Year Started: 2002
Ships in Fleet: 5
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
Regions:Australia/New Zealand, Caribbean, Oceania/South Pacific, Etc.
Good for: Foodies. Group. Families.
Regions:Africa, Mediterranean, Scandinavia/Northern Europe
Good for: Seniors. Luxury Travelers. Foodies.
Regions:Alaska, Caribbean, Eastern Seaboard, Inland Waterways
Good for: Seniors. Luxury Travelers.
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Luxury Travelers.
My wife and I recent sailed on the Regatta from Miami to Lima. It was not our first cruise but our first on Oceania and our most enjoyable. The food was outstanding, the service impeccable, and fellow travelers congenial. I must single out the cruise director, Ray Michaels, for his charisma and outstanding communication skills. The super bowl show was real fun and the religious services conducted by Mr. Michaels was stirring. I would also like to comment on the excellent sound system in the Regatta Lounge. I have difficulty hearing and certainly appreciated the outstanding sound system. I would have rated this a "5" except for the stingy drinks and warm glasses. A small but important issue.
ENJOYED THE OCEANIA CRUISE(S), BUT NOW READY TO TRY
We took our second Ocenia cruise this year from Istanbul visiting some Greek Islands and Turkish ports before ending up in Athens (Sept/Oct 2013). This followed our first cruise on the same cruise line from Vancouver to Alaska in May 2013. Although for the Mediterranean cruise was on the Nautica, and the cruise to Alaska was on the Regatta, the two ships were so similar that sometimes, we forgot exactly which ship we were on!
Having read some comments of passengers' experience of other cruise lines where not all staff were nice and pleasant, this was something which we take our hats off to Oceania - practically all the Ocenia crews and staff were very pleasant and friendly. They always smiled and greeted you when they passed by you. They worked hard and always tried their best to please, and nothing seemed to be too much trouble. We were very impressed with their positive attitudes and the good training from Oceania management. Our belief is that the high quality of staff at Oceania Cruises is really one of the
We were met by an agent of Oceania Cruise at Istanbul Airport where a coach took us to the boat docked near the olden part of Istanbul city. The traffic was so bad it took us about two hours to reach the Nautica. Some of us felt it might have been quicker had we got off the coach and walked - however, it would have been a problem had we done so as we all had quite a lot of luggage with us!
We know a lot of people raved about the wonderful cuisine and high standard of cooking on Oceania. Yes, we agree with them to a degree, but we have to say eventhough the cooking on Oceania was generally very good, it was not perfect! (Sorry, sorry, we know, we are being rather picky here! Gulp!!). For example, to us, the bread served on Oceania Cruises (both Nautica and Regatta) was not very nice - it tasted to us as if it was dry and some was quite hard - the exception was the selection of breads in the Toscana Italian restaurant.
We were also disappointed by the roast "lamb" which was really very tough , and the lamb curry with chewy meat, all were served in the Terrace (Buffet) restaurant. Their smoked salmon did not always taste fresh, it was as if it had been in the freezer/fridge(?) for too long and the texture has gone past its best. Their scooped ice-cream curiosly tasted as if was not properly frozen. At their Asian-theme lunch in the buffet restaurant, their Asian dishes were not very authentic and some of their Asian dishes actually tasted pretty awful ! Being Asian, I dare claim to have some knowledge of how "good" Asian food should taste like! An exception to the poor quality of their Asian dishes was their sushi, which was very nice.
Of course, as there was such a large choice of foods to eat, we never went hungry because if some dishes or food items were not to our tastes, there was always something else that we would enjoy. We won't list them as we are sure other passengers in other reviews have mentioned them already!
It was a shame that in the buffet restaurant, passengers could not help themselves but had to be served by ship staff. Perhaps this might have something to do with hygiene but the dishes were covered by plastic covers which steamed up so much it was sometimes difficult to see what was being served at meal times.
Soft drinks were complimentary but wines and other drinks had to be purchased. The wine and drinks prices were quite expensive, in our view, and this was made worse because like most American cruise lines, Oceania Cruise Lines added an extra 18 per cent on top of their already pricey drinks!
The cabins in the Nautica had beds with luxurious mattresses and plump pillows and it was very pleasant to sleep on. We never had much problems sleeping because of the comfy beds - even when the sea was quite choppy and the winds was tossing the boat a bit, we were sleeping fine! Each room had a fridge stocked with a selection of soft drinks and sodas and it was replenished every day. The room was cleaned twice a day and towels were replaced twice daily as well (if needed). The towels were not as luxurious as in some really nice hotels but they were adequate.
