Lisbon Stories and Tips

Running Away to Sea in Style

Rainbow Over Lisbon Photo, Lisbon, Portugal

Running Away to Sea in Style

Looking for the ultimate escape far away from everyday demands? Run away to sea! We recently returned from a 10-day transatlantic crossing from Lisbon to Miami with Oceania Cruises. This is cruising in its purest form, reminiscent of the days when sailing was the only way to cross oceans.

Oceania is a relatively new cruise line, beginning service late 2002. Oceania currently operates two ships purchased from the now defunct Renaissance Cruises. The Regatta and Insignia are 30,277 ton ships accommodating 680 passengers. They have been extensively renovated, and the interiors are elegant and intimate. Dark mahogany and rich cherry woods compliment the antique furnishing, floral arrangements, and artwork. Cabins are spacious by cruise ship standards with "tranquility beds" laden with 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets and a cozy duvet.

On our cruise there were only 260 guests and over 400 crew members. To say service was excellent is an understatement. Of the 16 cruises we have enjoyed over recent years, the Oceania crew was the friendliest team we have encountered. It must be one of the reasons readers of Travel & Leisure magazine ranked Oceania Cruises among the world’s finest cruise lines in their 2004 "World’s Best" awards.

Let us whet your appetite for a sea crossing. Come along with us on our voyage out of Lisbon with Oceania cruises on the Regatta-9 full days at sea. No land in sight. The ship becomes an oasis of leisure and luxury. By day, the distant horizon becomes your world. By night, the velvet sky is filled with stars and planets usually obscured by the glare of city lights. There are no schedules to keep except the ones that please you most.

To some people this sounds like the ultimate in relaxation. To others, it may sound boring. What do you do during 9 full days at sea?

Long sea days and nights are all about choices. If you yearn for non-stop diversions, activities, and entertainment, there are plenty. If you revel in the luxury of completely escaping reality and doing nothing, this is your chance.

For those who prefer to plan their days in advance, the Currents newsletter is placed in your cabin each night. Currents outlines the next day’s activities, specials, and dining opportunities. A sample day at sea might include a variety of classes and lectures ranging from astronomy (with evening stargazing) to oceanography to exercises or arts and crafts. Brush up on culinary skills at cooking, ice carving, or garnishing demonstrations by professional chefs. Improve your golf drive and putting skills at the caged driving range on the top deck. Challenge a competitor to a game of Ping-Pong, shuffleboard, bridge, or chess. Attend a champagne art auction with works of greats like Picasso, Chagall, and Miro. Try your luck at the casino or at Bingo. Swim laps or relax in the spa. Treat yourself to a massage. Savor the elegance of High Tea. Enjoy a piano recital. Immerse yourself in a best-selling novel from the 2,000-book library. Eat, eat, and eat again. Walk off the calories on the deck or with a workout in the fitness center. Watch spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Rejuvenate romance. Relax on deck in the fresh sea air and ponder the endless wake behind the ship. Get the idea?

If you haven’t guessed, this is not a party ship. Oceania calls their ambiance "casual elegance." While you don’t see many Levis, there are also no formal nights requiring tuxedos and evening gowns. The median age of cruisers is 55 to 65 years old. No teen discos here and no belly-flop contests poolside. There are no mass feeding frenzies like first- or second-dining seating on large ships where hundreds of guests are herded into a cavernous dining room for carefully orchestrated meals. Variety was the key to dining on during our crossing.

More choices. In the evening, guests can enjoy a six-course continental dinner in the Grand Dining Room whenever they please, at a table for two, four, six, eight, or ten. Then, there is The Polo Grill, a classic steakhouse specializing in steaks, prime rib, lamb, and surf and turf. Feel like Italian? Try Toscana. This romantic specialty restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea and night sky. Try the Lobster Diavolo or the Veal Parmigiana. Save room for the Tiramisu! There are still Tapas on the Terrace. You can enjoy a casual Mediterranean-style buffet and dine on deck by candlelight under the stars. Finally, there’s room service 24 hours a day. Dine on your own balcony or indulge in the craving for pizza at 3am.

All these amenities, activities, and attention may sound expensive. Compared to spending 7 to 10 days at a five-star luxury resort, it’s a bargain. A crossing is scheduled by most cruise lines when it is time to move a ship from one part of the world to another due to seasonal scheduling. Our reposition crossing on the Oceania was to take the ship from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean for the winter season. The 10-day crossing was only $850 per person for a spacious cabin with a private balcony. Port and government charges added another $350, but airfare from Atlanta to Lisbon and then from Miami back to Atlanta was complimentary. Tell me, where could you stay at a five-star luxury resort with three (or more) gourmet meals each day, non-stop activities, and entertainment, and non-stop pampering for about $120 per day per person. One dinner out would cost that much or more.

For more information on repositioning cruises or those with multiple ports of call, visit or the websites of other major cruise lines. (We are also fans of Princess and Royal Caribbean, both in the affordable price range.)

Once you surrender to the luxury of a crossing and allow the sea to capture your imagination, rejuvenate your spirit, and soothe your soul, I predict you will be captivated and find yourself returning again and again.

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