We had already booked for the Sydney to Miami final three sectors of the January 2015 World cruise, and were on Marina over the 2014 Christmas period when news of the Insignia fire, and subsequent repairs in San Juan, came through. As expected, quite a few full RTW passengers cancelled out (quite understandable if they wanted to go all the way around.) We decided to pick up one of the Singapore - Shanghai newly available cabins and then rejoin the ship on our previously booked SYD - MIA cruise.
Embarkation in Singapore was straightforward and on time; the only niggle was that the dock was not the one expected. That in fact was an unexpected bonus because a shop we intended to visit turned out to be at the new location.
As we have been accustomed to, the cabin, public areas and the ship generally were all in first class condition - remarkably so and a tribute to the hard work put in by the skeleton crew during the positioning from the repair dock. Oceania maintenance beats the other top-end companies we have experienced hands down.
Concierge cabins on the R ships are "cosy" as opposed to spacious, but after a day or so that becomes unimportant: what really matters is the overall experience. The beds were, as usual, the most comfortable of those in any ship. The crew were fantastic, from the cabin attendant, the wait staff, the officers to the cleaners. I do my deck exercise before dawn, and every day probably got in the way of the deck cleaning and maintenance: it goes on constantly, beneath the radar of most passengers.
Dining was spread around all four main restaurants (we didn't try Waves this time). We are not foodies, preferring well cooked and presented food. Breakfast and lunch in the Grand dining room were most pleasant and relaxing, and the newly established barista bar (replacing the "old" bar outside the GDR), expertly run by Mario and Peter, made a very welcome change from the (niggle #2) truly ghastly coffee from the pots in the restaurants. (Note to Oceania: all the fleet's ships dispense virtually undrinkable coffee - just about everyone we talked to says the same thing. Oceania is not alone in this, though.) Dinner in the GDR can be a little protracted, and we ate in the Terrace more often than not.
The food on previous cruises has frequently been too salty - sometimes unpleasantly so - and it was a nice change to eat well cooked dishes that didn't rely on salt for flavour, in all the restaurants.
One of the Oceania attractions is the informal dress code - no formal evenings. This, and the small ship "feel", more than makes up for the small ship downsides, such as fewer eating outlets and on occasions rather sparse entertainment. On the latter, the cruise director Andy made the very welcome decision to bring most of the shows forward by half an hour: nine o'clock suits most people rather than half past.
We didn't take any of the (usually overpriced and of variable quality) ship's tours, preferring to wander around ourselves. I can understand that cruise lines have to enhance the bottom line wherever they can, but they must lose a lot of customers by not, apparently, doing due diligence on the third party tour operators' standards, and charging three times the off-ship going rate.
Oceania allow you to take onboard the odd bottle or two for in-cabin consumption - most appreciated. However, (niggle #3), they appear to have changed their policy of changing, on request, the welcome bottle of champagne to red or white vin plonk which we have always done in the past. Please reconsider!
To sum up: if your preference is for big ship facilities and entertainment, formal attire and the like, you might possibly look elsewhere. But for faultless, friendly service sans too much hype, Insignia ticks all our boxes.
Small cabin, spotlessly clean. Extremely comfortable bed and bedding. Adequate under-bed and wardrobe space. Tiny, but usable, shower providing lashings of hot water. No plumbing issues, unlike some cruises on other lines. Strong WiFi signal in room; quite small but watchable TV above safe.