Like a great bottle of Macallan, some things take a bit of time to get just right. In the case of Oceania Cruises, it took 10 years to add a new ship to their fleet. But oh what a beauty Oceania’s shiny new Vista is, the first ship of the brand’s all new Allura class.
Completed this year, this 791-foot, all-veranda ship has a 1,200-guest capacity and spans 16 decks. I was on the inaugural voyage of Vista which departed Rome May 6th. The Vista was officially christened May 8th in Valletta, Malta, by Archbishop Jude Scicluna. Rabbi Marc Labowitz formally “bristened” the ship. Using his angelic voice, Rabbi Labowitz blessed the ship and sang a prayer for smooth sailing then hilariously told passengers and local dignitaries that, “in keeping with tradition, just a tiny bit would be shaved from the hull.”
Food personality and cookbook author Giada DeLaurentiis was named as Vista’s Godmother and pulled the ceremonial lever smashing the champagne bottle against the hull, while the legendary Grammy and Emmy award-winning musician Harry Connick, Jr. serenaded everyone in a dazzling pier side ceremony under an elegant tent. Passengers and guests were then treated to a July 4th-worthy harbor side fireworks display.
On this seven day voyage – which also marked Oceania’s 20th anniversary – the ship was fully occupied. However, due to Vista’s generous layout and plentiful public’s spaces, lounges and bars, the ship barely seemed half full. That delightful sensation was buttressed by uniformly excellent service delivered by 800-crew hailing from 54 nations – reflecting a stellar guest-to-crew ratio of 3:2.
Designed by Dado
The Vista has a comfortable, contemporary feel designed by Studio Dado that is modern – but never stark – yet invitingly warm. The Atrium’s massive and breathtaking Czech crystal light fixture resembles a two-story flowing waterfall. Public areas are spacious and chic with comfortable seating. Clean lines, light woods, and a sense of panache prevail.
Hallways have gray, blue, and white carpets with geometric diamond patterns and fleur-de-lis style designs that mimic the high seas. While there are several excellent Picasso’s onboard, many other enormously talented, but lesser known contemporary artists’ work are represented adding to a sense of vogue. Several landings have interesting swirling white marble sculptures making any kind of speed ascending or descending stairs impossible.
Stately and Serene Suites
Vista’s all-balcony staterooms are very generously sized in all categories. The entry level French Veranda stateroom is 240-square feet while the brand’s new category in response to consumer demand is the Concierge Solo Veranda stateroom and measures 270-square feet. The Veranda and Concierge Veranda staterooms are 291-square feet. Larger Penthouse Suites range from 440-square feet up to Owners’ Suites that have a whopping 2,200 to 2,400-square feet.
I hung my hat in a Concierge Veranda stateroom decorated in a gray, taupe, and white color scheme with a 60-inch flatscreen television, double seating area and marble coffee table. The stateroom also had a small desk, plenty of strategically placed USB ports and outlets, and replenished daily minibar. In room carpets are composed of natural, un-dyed wool and thus hypoallergenic and happily fragrant free. The 7th generation Tranquility mattresses are divine while linens are woven with intoxicating 1000-count sheets that made getting out of bed rather challenging.
The enormous gray and white Carrera-style marble bathroom had more than double the cabinet and storage space than in similar suite categories on like sized ships. The double-sized walk-in shower possessed easy-to-operate intuitively controlled rain and standard shower heads, Bulgari amenities, and incredibly soft, single-twist, cotton-ribbed towels. Staterooms also have the most user-friendly climate control mechanism I’ve encountered at sea.
Dining for Food Divas
An industry first, Vista has one chef for every 10 passengers, which explains in part while the food onboard is so consistently delicious. As Chef Bernhard Klotz, Vista’s Vice-President of operations explained, “To keep serving ‘The finest cuisine at sea,’ it must start with great ingredients.” Beef and veal are Galician sourced traditionally aging its meat about a decade longer than others making it far more flavorful. Fresh fish and seafood are locally sourced as much as possible and frozen items are sourced from Boston. Of course the butter is French.
