Boarding Regatta two days ago in Dover, U.K., I immediately felt right at home: The key elements that made the Renaissance ships a joy to cruise on are firmly in place on Regatta. On this mid-priced, 620-passenger vessel there are four restaurants to choose from - none with a surcharge - and single, open seating, which means you dine when and with whom you like. There are no formal nights scheduled, so passengers dress up or down as they please.
If Oceania Cruises sounds like a luxury cruise experience comparable to what one finds aboard the elegant Radisson, Silverseas or Seabourn vessels, it isn't. Tips, wine and alcohol aren't included, and Regatta's cabins and suites are closer to what you'd find aboard Royal Caribbean than the luxury ships. But with 30,200 tons, a small passenger load and 10- to -16-day itineraries, this is a unique cruise experience that provides one of the biggest bangs for the buck there is.
If Titanic producer James Cameron was hired to decorate a ship and turned loose in Bombay Company, the end result would be close to Regatta. There's even a scaled-down version of the famed Titanic staircase. Throughout the ship are dark wood paneling, wingback chairs, faux marble surfaces and brass. Drapes and chair fabrics are French-inspired tapestry, and the whole look is private gentleman's club. While it may sound stuffy and formal, it really isn't thanks to the lively, polished crew who all came to Oceania Cruises with years of experience at other cruise companies.
The main focus of any cruise is dining, and with a few days under my rapidly expanding belt, I can say it promises to be a memorable experience. The presentation is polished, service is outstanding and the dishes I've had so far are cooked to perfection. There are four restaurants to choose from, including the Grand Dining Room, Polo Grill (steak, seafood), Toscana (Italian) and Tapas on the Terrace (buffet). I'll report more on the dining experience.
We visit Oporto and Lisbon, Portugal; Bordeaux, France and Seville, Spain. This is a wonderful itinerary since the ship stays overnight in Bordeaux and Seville, giving us many more options for exploring these beautiful ports.
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