As some passengers commented the shower rooms were quite small, however, it is untrue that all cabins have the same small shower rooms.
The larger rooms from penthouse suite upwards have bigger bathrooms. Even the smaller shower rooms were not that bad - you could move around quite adequately
unless you have a back the size of an elephant!
We were not sure if Oceania cruises were trying to do some "cost-saving exercise" because the luxurious Bulgari toileteries which we had in the earlier Alaskan cruise were replaced by Oceania's own home-brand toiletries, which seemed somewhat cheaper-looking (clumsy looking big bottles of shampoo instead of the quaint small bottles from Bulgari, for example) . A "down-grade" in toiletries, maybe?
ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES
There was a daily newsletter that keeps passengers informed of the activities on board. The cruise director also made regular annoucements and appearances on TV to keep us up-to-
date on the cruise. As the Nautica was a medium-sized boat, it probably did not have as many activities as in the larger cruise ships. There was a small but comfortable library, an ultra-expensive internet room, a spa and sauna, destination talks, cocktail piano sessions, string quartet, and the evening entertainment in the Nautica Lounge . We were disappointed that the evening entertainment in the Nautica Lounge was not on every evening. The standard of their own home singers were just average - their song choices were not all very good -, but the ship had some guest entertainers who were actually better than we expected. There was a magician, a guest musician, and a guest singer. The African-American guest singer was really a class act and we wished he had done more shows on our cruise - he was great.
There was also a couple of channels on the ship TV but one area we thought the company could improve on is the quality and choice of TV channels.
The library could offer some "giant jigsaws" for passengers to partake throughout the cruise (some cruise lines like Fred Olsen already have that).
The majority of passengers appear to be north of 60 years old - but many seem to have aged so gracefully and they still looked very well, it must have been the good life they have had, or they took the trouble to take care of themselves ! Having said that, there were passengers of other ages too, but there were very few children on board. So if you are not too keen on kids running around and screaming on deck, this boat is for you!!
THE CRUISE ITSELF
Our cruise started from Istanbul, and it sailed to Kusa Dasi, followed by Marmaris ,Mykonos and Santorini. Before we sailed to Santorini, the Cruise Director whetted our appetites as he indicated Santorini was one of the most beautiful islands he had even seen. However, when we reached Santorini, we had an announcement that because the sea was too choppy, the captain had cancelled our stop there - it was too dangerous to take the tender boats to land on Santorini Island.
We would have preferred that eventhough we could not land on Santorini , the captain could have at least sailed around the island. Instead,
we sailed away into the seas without any fixed destination in mind, as if just to kill time and to pass the day. So all we did was waste fuel , saw no land, and adding more carbon to the earth sailing almost aimlessly ! What a waste of time that was!! We had nothing much to do at sea that day and found ourselves eating even more of their delicious food out of boredom! At least, that was our excuse for eating more! Lol.
Eventually, the boat headed for Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete which we docked the following morning. Our last port of call before reaching Pireus (for Athens) was Nafpleon. All these places we visited were nice, but it was a shame we had to miss the "Jewel in the Crown" of Greek islands, Santorini. Still, nevermind.
There were no formal nights but guest had been advised to dress "country club casual". That was one of the things we liked about Oceania cruises, we could be in stylish surroundings and eat in elegant restaurants, yet the men did not have to dress up in suit and ties or tuxedos like penguins. Some of the women passengers did take the trouble to dress up very elegantly though, although they were not required to do so.
From our previous Oceania cruise, we realised that the excursions offered by Oceania were very expensive and you could get better deals else where - instead of taking any excursions from Oceania, we checked for alternative and cheaper cruise excursions online.
We really enjoyed our first Oceania cruise to Alaska. Although we enjoyed the second Mediterranean cruise as well, because practically everything on board was the same as the boat on the first cruise - decor, cuisine, etc, etc - by the time our second cruise finished, we thought that we had a nice time but we have had just ample experience of Oceania cruises to last us for a little while. The next time we would like to try going on another cruise line to experience service possibly from a "different angle".. The thing with Oceania is, you know what you are getting, but many things remain the same for a long time, cruise after cruise. The same menus, the same decor, the same rooms, etc, etc. Only the ports of call are different. We would like to try different menus and different decors from different cruise companies. Isn't travelling about exploring new things and new experiences?
