My husband and I, together with several other couples and single friends, were privileged to be on the March 15th sailing of the Insignia from Barbados to Barcelona. Much of what we had read in previous reviews was borne out on what has to go down as one of our top three of about 25 cruises. And, several of the earlier criticisms seem to have been rectified. We took only about three tours, prefering to explore on our own in the other ports. Those tours seemed to be fairly priced and we did, indeed, get good value for the cost.
Also, although there was some strong criticism of the cruise director on a 2004 sailing, I have to say that Shani Reay, the cruise director during our cruise, has to be one of the best ever. She was everywhere and we constantly wondered when she slept. She was a talented entertainer as well, but she took the cruise experience of her passengers very seriously. The captain, the cruise director, the assistant cruise director -- in fact, all of the staff that provided services for us, were just outstanding.
We will definitely sailon Oceania again as we like the smaller ships and love their itineraries.
Regattas's a beautiful ship, a bit large for our tastes but not too big. Mostly positive comments about food, service, etc. But watch out for a few negatives, too. Her shore excursion prices ae obscene, her liquor prices are high too. Open seating means you'll never get to really know your waiter and helpers.
Entertainment is second rate, the casino is tiny but okay if losing money is your want. Smokers are lepers, with no smoking on cabin verandas and no where else other than two tiny sections (one outside) far removed from other passengers. The much touted bedding is nice, but not the reason to book. Still, we'd consider another cruise on Ocenaia if the destinations appeal.
Our party of four sailed aboard the June 14 British Isles cruise of the Oceania Insignia. We have each been on at least 10 cruises, including a 2000 trip on the Renaissance R-3.
We had a great cruise. The ship was beautifully outfitted, service was excellent, food was good to excellent; destination services were very poor; cruise staff was excellent with one glaring exception. We chose our own air and ground transportation, as those offered by Oceania were substantially more expensive. We used Krest Transportation (we found them on londontown.com, a really helpful website) from Heathrow to our hotel. At 40 pounds total, it was much cheaper than the Oceania arrangements. After we booked our cruise, Oceania began promoting two free nights in London. We called and they were given to us with no hesitancy. They even included transportation to the ship. The hotel was the Crowne Plaza off Blackfriar's, near Fleet St. -- not a terrific weekend location, but with London's transit system, it's easy to get anywhere. The hotel was very nice for a short stay.
The best I have experienced. We walked off the bus in Dover at about11:30 a.m. and literally walked onto the ship. Leaving was even better. We informed our cabin attendant that we weren't leaving the room until about 8:30 and she replied that it was no problem whatsoever. Again, we literally walked off the ship, found our luggage and were off. We hired Steve Knibbs at airport-transfers.fsnet.co.uk to take us from the ship to Heathrow. It was cheaper and much more comfortable than taking a bus.
For the most part, the ship was beautiful. The public rooms were nicely decorated, especially Martini's Lounge and the piano area, where we spent a significant amount of time. The addition of teak tables, chairs and lounges at the pool and Terrace was a quality touch. The three restaurants were well decorated, especially Toscana, and the library is one of the best I have seen at sea. The cabins were generally fine. Beds were comfortable but the pillows were too soft for my taste. The teak deck on our veranda was a nice touch. I don't remember it on the R-3. Bathrooms are very small, and taking a shower is an interesting experience.
On the downside, the Thalassotherapy Spa and the men's locker room were a mess. The spa water was never above body temperature and even after several guests commented, nothing was done. I was told by one of the spa personnel that the temperature was correct, which is nonsense. Neither of the controls of the two showers in the locker room worked, which seems odd considering the ship just had an expensive reconditioning. Also, the bubble control on one of the two spas on the pool deck did not work, and it took a week for those two spas to get to the correct temperature.
Food and Beverage
Dining room: We only had dinner here, so I cannot comment on breakfast or lunch, but the food was superior to other ships I've been on, except for salad choices, which were very odd. Soups were excellent, as were pasta and risotto choices. Entrees were very well done.
Toscana (Italian alternative dining room): Disappointing. We ate here only once, and all four meals were mundane. I get better pasta at Olive Garden.
