(9:50 a.m. EST) -- Oceania Insignia, the 684-passenger cruise ship that's the first within the fleet to receive a major OceaniaNext makeover, has debuted its new look -- just in time for the vessel's world cruise.
Passengers boarded for the 180-day trip in New York on January 11; it arrives in Miami today. The world cruise visits five continents and 90 ports, including 14 overnights.
Insignia went into a 16-day dry dock for its renovation, which touched almost all of the ship's cabins, suites and public areas, in November 2018. The other Regatta-class ships in the fleet will undergo almost identical renovations over the next two years, with Sirena in May 2019, Regatta in September 2019 and Nautica in June 2020.
Cruise Critic toured the renovated ship in New York. Insignia still has the cozy feel that is characteristic of the "R class" ships, with white moldings and some wood paneling. But most of the public areas have a much airier feel, with a lighter blue and cream color palette that carries through the carpets and furniture. The result is a ship that still has some classic trappings, with a contemporary twist.
"We're not moving away from country club casual," said Isabel Galvan, vice president of marketing. "We wanted to give it a more contemporary feel."
Among the highlights:
- The ceiling on the grand staircase has been opened up to make room for a spectacular chandelier. The bannisters have been redone to have more of an Art Deco feel, and the carpets are now a patterned blue instead of deep red. A large smoked glass panel serves as the backdrop.
- The cabins, which were stripped down to the studs, have been significantly lightened up too. Instead of dark woods and brown hues, the rooms have more contemporary colors of light blue and gray, with taupe accents. The cushioned headboard now reaches to the ceiling, and USB ports and plugs are handily located on both sides of the bed. All cabins have a state-of-the-art interactive TV system, with movies on demand.
- The bathrooms, although still tight, definitely look bigger and brighter, with new fixtures, lighting and vanities. Passengers will rejoice that the showers now have French glass doors, as opposed a clingy curtain. The suite bathrooms are more luxurious, with lots of marble and granite.
- The hallways have been brightened up, with blue and taupe patterned carpet and gorgeous soft gray textured wall paper. New doors are on the cabins, along with more contemporary room signage.
- Artwork throughout the ship is new, tasteful and contemporary. Gone are the old-fashioned gold frames; metal frames make the walkways more modern. Don't miss the "barnacle wall" -- an installation of taupe glass balls -- that's now in Martini's.
- The Grand Dining Room is another public space to get an eye-catching chandelier, which replaces the fresco. It's in the middle of the room, which now also has a ramp entrance instead of stairs to improve flow. The chairs are light-color leather and are extremely comfy. The Grand Bar also has been opened up and the carpet there removed, making the space feel larger.
- While Martinis still has its wood-paneled look, the rest of the bar has been updated in shades of blue, pewter and chocolate. Another chandelier (see a theme here?) anchors the space, although this one is more angular and square than those in the dining room and atrium.
- Horizons has become brighter, with lighter colored furniture and carpet. This lounge, too, has had stairs removed to improve flow, as well as new lighting fixtures.
- The ship's specialty restaurants, Toscana and Polo, have some new furnishings but the vibe is not particularly changed.
- Finally, Oceania purists will be happy to know that The Library, with its decorative ceiling fresco, has stayed the same.
The OceaniaNext project isn't just about renovations. The line is examining other factors within the cruise experience, from new dining experiences, such as a Champagne tasting dinner in partnership with Dom Perignon, to changes in how passengers can use their onboard credit.
Some changes have already been implemented. Unlike other lines, where passengers have to wait to use their onboard credit until they board, Oceania decided last year to let people use their credit before they board to book shore excursions, drink packages and spa treatments. "Now they aren't missing out," Galvan said.
For more on the refurb, Cruise Critic members are reporting live on Insignia's 2019 world cruise.