We would have liked the Captain and General Manager on the Nautica to be more available and mixed more with the passengers. We were looking for the start of the cruise party to meet the captain but did not know what happen, because we did not hear of any invitation. Later on there was a party for Ocean Club members - we went there, the General Manager was there but the Captain was absent giving the reason the sea was choppy and he had to take care of the boat. That was fair enough but we hardly got to see the captain after that. Senior management on the boat seemed
somewhat low-key, apart from the Cruise Director. Were they avoiding the passengers or what?
We have already booked on a cruise middle of next year with the rival company to Oceania, Azamara Club Cruises - curiously, it will be on the Azamara Quest, which is the same "R" class boat as the Nautica (as well as the Regatta) . Hopefully we can compare the two cruise companies to see which one is better! We did not feel that Oceania has done enough to keep us cruising just with them and with no other cruise companies (that does not mean we will not cruise with Oceania again, we will, but not too soon!). The Oceania Club membership has too few benefits to mean much to us.
Unfortunately, my review is rather long and detailed (25 pages), so it cannot be posted on here. And CM policies forbid me from including a link to my website where you can read it. However, if you would like to see my complete review, you can PM me and I'll be happy to email the link to you.
Overall, while we thought it was a nice 17-night cruise, we felt it was overpriced, over-hyped, and under achieved. We definitely did not feel the food was the 'finest cuisine at sea', like they advertise.
Summary: At a time when many cruise lines are cutting back on the overall quality of their products and service as a result of the low yields generated by aggressive pricing actions to keep their ships full, along comes Oceania who advertises premium/luxury cruising that combines good old fashioned superb dining, excellent service and engaging itineraries at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, my opinion is that Oceania is degrading considering that our expectation based on previous reviews was not fulfilled. I feel that two trips on Holland America, Celebrity, or Princess would be a better buy than our one trip on Regatta. Everything we found lacking â€“ shaved time in port, poor dining room service, lack of entertainment, inconsistent food quality, overpriced excursions, crowds in the Terrace CafÃ©, expensive internet, and too many tenders â€“ can all be found in previous reviews. Yet, still the reviews provided a 95% favorable rating. I would give Regatta three stars (out of five) and say it definitely needs improvement. Our first two and one-half days were rather rough for the Caribbean. Several hundred passengers sought medical help. Oceania provided airfare as part of our purchase. Note, not "free" asadvertised, but part of the total cost. Our flight left Houston (Bush Intercontinental) at 6 AM. To arrive at 4:30 AM we had to stay at the Mariott that is part of the airport with airport concession prices. Our flight was full. At the Miami airport we were indeed met by 5-6 Oceana representatives who did nothing but check our names off a list and point at our luggage and point to the bus where we should take our luggage. This "service" was $118. (The first people we met on the Regatta had taken a cab from the airport for $20.) The lines were a bit unusual to board. The line for concierge service had about a 100 people; the line for staterooms (us) had two couples. But we had to wait for about 10 of the 100 to be served before it was our turn. The sign in was quick. Lunch buffet was ready at 11:30 AM. We had boarded at 11 AM. Rooms were not ready until 2 PM. The Cabin: We were located in cabin 4035, an inside cabin. The cabin was of nice size (200 square feet plus 48 square foot bathroom). There is a large desk with two 110-volt outlets and lots of storage in the sitting area as well as a small table and one chair. We asked for an extra straight back chair and did receive one. Each cabin offers a safe that can be programmed for the passenger's use and a television with several channels going 24 hours per day. There was an unfortunate event on Thanksgiving. TV reception was blocked by two adjacent, larger cruise ships. No football until we left port. The Restaurants: The Regatta offers several dining venues that really set it apart from other cruise lines. While there is no surcharge for the specialty restaurants, there are restricted reservations for lower class passengers (in staterooms). The Grand Dining Room: This is the main dining room on the Regatta that does not require any reservations. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers fine dining from a complete menu for all meals. A hand-painted fresco ceiling tops the Grand Dining Room where a tuxedo-clad wait staff serves elegant six course meals. We ate dinner in the Grand Dining Room on most days and consistently had poor service. Dinner would take over two hours with surprising gaps between courses. Appetizers, Soups, salads, and desserts were generally above average. The Regatta complement of guests is generally in their 70s and 80s. This could be justification for small entrees. During the cruise I received three scallops, four slices of beef short rib, and a Beef Wellington the diameter of a coffee cup. I understand one could order more, but one of the weak serving points was that the waiter never came back after serving the entrees to see if the orders were correct, wrong, or insufficient.
