Since its inception in 2002, Oceania Cruises has bucked trends and expectations to deliver voyages that are wholly unique. Defying convention, its most popular voyages are often its longest, with a massive 180-day “Around the World” sailings selling out year after year. As Oceania celebrates its 15th year in business, it is sending its fleet of six intimate, classically-styled ships to more destinations than ever before – and it is doing so in its own inimitable style.
If ever there was a bridge between a luxury cruise and a premium cruise line, it would be Oceania. Frequently offering more than you’d expect for less than you’d expect to pay, Oceania places great emphasis on its overnight stays, excursions ashore, its ships, and of course, its onboard cuisine.
The Oceania fleet consists of six ships, ranging from the intimate 684-guest quadruplets Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena; to their slightly-larger fleetmates, the purpose-built Marina and Riviera.
The first four ships are former R-Class ships that were originally built for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. In fact, Oceania is almost the modern embodiment of the most important aspects that Renaissance stood for. But that doesn’t mean that Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena are the same as they were two decades ago; far from it. Oceania has spent millions of dollars refreshing these classically elegant vessels every few years, outfitting them with new amenities, new furnishings, and totally redesigned suites and staterooms.
The most recent ship in the fleet, Sirena, was fully refitted and christened in a ceremony in Barcelona, Spain last spring.
Designed from the ground up to offer a cruise experience that is perfectly tailored to Oceania, the 1,260-guest Marina and Riviera might be larger, but they are no less special or luxurious than their older fleetmates. Sparing no expense, they are some of the most luxurious ships at sea, with an onboard art collection personally curated by founder Frank del Rio, a legendary figure in the cruise industry for his meticulous attention to detail.
That detail extends to Oceania’s onboard cuisine, which frequently bests the cruise line’s luxury counterparts. Oceania dubs this “The Finest Cuisine at Sea,” and it is a claim that few can refute, particularly aboard the newly delivered Sirena.
Aboard Sirena, guests can dine at Tuscan Steak, a brand-new specialty restaurant serving up a variety of Italian favorites alongside succulent steaks and fresh seafood that is inspired by two existing Oceania specialty restaurants, Toscana and Polo Grill.
Guests looking for something different will enjoy the transformation of the Grand Dining Room, which serves elegant and sumptuous meals by night, into Jacques Bistro by lunch, serving up the creations of Oceania’s culinary master, acclaimed chef Jacques Pepin.
Dinners are a real affair. Guests can dine on a bevy of nightly features that rotate throughout the voyage, 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.
Those looking for exotic eats aren’t left out either. Red Ginger, Oceania’s beloved specialty dining venue that serves up Asian specialties, is one of the line’s most popular. Here, you can enjoy a Salad of Spicy Roast Duck and Watermelon with Cashews, Mint and Thai Basil, before moving on to Malaysian Beef Panang with Coconut Rice and Paratha Roti, or the Thai Vegetable Curry with Sweet Potatoes, Aubergine, Mushrooms and Basil in Green Curry Sauce. The restaurant even has its own dedicated tea menu, with varieties like Orchid Vanilla, Ginger Lemongrass, and Chamomile Citron.
Unlike many larger oceangoing cruise ships that look to extract revenue at every turn, particularly when it comes to specialty dining venues, Oceania offers up its specialty restaurants at no additional charge. It’s yet another nicety, particularly given the rave reviews that the line’s dining has garnered it. To eat this way on land, with this kind of cuisine and exacting service, would cost a small fortune.
One voyage that fully embraces the true Oceania cruise experience is the line’s 10-day Iberian Grandeur sailing around Spain and Portugal.
Departing from Bilbao, Spain on August 8, 2017, aboard Oceania’s charming, 684-guest Sirena, this is an itinerary like few others. Most cruise lines elect to try to cover a broad swath of the Mediterranean on their sailings, but Oceania has crafted an entirely different kind of voyage, one that focuses exclusively on the unique historic, culinary and cultural offerings of Portugal and Spain.
Over the course of 10 days, Oceania’s Sirena takes guests to Gijon, Spain; Santiago de Compostela (Vigo), Spain; Gibraltar; Alicante; Ibiza; Mahon (Minorca); and Barcelona. The itinerary also includes a full two-day stay in Lisbon, Portugal, and a day at sea cruising the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Iberian Peninsula offers plenty of exciting diversions. In Gijon, guests can explore one of the city’ numerous museums, including Museum of the Asturian People, the International Bagpipe Museum, and the Railroad Museum of Asturias. During the two-day stay in Lisbon, guests can visit the Queluz National Palace, which was constructed in the 18th century and exists as one of the last Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe.
Meanwhile, in Alicante, guests can explore Murcia and tour the picturesque cathedral at Plaza de Belluga. Of course, it is worth spending some time in Barcelona post-cruise to enjoy the works of Antoni Gaudi, including the still-unfinished Sagrada Familia that has been under construction for over 130 years.
Guests can also choose to extend their voyage with a pre-cruise stay in Bilbao at the sumptuous Silken Grand Hotel Domine; a post-cruise stay at the Hilton Barcelona; or indulge in a four-day, pre-cruise tour of Spain that includes stays in Madrid, Toledo, Burgos and Bilbao.
It’s just one of many unique cruises that Oceania is offering this year in the Mediterranean. The only question now is which one you’ll choose as your own adventure.