Oceania Cruises -- Taking it to the Next Level

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

One of the cruise world's most unique success stories tells us how they plan to expand upon their initial achievements with a brand new ship design.

Oceania Cruise Lines' Humble Beginnings Back in 2000, Renaissance Cruises had eight identical ships in its fleet -- simply named R1 through R8. All were built within a short period of time, subsidized by loans from the French government. Although Renaissance had a solid fan base for the casual atmosphere, destination-focused cruise line, it was not enough to fill eight ships all the time.

After a number of questionable decisions by the founder and CEO led to his eventual removal from the board of directors, Renaissance quickly fell on hard times and soon after 9/11 declared bankruptcy. All eight ships went into receivership. The former president of the company (not the owner), Frank del Rio was very familiar with these ships and also knew exactly what had been successful and what had gone wrong.

Del Rio joined up with a former Crystal Cruises executive, Joe Watters, and formed a new cruise line, eventually deciding on the name Oceania Cruises. They originally wanted it to be Oceana, but P&O Cruises informed them the name was already trademarked for one of their ships. Del Rio and Watters agreed to add the "i" and always marry the word "Cruises" to the name.

Getting other former Renaissance management involved, Oceania Cruises started by leasing back just one of the R-ships from the receivership. They named it "Regatta." Hardly changing the no-frills physical structure of the ship at all, they focused on the strengths of Renaissance; port intensive itineraries, a casual onboard atmosphere and far above average cuisine. They recreated the cruise line for travelers who want to see the world in comfort, but do not care much for typical cruise ship production shows and passenger games.

Oceania Cruises Grows Up Oceania Cruises found success almost immediately, much of their base coming from former Renaissance fans. Within two years they leased another one of the R-ships naming it Nautica. By now their cruises were selling out months in advance, most of them ten to 21-day itineraries in faraway places like Europe and South America. Within three years they had leased back a third R-ship, naming it Insignia. They also undertook a project to upgrade the onboard experience with new furnishings and additional service personnel.

By now, other cruise lines were catching on to the success of Oceania's model. Princess Cruises took three of the former R-ships; 688-passenger R3 became the Pacific Princess, sister ship R4 is now the Tahitian Princess and R8 is the Royal Princess. Royal Caribbean International acquired two of the R-ships and created a new cruise line; Azamara Cruises.

The current, smaller (680 passengers and 30,000-tons) Regatta-class vessels of Oceania are still known for two simple things, comfortable staterooms and good food offered in four different onboard restaurants, none carrying a cover charge. There is very little in the way of onboard entertainment or elaborate public rooms, other than for dining.

By 2007 Oceania Cruises was a solid success story, and they received a large cash infusion from Apollo Management, who would soon also invest in other cruise lines (Regent Seven Seas and NCL). Oceania used some of this cash to purchase the ships they were leasing, but with this new partner Oceania also became obliged to grow. The announcement that Oceania will build at least two, possibly three, newer and larger Oceania-class vessels from the keel up was made at the Seatrade convention in 2007.

The New Oceania-Class Ships The two new "Oceania-class" vessels will debut on September 30, 2010 and July 30, 2011, respectively. The option for a third vessel is for a May 30, 2012 delivery. The ships will be built in Fincantieri's Sestre Ponente shipyard in Genoa, Italy, at a total cost of $1.6 billion including the option for the third ship. The interior designers for all of the public spaces, suites and staterooms are a well-known (in the cruise industry) Norwegian company specializing in luxury ships, Y&S Architecture and Interior Design of Oslo. Fincantieri Shipyards is designing the superstructure.

The new ships are basically twice the size of the Regatta-class ships. 782 feet long, 105 feet wide, 66,000-tons and with a draft of 24 feet. They will carry 1252 guests in 626 staterooms which in total will average 50% larger than cabins on the current ships. 96% of these staterooms will have teak-floored verandas. In a twist from what usually happens when a cruise line introduces larger ships, the Oceania-class ships will have a higher staff to passenger ratio than the current ships, with 780 staff members to serve the 1252 guests.

With diesel-electric engines powering twin screw propellers, the new ships will be capable of traveling 20% faster than the current Regatta-class ships. Two bow thrusters will add maneuverability.

There will be six open-seating restaurants, including the same concept eateries as on the current ships, the classic steakhouse Polo Grill and the gourmet Italian restaurant, Toscana. Two additional specialty restaurants will be a French bistro and a Pan-Asian eatery. Altogether, the six restaurants will be capable of seating 150% of the guest capacity at once, meaning the wait time sometimes encountered on the Regatta-class when many passengers choose to dine at the same time should be reduced significantly.

Public spaces will feature a museum quality art collection including many rare nautical antiques. There will be new nightlife areas, including a martini bar (Martinis), a crow's nest bar with a commanding view called "Horizons," and an outdoor bar called "The Patio" along with a poolside grill with an ice-cream and milk-shake bar. There will be a state-of-the-art main theater for production shows and a culinary arts center for onboard cooking demonstrations. The casino will be greatly expanded in addition to a separate card room.

The new ships will feature "the best of" the current ships with a more refined atmosphere featuring rich, dark woods, Italian marble, granite countertops, wool carpets and leather furniture. The color palette is described as a mixture of dulcet tones accented by earthen and jewel tones. Here is the color palette for the new ships is below.

Oceania-Class Ship Facts

Oceania Class I -- Debuts Fall 2010 Oceania Class II -- Debuts Summer 2011 Guest Capacity -- 1,256 (Double Occupancy) Tonnage -- 66,000 (estimated) Builder -- Fincantieri; Sestre Ponente, Italy Length -- 782 feet Width -- 105 feet Draft -- 24 feet Cruising Speed -- 20 knots Propulsion -- Diesel Electric, 2 controllable pitch propellers Restaurants -- Six Open Seating Restaurants:

  • The Grand Dining Room -- Continental Cuisine
  • Polo Grill -- Steak House
  • Toscana -- Gourmet Italian
  • Asian Restaurant -- Asian Cuisine
  • Terrace Café -- Casual Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodations -- 628 Guest Staterooms and Suites:

  • 4 Owner's Suites
  • 6 Vista Suites
  • 12 Oceania Suites
  • 120 Penthouse Suites
  • 440 Veranda Staterooms
  • 20 Ocean View Staterooms
  • 26 Inside Staterooms

Deck-by-Deck Highlights

Deck 15:

  • Horizons -- Observation lounge and nightclub
  • Sports Deck

Deck 14:

  • Spa and Fitness Center
  • The Patio
  • Library
  • Polo Grill -- Classic Steakhouse
  • Toscana -- Gourmet Italian Restaurant

Deck 12:

  • Guest Suites
  • Culinary Arts Center
  • Enrichment Center
  • Waves Bar
  • Swimming Pool and Jacuzzis
  • Waves Grill & Milkshake Bar
  • Private Dining Rooms, Wine Cellar and Veranda
  • Terrace Café -- casual buffet restaurant

Decks 11 through 7:

  • Guest Staterooms and Suites

Deck 6:

  • Upper Hall
  • Martinis
  • Casino
  • Card Room
  • Grand Bar
  • Grand Dining Room -- Continental cuisine

Deck 5:

  • Main Lounge
  • Reception Hall and Lounge
  • French Restaurant -- Country French cuisine
  • Asian Restaurant -- a fusion of Asian cuisines

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