I knew that Oceania Cruises was unofficially dubbed the “foodie cruise line,” but what I didn’t realize — until I was onboard the reimagined Insignia — was how deeply the company’s culinary ethos permeates the entire experience. It’s certainly not an exaggeration to say that dining is the primary focal point on Oceania’s ships, and the guests on my sailing stayed true to that theme by buzzing about what they’d eaten the previous night — and what was on tap for tonight.
Still sparkling from a late 2018 refresh under the line’s OceaniaNext initiative, Insignia now looks and feels like an upscale, boutique hotel. Previously refurbished public rooms feature a classic nautical look with dark wood and brass, while new furniture and plush fabrics adorn other spaces, including The Grand Dining Room and the ship’s iconic grand staircase.
But what impressed me most was the extreme makeover of all staterooms and suites, which introduced new fixtures, furniture and fabrics in blue and gray hues that look smart and stylish while imparting a rich, luxurious feel.
Matching Insignia’s fresh new look is an array of gorgeously presented and delicious fare that impresses even jaded foodies. No-extra-charge specialty restaurants Toscana (Italian) and Polo Grill (steakhouse) lead the way with dishes that feature quality ingredients and exquisite preparation. Diners at Toscana are initially presented with an olive oil menu featuring 10 selections from Italy’s major regions. But making that decision is relatively easy compared to evaluating options on the extensive dinner menu featuring eight antipasti, 10 pastas, nine mains and 10 desserts. My top picks were the Octopus Carpaccio (antipasti), Aragosta Fra Diavolo (pasta), Scaloppine di Vitello Al Limone (entree) and Lasagna al Cioccolato (dessert).
Meanwhile, my dining highlights at Polo Grill were an incredibly rich Foie Gras en Croute appetizer, a bone-in veal chop and a whole Maine lobster. (Oceania serves so much lobster that the line procures 100% of the production of two Maine lobster farms to supply its vessels.)
And despite the specialty restaurants’ obvious pull, the ship’s casual buffet eatery, Terrace Cafe, wowed me by offering gourmet, cooked-to-order options every night, including several steak cuts, lamb chops and lobster tails accompanied by innovative appetizers, authentic European pastries and an excellent bread selection. The line’s culinary product has recently been further enhanced with the introduction of more than 200 plant-based items, including the popular Impossible Burger.
Nightly showroom entertainment, however, consisting of musical revues and repeat specialty acts, is secondary in comparison to the sophisticated cuisine available onboard.
With a 1.7-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio, service onboard is high-touch and efficient. But intangible factors like genuine warmth and friendliness also emanate from the crew, who aim to please.
Interestingly, travel agents I spoke to on my sailing all echoed the same general sentiment regarding the onboard experience: Oceania’s upscale product offers clients great value on a high-quality cruise.
Jarod McNeill of Seattle-based Jarod’s Journeys said it best, noting that Oceania is a “great option for clients looking to trade up from premium lines for a more intimate atmosphere, gourmet cuisine and no lines for anything, anywhere.”