Oceania: Upper Premium Niche

Oceania Vista

Oceania Cruises is defined by three brand pillars, according to Frank A. Del Rio, president: Number one is having the finest cuisine at sea, number two is the curated travel experience, and number three is the mid-sized upper-premium market ships.

“We created a niche,” Del Rio told Cruise Industry News. “We never wanted to be called luxury. Instead, my dad (Frank Del Rio Sr.) and the team of people he put together when launching Oceania identified a niche that they called upper premium.

“We registered having the Finest Cuisine at Sea as a trademark 20 years ago,” Del Rio continued. “It is a pillar we take very seriously. It is not just about serving the best meals, it is our culture. Food is a way of living. Food is embedded in everything we do; in the way we design our itineraries and our tour programs.

“We offer probably the best array of specialty dining onboard. All our restaurants have menus carefully curated and designed by master chef Jacques Pepin.

Del Rio said he was now working on a special project that he called the three C’s for coffee, cuts of beef and cookies.

He promised that Oceania will be announcing more about this new program in the near future and hinted that an Oceania-branded coffee is also in the works.

Promising curated travel experiences, Del Rio said: “For us that starts with itinerary planning, and over the years we have consistently received awards for having the best itineraries.

“We go to more than 600 destinations and have cemented ourselves as destination experts. We invented port overnight stays. We were the first to do overnights in Civitavecchia so our guests could spend more time in Rome, overnights in Livorno for Florence and two nights in Saint Petersburg.

“I have just finalized our 2026 European itineraries with close to 50 new ports and more than 100 overnight stays.”

The third pillar is the niche. Del Rio said: “The cruise industry was basically divided into mass market or contemporary, premium and luxury. But there was a space between premium and luxury. Oceania focused on that niche by creating a product that was mainly luxury with mid-sized ships.

“Yes, we have grown from the original ships 20 years ago, from 700 passengers to our new ships that are 1,250 passengers, but we have still been able to preserve that small-ship luxury and with the best guest-to-crew ratio. At the same time what was considered premium 20 years ago has grown to 2,500 passengers and more. The brands that were considered premium before have shifted to become more contemporary, leaving the premium space wide open for players like us to attract their suite guests and convince luxury brand guests that with the money they spend on a luxury brand for one cruise, they can take several cruises with us.”

Celebrating Oceania’s 20th anniversary last year was perfect timing to launch the Vista, according to Del Rio. It was the first new ship for the brand in over a decade, to be followed by a sister ship, the Allura, in 2025.

“While we will have eight ships, we have to think that by 2030, we will need to upgrade and refresh the fleet a bit,” he added.

“We are always talking to our friends at the shipyard. I cannot disclose any details about any particular plans, but I can say this publicly, and I say it proudly, as long as I am president of Oceania Cruises, we will never go through another 10- to 12-year period without introducing an expansion project.”

Excerpt from the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine Winter 2023-2024

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