Oceania Cruises Opens for Business

Veteran executives lease two former Renaissance ships, open res lines

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Oceania Cruises, the new premium line formed by Joe Watters and Frank Del Rio, is feverishly preparing for a July 5 inaugural voyage.

The formation of the new company was announced in October.

Since then, Oceania has opened a Miami headquarters, leased two 684-passenger ships, organized itineraries, launched a Web site, joined the Cruise Lines International Association, and begun taking reservations.

Oceania the name changed slightly from the original Oceana to differentiate from the P&O ship called Oceana is headed by the unlikely duo of Watters, the former president of Crystal Cruises, and Del Rio, a longtime executive at the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. Watters, who will remain in Los Angeles, is chairman and Miami-based Del Rio is CEO and president.

The duo chartered the R1 and R2, two former Renaissance ships, and plans to operate them in Europe this summer and in North and South America in the winter. Most itineraries are 10 to 14 nights long.

To jump-start the upstart, Oceania is offering an array of agent incentives, including a 12 percent base commission on all bookings made by May 1.

Oceania also pays 10 percent on insurance and pre- and post-land stays and 5 percent on air bookings.

“Oceania Cruises’ commitment is to the travel agent,” Watters said. “Therefore, we’re delighted to become a member of CLIA, an organization that has fostered both growth and strong relationships between cruise lines and the travel agent community for nearly 30 years.”

The company hired industry veteran Nathan Hickman as manager of agency services; he can be reached at 305-514-2221.

Oceania will offer guaranteed group rates for five or more staterooms. One tour conductor berth is given for every 15 bookings.

Oceania’s first ship, the Regatta, will embark on its inaugural voyage July 5, a 14-night cruise from Barcelona to London. Then the ship will operate a series in the Baltic and Scandinavia.

The second ship, the Insignia, will enter service Oct. 4 on a 14-night cruise from Barcelona to Istanbul.

Cruise-only fares range from $2,495 to $6,995, per person, double occupancy, for a 14-night cruise. A 10-night cruise is priced from $1,395.

Oceania has hired renowned French chef Jacques Pepin, the one-time personal chef to Charles De Gaulle and known today to viewers of TV cooking shows. Watters said the 30,000-ton size of the ships will allow them to call on smaller, less-visited ports. He characterized the product as “upscale premium” with an “unsurpassed culinary experience and casually elegant atmosphere.”


www.OceaniaCruises. com.