If going around the world in 80 days inspired a classic novel that spawned a five-time Oscar-winning movie and remake, a hit song and a TV series, then what would be stimulated by circumnavigating the globe for 180 days?
If you’re free from mid-January to mid-July 2024, and have a vacation budget in the low six figures per couple, you can find your inner Jules Verne on Oceania Cruises’ longest-scheduled voyage out of Southern California over the next couple of years.
Between embarking in San Pedro and disembarking in New York City, the sleek 684-passenger Insignia will make 98 calls to ports on six continents, barring any surprises of the viral and non-viral kind, of course. As bucket lists go, this itinerary checks more boxes than a UPS driver on a busy day. Call it “Earth’s Greatest Hits” with exotic stops that include, in order, French Polynesia, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, the Philippines, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Iceland and Greenland.
London’s Big Ben is one of countless world landmarks in store for cruisers of a 180-night epic journey on Oceania that begins in Los Angeles in January 2024. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Making this dream trip even sweeter, besides a non-stop parade of tempting desserts onboard, is that the 55 scheduled sea days are spent with one of the better cruise lines in the upper-premium category. This class of cruising is meant to be a notch above, say, Celebrity and Princess, and below the category shared by Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and others of the next-highest luxury echelon.
Oceania, an upscale subsidiary of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, prides itself on sailing a fleet of boutique ships that offer boutique itineraries. Another marketing pillar is food on a level that strives to keep Oceania’s loyal following from straying to its closest competitors, arguably Azamara and Windstar.
MS Nautica in port in Bodrum, Turkey, a unique destination among U.S.-based cruise lines. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Indeed, Oceania makes plenty of long-distance calls to destinations often unlisted with other lines. Cochin? Kao-hsiung? Mayotte? Stornoway? Never heard of them. And as for the company’s cuisine, no brand spends more on food per passenger than Oceania. Or so they claim.
Well, having recently devoured 33 meals and eight snacks over an 11-night “Holy Land Explorer” voyage from Malta to Israel, this floating foodie can attest that the cruise line really does put its money where our mouths are. Despite supply chain issues that have required passengers to lower expectations since cruising returned from the coronavirus-caused hiatus, the majority of food plated on the MS Nautica was wonderful, right down to the freshly baked artisan breads served with every meal.
Catering to guests at the daily afternoon tea are Azalea Alcoseba of the Philippines and head waiter Ricardo Monzalez of Colombia. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Speaking of dough, though segueing from the kneaded to needed kind, if over $100K a couple is too dear for a vacation, not to mention the half-year commitment to go around the world in 180 days, Oceania has a boatload of itineraries of all shapes and sizes through 2024. Many will raise anchor from L.A. Harbor’s World Cruise Center, so talk about convenience.
A handful of those sails out of San Pedro are 7-night roundtrips on MS Regatta, a sister ship of Nautica and, built in 1998, is the oldest of Oceania’s six-vessel fleet. The first two of these Southern California cruises — on May 4 and 11 — make a mandatory international stop in Ensenada, Mexico before visiting San Francisco, Monterey and Santa Barbara. On Sept. 20, Regatta heads to Catalina Island, San Francisco and Ensenada before returning to LA. The Sept. 27 voyage goes to Ensenada, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. The other scheduled weeklong jaunt out of San Pedro, again on Regatta, leaves on Sept. 26, 2024, touching Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Francisco and, to appease a Civil War-era maritime law, Ensenada.
The 684-passenger MS Nautica, sister ship to the Regatta that makes LA home over the next two years, embarks from Malta. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Other SoCal-embarking cruises on Oceania’s two-year docket terminate in Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney and Vancouver, and, yes, workhorse Regatta is being asked to put on even more nautical miles for those sails. Coming to Regatta’s rescue with one cruise each out of San Pedro will be MS Insignia, younger sister of Regatta and Nautica, and the 1,200-passenger, MS Vista, which, when it debuts in spring, will be Oceania’s new flagship and the first of two planned Allura class vessels.
