Oceania has a nice mix of half- and full-day excursions, some of which are expected and some of which are special to the line. There's a Destination desk that can help you choose, or you can prebook excursions using onboard credit. Mobility requirements are always listed on tour descriptions to insure passengers set the right expectations in regards to walking and transportation options. Private cars and tours can be arranged through the cruise line, whether booked in advance or by visiting the destination concierge onboard.
Oceania Select and Oceania Exclusive shore excursions try to offer something special for cruisers; Oceania Select tours are considered "extraordinary" experiences, while Oceania Exclusive tours focus on a small group experience, ranging from 10 to 16 people. On our Western Caribbean cruise, for example, there were several Oceania Select options, including a helicopter tour of Key West, an all-inclusive VIP beach break in an over-the-water bungalow at Turquoise Bay in Roatan; deep-sea fishing, also in Roatan; and excursions to little-visited pyramids in Costa Maya. (There were no Oceania Exclusive tours on our trip).
Other Oceania excursions to look for include Wellness Tours arranged around local spa experiences, Food & Wine Trails tours designed to give you a taste of culinary culture and Go Local tours that bring cruise passengers closer to the destination. Not all these types of special excursions will be available on all itineraries -- we didn't have any on our Western Caribbean cruise, for example.
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, baggo and some late-afternoon trivia. To be fair, a variety of wine, martini and cognac tastings were held during our sailing, but they do 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.
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. (come before that 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.
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 an Irish comedian and a magician/ventriloquist. The resident production cast had heart, performing Broadway songs and popular music. The cruise director Carson performed an afternoon showcase one day that was personal and heartwarming.
Late-night music, dancing and, occasionally, a featured performance or karaoke, are held in Horizons beginning around 10:30 p.m. While there were usually a handful of after-hours 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.
Insignia has an onboard lecturer on most sailings, who gives talks on sea days. On our Western Caribbean sailing, we had Sandy Cares, an expert lecturer on the Caribbean and Central America. She gave four well-attended lectures on various topics related to the area, including the Mayans, pirates and the area's banana trade. She was engaging and upbeat, and the lectures provided a bit of gravitas to the otherwise sun-and-fun-oriented itinerary. Lectures were broadcast on the cabin TVs for the following day.
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.
During World Cruises, a small room called the Artist Loft within Horizons Lounge is used to host painting classes and craft gatherings. On shorter cruises, this space is dedicated to jigsaw puzzles -- which were surprisingly popular.
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.
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. 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 onboardand hosts nightly stage performances, team trivia, dancing, cocktail hours, enrichment lectures and occasional movies. 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.
Baristas (Deck 5): Adjacent to the Grand Dining Room, Baristas serves as both an espresso bar and the place for a predinner drink. The illy coffee onboard is smooth, and a complimentary menu of cappuccinos and lattes means caffeination won't be hard to come by. For a fee, you could swing by here after dinner for a liquor-infused coffee like an Aspen with Baileys, Kahlua, Frangelico and fresh cream for $9.
The bar and lounge here serve as an impromptu waiting area for anyone holding out for a table for two at peak hours in the dining room. However, it's comfortable enough to spend time in, looking out the two large windows, people-watching or reading over a finger sandwich or madeleine.
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 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 tables and chairs, shaded by large, blue umbrellas, just in front.
Terrace Cafe Bar (Deck 9): A bar -- with 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 a crucial specialty coffee machine, 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 4p.m. and hosts the late-night happy hour, trivia and dancing every night. An enclosed smoking lounge as well as the Artist Loft space are located within Horizons, behind glass panes.
Insignia has one pool, located on Deck 9. On each 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 each 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.
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.
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 each 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.
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. There is a sign-up at the front of the room for social bridge play, and we saw people using it for mahjong.
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 complimentary on Insignia, although it can be very slow, particularly on sea days. 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. You can upgrade to a faster internet service for $9.99 a day.
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. 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, and it's entirely complimentary, including detergent -- a boon for World Cruisers or anyone on a longer cruise. 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; certain cabin categories get one or more bags included in the fare.
There is no art gallery and no photo studio onboard Insignia. In fact, not a single photographer is onboard. We appreciate that the lack of photographers insisting on a portrait or calls to join the art auction contribute to a more relaxed ambiance.
Aquamer, run by One Spa World (Steiner), is in charge of the spa. It feels boutique, especially considering the small size of the ship. A few glass display cases proffer antiaging lotions and other products. 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, starting at $155 for 50 minutes. Specials are run on port days offering an 80-minute treatment at a 50-minute price. 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.
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 -- water and Gatorade -- and ice-cold, scented towels.
Through a door in each locker room is access to the Spa Terrace, a heated thalassotherapy pool with jets and gorgeous gold and cerulean tiles that's flanked by two daybeds and a handful of padded loungers. 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 $20 a day; discounted passes are available for an entire cruise. 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 $99 for 50 minutes or $149 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 Vitaminwater. 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.
Officially, children need to be at least 6 months old 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 we only saw one child onboard during a non-holiday sailing. When there are children onboard, programming is improvised -- maybe an arts and crafts session in the Artist Lounge -- but otherwise no formal programming is offered at all for children or even young adults.