Oceania Cruises Reviews

Year Started: 2002
Ships in Fleet: 5
Category: Luxury

Summary: This cruise line features some of the best cuisine and itineraries in the cruise industry, a top pick for value and excellence in style

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Oceania Cruise Ships

1 Reviews

Regions:Australia/New Zealand, Caribbean, Oceania/South Pacific, Etc.

Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.

8 Reviews

Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe

Good for: Seniors. Luxury Travelers. Foodies.

21 Reviews

Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard, Inland Waterways

Good for: Seniors. Luxury Travelers.

2 Reviews

Regions:Transatlantic

Good for: Foodies. Luxury Travelers. Seniors.

User Ratings

Overall Rating
4.11
from 32 reviews

Cuisine

Service Level

Value for Money

Ship Décor

Public Rooms

Staterooms

Kid's Programs

Daytime Activities

Nightlife

Shore Tours

Itinerary

Alternative Dining

User Reviews

32 User Reviews of Oceania Ships
Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: May 10, 2009

We took 14 Days East Mediterranean Cruise on the Nautica, one of three Oceania ships. The experience was delightful. Our cruise began May 10, 2009, in Istanbul, Turkey, went to Mitilini, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Strait of Messina, Amalfi/Positano, Taormina, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Venice. We recommend the ship to any adults who want good food, good company, and good experiences ashore.

We spent a day in Istanbul before embarking Nautica. We had a private tour to the wonderful sites Topakapi Palace, Church of St. Sophia, Blue Mosque and Covered Bazaar. Enjoyed it very much. We had our arrangements through Transbalkan Tours (www.transbalkan.com) which we used them for Ephesus as well during the cruise.

We overnighted in a boutique hotel located in the old city. Next day we took a cab to Nautica. Boarding process was simple and friendly. We were in our stateroom within 15 minutes of leaving the taxi and at the welcoming lunch buffet 10 minutes later. Most of the luggage arrived promptly. The final piece was delayed a couple hours.

We found the stateroom, 4049, well located -- about 35 steps from the reception desk, central stairway, and elevators. The room was

beautiful, in perfect condition, quiet, about average size for a cruise ship, with dark woods, a large window, a comfortable queen-size bed, a small desk and padded stool, small love-seat and a coffee table, and a functional TV that showed movies. Storage space was more than adequate, and suitcases fit under the bed. We had no balcony, and never felt we needed one. The bathroom was on the small side, with adequate storage space but a tiny shower. The hot water was always hot, but the shower is probably the worst feature of the Nautica. An attendant cleaned the room twice daily, did a perfect job, and was seldom seen.

Overall, the ship was beautiful, very well decorated, traditional but not old-fashioned, and superbly maintained. You could hardly find a scuff mark anywhere. The ship carries only 680 passengers, which puts it on the small side these days. We, and everyone we talked to, liked the size, which was big enough but not too big. While cruising, the ship was stable. The swimming pool was small but adequate, with two whirlpools, and the deck area was adequate. There were a variety of places to sit in the sun or lean on the railing. There was a nice library, a good-sized fitness area, a small casino, and two shops. A string quartet frequently played, as did a pianist. The stage entertainment was typical of cruise ships. There were few children on our trip, and there should have been none.

Nautica doesn't encourage children, and these kind of trips aren't suited for them. Food was usually very good, sometimes excellent, and a few times even superb. It would occasionally fall into the "okay" category. The elegant Grand Dining Room operates during specified periods as announced each day in the ship newsletter. You are not assigned a table or an eating time.

There are no formal nights. You dress "country club casual." No tie or jacket is required for men. Some jackets but only a few ties were in evidence. You decide whether to eat with others or not. Service was good. The buffet, at the stern of the ship, has superb views and is called the Terrace Caf? for breakfast and lunch and Tapas for dinner. On three consecutive evenings, we sat at one of the outdoor tables at the buffet and watched the sun set over the Black Sea, an experience to treasure. Menu selection was varied, and presentation was excellent in both restaurants. Oceania advertises that "legendary chief" Jacques Pepin created some of the dishes on the menu. That seemed overrated to us. Near the pool was a grill, operating from about noon to 4 p.m., where you could get good hamburgers and hotdogs, a few other sandwiches, ice cream, and go through a salad buffet. There are two alternative restaurants, Toscana, featuring Italian, and the Polo Grill, featuring beef. You make reservations, but do not pay extra at them. While fine, they are over-hyped. The dining room and buffet were just as good. The Nautica does not scrimp on food. Prime rib was on the menu several nights, a roast sucking pig was served one day, and shrimp prepared in various ways was available almost every day.

We met the captain once at a ship's party. Otherwise, he was not much in evidence. Tours of the bridge, kitchen and engine room were not advertised. A concierge is available during the day. When our room keys acted up, he quickly had the problem fixed. The staff comes from many countries, and most had good command of English and were very friendly.

Shore excursions were as with many ships, terribly overpriced. Details about them, necessary to decide which ones to select, were hard to come by before we boarded. Calls to the 800 Oceania number were answered by dour, unhelpful individuals. For some of the port of calls we decided to pre-book private shore excursions through local tour operators before boarding to Nautica. We were very happy with the tours provided through them. Saw more and Saved a lot.

Local Tour Operators We Used: Santorini: www.santorinidaytours.com Kusadasi: www.transbalkan.com Athens: www.athenstaxi.net

In talking to many of our fellow passengers, we heard nearly-unanimous praise for the Nautica. A surprising number of them had been on Oceania two or three times before, although the company has existed only a few years. One woman, apparently a chronic complainer, said maintenance of her stateroom was lacking, crew were impolite, and food was not "phenomenal." It was difficult to believe her first two claims. As for the food, meals were always enjoyable and delicious; for "phenomenal," you go to gourmet restaurants. Several passengers got on board without their luggage. I suspect that was the fault of airlines. I would strongly advise against arriving in Europe on the same day your cruise ship departs - WAY too much opportunity for trouble. Service in the Nautica buffet was at times a little slow. The staff should also enforce the dress code. We had a few louts who came to the buffet in sleeveless t-shirts and baggy shorts, and one who talked loudly on a cell phone.

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Black Sea
Publication Date: September 2, 2007

We embarked in Istanbul and disembarked in Athens. We got a penthouse suite that was extremely comfortable and had unexpected amenities such as a fantastic bathroom with a wonderful shower. Our stateroom was on the 8th deck very close to the bridge and it was very quiet. Unfortunately, we heard that guests who stayed in our deck (for about 500 dollars more per person because of a 'supposedly' preferred location when it came to pitch) whose suites were directly below the pool area (on deck 9) heard the staff arranging pool chairs late at night and early in the morning. They never got a proper night's sleep.

