April 17, 2024

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Crafting Homes, Building Dreams

Finest Cuisine at Sea | Travel News

7 min read

The table for two has a huge window with a view over the sea. Imagine restaurants where the service is always impeccable, the food is outstanding, and the staff is smiling amicably.

Right before Covid, I sailed on Oceania’s Riviera in the Mediterranean and was very impressed by their restaurant menus as well as the service. Now this upscale cruise line, rated between top luxury and premium in the cruise world, introduced their first brand-new ship, the Vista. Oceania boasts the “Finest Cuisine at Sea.” Despite the excellent cuisine on board Riviera, I was a tad skeptical about such a bold statement after having recently experienced outstanding food on Viking Ocean Cruises and on Silversea’s  Silver Moon. But indeed, I must admit that all dinner experiences during a week in the Caribbean on the Oceania Vista was the best overall dining at sea. French chef Frederic Camonin certainly deserves the accolades he received from the majority on board. Contrary to other restaurants on the ship, the Terrace Café, although very comfortable and quite lovely, did not offer much variety from day to day compared to other ships of the same level and size. Perhaps it was more interesting for the themed evening buffet dinners, but we never tried it, preferring exemplary full service in the dining rooms. However, Barista coffee bar and bakery, with 270-degree view of the sea, offered a wide selection of pastries as well as other favorites. Aquamar Kitchen was another beautiful breakfast and lunch option, focusing on healthier fare.

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Vista at night.

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 Central staircase on Vista.

The check-in experience was well organized, super-fast and friendly. The overall organization on board was outstanding with the exception of the shore excursions. My comment was based on two tours we took and three others from friends cruising with us. They involved long unnecessary waits, inexperienced guides, and total lack of coordination.

Presently there are over 300 cruise ships from some 50 cruise lines. I remember sitting in the office of Bob Dickinson in the early 1980’s long before he became CEO of Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise line in the world. We talked about a possible group on their first ship at the time, Mardi Gras, a former transatlantic liner turned cruise ship. We enjoyed animated discussion about the future of the cruise industry, but neither he nor I could have possibly foreseen what was to follow in the years to come with larger and larger ships. It began with the transatlantic liner S.S. France, flagship of the country of the same name, and later sold to Norwegian Cruise Lines. It was partially rebuilt for the cruise industry and in 1990, with two additional decks and 135 extra cabins, it became the largest cruise ship in the world carrying 2,265 passengers under the new name S.S.Norway. With the recent inaugural of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of The Seas, we are up to 7,600 passengers. And today there is a trend for more luxury on new smaller ships by high end cruise lines. 

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 Vista offers lots of space inside and out.

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Staff on board hail from 51 countries.

The Oceania Vista is a prime example with a maximum of around 1,200 guests served by 800 crew members. A sister ship, the Allura, is scheduled to be inaugurated in July of 2025. 

Oceania is known for destination-rich itineraries to more than 100 countries on seven continents covered by their eight ships. My first impression of the Vista was a ton of open space everywhere inside and out, spectacular general areas, very friendly crew members, including the Eastern European concierge twins, Tina and Nina, who were always available with their own special charm. The latter is still doing double duty as a sommelier as well. 

A permanent exhibition of elegant marble sculptures enhances the stairway landings at every level. Secluded corners and seating arrangements offer more intimate space on the pool desk and the marvelous spa area on the Vista is worth a visit as well. Even standard rooms on Vista offer more than 290 square feet of space featuring a large, oversized rain shower that is fabulous, with temperature controls that were consistent. How often does this happen! This has replaced the signature bathtubs from the other Oceania ships, which I enjoyed, but nobody else did. The Vista, Oceania Suites and Owner’s accommodations do still feature large bathtubs in addition to the showers. 

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Semi-private spaces on the pool deck.

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The stately Grand Dining Room.

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Staff in the culinary class kitchen was cleaning up.

Perfectly lighted mirrors in the bathroom with three spacious drawers and mirror faced corner cupboards enhance the appearance and usefulness of space. This is in addition to the central mirror with a built-in circle light and shelves on either side. There are night stands on either side of the bed with three drawers and a useless top slide out. The work and cosmetics desk has a chair that was rather low for my tall wife to tend to her grooming in front of the mirror. The clothes closet was large enough for a 7 to 10-day cruise, but rather small for longer voyages. On both sides of the room there are ample electric outlets and charging stations for even the newest iPhone connections. The ship has done away with much plastic, and on top of the table over the complimentary soda filled refrigerator there are glasses and personal refillable metal water bottles. And the beds and duvets are so comfortable for a good night’s sleep that some guests even buy them when they return home. One does not have to be an acrobat to open and close the safe. Your valuables can be conveniently located above the refrigerator at an appropriate height where there is an additional shelf unit.

Also provided free of charge is water from a company called Vero that tastes fresh. There are filling stations at numerous locations on board. And finally, there is wonderful lighting everywhere including a romantic string hidden behind the bed as well as some subdued blue night lights.

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 “Finest Cuisine at Sea” on Oceania.

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Open kitchen

Vista offers 12 restaurants and eateries with several new concepts. The Grand Dining Room has a remarkable interior with smaller individual dining areas. The dinners were simply outstanding, and the waiters professional. We were fortunate enough to also enjoy all four specialty restaurants, Ember, replacing the French restaurant on older Oceania ships, Red Ginger, Polo Grill and Toscana. In all we were spoiled by friendly, happy waiters and crew members. Only at the Polo Grill did we miss the camaraderie of staff members. Two managers were arguing right in front of us, although none of it had anything to do with our table. A couple of the specialty restaurants have open kitchens displaying cleanliness and organization as well as providing additional entertainment. The Vista offers exclusive cooking classes in a special large open kitchen with a view over the sea, so guests have the possibility to learn to recreate the fabulous dishes served on board.

A generously stocked library was a focal point for many passengers, especially as the Barista coffee and snack bar was next door overlooking the pool area. Shows were very well choreographed for such a small ship. However, the much-advertised comedian was a bit of a come down to many of the Oceania country-club-level crowd. Entertainment staff and the Cruise Director, Peter Tredgett, made up for that as they were often available to greet people for a wonderful get-together. 

Officers were also frequently seen in public areas and ready to answer any questions. Captain Luca Manzi, who could normally be found most mornings around 9:30 in the Barista Coffee Bar for his Italian coffee, attended multiple functions and explained that in the beginning of his career with Oceania, returning Oceania passengers were hosted in the Owner’s Suite. On Vista the loyal returning clientele had to be split into two evenings as Horizons, the largest lounge on the Vista could not accommodate everyone in one get-together. The sheer number of past guests is living proof that Oceania does it right. We already look forward to experiencing their newest addition to the fleet, the Allure, after she makes her debut next year. 

For openness and clarity: Please note that we do not get free, nor specially reduced rates, or any other form of compensation from Oceania.

Ewout Rijk de Vries and his wife, Jill, brought America Travel Arrangements to Marco Island 40 years ago. They specialize in high end small adventure tours and small safari groups for clientele all over the world, but also are experts on high end cruises with the help of longtime assistant and friend, Michelle Wegman. In combination with his writing and photography, Ewout has visited over 100 countries. Please direct your comments or questions to [email protected] as he likes to hear from readers.


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