I must comment that the wine list on the Regatta was extensive and expensive. For example, a Beaujolais Villages that I can buy at my local grocery for $9 is on the list for $50. The wine waiters are a little aggressive. One night my wife asked for a glass of red house wine ($6.95). The server showed her a Merlot and she asked for something different. The server suggested a Cabernet without telling us the new, improved price ($11.95). Toscana: We dined in Toscana on our first night. It was a large challenge since we had risen at 3:45 AM. But when we lower class persons made reservation, only the first night was available. We thoroughly enjoyed the meal; but, it took three hours. I had Osso Bucco that was excellent. However, my wife had rack of lamb that was not done properly. Polo Grill: The Polo Grill boasts a classic steakhouse atmosphere, offering a selection of aged beef and fine seafood. We ate at Polo twice. I had a ribeye and a porterhouse. Both were inedible due to grease and gristle. My wife says they were broiled on a flat grill (no holes) so the grease had no place to go except back into the meat. In an other incident, we saw a waiter (or helper) combine butter from two dishes left at other tables into one butter dish, adding a nice flat top. The Terraces Restaurant: This is the ship's buffet for breakfast and lunch and was very popular. Breakfast saw a great assortment of fruit, hot foods (eggs, pre cooked omelets, bacon, sausage, ham and such) cold cuts, cheeses, various bread choices and a cooked-to-order egg and omelet station. There was always fresh juice available and coffee/tea was served at your table. Lunch saw another buffet with excellent choices and quality. There was also a pizza station open for lunch as well. The Terrace Cafe serves breakfast and lunch buffets. The major difficulty with the Terrace CafÃ© is no lines. There is no way to handle crowds and people interfering with each other. Waves is a poolside restaurant serving traditional barbecue, fresh salads, sandwiches, and homemade ice cream. One time at WAVES, the servers put four hamburgers out for the people who ordered them. Along comes a passenger who takes the top off of each hamburger to see which was his order. Needless to say, my wife threw her top away. The Regatta Lounge: The Regatta Lounge was the place for all the events on the ship. The evening's entertainment took place here, as did the Captains Welcome and Farewell parties. There was never a need to go early to reserve a seat as there were always plenty of tables and chairs (likely because the entertainment was not that attractive). The Library: Simply the most beautiful library on any ship anywhere! There is a reasonable amount of fiction and travel books. The reference material, however, is worthless. The Cruise: Sunday, November 20th, 2011; Miami, Florida
ITINERARY FROM OCEANIA BROCHURE: The brochure information is reprinted below to show five dockings and one tender port: VIRGIN GORDA, BVI â€“ DOCKED â€“ 10 HOURS ST. JOHN'S, ANTIGUA â€“ DOCKED â€“ 10 HOURS GUSTAVIA, ST. BARTS â€“ DOCKED â€“ 10 HOURS TORTOLA, BVI â€“ DOCKED â€“ 8 HOURS LA ROMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC â€“ DOCKED â€“ 8 HOURS GRAND TURK, TURKS & CAICOS â€“ ANCHOR â€“ 6 HOURS Below is what actually happened. The most likely explanation is that Oceania saves money by not docking. Also note that tendering removes about one hour of port time; more if you are not on a tour. VIRGIN GORDA, BVI â€“ TENDERS â€“ 1 PM TO 7 PM, 6 HOURS ST. JOHN'S, ANTIGUA â€“ DOCKED â€“ 10 HOURS GUSTAVIA, ST. BARTS â€“ TENDERS â€“ 10 HOURS TORTOLA, BVI â€“ TENDERS â€“ 8 HOURS LA ROMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC â€“ DOCKED â€“11 AM TO 5 PM, 6 HOURS GRAND TURK, TURKS & CAICOS â€“ TENDERS â€“ 2 PM TO 6 PM, 4 HOURS Mon Nov 21 We usually have Room Service on waking up. The Regatta was fairly prompt and brought cups about half the time. We had coffee the first morning and it was not drinkable, so we switched to tea. Tue Nov 22 At Sea Wed Nov 23 Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands Arrival at Virgin Gorda was late. There was an announcement on the morning of the arrival that there was engine trouble. This has been mentioned before in reviews of the Regatta. Virgin Gorda is famed for its unique Baths area, where visitors explore caves and natural pools