We found the service on Nautica to be extraordinary; professional and friendly. The only exception was on deck 11. We rented a cabana for privacy. The waiters were so eager to please that they would come in every 10 or 15 minutes (sometimes even more often) to offer drinks and food. I was woken up on a number of occasions from what would have otherwise been wonderful naps. Nautica provides house phones in every cabana, so there was no need to come up unless called.

Embarkation

and disembarkation were efficiently handled and organization was very good. It made us feel safe that should there be an emergency, the staff knew the drill. The only glitch in organization we encountered happened while in port in Istanbul, and it was a serious one. We signed up (independently) for a tour that required us having our passports. The passports were not at the Purser's office (they were somewhere on land) when we needed them even though we had given the Purser 12-hours notice (as soon as we boarded the ship for the first time and relinquished our passports). It frightens me to be in a foreign country and 1) have someone other than me in control of my travel documents and 2) not have ready access to them. Fortunately, we are citizens of another country as well, so we used our second passports and nothing was lost, but I really think that personal documents should never leave the ship and ought to be available for retrieval at all times.

The ports of call vary enormously in terms of importance or interest. Istanbul and Athens are obviously fantastic ports of call, but others are frankly not worth it. The port of Nessebur, in Bulgaria, is very quaint in spite of how commercial it is. The 13th and 14th-century churches are little jewels. Their frescoes are in good shape and the cobble-stone streets are precious. The jewel of the town, though, is the icon museum. The collection is small but very well chosen. We took a private tour to Bourgas with a stop in St. George's monastery along the way (it is a quaint structure from the mid-19th century with some pretty non-school icons). Bourgas proved to be especially interesting to my husband because of the exceptional beauty of its women, but the city doesn't offer much. Nessebur is lovely, but it takes just 3 hours to walk it. Not much more to do than sit by the pool. Fine, but I can do that at home.

The next port on the itinerary, Constanta, has little to offer other than blue-collar beach resorts. The ruins in Histria (and the tiny museum) are not worth the drive and the other local trip option, the monument in Tropaeum Traiani, is a modern (1977) reproduction of a less than stunning classical monument commemorating Trajan's victory over the Dacians (you can't do both; we did Histria and it is blah). There is an option to go to Bucharest; the ride takes 2.5 hours (250 km) but, when we sailed, the road was under construction and the drive took 4 hours each way. Did not take that option.

Odessa was interesting. We took a private tour. It was a treat to see the homes of Bialik, Alechem, Babel, Jabotinsky and so many other impressive intellects. We had typically Ukrainian food at mediocre restaurant, but at least the golubzie my husband ordered were quite good. Then came Sebastopol. The Balaklava valley is as beautiful as the French Champagne country and the historical interest is considerable. We also stopped in Bakhchisaray and paid homage to Pushkin, and we were lucky to catch a Tatar wedding in the palace's mosque. The food (the bread, fried stuff, yoghurt, and tea in particular) in the Tatar villages is delicious. We found all of the Ukraine impeccably clean and we could eat in the markets and buy from fruit stalls everywhere. The produce all over the Black Sea is extraordinary in the late summer and we ate extremely well on shore. Best grapes, eggplant, peaches, figs, peppers, and tomatoes ever. Lamb was succulent and perfectly prepared no matter how you ordered it. I'll come to food on board later.

Although Yalta is just a short drive from Sebastopol, Oceania takes you to Sochi first, and they do it slow. That sail can be accomplished overnight and they do it instead in two nights and a day on the way going, and overnight on the way back to Yalta (48 hours total sail time). The eastern Black Sea was fairly aggressive and my husband (and a good number of the passengers) got sick during that sail. The patch was obviously not enough for him and many others.

After the long sail we finally got there. Sochi is beautiful geographically but of absolutely no interest. Furthermore, no one had a Russian visa, so we were obliged to be escorted at all times. The tour options were dismal: a tea plantation or Stalin's Green Grove with a stop at a spa with sulfur springs built during the Soviet era. Would have loved a peek at the amenities of the rather monstrous “spa,” but they wouldn't let us near it. All we saw was the spring. Not at all culturally interesting.

The dacha is one of many Stalin had, contains no original furniture other that a bed and a desk, and I'm sure someone is making it a home when the tourists are gone. There was a very moldy foam kickboard by the indoor pool, for example, of a much later vintage than anything Joe saw. Oceania doesn't give you the option of securing a visa (like they do for St. Petersburg, for example) probably because they know that there is very little to see in Sochi and it's neither worth the money nor the trouble. The port is not worth visiting, at least not with what it currently has to offer and much less to pay for 2 days' sailing to do so.

Yalta is interesting for historical reasons and is also beautiful geographically. It is full of spas (called sanatoria) and very green. Unlike Russia, the Ukraine doesn't impose any restrictions on visitors, at least not if you arrive on a cruise, and you can walk on your own and explore. Much nicer experience.

Then comes crossing the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. Nautica reaches the Bosphorus at 4 pm and enters the Mediterranean at sundown. The views of Istanbul are magical and the coast of Gallipoli impressive. At dawn you are back in a different Turkey: slow-paced, quiet, bucolic. Ephesus, especially the terraced houses, is unforgettable. The museography is as wondrous as the one that holds the Ephesus marbles in Vienna: stainless steel and glass.

Our guide took us to a market in Selcuk that has a lovely antiquities museum; we the had lunch at a simple restaurant that had some of the most wonderful mezze, and different, too. One dish was that inimitable Turkish yoghurt that shines like porcelain and has the consistency of mayonnaise mixed with fresh purslane. Simple, gorgeous, and delicious.

Next was Santorini, with its marvelous blues and whites. The village is no longer, for the locals have sold their homes to store owners, restauranteurs, and hostel/hotel people. The views continue to be magnificent but traditional life is now dedicated to tourism. We had a starter of marinated octopus, for no money at all, that was perfect.

The cruise culminated in Athens. A great way to end the trip. Now, would we cruise again with this company? Most definitely not. We chose Oceania partly because it is less stuffy than other luxury companies in that you don't have to really dress up, but partly also on the reputation of Jacques Pepin. One reason we are displeased is that we felt that those two wasted days at sea to get to Sochi are unforgivable at the prices one pays for a luxury cruise, but the real reason is that the food on board was just awful. Mostly, it tasted like Business Class airplane fare. Of the more than 30 meals we had to have on board, we only had 3 dishes that were delicious: a bouillabaisse and a whole leg of beef done by Chef Henrique Sparrow in Tapas, where, by the way, you could always find a very nicely prepared (although nothing extraordinary) soup, usually (but not always) a good roast, simple crisp mixed veggies (boring but well made) and good salads; and a fettuccine with a duck ragout in Toscana. That's it. We also had honest meals in Waves, where the hamburgers were quite good (don't get the hot dogs) but I can get those for a lot less than what we were paying for food per day on Nautica. In the Grand Dining Room we had one meal and did not go back. I had veal medallions with crab, béchamel sauce and a demiglace that was sweet. It tasted (and looked) like airplane food with the béchamel dry and hard like mashed potatoes. In Toscana (reservations needed and you can only go there once if in a regular stateroom, twice if in a suite) I got a Maine lobster Fra diavolo that had been frozen too long and too late, for it was fishy and stringy. I did not dare eat it. In the steak house, Polo (same difficulty getting in as in Toscana), my prime rib (ordered medium rare) came in grey, no juice, and with a rainbow on the surface because it had been sliced several hours before. The filet mignon was also grey and dry. We cancelled our second reservation there.

