Originally built in 1998 as R One for now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, Insignia was one of the original two ships in the Oceania fleet, when the line got started in 2003. Measuring in at 30,200 gross tons and carrying just 684 passengers, she’s a classic midsized cruiser, offering understated decor; a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere; great service and dining; and some great itineraries.
Right from the start, Insignia and sister-ship Regatta set the tone for Oceania, with a style that defines the line to this day. Like all the former Renaissance vessels, they’re comfortable and spacious ships, decorated with a clubby, old-school style, with lots of dark-wood paneling, gilt-framed paintings, Oriental-style carpets, and deep-hued upholstery. They’re traditional but casual, and perfect for travelers who want an atmosphere that’s more about relaxing, reading a good book, and chatting with friends than about flashy excitement.
Insignia had a brief stint as Hapag-Loyd Cruises as Columbus 2 in 2012, but returned to the Oceania Cruises fleet in 2014.
There aren’t a lot of public rooms — just enough to keep things interesting. In the bow on Deck 10, the spacious Horizons lounge is used for various activities during the day and for dancing at night. Down on Deck 5, the main show lounge is big enough to seat about half the guests on board, and hosts musical recitals, cabaret acts, comedy, magicians, and other headliners. Farther aft, Martinis is the ship’s coziest lounge, with a pianist playing standards before dinner, a jazz band at night, and a long, long martini list.
There’s also a small but comfortable casino, and an even more comfortable library, decorated in traditional English style.
Like all the Oceania ships, Insignia is casual and laid back at dinnertime. Guests can choose between the elegant, single-level Grand Dining Room, whose entrance is through a cozy bar that’s perfect for pre-dinner cocktails and/or waiting for the rest of your party to arrive. When you’re ready, just tell the maitre d’ and he’ll find you a table.
Up in the stern on Deck 10, the ship’s two specialty restaurants sit side by side. To port there’s Toscana, serving classic Italian meals amid Mediterranean-inspired decor. To starboard, the Polo Grill steakhouse is suitably dark and woody, graced with photos of Hollywood legends who look as if they enjoyed a good a steak. There’s no extra fee for either of these specialty restaurants, but just so everybody gets a chance, there’s an initial limit of two specialty reservations per voyage for guests in Concierge-level staterooms and suites and one reservation per voyage guests in regular staterooms. If you want more, just get on the waitlist and see if you get lucky.
Other dining options include a buffet restaurant that does breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the latter ratcheted up into a real dinner experience, and offering alfresco dining on a bow-facing terrace.
There’s also Waves Grill on the attractive, teak Pool Deck, which offers a pool, a pair of hot tubs, and deck chairs and large daybeds for sunbathing. The Patio, a shaded outdoor lounge, offers thickly cushioned chairs and daybeds and a nap-inducing atmosphere. For the ultimate, guests can rent one of the eight private cabanas on Deck 11, each offering great sea views, a retractable shade roof, white drapes that can be drawn for privacy, a plush daybed for two, and the services of an attendant who can fetch drinks, chilled towels, and other luxuries. You can even arrange to get a massage here, courtesy of a therapist from the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Deck 9, run by the legendary resort spa company.
Or, you could just relax in your cabin — and who would blame you? Though Insignia’s standard cabins aren’t innovative or exceptionally large, they’re classy and comfortable — especially the beds. Part of Oceania’s draw has always been its branded Tranquility Beds, each an oasis of perfect mattress, Egyptian cotton sheets and covers, down duvets, and wonderful pillows. New “Prestige Tranquility Beds” being installed fleetwide in 2011 raise the bar even further.
Almost all cabins measure in the 165-square-foot range, with two thirds of them adding on an average-sized, teak-decked private balcony. Concierge-class staterooms are the same size, but add on a bunch of luxury amenities and onboard privileges, including a welcome bottle of champagne, a DVD player (with movies), priority embarkation and luggage delivery, and the opportunity to book more reservations at the ship’s specialty restaurants.
If you need more space, Insignia’s suites range from the 322-square-foot Penthouse Suites to the 1,000-square-foot Owner’s Suites, which have separate living rooms and bedrooms, wrap-around balconies, and niceties like 42-inch plasma flat-screen TVs, Bose sound systems, and Hermès and Clarins bath products.
All suites include butler service.