Azamara Journey and Oceania’s Regatta: two similarly designed ships that offer a similar-styled cruise experience. For prospective cruisers who’ve narrowed their choices down to these two vessels, deciding on one particular ship can be tough; after all, when it comes to these two gorgeous midsize ships, there’s no such thing as a wrong choice.
Despite the fact that they were both built for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises nearly two decades ago and share similar exterior appearances and, for the most part, the same basic general arrangement, the devil really is in the details when it comes to comparing these two ships that operate for two cruise lines with a similar mandate: the upscale Azamara Club Cruises and its counterpart, Oceania Cruises.
|Azamara Journey||Oceania Regatta|
|Smallest Stateroom||Club Interior Staterooms: 158 square feet.||Inside Staterooms: 160 square feet|
|Largest Stateroom/Suite||Club World Owner's Suite: 603 square feet with a 233 square-foot veranda.||1000 square feet* (as listed on the Oceania website). Rooms are similarly-laid out to their counterparts on Azamara Journey.|
|Restaurants||8 (2 with surcharges)||5|
|Inclusions For All Guests||AzAmazing Evening Events; Gratuities; Standard spirits, international beers and select wines; bottled water, soft drinks, specialty teas and coffees; shuttle service between ship and port (where available), concierge services||Air (from select US/CAN gateways); port shuttles (where applicable); all restaurants onboard; unlimited soft drinks, bottled water, cappuccino, espresso, teas and juices.|
|Daily Recommended Gratuities (Per Person)||Included||$15 per person, per day for guests in staterooms; $22 per person, per day for guests occupying suites.|
Australia & New Zealand
Australia & New Zealand
Canada / New England
Azamara Journey – formerly R Six – entered service in 2000, roughly two years after Regatta’s 1998 debut as R Two. Both ships are nearly identical, though Azamara and Oceania have both embarked on numerous refits intended to make their respective vessels more unique and distinct, and to further differentiate them from their competitors that use similar R-Class ships.
“There is no area on the ship that has not been touched,” said Larry Pimentel, President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, at the time of Azamara Journey’s 2016 refit. “Azamara needed to take our onboard product to the next level. Cruise ships are like fine hotels, after wear and tear, upgrades need to be made. We can’t wait to have our new and loyal guests onboard to see what we have done. It’s gorgeous and provides all the modern services and amenities that today’s traveler needs and demands. I think we have exceeded expectations.”
Best described as a top-to-bottom refit, Azamara practically stripped Azamara Journey down to her steel. Sister-ship Azamara Quest was afforded the same thorough treatment in the spring of 2016. While the ship’s general arrangement (the layout of public rooms and so on) was left largely untouched, the ship’s décor was radically altered.
Soft furnishings were completely swapped out and replaced with a brand-new color palette, which left the ship with a more modern, contemporary look that would be right at home in a trendy boutique hotel. Furniture is new throughout. Lighting fixtures were replaced and modernized. All of the ship’s restaurants, bars and lounges were thoroughly redone, and the ship boasts new spa amenities and dedicated Spa Staterooms.
That’s not to say that Oceania Regatta hasn’t been updated – she has. But Regatta retains more of a classic, old-world country club look compared to the new look of Azamara Journey. In many ways, Regatta looks similar to how she would have appeared when she entered service for Renaissance – and would still look if Renaissance had survived another decade or so.
Both ships are exceedingly comfortable. Both offer high levels of service and excellent standards when it comes to onboard cuisine. For these two ships, a lot of it will come down to personal taste: Do you want your cruise ship to look like a modern Kimpton hotel, or a luxurious – if unadventurous – Ritz-Carlton?
Azamara CEO Larry Pimentel told us that part of the issue both lines (and, accordingly, both ships) face is one of perception. “Editors keep on suggesting, because the ships are sisters they must be alike. They are very much different today. That’s like saying a [Boeing] 777 operated by Qatar and United mean it’s the same product. One of these days someone will get it right. Thankfully the guests are figuring it out.”
Azamara Journey and Oceania’s Regatta both carry through the key focus set forth by their respective companies. For Azamara, that means focusing on destination and itinerary. That’s not to say that Oceania doesn’t; far from it. But Azamara really takes things to the next level.
