Around The World In 180-Days on INSIGNIA
Shawn J. Dake
There are World Cruises and then there is this World Cruise. Other lines may offer the usual voyages around the globe lasting from 80 to 110-days, however only Oceania Cruises is currently featuring a cruise that continues for a full six months! This singular experience is aboard the recently refurbished INSIGNIA, with a passenger list limited to just 650 fortunate guests.
The INSIGNIA rests in the Port Of Los Angeles on June 22, 2015. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The “180-Day World Odyssey” is currently the longest voyage available in the cruise industry. During the cruise guests will have the opportunity to visit 100 ports in 52 countries on five different continents. Departing July 8, 2015 the full voyage, which can be broken into shorter segments, gets underway from Miami visiting some of the farthest flung corners of the globe. Somewhat unusual in the realm of World Cruises is that this voyage leaves during the summertime, while most others travel over the winter months from January through April. This allows the INSIGNIA to first cruise north to Canada, then on to Greenland, Iceland and Northern Europe before heading south to more temperate climates. A huge number of stops are made in some of the most beautiful ports in the Mediterranean before calling for multiple days in magnificent Asian cities including Mumbai, Rangoon, Singapore, and Hong Kong. In total, 16 ports will feature overnight, or multiple night stays. After over a month in Asia, the ship will cross the Indian Ocean to the Seychelles, then bound for the shores of Africa. For the next 32 days, guests will explore Africa from Mombasa, Kenya to Cape Town before continuing along the continent’s seldom visited western coast all the way to Dakar, Senegal. Then it is back across the Atlantic again during the Christmas holiday season, concluding the voyage with leisurely island-hopping among seven more ports in the Caribbean before ending in Miami on January 4, 2016.
The INSIGNIA sailed as the COLUMBUS 2 for two years under charter in the colors of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
The INSIGNIA was built in 1998 with the unlikely name of R ONE as the first ship in a class of eight vessels designed for the now defunct Renaissance Cruises. She joined the fleet of Oceania Cruises in 2003. From April 2012, the ship was chartered to Hapag-Lloyd Cruises who renamed her COLUMBUS 2 for the duration of the two year charter. She was returned to Oceania Cruises in April 2014. At that time, the ship regained not only her name but was the beneficiary of a massive $50 million makeover that greatly improved not only the public areas but all of the suites and staterooms. When it emerged from the six week dry dock in May, 2014 it looked like a new ship. The Canyon Ranch Spa received new décor and tile mosaics were added to the steam rooms. The casual dining, Terrace Café, gained not only new furnishings and fixtures but a wonderful cook-to-order grill that allowed dinner specialties such as steaks, lobster tail, and lamb chops to be prepared in an informal setting. The Baristas Coffee Bar was emulated from Oceania’s newer ship the MARINA, serving complimentary specialty coffee drinks and homemade pastries. Outdoors, high on Deck 11 forward, the Sports Deck, gained a new nine-hole miniature golf course and shuffleboard court. The main pool area two decks below features plush new sun loungers resting on beautifully maintained teak decking.
The teak-decked pool area featuring single and double-bedded loungers is located midships on Deck 9. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The Artist Loft was added specifically for the long cruises the ship undertakes. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The Horizons Bar is done in a more contemporary style compared to other areas on the ship. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
Among the newly added features is the Artist Loft. It offers an additional diversion on the long voyages as passengers can hone their artistic talents alongside the professional artists-in-residence gaining instruction in classes ranging from sketching to painting and making collages. The Artist Loft occupies the starboard aft corner of the stunning Horizons Lounge with beautiful views over the bow and to either side. The equivalent location on the port side is a fully glass-enclosed smoking lounge giving smokers a place to congregate while keeping the air pure for the rest of the passengers in the adjacent bar.
The Grand Staircase links the Upper Hall with the Reception Hall below. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
Oceania describes the INSIGNIA as “Elegantly Charming” with “decks resplendent in the finest teak, custom stone and tile work, and her lounges, suites and staterooms boast luxurious, neo-classical furnishings.” More than a touch of Edwardian décor remains from her original incarnation and somehow blends seamlessly with the newly added modern touches. After the multimillion-dollar transformation, the 17-year old INSIGNIA looks like a virtually new ship with barely a hint of her years at sea. There are four open-seating restaurants aboard, all available with no extra charges.