The only good thing I have to say about the chefs and cooks is that they are attentive. When we wrote in the mid-cruise evaluation that the lobster was fishy, executive chef Wolfgang Meier called us to apologize. When the prime rib and the filet mignon at Polo's were served and returned, one of the sous chefs appeared and Meier later contacted us to apologize for having overcooked both. When I asked him how come they had fresh broccoli and cauliflower every day at Tapas but in Toscana the vegetables were either canned or frozen, he said that most everything is frozen. It shows. Unbelievable, since we saw and tasted the fantastic produce in markets all over the Black Sea. One cook told us that when he was recruited, he was told that Nautica's restaurants (in spite of all being cooked centrally midway and then finished in the restaurant kitchens), were fast approaching a Michelin one star. Other sous chefs (and some of the cooks) whom I won't mention by name so as not to get them in trouble, once they saw we knew food, told us in no uncertain terms that the food is really touch and go and generally overcooked. Some of them, in fact, would discretely say no with their heads if they saw we were about to order or pick something that was especially bad. Yes, THAT bad. Great people, bad ingredients, worse systems.

Finally, the reason we will never cruise again with Oceania is that, when it comes to technology, they are terribly behind. There are no Movies on Demand on the TVs and, when we went to the front desk to ask for the list of available CD titles to check out, we were told that they had 4 hard copies of the list and they were lost. They could not print out another one because that document was not at the front desk computers. The young woman was a sweetheart, though, (I cannot stress enough the quality of the staff), and said that she could recommend a light movie for us and went and got it. Lufthansa had about 20 digitized movies on Business Class for a 10-hour flight and Oceania had none for a 12-day cruise. But probably as bad as the horrible food was the atrocious Internet access. Dial-up service at 95 cents a minute. It cost 2 to 3 dollars just for the browser to launch! An average session just to check email (not respond to it, God forbid) was about 10 dollars a pop. OK, maybe at sea it might have to be dial-up, but in port? Can't believe it.

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Eastern Mediterranean
Publication Date: July 2, 2007

We took an East Mediterranean Cruise on the Nautica, one of three Oceania ships. The experience was delightful. Our cruise began July 2, 2007, in Piraeus, the port for Athens, and went to Santorini, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Delos, Mykonos, Thira, Katakolon, Corfu, Dubrovnik and ended in Istanbul. We recommend the ship to any adults who want good food, good company, and good experiences ashore.

We spent several days in Athens first, at the Athenaeum InterContinental. Oceania had a welcome desk there before cruise departure, but you could seldom find the Oceania person and when we finally did, she was unhelpful and gave us inaccurate information. The InterContinental put us in a taxi to the cruise terminal, where we went through a perfunctory and useless security check. From there, Nautica took over and the boarding process was simple and friendly. We were in our stateroom within 15 minutes of leaving the taxi and at the welcoming lunch buffet 10 minutes later. Most of the luggage arrived promptly. The final piece was delayed a couple hours.

We found the stateroom, 4049, well located -- about 35 steps from the reception desk, central stairway, and elevators. The room was

beautiful, in perfect condition, quiet, about average size for a cruise ship, with dark woods, a large window, a comfortable queen-size bed, a small desk and padded stool, small love-seat and a coffee table, and a functional TV that showed movies. Storage space was more than adequate, and suitcases fit under the bed. We had no balcony, and never felt we needed one. The bathroom was on the small side, with adequate storage space but a tiny shower. The hot water was always hot, but the shower is probably the worst feature of the Nautica. An attendant cleaned the room twice daily, did a perfect job, and was seldom seen.

Overall, the ship was beautiful, very well decorated, traditional but not old-fashioned, and superbly maintained. You could hardly find a scuff mark anywhere. The ship carries only 680 passengers, which puts it on the small side these days. We, and everyone we talked to, liked the size, which was big enough but not too big. While cruising, the ship was stable. The swimming pool was small but adequate, with two whirlpools, and the deck area was adequate. There were a variety of places to sit in the sun or lean on the railing. There was a nice library, a good-sized fitness area, a small casino, and two shops. A string quartet frequently played, as did a pianist. The stage entertainment was typical of cruise ships. There were few children on our trip, and there should have been none.

Nautica doesn't encourage children, and these kind of trips aren't suited for them. Food was usually very good, sometimes excellent, and a few times even superb. It would occasionally fall into the "okay" category. The elegant Grand Dining Room operates during specified periods as announced each day in the ship newsletter. You are not assigned a table or an eating time.

There are no formal nights. You dress "country club casual." No tie or jacket is required for men. Some jackets but only a few ties were in evidence. You decide whether to eat with others or not. Service was good. The buffet, at the stern of the ship, has superb views and is called the Terrace Cafe for breakfast and lunch, and Tapas for dinner. On three consecutive evenings, we sat at one of the outdoor tables at the buffet and watched the sun set over the Black Sea, an experience to treasure. Menu selection was varied, and presentation was excellent in both restaurants. Oceania advertises that "legendary chef" Jacques Pepin created some of the dishes on the menu. That seemed overrated to us. Near the pool was a grill, operating from about noon to 4 p.m., where you could get good hamburgers and hotdogs, a few other sandwiches, ice cream, and go through a salad buffet. There are two alternative restaurants, Toscana, featuring Italian; and the Polo Grill, featuring beef. You make reservations, but do not pay extra at them. While fine, they are overhyped. The dining room and buffet were just as good. The Nautica does not scrimp on food. Prime rib was on the menu several nights, a roast sucking pig was served one day, and shrimp prepared in various ways was available almost every day.

We met the captain once at a ship's party. Otherwise, he was not much in evidence. Tours of the bridge, kitchen and engine room were not advertised. A concierge is available during the day. When our room keys acted up, he quickly had the problem fixed. The staff comes from many countries, and most had good command of English and were very friendly.

Shore excursions were as with many ships, terribly overpriced. Details about them, necessary to decide which ones to select, were hard to come by before we boarded. Calls to the 800 Oceania number were answered by dour, unhelpful individuals. For some of the port of calls we decided to prebook private shore excurions through local tour operators before boarding to Nautica.

Athens: We used Spiros from www.athenstaxi.net He is very reasonable -- around 200 euro for up to 4 people for a full day tour.

Rhodes: We used Nick of Rhodes Private Tours nick-ax@rho.forthnet.gr -- We went all over Rhodes and over to Lindos -- great trip.

