Oceania started out with three ships that had been part of the Renaissance fleet, and later added two larger new builds that redefined the line. The two classes are very different from one another: The older ships are intimate and traditional with plenty of dark wood and heavy drapes, while the new ships are elegant and modern — in an industry full of flash, they're downright residential and unusually tasteful, with recessed lighting, crown molding, and a subdued color palette. Throughout these ships, there's a focus on art and food that serves sophisticated travelers well.
What We Love
Cooking School: The two newer ships, Riviera and Marina, have cooking schools with 24 individual stations that have their own induction burners, which was a first at sea. You can also sign up for market tours on which you can tag along with a chef and then prepare the local ingredients together when you get back on board.
Red Ginger: These pan-Asian restaurants on Riviera and Marina serve authentic ingredients from Singapore, Japan, China, and Thailand, a rare treat in an industry where many lines “Americanize” their Asian dishes beyond recognition. Here, dishes are powerfully redolent of galangal, lemongrass, and chili. Look for a tasty duck and watermelon salad with mint, and braised beef in a rich Malay curry.
The Artist's Loft: Both Marina and Riviera have a dedicated space for an artist in residence, and not only does this person create art while on board, they also teach classes — in, say, watercolor or photography — on sea days too.
Baristas: The coffee bar on board draws a crowd several times a day, with passengers ordering unlimited, complimentary Illy cappuccino and other espresso drinks along with little treats such as biscotti.
The Owner's Suites: These 2,500-square-foot suites on Marina and Riviera aren't the biggest at sea, but they may just be the most gorgeous. Picture a Hollywood Regency aesthetic that was also influenced by the ocean liners of that period, with mahogany walls and vintage black-and-white photographs of Raquel Welch and Muhammad Ali.
Best Known For
Jacques: While the older ships highlight dishes by TV personality Jacques Pépin on the main dining room menu, the two newer ships are home to Jacques, the chef's first eponymous restaurants. Classic dishes at this Parisian-style bistro such as rotisserie chicken (made on a custom infrared rotisserie), garlicky escargot, warm goat cheese salad, coq au vin, steak frites, and chocolate mousse pay homage to Pépin's childhood. There's a lovely cheese trolley full of AOC French cheeses that have been imported from the chef's motherland, too, as have the Lyonnaise sausages with pistachio nuts, for example. Just how personal is this spot? The renowned chef even created the artwork himself, and the oak wood floorboards were reclaimed from a barn near his hometown.
Impressive Modern Art Collections: Instead of the kinds of watercolors and oils you might find at a hotel lobby sale, look for works by the likes of Joan Miró and Robert Mars. On Marina, there are lithographs by Pablo Picasso in the Casino and a truly psychedelic looking work by Damien Hirst in the Canyon Ranch spa's lobby.
La Reserve: This specialty restaurant on Marina and Riviera partners with "Wine Spectator" magazine to host nightly wine-pairing dinners in an intimate and elegant setting. Everything from the menu to the glasses and decanters and even the giant communal table itself (fashioned from a 400-year-old walnut tree trunk) feels well chosen, and the seminars often focus on vintages. Tip: Look for wine by Silver Trident, a California winery launched by an Oceania executive.
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Who It's Best For
Sophisticated Travelers: Well heeled empty nesters and retirees alike flock to these elegant ships for the small passenger count and the clubby atmosphere.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
The Three Older Ships Aren't As Exciting: For lovers of traditional maritime-influenced decor — again, there's plenty of wood paneling and heavy curtains — the more intimate former Renaissance ships will be a good fit. But cruisers looking for a chic feel will prefer the two new vessels. (Like what you see on board? Designers Ralph Lauren, Dakota Jackson, and Kravet all sell Marina- and Riviera-inspired lines.)
It's Not Officially "Adults Only" But ...: There are no programs on board for children, and only the quietest, most self-entertained little ones will be comfortable in this grown-up atmosphere.
Sherri Eisenberg is the New York City-based editorial director of ShermansCruise.com.