By Gayle Keck
Cruise Critic Contributor
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Dining

Oceania is renowned for the quality of its cuisine, and Regatta definitely lives up to that reputation -- across all of its five dining venues. You’ll find premium ingredients, such as foie gras and lobster, perfectly cooked to-order steaks, beautifully plated presentations and decadent desserts. Oceania passengers are such dedicated foodies that the line delivers each day’s main dining room lunch and dinner menus the night before, tucked into the daily bulletin.

Regatta has only two specialty restaurants, fewer than Oceania’s bigger ships, but you’ll see items on the main dining room menu drawn from those other eateries. Happily, neither of the specialty restaurants, Toscana and Polo Grill, carries an added fee, although reservations are limited. Jacques Pepin consults to the line, so his favorites are found aboard this ship, too.

Special printed daily menus for all three meals are available on advance request for vegetarian and vegan passengers, so you won’t feel like the galley just left out the meat on whatever they were serving that day and called it vegetarian. Examples from the vegan menu include egg-free Florentine or vanilla pancakes with berry compote for breakfast; farfalle pasta with mushroom and truffle or vegetarian wrap for lunch; and braised Eco-Cuisine protein with piquillos on Tarbais bean cassoulet for dinner. The ship graciously caters to other special diets: gluten-free, low-salt, diabetic -- almost anything you can think of, including a kosher menu with more than 50 items. (Kosher meals are all prepackaged and must be ordered at least 90 days before sailing.) If you have special requirements, alert the line in advance, then meet with galley staff on embarkation day.

Service is generally stellar; servers are knowledgeable about menu items and attentive about keeping water and wineglasses filled. On more than one occasion, a waiter recommended a dish we hadn’t considered and it turned out to be an excellent choice.

Grand Dining Room (Decks 5): The Grand Dining Room is Regatta's culinary showcase, with an elegant setting and menus that include dishes by Jacques Pepin, Canyon Ranch healthy options and items from specialty restaurants on the line's larger ships. You'll most likely have a tough time making up your mind about what to order -- but knowledgeable waiters provide insightful guidance.

At the center of the room, you'll find a slightly raised central area with tables for larger groups, while tables for two line the windows that surround the space on three sides. In between are mostly tables for four. The color scheme is umber, sienna and gold, with brocade swag curtains at the large windows and dark wood trim and sconces along the walls. We love the fanciful Versace china, where flowers, butterflies and ladybugs decorate the light-blue rims of the plates. Overhead, large inset ovals in the ceiling depict classical figures floating in an imaginary sky.

The dining room usually serves three meals a day, though it may be closed for lunch on some shore days. Breakfast is typically 8 to 9:30 a.m.; lunch is noon to 1:30 p.m.; and dinner is 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. This venue is open-seating, and reservations are not available. That means you may have to wait a while at peak times or be willing to share a table.

Breakfast brings cold and hot cereals, fresh or stewed fruits, yogurts with assorted toppings, smoked salmon and cold cuts, an assortment of omelets, breakfast steak or grilled lamb chops, Finnan haddock or broiled kippers, pancakes, waffles and French toast, plus an assortment of breads, pastries and muffins. There’s also a Canyon Ranch healthy breakfast option, which includes whole wheat blueberry pancakes and a chicken sausage patty.

Lunch features a daily “Taste of the World” special: six small dishes with different items from a particular cuisine. During our cruise themes included Mexico, India, Asia, Provence and the Caribbean. It’s a fun way to enjoy international flavors. For example, the Asian sampler featured Thai beef salad, avocado rolls, wakame salad, Vietnamese pork, fried shrimp rolls and chicken satay. There’s always a three-course healthy Canyon Ranch option, as well as two creative sandwich choices (like tandoori chicken panini with cucumber salad), a Caesar salad, Jacques Pepin Nicoise salad and basics like a burger and hot dog. The five changing main courses include pasta, meat and fish items, as well as a daily chef salad. There are usually three dessert offerings, plus an assortment of ice creams and sorbets.

Dinner offerings feature a daily four-course tasting menu, a three-course healthy Canyon Ranch menu and a la carte choices. There are typically five appetizers, two soups and three salads (including an always-available Caesar) and seven main course options. You’ll also find one daily dish from the additional specialty restaurants on Oceania’s larger ships, Red Ginger (Asian) and Jacques (French). Finally, there are three always-available Jacques Pepin signature dishes: steak frites, herb-crusted roasted chicken and poached salmon. 

Dinner appetizers might include blinis with caviar, napoleon of foie gras with candied violet and hibiscus sauce, a curried crab spring roll with mango sauce or a don’t-miss molten cheese souffle with chive veloute. Soups might be Marseille-style fish soup, Philadelphia pepper pot or vichyssoise. The mains typically include a risotto or pasta dish, and range from classic beef Wellington, lobster tail and rack of lamb to international dishes like vegetarian pad thai, Malaysian beef Penang and Cuban-style chicken casserole. Tip: If miso-glazed sea bass is the featured Red Ginger dish, order one for yourself and an extra for your mate -- because otherwise a fight could break out. Deserts are definitely decadent, with offerings like Grand Marnier souffle, baba au rhum with vanilla ice cream, warm chocolate and hazelnut pudding, and "floating island" with apricot confit and pistachio sauce.

Toscana (Deck 10): Regatta’s Italian specialty restaurant is an intimate dinner-only venue, overseen by an actual Italian chef. This is no checkered-tablecloth eatery; it’s elegant all the way, with beige brocade napery and chic Versace china rimmed in robin’s-egg blue with gold scrolls. The L-shaped room is lined with windows, facing either port or aft. You’ll be greeted at your table with slivers of Parmesan cheese chipped from a huge wheel displayed near the host stand. That’s accompanied by a tempting basket of breads, including three different types of focaccia, breadsticks and little cheese-covered rolls. There’s an olive oil and balsamic vinegar menu and the choices are wheeled over on a cart, with further descriptions by the server if you can’t make up your mind. It’s a tad pretentious, but we enjoyed sampling the different oils with our bread.

The set menu includes classic starters (insalata caprese with tomatoes and excellent buffalo mozzarella, paper-thin beef carpaccio) and some more unusual items, like the rich artichoke sformatino -- a warm timbale with artichokes and Parmesan cheese, surrounded by a pool of decadent truffle sauce. There’s also minestrone or potato-pancetta soup, and salads, including a Caesar prepared tableside and a tasty spinach salad with goat cheese.

You can choose from 12 housemade pasta or risotto dishes, served as a second course or larger main course. There’s also a daily pasta special. Can’t decide? The chef will make you a trio of small portions. We were obsessed with the cloud-like gnocchi in a creamy pesto sauce. Lobster risotto had bountiful chunks of meat and a wonderfully intense sauce; on the other hand, the spicy tomato sauce of the lobster fra diavolo tagliolini overwhelmed its accompanying lobster tail.

Every main dish we sampled was excellent but the standout was the huge, bone-in veal chop, one of the best we’ve ever tasted. It was juicy, tender and perfectly cooked. Other carnivore favorites include lamb chops, a filet mignon crusted with Gorgonzola cheese and a Brunello red wine sauce. We also enjoyed a daily special of sauteed halibut in a fennel-scented beurre blanc sauce.

The only criticisms we have is that the plating of dishes didn’t match the level of artistry in the ship’s other venues. Lackluster “rustic rosemary roasted potatoes,” which tasted like they’d sat around in a warmer getting rubbery, accompanied most mains.

Dessert decisions are easy if you opt for the quintet of sweets -- miniature versions of items on the dessert menu -- including cannoli, panna cotta, tiramisu, creme brulee and sorbet with fresh fruit salad. If you just want one scrumptious finale, chose the regular version of panna cotta topped with a red-berry compote. Steer away from the chocolate lasagna, which sounds intriguing, but was unpleasantly doughy; one of very few chocolate desserts we’ve ever neglected to finish.

There’s no fee to dine at Toscana, but reservations are required. Those in regular cabins are guaranteed one dinner here, while suite-level passengers are guaranteed at least two. Hours are 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Polo Grill (Deck 10): Regatta’s dinner-only steak and seafood venue oozes clubbiness, with burgundy leather chairs and dark, polished wood. White tablecloths are the background for china rimmed in burgundy. Menu items skew traditional, with starters like escargot, oysters Rockefeller and a shrimp cocktail. The foie gras and mushrooms bundled into flaky pastry with port wine reduction is one of those dishes you’ll dream about when you’re back home. As is the rich lobster bisque (even better after the waiter drizzled it with cognac). You’ll also find clam chowder, onion soup and bean soup on the menu. There are also Caesar, Waldorf and beefsteak tomato salads, as well as an entree Cobb salad with your choice of protein.

The big attraction, though, is the steak. It’s USDA Prime Black Angus, dry aged for 28 days, and it’s spectacular. Whether we went for the surf and turf (Florida lobster with filet mignon) or the prime rib (16-ounce boneless or 32-ounce bone-in), the steaks were perfectly cooked and better than many versions we’ve had on land. Porterhouse, rib eye and New York strip steaks complete the list, with other options including a veal chop, rack of lamb, Iberico de bellota pork chop and black-footed rotisserie chicken. Sauces (five alternatives) were well-prepared. Mains are rounded out by swordfish and tuna steaks, jumbo shrimp, blackened salmon and whole Maine lobster.

Eleven sides include the must-order lobster mac and cheese. We’ve always thought this high-low combo to be overly gimmicky, but here it is pure, decadent heaven.

Polo Grill has its own dessert quintet; this one includes apple crumb pie, a great caramelized New York cheesecake, creme brulee, a brownie with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream, and Key lime pie. For something different, try the trio of homemade marshmallows, dipped in chocolate, caramel and berry coulis. As a capper, the waiter delivers a silver tray of pates de fruits candies.

There’s no fee to dine at Polo Grill, but reservations are required. Those in regular cabins are guaranteed one dinner here, while suite-level passengers are guaranteed at least two. Hours are 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Horizons (Deck 10): Horizons is mainly a lounge, but it's also the spot for Regatta's popular afternoon tea. At teatime, there’s a buffet with finger sandwiches, scones, petite individual pastries, cakes and tarts; waiters also wheel the goodies around on a cart. Tea service uses teabags, not loose leaves.

Terrace Cafe (Deck 9): Regatta’s buffet restaurant is located aft on the lido deck. Seating areas line the windows port and starboard, with double buffet and dessert lines in the middle-rear of the space. Just beyond, doors lead to an outdoor seating area with round tables for four, topped by orange umbrellas. The buffet area is all chrome and marble, with a more elegant look than most ship buffets. The only slight flaw in the decor is the chairs, whose seats are looking a bit saggy.

All three meals are served here. While times may vary depending on port calls, the typical breakfast hours are 7:30 to 10 a.m.; lunch is noon to 2 p.m.; and dinner is 6:30 to 9 p.m. No reservations are needed. In most instances servers will dish out your foods rather than letting you help yourself. This is more elegant and sanitary, but can sometimes be a bit slower than self-service.

Breakfast is an extravaganza, starting with assorted pastries, breads, muffins, warm sticky buns and fresh fruits, including upscale choices like berries and mango. There’s a yogurt and muesli station with fresh, stewed and dried fruit toppings, as well as nuts. The omelet station offers a dozen add-ins, and you’ll find an assortment of charcuterie, cheeses and smoked or pickled fish. The hot line holds creamy scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey bacon, ham, hash browns, hot cereals, corned beef hash, baked beans, broiled tomatoes, French toast, pancakes and eggs Benedict made to-order and an egg special of the day, such as huevos rancheros.

Lunches often have a theme cuisine, which might be Mexican, Indian, Italian or Asian. There is always a cold buffet, with cheeses, cold cuts, sandwiches and an array of tasty prepared salads. The small salad bar might benefit from a few more offerings, though. The hot line has a half-dozen main-dish choices, with vegetables, rice and potato sides. You’ll find a made-to-order pasta station and a carving station with a daily selection that might be a steamer round of beef, a roasted turkey or leg of pork. Around the corner from the main buffet lines, a window serves up two types of pizza daily. And, of course, there’s an assortment of different tempting breads. Desserts include small plated items, and little glasses of puddings, mousses and parfaits, as well as sliced tarts and cakes and hand-dipped ice cream, with some rotating creative flavors, like creme brulee and banoffee, in addition to favorite standbys.

Both lunch and dinner choices in this restaurant include items on the main dining room menu, so you’re not missing out at night if you don’t feel like donning attire suitable for the fancier main venue. Terrace Cafe dinners also have a theme now and then -- for example, on our Alaskan cruise there was an evening where cooks grilled fresh Alaskan salmon, halibut and rockfish to order. On another evening, fresh halibut fish and chips, served in a cute miniature fry basket, were a special attraction.

At dinner, there is always a lavish sushi spread and an hors d’oeuvres section with charcuterie, salads and small composed appetizers like chicken breast and foie gras ballotine or halibut escabeche. Hot appetizers range from chicken satay to arancini. Soup is always available, and there are made-to-order pasta and wok stations, along with a carvery. Daily hot main dishes might include duck a l’orange, fresh fish with cherry tomatoes and zucchini over fennel cream, or a tempting potato waffle with steamed asparagus, black truffle cream and wilted spinach. Similar to lunch, there are usually more than a half-dozen desserts, including pies, mousses, pot de creme, crumbles and more. Keep an eye out for the Tanzanian chocolate cake with molten caramel.

Waves Grill (Deck 9): This casual, poolside venue is open for early light breakfast (typically 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., but times vary) and lunch (from 11:30 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m.). For breakfast, you’ll find fresh and dried fruits, yogurt, cold cereals, muesli, pastries and cold cuts. If you’re coming back onboard hungry in mid-afternoon, Waves Grill’s burgers, fries, salad bar and panini may be your only immediate onboard food option, aside from room service. The menu offers five beef burger options (the wagyu burger with truffle sauce vies for most decadent), a veggie burger, chicken and three fish sandwiches, plus three hot dog variations, including the “Mexican,” with chili and cheddar. Other sandwiches include a Reuben, a Cuban and a tasty panini with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, basil and tapenade.

Adjacent to Waves is an ice cream station, serving cones, sundaes, shakes, malts and smoothies.

Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours a day, and the menu can be found in the case of notebooks usually located on a bedside table. Besides a continental breakfast, it includes appetizers like shrimp cocktail and a vegetable frittata, consume and French onion soups; main-course salads, burgers, club sandwiches, pastas and pizza; plus beef filet, grilled chicken breast and poached salmon. The seven desserts range from a low-fat smoothie to chocolate madness cake. Concierge cabins and all suites can order room service from the main dining room; suites can also order from specialty restaurants, which will be served course-by-course by their butler. It’s also possible to pre-order a more extensive breakfast, including hot items, on a card placed outside your door the night before.

Oceania Regatta Ship Stats

  • Crew: 400
  • Launched: 2003
  • Decks: 9
  • Passengers: 684
  • Registry: Marshall Islands
  • CDC Score: 89

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