Kusadasi (Ephesus): We used Ephesus Private Tours. E-mail is ephesustours@yahoo.com web website: http://connect.to/ephesustours -- I found them very courteous, professional, and very quick to respond to my emails. There are many wonderful reviews about this company. They were first class and the guide was very helpful and informative.

Except Mykonos, in the rest of the ports we booked ship's excursions. Among them our favorite port was Santorini! We took the half day tour and still had time to shop and make it back to the ship for a late lunch. Everyone takes either the gondola or the donkeys back down to the tenders! Fun!

In Mykonos, we didn't take a tour because the ship has a shuttle bus to town. We enjoyed the photo opportunities here as well as shopping for music. We heard some complaints from people who paid for tours here, but then there are always some unhappy campers everywhere!

In talking to many of our fellow passengers, we heard nearly-unanimous praise for the Nautica. A surprising number of them had been on Oceania two or three times before, although the company has existed only a few years. One woman, apparently a chronic complainer, said maintenance of her stateroom was lacking, crew were impolite, and food was not "phenomenal." It was difficult to believe her first two claims. As for the food, meals were always enjoyable and delicious; for "phenomenal," you go to gourmet restaurants. Several passengers got on board without their luggage. I suspect that was the fault of airlines. I would strongly advise against arriving in Europe on the same day your cruise ship departs -- too much opportunity for trouble. Service in the Nautica buffet was at times a little slow. The staff should also enforce the dress code. We had a few louts who came to the buffet in sleeveless tee-shirts and baggy shorts, and one who talked loudly on a cell phone.

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Repositioning Cruise
Publication Date: March 25, 2007

My Prior Cruise Experience

I had read so many positive reviews of the Oceania line that when I noticed the modest price of the Insignia's transatlantic crossing to Barcelona embarking in my adopted hometown of Rio de Janeiro I enthusiastically seized the opportunity to experience an Oceania cruise. Coincidentally, my first cruise disembarked in Rio back in 1976 when I began exploring the South American continent. The name of that ship was the Christoforo Colombo which for you trivia buffs was the sister ship of the Andrea Doria which sank off the coast of Nantucket Island in 1956 following a collision with another liner (bonus points if you know the name of the ship). Since that time I have cruised about 50 times on a wide variety of lines running the gamete in price and sophistication from the "fun" ships to Seabourn and Crystal.

Accordingly and not surprisingly, I believe my opinion is well informed and credible. I rate my Oceania cruise at the top in terms of cost/benefit value.

Cost

As usual I used the internet to obtain competitive bids for this cruise. We originally booked a so-called amenities package consisting of a minimum

outside category cabin (D), prepaid gratuities, a $200 shipboard cabin credit, and a bottle of wine for $1620 pp or about $110 pp per day. On land one would have to pay almost that much just to eat as well as we did while on board. No wonder the cruise industry is booming. Cruising provides tremendous travel value. Shortly before sailing we accepted an offer from our TA to upgrade to a midship B2 balcony cabin for an additional $200 pp. My self satisfaction at having found a great deal was tempered slightly when I spoke with some passengers from the states and Canada who purchased the air/cruise packages for which Oceania is known. These packages afforded even greater value because the air component is priced ridiculously low compared to regular open jaw airfare, in this case from the USA gateway city to Rio and then back to the USA from Barcelona. The tight scheduling of this packaged air tends to be frenetic and is not for the faint hearted, but I believe deviations that allow more relaxed arrival and departure times/dates are available at a modest cost. Oceania air packages were not available for So. American residents from our USA based agent. Fortunately, TAP (Portugal) airline offers a reasonably priced one way fare from most cities in Europe to Brasil.Embarkation and Disembarkation

Embarkation was pretty much a non-event. After a 20 minute taxi ride from our apt to the terminal we left our bags with the porters and then had to wait in line about 15 minutes before receiving our boarding cards. We subsequently learned there were only 398 passengers on this sailing, a 60% occupancy rate. The absence of photographers at the gangplank also facilitated the boarding process. In fact, there were no ship photographers at all, a phenomenon probably precipitated by the advent of digital photography. There was a well attended class on board that dealt with computerized digital photography.

We encountered a minor glitch when we arrived at our deck 6 cabin. The key card didn't open the door so I had to hoof it down to Reception on deck 4 to ask for help. Time spent waiting in the hall passes slowly when one is eager to explore a new ship so I revisited Reception 5-10 minutes later when the "be right there" security guy wasn't right there. Hey, I had very high expectations after reading all those cruise website accolades and here I was locked out of my cabin. While revisiting Reception I was a bit surprised to learn that the security chap had not been advised of our plight and only learned of it while I was there the second time. He then came to our room and fixed the door lock - something to do with the battery in the lock itself, not the key card. This problem reoccurred twice during our stay and was the only annoying glitch during the entire cruise - almost. I had requested a small fridge and when we were finally able to enter the cabin it's absence was conspicuous. I called Reception and they said they would send someone with a fridge, which they promptly did. Except it didn't work. So I asked Reception to send a replacement which they promptly did, except that one got as hot as an oven for the 3 hours our wine and meds were in it. Were these first negative impressions of Oceania a harbinger of things to come? Was I in for a constant assault on the high expectations I had brought to this party? Happily, no. We finally got a working fridge and the wine sommelier replaced a bottle of white that had cooked to the point it may have spoiled. So much for the negatives. It turned out that these minor incidents were an anomaly and it was smooth sailing for the rest of the cruise, both figuratively and literally. The weather for the crossing was exceptionally good and so was everything else. Disembarkation consisted of walking off the ship after we finished breakfast. No lines. No announcements. No fuss.

Cabin

The cabin was nicely appointed with a sofa bed, small table, and a makeup desk/vanity with stool supplementing the queen size bed. Closet and storage space was adequate. It should be since I didn' t have to bring a tux and suits with me owing to the 'country club' mode of attire aboard this line. Or is that 'resort casual? ' I forget, but you need not ever wear a tie on board the ship so closet space should not be an issue even if you are a clothes horse. The bathroom was not large enough for double occupancy, but was comfortably functional. The detachable shower head was serviceable. The bath towels were considerably softer and fluffier than those on midmarket ships. A large bar of good soap lasted more than a week so we weren't bothered with tiny little bars or a liquid soap dispenser. The usual array of small plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and skin creme were furnished as needed by Sigrit, our Romanian cabin attendant who was as efficient and pleasant as any I've encountered. The toiletries may be more upscale in the penthouse suites, (so I have heard), but the cabin attendant could not have been better. My wife was a bit disappointed with the built-in wall hairdryer and was not able to get a "real" one from Reception, however they did supply us with a long extension cord which we could use for our electrical appliances. The room television was smallish and I could not find the sleep function on the remote control. That was a bit discomforting (not enough to inquire about) and was probably due to my own gadget incompetence. The programming was good - lots of recent releases and some classic movies constantly available. Boy, I wish CNN would change its format. It's excruciatingly annoying to hear and see the exact same news story after the third time.

