The battle for the upper premium cruiser is about to heat up, with Oceania Cruises announcing a new offer to guests and the intention to homeport a ship in Australia from 2025.

The line, which christened its newest ship at a glittering ceremony in Malta this week, is considering posting Oceania Riviera to Australia for the 2025/26 season. Australia/New Zealand is now its biggest international market after America and Canada.

Line president Frank A. Del Rio revealed the plans to Cruise Passenger. Riviera is due for a major refit. He said another vessel would likely join the deployment in Asia Pacific.

Mr Del Rio also revealed new offers to replace O Life. ‘Simply More’ will mean drinks included at mealtimes and up to $2,600 towards shore excursions.

Jason Worth, Vice President Sales & General Manager, Asia Pacific, said Oceania was now looking at additional new builds as new-to-brand becomes a big area of development. The Vista already has a sister – Oceania Allura will debut in 2025.

Since the pandemic, there has been a huge rush to trade up among Australian passengers. Like Premium Economy and Business Class in the air, Upper Premium has been a big winner. Vista and Allura’s launch represents brilliant timing.

Ironically, Oceania Vista was docked next to sister brand Regent Seven Seas Splendor when she started her inaugural cruise from Rome. Splendor, from a fleet that describes itself as the “world’s most luxurious” was built at the same shipyard and designed by the same team as Vista.

Vista, as the line’s first newly built vessel in a decade, represents a real step change for Oceania Cruises.  Many on her inaugural cruise questioned how you could now tell the difference between the two Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings brands.

The answer: like other break-out brands – Scenic and Emerald, APT and TravelMarvel – it’s about the value proposition for guests.

Regent Seven Seas is truly all inclusive. Oceania includes some shore excursions and many luxuries at around $400 per night. Beverages are at mealtimes. Regent’s price point is more like $800 a night, and includes airport pickups, beverages all day and a full list of inclusions.

And, as Mr Worth concluded in a gentle dig at rivals Viking, Oceania has a casino and welcomes kids.

Oceania is converting big ship cruisers seeking space and more inclusions, with an enviable new-to-brand ratio as traditional cruisers look for vessels that meet their post-Covid must-haves.

Oceania Vista was christened in Malta May 8 in a ceremony that saw legendary Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings president Frank Del Rio hand over the reigns to his son Frank A. Del Rio.

Among her firsts: a 3:2 guest to passenger ratio: triple the number of culinary centre seats; a chef for every 10 passengers; and new Link digital training centres, which offer guests the opportunity to learn how to create social media and digital photography.

The ship’s godmother, Giada De Laurentiis, a restauranteur, New York Times best-selling author and granddaughter of legendary film director Dino De Lorentiis, christened the vessel with the traditional champagne send off. Harry Connick Jr headlined the entertainment.

Earlier, Mr Del Rio told Cruise Passenger he believes Upper Premium will be the big winner of the post Covid era as guests trade up from big ship lines for smaller ships.

The Vista is in the vanguard of upper premium’s new assault on the luxury market.

Senior Vice President Sales Nikki Upshaw told Cruise Passenger she believes Oceania is unrivalled at the upper end of Upper Premium, and that its closest match would be Viking. But she maintained Oceania Cruises had advantages like a higher staff-top-guest ratio, food experiences and design features.

Facilities like the cooking school and art loft were unique. Australian cruisers particularly liked Oceania’s relaxed cruising style, and the line had experienced a surge in business post the pandemic both in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

Vista has 11 dining venues, three of which are new: Ember, a signature restaurant featuring American cuisine; Aquamar Kitchen, which feature wellness; and The Bakery at Baristas, an expansion of popular coffee bar serving freshly baked French and Italian pastries.

Weighing in at 67,000 tonnes and measuring 791-foot-long she boasts the most spacious standard staterooms at sea.  Bathrooms are particularly big for a ship of his size and class.

Vista raises the bar and makes a bold statement about Upper Premium. Mr Del Rio Snr has hitherto supervised the design and artwork aboard his vessels along with Miami interior cruise ship team Studio Dado, who also work on Regent Seven Seas.

His signature chandeliers, lavish marble and rich woods are everywhere on Vista. Studio Dado have certainly answered what Yohandel Ruiz, Founding Partner, described as his catchcry in suite design:  “More drawers!”

The art is modern and influenced by artist-in-residence Willard Andre Allen.

Vista sports a stunning atrium with chandelier extending over two floors. Retail has been extended and now features leading brands in jewellery and watches.

It feels airy and spacious, with a large spa of 12 treatment rooms, steam and sauna and a sumptuous back deck with whirl pools and a large pool to relax by.

The main swimming pool is a masterpiece: a large paddle pool surrounds the main swimming area. And there is a brilliant wooden-effect around the area that gives it an almost Nordic feel.

