Written by Debbi K. Kickham and William D. Kickham
Ahoy, trendy mateys: We recently took a 28-day trip on Oceania Cruises, aboard the Insignia — from Rome through the Mediterranean Sea up to Ireland across the Atlantic to Montreal. Why 28 days?
Extended cruises are trending nowadays, as sophisticated travelers understand that a typical 10- to even 14-day cruise would never be enough time to unwind and take in all that such an experience has to offer. After packing, planning and, most important, dealing with the torture that is air travel nowadays, intrepid cruisers increasingly sign up for extended cruises — if they’re not already considering a world cruise, that is. World cruises can last anywhere from approximately 150 to 180 days. In fact, on Oceania’s Insignia, we met numerous travelers who were “ATWs” (on the “Around The World” cruise for seven months) — and they still expressed regret when disembarking. We sailed for almost a month and here is our report about what we enjoyed on Oceania. You’re going to love it, too.
The Tranquility Bed — With this bed, I thee wed. Seriously, we want to marry this bed, as it held us in its arms every night and we cozied up in comfort. The Oceania Cruises Bed Collection includes the Prestige Tranquility Mattress, which is a custom-designed mattress composed of 400 encapsulated springs covered by memory foam. It ensures a deep, restorative sleep. And yes, you can take it with you: A king-size mattress with box springs costs $3,290, and each pillow is $129 (oceaniabedcollection.com).
The cuisine — Branford, Connecticut-based chef Jacques Pépin is the executive culinary director for Oceania, and the cuisine is delicious and decadent any way you slice it. Dinner might include New York strip steak with steak frites and garlic butter, herb-crusted rotisserie chicken in a yummy gravy plus poached Norwegian salmon with rice pilaf. Executive chef Farid Oudir assures that every morsel is magnificent, no matter what you prefer. “We can create low-fat, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, you name it,” Oudir says. Even better, in the Terrace Café, the more casual dining venue, “You can have a lobster or shrimp or delicious sushi every night.” The staff on Oceania is first-rate, jumping on any opportunity to assist you with whatever you need. Also important to know is the two alternative Michelin-worthy restaurants on board — Polo Grill and Toscana — don’t charge additional fees for your reservation as some cruise lines do. In Toscana, try the artichoke timbales and the chocolate lasagna for dessert.
Canyon Ranch spa, cuisine and excursions — We are huge fans of Canyon Ranch, having visited Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, for years. So it was a delight to know that there is a Canyon Ranch Spa Club aboard all Oceania cruise ships. Debbi had an exceptional Environ facial featuring this posh brand that you will never find on another cruise line (dermaconcepts.com, canyonranch.com).
Oceania has also taken the unprecedented step of offering Canyon Ranch excursions in ports of call. In Spain, Deb visited an apiary, and even donned a beekeeper’s suit for the interview — plus bought gorgeous beauty products, of course (museomielranchocortesano.com).
The experience is also conveyed in the dining room — with exceptional Canyon Ranch cuisine and recipes that ensure you of delicious, low-fat food. We savored this 500-calorie dinner — artichokes in forest mushroom vinaigrette, consommé with Parmesan tuiles and a scrumptious cod in ginger sauce. With a diet like that, you’ll never feel deprived.
Special extras — Most “Around The World” guests were sailing from New York City to Miami for 180 days. Many were thrilled with their experience, and why not? “ATW” passengers receive numerous advantages, including two-for-one cruise fares plus free first-class round-trip airfare, along with a wealth of other freebies, such as prepaid gratuities, unlimited internet, luggage delivery, round-trip transfers, one-night pre-cruise luxury hotel accommodations and much more. There are also numerous special excursions.
First-rate entertainment — It included the talented violinists Laszlo and Claudia (laszloandclaudia.com), “Britain’s Got Talent” finalists Zyrah Rose quartet and flutist Clare Langan, who wowed with every note. Irish comedian Billy Boyle was also a high note — and, as he remarked, Remember: If you look like your passport photo, you’re probably too ill to travel.
Yes, we loved our Oceania cruise, but to be fair, we need to point out some minor improvements needed. For starters, Oceania Cruises are not all-inclusive, and you will be asked to pay for certain things that come standard on all-inclusive luxury cruise lines. Wine and cocktails? There’s a fee of $39.95 per person per day for that. Need an email printed out in the computer room? That’s 25 cents per page. Fitness classes on some sailings are $11 each. And if you want to do your laundry, purchase your washer-and-dryer tokens at reception. We heard passengers complain about these fees.
But on a higher note, on the day we missed a port in St. Pierre, Canada, due to bad weather, the ship offered complimentary happy-hour cocktails for two hours to offset the inconvenience.
It was an offer we gladly couldn’t refuse.