Polo (steakhouse alternative dining room): Generally well done. We ate here three times and weren't disappointed, although it would be nice to see selections change during the cruise. It's important to note that there is no extra charge for the alternative dining rooms, but reservations are necessary. The restaurant staff only allows passengers to make two reservations in each restaurant, and as a result, there were several open tables during the second week.
Waves (pool deck): The hot dogs and hamburgers were excellent; fries were so-so, although they were usually hot. They were advertised as hand-cut, but it was obvious they were not from fresh potatoes, but re-formed. We enjoyed being served here instead of forming a queue, as is done on most cruise lines.
Terrace Café: While there were plenty of selections at both breakfast and lunch, the food here was just average. I was surprised there was no area to order custom-made eggs or omelets.
Tapas on the Terrace: Never made it there.
Coffee was excellent, and being able to get espresso in the dining rooms at no charge is a definite plus. A few more hot tea selections would be nice. Juices were well done.
The wine list was only average. It was too dependent on California. We expected more choices from France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa and South America. Beer and distilled spirits selections were very good, although it varied greatly from bar to bar. A few of us are dedicated single-malt scotch drinkers, and it would be nice to have the same selections throughout the ship. I realize that liquor is a profit center, but pricing was a bit high. Wines were often at 3x retail and beer/spirits were too high as well: $8 martinis, and single malt scotches at $7-$10. Not a deal breaker, but pricing could use some refinement. Unlike other cruise lines, Oceania had no problem with passengers bringing liquor on-board for consumption in the stateroom. Corkage fee was $20.
Mae, our cabin attendant, was seldom seen, but our needs were addressed quickly. The cabin was always kept neat, and ice was always in the bucket. We had two minor problems: Our thermostat control was broken, and the connecting door between our cabins was missing a pin. Both were attended to within 48 hours.
Bar/Dining Room/Wine Service
This was absolutely first-rate, the best ever. Suzy, in the Martini Lounge, knew our names and what we were drinking after the second visit. Katy, the chief wine steward, was an old friend from the R-3 and could not have been more helpful. Every waiter, bus person, service person, whatever, always said hello, had a smile, remembered us from other venues. On the second night of the cruise, we had a long wait for dinner in the dining room (60 min.) and after several conversations, the maitre d' finally moved us to a table in the Polo Grille. He made it up to us the rest of the cruise by remembering to seat us with Katy & Gustavo (a GREAT waiter from Argentina) each night we dined there. Kudos to Nickolai and Andrei in the Polo Lounge, Gustavo in the main dining room, and Dan in Martinis Lounge.
Bob Cook is possibly the worst Cruise Director I've ever encountered. He made several mistakes in public gatherings, erred frequently on public messages and gave evasive answers when confronted with simple questions. Sarcasm is an art to be used delicately and is obviously an art he has not mastered. He simply came across as crass. I understand this was his first trip as director, but the job seems beyond his capabilities.
The rest of the staff was wonderful. Larissa, Ryan and the others were friendly, outgoing and handled their duties with ease, grace and fun. Assistant Cruise Director Shani Reay was even better. She is talented, funny, friendly and has a knack for keeping passengers happy.
String Quartet: Talented, capable musicians.
Orchestra: Terrible. They sounded like an oompah band. The vocalist spoke poor English and did not know the words to many songs.
Piano Player: Jerry Blaine is the best pianist I've heard at sea (or maybe anywhere). He is not only talented, but is open, fun and giving -- a great choice.
This was the biggest disappointment, for two reasons. First, many tours are grossly overpriced. I realize these are a profit center, but on several occasions we matched or exceeded the tour offerings on our own, at prices just one-quarter of those available through the ship. Second, the destination staff clearly and purposefully misled passengers on the availability of taxis and bus transportation in several ports. In the two ports where free shuttles were available, passengers were not informed until arriving in the port. In other ports, the cruise line had the temerity to offer roundtrip shuttle service at two different prices, depending on length of stay. Mario, the concierge, gave us correct information and made attempts to at least mitigate the lack of preparation of the destinations staff.
Ports of Call
The ship visited Edinburgh; Peterhead; Invergordon; Lerwick in the Shetland Islands; Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands; Dublin; Waterford; Holyhead in Wales; and Falmouth in Cornwall. Since we took no ship tours, I won't comment on the stops, except to say that by hiring a taxi or using the bus system we met more locals, had better tours and saved a considerable amount of money.
The cruise line adds $10.50 per person, per day, to your bill. Frankly, the staff deserved every bit of that amount. Anyone not wishing to pay that amount can have it lowered.
Oceania is a very good cruise line, but there are definitely some areas that need improvement. Based on conversations we had with many passengers, their feelings were similar to ours. Would we travel on Oceania again? Probably, because we really like the size of the ships and they tend to offer interesting itineraries. But their price point is significantly higher than Celebrity, Princess, et al. While service and comfort are extraordinary, the high tour and alcohol pricing somewhat degrades the value proposition. A little giveback in these areas would help.
This is a superb experience. Read the extensive Cruise Review on sister ship Regatta elsewhere on this website. All of it applies equally to Insignia.
The cuisine, especially at Tapas on the Terrace, is excellent. The service everywhere is friendly and hard working. If you want a 600 passenger ship with no glitz--just good service and food--plus some entertainment this is the place. Did I mention the mattresses, pillows and terry robes in the cabins?
Downside: Overpriced tours and wine. Example: Secrets of the Vatican at $1,000 a couple.
Would we go on the Insignia again? We are checking its itinerary (and Regatta's) already.
On March 15, 2004 my husband and I took the 14 day transatlantic cruise from Miami to Lisbon. This was our first cruise on Oceania Cruises and I was quite pleased with the most elegant appearance of this ship (Regatta). The public areas reminded me very much of a 5 star hotel. The ample draperies and golden sconces that adorned the windows and walls reminded me of a bygone era of true ocean liners.
Every area of the ship was impeccably clean and polished. Our cabin attendant was excellent and very pleasant. She went above and beyond her normal duties to please us and we tipped her extra. The down comforter was so comfy that we looked forward to going to bed! The Egyptian cotton towels were very absorbent and large. There were robes and slippers available in every cabin on board...not just the higher end categories.
The food on this ship in every venue was truly the best on the seas! It was well seasoned and presented in a very attractive manner. We have taken 36 cruises so we have had an enormous experience in this category! Some of the passengersreally complained about the service in the dining room, but we could see that the problem was not with the wait staff but with the Maitre'd. He would not completely fill a section of the restaurant. That made the wait staff start a new couple with an appetizer when there were people waiting for their deserts. There are two alternative restaurants, Toscana and the Polo Grill. We celebrated my birthday in the Toscana restaurant. The food, the service and the ambiance were truly superb. The Polo Grill was nice, too, but we went back to Toscana 3 nights!
We knew that the entertainment would not be the Las Vegas type production shows which are on the mega ships. But we did not miss it. We had a wonderful female vocalist, Holly Lipton, who sang to a packed crowd. Nana Mukhadze, a beautiful young woman with extraordinary pianist talents was welcomed very enthusiastically. We had the pleasure of the comic talents of Vic Arnell. And, one night we were entertained by Broadway singing sensation, John Paul Almon. The showroom was beautifully decorated with brocaded fabric chairs and the tables were appointed with small night club type lamps.
The guest cultural enrichment lecturer was Vice Admiral William J. Hancock. Since his retirement, Vice Admiral Hancock has been an independent consultant specializing in Defense Logistics and Defense Transformation. His talk was titled "Transformation in the Defense Department - The Rumsfeld Revolution". The lounge was filled everyday that he spoke, a real tribute to his interesting and thought provoking talks.
Bingo, Trivia quiz and the spa were very popular activities during the day. Since we had lots of sea days, we had an opportunity to visit the very well equipped gym and spa. Plenty of treadmills, bicycles, free weights and resistance machines were available. When you checked into the spa, you were given a key to your locker and after your shower you could wear the locker robe and slippers back to your room. The products in the spa were way over priced as they are on most ships but the facial I received was very professional and relaxing.
We were on the "Caribbean Hideaways" 12-night cruise of Oceania's Regatta last week. Here are our thoughts:
We are a married couple, in our 50s, and this was our tenth cruise. Previously, all our cruises have been on "mainstream" lines such as Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, and Celebrity. This was our first "upscale" line to try.
