With an appearance by celebrity chef and ship godmother Giada De Laurentiis and a private concert by Harry Connick Jr., Oceania Cruises’ newest ship, Vista, entered the cruising world with a splash (plus fireworks and beaucoup Veuve Clicquot) at a christening ceremony in Malta earlier this month.
The 1,200-passenger vessel, the first in Oceania’s newest Allura class of ships (Allura, the next in line, won’t set sail until 2025) is the cruise line’s first to debut in 10 years. And while the layout will feel familiar to cruisers who’ve sailed on the line’s previous class of vessels (Marina and Riviera), the Vista is more decadent with plenty of new bells and whistles onboard, all designed to put a focus on the immersive aspect of discovering new tastes and places while delivering an intimate, service-driven experience with a 2:3 crew-to-guest ratio.
About the food and drinks on Oceania’s “Vista”
When a cruise line brands itself as having “the finest cuisine at sea,” the bar is already set pretty high. During the inaugural sailing in early May, my sister and I got right down to putting the 11 dining options onboard Vista to the test. Notably, none of the onboard restaurants requires an additional fee, but you’ll want to make dinner reservations early on in your sailing if you want to attempt trying them all.
Hoping to set a healthy tone for the trip, we had our first meal at Aquamar Kitchen, one of the three new dining concepts debuting on Vista with breakfast options that include over-the-top avocado toasts (among the best I’ve had) and a lunch menu featuring poke, gravlax bowls, and compose-your-own salads. Cold-pressed juices with ingredients like coconut, ginger, beets, and turmeric were a nice touch, as well as zero-proof cocktails, like the Skinny Mimosas, made with nonalcoholic sparkling wine.
It felt good to have healthy options and smaller portions, but all the restraint was for naught during an at-sea day’s overwhelmingly decadent buffet in the ship’s gorgeous Grand Dining Room (this offering is staged only on longer itineraries), complete with king crab claws, raw oysters, lobster tails, a station serving Jacques Pépin’s crepes Suzette recipe, plus a heaping table of French cheeses and a foie gras bar unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed before.
Another culinary offering that is new to the line on Vista is Ember, a modern American restaurant designed to be more casual with easy pleasers on the menu like crab cakes, French dip sandwiches, and steak and seafood.
Fan-favorite Oceania restaurants from the line’s other ships include steakhouse Polo Grill and Toscana (which rival restaurants you would seek out in any top-tier travel destination on land). We also enjoyed our meals at Asian concept Red Ginger, where we ate a delicious lobster pad thai and sipped sake, Waves Grill, with delicious pizzas and buffalo mozzarella salads, and Terrace Cafe, an elegant buffet restaurant with an impressive sushi spread and grilled-to-order lobster tails.
When peckish after a long walk in port, the spot I found myself retreating to most often back onboard was Baristas, high up on Deck 14 with curved panoramic windows overlooking the ship’s centerpiece pool. The horseshoe-shaped espresso bar—stocked with Illy coffee and helmed by a caffeine wizard named Massimo—paired with the adjacent bakery proffering cookies, quiches, and croissants rich with French butter were impossible to resist.
Vista’s cocktail game is particularly strong, and it’s worth considering splashing out on an upgraded beverage package (no alcoholic drinks are included on Vista, but from $40 per guest per day, the House Select+ package includes unlimited champagne, beer, and wine with lunch and dinner; for $70 the Prestige Select plan includes unlimited premium spirits, champagne, beer, and wine “wherever and whenever”) if you’d like to enjoy the same style of cocktails you enjoy at your favorite bar back home ($14 was the average price). At Martinis on Deck 6, my favorite was the Bogart Casablanca, with Bombay Sapphire Gin, ginger liqueur, lime juice, pineapple puree, and basil, which I would have particularly enjoyed sipping while watching the sea below if the curtains hadn’t been drawn.
Founders Bay, also new on Vista, is behind the ship’s small casino. It always had something smoking, bubbling, or being misted at the bar and drew me in more than once for its creative cocktails.
The only thing I felt was missing onboard was an outdoor bar that stays open for sunset for enjoying sea breezes and sundowners. (Waves Bar, by the pool, made delicious spicy passion fruit caipirinhas but was always shuttered by late afternoon, right around the time I’d be craving an alfresco cocktail before dinner.)
Unique service, solo cabins, and staterooms
Oceania was already known for its high level of service. But Vista brings the highest crew-to-guest ratio of any of the line’s seven ships: 800 crew for 1,200 passengers. Whether I was lounging on the pool deck while sailing along the coast of Sardinia, or sidled up at the top deck espresso bar, there was never a moment when I didn’t feel like whatever beverage, throw blanket, or other creature comfort I was longing for wasn’t being intuited by the ship’s omnipresent yet never obsequious crew.
