This was a seven-night cruise to Bermuda round-trip from New York City.
The Insignia entered service in 1998 as the R1, the first of eight nearly identical ships built for Renaissance Cruise Lines. After the events of September 11, 2001, Renaissance filed for bankruptcy and its ships were purchased by other cruise lines. Oceania Cruises eventually acquired four of the so-called “R Ships” and renamed them Insignia, Regatta, Nautica and Sirena. Oceania Cruises also has two slightly larger new-builds in its fleet, Marina and Riviera.
The R Ships were built by Renaissance shortly after the success of the movie “Titanic” in 1996. The interior of each of the R Ships was decorated to resemble the Edwardian décor of ships like the Titanic, Olympic, Lusitania and Mauretania.
Mahogany paneling was used throughout, with especially nice effect in the Grand Dining Room and the Library, which has a simulated stained-glass, coffered ceiling and an attractive, but non-functioning, fireplace. Much of this décor remains, but each ship has been renovated throughout and furnished with new art work.
The Insignia is 594 feet long, 83.5 feet wide and has a gross tonnage of 30,277. It has a cruising speed of 18 knots. The ship can accommodate 684 passengers and it has a crew of 400. It is registered in the Marshall Islands.
Because of the relatively small dimensions of the ship, it is easy to get around and, with only 684 passengers, it never felt crowded. The starboard side of Deck 3 and both sides of Decks 4, 6, 7 and 8 are devoted almost exclusively to staterooms. The staterooms on Deck 3 have portholes with operative deadlights, which can be lowered to cover the porthole in rough seas. There was no need to do this on our cruise. The staterooms on Deck 4 and the middle of Deck 6 have windows. The staterooms on Decks 6, 7 and 8 have balconies. There are suites located at the fore and aft ends of Decks 6 and 7 and along the entire length of Deck 8.
At the middle of the ship is a two-deck staircase connecting Decks 4 and 5. The Reception Hall is on Deck 4. At the base of the staircase is the Reception Desk. On the port side is Destination Services where tours are booked. On the starboard side is the Concierge Desk for the use of the passengers in the suites.
The main public rooms are located on Deck 5. The Insignia Lounge is at the forward end. This one-deck venue is used for the production shows and entertainers. The party for repeat passengers was also held in this lounge. The lounge has a dance floor/stage at the forward end and a bar across the back.
Heading aft on Deck 5 you can find the Casino and the adjacent bar, Martinis. Further aft are two shops, one on the port side selling clothes, souvenirs and sundries and one on the starboard side specializing in jewelry and watches. Beyond the shops is the Upper Hall, at the top of the midship staircase. Here, in a small alcove overlooking the staircase, a string quartet often entertains passengers.
Aft of the Upper Hall is Baristas Grand Bar on the starboard side. Here you can get small sandwiches, pastries and cookies throughout the day. This bar serves as a waiting room for the Grand Dining Room, which fills the aft end of the ship. A large, circular, teardrop-shaped, crystal chandelier, is the centerpiece of this one-deck space.
There are two hot tubs adjacent to the pool on Deck 9. These were rarely used, since the weather was so warm. The Waves Bar is forward of the pool. There is no magrodome covering the pool. Instead, a Fitness Track on Deck 10 encircles the pool area below.
At the forward end of Deck 9, the Fitness Center is on the starboard side and the Canyon Ranch Spa Club is on the port side. A small terrace area overlooking the bow has a hot tub and loungers available only to those using the spa.
The Library, one of the most attractive rooms on the ship, is located on Deck 10, forward from the Polo Grill and Toscana. The Library overlooks the Fitness Track, the pool and the forward mast. The Horizons lounge is located at the forward end of Deck 10. Although this lounge serves as a bar most of the time, afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones and pastries is served at 4:00 PM.
At the forward end of Deck 11, accessible by stairs from Deck 10, is a Sun Deck and viewing area, with shuffleboard courts and a very small putting green.
Meals in the Grand Dining Room are open seating, with no assigned tables. When you are ready to eat, you simply request the maître d’ for a table. If there is any delay, you can wait in the Baristas Grand Bar. We never waited for more than five minutes. A nice feature of this dining room is that there are tables for two lining the port and starboard sides. We discovered that it was best to wait until your entire party was gathered before entering a restaurant. On the few occasions when people entered before their table mates, they could not order food or beverages until the others arrived. The dining room stewards did not take orders until everyone was seated at the table.
Oceania Cruises is known for its fine cuisine. The menus offer many rich, culinary dishes. However, standard items like steak, chicken, shrimp and Caesar’s salad are always available.
Two alternative restaurants are on Deck 10 aft, the Polo Grill and Toscana. The Polo Grill, on the starboard side, specializes in steaks and chops, while Toscana, on the port side, features Italian cuisine. We tried each restaurant and found the food and service to be excellent. There is no charge for these alternative restaurants, but reservations are necessary. You can choose to dine in one or the other every night, subject to availability. Each passenger is guaranteed a reservation at each restaurant. Those who book early get their preferred time. Those who book late have to take whatever time is available. However, the food in the Grand Dining Room is so good that many did not take advantage of the alternative restaurants, allowing others to go more than once.
* David G. Hume is past chairman of the World Ship Society PONY Branch, Mr. Hume has been on more than 80 cruises and crossings as well as numerous ship visits."