We spend a lot of time in bed. Though we live in tropical Rio we have a goose down comforter and pillows galore, a super mattress and luxurious, high thread count, cotton sheets. So did our cabin. It far surpassed any bed I have experienced at sea and rivaled those in the very best hotels. There were no problems with the climate control or anything else in the cabin. It was always comfortable. The weather was mild, even sunny our first few days along the Brasilian coastline heading towards the equator, and we actually got to take some sun on our 40 sq ft balcony. In the evenings we could sit on the wooden chairs and have a drink under the stars.

We never heard any outside noises either from our neighbors or the ship itself. Quiet enough to hear only the sounds of the ship sliding through the sea as we plotted our course towards Barcelona.

Public Areas and Entertainment

In general all the public areas of the ship were tasteful and in excellent condition. Furnishings bordered on luxurious. Though there was no photographer aboard, the ubiquitous Park West Galleries was and had adorned many of the walls in the hall ways and staircases with some decent looking art. I didn't attend any of their auctions and was a little surprised to find them on board.

Much to my liking the casino was tiny, almost an afterthought. It consisted of 3 or 4 card game tables, a roulette table and a few dozen machines that resembled slot machines. I do not recall a craps table. In any event, there wasn't a lot of action in the casino. The largest attendance was for the Texas hold'em tournament. That's getting to rival shipboard trivia in popularity.

The gym/spa on deck 9 was well equipped for a ship of this size. In addition to the usual complement of treadmills, stationary bikes and those elliptical machines with moving arms that simulate cross country skiing (kinder to my run down knees than treadmills) there were a half dozen well chosen cable machines for muscle building. There were fairly heavy dumbbells (60 lbs+) for lifting and bench work. For $3 you could purchase earphones to listen to the TVs positioned by the aerobic equipment. Because I had a minor medical problem while aboard I didn't use the gym as much as I normally would, but it was more than adequate. Nor did I take the opportunity to check out the steam/sauna rooms.

A great library chockablock with good reading material and smart furnishings was located on a top deck. There were several copies of some popular new titles. Surprisingly, there were no checkout procedures. You could go in at any time, night or day, and take out any book you wanted or just read it in one of the opulent overstuffed chairs or sofas. Even the fake fireplace was pleasant looking and in good taste, sort of. The only downside to this honor system was the apparent immediate disappearance of the guide books covering Spain, our final destination. Oh well, not much Oceania can do to redefine human nature. The same unmonitored procedure for scrabble sets and puzzles existed in the small game/card room adjacent to the computer school room on deck 10 ( or was it 9).

One of the reasons I was eager to cruise on Oceania is because Jacques Pepin is the executive chef of the line. I am a BIG Jacques Pepin fan having watched his tv cooking shows on public television for many years. In addition to the grand dining room on deck 5 the two specialty restaurants, the Polo Grill and Tuscana, are located on deck 10. These are truly fine dining spots with upscale furnishings and tableware to match (Versace plates). Tuscana was used for duplicate bridge on sea days. Squeak, the bridge teacher was good natured and extremely competent. It helps to have the patience of Job.

The Horizons lounge on top deck forward, billed as the room with a view, doubled as the evening disco and the afternoon tea room. I didn't take notes and didn't spend a lot of time here, but I recall "tasteful." Funny how my memory fades more quickly these days than it did years ago.

The pool area on deck 9 was unique for the pool chairs which were large wooden contraptions with terry cloth coverings over the padding. There were a number of extra large chairs for two people to use simultaneously. Towels were abundant. Located nearby was Waves, the grill where various sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and salads were available from noon to 4 every day. Ice cream, too.

As maximum passenger capacity is about 685 on these 30,000 ton ships (I am informed the Nauitica and Regatta are identical to the Insignia in even the smallest details) the night club/ theater is appropriately scaled down. I don't recall a raised stage per se, except for some of the 12 piece orchestra towards the back of the stage area. The furniture is tasteful and looks to be in excellent condition. No frayed anything. Banquettes and individual well-stuffed chairs encircle the stage area. This is a more intimate theater environment than that found on the larger ships of most lines and this intimacy complements the entertainment corps, a foursome of young singers who actually sing live and can relate to the audience at eye level. The cast emphasizes singing and deemphasizes costumes and dance and in my opinion puts on an enjoyable evening of cabaret style theater with no pretense of being a "Las Vegas show." The MC is the Cruise Director, Rob Wheatley, who I thought was a great cruise director, funny and good natured at all times. He seemed well liked by those with whom he worked as well as the passengers. Among the other entertainers complementing the cabaret cast were a comedy magic act duo: "Des" something or other and his wife, Sherry who were British ( like all show people Des would no doubt hate me for not remembering his name in this review - if you ever get to see this, sorry Des). I had the pleasure of sharing a dinner table with Des and Sherry before seeing their act. During the conversation I remarked upon the British comedian, Benny Hill, and Des gave me some insight into the man. When I subsequently saw their show I was taken aback by how much Des's comedic style reminded me of Benny Hill, who I considered a very funny guy. And to see Sherry, who had behaved so demurely at the dinner table, gallivanting on stage also threw me for a loop. Excellent show, both nights they performed. A couple of evenings we were entertained by an accomplished clarinetist. I missed the impressionist. The cruise director put on some shows and games a few of the nights. These were well received. In general I liked the entertainment very much with a minor footnote.

My wife and I love to dance and while we did do some dancing from time to time I was a little disappointed with the orchestra. I didn't think they were as "tight" as they should have been. Not to be unkind, but maybe 6 gifted musicians would be better than 12 so so musicians. They performed at various spots thought out the cruise including some nights outside on the pool deck in the Tapas restaurant. At night the lunch buffet area was converted into a tapas style restaurant alfresco. I never ate there but it looked pretty all dressed up with candles, fine linens and tableware. Though sangria was offered, I 'm not sure why they call it Tapas. As far as I could tell it was just a fancier buffet than the breakfast or lunch fare.

There was a bar outside the night club ( Martini's bar) which I frequented because it was the locus of team trivia. Mr Wheatly kept the proceedings in order despite threatened lawsuits and questionable ethics by some of the cheaters. The environment is enhanced in the evening by a pianist whom I am ashamed to say I never stopped to listen to.

There was an enrichment lecture program but I have zero interest in conjecture over whether Princess Diana's death resulted from a plot or to hear a rehash of the Simpson love story that resulted in the abdication of the King of England. I put a negative in the comment card about the enrichment lecture program.

Food and Drinks

I am a foodie and have written a few articles on restaurants for local magazines and an internet site. I had tremendously high expectations given the fact that my hero, Jacques Pepin, is executive chef of the company. In general I was very pleased with the quality of the food. Because passenger capacity was low we could eat in the specialty restaurants pretty much wherever we wanted to. We ate in Tuscana 4 nights and Polo twice (this would not be possible on a full ship when only one night in each is guaranteed, two if you occupy a penthouse).