formed by large, smoothed boulders. Over 500 of the ship's 650 guests went ashore on tenders. I don't know how many took excursions from Regatta. Thu Nov 24 Antigua The largest of the British Leeward Islands boasts 365 beaches and crystal-clear waters. History buffs will want to tour Nelson's Dockyard National Park, where one of the great admirals of the 18th century kept his fleet. We had a fine taxi driver take us around the island for over two hours at $20 each (compared to the cheapest ship excursion at $65 each). The driver was extremely knowledgeable and well spoken. Antigua has its own personality. There are many colored houses and many small, older houses. Rain water is for drinking and tap water is for washing. The interior is covered with hills and vegetation. Gasoline is about $6 per gallon. Education has a high priority. Most schools are new. There are two colleges and a medical school. Fri Nov 25 St. Barts The atmosphere of this unique island is similar to that of a small French village. Most visitors explore the pearly beaches, open-air restaurants and cafes and chic shops of this eight-square-mile island. Of the island's 14 beaches, St. Jean is the busiest and the best for people-watching, while Governor's Beach is the most scenic. St. Barts and Gustavia are the most expensive places in the Caribbean. The ferry from St. Barts to St. Martin was interesting. The price for tourists (visitors) was about twice the price for residents. Sat Nov 26 Tortola, British Virgin Islands Tortola is small in size, but huge in natural beauty. The island is capped with bold mountains and fringed with breathtaking beaches. The prime sites here are Cane Garden Bay and Sage Mountain National Park. Each island visited has spectacular beaches and water sports. I wonder how many of the majority 70s and 80s passengers took advantage of such wonders. Sun Nov 27 La Romana (Casa de Campo), Dominican Republic 9:00 AM 5:00 PM Casa de Campo, a lush resort retreat in La Romana on the Dominican Republic's southeastern coast, offers myriad recreational options for visiting cruise passengers. We hired a taxi driver to take us to Altos de Chavon cultural village about 20 km from the docked ship. It is a reconstruction of a sixteenth century Spanish village now housing museums, a chapel, restaurants, etc. All in matching style. Our driver also stopped for shopping and gave us an extensive tour of Casa de Campo. He also let us stop for an hour at the Marina to have some adult beverages. The charge was $30 each compared to the excursion from the ship only to Los Altos at $45. Mon Nov 28 Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos Islands This small island, only six miles long and three miles wide, provides all the activities sun lovers need. Scuba diving, horseback riding on the beach, playing golf or whale watching (in season) are the major draws. Grand Turk is noted for Margaritaville and is listed as one of the top ten dive sites in the world. Tue Nov 29 At Sea Wed Nov 30 Miami, FL 7:00 AM We were told to vacate our room by 8 AM. We left the ship about 9 AM. We had a long stay at the airport until our 2:50 PM flight. The security at Miami was noticeably more stringent than most airports probably because Miami is a major entry point for illegal entry.
As previous Oceania cruisers, my wife and I looked forward to our 10 day, Barcelona to Rome cruise on the new Marina. We can confirm the glowing reports that have been circulating about the vessel. However two negative comments need to be made. The designers of the ship (and their publicity folks) stress the benefits of each stateroom having a tub and a separate shower. To make room for that tub, the triangular shower is very small. A normal person cannot comfortably turn around without bumping into the walls, much less bend over to retrieve an errant piece of soap. What a poor design. Not one of the passengers that I spoke with even considered using the tub. A major design mistake. Secondly, when the wifi is used in the cabins, the reception is very bad. There are frequent drops. The on-board computer guru admitted that only the computer lab offers decent connectivity. Not designing the proper wifi connectivity on a brand new ship is extremely poor planning. While the dining venues on the Marina are very good, everything should be top rated for a cruise of this price.
