Brittany Chrusciel
Cruise Critic Editor
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Insignia Entertainment & Activities

Shore Excursions

On a 10-night sailing we found a mix of half- and full-day excursions offered, which mostly consisted of a bus tour with stops along the way. Hop-on hop-off tickets, a carriage ride, snorkeling and a harbor cruise with mimosas are also activities offered through Insignia's Destinations desk. We felt the prices skewed a bit high for what was available. Passengers can pre-book excursions using onboard credit. 

Mobility requirements are always listed on tour descriptions to insure passengers have set the right expectations requiring walking and transportation options. However, we heard from a few passengers that walking or other mobility requirements varied slightly on some tours from what was listed in the brochure. However, we found that buses able to stow wheelchairs and an awareness of bathroom stops are top of mind for most Oceania-organized tours. Private cars and tours can be arranged through the cruise line, whether booked in advance or by visiting the destination concierge onboard.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

There is generally something happening at any given time onboard Insignia, but it's never so much that you feel as if you are missing out. For some, this might mean more time to relax without hassle by the pool, but to others it might feel a little sluggish. To give you an idea, the primary daytime activities onboard -- even during sea days -- are shuffleboard, golf putting and some late-afternoon trivia. To be fair, a variety of wine, martini and cognac tastings were held during our sailing, but they will cost you extra.

The added lure of lawn games and daily quizzes is the chance to win Big O Points, a clever tactic to draw passenger participation. You receive cards for one, two or three points for winning or participating in daily activities, and at the end of your cruise these can be redeemed for prizes like a tote bag, golf balls or a sweatshirt. An Officers Challenge was held one sea day, which pitted passengers against entertainment staff and other crew in a friendly competition to win points playing games around the pool deck.

While popular galley and bridge tours are no longer offered on Insignia for safety and security reasons, a live cooking demo was held in the Insignia Lounge with the executive chef and pastry chef. It was an activity highlight during the cruise. We liked the handouts, which included all the recipes and a place to take notes.

A movie was held one afternoon in the lounge, but only on the one day.

Tea time is a full-fledged event on Insignia, and every day starting at 4 p.m. (or before for the coveted seats along the windows), you will find a crowd gathered in Horizons.

Evening entertainment is pleasant yet formulaic. A string quartet (which plays during tea) performs at about the same time every night, as does the pianist and the live band for dancing before or after the show. You would think that having various acts staggered each night would mean there was always music, but we consistently felt a lull around 7 p.m. each evening. We suppose this is when most people would be at dinner, but considering the open seating plan for dining, it seemed odd to have nearly an hour's worth of dead air. That said, many passengers commented about the talent of the onboard musicians, calling out the strings and the sax player -- and we agree that instrumentally, the music onboard was top-notch.

The main show is held in the Insignia Lounge each night at 9:30 p.m. sharp. The acts switch between the main production cast, who perform song-and-dance routines, and guest entertainers. Special guests onboard our sailing included a young virtuoso violinist -- who was excellent - and a married duo from New York singing lounge tunes. The resident production cast had heart, performing classic love songs and other hits, but also seemed to be a bit green.

Our favorite night of entertainment was the alfresco deck party. A local steel drum player performed on the pool deck the night the ship was docked in Bermuda. Afterward, a dance party ensued under a full moon.

Late-night music, dancing and occasionally, a featured performance, are held in Horizons beginning around 10:30 p.m. Karaoke was one evening, while another, our chief engineer performed his favorite rock tunes on an electric guitar (Black Sabbath and all) -- the mix is loose and eclectic. While there were usually a handful of afterhours revelers, the party seemed to die down around midnight on most nights.

The casino on Insignia is small but well-stocked with blackjack tables, roulette and plenty of slot machines. Blackjack, Texas Hold'em and slot tournaments were held while the ship was at sea. Insignia's casino is entirely smoke-free.

Enrichment

The crowd onboard Insignia is well-read, which begs slightly better enrichment activities. Scottish scholar Ian Roberts was onboard our sailing to provide port lectures, but we felt his time would have been better spent delving slightly deeper into various topics and leaving the practical port information (what's there and how can I get to it) for the destination concierge or one of the destination staff. Robertson's lectures were held in the afternoon during some port days, but were broadcast on the cabin TVs for the following day. The cruise director contributed his own musings and photography from 25 years at sea in a series of three informal presentations given in the lounge throughout the cruise.

A number of spa and fitness presentations were given about topics like avoiding bad hair days or sore feet, but inevitably ended in a pitch for a product or service.

Another disappointment was the wasted space in the Artist's Loft, a room within Horizons Lounge that is used only during world cruises to host painting classes. Passengers on our 10-night sailing were encouraged to contribute a piece to the puzzle left on a table here, but it could have just as easily been set up in the card room, library or another lounge. We felt that a week and a half was plenty of time to have hosted a class or hands-on lecture at the Artist's Loft.