The Polo Grill is a steakhouse. I have lived in Buenos Aires for extended periods of time and visit it from time to time. The steaks in Polo, though advertised as aged prime Angus, did not approach the flavor of the steaks I get in steakhouses in BA. Of course, that is a very high standard against which to be judged. Compared to midmarket cruise lines the food is superb, at least as good as what you get in their specialty restaurants for which you pay a $20-30 surcharge. On the other hand, the lobster especially in Tuscana was fantastic, not at all resembling that which you get on Lobster Night or the Captain's Gala Party night aboard a lot of midmarket lines. No comparison whatsoever. Pastas were made fresh on the ship daily and the taste reflected the care given to food preparation. The gnocchi in pesto was a revelation. The fresh baked Italian bread was as good as the tiramisu. Very good.

The buffets at breakfast and lunch were far superior to that of all other lines besides Crystal and Seabourn (I have not sailed on Silversea or Regent) and these luxury lines will set you back between 2 or 3 times what you pay for an Oceania cruise. The difference in price between Oceania and HAL/Celebrity is minimal, but the quality of the food and service is significantly better on Oceania.

I also appreciate the fact that I can bring wine on board without having to secrete it as if it were contraband. I do not believe that in practice the company distinguishes between a bottle of wine and a bottle of scotch. The $20 corkage fee for bottles brought to the dining room is fair. Wines cost about the same as they would in a fancy restaurant on shore. Drinks prices are on the high end, but I did not buy drinks (medical situation) on my cruise so I can't honestly report whether the drinks are poured sufficiently liberally to justify a $12 cosmopolitan (with 18% tip included automatically) or a $21 Lagavulin (the bottle probably costs them $50). In any event that is a manageable cost.

Service

I cannot say enough about the wonderful service my wife and I received during this cruise. Perhaps it was attributable to the low passenger capacity or the fact that many employees were disembarking for vacation when we ported, but service was so amazingly efficient and graceful that it could be considered charming. Every single waiter, pool attendant, sommelier (yes they have trained sommeliers), room steward, and officer we encountered was fantastically eager to give us what we wanted and to suggest something when it was appropriate. There were never language problems because staff were all fluent in English no matter what their native tongue. And smart too. Idle banter could turn into interesting conversation with anyone you might choose to engage.

Conclusion

Of all the cruiselines I have travelled Oceania gives the most value for the price it charges. The accomodations and entertainment were very good and the food and service were excellent. We have already booked this same cruise for next year. It will include 3 new ports.

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Western Mediterranean
Publication Date: November 3, 2006

My sister and I and our two youngest daughters went on the Oceania Regatta Cruise last November. The ports of call were well chosen and fascinating. We embarked from Barcelona and went on to Rome, Amalfi, Sorrento, Sicily, Tunisia, Gibralter and Casablanca. The food was excellent, boasting a gourmet program created by Jacques Pipen, and since we had booked, the Butler Suite, our service was equally first class.

I was appalled, however, at the maintenance issues we encountered on this trip including our spa tub overflowing our first night aboard and despite repeated maintenance being done on the spa, we were never able to use it during the entire trip. It kept spewing out a gray dirty water that looked like it had bugs in it. Later discussing this with some of the maintenance people, it proved to be the result of improper cleaning procedures that need to be done regularly on these spas.

In addition, our room had an absolutely beautiful wraparound patio deck for our own person use for sunning and dining. Unfortunately, for the first week we were unable to use it because the door kept falling off, in addition,

the room boasted a full regalia of movies, new and old to be seen in our room, but the DVD player did not work and they did not have one to replace it.

Oceania has a long way to go before I will travel with them again.

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Western Caribbean
Publication Date: August 11, 2006

We just returned from our 28th cruise, on the Oceania Nautica, and my wife says it is her best ever.

We flew to Barcelona a day early to enjoy the city, staying on the Ramblas in Hotel Royal. $159 plus tax and we had a room overlooking the Ramblas on the 4th floor. No noise. And it is a short ride to the pier.

We stayed in a category B2 balcony cabin, number 6077. The next cabin forward was a B1, and more expensive. All the balconies in categories B2, B1 and A1, 2 and 3 (concierge) are the same size. Only the suites on Deck 8 are larger. Balconies are very private. The cabin is typical of balcony cabins, but had no refrigerator. The shower is very small.

Dining Service is exceptional, with 400 staff for 684 guests; they really appear to enjoy their work and provide exceptional service. Dining is open seating in the Dining Room, and at Tapas on the Terrace (the high-end, buffet-style dining); and by reservation in the two specialty restaurants, Toscano and Polo. There is no service charge for the specialty restaurants. There are plenty of tables

for two, and only twice did we have a short (five minute) wait for a table, in the Dining Room. Dinner menus seemed to have a lot of steak and beef, but there was an ample choice of fish, which included sea bass, grilled tuna, corvina, swordfish, salmon, and a wok seafood dish of shrimp, scallops and salmon. Desserts were excellent, including creme brulee in the dining room and specialty restaurants. Tables for two are arranged close enough to others to talk, but far enough to be "separate".

Entertainment The single pool was never crowded and there are plenty of loungers, including double seating lounges, all with cushions and terrycloth covers. The casino is small but adequate. We had not expected much entertainment, but during the 10 days we had three shows by a staff of four singers. We also had a terrific illusionist and two musical/singing performances by a husband-and-wife team...the husband is the orchestra director. There is also a pianist in the piano bar nightly. Dancing was available nightly in a variety of locations, usually the Horizon Lounge on Deck 10 forward where a sextet from the orchestra played until 11 or 12 at night.

There are no live "port talks," just a repeating short TV talk by the cruise director, and there was no port map with the daily newsletter. We didn't learn until until the fourth port thatt for a few hours each port morning, someone near the purser's desk distributed local maps and provided directions and port information. These passengers are, for the most part, 55+ and well traveled. We heard no "griping" on the entire cruise!

Dress While the cruise was advertised as "country club casual," and the brochures showed men in jackets, in fact there were very few jackets and no ties, although women did wear nice dresses in the evening, including some cocktail dresses. The day wear was the same as on any other ship.

Internet service is VERY slow but they do have wireless hotspots all over the ship. The Internet lab had about 24 work stations, and there were two more in the library for use if computer classes were in session.

The ship had good TV options, with CCN, Fox News, BBC, and a number of movie channels. There were no lines on board, for anything, even tenders (except for embarkation check-in, which was done onboard in a lounge). There was absolutely no pushing of tropical drinks and no onboard photographers, at all. Fine!

In Barcelona they allowed me to go back on the pier, purchase wine, sangria, and gin and bring it back to my cabin.

