Oceania Cruises SIRENA And REGATTA Come West

Oceania Cruises SIRENA and REGATTA Come West
A Look Inside

By

Shawn J. Dake

The SIRENA at berth 46 in the outer harbor of Los Angeles on January 4, 2017. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Oceania Cruises and their highly regarded fleet of six ships can be found in waters all over the world.  But only recently have they expanded their presence on the U.S. West Coast with a series of cruises to the Mexican Riviera and beyond.  While still in her inaugural season with the line, the SIRENA made her first call at the Port Of Los Angeles on December 11, 2016, a day after stopping in San Diego at the conclusion of a Panama Canal cruise.  Two round trip voyages to Mexico followed including an impressive 14-day “Holiday Fiesta” encompassing both the Christmas and New Year holidays before returning to L.A. on January 4, 2017.  The REGATTA followed her sister out to California departing a few days later on January 7th for a 10-Day Mexican Riviera cruise followed by a return through the Panama Canal and a series of voyages to South America and the Caribbean.  During the summer REGATTA will sail to the Pacific Northwest for a season of cruises to Alaska.

A stern view of the REGATTA at berth 91/92 at the Los Angeles World Cruise Terminal, January 7, 2017. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The intermittent rainy weather in Los Angeles and the unusual pier locations were not the most conducive conditions for good photography.  Still, the settings provided some different perspectives than usual and a chance to compare two ships that are often viewed as identical but offer their own unique traits and personalities.

Temporary, tented, terminal welcomes the SIRENA to L.A. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

With the main cruise terminal filled with two very large vessels of another cruise line, the SIRENA berthed at a distant Pier 46 in the outer harbor.  A makeshift tent terminal was erected pier side, and boarding the ship was quick and easy with passenger check-in taking place in the lounge onboard.  One very welcome policy of Oceania is to allow early arriving passengers aboard the ship where they can comfortably wait for their staterooms and suites to be ready later in the afternoon.  During this time a very impressive buffet luncheon is served at the casual Terrace Café or the poolside Waves Grill.

Waves Grill; one of many dining options aboard the SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The pool deck looking forward on the SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The SIRENA joined the Oceania fleet in April, 2016 following a $40 million refit.  The ship was originally built in 1999 by Chantiers de l’Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France as the R FOUR for the defunct Renaissance Cruises.  She later sailed for many years under the banner of Princess Cruises and has the distinction of being the only ship in that fleet to bear two separate names, TAHITIAN PRINCESS and OCEAN PRINCESS.  The refurbishment for Oceania left her looking like a brand new ship, sprucing up some areas that retained their original décor and adding new elements most notably in the suites and alternative dining areas.  Thankfully the charm originally built into her remained.

Bedroom of redecorated Owner’s Suite #6091 aboard SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

One of the redesigned marble bathrooms in a suite on SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

All staterooms have had modern furnishings and soft goods installed.  The bathrooms have been upgraded in multiple shades of marble.  The largest suites consist of six Owner’s Suites aft and four Vista Suites forward all of which have been redesigned with accents of wood and stone throughout.

The new Tuscan Steak restaurant on the SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The Polo Grill steakhouse viewed from the same perspective aboard the REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The SIRENA features a restaurant not found on any of the other ships.  The aptly named Tuscan Steak combines the Italian elements of their earlier Toscana with a modern take on the steakhouse Polo Grill which it replaces in the same space, aft on the starboard side of Deck 10.

The Red Ginger specialty restaurant added to the SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Entrance to Toscana Italian restaurant aboard the REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The highly popular Asian cuisine restaurant Red Ginger found aboard the newer MARINA and RIVIERA has been added on the port side aft, in the space that remains the Toscana restaurant aboard the REGATTA.

The lovely Horizons Lounge aboard the SIRENA has been opened up with views in all directions. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

One other public space that is clearly distinguishable between the two ships is the Horizons observation lounge and bar high on Deck 10 forward.  On the SIRENA the room has a more open floor plan with views stretching across the full width of the ship and from the bar to the panoramic windows at the front.  Dark wood tones, brown carpeting and grey upholstery on the furniture combine with recessed lighting to give the room a contemporary feel.

The Horizons Bar on the REGATTA facing starboard and aft. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The forward portion of the observation lounge section of Horizons aboard the REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The REGATTA while having a similarly beautiful bar, still retains more of the original design elements including side alcoves separated by colorful glass artworks and a solid-backed bandstand in the center of the room that creates a section for viewing out the sloped forward windows that sets it apart from the rest of this attractive lounge.

One of the pieces of glass art that remain aboard the REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

When Oceania Cruises first formed in 2002, the REGATTA became their first ship, although for a very brief time under the name of INSIGNIA, a name that was soon given to another of her sister ships in 2003.  All of the former Renaissance Cruises R-ships were built by the world-famous shipyard of Chantiers de l’Atlantique, at St. Nazaire, France.  In 1998 the R TWO entered service.  After the September 25, 2001 bankruptcy of Renaissance Cruises, the ship was laid up before being sold to a group called Cruiseinvest who chartered her to Oceania where she would find a permanent home.  Oceania purchased the ship outright in 2006.  On their website, the REGATTA is still referred to as “the flagship of the Oceania Cruises fleet.”  For her recent visit to Los Angeles, the ship docked astern of the World War II era battleship U.S.S. IOWA at berth 91/92 in San Pedro.