Azamara Journey sails to Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean at various times throughout the year. Oceania’s Regatta, on the other hand, explores Alaska, Canada & New England, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and Mexico, South America and the Amazon, South Pacific and Tahiti, and Australia & New Zealand.
On the outset, it looks like Oceania’s Regatta has the better breadth of itineraries – and it’s true, you can certainly see more destinations in the world aboard Regatta.
What Azamara is trying to do, however, is develop focus destinations: regions of the world that the line knows like the back of its hand. By concentrating primarily on a handful of destinations in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and Europe, Azamara is able to build itineraries with more ports of call, longer overnight stays (though Oceania does focus on that as well), and fewer days at sea spent getting to and from ports.
Even in the Caribbean – always kind of a ‘ho-hum’ destination for the true port collector – Azamara’s itineraries offer up something new. The line’s 15-night Caribbean Holidays voyage departing on December 21, 2018, for example, includes some marquee ports like Georgetown, Grand Cayman and Key West, Florida, along with some ports you don’t see on your typical Caribbean voyage: Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. Colon, Panama. Puerto Antonio, Jamaica.
Oceania, on the other hand, puts key emphasis on its culinary offerings. Led by acclaimed Chef Jacques Pépin, Oceania bills its cuisine as “the finest at sea” – and it’s a designation we can’t really dispute.
Aboard Regatta, guests can enjoy authentic Italian dishes at Toscana, while the Polo Grill’s serves up high-end traditional American steakhouse fare. The ship’s main dining venue, the Grand Dining Room, features Continental cuisine like Sturgeon Caviar with Buckwheat Blinis and Traditional Garnish; Clear Capon Broth with Vegetable and Chervil Brunoise; and Duck à l’Orange with Braised Red Cabbage and Almond Potato Croquettes. . Guests can also indulge morning, afternoon and evening in delicate pastries and freshly made sandwiches along with illy® specialty coffees at Baristas Café.
That’s not to say that Azamara doesn’t focus on its cuisine – it most certainly does. But in the same way that Azamara highlights its destination offerings, the culinary offerings aboard Oceania’s Regatta are a real win for the true foodie.
Because these two ships are so similar, one of the key differentiating factors comes down to inclusions.
There are pro’s and con’s to both lines in this respect. On the one hand, Azamara is throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, with included gratuities, nearly all beverages (though we hear some gripes about the standard beverages, spirits in particular, not being quite as good as those you still have to pay for), all gratuities, and select excursions like the company’s highly rated AzAmazing Evenings tours that take guests on exclusive experiences during overnight stays in certain ports of call.
Suite guests get English butler service, complimentary speciality dining, complimentary internet service for 235 minutes, one bag of complimentary laundry per suite for each seven days, and the top suites also get additional upmarket tours at no cost. Spa guests receive receive spa credits and one complimentary night under the stars in Azamara’s private places program.
Azamara Journey does have two pay-per-use specialty restaurants ($30 per person), but plenty of other dining options if you want to stick to the free choices.
Oceania takes a different approach to inclusions. If you live near a major U.S. or Canadian gateway (think airports like JFK, Chicago ORD, or Toronto’s Pearson International (YYZ), chances are good that Oceania will throw in basic, economy-class airfare with the price of your cruise.
On Regatta, unlimited soft drinks, bottled water, cappuccino, espresso, teas and juices are provided complimentary. Alcoholic beverages are at an additional cost, though beverage packages are available starting from just under $60 per guest, per day. Like Azamara, Oceania also provides complimentary shuttles to and from the port in applicable city centers.
Oceania also offers up its specialty restaurants at no additional charge – another nicety, particularly given the rave reviews that the line’s dining has garnered.
In the end, it’s a toss-up between two equally great ships that really comes down to what you value in terms of inclusions, and where you’re interested in sailing.
For our money though, we’re inclined to pick Azamara Journey as the winner in this round. Her mix of worldwide itineraries and inclusions makes her a superb value for anyone inclined to upgrade their cruise experience and make the jump from big-ship cruising to a more intimate, relaxed, and indeed rewarding, ocean voyage.