On Oceania's Insignia, size matters. It's large enough to be easily recognized as a cruise ship, but onboard the environment is intimate -- and quiet. The size, a few hundred passengers smaller than fleetmates Marina and Riviera, is what attracts people to Insignia, and the elegant atmosphere keeps company with a mature crowd looking to travel unique itineraries in comfort.
Cruise ships are often described as floating hotels, but Insignia distinctly feels like a traveling manor house. Decor is dignified, as demonstrated by mantles for would-be fires, embroidered armchairs, Oriental carpets and drawings or paintings throughout the ship that could be Dali, Picasso or Rembrandt. But for all its refinery, Insignia feels cozy and comfortable. Public spaces are never quite empty in a way that would seem eerie, but you'll also be hard-pressed to find a crowded place onboard (except, perhaps, the buffet at peak mealtimes). One place luxury is a bit lost is in cabin bathrooms, and we wondered how their small size didn't create more problems for passengers.
Service onboard Insignia infuses the human element of luxury -- it's a constant flurry of greetings, many times with your surname intact, ma'ams, sirs and "right away." Some cultures might find the constant concern that every need is being fulfilled a bit overbearing, but the majority of passengers will find it attentive and exceedingly professional. We never had to ask for much and when we did, we didn't have to wait long for our request to be fulfilled. If you ask for a single piece of toast to be well done, that is precisely what you will get.
We were surprised to find a large number of first-time cruisers or new-to-Oceania passengers onboard. We met many retirees who were curious about the product or cajoled by friends and found their way to Insignia; they commented positively on the food, service and the relaxed pace -- always in that order. Solo cruisers are also accommodated with meet-ups, table matching at meals and activities led by a woman whose job onboard was listed as "social hostess." While the hefty single supplement is still in place, we heard from a few passengers that they would happily pay it not to have to sit alone or be one among thousands on the larger cruise ships also targeted at an older demographic.
There's no fear of missing out on something aboard Insignia. That's because there's never so much happening that attending a lecture or a game of shuffleboard would create a strain in a tight schedule. For many, that's a relief -- especially given the overwhelming list of things to do onboard many mega-ships. You can lie in the sun and sleep soundly at night knowing you only skipped the golf putting. However, although the entertainment offerings onboard -- music, tea, trivia -- are well executed, they are somewhat lacking for younger boomers who felt that at times the ship was a little too sleepy.
For better or worse, food becomes a main event. This is understandable, as we feel Insignia's culinary offerings are a true highlight of the sailing -- but a long cruise with heavy meals could grow tiresome if not kept in check.
The somewhat spare activity offerings on Insignia are compounded by a space that does exist, but goes unutilized except on world voyages. This place is the Artist's Loft, a studio used for painting and other crafts. We feel that leaving it relatively empty on regular sailings is a missed opportunity. In fact, it's a bit puzzling why there is no programming offered here -- apart from a jigsaw puzzle.
The essentials -- your room, the food, the surroundings, the crew -- are top-notch on Insignia, and a vacation with plenty of ports will distract from some of the gaps in programming. However, a lot of downtime could begin to highlight some of the cracks in an otherwise laid-back experience onboard Insignia. The ship has a lot of fans and after you become somewhat familiar, you realize it's because a cruise on Insignia is not expected to be innovative or action-packed. Instead, it's a reliable way to unwind and travel, with the charms and comforts of a country estate.
Oceania Insignia Dress Code
There isn't much of a dress code on Insignia, but the guidelines they have in place are enforced. Country club casual is the term used for daywear, which is much the same as you would find at a resort -- your usual shorts, polo tops, sun dresses and so forth. There are no formal nights onboard an Insignia cruise, but elegant casual is encouraged for the evenings. That means button-downs and slacks for men; skirts, dresses and dressy pants outfits for women; and no jeans, athletic shoes or sandals, casual T-shirts or hats. The evening dress code is enforced in both specialty restaurants and the main dining room; passengers opting for a less dressy evening can visit the Terrace restaurant for dinner. Tank tops and swimwear are never accepted at any of the main venues, including tea time.
Both specialty restaurants onboard Insignia are free of charge, and at least one reservation in each, per cruise, is guaranteed for each passenger. All passengers onboard Insignia can expect plenty of bottled water -- in staterooms and before heading out on excursions -- as well as coffee and espresso drinks from the Baristas coffee bar, and nonalcoholic drinks including soda, smoothies and frozen drinks. Each cabin has a mini-fridge that is stocked with a variety of seltzer and soda, free of charge.
Alcohol is not included onboard Insignia and drink packages range from $39.95 per person, per day for wine, beer and Champagne during lunch and dinner to $59.95 per person, per day for unlimited drinks during bar hours. (Look for booking promotions that offer a choice of a free beverage package, along with complimentary internet and/or tours.)
A free shuttle into the town center is included in most ports, however shore excursions are additional.
All fitness classes are complimentary onboard Insignia, with the exception of personal training.
Concierge-level passengers and above can enjoy the use of the Canyon Ranch Spa Terrace any time of day, free of charge. Anyone in these rooms also receives a complimentary Oceania Cruises tote.
All bar and spa bills carry an additional 18 percent auto gratuity. Daily gratuities are automatically charged to a passenger's onboard account, but can be adjusted or removed as seen necessary. Insignia passengers in standard staterooms are charged $16 per person, per day for tips that are dispersed between room attendants and restaurant staff. Suite passengers are charged $23 in gratuities per person, per day. The currency onboard Insignia is the U.S. dollar.