As Oceania Cruises prepares to celebrate its 16th anniversary, Gary Buchanan reports from Insignia on the the cruise line’s latest onboard enhancements

An undisputed torchbearer in the boutique cruising stakes, Oceania Cruises offer a luxurious experience free from gimmicks at a mid-market price.

Little wonder the company is gaining a loyal following from Brits who appreciate the more relaxed ‘country club casual’ dress code: for cruisers who enjoy opulent comforts, a variety of peerless dining choices as well as a cornucopia of carefully-crafted itineraries, this is their perfect match.

Last summer Oceania Cruises announced an array of enhancements designed to elevate every facet of the guest experience. The first OceaniaNEXT initiative was a $100 million re-inspiration of the line’s four classic ships: Insignia, Regatta, Sirena, and Nautica.

Grand Staircase – Deck 4/5 Midship
Oceania Insignia – Oceania Cruises

The company boasts that Insignia has been transformed “from chrysalis to butterfly”. The former country-house embellished interiors have been revamped to resemble a boutique hotel – offering guests a familiar but cleaner vibe.

Having been stripped down to the basics and redesigned from the ground up, Insignia now oozes sophisticated intimacy; the atmosphere is luxurious, sassy and grown-up. In a shrewd move, Oceania Cruises took the decision to appoint Miami-based Studio DADO to undertake the entire on-trend transmogrification.

Veranda Stateroom Cat. B3
Oceania Insignia – Oceania Cruises

Every suite and stateroom now boasts lighter tones of silvery greys and taupe, highlighted by nuanced hues of green and ocean blue. The expansive Penthouse, Vista and Owner’s Suite also boast Carrara marble, polished granite and sleek onyx offering serenity and reassuring luxury. Bathrooms have a radiant sparkle thanks to new vanities and luxurious glass showers.

Martinis – Deck 5 Midship
Insignia – Oceania Cruises

Martini’s – the social hub of the ship – now boasts custom-milled carpets and comfy Grecian blue and sienna furniture fused with chocolate browns and pewter tones.

The Grand Dining Room – Deck 5 Aft
Insignia – Oceania Cruises

The new centrepiece of the Grand Dining Room is an Italian teardrop chandelier. New dining chairs in cream leather enhance the copper, gold and bronze palette of this prepossessing room. Showcasing Italy’s culinary passions, the speciality restaurant Toscana now boasts ruby-reds and rustic brown fabrics as well as soft, cream-coloured leather chairs.

However it is first impressions that count and as guests embark into the Reception Hall they are struck by the dramatic verre églomisé wall that rises behind the Grand Staircase. And if this doesn’t reflect the gentrified opulence that Insignia now boasts, then the balustrades inset with crystal accents and brilliant eye-catching chandelier most certainly do.

It’s impossible to talk about Oceania Cruises without mentioning cuisine. This has been raised to an art form from concept to execution. The culinary management team is almost exclusively French and when the company was founded, celebrated Master Chef Jacques Pépin was appointed Executive Culinary Director. One of America’s first ‘celebrity chefs’, Monsieur Pépin was personal chef to three French heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. Passengers soon discover menus are vast and balanced; even people who don’t consider themselves foodie mavens are impressed with the selection and quality of produce.

Speaking exclusively to Cruise International, Oceania Cruises’ Corporate Executive Chef Franck Garanger says: “There is so much emphasis placed on cuisine by Oceania Cruises’ senior management we have to ensure that food is the alpha and omega aboard our fleet.

Marina and Riviera were designed to have a higher galley-space ratio than any other cruise ship. Indeed 25 per cent of the crew on each Oceania Cruises ship is employed in the preparation of cuisine, while 20 per cent of the ship’s staff is employed in the dining rooms.”

Over the past few years lavish wine-paired dinners, served in the privacy of the 24-seat La Reserve exclusively aboard Marina and Riviera, have become exemplars of Oceania Cruises’ culinary excellence. Created under the guidance of Franck Garanger, three ‘La Reserve by Wine Spectator’ menus have proved enormously popular. These include ‘The Odyssey Menu’; ‘The Connoisseur Menu’ and ‘La Cuisine Bourgeoise’.

Last week a new ‘La Reserve by Wine Spectator’ menu was unveiled. The ‘Dom Pérignon Experience’, first of its kind, is a gustatory tour de force and has a cover charge of $295, though you certainly get your money’s worth. The six-course menu features Scallops Rossini, mole negro and roasted pineapple; Brittany blue lobster, yellow curry broth and coco foam; Black truffle risotto with aged parmesan; Seared sashimi-style Wagyu beef with sautéed arugula, blood-orange-soya jus and caviar perlita; French A.O.C. cheese selections with blackcurrant-pepper paste and thyme flower; rounded off with a Sakura Geisha flower tea ice cream and lemon caviar. Each course is paired with a selection of Dom Pérignon Rosé vintage 2004; Dom Pérignon vintage 2006; and Dom Pérignon vintage 2009.

Oceania Cruises has also announced an order for two new ships from the Italian shipyard Fincantieri to be delivered in 2022 and 2025. Each 67,000 gross-ton Allura-Class ships will accommodate approximately 1,200 guests.

This new class of mid-size cruise vessels will retain all the warmth, design elements and signature amenities of the line’s award-winning Marina and Riviera.

Bob Binder, President and CEO of Oceania Cruises said, “This new class of ships will represent an evolution of the Oceania Cruises experience with all the elements our guests treasure – a warm, intimate, residential style; the most spacious standard staterooms afloat; amazing suites, and of course, the finest cuisine at sea.”