When it comes to cruising and deciding who to sail with, one of the most common questions is “What’s the food like?”. There’s a funny mindset that kicks in as soon as you’re on board, and not necessarily in a gluttonous way. It’s a constant thought bubble around food – When will I eat next? Where will I eat next? What am I going to order?
This was the case for us when we had an opportunity to sample Oceania Cruises’ new ship Vista in May 2023. You have to be pretty sure of yourself to claim you have the “Finest Cuisine at Sea”. Dining on an Oceania Cruises ship is a destination in itself, so we put Vista to the test, at every one of its ten dining venues.
TLDR: our taste buds were in a week-long state of euphoria.
There are four specialty restaurants on Vista which are included in your fare. They do require reservations, and we can see why. Reservations help to ensure all guests have an opportunity to visit. Without this, we’d surely be at Toscana night after night! How did the specialty restaurants fare?
Step inside Ember and you’ll know from the décor that you’ve been transported somewhere in the heart of the USA. American traditions are served up in elegant style, somehow nailing a farm-to-table-like experience at sea. Spinach and artichoke dip with house-made tortilla chips is an excellent appetiser for your T-bone. Naturally this is cooked just as you like it and will just about cover the surface area of your plate. It would be rude to leave without dessert, particularly with American favourites like key lime cheesecake, chocolate brownie sundae and roasted apple tart on the menu.
One minute you’re strolling through a seaside European town, the next you seem to be in a country club with its timeless reverence and rich décor. Polo Grill serves up time-honoured favourites and though it’s best known for its beef dishes, we opted for seafood because it was just too enticing. Come dessert, it can be hard to choose, which is why a quartet of desserts is a great option! A little sample of four dessert options on the menu.
Fusion (or multicultural) restaurants can be a challenge to get right. Authenticity, coherence and representation need to be on point. Much like its bold yet subtle décor, you’ll find Pan-Asian dishes of Thai, Korean, Japanese and Malaysian are done to perfection. For us it was all about the wagyu beef teriyaki and sea bass in miso paste.
We were sold the moment the olive oil and balsamic vinegar sommelier rolled the cart over to help us choose the right blend for our pre-dinner rolls. The dishes are inspired by, and many of the recipes originated with the mothers and grandmothers of the ship’s own Italian culinary staff. Imagine the best caprese you didn’t think possible, fillet mignon with a melted gorgonzola crust, and roasted peaches on an almond biscuit topped with amaretto zabaglione. Good luck trying to choose from this menu of Tuscan-style cuisine.
A buffet is often what springs to mind when you think about onboard dining, and Vista is no exception. Terrace Café is an informal dining experience throughout the day. At breakfast and lunch, you’ll find all the classics you’d expect from a good buffet and trust us, it’s good! Dinner brings something a little different with Chef’s Market Dinners featuring locally inspired specialties from the ports of call. The outdoor area is a lovely spot to soak in the morning sun as the ship docks at its port for the day.
This place is buzzing throughout the day. Perhaps that’s because it’s where you’ll find the gelato bar! Or raw juice and smoothies if that’s more your style. Conveniently located on the pool deck, Waves is great for a quick lunch, be it a sandwich, burger or grilled entrée. At night, the menu changes and it’s all about Italian. We recommend sharing! Buon appetito.
Another staple on a ship is a grand dining room. Somewhere you can feel fancy. By all means, wear your classiest outfit – you’ll look radiant in line with the elegant light fixtures trying to steal the limelight. For breakfast, lunch and dinner the choices are vast. The menu changes daily and includes signature classics, a spectrum of global flavors and Executive Chef’s Tasting Menu.
If you twisted our arm and made us choose a favourite, it could very well be Aquamar Kitchen. With its fresh perspective and the pursuit of wellness, guilt-free dining is served… without compromising flavour! You can also find a selection of zero-alcohol wines and cocktails to complement your meal. If it becomes a favourite of yours too, look out for Aquamar Vitality options on menus throughout the ship’s other dining venues.
Up on deck 14 and with its 270-degree views, Baristas is a bright yet cozy spot for a good coffee and homemade French or Italian pastry, sandwich or biscotti. Take a good book, or a deck of cards and you have a peaceful couple of hours locked in.
In case you didn’t get enough to eat at lunch or you’re more of a grazer, Afternoon Tea is served daily at 4pm in Horizons Bar at the aft of deck 14. Four-tiered pastry carts filled with freshly made treats are accompanied by a selection of traditional and artisanal teas. And just to help you feel extra fancy, a string quartet will provide the soundtrack.
Is Oceania Cruises the finest cuisine at sea? Of course each person has their own tastes… but when you’ve decided you’ve had enough burrata for one week, you know you’re onto something special. When you feel so well-fed but not heavy, you know it’s the real deal. When you are already thinking about the next time you can come back, that’s when you know.