Embarkation was smooth and quick; we were on in a flash, and escorted to our stateroom by a smiling white-gloved attendant. Our cabin was a Category B balcony, and it was pretty much the same as the other cruises we've been on, except that there are very high quality sheets, a down comforter, and six down pillows on the bed, making for a very relaxing sleep experience. The room had no refrigerator, and, as we like to have a drink on our balcony from time to time, we brought a soft-sided collapsible cooler that our stewardess kept filled with ice daily. We brought our own wine and vodka and kept these iced down.
The public areas of the ship are gorgeous. I am an interior decorator, and very critical in this area, and I was blownaway! The oriental rugs, elaborate draperies, fine furniture, and dark wood paneling evoke a luxurious "Ritz Carlton" feeling.
There are four restaurants, with open seating in each. They are all very good quality. I would rate the food an A-; it was the best we've had at sea, but not better than the best restaurants on land. The French pastries were to die for!
There was a lack of entertainment options, in our opinion. At night there is only one show -- at 9:45 -- and while they were good, they were not to everyone's taste. If you did not go to the show, there was little else to do at night. The dancing options were limited to before dinner, and then after 11 p.m., and in 12 nights they only had dancing for the "younger set" (under 60) twice. Otherwise it was the fox trot, waltz, and rumba. The pool deck was also pretty quiet -- no parties or reggae bands, just relaxation.
Mike took some computer lessons during the day, and I mainly was out by the pool during sea days.
One thing we really liked is that the size of the ship offered numerous opportunities to meet new friends, as you kept running into the same people. And we were part of an Internet group that had met before going (Yahoo Oceania board) and were given a very nice cocktail party to get the cruise started off right.
The service was excellent in the cabin, but a little lacking in the dining venues. I guess we were expecting better due to Oceania's claim that they "cater to your every whim." I would say we've had better service several times in the past on less expensive lines.
Would we sail Oceania again? Probably in Europe, where it's all about the ports -- then we could go, go, go during the day seeing all the sights, come back, shower, change, eat a nice meal, and crash in a good bed. In the Caribbean, I would go back to Celebrity or Princess, which have lots more fun activities, good food, better service, and cost way less money.
The March 3, 2004 sailing of the Regatta started with the easiest check-in/boarding process we have ever experienced.....we have sailed on Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, and several others and this was the best ever....we left our luggage at the curb, walked up the stairs to check-in (which took less than 5 minutes) and were ushered to our cabin.
The cabin was above average....my wife and I generally prefer an inside cabin (so we can nap) and this cabin was perfectly located. Everything on the ship was easily accessable. Cabin service was outstanding...a simple call on the phone brought service within minutes. The bed was all that was claimed...fine linens, a nice cover, and perfect firmness in the mattress. Even the linens were great.
The four open seating restaurants were all supurb...The Grand Dining Room provided typical menus....but served with great style. Appetizers were particularily good with Escargot and pate's available at most every meal...The Toscana Restaurant (supposedly Italian, but more continental) served terriffic lamb and great pasta. The Polo restaurant was more the surf and turf variety....the lobster and filet were always perfect. Breakfast and Lunch in the buffet offered a wide choice....custom omlets to simplecontinental fare. Service in all of the restaurants was flawless.
A word about the crew.....49 countries were represented and everyone we came in contact was very courteous and friendly....the best crew we have encountered in more than 20 sailings. Most crew members were Eastern European and all seemed genuinely interested in making sure the passengers enjoyed their trip.
The ship itself was beautiful. It gave you the feeling of an old English residence or tavern. Entertainment in the showroom was good, but the piano player in the Martini's Bar was supurb...My wife and I spent most evenings listening to him..The small casino seemed adequate, since no one had to wait to play the slots or any of the tables.
Shore excursions were adequate, although a couple were cancelled for lack of interest...others were substituted. Prices were reasonable, although my wife and I often hire a local cab or van for our own excursion. Islands visited included Tortola, Virgin Gorda, St. Barths, Antigua, Dominica, La Romana (Dominican Republic), St. Kitts and Nevis. The only small flaw was the dual stop in St. Kitts and Nevis....there really wasn't enough time in either island.
