INSIGNIA Double Decked!, Part One

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This is one of many posts that were lost in transition to MaritimeMatters new server, each of which is gradually being restored to the site.  This first of a two-part Decked! feature about Oceania Cruises’ MV INSIGNIA was published in 2008 before the ship was chartered to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, for whom she is currently sailing as COLUMBUS 2.  Here, you will see all the topside deck areas and public spaces on Decks 11, 10, and 9.  In 2014, the ship will be given a major refit before returning to the Oceania fold as INSIGNIA, once again.

Originally published: August 14, 2008. Updated August 2013.
All photos and text copyright Peter Knego 1998, 2008.

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: Peter Knego’s new DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

MV INSIGNIA (ex R ONE, REGATTA)
Oceania Cruises
Built 1998
30,277 gt
593.7 by 83.5 feet
19.5 foot draft
684 passengers (double occupancy)
400 crew
18.5 knots
Fully air conditioned and stabilized
Propulsion Machinery: Four 12-cylinder Wartsila diesels, twin screws
Builders: Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France (hull #H31)

Registry: Majuro, Marshall Islands

R ONE’s since vanished builder’s plate.

R ONE’s long since vanished builder’s plate.

Oceania Cruises MV INSIGNIA was built in 1998 as the R ONE, the first of eight identical ships for Renaissance Cruises.  At a time when Premium market ships were getting bigger and bigger, Renaissance opted for a fleet of mid-sized vessels, maintaining quality control and providing an atmosphere of casual elegance few major cruise lines could match. Each unit was identical, down to carpet patterns and artwork, but pleasantly so, with a faux-Edwardian decorative theme (inspired, perhaps, by James Cameron’s  “Titanic”) mixed with some truly handsome modern spaces by British design firm, McNeece.

MV R ONE at Istanbul, December 1998.

MV R ONE at Istanbul, December 1998.

Renaissance Cruises’ funnel livery.

Renaissance Cruises’ funnel livery.

Forward Deck Eleven facing starboard (before teak decking and cabanas were added).

Forward Deck Eleven facing starboard (before teak decking and cabanas were added).

 

 

Facing aft to midships pool area. Note changes later made by Oceania: original Deck Nine rubberized metal decking replaced with teak; circular platform aft of pool since removed; deck chairs replaced with teak units.

Facing aft to midships pool area. Note changes later made by Oceania: original Deck Nine rubberized metal decking replaced with teak; circular platform aft of pool since removed; deck chairs replaced with teak units.

Deck Ten jogging track, facing forward from starboard. Decking is now blue.

Deck Ten jogging track, facing forward from starboard. Decking is now blue.

As built, R ONE had a large card room on forward port Deck Nine, shown facing aft. It has since been halved to make room for the internet facility, Oceania at Sea, in its aft portion. Otherwise, all of the ship’s public rooms remain structurally unaltered from the Renaissance period, although new furniture and soft fittings have been added.

As built, R ONE had a large card room on forward/port Deck Nine, shown facing aft. It has since been halved to make room for the internet facility, Oceania at Sea, in its aft portion. Otherwise, all of the ship’s public rooms remain structurally unaltered from the Renaissance period, albeit with the addition of new furniture and soft fittings.

Renaissance broke ranks with the majority of cruise lines by soliciting clients through direct mailings and the internet (they were way ahead of the curve on this), much to the ire of many established travel agents. A travel industry boycott (despite Renaissance’s ultimate about-face on the policy) did much to deter bookings and the terrorist attacks of 9-11 crushed their European-based market. The company went bankrupt shortly thereafter and its ships were laid up in various Mediterranean ports at the end of 2001, the R ONE going to Marseilles.

MV INSIGNIA at Portofino, 2 August 2008.

MV INSIGNIA at Portofino, 2 August 2008.

A Marshall Islands-registered company called Cruise-Invest purchased R ONE in December of 2001, but the ship remained laid up at Marseilles until early 2003, when newly-formed Oceania Cruises chartered and renamed her REGATTA, giving her Oceania’s fresh white hull livery. In an unusual flip-flop, the ship was renamed INSIGNIA in June of 2003, while her sister, the former R TWO, first renamed INSIGNIA, became REGATTA.

