By Special Guest Blogger Kathy Witt
When starry-eyed wanderlusters dream of that trip of a lifetime, don’t be surprised if Oceania Cruises’ Regatta glides into their mental picture. The ship is elegant but comfortable, exquisitely styled but approachable, expensive but worth every. single. penny.
Much of the allure lies within the ship’s luxury-level décor, finishing appointments and amenities – thanks to a multimillion-dollar stem-to-stern redesign in 2019 – paired with attentive service, an unstuffy attitude and warmly welcoming atmosphere.
From sweeping Grand Staircase, its balustrades framing a gold-leafed tree against a silver backdrop and given soft illumination by the crystal chandelier to chummy lounge areas and seating nooks, to tastefully decorated staterooms and suites – each an oasis of calm and comfort with custom-crafted furnishings and designer accessories – this ship is catwalk ready.
The Grand Dining Room channels a stately five-star sensibility one might find in European restaurants, with seating, linens and tableware working in concert beneath a chandelier centerpiece that sets the stage for the global-inspired cuisine featured on the Chef’s Tasting Menu. Chicken ballotine, molten cheese souffle and caviar-stuffed potato fritters open an evening of gastronomy that moves onto Marseillaise fish soup, duck a l’ orange and butter-roasted Maine lobster and finishes with ice cappuccino parfait, apple crumble pie and a velvety-rich ice cream dish called “Elvis, the Fat Years.” (The chef is not without a sense of humor.)
Two specialty dining experiences await at the Italian restaurant, Toscana’s, where family recipes of the Italian staff are incorporated into the menu, and Polo Grill, a classically styled steakhouse with all the time-honored food and furnishing traditions one would expect – including the tableside fanfare of preparing the Caesar salad. There is no upcharge for either restaurant, but reservations are required and should be made as early in the cruise as possible.
At Horizons, the English custom of four o’ clock tea is celebrated daily. Four-tiered, glass-topped carts laden with finger sandwiches, petits fours, crumbly scones with clotted cream and bite-size sweets roll from table to table, the white-gloved waitstaff plating up the goodies. As napkins drop in laps and tea is poured and sipped, a classical string quartet plays softly in the background.
LIBATIONS, LIVE MUSIC, LIBRARY
Whether shaken or stirred, Martinis offers the classic cocktail in a sophisticated setting that feels like the kind of place James Bond might foil an espionage plan – all Grecian blue and chocolate brown, silver-white marble and walnut paneling. Live piano music adds a dash of charm in the evening. Poolside, Waves sets the afternoon cocktail hour in motion with the Grand Bar a hotspot for pre-dinner gatherings.
Showtime in the Regatta Lounge might mean an afternoon watching an Oscar-winning movie or attending a guest lecture on astronomy or another topic. Evenings bring on the Motown classics or Great American Songbook standards, a 1920s floorshow accompanied by Prohibition-era cocktails or a dance party tribute featuring hit makers like Gloria Estefan and Michael Bublé.
An old-world aesthetic emanates from the library, from the glass-fronted cabinets shelving two thousand books to wingback and leather chair and ottoman seating groups to cushioned window seats overlooking the sea to the fireplace focal point. Above, a curved atrium ceiling charms with its painting of birds, florals and trees against a sky blue background. The library is a refuge for reading and working (if one must work on a cruise) where everyone tends to talk in whispers.
Regatta has numerous places to indulge in a little self-care, with the Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center topping the list. The wellness retreat menu includes all those rejuvenating therapies that pair so well with a vibe of relaxed luxury, like the moisture-boosting Caviar Firm and Lift Facial. A selection of complimentary classes offers gentle guidance for finding your center: sunrise and sunset stretches, guided meditation and re-set breathing classes and yoga flow vinyasa sessions.
Some cruise lines host hairy chest contests and come-as-a-pirate party nights on their pool deck, but Regatta eschews these in favor of an atmosphere designed for R and R, with shimmering pool flanked by two whirlpool spas and surrounded by plump loungers and daybeds. A frothy cocktail in one hand and book or tablet in the other completes the picture of sliding directly into vacation mode.
Oceania is known for its onboard art collections, and the Regatta enchants with its paintings and sculptures splashing color and drama across the walls, surprising from pedestal perches tucked near the stairwells and posing within niches about the ship.
IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS
At a time when many cruise lines are trimming housekeeping staff and duties, Oceania continues to offer twice-daily maid service to refresh and restock cabins and provide evening turn-down with those coveted Belgian chocolates placed on the pillow. Bathrooms are stocked with Bvlgari bath amenities – shampoo/shower gel, shave balm, lotion and more – fragrant with notes of green tea, the citrusy scent of Italian bergamot, cardamom and other spices. Complimentary 24-hour room service is an appreciated touch (and one many cruise lines not only limit in terms of menu options but charge a fee for) that includes items such as avocado toast, Tuscan kale salad, omelets, petit beef fillet and Thai coconut red curry.
Luxurious with an atmosphere of laissez-faire, there is never anything stuffy about Regatta. It strikes just the right balance that inspires dreams of future Oceania cruises.
PLAN YOUR TRAVELS
Featuring a beautifully re-inspired ambiance with decks resplendent in teak, custom stone and tile work and lounges, suites and staterooms showcasing designer residential furnishings, Oceania Regatta carries under 700 passengers. It is the flagship of a fleet of six designer-inspired ships of a cruise line known for its culinary- and destination-focused experiences. Cruises are offered across Europe, Alaska, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, New England-Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Tahiti and the South Pacific and epic 180-day Around the World Voyages.