The Polo Grill on Deck 10 is a superb alternative restaurant with its own bar. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
Martinis Bar is an elegant room with a nautical theme. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
Ship artwork includes this view of the Ward Line s.s. MEXICO leaving Havana painted in 1904. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The array of attractive public rooms include eight lounges and bars, a casino and the spa. Passengers are accommodated in 342 suites and freshly decorated staterooms, nearly 70% of which feature private verandas. The maximum complement of the ship is just 684 passengers attended to by 400 professionally trained European staff, giving a high crew to guest ratio.
Stateroom 7049 is a typical Concierge Level stateroom with balcony. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
The first 180-day cruise was to have begun in January, but shipyard work delayed the departure until March 22, 2015 when the 30,277 gross ton INSIGNIA was able to pick up the remainder of its original itinerary from Singapore onward. Three months later on June 22nd it made a call at the Port of Los Angeles and from there went on to complete the voyage with a Panama Canal cruise, ending in Miami. Two hundred passengers were aboard for the full cruise with many more doing shorter segments. The July departure was scheduled to be the second in the series of three back-to-back World Cruises but will be the first to complete the full 180-day circuit. With response to the first two scheduled voyages being overwhelmingly positive, Oceania Cruises decided to add a third additional 180-day journey. The same day the INSIGNIA returns to Miami to disembark her passengers, without a day of rest in between, she will depart for another six month cruise leaving January 4, 2016. This time the voyage will concentrate on warmer tropical climes as it sails south, then eastbound Around-The-World. Like the previous cruise, the trip still touches on five continents, but adds seven ports in Australia while eliminating Europe. The schedule of 92 port calls visits 45 countries, has 13 overnight stays and shows guests the wonders of 57 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The final leg of the voyage will once again bring the ship to Los Angeles, from whence it will visit Central America before transiting the Panama Canal, terminating the long voyage on July 1, 2016 in Miami. These voyages represent the longest and most comprehensive world exploration itineraries ever available on a passenger ship designed to a wonderfully human-sized scale.
The elegant, domed Edwardian-style Library is a highlight on the INSIGNIA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake.
A cozy seat by the faux fireplace in the lavish Library. Photo by Shawn J. Dake
The concept of a continuous world cruise is not unprecedented. While Oceania Cruises currently offers the longest itinerary in the cruise industry with these two upcoming voyages of the INSIGNIA, others have made attempts in the past to surpass that record. The most ambitious World Cruise project was the planned continuous 335-day circumnavigation of the globe aboard the 60-suite SPIRIT OF OCEANUS (ex RENAISSANCE V, HANSEATIC RENAISSANCE, SUN VIVA, MEGASTAR SAGITTARIUS and later the SEA SPIRIT). This would have been the most exclusive and port intensive World Cruise since Bergen Line offered similar trips aboard the venerated STELLA POLARIS of 1927. This cruise actually began on March 6, 2010, departing from Singapore, but much to the dismay of the 71-passengers aboard, it never made the full circuit as the operator Cruise West declared bankruptcy a third of the way through the voyage. Coincidently, this ship was also a former vessel of the defunct Renaissance Cruises, but of their first-generation of small ships. The privately owned residential cruise ship, THE WORLD also provides continuous cruises to various ports throughout the globe for their exclusive clientele.
The INSIGNIA, home away from home for up to six months at a time. Courtesy of Oceania Cruises.
For the present, the two 180-day world trips scheduled for July 8, 2015 and January 4, 2016 are the only two being offered. After that a shorter 90-day Grand Voyage will be substituted taking passengers from the summer into autumn of 2016. For those that feel 180-days is still not enough time to see the world aboard the INSIGNIA, back-to-back voyages can be booked, without repeating most ports, giving guests nearly a full year at sea. Talk about the ultimate adventure.
Shawn J. Dake, freelance travel writer and regular contributor to MaritimeMatters, worked in tourism and cruise industry for over 35 years. A native of Southern California, his first job was as a tour guide aboard the Queen Mary. A frequent lecturer on ship-related topics he has appeared on TV programs. Owner of Oceans Away Cruises & Travel agency, he served as President of the local Chapter of Steamship Historical Society of America. With a love of the sea, he is a veteran of 115 cruises.
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