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Six-month World Tour On Insignia

Now before you dismiss spending $40,000 on a cruise, at least give it a little thought. That’s the tab for the new Oceania around-the-world cruise on the Insignia, leaving in January 2017 and returning that July.

Come to think of it, has anybody seen a cruise longer than six months, anywhere? It seems that 180 days is the threshold that must not be broken. Perhaps after that passengers start making plans to do more than exchange Christmas cards. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice — that sort of thing.

Oh yes, about the 40 grand…

If you’re a couple, that’s 80 grand. And for that price, you get an inside stateroom — the cheapest balcony is $53,000. Included are all taxes, round-trip first-class air fare from North American gateway cities to Miami and unlimited Internet. It doesn’t say gratuities are included but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they are. In visiting 98 cities in 36 countries, you have to figure there will be some additional costs, so maybe a more realistic tab is $45,000 to $50,000.

But about selling the concept to your better half…

From $80,000 for both of you, deduct all your car expenses for six months. If you can arrange to be between homes at the time (Baby Boomers can sometimes do that), or sublet your residence, deduct six months of rent or mortgage payments. Deduct ALL your meals, and wine, for 180 days. Reduce your entertainment budget drastically because there will be more than enough ship entertainment to fit into your busy schedule.

And did we mention that it includes "free medical" (that's what the fine print says)? Obamacare at sea?

You’ll go to six continents. By the time it’s over, there will be far less of the world for you to see, and maybe none that you want to see. it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You do need to make certain that 180 days living our of a cabin without getting cabin fever — we were worried about 19 straight days on a ship but were sorry when we had to disembark.

Even with all of the “savings” from our daily lives, there’s still one more thing most of us should probably do…

Win the lotto.

Do that and you can upgrade. To the owner’s suite. It’s only $125,000 — per person.

And guess what?

There’s already a waiting list.

— Insignia photo by Bahnfrend (Wikimedia Commons)

In the news…

• Norwegian, Princess both leaving Houston by 2016-17 after four-year stay
• American Cruise Lines launches new river cruiser three weeks early
• Breaking Benjamin headlining Carnival Victory cruise in February

Today at portsandbows.com: Norwegian's Asian deployment

Holland America Zaandam
7 nights
September 13, 2015
Anchorage, Glacier Bay National Park, Haines, Juneau, Ketchikan, Vancouver
Inside: $747
Cost per day: $106
www.hollandamerica.com

The ‘R Ships’ All Alive And Popular

When we ventured into the waters of the cruise world, the infamous “R Ships” were already history. Consequently, we have neither much knowledge nor appreciation for what they were, but every once in a while we hear about one of the R Ships, and what great ships they were when Renaissance Cruises was in business.

Or…what great ships they are.

The R Ships are still around, under pseudonyms. When Oceania set a one-day record for selling cruises this month, it was for one of the former R Ships, soon to be re-named (again) as the Oceania Sirena. Clearly, its history with seasoned cruisers had something to do with how anxious they were to sail on her again.

At the moment, the Sirena is still the Ocean Princess, which she will remain until Oceanundergoing a $40-million refurbishment one year from this month. Before she was the Ocean Princess, she was simply “R Four.”

There were eight R Ships, starting with R One in 1998. In case you’re wondering what became of them all, or even if you aren’t, here’s the list.

R One — After Renaissance went bankrupt, she became Oceania’s Insignia, then Hapag-Lloyd’s Columbus 2 and last year returned to Oceania as the Insignia again.

R Two — Chartered to Oceania, she was the Insignia before the Insignia was, and later Regattabecame what she is today, the Oceania Regatta (above).

R Three — Since 2002, she’s been the Pacific Princess.

R Four — See above.

R Five — Despatched to Pullmantur Cruises to become the Blue Dream and now with her Oceania brethren as the Nautica.

R Six — Another Pullmantur acquisition, the Blue Star, then the Blue Dream and R Five abdicated the name and went to Oceania and now, since 2007, the Azamara Journey.

R Seven — Chartered to a line called Delphin Seereisen and named the Delphin QuestRenaissance, then to Pullmantur as the Blue Moon and now, since 2007, the Azamara Quest (above).

R Eight — First became the Minerva II for Swan Hellenic Cruises, then sold to Princess to become the Royal Princess and now with P&O Cruises as the Adonia.

The fact that these eight ships — all of them exactly 30,277 tons in size, all of them carrying about 684 passengers — are still popular today is a testament to their design.

In fact, maybe they’ve improved with age. They certainly did when it came to their names.

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Costa Fascinosa
7 nights
May 10, 2015
Savona (return): Rome, Palermo, Valletta, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57
www.costacruise.com

Oceania Ships Have The Same Look Now

Two years ago in the Mediterranean, we were fortunate to be on the Oceania Riviera for one of its first cruises, with a stop in Barcelona for the christening and official naming ceremony. This is a smallish ship by ocean-going standards — just 1,250 Rivierapassengers — and, by any objective cruiser's estimation, the Riviera is one beautiful ship.

