Passengers:684 World's Best 2016 Awards Rank: #8 Large Ocean Ship Best for: Couples who love food and wine and prefer the intimacy of a smaller ship
Sails: Africa, Asia, British Isles, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Northern Europe
At a Glance: A Travel + Leisure World’s Best 2016 winner, placing eighth in the Large Ocean Ship category. One of Oceania’s popular R-class vessels, Nautica was refurbished in 2014. Everything about this culinary-minded ship feels elegant, from the grand staircase in the lobby to the multicourse dinners in the restaurants, all overseen by executive culinary director Jacques Pépin.
Almost 70 percent of the ship’s 342 staterooms, most of which are done up in nautical navy and gold, have teak verandas, but even passengers staying in the Inside Staterooms feel pampered, thanks to space-maximizing layouts and cloud-like beds with 1,000-thread-count sheets, blissful to sink into after a night dancing at Horizons observation lounge or playing roulette at the casino. Cabin sizes range from 143 square feet for the smallest oceanview cabin to almost 1,000 square feet for the six Owner’s Suites. Suite and concierge-level guests who don’t want to bring their own device can borrow an iPad, while Vista and Owner’s Suite passengers get their own laptop for the duration of the voyage. Another perk for suite passengers: 24/7 butler service.
Oceania has a reputation for being one of the most food-focused lines in cruising, and executive culinary director Jacques Pépin is a big reason why. You’ll find several of his signature dishes (herb-crusted rotisserie chicken, steak frites) on the Grand Dining Room’s menu each night, along with healthy options curated by the CanyonRanch spa, such as steamed Maine lobster. Passengers can also dine at one of two specialty restaurants onboard. (Unlike on many other lines, they’re included in your cruise fare, though you do have to make a reservation.) The first, Toscana, has an entire menu dedicated to just Italian balsamics and olive oils. (Don’t leave without trying the osso buco alla Milanese.) The second, Polo Grill, features classic steakhouse fare like oysters Rockefeller and prime rib. Even the buffet restaurant, Terrace Grill, is excellent, with an outdoor seating area and dishes that go far beyond the typical carving stations and pastas: Think forest sushi, steak, lobster tails, and Dover sole meunière.
Every day at 4 p.m. in the Horizons observation lounge, white-jacket-clad waiters begin rolling around carts piled with scones, pastries, and finger sandwiches, as part of Insignia’s daily afternoon-tea service. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth coming for the view, a pot of Earl Grey, and the chance to listen to the string quartet play.
When passengers aren’t exploring a new port, they’re hanging out on the stunning teak pool deck, where blue-and-white striped lounge chairs flank a blue-tiled heated pool and two whirlpools. If you’d like you can even grab a milkshake and an ahi burger or a Cuban sandwich from Waves Grill for lunch. Bibliophiles will spend cloudy days in the ship’s elegant wood-paneled library with its gorgeous ceiling mural, faux fireplace, and cushy leather armchairs. (There are more than 2,000 magazines and books on the shelves.) After dinner, channel James Bond in Martinis, a clubby bar with a piano and more than 20 types of martinis, including—what else?—the 007).
Though small, the light-drenched gym at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub has all the cardio and weight machines you could want, plus yoga, Pilates, and indoor cycling classes—all of which are a necessity on this food-focused ship. Spa treatments are first rate and range from a Thai massage to detox body wraps. Tip: If you have jet lag, a reiki session works wonders. Bring your sunscreen, because after your session, you’re going to want to spend time in the thalassotherapy pool on the private outdoor spa terrace, open only to spa clients and guests in concierge-level staterooms and above.