When Oceania Cruises launched in 2003 its first ship was 694-passenger Regatta. If the cruise line was brand new, Regatta itself was not, even then. It had been built by Renaissance Cruises and debuted five years earlier as one of the most innovative ships of the time. Unconventionally, its design featured a high ratio of balcony cabins, restaurants that were all open seating and a distinctive Titanic-like curved staircase.
A major refurbishment in June 2014 saw Regatta return, in most respects, looking new and feeling fresh. All cabins, particularly its biggest suites, got major upgrades, including new mattresses, carpeting, furniture and bedding. The popular Barista's coffee bar, which up until the refurbishment had only existed on Oceania's Marina and Riviera, was installed. The sundeck received gorgeous new mosaic tiling, ultra-comfy lounges and teak decking. The Grand Dining Room's new table arrangement featured plenty of tables for two, always a hot ticket on cruise ships.
Even before the refurbishment there was a lot to like about Oceania's Regatta. The ship is a perfect size; with just 684 passengers, it's large enough to feature a range of facilities, from lounges like the Horizon's top-ship observatory to the Martini Bar and from restaurants such as the Italian Toscana to the best-grill-at-sea-worthy Waves Grill. And even better: Regatta's size gives it a cozy, sociable ambience and means it can access out-of-the-way ports of call that are off-limits to mega-ships.
If you define luxury as unparalleled service, outstanding cuisine, an intimately sized ship with just enough of the key bells and whistles (variety of dining options, a gorgeous spa and a range of entertainment venues), then this ship, with its intriguing itineraries and ambience of warmth, definitely belongs in that niche. On the other hand, there are also "mass market" factors that don't necessarily hew to luxury standards: Drinks and other extras are priced on an a la carte basis, standard cabins can be small (cozy, but small) with shower-only bathrooms, and there are plenty of inside cabins.
The beauty of Regatta -- and its nearly identical siblings Insignia and Nautica -- is its ability to keep a steady foot in both camps. It offers enough of the sophisticated amenities that will only become more important as cruising continues to evolve and attract a new type of passenger. At the same time, the line is savvy in positioning its fares for a range of travelers, from those who consider suites and butlers necessary amenities to those who value luxury without the Mercedes pricetag.