Insignia Bars and Lounges

There are not many bars or lounges onboard Insignia, but the ones it does have are tastefully done. Spaces feel full without being crowded, which is sometimes difficult to achieve on a small ship, and you begin to recognize regulars who hang out in the same places at the same time throughout the voyage. You'll find one traditional bar alongside a comfortable, inviting lounge on the same deck as the show lounge, casino and restaurant, which serves perfectly for drinks before or after dinner, as well as a top-deck lounge for late-night happy hours, dancing and even tea. Bars near the pool and in the show lounge mean you're never far from your favorite drink.

Interestingly, we learned that liquors with a high percentage of alcohol have been removed -- so you won't find cocktails with absinthe anywhere around Insignia.

Martinis (Deck 5): The place for a martini -- or any classic cocktail -- is just off the casino on the main deck. Martinis has about 10 comfortable tan leather seats at the bar, which is set in a lounge that could be the contemporary living room of a well-to-do friend. A fireplace faces a seating area with a modern chandelier straight out of Mad Men. A piano is also here, and sets are played throughout the evening, as well as the occasional game of "name that tune." Specialty martinis are about $11 or $12, or you can customize your own.

Insignia Lounge (Deck 5): Insignia Lounge serves as the main show lounge onboard, and hosts nightly stage performances, dancing, cocktail hours, the cooking demo, enrichment lectures and the one movie that played. The show lounge is pretty cozy with tapestried chairs, small wooden tables and lamps, and decent sightlines from just about any seat. A bar is in the back, and servers will take drink orders before showtime.

Waves Bar (Deck 9): At the front of the lido deck is Waves Bar, the place to get a cold beer or the drink special of the day (always about $6.50) while you lounge by the pool. The bar is shaded, and there are about five stools for anyone who wants to keep the barkeep company. There are also a few table and chairs, shaded by large, blue umbrellas, just in front.

Terrace Cafe Bar (Deck 9): A bar -- including a shiny, golden espresso machine -- is located within the Terrace Cafe to accommodate drink orders for anyone dining inside or outside on Deck 9 aft.

Horizons (Deck 10): The bar with a great view, the lounge for tea and the spot for nightlife is all in the same place -- Horizons. Located all the way at the front of the highest interior deck, Horizons offers ample seating with plentiful windows. It's a meeting place for bingo or needlepoint during daylight hours, transformed for tea each afternoon at 4 and hosts the late-night happy hour and dancing every night. An enclosed smoking lounge as well as the Artist's Loft space are located within Horizons, behind glass panes.


Insignia Outside Recreation

Insignia has one pool, located on Deck 9. On either side of the small, rectangular pool is a circular hot tub with teak siding. Deck 9 is the main sun deck, with padded white loungers in the sun and in the shade on either side. We also liked the nautical blue-and-white-striped daybeds -- about 16 or so -- for couples to lounge together or for anyone to stretch out for a sun nap. Daybeds could also be found facing the window on the aft port side. Even with ample seating, loungers fill quickly, and crew are on the lookout for anyone trying to "hold" a chair while they head elsewhere. Additional loungers can be found on Decks 10 and 11, and along the promenade deck outside on Deck 5.

The only designated outdoor smoking area on Insignia is the forward starboard corner of the pool deck.

Table tennis is offered on Deck 9, while shuffleboard, beanbag toss and golf putting greens are located on Deck 11 forward.


Insignia Services

The front desk, destination services desk, concierge desk and any materials about your port of call are located on Deck 4, at the foot of the grand staircase. Each desk offers a lovely seating area adjacent. Daily crossword puzzles, quizzes, sudoku and the news are available on a table in the reception area. The medical center is also located toward the front of Deck 4.

The desk of the future cruise consultant is right above the lounge, near the boutiques, on Deck 5. Planning for another Oceania cruise seemed like quite a popular activity on our sailing, and while the consultant held office hours throughout the cruise, we heard grumblings that it was difficult to get a spot. Immediately following a seminar on future cruise benefits, she was not available to take appointments, which seemed like a missed opportunity.

There are two boutiques on Insignia. One is filled with a mix of items from designer bags and perfume to Pringles and everyday necessities; the other is a fine jewelry store. Sales were held throughout the cruise on logo items, costume jewelry and other souvenirs. The boutiques are strategically located on either side of the walk from the main dining room to the bar, casino and show lounge -- it was hard to walk by without taking a quick look around at sequined clutches in the shape of an ice cream cone.

A card room and computer lounge are located on Deck 9 forward. In the card room, six card tables are arranged about the room with stately decor, including portraits of important-looking men. There is a sign-up at the front of the room for social bridge play, but we never saw anyone utilizing this space. Most sea days, bridge games were held in the Polo Grill.