A busy photograph on a busy day with the battleship U.S.S. IOWA (BB61), the new L.A. FIREBOAT 2 and the cruise ships REGATTA with RUBY PRINCESS in the background. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Though some of the interior differences have been noted, there are many more things that remain the same aboard the two sisters.  Deck 5 is considered the promenade if for no other reason than it has that feature for strolling and lounging along either side and contains many of the major public rooms.

Entrance to the lounge on the REGATTA looking aft. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The Main Lounge of the REGATTA is very similar to that of SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The Main Lounge holds down the forward end of the deck with a stage, dance floor and bar.  The room can be entered on the port and starboard sides via  impressive hallways lined in faux wood and columns done in an antique Edwardian style.

Other than the paintings on the walls the mid-ship lounge adjoining Martinis bar is nearly identical on both ships. This is the REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

A view of the Upper Hall aboard the SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The Grand Staircase facing aft on the REGATTA but basically the same on all of the Oceania sisters. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Just aft, a small casino adjoins Martinis bar and the midship lounge on the port side with a photo gallery and passageway to starboard.   Proceeding aft past a pair of boutiques guests arrive in the Upper Hall where an impressive grand staircase descends to the reception desk and lobby one level below.  The Grand Bar is a wonderful, intimate place to order drinks or coffee before or after dinner, or in fact any time of day.

Nearly identical on both ships, this is the Grand Bar on the REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

The Grand Dining Room on SIRENA facing forward. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

An intimate corner table for two aboard REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Situated on the starboard side, this leads into the Grand Dining Room at the after end of the deck.  Ceiling frescos and retro furnishings add to the ambiance of this impressive space.  Although nearly identical on both ships, at lunchtime aboard the SIRENA this space transforms into Jacques Bistro, named for Executive Culinary Director Jacques Pépin.  Although not available to sample, the French cuisine is said to be wonderful and yet another option for a midday repast.

The Surf & Turf Sandwich from the Grill menu. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

A selection of desserts from the buffet is pleasing to the eye as well as the palate. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

It may sound silly to say that food is a matter of taste but it is such an essential element when it comes to choices among cruise ships.  Fine dining has always been an area where Oceania Cruises has excelled.  Beyond the main dining room and specialty restaurants,  the Terrace Café and adjoining Waves Grill may be unrivaled in quality and selections.   While most outdoor grills serve hamburgers, hot dogs or sometimes get as exotic as adding tacos, this venue takes it a step beyond.   Among 18 menu choices, a few examples include a grilled Florida lobster and filet mignon sandwich on Ciabatta with parmesan dusted truffle fries, a Q-Ban sandwich of slow-roasted marinated pork and sweet ham on a French baguette, or if you still insist on a hamburger, how about The Kobe Burger made with Wagyu beef and black truffle sauce and baby cress.  There’s also fish in the form of salmon, mahi mahi and ahi tuna.  Of course you can still always get a hot dog served either classic-style or Swedish with dill shrimp salad and fried onions.  When ordering from the grill the meal is brought to your table instead of waiting around while it is being prepared.  Like the food itself, the service is outstanding.

The beautiful library on the SIRENA looking toward the port side. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Library of the REGATTA. The painted birds in the dome are different as is the painting over the mantle in this view looking to starboard. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

On a tour of these two ships mention of one of the loveliest rooms afloat can not be neglected.  The library sits above the pool decks like an oasis of calm.  The domed ceiling is adorned with exotic birds while the cozy faux-fireplace provides the comfort of a very classy living room.  There is a wonderful selection of nautical books and biographies along with an excellent range of the latest fiction offerings.

On Deck 9 the Spa Terrace overlooks the bow on REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Mast, Funnel and Shuffleboard atop Deck 11 of SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

For the more active just outside the door is a fitness track and across the teak decks past the swimming pool and twin spas is the Canyon Ranch Spa Club with its styling salon, massage and steam rooms, fitness center and relaxation deck with Jacuzzi tub.  Literally on top of all that on Deck 11 the Sun Deck has a shuffleboard court and golf putting greens.

On reflection, take a bow SIRENA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Although their original design is nearly 20 years old these ships more than hold their own in the modern cruise industry.  Perhaps most important is their “human size” elements emphasizing comfort over extraneous features found on the newest or largest mass-market ships.  With only 684 passengers served by a International crew of 400 (a guest to staff ratio of 1.71 to 1) the focus is on friendly, personalized service.  Guests have free reign over nine passenger decks including three full decks completely devoted to public spaces.

Aft staircase at Deck 10 landing aboard REGATTA. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Each ship measures 30,277 gross tons, with  a length of 593.7 feet, a beam of 83.5 feet and a maximum draft of 19.5 feet.  For those that do not wish to sail with 3,000 strangers, or even double that number, or were ready to give up cruising altogether as mega-ships replaced the few smaller traditional ships remaining, these superb vessels represent a very viable alternative.  For the traditional cruiser that appreciates the finer things in life, these might just be the ships for you.

The REGATTA rests on a winter evening in the Port Of Los Angeles; January 7, 2017. Photo by Shawn J. Dake © 2017.

Thanks to Peter Knego and Tim Rubacky .

Shawn Dake

Shawn Dake

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.
Shawn Dake
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