Oceania Cruises has earned a fine reputation by providing great food, good and personable service on friendly well-maintained ships, with interesting itineraries. The company lived up to that billing on our recent 24-day Amazon Adventure cruise aboard Regatta. In many ways, we had a fabulous experience. Unfortunately, a series of planning and communications failures by Oceania marred the trip and left many of us frustrated. The check-in procedure was a disaster, a purported computer snafu that kept us waiting in the terminal three hours. Worse yet, ports promised in promotional literature last year were switched. One port was skipped altogether. At a key port, we lost half a day of touring time because of sailing delays. The crew aboard ship, regrettably, didn't even want to acknowledge the problems. Let's hope there has been some private rear-kicking in the Miami headquarters.
This was an ambitious cruise: leave Miami, go through the Caribbean, visit various islands, then enter the Amazon for eight days and visit Santarem, Boca da Valeria, Parintins and Manaus for two days, then stop at various Caribbean islands on the way back to Miami. We paid about $5,900 per person including tipsfor our stateroom, 4049, very well located just steps from the reception desk and central stairway.
The ship, although 13 years old, looks all but new. We had to look hard to see any maintenance issues. Our stateroom was pretty, in near-perfect condition, and quiet. Everything, including the air conditioning, which was really needed, worked fine.
The stateroom attendant was seldom seen, but kept up the room twice a day in timely fashion. The public areas of the ship were very attractive and very well maintained. You could occasionally see crewmen doing painting, which is a good sign on a ship. The food was very good, sometimes excellent, sometimes even superb. The top chef was available to talk to passengers almost every day. They do, however, need a better recipe for scrambled eggs and hash browns in the mornings.
Oceania has no separate charge for any of their restaurants. Let's hope that continues. The two specialty restaurants were excellent. Restaurant service was usually pleasant and good, although a little slow at times. Overall, the staff throughout the ship were a joy to be around.
Entertainment was of mixed appeal. In various parts of the ship, we had a string quartet, which really adds class, a piano player, and a band. All were good and entertaining. Other entertainers were brought aboard for special appearances, and some were quite good. Passenger laundry facilities and internet service, like on all Oceania ships, were terrible.
The enrichment lecturers weren't very useful. We suffered a lot by not having an Amazon naturalist aboard. Shore excursions offered by the ship were overpriced, and we heard numerous complaints about them. We booked private guides in several of the key stops, including in the Amazon, and they provided great experiences for us.
The problems on this cruise came with the ports. As we boarded, we were informed we would not stop in Tobago but rather go to Port of Spain. This was not an even trade. Because of that change, we lost a shore excursion we had booked privately in Tobago. They could have informed us of this change days before we left home. After Port of Spain, the schedule failed to allow enough time to get to Santarem. They knew or should have known that weather in this area can pose problems, and they surely knew that Brazil customs authorities are feuding with the United States and might hold us up as we entered the Amazon. Because of these delays, we arrived in Santarem at 3 p.m. and lost half a day of our privately arranged shore excursion. Our stop at Devil's Island was skipped, purportedly because of high seas. Again, they knew or should have known that this stop is chancy for cruise ships. We were NOT warned about that in promotional literature. As a result, we expected and looked forward to the stop. The captain could have tried to land, or could have waited for several hours to see if the seas calmed. He did neither, and did not even go slowly past the island to give us a photo opportunity.
Originally, Grand Turk was to be our final port. But we were told after we had made our reservations that would change to Nassau. Again, not a fair trade. While on the Amazon, if Oceania had planned properly, we would have had more time to visit one other city, perhaps Belem. Or we could have been given an overnight stop in Santarem. Instead, we spent too much time in Caribbean ports.
We registered these concerns on board, including to the captain directly, but the ship personnel saw nothing wrong. They didn't seem to grasp that they should deliver what they promised. They never apologized for the computer snafu at check-in. Considering complaints on other Oceania cruises about changing ports, and now the mysterious problem with Insignia, one has to wonder if Oceania is slipping a bit. While we love the memories of our Amazon trip, the big question is: would we schedule it again, knowing what we now know? The answer might be no.
Inform all passengers on the ms. Nautica, sailing from Tianjin to Hongkong, that the Japanese Government has asked not to call on japanese ports, as their focus is on rescue and reconstruction. We were scheduled to call on Hiroshima and Kobe (600 km south of the disaster area).
