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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

Cruise Awards: Oceania Big in UK

 

When "awards" are given in the cruise business, just like in any other business, they have to be taken with a grain of salt water.

Voting being voting, it's always subjective because the results are based on opinions from people who are unlikely to have been on more than one or perhaps two of the "competing" ships. So it's kind of like getting an Academy Award vote on Picture-of-the-Year after watching one nominated movie.

Having said that, it makes for interesting discussions, and it makes for "good press" for the winners.

Like Oceania.

Last week, Cruise Critic posted the results of its annual Cruisers' Choice awards. Oceania's twin flagships, Riviera and Marina, won 12 categories — eight in the United Kingdom, four in the U.S. In categories specifically for "mid-size ships" Oceania won 11 of 22. Clearly, people who cruise on mid-size ships and who want their voices heard on Cruise Critic love Oceania ships.

Having been on the Riviera last year, we can only say: "What's not to like?"

It was the newer Riviera that won eight categories, seven in Europe and the other for "Best Mediterranean Cruises" — a combined UK/US category. The Marina, which has spent more time on this side the Atlantic, had a 3-0 edge on its younger sister among U.S. voters.

In the United Kingdom poll, Oceania ships won eight of the 11 mid-size categories. In three of them, Riviera and Marina went 1-2. One of those was for "Best Dining" and Marina won the category among American voters. Since this is a cruise line dedicated to promoting the "best cuisine at sea" that should come as no surprise. In some cases, it's a bit like asking people if they prefer eating at, say…McDonald's or Morton's.

There are all kinds of such conclusions to be drawn at CruiseCritic.com.

Just don't forget the grain of salt water.


Norwegian Sun
7 nights
May 27, 2013
Anchorage, Hubbard Glacier, Icy Strait Point, Juneau, Sawyer Glacier, Skagway, Ketchikan, Inside Passage, Vancouver
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61
www.ncl.com

 

Reflections on Cruising in 2012

Ten stories in 2012 that caught our attention, in no particular order of significance…

1. The 100th anniversary of the best-known (because it sank) cruise ship of all time, the Titanic. At the precise hour the Titanic went down, on April 15 a century earlier, there were at least two cruise ships (Azamara Journey and the Fred.Olsen Balmoral) were on the scene in what originally seemed like a macabre reminder but in the end was touching and emotional.

2. In an unrelated "the way we were" event, American Cruise Lines unveiled a paddle wheeler that on the outside looked much like the kind of river boats that went up and down the Mississippi in the early 20th century. The Queen of the Mississippi, the first paddle wheeler built for the rover in 20 years, is just as luxurious as her ancestors, relatively speaking…among the then-unimaginable improvements was the Internet.

3. Viking made headlines for the river cruisers by adding six new Longships in 2012 and announcing 10 more would arrive in 2013 with plans for 10 more in 2014. While capacity is far less than ocean cruisers (usually less than 10 per cent), one-week cruises cost a lot more. Are we about to find out if Viking has saturated the river cruise market?

4. The face of Godmothers changed. Oceania introduced an openly lesbian godmother (Cat Cora) for the Riviera, Celebrity gave the title(s) to four women who were cancer survivors or cancer survivor advocates on its Reflection, and Norwegian announced its New York-based ship (Breakaway) would have the Rockettes from Radio City Music Hall as godmothers in perpetuity…because there will always be Rockettes. Yet none was more moving than Tracy Mourning, Godmother of the Carnival Breeze and a woman whose charitable efforts continue to impact young women in Florida.

5. After all the analyses and speculation and concern about hurricanes in the Caribbean and their impact on cruise ships, the one that had the greatest effect on ship itineraries was in the waters of the north-eastern seaboard, Hurricane Sandy.

6. New catchphrases for upscale marketing, when Oceania reinforced its "upper premium" status with the arrival of the Riviera and Celebrity introduced "modern luxury" after Michael Bayley replaced Don Hanrahan at the head of the No. 2 line in the Royal Caribbean family.

7. Norwegian, the biggest cruise line that isn't in the Carnival or Royal Caribbean conglomerates, unveiled plans to supplement its 2013 (Breakaway) and 2014 (Getaway) new ships with a "Breakaway-Plus" ship in 2015 and an option on another one for 2017.

8. The Costa Concordia. Long after it capsized and took 32 people to their deaths 13 days into the year, its impact lingered all year, and will continue to linger until long after the ship is raised and destroyed, either in name or in body.

9. An Australian mining billionaire, Clive Palmer, unveiled plans to build a Titanic replica, prompting this from Carnival CEO Micky Arison to quip: "Mr. Palmer is a billionaire with ambitions to become a millionaire!"

10. The George Bushes — as in George and Barbara — crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 the way they do most things…quietly.


Carnival Imagination
4 nights
February 25, 2013
Miami (return): Key West, Cozumel
Inside: $219
Cost per day: $54
www.carnival.com
 

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