In this Insignia review, Rebecca Bradbury finds out whether the re-inspiration of a classic can result in a better-than-new ship.

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“The bar that we set was to make the ship better than new,” says Harry Sommer, president international of NCL Holdings, referring to the “re-inspiration” of Oceania Cruises’ much-loved ship Insignia. 

Miami-based design company Studio DADO has given the interior a fresh, modern update, with lighter woods and marble, new carpets, fabrics and wallpaper, and an updated colour palette of marine-inspired blues and soothing soft greys and silver. 

Yet the core elements of Insignia remain. The new look Martinis lounge is brighter, smarter and more contemporary, but it still retains its persona of a plush private club while the revamped observation lounge Horizons now boasts 270-degree panoramic views without having lost its country club ambience.  

Complementing it all is a carefully curated art collection, most of which has been handpicked by Frank Del Rio, the CEO of NCL Holdings, who is said to be an avid art fan with impeccable attention to detail. And there has certainly been no restraint, as around $1 million was splashed out on the new artworks alone. 

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The Grand Lobby

One of Insignia’s most spectacular changes is the show-stopping Grand Lobby. Framed by intricate railings and balustrades inset with crystal accents, the dramatic, sweeping staircase is now looked over by a dazzling tiered chandelier while, on the wall, is a soaring verre églomisé, a mirror-like panel which is gilded with precious metal.

The abundance of reflective surfaces coupled with a bold contrast of light and dark hues and geometric patterns recall the glamour of Art Deco and it’s like stepping into a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. 

As for the suites and staterooms, every single one has been completely transformed with lavishly upholstered headboards, bespoke furnishings and conveniences such as new bedside USB ports. Overall, the accommodation now boasts a welcoming, residential feel and this is down to Studio DADO successfully fulfilling the brief to create a ‘home-away-from-home’ for the guests on board Insignia. 

The plush Owner’s Suite has a hint of 1930s sophistication about it, with rich high-gloss woodwork, monochrome bed linen and cushions, and polished light fixtures, but it is also an oasis of relaxation, made even better by floor-to-ceiling windows and a sprawling teak terrace.

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The Penthouse Suite

Standing out for its serene olive accents is the Penthouse Suite, whereas the Veranda and Oceanview Staterooms feature sleek cobalt blue tones. While basking in the glow of their new lighting, jewel-like fixtures and gleaming marble and onyx are the new modern bathrooms, with one of the top highlights being the bi-folding glass shower doors – not a single shower curtain remains on the ship. 

Another major change can be spotted in the Grand Dining Room; in fact, it’s impossible to miss. At the restaurant’s centre now hangs the second of Insignia’s glittering chandeliers and it’s made even more impressive when you discover every one of its crystals was hung by hand. 

There’s new artwork here too, and the carpet and upholstery on the club-like chairs have been replaced. It’s certainly a grand place to dine and experience the gourmet cuisine curated by world-renowned Master Chef Jacques Pépin. As part of the cruise line’s OceaniaNEXT initiative, an extensive plant-based menu is now available here, alongside the usual, more decadent dishes, in an effort to reflect guests’ evolving palates and heightened focus on wellness.

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The Grand Dining Room

Every restaurant on board Insignia is complimentary, and other places to dine include the buffet-style Terrace Café, where guests can dine inside or al fresco, and the laid-back Waves Grill, specialising in all-American favourites just a few steps away from the swimming pool. More upmarket in feel are Italian eatery Toscana, with its custom-designed Versace china, and high-end steakhouse Polo Grill. Both of these benefit from an expanse of glorious full-length windows, so panoramic sea views can be feasted on alongside delicious fare. 

Some areas on board were left untouched and this was down to their timeless appeal. The library, for example, is like stepping into an old English country manor. Around 2,000 books and periodicals line dark wooden shelves, deep leather armchairs tempt relaxation and a grand marble fireplace sits under a ceiling mural of colourful birds perched on luscious treetops. 

The Canyon Ranch Spa is still a haven of relaxation offering a variety of spa, beauty and massage treatments. The Pool Deck, crowned with a heated pool, two whirlpool spas and luxe sun-loungers, makes a great outdoor hangout, while two boutiques, a casino, The Card Room and the Insignia Lounge – a hub of live entertainment – make up the rest of the main indoor spaces.

Oceania Cruises is in the midst of a fleet-wide enhancement programme, where the onus is on retaining the elements cruise line guests know and love but making them even better.

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Martinis

Injecting more than $100 million into renovating its four Regatta class ships as part of the fleet-wide OceaniaNEXT initiative, the cruise line aims to retain the intimacy and comfort of the fleet’s popular guest areas while adding a large dose of elegance, as well as a splash of uniqueness along the way. 

Insignia was the first to undergo the re-inspiration treatment, followed by Sirena; Regatta will be given its makeover in September after its Alaska season, and finally Nautica will follow in June 2020 – after all, work of this magnitude can’t be rushed. 

Collectively the four ships will be the proud owners of 12,000 new sofas and chairs, 8,000 new light fixtures, 1,368 new suites and staterooms, and 1,400 new marble bathrooms, with the work of 1,000 plus artisans and craftsmen having a part to play in the extensive overhaul programme.

So, is Insignia better than new? According to Harry Sommer, who was at the ship’s launch 21 years ago, “it looks better today than it did then.” From the magnificent grand lobby to the chic, stylish staterooms, Insignia has undergone a glamorous, elegant transformation which wows.

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Guests on the Pool Deck

Getting there: 

A seven-night Tropical Retreats round-trip cruise from Miami on board Insignia, departing 16 November 2019, starts from £1,609pp, based on two people sharing a B2 Veranda Stateroom, includes flights. For more details, call 0345 505 1920 or visit oceaniacruises.com.