We were promised an alternative itinerary.Well it was very simple.Oceania decided to cancel our calls on Hiroshima and Kobe, stay an extra day and night in Shanghai,sail directly from Shanghai to Okinawa, extend our stay in Keelung and on our way to an extra night and day in Honkong,make a call on Kaohshiung, at reduced speed to fill the time gap.The result: We sailed ca 1150 nautical miles less (1/3) and miss the most interesting part of our cruise.But Oceania saves ca $ 450.000 on less fuel consumption. (ca 250 mt MGO x $750 and 500 mt bunkeroilx $530 -prices Petromedia Bunker World Index dlvd. Tianjin )
The compensation for this loss: Nada-niente-nothing.Not even a bottle of wine to go with the dinner but instead an arrogant reaction of the cruise director about all the problems they had, to cope with the new situation.This hasdefinately been the first and last time that I will set a foot on a ship of Oceania.
PS . the food was excellecent,the staff was friendly and the management condescend, arrogant and definately not customer satisfaction oriented.
Reviews of Oceania Cruises are typically very positive, and for a reason. Oceania, in a time of cutbacks everywhere, continues to do a great job. We took the Lands of the Midnight Sun cruise on Insignia, leaving Dover on July 23 and traveling up the west coast of Norway, into various fjords, and eventually to Murmansk and the polar ice cap. We disembarked in Copenhagen on August 10. The views, the experiences, and the memories will last the rest of our lives. Yes, there were some glitches and shortcomings, partly explained by the ambitious nature of this itinerary. Our experience wasn't perfect. But Oceania is a fine cruise line and we had a fine time.
We haven't sailed on this line in four years, and we wondered if we would see evidence of cutbacks, like those reported on other lines. We saw nothing of the sort. The food actually may have been better this trip than our trip of four years ago. Frequently it was very good, sometimes excellent, sometimes even superb. Oceania has no separate charge for any of their restaurants. Let's hope that continues. The service in the restaurants was,at times, a little disorganized. But overall, the staff throughout the ship was excellent. Always pleasant and helpful.
The ship itself looks like it just came from the shipyard. In fabulous shape. Traditional, but not old-fashioned. Hardly a scuff mark to be seen. Frequently we saw workers doing touch-up painting. Once I observed the manager of the buffet use her finger to test for dust on a ledge. We paid about $5,800 per person including tips for our stateroom, 4049, very well located just steps from the reception desk, central stairway and elevators. The room was pretty, in near-perfect condition, and quiet, about average size for a cruise ship, with dark woods, a large window, and a comfortable queen-size bed. The air conditioning worked. Storage space was adequate. The bathroom was on the small side, with adequate storage space but with a tiny uncomfortable shower. The hot water was always hot.
The entertainment, if anything, was better than four years ago. We had a string quartet, which really adds class, a piano player, and a band that was entertaining. We enjoyed recitals by a classical pianist and a classical clarinet player. The juggler/comedian should have been left at the dock. The ship threw several parties, complete with free snacks and drinks. The captain and other top officers attended, and if you wanted to talk to any of them, it was easy to do. The top chefs were frequently available, too. When we arrived in port, an official from the local tourist bureau was usually on the ship first thing. Very helpful. Shuttles into town centers were sometimes offered free, which was another benefit.
The problems we encountered related to communications, planning and shore excursions. First, the polar bear issue. Oceania inadvisedly left people with an impression we could see a polar bear. Cruise brochures featured polar bear pictures. We checked before we booked and found that seeing a polar bear on this cruise would be highly unlikely. So we weren't upset. Still, Oceania was guilty of a little false advertising. Another mistake was making two stops, in Oslo and Bergen, on Sundays. Most regular stores close in Norway on Sundays. We lost great shopping opportunities. We could have used a naturalist on board. We lacked good, moment-to-moment information about some of the wildlife and scenery we were seeing. The shore excursions were over-priced and lacked imagination. Many passengers scored better excursions by setting them up themselves. In Murmansk, however, visa regulations prevent that. We were stuck with the ship excursions and they came up way short. Granted, Russia is an extremely difficult country to deal with. Murmansk is a treasure trove of history, tragedy and courage in the face of travail.
Many passengers didn't grasp that, and came away saying this stop was a waste. It was one of the highlights for us, despite the inadequate shore excursion we took. Glitches and shortrcomings aside, this was an excellent cruise on a route not commonly traveled by ships. Insignia threw one party for passengers who have sailed before on Oceania, and it was a huge affair. Of the 680 passengers aboard, more than 400 had sailed at least once on Oceania. That's a tipoff to how good this cruise line is.Cost
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 wasbeautiful, 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.
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.
Embarkationand 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.