Photos by Mark Leppert
We were able to tour Oceania Cruises‘ beautiful Regatta in San Diego several years ago, and it has been refurbished since then, in 2014. But this was to be our first sailing on an Oceania cruise, and it was on the very Regatta in Alaska, a favorite place of ours! Interestingly enough, our son Jason was sailing on the upscale line’s Riviera in the Mediterranean at the same time we were on ours! The Regatta is a much smaller vessel with 670 passengers and 425 crew members as compared with 1250 passengers and 800 crew members on the Riviera.
The Regatta is one of the former Renaissance Cruises ships, four of which now belong to Oceania Cruises. This ship has an elegance of old, similar to what one would find in a stately hotel from the 1920s. It is more compact yet felt very comfortable, and it was easy to navigate from one deck to another and from front to stern. Our stateroom, an obstructed oceanview, was small but had plenty of storage space and was brightly lit from our window overlooking the promenade deck. It served us well and we even enjoyed spending time in it watching several DVDs we borrowed for free from the extensive list available at Guest Relations.
The food onboard was very good for the most part. The Grand Dining Room was beautifully appointed with a wide variety of choices all equally as tasty. The desserts were very good here. Two specialty restaurants are on the Regatta, and each passenger was allowed a one time meal in each for no extra charge. Toscana, the Italian restaurant was very popular. Their homemade pastas were the best I’ve ever had at sea! Polo, the steak restaurant, served wonderful cuts and had a lot of side dishes to choose from.
The selection at the more casual buffet style Terrace Cafe changed each day but was always quite good. The desserts, while beautiful to look at, were not as flavorful as they could have been. Even the ice cream was only fair. The daily sorbets however were delicious and refreshing, and the flavors changed everyday. The Waves Grill just outside from the Terrace Cafe, offered specialty hamburgers and sandwiches that were very good! One could even get a surf and turf sandwich! My husband thoroughly enjoyed adding lobster to any burger he ordered!
Elegant tea was quite a special time, taking place in the panoramic Horizons observation lounge at the top front of the ship, easily my favorite part of the ship! Such a great place to sit and read or just look out at the sea and possibly see some orca whales as I was able to several times! The tea was satisfying itself, but again, while the pastries looked delicious, I found them to be rather bland. I wondered how cookies could be so ordinary with odd consistency in flavor.
The room service menu is also varied but we found the person in charge of taking our order a bit short on patience. Also, we found it odd that a club sandwich that was listed as available 24 hours a day, with bacon on it, did not come with said bacon because we were told it was only available at breakfast time. We found room service lacked the product delivery that the rest of the ship excelled in.
The entertainment was a bit underwhelming on the Regatta. The company of four singers and two dancers were not as up to par as on other lines. The performances lacked much in the way of presentation, and the stage setups could have been adorned in a much more stylish way, better suited to the theming of the particular production. The cabaret shows were much better with a comedian, Tom Drake, and a piano player, Tim Broomfield, offering fun and musically varied shows respectively. In Juneau, a vocalist from the Red Dog saloon, Bobby Reynolds, the Great Baldini, came onboard and entertained the passengers with an engaging musical style all his own. This was a show much enjoyed by the audience!
While the activities onboard were somewhat limited, there was enough to keep everyone busy. The lectures were very informative and interesting, ranging from talks about sea otters and the Alaskan glaciers to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Activities such as bean bag toss, bingo, table tennis, and trivia, to name a few, offered passengers points depending on how well they fared. These points were redeemed at the end of the cruise for logo merchandise such as hats, T-shirts and key chains. It was amusing to see how much effort passengers put into earning these points for relatively inexpensive items that could similarly be purchased in the ship’s gift store. But somehow earning these items gave them much more satisfaction.
Oceania Cruises has a very large number of repeat guests. The passengers are very loyal to the line and often book several cruises at a time while onboard. We sat with the General Manager, Yves Seger, and the Future Cruise Manager, Jennifer Faust, at dinner one evening and they told us that they had 200 guests who sailed on the Insignia for its 180 day World Cruise this past time! One passenger even booked back-to-back world cruises for 360 days onboard. THAT is loyalty and a love of the sea for sure!
The staff members are very friendly and easily accessible to the passengers. They seem to mix well with one another and find true enjoyment in their work. The Regatta, while 18 years old, was in fantastic shape: well maintained and updated just a couple of years ago but showing no signs of wear or tear anywhere at all!
One aspect of our cruise was very unique to us as seasoned cruisers. As we left the port of Astoria, Oregon, the pilot – that helps the ship’s captain guide the ship out of the harbor in each port – was airlifted off of the ship by helicopter in order to return to shore after completing his job. This was a real surprise to us, as pilots are usually taken off the ships by way of a boat that comes along the side of the ship. This way of departing was very different to see but offered an exciting bit of drama for the passengers. It was quite the photo opportunity as the pilot dangled from beneath the bottom of the helicopter before flying back to shore!
All in all, we had a wonderful cruise with stunning ports and friendly passengers from around the world joining us on our 10-night sailing from Vancouver, Canada up to Alaska and then down to San Francisco, California. Oceania Cruises is definitely a line to consider if you want to experience the finest cuisine at sea while being pampered as you travel to culturally diverse and interesting ports around the world!