Instead of the standard/usual review, I try to focus on some main issues/points and mainly towards the treads/questions I ran into on the several boards before we sailed our first Oceania cruise.
Boarding was a breeze. With a small ship and few passengers it all went very fast. Until we board the ship. Despite the travel documents that stated we were welcome as from 12:00pm. The rooms/suites were not ready for hours after. Only at 14:30 the concierge class was called and more than 1 hour later at 15:45 the "regular" staterooms.
With little to nothing to do on-board, except for a lunch buffet it's not a very pleasant and warm welcome to drag your bags around for 3 hours in 40 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit)
We opted for a Concierge Class. Despite the fact this is a very beautiful cabin, it does not differ from the standard non-concierge class cabins with the exception of a few amenities. In our opinion the monies asked extra are absolutely not worth the upgrade to a concierge class. Unless you're dying for some Bulgari toiletries. The bathroom is somewhat small due to the fact Oceania opted for both a separate shower and bathtub. I would have preferred a large walk in shower and no bathtub instead. The shower cabin is small and we found it very hot/sticky and humid to stay in for a nice long shower. The balcony is of an OK size with, unfortunately, very uncomfortable chairs. The Beds are the absolute PLUS PLUS. We honestly can say (being in the bedding business for decades) that Oceania really surpasses any other cruise line in the world on this. Although it's surely not the wonderful, great, tranquillity that is advertised and promised, this is by far the best bed on any cruise ship in the world.
Please note that you do NOT have a teak veranda despite advertising so. The only thing teak is the handrail. The rest is plastic and metal.
Overall we found the crew on board the most unhappy and non-smiling bunch we have ever encountered on any cruise ship or cruise line. Not that they were unfriendly or so, but they just don't seemed happy to work for Oceania. As if the company was not treating them very nice or pleasant. During the cruise we spoke with several of them and the majority indeed confirms that they're not too happy to work for Oceania. Unfortunately this shows and makes the overall atmosphere a little tamed and unpleasant at times.
Calling her selves "the Cruise Line for foodies" surely created some expectations. And unfortunately due to that it was some kind of disappointment. We thought the food was every time a matter of Hit or Miss. Some dishes were wonderful while others were total miss. Although Oceania advertises every dish is prepared to order, this surely is not the case at all. All is prepared in advance and the majority is just waiting under the heater in the kitchen to be served. Due to this some arrive lukewarm of even almost cold, downgrading the taste.
Free soft drinks is really not conform the reality. Yes, they do offer free soft drinks but only a very extremely limited selection of 5 choices. You can opt for Coke, Diet Coke, Ginger Ale, Tonic and Sprite. That's it. On top there are a few mineral water selections like Pellegrino and Perrier. So, if you want a Cassis, Fanta, Coke Zero, Red Bull, Arizona Ice tea, you name it, it's not there! Your choice is the 5 mentioned.
Further, please note that the staffs is trying very very hard to have your glass filled with the chlorine filled iced tap water instead of the complimentary mineral water. So if you do want mineral water instead be sure you "hit" them before your glass is full with ice water already. Some kind of challenge, I promise.
Another challenge is to get a drink served at all at the pool. Whether it's busy or quiet, Oceania lacks the quality of catering enough staff. 2 day's it took us over 1 hour to trace someone to get a drink. Best and fastest way is to walk up to the bar and get it yourself.
For the others, we found the prices exorbitant and on the very high end moneywise.
This is really the point were Oceania creates a complete failure and mess. Please note that the specialty restaurants are not that special at all. Yes, they do offer a difference from the Main Dining room food wise, but the quality and "specialty" is not really there. It's the same menu over and over again and all is pre cooked, pre prepared, basic and not memorable at all. Yes, the meat quality in Polo Grill is great, so are a few other things. But we did not find anything really memorable. Please believe me that the best food and the best service can be found in the main dining room. Due to the reservation policy, Oceania tries to make the specialty restaurants even more "special" and it's very very hard to get in. Unless you're willing to extra tip the people responsible for the restaurants generously. So IMHO the Specialty restaurants are not worth the fuss and struggle to get in at all. Stick with your guaranteed reservations and enjoy the difference from the main dining room for the change.
Another point where Oceania totally creates a complete failure and mess. Despite their advertisement and promises they offer FREE shuttles in most port with a value up to US$ 50, = per person, per day, this is an absolute lie. The shuttles offered are nothing more than the ones offered by the port authorities and this creates a total mess. First the availability is very limited. With little people booking the overpriced shore excursions the demand for shuttles is way higher that what is offered. Creating long lines and waits. Secondly the port authorities use their time schedule without any agreement between them and Oceania. Due to the fact that the ship is in port till late (11 pm) but the shuttles stops at 4:30pm in Sorrento for example, there is really no way to get into town after that unless your willing to climb up the hill in the heat. Marseille, a long drive into town (25 min) and only 2 busses makes waits for 45 minutes for an available shuttle "normal"
At a certain point we were really done with these miserable arrangements and the long waits, so we decided to address our concerns to the Hotel Manager. After 5 staff members really tried hard to get him away from us (strange, as the management should be easily available) we persisted and there he was. We requested for monies to cover our travel expenses into town. This as we found that we were entitled to the US$ 50,= value service as promised. And guess what, he advised us that he was fighting for this for over 7 years already with Miami head office and having major and many complaints towards the shuttle services from many guests. But because of this statement there was not really a way back for him, so he agreed on reimbursing the travel expenses made. And these we reimbursed to our on-board account thereafter. So I strongly advise anyone to complaint about the shuttle service and request for your monies back. This might perhaps change this odd, unorganised and unacceptable "shuttle policy" by Oceania.
All in all we feel that Oceania grew way too fast over the past 1,5 year, doubling in size passenger and crew wise, but she did miss the opportunity to manage this growth very well. All the raves, whistles and bells that she gained over the years since her birth seemed to have gone to their heads in Miami. The most certainly feel that they create a wonderful and special product, but the reality differs from that.
Please note, we have cruised over 70 times. From RCCL to Silversea, and all in between. Some cruises were magnificent while others were ok. On a scale from 1 to 10, being 10 the best, we feel that Oceania barely disserves a 1. Not because they offer a terrible product, but just because they really miss the point when it comes to customer service., friendliness, management, exclusivity, luxury and above all offer value for money.
With so many wonderful cruise lines out there and competition running high, we honestly doubt all the raves concerning Oceania are still there in 1,5 or 2 years from now. Unless they will put the finger where the pain is, it might be very well true Oceania will descend from a luxury line to a standard 5 star line competing with Princess or Costa cruises instead.