First Look: Oceania's Regatta

The former R2 looks just as good as new as the 'upper premium line' begins sailing the Mediterranean

By: Harry Basch

Oceania Cruises’ first vessel, the 1998-built Regatta, looks as though it just came out of the shipyard.

The former R2 of the shuttered Renaissance Cruises, the Regatta has been completely refurbished and is sparkling white. Teak decks and tiles around the pool have been restored to their original luster; carpets, upholstery and much of the interior decoration have been replaced; new super-comfort mattresses and linens of fine woven cotton with down pillows are found in the staterooms.

It is what Oceania calls “upper premium cruising” at attractive prices. The resultant ambience falls somewhere between Crystal Cruises and Renaissance, which makes sense. The two founders of Oceania, Joe Watters and Frank Del Rio, previously headed Crystal and Renaissance, respectively.

The Regatta entered service for Oceania on July 5. I sailed as a guest of the cruise line July 19-25 and found that the ship has lost the tweediness that contributed to its slightly dour feel under Renaissance.

Today, the ambiance is that of a luxury hotel in San Francisco, thanks to the red velvet, dark wood paneling, deep-cushioned couches, large wing chairs and paintings throughout the ship (the art’s all for sale, of course).

The library, probably the most elegant one at sea, has dark wood bookcases along the walls of the U-shaped room, and large leather and upholstered wing chairs and sofas.

The mood of the ship is not as classic as, say, Crystal’s three ships, but is more relaxed with a dress code that says, “Leave your tuxedo and ball gown at home.” This, however, does not mean jeans and T-shirts in the evening.

Dining on the Regatta is an experience three specialty restaurants, in addition to the main dining room, serve menus supervised by celebrity French chef Jacques Pepin.

The food was fine, but not overly impressive. Portions are smaller than usual, so you can order several courses without gorging.

There is no extra charge for the alternative restaurants, which include The Polo Grill for chops, steaks and fish, Toscana for Italian fare, and Tapas for, well, tapas and paella.

I especially liked the excellent caprese, fish soup and risotto fungi at Toscana.

I found the crew and waiters pleasant, eager and always ready with a smile and a greeting. Still, service was somewhat spotty in the restaurants, which is not unusual on a new ship.

Standard accommodations are priced from $199 per day for an inside cabin (160 square feet), $259 for an oceanview cabin (165 square feet) and $399 per day for a veranda stateroom (216 square feet).

The four Vista Suites forward have all the amenities of the more-expensive Owner’s Suites, but have a smaller veranda. The Vistas measure 786 square feet and carry a per diem cost of $764. (Owner’s Suite per diem is $979.)

All accommodations have televisions, safes, robes and bath amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, shower cap, shower gel and body lotion.

All rooms also have minifridges stocked with beverages. But they are not complimentary; clients pay for what they consume, like a typical hotel minibar. Prices are $2 for a Coke, $2.50 for Evian water, $4.50 for a beer and $5 for a small bottle of vodka.

Following its Mediterranean season, the Regatta will move to Miami in late November to operate 12- and 14-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises. Two 10-night winter cruises will begin or end in Los Angeles. The Jan. 16 cruise is to depart Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, and conclude in Los Angeles, while the return is to depart L.A. Jan. 27.

The Los Angeles cruises are priced from $995, using the two-for-one Caribbean discounts available now. In addition to the special pricing, passengers also get a $200 shipboard credit per cabin.

Harry Basch is the cruise columnist for The Los Angeles Times.