Solo cruisers—a growing market in cruising—will feel particularly seen on Vista, which features new concierge-level veranda staterooms for those who are sailing sans companions, complete with spacious balconies that have previously been absent in solo staterooms on Oceania ships. The six solo cabins on the ship’s Concierge level also have access to a complimentary laundrette (a critical amenity for light packers or those who like to return home with a suitcase full of clean clothes) and a private lounge stocked with snacks and beverages, plus a crew member who can help with any office needs such as printing and light technical support for a laptop or personal device. The Vista also has a new 24-hour internet center on Deck 14 called LYNC Digital Center with large video monitors and internet-ready computers, comfortable chairs for working, snacks and drinks within reach, and a technical support team for assistance (passengers could easily make this their own co-working space at sea).
During our recent sailing, my sister and I couldn’t get over how comfortable our veranda cabin was (every cabin on Vista has a balcony and the standard cabins, at 291 square feet, are the largest of their kind at sea), with billowing duvets, 1,000-thread-count sheets, plush pillows, and ample storage space throughout.
Additional touches such as a marble bathroom featuring a spacious shower with a rain shower head and cushioned furniture on our veranda were comparable to the details you would expect in a luxury hotel. Another passenger I heard refer to the cabins as being “Four Seasons–level luxury” was not wrong. Thoughtfully designed and with artwork in soothing colors, the overall aesthetic was residential resort luxe.
What to do—both on and off the ship
While the Oceania crowd is hardly coming onboard to race a go-kart at sea or take in some ice skating before a midnight chocolate fountain buffet (none of which you’ll find aboard the 791-foot-long Vista), the ship’s thoughtful interior and exterior spaces offer good options for leisure and entertainment when you’re not lounging around the ship’s centerpiece pool on Deck 12, complete with two raised hot tubs and several day beds fringing shallow shelves of water that made the whole deck glow turquoise.
For staying fit, there’s an excellent gym with floor-to-ceiling windows that’s stocked with Technogym equipment you might already be familiar with from your home gym and an adjacent cycling studio. See also: the top deck’s walking track, pickleball court, and mini golf course.
My sister spent one morning taking an art class in the Artist’s Loft, where artist-in-residence, Andre Allen, onboard Vista for its launch and a few months to follow, trained her in the therapeutic state of swirling resin with acrylic colors atop canvas; she left with a frame-worthy souvenir.
I enjoyed a cooking class in the ship’s gleaming Culinary Center, which has been expanded on Vista with individual stations for 24 passengers. Views of the passing ocean swept in through soaring windows while I learned how to use typical Mediterranean ingredients like limoncello, figs, and prosciutto in recipes (the limoncello-soaked semolina cake was particularly straightforward and delicious) I can easily re-create at home.
My favorite shore excursion was a small-group outing from Valetta, called A Taste of Malta, during which we visited a sheep farm making cheese that was so small and off-the-radar it didn’t have a website and enjoyed lunch in olive groves featuring all local products, including spring’s sweetest strawberries and Maltese wines and cheeses with production too small for export.
I never did make it to Deck 15’s Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center for a treatment, but if I had I would have waffled between offerings like the Thai Herbal Poultice massage with acupressure and the body wrap with warm sea algae (always a sucker for more ocean immersion). The spa’s outdoor terrace beckoned right off the bow, too, with two hot tubs overlooking the sea and several heated lounge chairs—a peaceful space passengers can take advantage of whether they’ve booked a treatment or not.
Happily, I found my own shipboard zen for no additional fee in Vista’s impressively curated library, spanning several small rooms with cozy nooks for settling in alongside hundreds of loaner tomes that ranged from self-help books and murder mysteries to classics like Don Quixote and an impressive travel section that only served to further stoke my wanderlust.
How “Vista” practices sustainability
Sustainability-minded features aboard Vista and, eventually, Allura, too, include energy efficiency management plans that factor in navigation and speed optimization to reduce overall energy use, as well as energy-efficient LED lighting onboard and advanced wastewater treatment systems. Oceania Cruises also uses a Vero Water system, providing passengers with reusable bottles; 80 percent of the water consumed on the vessels is produced onboard. In 2022, Oceania launched some 200 Go Green tours that look to educate travelers on ways people at ports are working to conserve their environment. In St. Lucia, you can book a tour to learn about beekeeping practices at an apiculture collective; in Myanmar, you can learn about regenerative farming in Yangon.
Oceania Vista’s 2023 summer season will see the vessel sailing the eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Adriatic seas before wintering in the Caribbean, where a 10-night cruise to Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Bart’s, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic is priced from $2,799 per person (penthouse suites start from $4,699 per person).