Simply put...this was the best cruise we've taken, the best food, the best service, and a great value...we will sail with Oceana again, and often.
by Julie - March 2, 2004
Nice ship. Booked thru Oceania and took recommended room 7007C-Delux outside. Great room but up on 7th floor, lots of rocking and rolling first 2 days and return of 2 days. Food great and service outstanding. Room attendent just did her job so didn't tip extra. Tours overpriced so did our own thing on piers.
Disappointed with Tortola as got great reviews, just another city-fied island. Intertainment upscale, but boring and very late in evening. I would go again on Oceania but not on rough seas.
We had previously cruised twice with Renaissance Cruise Ship Line. The Oceania Cruise Line was formed after the bankruptcy of Renaissance. Regatta was previously know as the R2.
We received the brochure about the startup of Oceania and immediately booked 2 cruises. We had always enjoyed the size of the ship, and the penthouse suites staterooms. The price was right at $4314.00 each for the first cruise, 16 days, and $3714.00 for the second, 14 days.
My wife and I recently returned from the first cruise, Barcelona to Lisbon, leaving Oct. 25, 2003. The cruise was fair, the cuisine was excellent, but food does make the whole cruise. The dining room staff needed a lot of improvement, lack of training seemed to be very evident. The service was extremely slow. The room stewardess was a disaster, it never improved, we had to communicate via notes left on the bed, as we never saw her. We thought that a lot of the problems were due to the fixed gratuity, there is no incentive for the help to perform better to help increase the gratuity. They get the same if they do nothing.
We hadbooked the second Regatta cruise which was sailing from Miami on Nov. 25, 2003. We had flew home from Lisbon to Calif., and back to Miami. Embarkation was a disaster, it took over one hour standing in a line that was very disorganized. Embarkation does not start until 3 PM, on the Regatta. I think this alone is a bad policy, as customers are arriving at all times of the day.
We booked a PH suite just one staterooms from our prior room and were expecting the same girl. It wasn't, it was worse. The last day of the cruise she was banging on our door, 15 minutes after she thought we should have vacated the room. We left the room but we really didn't need to for another 30 minutes, as suite passengers are allowed a little extra time.
The dining room staff seemed to improve and became more friendly. It was like they had had a pep talk.
The ship had not been fully restocked for some reason in Miami. I ordered V8 juice the first morning and was informed there was no V8. I had V8 juice for 2 weeks straight on the cruise 2 weeks prior. They eventually ran out of tomato juice, lemonade and if you can believe it Orange Juice, they were serving a orange juice substitute, maybe TANG.
The ship never made CNN plus several other channels available on the TV, they had been available on my previous cruise in Europe. They did manage to get up and running a pay per view movie channel, including XXX movies at $10.99 per viewing I guess that they felt seniors needed some excitement as there sure wasn't any exciting entertainment offered on board.
The crowning blow was that the overpriced soft drinks, wine, beer, bottled water and all other drinks had received a 15% gratuity charge added to the bill. Without any notice this was increased to 18%. The bad will that was created by this can never be repaired. If your going to raise the gratuity at least give the customer the courtesy of notifying them. I got a little more upset then most and was called into the hotel managers office and was told in no uncertain terms that I was out of hand by my attitude, he verbally talked about having me removed from the ship.
We had booked two back to back cruise in May 2004, which have been cancelled. We have traveled extensively for over 30 years , somewhere in the area of 35 cruise, this was I have rate as my all time worse experience.
John & Mary Bailey 5965 Oak Valley Court Santa Maria, CA 93455 Phone: 805-934-4422 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I had the pleasure of sailing on Oceania Cruise Line's Regatta's first transatlantic crossing, though the ship had been operating in Europe for several months. For those looking for something better than the impersonal service, mass hysteria, college dining hall environments of the mega ships, this 675 passenger, 30,000 beauty is a Godsend.
No wonder Douglas Ward in the 2004 Edition of the Berlitz Guide to Cruising gives the Regatta such a superlative review (and Doug Ward is really the only truly objective cruise critic out there). The food is triumphant (SO much better than the now mediocre Celebrity), the ambiance "country Club informal," the entertainment smart (best orchestra at sea!) and the itineraries well planned. And the pricing is very competitive (check out special 2 for 1 and air fare inclusive offers on the Oceania Web site - www.oceaniacruises.com. What a superb overall product!