The Terrace Café is at the aft end of Deck 9. This venue is like the typical Lido buffet on most cruise ships today. It offers a variety of food, which can be eaten inside at the tables lining the port and starboard side or outdoors either in a small terrace at the stern of the ship or at tables aft of the pool in the middle of Deck 9. We found the food very good. There is an espresso-cappuccino machine on the starboard side. Nearby is an ice cream station, where you can request your favorite flavor either in a cup or a cone with a selection of toppings. There is another ice cream station by the pool. Wine and beer are not included with meals, but soda is available without charge. The soda in the mini-bars in the staterooms is also complimentary.
The entertainment in the Insignia Lounge included a comedian, who performed on two nights, and three production shows, two presented by the Insignia Production Show Singers and one by the Cruise Director, in each case accompanied by the Insignia Show Band. There was only one show each night at 9:30 PM.
We sailed on this voyage as part of a group consisting of 37 members and friends of the Port of New York Branch of the World Ship Society. On our cruise, the Captain was Damir Kurilic from Croatia, the General Manager was Victor Conceicao from Portugal and the Cruise Director was Carson Turner from New York. The Guest Lecturer was Sandy Cares, an expert on Bermuda.
The embarkation process at Pier 90 of the Manhattan Cruise Terminal (Passenger Ship Terminal) began shortly after 11:00 AM. Passengers in suites and veranda staterooms were given priority for boarding over passengers in other staterooms. Nevertheless, most of us were able to board the Insignia before noon. Once on board, we found that we could not yet access our staterooms, so we went to the Terrace Café on Deck 9. Since some cabins were not available until 3:00 PM, we had a very leisurely lunch. From the Terrace Café, we could see the Norwegian Escape docked at Pier 88. With a length of 1,069 feet and gross tonnage of 165,300, the Norwegian Escape completely dwarfed the Insignia. The Norwegian Escape was also leaving for Bermuda that day.
As the Insignia left the pier at 5:00 PM, we were enveloped in a sudden, heavy, rain shower, which sent people running inside from the outer decks. A group of us were enjoying the sailaway in Horizons, a lounge at the forward end of Deck 10 above the bridge. As we made our way downriver, toward the Statue of Liberty, we could see through the fog a large white object behind Governor’s Island slowly start to move. We soon realized that this was Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2, which had left its pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn at 5:30 PM. It was broadside to the Hudson River prior to making its turn toward the Verrazano Bridge. The QM2 was sailing transatlantic to England.
After our departure, we had a day and a half at sea to inspect the Insignia. On the first full day of the cruise, the sea was mildly choppy and the ship shuddered and swayed a little. To members of the World Ship Society, who are used to sailing transatlantic through much rougher seas, this sea state was enjoyable. We were surprised to hear many people complain about the slight movement.
The World Ship Society was entertained royally on this cruise. We were invited to two cocktail parties in Horizons by Oceania Cruises. Our members were also invited to two cocktail parties in the Insignia Lounge, the Captain’s Welcome Party, which was open to all passengers, and the past passenger cocktail party, even though some of us were sailing with Oceania Cruises for the first time. In addition, we were invited to a cocktail party in Horizons hosted by Virtuoso, the leading network of agencies specializing in luxury travel, since all bookings for the World Ship Society had been made through Brad Hatry at Travel Edge, which is affiliated with Virtuoso. Finally, the World Ship Society held a cocktail party at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club on the harbor just steps from Front Street in Hamilton. For making this venue available, we are indebted to maritime artist Stephen Card, a Bermuda resident, and his friends, Allan and Judi Davidson, members of the club. Allan Davidson had previously been a deck officer aboard the Queen Of Bermuda. He showed us memorabilia from the ship, including the ship’s wheel, displayed in the club.
We spent a total of three days in Bermuda, split evenly between St. George’s and Hamilton. Our first stop was St. George’s. The Insignia is small enough to sail through the cut in the reef to the harbor. We went through the cut at about noon on Tuesday. We were welcomed by the traditional cannon blast and the town crier, ringing his bell. We spent the rest of the day and the following day at the dock at St. George’s. Some used this time to walk through town, looking at the shops and visiting the ruins of the unfinished church, and others explored the island on tours provided by Destination Services to such places as Crystal Cave, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and Elbow Beach. We hiked out to Ferry Point Park to see the Martello Tower with an ancient cannon brought from Fort St. Catherine. This tower once guarded the approach to King’s Wharf and the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Early in the morning on Thursday, the Insignia left the dock at St. George’s, sailed back through the cut and headed toward Hamilton. As we passed the Royal Naval Dockyards, we saw the Celebrity Summit and Norwegian Escape at the dock. We then went through Two Rock Passage and docked along Front Street in Hamilton.
We had the rest of Thursday and Friday morning to take yet more tours or to simply walk the streets of Hamilton and visit the stores. Trimingham’s and Debenham’s may be long gone, but Marks & Spencer, Brown & Co., A.S. Cooper & Sons and the English Sports Shop partially fill the void. There is even an outlet of Vineyard Vines, founded in 1998 on Martha’s Vineyard. Our walk through town included a visit to the historic Hamilton Princess Hotel.
We set sail from Hamilton at about 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon. The sailaway took us back past the cut to St. George’s before we could turn north and sail home to New York.
On our cruise, we sailed a total of 1,334 nautical miles. For the members and friends of the World Ship Society, this cruise was an excellent opportunity to socialize aboard an elegant cruise ship and to enjoy gloriously warm weather. We look forward to our next cruise together.
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Above: The ship's Reception Hall staircase.
Below: The Martini Bar lounge.
Above: The Insignia Lounge.
Above: The Horizons Lounge.
Below: The pool deck.
Cruise ship review - - Oceania Cruises - - Insignia - - 2019