Of course, food is front and centre of a line that boasts the best cuisine at sea. And Vista doesn’t disappoint.

A new partnership with Basque butcher Imanol Jaca supplies “more flavourful” mature beef, Oceania’s VP Food & Beverage Bernhard Klotz tells us.

There are 80 new wines, and three new venues. Favourites Polo Grill, Toscana and Red Ginger, is Ember, which serves lobster roll, crab cake, grilled beef tenderloin and roasted salmon.

Aquamar Kitchen, an extension of the Aquamar Spa brand, proves a big hit with healthy but tasty options from smoothies and organic bowls to yellowfin tacos, wraps. Australia’s own avocado toast has a big place on the menu, and there are an abundance of zero alcohol drinks, from wines to Lyre’s cocktails.

Australians will also love Baristas – great coffee, and a new bakery with eclairs, almond croissants and fluffy cheese-filled quiche.

Vista sports an enlarged Culinary Center with 24 cooking stations and a new suite of onshore food experiences from market produce to dining. There is a new private dining and events studio for the line’s cuisine Queen Chef Kathryn Kelly for demonstrations, wine pairing or just an indulgent meal.

And if you feel especially decadent, there are new classes in desserts such as crepes or lava cake.

The Grand Dining Room remains the grand dame of Oceania Cruises’ culinary world. On Vista, though, it has a youthful look, and a light colour scheme of ivory with gold and silver touches.

After her summer season in the Mediterranean, Vista will sail to Canada and New England before heading south for a series of winter itineraries exploring the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.

Ms Upshaw said there was a 2-5% premium on the new ships, depending on the itinerary and demand. Bookings will open for Oceania Allura in August and for 2025 in September.

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Where to eat on Oceania Vista

Ember is the signature addition to Oceania Cruises. Open for lunch and dinner, Ember is the ideal place to warm your culinary soul. Think Braised Short Ribs on Polenta, Grilled Swordfish with Asparagus, Crab Cakes with Spicy Aioli, and a Cobb Salad with Smoked Chicken.

Aquamar Kitchen is fresh perspective on dining and the pursuit of wellness. It serves hearty homemade granolas and avocado toasts, organic power bowls, and savory breakfast wraps. Breakfast selections include cold-pressed raw juices and super-food smoothies, lunch includes as Slow-Roasted Organic Salmon with quinoa tabouleh and lemon tahini, Yellowfin Tacos with white cabbage slaw, or even a Crunchy Chicken.

The Grand Dining Room is the luxurious grand dame of Oceania Cruises’ culinary world. Here, guests will savor a leisurely dining experience in a truly magnificent and inspired room. This signature dining experience has always offered a bevy of delicious continental dishes. Every day presents a realm of choices from signature Jacques Pépin classics to an incredible spectrum of global flavors and an all-new Executive Chef’s Tasting Menu

Polo Grill is the ultimate classic steakhouse experience. Crisp white linen tablecloths and black jacketed servers set the tone for an evening of gracious dining. The beef dishes are 28-day dry aged certified Black Angus USDA Prime, while seafood dishes such as grilled swordfish and whole Maine lobster gratinée are also classics.

Toscana presents Tuscan cuisine in a truly Italian setting: rich Chianina leather, hand- blown Venetian glass and Carrara marble. Many recipes originated with the mothers and grandmothers of the line’s Italian culinary staff, though we doubt they were presented on the same Versace china. Octopus carpaccio with Champagne vinaigrette or artichoke and parmesan cheese timbale with black truffle sauce, followed by classic dishes such as the hand-rolled gnocchi with pesto, a rich risotto with lobster medallions and shallots.

Red Ginger radiates tranquility. Pan-Asian dishes from Thai, Korean, Japanese and Malaysian chefs include salad of spicy roast duck and watermelon with cashews, mint and Thai basil; a Malaysian beef penang with coconut rice and paratha roti.

Terrace Café is informal dining with a stylish terrace. At breakfast, Terrace Café  made-to-order eggs, omelets, pancakes and waffles. Come lunch, an expansive menu of international- inspired dishes is complemented by flavorful roasted and rotisserie meats and the magic of the pizzeria’s oven.

Waves Grill is a casual venue with all-American favorites like gourmet burgers, seafood and sandwiches to order in the open galley, accompanying them with sides like fresh salads,

Priveé is a marquee venue for bespoke, intimate culinary celebrations for a maximum of 10 privileged guests.

Baristas offers illy® espressos, cappuccinos and lattes prepared by master baristas as well as delicious pastries, finger sandwiches and homemade biscotti. Just steps away, the new Bakery serves baked French and Italian pastries, indulgent chocolate-almond croissant or sinfully sweet bombolini.

You’ll be glad Vista also features a big fitness centre!