Oceania@Sea, the ship's computer lounge and place for tech troubleshooting, has about 10 desktop computers and a help desk that's manned for about two to three hours at a time in the morning, afternoon and evening. Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship, for a charge. After a $3.95 activation fee, pay $0.99 per minute, or $160 for 200 minutes of access. An unlimited cruise plan is $27.99 per person, per day (the activation fee is waived). There are a few ways to get free or discounted internet, including cabin choice, loyalty status and booking perks. Printing is available for $0.25 per page. Instructions for how to log on to the onboard network are delivered to each cabin, run on the in-cabin televisions and are displayed on a loop outside of the computer lounge on a large, flat-screen TV. Only one device can be used at a time while using an internet plan.

Insignia's library can be found on Deck 10 in front of the two specialty restaurants. It's a gorgeous space that wraps around with deep leather lounge chairs, a pretty floral sofa, a faux fireplace -- and tons of books, of course, from classics to modern thrillers. A trompe l'oeil ceiling gives the illusion of an overhead aviary with colorful birds in a jungle setting. Two computer desks are located in one corner for use. It's a quiet and comfortable place to unwind with a book -- whether paper or digital. We also saw many couples browsing through the impressive selection for poolside reading.

A self-serve launderette is located midship on Deck 7. Use of the ironing boards is free, but washers, dryers and detergent require tokens. Tokens can be purchased from the front desk for about $2 each. Don't be surprised to find that the laundry room is hopping when you arrive. Washing, pressing and dry cleaning is also available onboard, but for a fee.

To our surprise, there is no art gallery and no photo studio onboard Insignia. In fact, not a single photographer is onboard. At one time there was a photo gallery on Insignia, but passenger feedback led to its removal. We appreciate that the lack of photographers insisting on a portrait or calls to join the art auction contribute to a more relaxed ambiance. 

Insignia Spa & Fitness

The spa onboard Insignia, on Deck 9, is run by renowned spa resort Canyon Ranch, which provides a polished menu of treatments in a small but luxe space -- you could say it feels boutique, especially considering the small size of the ship. A few glass display cases proffer anti-aging lotions and other products, as well as a rack of athletic wear and pullovers branded with the Canyon Ranch logo. A front desk, enveloped in the scents of aromatherapy, faces marble floors that lead to a salon (left) four treatment rooms (forward) and the fitness center (right).

The salon offers two chairs for hair cutting and styling, a variety of manicures and pedicures, and the services of a makeup consultant. Massages and facials -- also available for couples -- are a bit pricy, but specials are run throughout the cruise offering an 80-minute treatment at a 50-minute price, or the opportunity to buy a bundle of treatments to receive one for free. Hot tea and cold drinks are available to anyone in the spa, but we didn't notice a relaxation room outside of the chairs in the public waiting area.

Anyone receiving a treatment or staying in Concierge-level cabins or suites has access to the Spa Terrace. Otherwise, a pass can be purchased for $25 a day; discounted passes are available for an entire cruise. In each locker room is a steam room with eucalyptus and two spa showers. (Tip: If the two-in-one shower gel and shampoo is destroying your hair, there is gentle shampoo in the locker room showers.) You'll also find a fridge filled with cold drinks and ice-cold, scented towels. Through a door in each locker room is access to the Spa Terrace, a heated pool with jets and gorgeous gold and cerulean tiles that's flanked by two daybeds and a handful of padded loungers. Located all the way at the front of the ship, it's a special place to watch sail-away with 180-degree views.

The fitness center on Insignia is a substantial size for its passenger capacity and mix. The front of the room offers some open floor space for yoga, Pilates, stretching, exercise balls and other classes. There are also seven bikes for a spin (indoor cycling) class, but the bikes can only be used during this time and under supervision. All fitness classes onboard Insignia, with the exception of personal training, are complimentary. An individual personal training session runs about $95 or $145 for a couple's training session.

Otherwise, you will find about five treadmills, two ellipticals, a rowing machine and a few other weight machines. Two weight benches face a wall of mirrors in the back corner. There are plenty of windows throughout the space, as well as clean towels and a fridge filled with cold water, Gatorade and Vitamin Water. The fitness center on Insignia is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

A walking and jogging track is located on Deck 10. It's listed as 13 laps to a nautical mile, but we're told by the fitness instructor that it's closer to 17 laps for an actual mile. A container with cold bottled water located along the track is a nice touch; it's next to a few seats where you can take a rest in the shade or cheer on the walkers. A large clock is also visible one deck below, so steps can be measured in time as well as distance.

Insignia For Kids

Officially, children need to be at least 6 months to travel onboard an Oceania cruise and at least 1 year old if there are three or more consecutive sea days. However, Insignia is not a ship for children. There might be one or two kids found on a family cruise in the Caribbean during summer or a holiday, but none were to be found on a Canada/New England itinerary. When there are children onboard, programming is improvised -- maybe an arts 'n' crafts session in the Artist's Lounge -- but otherwise no formal programming is offered at all for children or even young adults.

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