Agents say Oceania made Sirena seem like a new ship

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Ryan Hansen of Bon Voyage Travel in Tucson, Ariz., called Red Ginger a "dining experience."
Ryan Hansen of Bon Voyage Travel in Tucson, Ariz., called Red Ginger a "dining experience." Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada

Culinary experiences — including having Red Ginger aboard an R-class ship — stood out for agents who were aboard the inaugural sailing of Oceania Cruises’ Sirena last week.

“We all like great food, and obviously Oceania is known for that, but for me Red Ginger is a dining experience,” said Ryan Hansen, vice president and COO of Bon Voyage Travel in Tucson, Ariz.

The Asian-style restaurant on Deck 10 is making its first appearance aboard one of Oceania’s R-class ships. The restaurant is also located on the larger Marina and Riviera.

Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, also praised Jacques Bistro, a restaurant open in the Grand Dining Room each day at lunch.

Sirena is the first ship to feature the lunchtime pop-up, which was inspired by the family recipes of executive culinary director Jacques Pepin (his daughter, Claudine, is the godmother of the ship).

“The selection for lunch is just insane,” Garcia said. The bistro offers both a fixed menu (that changes seasonally) and a daily menu of specialties. “It’s impressive.”

The agents and, anecdotally, cruisers, were also pleased with the ship’s renovation. In less than 40 days, Oceania acquired Sirena and completed a $50 million renovation.

Brad Anderson, co-president of Avoya Travel, said it felt more like the ship had been in drydock undergoing renovations for hundreds of days, not dozens.

“From the moment we stepped on board — actually, from the moment we got to the cruise terminal in Barcelona — it’s hard to believe that this was its first cruise,” Anderson said.

Garcia agreed. She called the ship’s atmosphere “charming.”

“I think it has that old-world charm, but yet it still feels new,” she said. “They’ve done a really nice job in terms of renovating it.”

She also noted the ship is comfortable, with the lounge areas feeling more like living rooms, inviting interactions between both friends and strangers.

“I think Oceania did a nice job with making it feel like a newbuild,” Hansen said. “That’s obviously the biggest hurdle in bringing a refurbished ship into the fleet — to make it feel like it and look like it from the outside.”

There were a fair number of first-time Oceania cruisers aboard, which was surprising to Hansen, considering it was an inaugural sailing.

Garcia attributed that to the “country-club feel” that Oceania exudes. Its guests are encouraged to wear “country-club casual” clothing, and that “resort casual” feel is appealing to first-timers, Garcia said.

“It’s just that comfort zone,” she said.

The size of the ship is also appealing to first-time and veteran cruisers alike, she said.

Carrying less than 700 passengers, the ship is non-intimidating and easily navigable. Its crew is also particularly attentive, friendly and responsive to guests, the agents said.

Garcia said agents can sell Sirena “confidently.”

“Do it,” she said simply.

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