This year, we dumped Viking, after a decade, because of the recent cutbacks to their on-board experience. We were delighted to find none of those annoyances on Insignia.
The food is outstanding. We enjoyed trying a lot of "luxury" foods that we don't have at home: oysters Rockefeller; caviar; lobster, escargot, filet mignon, etc. And we enjoyed the wide variety of fresh fruits, especially the berries.
We cruise for the destinations, and on this trip they were excellent. Our favourites were Manaus, Alter Do Chao, Devil's Island, and Trinidad. Just cruising on the largest river in the world was spectacular.
There was lots of variety in evening entertainment in the theatre; some suited our tastes while others did not. However the quality overall was excellent. The staff musicians were the best we've heard on any cruise ship: Constantin was amazing on piano; the jazz quartet with saxophone was superb, as was the string quartet. Sandy Cares does all the enrichment lectures and port talks and is exceptional.
Service throughout the ship was attentive and professional. We appreciated that staff members approached their jobs with a quiet competency. Everyone was friendly, but there was none of the gushing, effusive greetings that we heard from Viking's staff all day long.
We were most impressed that Oceania hired several people who were able to sign for a group of about 30 deaf people who came on this cruise. As a result, those handicapped guests were able to enjoy everything that happened on and off the ship as much as anyone else.
We spent a lot of time on deck 10, the sports deck, and enjoyed being able to run on the track, and play shuffleboard and nine hole mini-golf.
We also liked the various lounges throughout the ship. Most contain high back chairs that are very comfortable to sit (or snooze) in. The library is huge and is absolutely magnificent. It is well-stocked with hundreds of hard-cover books, many of them being recent best-sellers. As well, there is a whole bookcase of Lonely Planet travel books dealing with all of Oceania's destinations.
Certainly, the cost of an Oceania cruise is higher than with HAL, NCL, etc. However, that's to be expected when you are on a ship that holds 625 guests instead of a few thousand. And we also like the fact that we are not two-bitted for basics such as WiFi, all day non-alcoholic drinks, use of the laundry room, and specialty restaurant bookings.
Any negatives worth mentioning are caused by the ship's design. There are sometimes long line-ups in the buffet restaurant and at the gangway while trying to embark the ship after shore excursions. That's because of the narrowness of the aisles in those areas.
As far as the staterooms go, you get what you pay for. We hate reading negative comments from people who choose a cheaper room and then complain that they don't like the size. Everyone can read the exact square-footage of every room on the ship before they book.
A deck 3 porthole room was fine for us because we were only in it to sleep and shower. Contrary to some of the exaggerated reviews we've read, although the bathroom is small, you don't have to leave the door open in order to sit comfortably on the toilet (unless perhaps you're a 300 pounder).
Two years ago, Oceania did a superb job of renovating the entire ship. Everything is sparkling new and now, Insignia is one of the most elegant cruise ships we have been on.
We would recommend Oceania without reservations, and are booked on cruises with them in 2020 and 2021.