Formed by former Renaissance Cruises’ Frank Del Rio and Crystal Cruises’ Joe Watters, Oceania has quickly earned a stellar reputation in the industry for operating “Premium Plus” ships with top-notch food and service, interesting itineraries, and a casual, resort-like elegance.  Oceania has invested heavily in refurbishing its three ship fleet (which also includes the 2000-built NAUTICA — ex R FIVE). INSIGNIA received her latest refit in 2008 (teak decking by the pool, new furniture and soft fittings) and will receive yet more upgrades in 2010.

Here is a top to bottom look at the ship as she appeared in August of 2008:

Deck Eleven:

INSIGNIA’s public spaces are located on Decks Eleven through Nine and Decks Five and Four, sandwiching most of the accommodation on Decks Eight through Six, with an additional selection of cabins on Decks Four and Three.

Forward Deck Eleven cabana, facing forward.

Forward Deck Eleven cabana, facing forward.

Forward Deck Eleven offers an impressive vantage over the bow and to either side of the ship through tinted glass screens. The forward portion is occupied by eight private cabanas with retractable canvas roofs and water misters.

Deck Eleven, facing aft from starboard.

Deck Eleven, facing aft from starboard.

Deck Eleven, facing aft from port.

Deck Eleven, facing aft from port.

Deck Eleven, facing forward from port.

Deck Eleven, facing forward from port.

Sunning space follows aft of the cabanas on either side of the mast housing and on the port side aft, there is a putting green.

Aft from starboard Deck Eleven.

Aft from starboard Deck Eleven.

The aft terraces of forward Deck Eleven overlook the midships pool area on Decks Ten and Nine.

Forward from aft Deck Eleven crew area.

Forward from aft Deck Eleven crew area.

Deck Eleven continues aft of the pool area on either side of the funnel casing but this part of the ship is reserved for crew and is not accessible to passengers.

Deck Ten:

Horizons, facing aft from center.

Horizons, facing aft from center.

Horizons, facing starboard from forward.

Horizons, facing starboard from forward.

Horizons carpet.

Horizons carpet.

Deck Ten begins with the spectacular 194 seat Horizons Lounge, with its panoramic views to either side and forward of the ship. A bar and dance floor are located in the center of the room and there are galleries that lead aft from either side. In the aft/port side of the room, there is a small smoking section. Horizons serves as an observation lounge in the daytime and is the setting for Oceania’s spectacular afternoon tea at 4:00 PM. In the evening, it is a lively nightclub and disco and is usually the last venue on the ship to close. As designed by McNeece, this room was a decorative departure from the more Edwardian-themed spaces on the ship, although it has a similar palette of rich paneling and tasteful but vibrant soft fittings.

Deck Nine pool area facing port from Deck Ten.

Deck Nine pool area facing port from Deck Ten.

Facing forward from midships Deck 10.

Facing forward from midships Deck 10.

A rubberized jogging track encircles the midships portion of Deck Ten, overlooking the pool area.

Library, facing starboard.

Library, facing starboard.

Library, facing aft from port.

Library, facing aft from port.

The crescent-shaped, 37 seat Library is one of INSIGNIA’s most sumptuous and inviting spaces and is located at the base of the funnel aft of the jogging track on Deck Ten. It is fronted by full length windows, features a frescoed skylight and faux fireplace and is decoratively typical of the R ships with its ornate Edwardian styling. Oceania replaced most of the original Renaissance chairs with more comfortable leather seats and ottomans.

Polo Grill, facing aft.

Polo Grill, facing aft.

Polo Grill, facing forward.

Polo Grill, facing forward.

Polo Grill table setting.

Polo Grill table setting.

One of the finest dining rooms at sea, the 97 seat Polo Grill is located aft of the aft Deck Ten vestibule, stretching via full length windows around the funnel casing to the stern. This posh eatery is extremely popular and requires advance booking to secure, although like all Oceania dining spaces, it is not extra tariff. The menu features prime rib (32 ounce cuts), lobster, caesar salad prepared tableside, and fillet mignon, among its offerings.

Oceania replaced the more rigid, lightweight Renaissance seating with cushy, leather arm chairs. The Polo Grill has its own bar and even a cozy sitting area near the entrance for those wishing to soak up the ambiance before or after dinner.

