Oceania's New Ships a Dream

March 14, 2007
Oceania officially confirmed what we already knew: that it plans to build two new ships. But the excitement is in the details, and this morning at Seatrade Oceania's Frank del Rio offered a few choice morsels about the vessels. "These ships," he said today, "will not be revolutionary, but will be evolutions of the existing Regatta class."

First: The as yet unnamed 65,000-ton, 1,260-passenger ships will be delivered in fall 2010 and summer 2011. They'll be built at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Genoa at a cost of $500 million apiece (which works out to about $400,000 per berth; think about that when you hit the hay on one of these new vessels). There's also an option on a third ship.

The size of course is significant in that the new ships will hold 80 percent more passengers than the existing Oceania vessels. But as we reported yesterday, ships are growing bigger in every category. Del Rio emphasized that the line's popular country club ambience -- basically defined as an atmosphere conducive to social interaction amongst passengers -- won't change.

Oceania also divulged its plans for dining and entertainment onboard the new ships. Each will have six different restaurants (the Grand main dining room plus four specialty eateries). In addition to the established Polo Grill steakhouse and Italian Toscana faves that are found onboard the existing trio of Regatta-class ships (which includes Insignia and Nautica), there will also be an elegant French bistro and a Pan-Asian restaurant.

All dining rooms will continue to follow Oceania's open seating tradition and, indeed, the planned ships have enough restaurant space that 150 percent of the passengers onboard can all sit down at basically the same time.

And remarkably, there will be no surcharge to dine at any of them.

Other nifty facts?

Cabins will be significantly bigger -- roughly 50 percent larger in standard categories. There will be 630 staterooms and suites; 96 percent will feature outside views, and 93 percent will have private verandahs.

Cabin types are much broader than on the line's existing ships. For instance, there will be two owner's suites (2,500 square ft. apiece, each two stories high, outdoor Jacuzzi); six vista suites (at the front of the ship), 14 Oceania suites (1,000 square ft., located on top deck and amidships), 125 penthouse suites (500 square ft.) and 438 concierge level balcony staterooms (about 300 square ft.).

Oceania's Spa will be much larger -- though how much so and what additional treatments, facilities and programs will be available -- was not mentioned.

The ship will move at a cruising speed that's 20 percent faster than the existing vessels. "You still can’t water ski behind them," quipped Del Rio, "but they are faster." This will give itinerary planners more flexibility ….

Oceania, building on its reputation for superb cuisine, will introduce the Food and Wine Culinary Enrichment Center onboard; like the kitchen theater setup pioneered by Holland America, it too will revert to a cinema when not in use for food demonstrations, workshops, cooking classes and wine tastings.

Bathrooms -- a weakness on the current ships -- will be, says Del Rio "state of the art and as fine as one could have at sea."

Other public spaces will range from signature Oceania touches -- Martinis, Horizons and the Grand Staircase -- to new ones (The Patio).

One of the most interesting pieces of today's announcement involved the new deployments that will launch once ships number one and two are in service. According to Oceania president Bob Binder:

The new ships will sail on the line's most popular itineraries. For instance, the first will take over Regatta's routes, while the second will replace Nautica.

As a result of the added ships, Oceania will place a vessel in Alaska for the very first time.

Also exciting: One of the Regatta-class ships will be repositioned to Australia/New Zealand for an entire winter season.

There will be even more possibilities in Europe because during spring, summer and fall there will be four Oceania ships trawling its waters.

And another vessel will most likely be homeported out of Los Angeles and sail West Coast-based trips -- to South America, Hawaii, and Mexico.

But you'll have to wait. Oceania won't even begin to take reservations until sometime in 2009, Binder said. There is some good news: He anticipates that fares for the new ships will be right in line with those for the classic ones.

Oceania has long been toying with the idea of building new ships, but it wasn’t until the company was acquired by Apollo Management that the capital needed was made available.

--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor