Oceania Regatta: Views on a Cruise, Views of the Crews

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The intimate Oceania Regatta docked next to the Celebrity Solstice / photo by Richard Simon

A wristwatch on average weighs two ounces. Oceania Cruise Lines’ “Regatta” weighs 30,277 tons. Although an extreme David-and-Goliath comparison, they both have something in common: Should any of their “parts” fail to perform seamlessly, each could find itself literally dead in the water.

While the watch tells time, a cruise ship makes time—across the world’s oceans with the express purpose of delivering entertained, well-dined and pampered passenger/guests safely to their destinations, hopefully without a concern greater than making their dining choices from a selection-rich menu.

While on a cruise from Hong Kong to Sydney, Australia, I learned some facts about the ship’s crew of 400.

Though a boatswain’s mate on a Coast Guard Cutter too many years ago, I made the inexcusable error of referring to the “ship” as a boat. Both the captain and general manager, Victor Conceicao, 56, from Portugal, with nary a beat, admonished me immediately in perfect drill sergeant harmony; I felt like a 17-year-old boot camp recruit, whose only previous experience with water and a boat was a rubber ducky in my bathtub.

Regatta General Manager Victor Conceicao / photo courtesy of Oceania

Working on a cruise ship is not TV’s classic 70s comedy, “The Love Boat.” The Regatta crew works long, unglamorous hours (although not without re-energizing breaks) with two purposes: to please the passengers, and to get the ship from point A to point B.

For a rarified few passengers onboard, however, that’s A to Z — for they have signed on to one of Oceania’s port-rich,180-day itineraries.

During an interview with Regatta’s 43-year-old master, Leo Lujan, from Dubrovnik, Croatia, he explained there are three main departments on Regatta: engine, deck and hotel.

Of those crew, “more than half remain anonymous to the passengers,” said General Manager Conceicao. Those legions of the unseen include the Wiper (who wipes down the engine to keep it dinner-plate spotless); the Incinerator /firemen (who must deal with the daily trash and garbage); and the Electricians (who know how to trace the miles of wiring and complexities of endless circuitries to keep radios, lights, air conditioning and elevators humming).

Regatta’s upper pool deck / photo by Richard Simon

There are more: Dishwashers (self-explanatory, but who have to make sure that the silver, plates, bowls, goblets, glasses and settings in their infinite iterations are gleaming); and the Laundry staff (who see more styles of underclothes than maybe Ralph Lauren).

Every sheet and towel in the ship’s 342 passenger cabins, as well as in staff quarters, is changed daily. That’s not including the countless napkins, dish towels, and other canvas, cotton, and synthetic fabrics used throughout the ship. Regatta’s prodigious freshwater-making equipment, like so many of the operational activities or mechanics aboard, is given scant thought by most passengers.

Just desserts aboard Regatta / photo by Richard Simon

Despite my questions about onboard security, the captain and general manager opted to opt-out of any discussion about Regatta’s security department — a virtual “silent service” operating above the waves both at sea and in port. Understanding this and now being somewhat paranoid, I cancelled any thought of absconding with a souvenir butter knife from their elegant steak restaurant, Polo Grill.

On any one voyage, crew members may hail from more than 60 countries, and present a mélange of different languages, accents, religions, political beliefs, social mores, gender identities, and on and on across the sociological spectrum.

Oceania Regatta / photo by Richard Simon

If any one thing ties us all together, it’s that “Everyone on board must speak English” Captain Lujan shared. It is an Oceania requirement, as well as a requisite of the Marshall Islands, with whom “Regatta” is registered. Although English proficiency does vary widely, all crew must pass a safety test in English.

The two Anglo phrases that clearly need no translation are ”Your paycheck has been e- mailed,” and “Abandon Ship!”

In terms of international country representation on board, “the major manpower providers are the Philippines, Indonesia, and India, an indication of current global economic conditions,” Conceicao opined.

Oceania prides itself on their expansive, and glowingly reviewed dining options. No matter the latitudes and longitudes of their six operational liners, the menus are the same, with few exceptions. And those are when several chefs go ashore to shop in countries whose local fare would enhance the ships’ menus.

Cuisine aboard Regatta / photo by Richard Simon

Food is fuel; and Oceania’s crew dines on much the same quality cuisine as presented to Regatta’s guests, albeit perhaps without as many selections on such colorful dinnerware.

Every day at every meal, the crew will have choices of vegetables and protein that will fit everyone’s tastes, all prepared in their own galley as dedicatedly as for the passengers.

“There’s always something for everybody,” the master apprised, adding the factoid that “well- cooked rice is the most important food onboard for the crew,” an acknowledgement of the crews’ countries of origin.

Although much of one’s energy is spent serving the passengers, crew members can opt to burn even more calories in their own dedicated gym.

Fellow passenger David Rose of Newport Beach / photo by Richard Simon

A cruise is often a voyage of surprises and coincidences, one of which was the chance meeting at breakfast of David Rose of Newport Beach. Not only does this Balboa Island resident and island home developer and his wife Arlene live about a mile from my home, but David is the closest of friends with a friend of mine from the Newport Beach Police Department Volunteers, Marc Spiegel.

Prior to this cruise, Rose admitted, he never gave thought to those behind the scenes, for everything always worked seamlessly. But soon after embarking from Los Angeles, on their 77-day cruise, their suite’s air conditioning system mutinied, shifting the in-cabin seasons from winter to summer in just minutes. The teams that Rose never knew existed worked tirelessly to uncover, then correct the mischief. Fortunately, an adjacent cabin was vacant for the duration of the repair. And from that experience forward, every crewman that Rose and his wife encounter is given a hearty salute of appreciation.

In his pre-retirement world, Rose owned a toilet tissue manufacturing business with 451 employees. If he knows anything about cruise ships, it’s their choices of institutional bathroom supplies. To this “end,” Rose gives thumbs up to Oceania.

For itinerary information, visit www.OceaniaCruises.com.

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