Toscana, facing aft.

Toscana, facing aft.

Toscana, facing port from aft.

Toscana, facing port from aft.

Toscana table setting.

Toscana table setting.

The 90 seat Toscana is on port Deck 10 in the space that complements Polo Grill. With a similar L-shaped footprint stretching via full length windows to an alcove overlooking the stern, it is decorated in lighter wood tones with autumnal hued soft fittings. Here, magnificent Italian delicacies are served, ranging from fresh artisan breads that can be dipped into a selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegar to chunks of crumbled regiano parmesan, parchment-wrapped fish, and special pastas of the day. Like the Polo Grill, Toscana has its own fine china table settings.

Deck Nine:

Over bow from Deck Nine private spa terrace.

Over bow from Deck Nine private spa terrace.

Deck Nine private spa terrace, facing starboard.

Deck Nine private spa terrace, facing starboard.

Styling Salon, facing aft

Styling Salon, facing aft

Mandara Spa treatment room #7, facing port.

Mandara Spa treatment room #7, facing port.

Mandara Spa reception, facing starboard.

Mandara Spa reception, facing starboard.

Deck Nine begins with a glassed-in private terrace accessed via the Mandara Spa. It is available for spa patrons wishing to spend some time before or after their treatment — the outdoor equivalent to the relaxation rooms found in other shipboard spas. In its center is a large whirlpool. On the port side, there is a beauty salon adjacent to the terrace. There are five spa treatment rooms offering a wide variety of therapies from hot stone massages to Ionithermie, facials and more. Private men’s and women’s dressing and steam rooms are midships, just aft of the terrace.

Fitness Center, facing aft.

Fitness Center, facing aft.

The Fitness Center accommodates 30 guests and is located on the starboard side of forward Deck Nine, with an excellent selection of treadmills, stairmasters and ellipticals as well as free weights, weight machines and a stretching/aerobics area. It rivals the gyms on ships three times the size of INSIGNIA.

Card Room, facing port/forward.

Card Room, facing port/forward.

Card Room, facing starboard/forward.

Card Room, facing starboard/forward.

Oceania at Sea, facing port.

Oceania at Sea, facing port.

As built, the INSIGNIA’s 25-seat Card Room, located just aft of the Mandara Spa on the port side of Deck Nine, was twice its present size. The posh Edwardian-styled space with its dark walnut tones and wing back chairs was halved to allow space for the 17 station internet center, Oceania At Sea, which is adjacent and aft.

Deck Nine pool area, facing forward on port side.

Deck Nine pool area, facing forward on port side.

Waves, facing aft.

Waves, facing aft.

Waves, facing forward.

Waves, facing forward.

Oceania added teak decking and plush wooden deck chairs to INSIGNIA’s pool area on midships Deck Nine. It is served by the Waves Pool Bar forward/center and aft/starboard by the Waves Grill, which, together, accommodate 88 guests. There are two whirlpools and showers adjacent to the pool. In the forward/starboard corner, there is a designated smoking area and in the aft/port corner, there is a sheltered space called The Patio, which can be reserved for private functions.

Terrace Cafe, facing aft from port.

Terrace Cafe, facing aft from port.

Terrace Cafe, facing starboard/aft from aft.

Terrace Cafe, facing starboard/aft from aft.

Aft Deck Nine terrace, facing port.

Aft Deck Nine terrace, facing port.

Deck Nine concludes with INSIGNIA’s buffet style eatery, the U-shaped 346 seat Terrace Cafe, which includes an outdoor terrace overlooking the stern. Excellent meals are provide here, with full breakfasts (fresh eggs, omelets, salmon, pancakes, muesli, fruit, cereals hot and cold, artisan breads and pastries, etc.). For lunch, there is a pasta station, sandwiches, a carvery, antipasti, a salad bar, gelato and ice cream stand and much more. At dinner, time, the Terrace becomes Tapas on the Terrace with special candlelit table settings, tapas selections, an evolving menu of gourmet delicacies, and even a chocolate fountain.

With special thanks to:  Martin Cox, Bianca LeMouel, Tim Rubacky

End of INSIGNIA Double Decked!, Part One.  More to come…
 
Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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