It is a sister to Marina, Oceania's first new-build. Before that, three ships that performed for other lines made up the Oceania fleet.

And this year, it's their turn.

Earlier in the week, the last of the three — the Regatta — came out of dry-dock looking more like her prettier, younger sisters. While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and while there's only so much you can do with an old body (we speak from experience), when somebody spends $50 million on ships that are already "nice" you can assume they're going to look more like they belong to the same family.

The Regatta was the first ship for fledgling Oceania Cruises, 11 years ago, along with the Insignia. Both were known as "R ships" from bankrupt Renaissance Cruises. Two years later, along came the Nautica, another former R ship, and that was the fleet until RivieraMarina arrived, squeaky clean and new, in 2011.

This is the second time the Regatta has been refurbished in three years and most of its new look has to do with cosmetics…isn't that always the case? It also features a couple of popular and proven Marina and Riviera additions: Baristas coffee bar and the Terrace Cafe. That's the same treatment the Nautica and Insignia both received before they emerged from dry-dock last month.

When the Riviera arrived in 2012, it was from the same Fincantieri Shipyard that delivered Marina. About the same time, Insignia was being leased to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises for two years, probably for financial reasons. She returned last month and Oceania again became a five-ship fleet, but won't likely stay that way for long.

Plans are in place with Fincantieri for two more new ships.

If the Marina and the Riveria hadn't been so popular, that wouldn't happen.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Quantum of the Seas and entertainment

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
September 15, 2014
Miami (return): Grand BahamaNassauGreat Stirrup Cay
Inside: $179
Cost per day: $44
www.ncl.com

Insignia and Oceania — the second time around

Over the years, we've known a couple of couples who have been married twice. To each other. That's the same bride and the same groom…twice. One second wedding lasted, and one didn't.

In cruise vernacular, that analogy could compare to the Oceania Insignia.

At birth, she was called R One, an unimaginative name for one of the Renaissance ships that all went on to bigger and better things with new names and new owners (spouses, if you will). When R One was five, she became the Insignia, a member of InsigniaOceania's Regatta Class. By the time she was in her teens, Insignia changed her name to Columbus 2.

And now, still only 15 (much older in ship years), she's soon to be Insignia again. 

After Renaissance Cruises ceased to exist, she was a workhorse for more than eight years for Oceania, with R siblings Regatta and Nautica, helping to establish the brand, which the owners like to call "upper premium."  

When the cruise line brought in newer, more modern ships called Marina and Riviera, the economics were such that it made sense to farm out the old girl, Insignia. So off she went to Hapag-Lloyd — that's the name of a small cruise line — and she's been toiling there for almost two years as Columbus 2.

Next spring, they'll strip off that painted name and — while giving her a second facelift, which in the ship world is called a refurbishment — they'll decorate her with "Insignia" again (Insignia 2 maybe?). She'll split her first year back between Europe and the Caribbean, as many ships do, and then she'll be sent around the world in 180 days. 

Twice.

The first such cruise leaves Miami in January 2015, the second in July 2015. The first sold out in eight days, the second goes on sale next week. So Insignia's more popular than ever.

This time, it looks like she and Oceania are in it for the long haul, maybe until their Golden Years.

Carnival Glory
7 nights
December 8, 2013
Miami (return): CozumelCosta MayaRoatanGrand Caymen
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $42
www.carnival.com

The Last of the Seven Wonders of the World is…

This is one of those "Who's writing their stuff…" routines. Specifically, who's writing for Oceania Cruises.

In a press release we received this week, to promote 2-for-1 fares with free airfare on Holy Lands cruises on either the Riviera (May 2014) or the Insignia (June 2014), it reads as follows:

"Before the time of Anno Domini, a collection of seven wonders enthralled travelers of the ancient world. While all but one no longer exists, just one of these wonders has the distinction of having been twice built and twice destroyed. First burned and Temple of Artemislater plundered, remaining relics for the goddess were uncovered by archaeologists of the mid-18th century. Which wonder of the ancient world is this?"

We'll save you the trouble of going to find out — it's The Temple of Artemis.

Naturally, Oceania has a ship that goes close enough (Ephesus) that you can skip over to see the remains of Artemis.

Now, technically, Oceania's statement is correct. there is only one of the original Seven Wonders of the World left. But it's not the Temple of Artemis, which is the impression you get when giving the promotion a quick read. It sounds like you're going to see the only remaining original Wonder, doesn't it?

The Temple was destroyed for the second (some say third) and final time 16 centuries ago…401 AD. Oceania shows a photo of its "remains" yet in Istanbul there is a replica of the Temple of Artemis.

Ironically, that's the departure port for the two Oceania ships on their Holy Land cruises.

The only surviving Seventh Wonder?

It's The Pyramids, in Egypt. But you already knew that, didn't you?

Grand Princess
15 nights
January 19, 2014
San Francisco (return): HiloHonoluluLahaina, Nawiliwili,  Ensenada
Inside: $999
Cost per day: $66
www.princess.com

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