Our itinerary was termed "Art Reigns Supreme," and the ports reflected that. Sailing from Barcelona, we visited Marseilles, Monte Carlo, Civatavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Florence/Pisa, Amalfi, Taormina (Sicily), Valetta (Malta), one day at sea, and an overnight in Athens before debarking. As a smaller ship, we often got choice berths, with the larger ships staying farther from the port.

Sightseeing I think I have now seen all the churches and museums I could stand for a while, but the art was superb, including Gaudi in Barcelona, the Vatican Museum, the Accademia in Florence, St John's in Valetta, and of course the Acropolis, Agora, and Plaka in Athens. Without doing a travelogue, I will add that I did use Bob's Limos and Tours (http://romelimousines.com) in Civitavecchia and Livorno, and we were very pleased with experience - especially with the driver in Livorno/Florence/Pisa, who even took us via the Tuscan countryside at our request. In Athens we used George Taxi and Limo (www.greecetravel.com/taxi), where George's son Dennis picked us up in a limo instead of taxi, as his father, the taxi driver, was on vacation in the islands. He took the time to help me find the house I lived in there from 1972-75, and at our request took us to a local (non-tourist) restaurant for lunch, where we enjoyed salata horiatiki with a giant slab of feta and kalamata olives, tzetziki, moussaka, lamb fricasse, and swordfish kabobs.

The "free air" included was on Lufthansa from Washington Dulles to Barcelona via Frankfurt, and Air France from Athens via Paris to Dulles. Lufthansa was superb, and both offered multiple meals, complimentary wine and cordials. All our baggage made it, leaving a day early, but some passengers whose flights were through London never got their luggage until we arrived in Athens, due to the security scares in London. On the way back, at our connection in Paris, they researched all carry-ons and body-searched every passenger. Having watched the news on Fox and CNN, we had no problem with this, but it meant we didn't try to bring back bottles of olive oil or liquor as we had planned.

Oceania is a bit pricier than the premium lines (HAL, Princess, Celebrity), but the service and ambiance is wonderful.

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Black Sea
Publication Date: July 2, 2006

Travelers may not know about a relatively new line called Oceania Cruises, but they should learn. We took The Black Sea Interlude on the Nautica, one of three Oceania ships. The experience was delightful. Our cruise began July 2, 2006, in Piraeus, the port for Athens, went to Santorini, Kusadasi, Yalta, Sochi, Sevastopol, Odessa, Constanta, Nessebur and ended in Istanbul. We recommend the ship to any adults who want good food, good company, and good experiences ashore.

We spent several days in Athens first, at the Athenaeum InterContinental. Oceania had a welcome desk there before cruise departure, but you could seldom find the Oceania person and when we finally did, she was unhelpful and gave us inaccurate information. The InterContinental put us in a taxi to the cruise terminal, where we went through a perfunctory and useless security check. From there, Nautica took over and the boarding process was simple and friendly. We were in our stateroom within 15 minutes of leaving the taxi and at the welcoming lunch buffet 10 minutes later. Most of the luggage arrived promptly. The final piece was delayed a couple hours.

We found the stateroom, 4049, well located--about

35 steps from the reception desk, central stairway, and elevators. The room was beautiful, in perfect condition, quiet, about average size for a cruise ship, with dark woods, a large window, a comfortable queen-size bed, a small desk and padded stool, small love-seat and a coffee table, and a functional TV that showed movies. Storage space was more than adequate, and suitcases fit under the bed. We had no balcony, and never felt we needed one. The bathroom was on the small side, with adequate storage space but a tiny shower. The hot water was always hot, but the shower is probably the worst feature of the Nautica. An attendant cleaned the room twice daily, did a perfect job, and was seldom seen.

Overall, the ship was beautiful, very well decorated, traditional but not old-fashioned, and superbly maintained. You could hardly find a scuff mark anywhere. The ship carries only 680 passengers, which puts it on the small side these days. We, and everyone we talked to, liked the size, which was big enough but not too big. While cruising, the ship was stable. The swimming pool was small but adequate, with two whirlpools, and the deck area was adequate. There were a variety of places to sit in the sun or lean on the railing. There was a nice library, a good-sized fitness area, a small casino, and two shops. A string quartet frequently played, as did a pianist. The stage entertainment was typical of cruise ships. There were few children on our trip, and there should have been none.

Nautica doesn't encourage children, and these kind of trips aren't suited for them. Food was usually very good, sometimes excellent, and a few times even superb. It would occasionally fall into the "okay" category. The elegant Grand Dining Room operates during specified periods as announced each day in the ship newsletter. You are not assigned a table or an eating time.

There are no formal nights. You dress "country club casual." No tie or jacket is required for men. Some jackets but only a few ties were in evidence. You decide whether to eat with others or not. Service was good. The buffet, at the stern of the ship, has superb views and is called the Terrace Café for breakfast and lunch and Tapas for dinner. On three consecutive evenings, we sat at one of the outdoor tables at the buffet and watched the sun set over the Black Sea, an experience to treasure. Menu selection was varied, and presentation was excellent in both restaurants. Oceania advertises that "legendary chief" Jacques Pepin created some of the dishes on the menu. That seemed overrated to us. Near the pool was a grill, operating from about noon to 4 p.m., where you could get good hamburgers and hotdogs, a few other sandwiches, ice cream, and go through a salad buffet. There are two alternative restaurants, Toscana, featuring Italian, and the Polo Grill, featuring beef. You make reservations, but do not pay extra at them. While fine, they are overhyped. The dining room and buffet were just as good. The Nautica does not scrimp on food. Prime rib was on the menu several nights, a roast sucking pig was served one day, and shrimp prepared in various ways was available almost every day.

We met the captain once at a ship's party. Otherwise, he was not much in evidence. Tours of the bridge, kitchen and engine room were not advertised. A concierge is available during the day. When our room keys acted up, he quickly had the problem fixed. The staff comes from many countries, and most had good command of English and were very friendly.

Shore excursions were adequate, but, as with many ships, terribly overpriced. Details about them, necessary to decide which ones to select, were hard to come by before we boarded. Calls to the 800 Oceania number were answered by dour, unhelpful individuals. Information from excursion leaders on the ship was much better. Guide service ashore was generally good, as was the quality of English spoken. Shuttles to bring you closer to a town center were offered in two ports, and were quite helpful. An official from the local tourist bureau was usually on the ship the morning of a docking.

In talking to many of our fellow passengers, we heard nearly-unanimous praise for the Nautica. A surprising number of them had been on Oceania two or three times before, although the company has existed only a few years. One woman, apparently a chronic complainer, said maintenance of her stateroom was lacking, crew were impolite, and food was not "phenomenal." It was difficult to believe her first two claims. As for the food, meals were always enjoyable and delicious; for "phenomenal," you go to gourmet restaurants. Several passengers got on board without their luggage. I suspect that was the fault of airlines. I would strongly advise against arriving in Europe on the same day your cruise ship departs–too much opportunity for trouble. Service in the Nautica buffet was at times a little slow. The staff should also enforce the dress code. We had a few louts who came to the buffet in sleeve-less t-shirts and baggy shorts, and one who talked loudly on a cell phone.

