The new-look Martinis lounge aboard Oceania’s Insignia is brighter, smarter and more contemporary, but it retains its persona of a plush private club.

The revamped observation lounge Horizons now boasts 270-degree panoramic views without having lost its country club ambience. Miami-based design company Studio DADO has given the interior lighter woods and marble, new carpets, fabrics and wallpaper, and a colour palette of marine-inspired blues and soothing soft greys and silver.

Complementing it all is the carefully curated art collection, most of which has been handpicked by Frank Del Rio, the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings, who is said to be an avid art fan with impeccable attention to detail. And there has certainly been no restraint, as around a million dollars was splashed out on the new artworks alone.

So, is Insignia, one of Oceania’s stalwarts, better than new after an amazing refurbishment – or a “re-inspiration”, as they’re calling it?

“The bar that we set was to make the ship better than new,” says Harry Sommer, president international of NCL Holdings.

One of Insignia’s most spectacular changes is the show-stopping Grand Lobby. Framed by intricate railings and balustrades inset with crystal accents, the dramatic, sweeping staircase is now looked over by a dazzling tiered chandelier and, on the wall, a soaring verre églomisé, a mirror-like panel gilded with precious metal.

Horizon Lounge on the Oceania Insignia
Horizon Lounge on the Oceania Insignia

The abundance of reflective surfaces coupled with a bold contrast of light and dark hues and geometric patterns recall the glamour of Art Deco and wandering the ship feels like stepping into an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

As for the suites and staterooms, every single one has been completely transformed with lavishly upholstered headboards, bespoke furnishings and conveniences such as new bedside USB ports. Overall, the accommodation now boasts a welcoming, residential feel and this is down to Studio DADO successfully fulfilling the brief to create a home away from home for the guests on Insignia.

The plush Owner’s Suite has a hint of 1930s sophistication about it, with rich high-gloss woodwork, monochrome bed linen and cushions, and polished light fixtures, but it is also an oasis of relaxation, made even better by floor-to-ceiling windows and a sprawling teak terrace.

Standing out for its serene olive accents is the Penthouse Suite, whereas the Veranda and Oceanview Staterooms feature sleek cobalt blue tones. The modern bathrooms bask in the glow of their new lighting, jewel-like fixtures and gleaming marble and onyx, with one of the highlights being the bi-folding glass shower doors – not a single shower curtain remains on the ship.

Another major change in the Grand Dining Room is impossible to miss. At the restaurant’s centre now hangs the second of Insignia’s glittering chandeliers, made even more impressive when you discover every one of its crystals was hung by hand.

The suite onboard Oceania Insignia
The suite onboard Oceania Insignia

There’s new artwork here too, and the carpet and upholstery on the chairs have been replaced. It’s a grand place to dine and experience the gourmet cuisine curated by world-renowned chef Jacques Pépin. As part of the line’s OceaniaNEXT initiative, an extensive plant-based menu is now available alongside the usual dishes, in an effort to reflect guests’ evolving palates and heightened focus on wellness.

Every restaurant onboard Insignia is complimentary, and other dining options include the buffet-style Terrace Café, where guests can dine inside or al fresco, and the laid-back Waves Grill, specialising in all-American favourites just a few steps from the swimming pool. More upmarket in feel are Italian eatery Toscana, with its custom-designed Versace china, and high-end steakhouse Polo Grill. Both benefit from an expanse of glorious full-length windows, so panoramic sea views can be enjoyed alongside delicious fare.

Some areas on board were left untouched, which was put down to their timeless appeal. The library, for example, is reminiscent of an old English country manor. Around 2,000 books and periodicals line dark wooden shelves, deep leather armchairs tempt relaxation and a grand marble fireplace sits under a ceiling mural of colourful birds perched on luscious treetops.

The pool deck on the Oceania Insignia
The pool deck on the Oceania Insignia

The Canyon Ranch Spa is still a haven of relaxation offering a variety of spa treatments. The Pool Deck, crowned with a heated pool, two whirlpool spas and luxe sun-loungers, makes a great outdoor hangout, while two boutiques, a casino, The Card Room and the Insignia Lounge – a hub of live entertainment – make up the rest of the main indoor spaces.

Injecting more than $145 million into renovating its four Regatta-class ships as part of the fleet-wide OceaniaNEXT initiative, the cruise line aims to retain the intimacy and comfort of the fleet’s popular guest areas while adding a large dose of elegance and a splash of something different along the way; retaining the elements cruise line guests know and love, while making them even better.

Insignia was the first to undergo the re-inspiration treatment, followed by Sirena. Regatta went into its makeover in September after its Alaska season, and Nautica will follow in June 2020 – after all, work of this magnitude can’t be rushed.

Collectively, the four ships will be the proud owners of 12,000 new sofas and chairs, 8,000 new light fixtures, 1,368 new suites and staterooms, and 1,400 new marble bathrooms, with the work of 1,000-plus artisans and craftsmen playing a part in the extensive overhaul.

So, is Insignia better than new? According to Sommer, who was at the ship’s launch 21 years ago, “It looks better today than it did then.” From the magnificent grand lobby to the chic, stylish staterooms, Insignia has undergone a glamorous, elegant transformation that wows.

Fact file

CRUISE LINE: Oceania Cruises

VESSEL: Insignia




ENTERED SERVICE: 1998/ 2014/ 2019

FACILITIES: Swimming pool, library, bars, restaurants, spa.


The verdict

Highs: Fresh, elegant new decor, including crystal chandeliers. Great food in all-complimentary dining venues.

Lows: Extremely high onboard gratuities.

Best for: Couples who like good food and style in an informal setting at a reasonable price.

This story was originally published on Cruise International and was republished here with permission.