We recently sailed on an extended cruise for 28 days on Oceania Cruises, on the Insignia, from Rome, through the Mediterranean, up to Ireland, then across the Atlantic, back to the East Coast in Montreal.
Why 28 days? Extended cruises are a hot new trend nowadays, as sophisticated travelers understand that a typical 10- to even 14-day cruise would never be enough to truly unwind and take in all that such an experience has to offer. After packing, planning -- and most important -- dealing with the torture that is air travel nowadays, intrepid cruisers increasingly sign up for extended cruises -- if they're not already considering a World Cruise, that is. (World Cruises can last anywhere from about 150 to 180 days.)
In fact, on Oceania's Insignia, we met numerous travelers who were "ATWs" (on the "Around The World" cruise for seven months) -- and they still expressed regret when disembarking.
We sailed for almost a month, and here is our report about what we like about Oceania. You're going to love it, too.
The Tranquility Bed
With this bed, I thee wed. I'm serious. We want to marry this bed as it holds us in its arms every night and we cozy up in comfort.
The Oceania Cruises Bed Collection includes the Prestige Tranquility Mattress, a custom-designed mattress composed of 400 encapsulated springs covered by memory foam. It all ensures a deep and restorative sleep. And yes, you can take it with you: A king-sized mattress with box springs costs $3,290, and each pillow is $129 (www.Oceaniabedcollection.com. On this cruise, you'll love to snooze.
Legendary French chef Jacques Pepin is the executive culinary director for Oceania, and the cuisine is delicious and decadent any way you slice it. Dinner might include New York strip steak with steak frites and garlic butter; herb-crusted rotisserie chicken in a yummy gravy; or poached Norwegian salmon with rice pilaf. Executive Chef Farid Oudir assures that every morsel is magnificent, no matter what you prefer.
"We can create low-fat, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free -- you name it," Chef Oudir says.
Even better, in the Terrace Café, the more casual dining venue, "you can have a lobster or shrimp or delicious sushi every night," Oudir says.
The staff on Oceania is first-rate, and they jump to the opportunity to assist you with whatever you need.
Also important: The two alternative, Michelin-worthy restaurants onboard -- Polo Grill and Toscana -- don't charge additional fees for your reservation (as some cruise lines do). In Toscana, try the artichoke timbales and the chocolate lasagna for dessert!
Canyon Ranch spa and cuisine and excursions
We are huge fans of Canyon Ranch -- Debbi has visited Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass., for years, and has a remarkable experience every time she visits. It is a delight to know that there is a Canyon Ranch SpaClub aboard all Oceania cruise ships.
For example, Debbi had an exceptional Environ facial featuring this posh brand you will never find on another cruise line (www.dermaconcepts.com, www. CanyonRanch.com). Oceania has also taken the unprecedented step of offering Canyon Ranch excursions in ports of call. In Spain, Deb visited an apiary, and even donned a beekeeper's suit for the interview -- plus bought gorgeous beauty products (www.museomielranchocortesano.com).
And be assured: The experience is also conveyed in the dining room -- with exceptional Canyon Ranch cuisine and recipes that ensure delicious, low-fat food. For example, this 500-calorie dinner: artichokes in forest mushroom vinaigrette, consommé with Parmesan tuiles, and a scrumptious cod in ginger sauce. With a diet like that, you'll never feel deprived.
Most "Around The World" guests were sailing from New York to Miami for 180 days. Many were thrilled with their experience. And why not?
"ATW" passengers receive numerous advantages, including two-for-one cruise fares plus free first-class round-trip airfare, along with a wealth of other freebies, like pre-paid gratuities, unlimited internet, luggage delivery, round-trip transfers, one-night pre-cruise luxury-hotel accommodations, and much more. There are also numerous special ATW excursions.
Yes, we loved our Oceania cruise, but to be fair, we need to point out some minor improvements needed. For starters, Oceania cruises are not all-inclusive and, resultantly, you will be asked to pay for certain things that come standard on all-inclusive luxury cruise lines. Wine and cocktails? There's a fee of $39.95 per person per day. Need an email printed out in the computer room? That's 25 cents per page. Fitness classes on some sailings are $11 each. And if you want to do your laundry, purchase your washer-and-dryer tokens at reception. We heard passengers complain about these fees.
But on a better note, on the day we missed a port in St. Pierre, Canada, due to bad weather, the ship offered complimentary happy-hour cocktails for two hours to offset this disadvantage, and it was a very enthusiastically received benefit.
Entertainment included the unbelievably talented violinists Laszlo and Claudia (www.laszloandclaudia.com), who are married and play everything from Bach to Bachrach. They were fantastic!
We also were impressed with "Britain's Got Talent" finalist Zyrah Rose, a dynamite quartet of four beautiful women with fantastic voices.
We also loved flute player Clare Langan who wows with every note.
Irish comedian Billy Boyle was also a high point -- and, as he remarked -- remember: If you look like your passport photo, you're probably too ill to travel.
For more information on Oceania, visit www.oceaniacruises.com.