A few words about our ports. Athens and Istanbul are utterly fascinating. You can easily spend five days in each city. Santorini was crowded but interesting. Kusadasi is a Turkish/European resort, and is close to the ancient ruins of Ephesus, which everyone should see. Yalta was wonderful. We toured the conference hall where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met to discuss the end of WWII. Sochi is a prime Russian vacation area, very interesting, and we got to tour Stalin's Dacha and stand by his desk. Sevastopol and Odessa in the Ukraine are interesting cities where you can just walk around and the soak up the atmosphere. Outside of Sevastopol, we toured the battlefield where The Charge of the Light Brigade took place, with a guide who was clearly enthused about her subject matter. We spent a day in Constanta, Romania, and another day in Nessebur, Bulgaria. Some passengers pooh-poohed those two stops, saying they offered little. Untrue. They offered a real slice of Romanian and Bulgarian life, a highly beneficial experience.

Bottom line on Oceania and the Nautica–get their pamphlets and consider their cruises.

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South America
Publication Date: December 19, 2005

I wrote a much more favorable review in April after sailing on the Insignia from Barbados to Barcelona last March. As a result of that good experience, my husband and I booked the December 19 cruise from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso and, unfortunately, found many things changed.

We had probably the best cruise director ever on our March sailing, but the current cruise director on the Insignia was not particularly helpful and didn't seem to mix much with the passengers. Still, for us the cruise director does not make or break a cruise and we probably wouldn't even have noticed if his predecessor had not been so outstanding.

The biggest problem on this cruise was the number of children on board and the inability of the staff to control the situation. The Insignia is a small ship with no children's facilities; in the past, Oceania has been quite clear that it is not child-friendly. It seemed, however, that in their eagerness to fill every last inside cabin, they had booked some large groups with many children. Thus, facilities such as the ship's only pool (a small one) simply was unavailable to most passengers

as large, rowdy family groups literally took it over.

With children running rampant up and down hallways, crowding all over the casino and its equipment, and dining in their pajamas in family groups of 12 of more in the Polo Grill -- which is supposed to be an upscale fine dining venue -- many passengers quickly became upset, not only with the rowdy children but also with their parents for permitting the behavior. These family groups would dominate quiet areas such as the Horizon Lounge during the daytime, turning them into playrooms instead of peaceful locations to contemplate the scenery from the most forward spot on the ship.

Less than a week into the cruise, it was announced that due to Chilean regulations, the casino would be closed for the last eight days of the cruise. My husband, who is an occasional blackjack player (although conditions were so unpleasant in the casino with rowdy adults and children most nights that he didn't even try), talked to one of the dealers, who told him they had been taken completely by surprise. In our first Chilean port, Punta Arenas, after the casino had been closed for several days, we ran into a passenger from the Marco Polo. That ship had just arrived from the opposite direction, heading south to Antarctica. In chatting, we learned that the Marco Polo was keeping its casino open nightly even thought they had just traveled the route we were taking.

After word got around that other cruise ships didn't have to shut down their casinos, the decision was made to open Insignia's casino for several more days. Some speculated that Chile was levying a tax on gambling when the ship was within a 12-mile limit, and that Oceania did not want to pay.

I am a fitness freak, and although the smallness of the fitness facility did not bother me much on the transatlantic trip, this time it did. On the earlier trip, the fitness director organized some good classes that could augment the limited equipment in the center. On this trip, with a different fitness director, the classes simply were not up to any accredited standards, and the classes for which they charged $10 - yoga and Pilates - were not good enough to justify a charge.

We booked a penthouse suite (what would be called a mini-suite on other ships) as we did on the earlier cruise, and our butler, Dimitre, was excellent. Because of the rowdiness of the children, we spent more time than usual in our cabin and on the verandah, and Dimitre was always available whenever we needed something.

We booked our tours through Turismo Nuevo Mundo in Valparaiso, as did two other couples on the ship. We were met in each port by a van with an English-speaking driver; the tours were about half the price of the cruise line's, and we thoroughly enjoyed them. We did hear quite a few passengers complaining about the quality of the ship's tours and felt rather smug that we had the foresight to book independently.

The scenery was spectacular as we went through the Beagle Channel and the fjords - much of it viewed from our verandah because the public areas were so disrupted by large groups with many very noisy children.

We had planned to book Oceania for a trip from Istanbul to Singapore through the Suez Canal in December - but now we are re-thinking those plans. It is not a journey we would want to undertake should the conditions be the same as on the South America cruise.

Oceania has attempted to distinguish itself as a line of "affordable luxury." Their ships are small, their design is elegant. They definitely have nothing for children to do. However, they do not have a policy in place to prevent the kind of mayhem that occurred on the Insignia -- and until they do, it will be difficult for us to take a chance on them again.

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Western Mediterranean
Publication Date: September 19, 2005

I am a big fan of the Regatta. The staff is extraordinary - the company must be doing right to keep them so happy.

The entertainment was improved this year, with four very talented singers and a brilliant guest entertainer named Bruce Adler. His shows were terrific and people lined up in the back to see him. The food is exquisite and varied and the ports are lovely. I recommend this line highly.

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Western Mediterranean
Publication Date: September 14, 2005

The Regatta is a comparatively small ship and has both the pluses and minuses that you would expect. The minuses are the small staterooms (we were in "Concierge" class which is supposedly somewhat of a premium category) with only a small loveseat and no other chair. We took one of the chairs from the very small verandah and brought it inside...crowded but at least a place for two to sit. The other primary minus is the Oceania gouging on prices. They put an outrageious 18% charge on all drinks, soft or hard and their prices are high for even a cruise line. Converting ounces to metric. a .75ml bottle of Jim Beam generates a little over $106 to Oceania, and that is their cheapest bar bourbon.

The pluses are numerous. First, the staff is uniformly great (and worth the $13.50/day/person gratuity). They are from all over the world, primarily eastern Europe. We enjoyed our contacts and they were many because of the "open" seating. The ships decor was warm and very tastefully done. Their library was extensive, most inviting, and was on the honor system...no checking out, just select and take.

Food was

very good with their "upgrade" restuarants serving excellent specialty dishes...one a "surf and turf" menu and the other Italian oriented. Both menus were large and interesting. The main dining room had fewer of the speciality items but their menu was extensive and very good. Similarly with the "Tapas" buffet for breakfast and lunch, (and dinner if desired) and the Waves poolside grill.

The biggest surprise was the entertainment. My wife and I never thought too much of shows on other cruises but Oceania has been smart enough to hire a smaller numberof truly professional performers. After seeing one show, we made a point of going every night (except for the comedian).

All in all, except for the stateroom size we were very impressed and would consider cruising on Oceania again.

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