In addition to Oceania’s signature restaurants: Italian Toscana, Pan-Asian Red Ginger, and Polo Grill classic steakhouse, and the staple favorites: the Grand Dining Room, Terrace Café, and Waves Grill, are all now joined by three new stellar dining options.
The innovative Aquamar Kitchen is a healthy concept eatery with fantastic salads, poke bowls, avocado toast varieties, soups, wraps, and healthy sandwiches. I fell in love with Aquamar dining there several times during the week. Also new, Ember is a cutting edge, creative, farm-to-table contemporary American restaurant that resembles Napa Valley’s finest. It has an open kitchen and also offers Cellar Masters wine-paired, multi-course, mouth-watering menus.
Happily, a large bakery serving all manner of French patisserie and delectable quiches, has been added to Vista’s excellent Baristas Coffee Bar. Be sure and try Barista’s addictive “crema’, a marvelous frozen, creamy, mocha bit of heaven. Of course, afternoon tea at Horizon’s is not to be missed.
Keeping in Shape & Wellness
Vista’s Executive Chef Frederic Camonin and his team are very talented. So by necessity I made good use of Vista’s enormous and perfectly outfitted fitness center. Fortunately, the Fitness Center is so appealing a few passengers joined me. It’s open 24-hours, has floor-to-ceiling windows, state-of-the-art Technogym equipment and weight machines, free weights, and a separate indoor cycling room with Technogym bikes. There are several fitness classes daily including spinning, Pilates, yoga, stretching, HITT, abs, and guided meditation. For those needing an extra push, a personal trainer can be reserved.
Vista’s Aquamar Spa & Vitality Center is an oasis of calm with 11 treatment rooms including one with an unusual quartz massage bed and a full menu of spa treatments. There’s also a medical spa offering physician-administered Thermage skin tightening treatments, Restylane and Dysport fillers, as well as traditional Chinese acupuncture. A light filled beauty and nail salon and barber station with a complete service roster is another haven. The adjacent Spa Terrace has two outdoor Jacuzzis and a Thalassotherapy, jetted mineral water pool. The large main pool area has comfortable loungers, plenty of shade, and two more jacuzzis.
Oceania is destination-focused and at each port-of-call, choices abound to meet guests’ gamut of interests, including food, wines, culture, art, and history, and are led by talented local expert guides.
While I generally prefer to go off exploring on my own, I opted to join a small group walking tour of historic Naples and was impressed by the depth and breadth of our local guide who was not only passionate about her city, but displayed intricate knowledge of local architecture, history, and a host of fun facts keeping participants engaged and interested for the tour’s duration.
As Oceania is food-focused, it also hosts immersive, food forward, chef-led excursions with trips to local food markets, restaurants, and destination-focused food, wine and spirits tastings.
Onboard Learning Experiences
Vista’s expanded onboard Culinary Enrichment Program is housed an airy, light-filled cooking studio with 24 stations where Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly and her delightful team teach informative, easy-to-learn courses. During my enjoyable class – and admittedly though I have precious little experience cooking – I learned to make a delicious Limoncello cake, divine feta-stuffed, prosciutto wrapped figs, and happily, a Limoncello cocktail.
At the Artists Loft, in another inspiring, bright windowed space, talented artists-in-residence can help channel one’s inner Chagall. The current artist-in-residence is the charming Willard Andre Allen, whose colorful work graces the walls of several of Oceania’s ships.
The LYNC Digital Center offers courses in a variety of useful and timely topics such as DSLR camera comprehension, landscape and travel photography, and social media photo basics. The latter is very helpful for the cyber-challenged among us.
For the pleasure of reading, Vista’s large library is an inviting and comfortable spot to to dive into gathering information about onward journeys or to simply curl up with a good book.
Whatever floats your boat, whether inspired food or excellent wine-paired meals prepared by some of the industry’s finest chefs, innovative craft cocktails poured by talented mixologists, or intellectual curiosity to be satisfied by some of the world’s most desirable destinations and excursions, not to mention great onboard entertainment and top-notch service, a cruise on Oceania’s new Vista will be a delight.
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com.
Written by Julie L. Kessler
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