Straddling the line between entertainment and infotainment is the Culinary Center, in which passengers learn kitchen secrets from a changing roster of master chefs. At tightly packed rows of personal cooking stations, you can chop, sauté, fry and fumble around under expert guidance -- and the crowds looking in from the pool make it even more fun. Book early for the classes, which on our cruise ranged from the simple “cooking chicken two ways” to “indulging in Italy." All were thorough, hands-on, and ultimately quite useful once we returned home. Classes cost $69 apiece, and it's important to note that while the cruise line says that it can accommodate 24 passengers per class, there are just 12 cooking stations (so you will probably wind up sharing not just space but also cooking tasks with a fellow passenger).
Note: Wine is liberally poured (or other drinks that are matched to the recipes) and you're expected to eat what you cook so you may want to avoid booking alternative restaurants for the same day.
Programs offered at La Reserve by Wine Spectator include wine tastings tied to the region. On our Adriatic cruise we had an outstanding class on Croatian wines and when we began to debate food pairings, the sommelier ran over to the Terrace Café and brought back food from the buffet. There's also a Riedel wine glass tasting session, and if you haven't figured out what the difference is between drinking vino in a cheap glass versus a crystal one, it'll be a revelation.
Across the hall from the Culinary Center is the Artist Loft, in which artists are invited to cruise in exchange for leading workshops. Mediums include photography, watercolors, needlepoint, and arts and crafts, among others, and there's a materials charge to participate.
At night in the chichi Marina Lounge, Oceania is trying its hand at large-scale productions for the first time, with mixed success. "River Rhapsody” is a song-and-dance tribute to the world's tributaries, and the trippy "Groovin'" is a high-spirited salute to the 1960's. There's also a changing roster of pianists, jazz trios, comedians and the like, though if you're expecting a constant onslaught of entertainment akin to that offered by the industry's mega-ships, you'll be disappointed.
A small casino caters to the gambling set with its perfunctory mix of slot machines and table games.
There's a calm, cool -- maybe even sleepy -- vibe throughout the ship when the sun goes down. The one exception is Horizons, a sprawling lounge on Deck 15 with an in-house band and dance floor. Bars include the swanky Martinis, just off the atrium, and the long, narrow Grand Bar in the corridor leading to the Grand Dining Room. For something a little snazzier, check out the casino's bar, a purple-hued dazzler that's surprisingly garish compared to the rest of Marina.
Oceania's shore excursions cover most of the major bases though rarely surprise. One exception: The Culinary Discovery Program, which launched in 2012, offers food- and wine-themed excursions, paired with regional cooking classes. Complaints from Cruise Critic members that tours in general are overpriced are justified.