For more information: www.oceaniacruises.com.
About Kathy Witt
Kathy Witt is an award-winning travel and lifestyle writer who writes a monthly syndicated travel column for Tribune News Service, is a regular contributor to Kentucky Living, Georgia and Travel Goods magazines and RealFoodTraveler.com as well as other outlets like County. She is the author of several books, including Cincinnati Scavenger (Fall 2022) Secret Cincinnati and The Secret of the Belles, and is working on another travel-themed book for Fall 2023 release. Kathy is a member of SATW (Society of American Travel Writers), Authors Guild and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Kathy has a new interactive Cincinnati-themed book arriving summer 2022!
Al fresco dining is what warm weather is all about. Chicago’s great rooftop and outdoor places to dine. Al fresco is our rallying cry when the sun shines.
AIRE Rooftop, located atop the 24th floor of Hyatt Centric the Loop Chicago, welcomes guests to experience unmatched and uninterrupted panoramic views of Chicago this spring and summer. Known as one of the hottest rooftops in the city, AIRE serves as the perfect urban escape serving up craft cocktails, beer, wine, and small plates. AIRE offers a fun atmosphere to socialize with friends, host a cocktail reception, or just enjoy a drink against the breathtaking backdrop of the city.
Offshore: The world’s largest rooftop deck as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records and one of Chicago’s most exciting hotspots located at Navy Pier boasts over 42,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space with unmatched views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. This year-round rooftop destination offers Chicagoans and travelers alike a full-service bar and world-class kitchen, along with cozy fire pits, an entertainment and gaming area, and multiple large gathering spaces for social and corporate events, weddings, and more.
Kennedy Rooftop: In search of the perfect Golden Hour views? Known for spectacular, unobstructed views of the Chicago skyline from the John Hancock to the Willis Tower, Kennedy Rooftop offers a vibrant ambiance, a delicious menu, and a unique variety of signature cocktails for all to enjoy atop the Hyatt Place Wicker Park. Space is first come first served.
Ocean Prime: Located on the iconic corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, Ocean Prime offers al fresco dining on the outdoor patio just steps away from the city’s top attractions. The modern American restaurant and lounge from award-winning Cameron Mitchell Restaurants offers an impressive menu of seafood and steak, signature cocktails, and a Wine Spectator honored wine list coupled with truly exceptional hospitality.
Chicago Firehouse Restaurant: Formerly Engine Company 104 of the Chicago Fire Department, the landmark restaurant at 1401 South Michigan Avenue features both a lush backyard patio providing a quaint escape in the city as well as an outdoor veranda affording picturesque views of the South Loop skyline. The timeless house favorites, steaks, chops, and seafood, are complemented by distinctive, contemporary seasonal dishes for all to enjoy.
Carnivale: Chicago’s one-of-a-kind restaurant serving Latin-fusion cuisine invites guests to take advantage of patio season on the scenic outdoor terrace with refreshing libations and sensational signature dishes. The West Loop hotspot also offers seven unique private and semi-private spaces, perfect for celebratory events. For reservations and event inquiries, please visit www.carnivalechicago.com.
Lírica: Sweeping lakefront views and Iberian-Inspired fare create the perfect symphony at Lírica, located at 900 E. Grand Ave on Navy Pier. Featuring a 150-seat patio on Lake Michigan, the waterfront restaurant combines world-class views of Lake Michigan with rich and rustic flavors and a vibrant atmosphere.
Replay Lincoln Park: Chicago’s favorite arcade bar located at 2833 N. Sheffield pairs outdoor dining and imbibing with epic immersive experiences in addition to more than 65 free vintage arcade games available. Replay Lincoln Park features rotating pop-up events spanning 9,000 square feet of gaming areas including their outdoor patio. To learn more about upcoming pop-ups, please visit www.replaylincolnpark.com.
City Cruises Chicago: Set sail on City Cruises’ luxurious vessels including the Odyssey Lake Michigan, Spirit of Chicago, Chicago Elite, and the Odyssey Chicago River. Whatever the holiday or occasion, it’s better on a yacht. Guests can enjoy curated cocktails and cuisine during brunch and dinner cruises, all while taking in the unmatched views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline from the Chicago River.
Pacino’s: Sicily meets South Loop at this authentic Italian eatery located within Roosevelt Collection Shops at 1010 S. Delano Ct. Led by Executive Chef Michael Serratore, Pacino’s offers a wide range of classically-inspired antipasti, pizza, salads, seafood, fresh pasta, and more. Enjoy signature cocktails or a glass of vino at the full bar indoors or pull up a seat under the outdoor pergola for an amazing outdoor dining experience.
Water’s Edge: Serving up classic American fare nestled within 88 acres of forest preserve, Water’s Edge located within Hyatt Lodge Oak Brook invites guests to dine and unwind at the lakeside café or al fresco on the patio overlooking a private lake. Water’s Edge offers both savory and sweet breakfast dishes and fresh salads, wraps, and sandwiches for lunch. Patrons can also opt to book lakeside private parties on the serene patio which cater to up to 40 guests. For more information, please call 630.568.1234 or visit their website.
Oaken Bistro + Bar: Bringing together worldly flavors and responsible, local ingredients rooted in flavors both strong and bold, Oaken Bistro + Bar, 200 N. Field Dr., features both indoor and outdoor dining, with a sleek lounge, stunning bar, spacious dining rooms, and a patio complete with intimate fire pit seating. Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch service on weekends, the restaurant incorporates natural elements in everything from design and decor to menu offerings including a standout cocktail program complete with floral and herbal infusions.