests, this is the only venue aboard these two ships to carry an extra surcharge, but that covers a truly luxe seven-course meal with items like stuffed brioche with duck foie gras and truffle jelly, and slow-braised short ribs with gnocchi au jus (wine pairings come with an additional charge).
If you want to keep it casual, room service is available around the clock, and the Terrace Cafe serves up buffet-style fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The nearby Waves Grill is the place to go for burgers and other poolside eats in the afternoons. You can even get creamy homemade gelato, a made-to-order hot fudge sundae, or a thick, hand-dipped milkshake here.
Insignia – Nautica – Regatta – Sirena With their smallish size, understated decor, and serene atmosphere, these ships provide a comfortable, laid-back, yet stylish way to see the world. Sirena was added into the fleet in the spring of 2016.
Imagine a stylish boutique hotel in the shape of a cruise ship and you’ve pretty much got the idea. Like all of the former Renaissance vessels, these four ships are comfortable and spacious, decorated mostly in warm, dark woods and rich fabrics. All are sedate, with an emphasis on intimate spaces rather than the kind of grand, splashy ones you’ll find on most megaships. Only 684 passengers apiece. You’ll see a lot of the globe: Insignia operates Oceania’s extremely popular 180-day long World Cruises.
Cabins Staterooms aboard these ships are straightforward, no-nonsense spaces with plain, off-white walls and dark-wood trim and furniture. The highlight of each is its Tranquility Bed, an oasis of 350-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, down duvets and pillows, custom-designed extra-thick mattresses, and a mound of throw pillows. Spacious balconies have teak decking for a classic nautical look. Closet space is a little skimpy, but drawer space scattered around the cabin, and space under the beds, help to compensate. Rooms are midsized, by industry standards.
Suites (322-982 sq. ft. including balcony) have bathtubs and a small area with a cocktail table for intimate in-room dining. Ten Owner’s Suites are located at the ship’s bow and stern; they feature wraparound balconies, whirlpool bathtubs, living rooms, and guest bathrooms. Owners Suites, Vista Suites, and Penthouse Suites feature butler service. Concierge-class staterooms (in between regular cabins and suites) add some nice creature comforts, including a welcome bottle of champagne, complimentary shoeshine service, massaging shower heads, and luxe toiletries.
Public areas & activities Overall, these four ships present an elegant yet homey appearance, with dark-wood paneling, fluted columns, ornate faux-iron railings, gilt-framed classical paintings, frilly moldings, marble and brass accents, and deep-hued upholstery, all contributing to a kind of English-inn-at-sea look. In the bow, the spacious Horizons lounge has floor-to-ceiling windows and brass telescopes on three sides. It’s used for dancing in the evenings and for various activities during the day. The 345-seat show lounge hosts cabaret and variety acts, musical recitals, magic shows, and comedy, and the smallish but comfortable casino allows for blackjack, poker tables, roulette, and slots. The attached Martini Bar has a ridiculously long martini list (some 30 recipes and an equal number of vodka choices); a jazz band performs here in the evenings. Another notable space is the comfortable library, decorated in traditional style with warm red upholstery, mahogany paneling, a
Trompe l’oeil garden skylight, and a marble faux fireplace.
The attractive teak pool deck, dotted with canvas umbrellas, has a pair of hot tubs plus a slew of deck chairs and large daybeds for sunbathing. The Patio, a shaded outdoor lounge located in the aft port corner of the deck, is furnished with thickly cushioned sofas, chairs, and daybeds. Drapes and general ambience add a hint of partition from the pool goings-on, but you still feel like you’re in the action. For more privacy, passengers can rent one of eight private cabanas, each with a retractable shade roof, and a plush daybed built for two. They’re available either daily ($50 on port days, $100 on sea days) or for the entirety of your cruise, and they come with the services of an attendant who keeps the food, drinks, and chilled towels coming.
A small jogging track wraps around the deck immediately above the pool deck. The Canyon Ranch spa on Deck 9 offers a variety of treatments, including aromatherapy massages, hot-stone treatments, and various wraps and facials. Just forward of the spa there’s an outdoor hydrotherapy whirlpool overlooking the bow. A decent-size oceanview gym and beauty salon are attached.
Dining The main dining room is an elegant single-level space surrounded on three sides by windows. It’s spacious and understated, with simple wood-veneer wall panels, wall sconces, and teal carpeting. Tables seating between two and eight are available, though the smaller arrangements go fast. The ship’s two specialty restaurants, the Polo Grill and Toscana (see p. 249 for full descriptions), are decorated to match their cuisine: old-Hollywood decor in Polo and Roman urns and reliefs in Toscana. On Deck 9, the Terrace buffet is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner you can have the latter out under the stars, with drink service, Spanish cuisine, and candles flickering in lovely hurricane lamps. It’s a very romantic spot if you can time your meal to the sunset.
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