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CRUISE VIEWS

New Oceania line takes to the seas

Its first vessel, Regatta, is luxurious but relaxed, so leave your tux or gown at home.

September 07, 2003|Harry Basch | Special to The Times

Cruise industry veterans Frank Del Rio, formerly head of Renaissance Cruises, and Joseph A. Waters, formerly chief at Crystal Cruises, launched their new cruise company last month, and the result, Oceania Cruises, is an interesting mix of the two luxury lines.

Its first ship, Regatta, weighs 30,200 tons and carries 684 passengers, which in itself raises its class in many passengers' eyes. Regatta feels like a luxury hotel. But the mood of the ship is not the classic style of Crystal but more relaxed, with a casual resort-style dress code: Leave your tuxedo and ball gown at home, but that does not mean jeans and T-shirts in the evening.

Oceania refurbished the 5-year-old ship, the former Renaissance Cruises' R2, built in 1998. Teak decks and tiles around the pool have been restored; carpeting, upholstery and much of the interior decoration have been replaced; and new super-comfort mattresses have been topped with linens of fine woven cotton with down pillows.

The ship has dark wood paneling and large, deep-cushioned wing chairs. The library, probably the most elegant at sea, has dark wood bookcases lining the U-shaped room and large leather and upholstered chairs and sofas.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 16, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
Regatta cruise -- A Sept. 7 story on Oceania Cruises' Regatta incorrectly reported that all cabins aboard the Regatta have mini-fridges and robes. Only some do. Also in that story, the name of Oceania's chairman, Joseph A. Watters, was misspelled as Joseph A. Waters, and Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, was incorrectly placed in Mexico.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 21, 2003 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 61 words Type of Material: Correction
Regatta cruise -- A story on Oceania Cruises' Regatta ("New Oceania Line Takes to the Seas," Sept. 7) incorrectly reported that all cabins aboard the Regatta have mini-fridges and robes; only some do. Also in that story, the name of Oceania's chairman, Joseph A. Watters, was misspelled as Joseph A. Waters, and Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica, was incorrectly placed in Mexico.

Menus, which are supervised by master chef Jacques Pepin, are varied in the Grand Dining Room, which has open dinner seatings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Three alternative restaurants (which carry no surcharge) broaden the shipboard dining options. The Polo Grill features grilled chops, steaks, chicken and shrimp. Toscana presents Italian fare, such as minestrone or a delicious fish soup, gnocchi, a flavorful risotto and main dishes of filet mignon, scaloppini, chicken, veal chop, shrimp Diablo and double lamb chops. Dessert includes tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake and chocolate lasagna. Finally, Tapas offers elaborate displays of more than 16 hot and cold tapas appetizers, followed by an entree of paella or grilled items such as chicken or salmon.

The ship's staff is well trained (though some are still honing their skills) and friendly.

The main public areas are on deck five, with the Grand Bar and Grand Dining Room on the aft end balanced by the Regatta Lounge on the forward end. There is a large floor for dancing, with accompaniment by a band. (Entertainment is more like a variety show, with guest artists such as Arte Johnson, British comedian Lenny Windsor, singer Jackie Love and ballroom dancers Jim and Audrey Applegate.)

In between is the Upper Hall, which surrounds the grand stairway to the reception area, with dark wood paneling, oil paintings, a faux belle epoque skylight and dark red and gold plush sofas and armchairs. The same is true about Martinis, a warm and comfortable bar that seems to have every kind of flavored martini at $8 a pop.

Two shops supply sundries and sportswear, jewelry and cosmetics. And a small casino with four blackjack tables, roulette and some slot machines is quiet and elegant.

The pool area has two whirlpools surrounded by blue and white loungers. The fitness center has a large aerobic area and several treadmills, Exercycles and bench presses.

The Oceanic Spa has a large beauty salon and therapy rooms for massage, wraps and special treatments, from $39 to $159. On the aft deck is a large hydrotherapy whirlpool along with a quartet of cabana loungers for two.

The ship has a variety of cabins, which carry brochure rates of $979 for the Owner's Suites to $199 per person, double occupancy, per day, for inside cabins. Inaugural season fares are discounted up to 45%.

All have TV, safe, mini-fridge (you pay for what you drink), bath amenities and robe. Top-of-the-line digs are the six 962-square-foot Owner's Suites on the aft end of the ship, which have a separate bedroom, dining table, TV, DVD and CD player, 1 1/2 bathrooms with whirlpool tub, and a large veranda with a table, four chairs and two loungers.

Four 786-square-foot Vista Suites on the forward end also have a separate sleeping area and all the amenities of the Owner's Suites but with smaller verandas. The 322-square-foot Penthouse Suites take up deck eight. These suites have plenty of room and all the Owner's Suites amenities except DVD and CD player.

Other cabins: Veranda stateroom at 216 square feet; 165-square-foot Ocean View cabins (with no veranda); and 160-square-foot inside cabins.

The Regatta will move to Miami for winter sailings in the eastern and western Caribbean and the Panama Canal. In January it will sail two Mexican Riviera itineraries from Los Angeles to Puerto Caldera, Mexico. For information contact Oceania Cruises; (800) 531-5619, www.oceaniacruises.com.

Harry Basch travels as a guest of the cruise lines.

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