The only other California port where passengers can embark on an Oceania cruise over the next couple of years is San Francisco. The longest of five scheduled itineraries launching from the Bay Area is an envy-inducing 200-night voyage that, unlike the aforementioned 180-nighter out of LA in 2024, goes through the Panama Canal.
Classical music fills the beautiful Upper Hall on Regatta class ships nightly. Here, Ukrainian-based Fortuna Musica plays. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Guests who sail with Oceania tend to be north of 60 in age, well off and loyal to the brand. In fact, of the 503 aboard Nautica on the recent Mediterranean sail, only 90 were reportedly first-time Oceania cruisers. One couple on the voyage said they were on their 11th Oceania cruise, and any talk about sailing with another line was considered blasphemy. “Affordable luxury,” “unique itineraries” and “ships of a perfect size” are what keep them as faithful Oceania Club members.
Open seating is a refreshing change of pace in the stately Grand Dining Room on Regatta class ships. (Photo by David Dickstein)
Another plus with Oceania is freedom. Dinnertime, for example, is anytime and anywhere in the open-seating Grand Dining Room. Depending on which menus you get on the cruise line’s 14-day cycle, winning entrée selections include the beef Wellington, prime rib, chermoula butter-roasted Maine lobster and anything Indian. Each night the main dining room suggests four-course healthy, global and wine-paired menus that can be mixed and matched. Lunchtime features French fare from a menu created by master chef Jacques Pépin.
Food served in the Grand Dining Room is mirrored at the Terrace Café, what Oceania calls its buffet restaurant. Pretty as the spreads are, the space where guests peruse and crew members plate is hampered by a layout that begs for an efficiency expert on Regatta class ships.
The lobster-chiefed Aragosta fra diavolo is a signature entrée in Toscana. (Photo by David Dickstein)
A spacious alternative at breakfast and lunch is the adjacent Waves Grill, home of decent hamburgers and hot dogs, excellent Cuban sandwiches and grilled mahi mahi, but the worst corned beef at sea. Way too salty, and what’s with them chopping the meat into a hash for sandwiches? All is forgiven thanks to the poolside eatery’s ice cream fountain with a nice selection of flavors, including a daily weird one. Never had a scoop that contains potato chips or toast and jam? Here’s your chance. Even better — or worse for weight watchers — is the custom-made malts and milkshakes are both yummy and sans surcharge.
Also included in the fare are the two specialty restaurants on Regatta class ships. Equally good are Polo Grill for steaks, chops and fresh seafood, and Toscana, which, as its name suggests, serves up gourmet Italian cuisine with a Tuscan flair. Reservations are suggested, as are the roasted beetroot with garlic goat cheese, oysters Rockefeller, and surf and turf at Polo, and the caprese salad with bufala mozzarella and the not-too-spicy aragosta fra diavolo which is one of two dishes that, at least on Nautica the other week, truly showcased the talents of Executive Chef Michal Jagielski. The other was his melt-in-your-mouth short ribs served during the sail-away party in Mykonos, Greece.
Oceania cruises feature solid stage shows nearly every night. (Photo by David Dickstein)
The craziest things I’ve seen on 45 cruises
A journey to the Marquesas will immerse you in island spirits
Get Celebrity treatment on your next trip to the Mexican Riviera
Maui is now a post-pandemic paradise
How you can explore the Amazon rainforest by boat
Speaking of parties, there’s at least one every night, and seeded by a production cast of four spirited singers, two dancers and a band. Stage shows are modest compared to what’s on larger ships, but who needs elaborate sets when you’ve got the timeless music of ABBA, Broadway, the Beatles and Motown? Each Oceania cruise usually has featured soloists and comedians doing a couple of sets before heading out, leaving the resident talent, pianist and string trio included, to keep passengers entertained past midnight.
Shore excursions, a key component for a cruise line that goes to far-off destinations, are handled with impressive organization and punctuality. Of particular note for Oceania newbies, best to book well in advance as the line’s faithful are proactive to say the least. With nearly 70% of Oceania guests reserving tours weeks in advance, waiting until the cruise could have you swimming in the ship’s pool when in Cabo instead of with the dolphins.
Oceania Cruises can be reached at oceaniacruises.com or by calling 855-623-2642.