We chose the Regatta's Istanbul to Rome cruise because of the ports visited, smaller ship and the month we were available to travel.
Embarkation: This could not have been easier. We were dropped off at the dock and within 15 minutes had handed over our luggage, gone through security, filled out a two question form (basically stating that we arrived in Turkey healthy), got in line to provide a credit card number and have our pictures taken, passed through passport control and onto the ship and in the Terrace cafe.
Our room: Because this was our 25th anniversary cruise we splurged on a PH suite. We were in room 8058 -- port side -- I believe 3 rooms from the back. The room was very spacious -- lots of storage and tastefully decorated -- all blues, whites and dark wood. Another reason I chose a PH was, I admit, I wanted the bigger bathroom -- with an actual tub/shower. And I am happy to say, that for me, it was well worth it. I enjoyed the space to shower and even take a couple baths with the lovely Bvalgari bath salts left every day. All the Bvalgari products were wonderful and smelled so good. We were able to get into our room right away after boarding the ship (at 1:00) and our bags were waiting for us as was our butler. He was very nice and I'm sure would have done anything we asked but we really had no need for his services. The only thing we asked him to do was swap out our welcome bottle of champagne for a bottle of red wine (which was kept with the wine -- somewhere behind the scenes) and get us a deck of cards. We also had breakfast in our cabin a few times and afternoon canapes a couple of times. Our housekeeper was extremely cheerful.
Dining: Food is rather subjective so I will just mention some things that we especially liked. The eggs benedict were very good (and a little surprisingly) we thought they were better prepared in the Terrace Cafe as opposed to the Grand Dining room. I also loved my beef Carpaccio in Toscana. My husband had a delicious sandwich of the day on our sea day from Waves Grill. It was a roasted pork on a great baguette. One of the main dishes in the dining room one night was spinach and ricotta gnocchi, which I had as an appetizer and it just melted in your mouth. Steaks on the whole were always well prepared. Also the Osso Bucco in Toscana was delicious.
Our first meal in Toscana was good though we had a little problem with the light above our table. We were seated along the back window in one corner and we did not notice that the light above didn't work until the sun set. At that point it was quite dark on our table, especially compared to the tables all around us. We asked about the light and more than one person came over to fiddle with it, but to no avail. What surprised us was that not one person said they were sorry. When I filled out the mid cruise questionnaire I commented on just that and lo and behold someone from Toscana called our cabin to apologize -- so they do read the comments. And then later in the day the manager of Toscana called and wanted to know if we would like to eat there another night (in addition to our current 2 reservations) and was very sorry and appreciated our filling out the comment card. We declined though said we were looking forward to our next meal there and appreciated his calling.
Spa: After three days of walking in Ephesus, down all those steps in Santorini and then up and down to see the Acropolis in Athens I was ready for some type of spa treatment on our sea day. I waited to make an appointment until the afternoon of the day before and things certainly fill up quickly. My only time choices were 8 am for the Ohana Circulation Polish (50 minutes at $159) and 5:00 pm for the Canyon Stone Pedicure (80 minutes at $135). Yes, the polish was overpriced but it felt wonderful and I enjoyed it, so I considered it money well spent.
High Tea: Every day in the Horizons lounge from 4 -- 5. Just pick any table and someone will come over with a large box of different teas to choose from. Then there is also a dessert cart where you can choose some treats and someone else walking around with a variety of little "tea" sandwiches, all while the string quartet plays. It was very nice and very popular.
Entertainment on board: We went to the first cast show called "Maestro" on the day we left Istanbul. The four members of the Regatta cast were quite impressive. We both thought they all got better the more they sang and harmonized quite well together. We did not go to the evening of comedy/song with our cruise director Nolan Dean but we heard many people say it was a fun evening and he was very entertaining. We also went to the cast's second and final shows -- "Hot Vegas Nights" and show tunes (can't remember the exact title). They were both fun.
We attended a wine tasting on our second day and thought it was a very good value - $15 a person. There were about 40 or so people that participated and we were each given 4 wines (two red, two white) and one taste of champagne. There was also a plate of crackers and cheese for every two people. The head sommelier was very knowledge though his assistant, though pleasant was not quite as assured of herself. They were very generous with their pours and would have gladly given anymore more of anything they wanted.
We also attended two lectures from guest lecturer Terry Bishop. These were very well attended and he was an engaging speaker in every way.
Istanbul: We spent 2 nights in Istanbul before boarding the ship. On the day of our arrival we went to the Underground Cistern, walked through a huge park and to the Spice Market on our own. We then had a full day tour and 1/2 day tour with EKOL tours. The sites are actually very easy to see on your own and part of me thinks we should have done that, but it was nice to have someone directing us where to go, handing us our tickets and explaining things being a bit jet lagged. We saw the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, a Bosphorus river cruise, Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, and Chora Church. Hagia Sophia and the Chora Church were our favorites
Kusadasi: We again booked a tour with EKOL and went straight to Ephesus. It was about 110 degrees and we started touring around 1:00. We loved Ephesus, though please be sure to stay hydrated while touring during the summer months. I was obviously not doing a good job and actually fainted while touring the Terrace Houses - and we live in Dallas and have been to hot places like Phuket and Bali. We then went to the House of the Virgin Mary. This a a very peaceful site and we are glad we stopped there. We also went to the Basilica of St. John. There is actually not much to see, though the site is quite large and there were not many people there. When our guide dropped us off she recommended a local restaurant for these "pancake" type dishes that we really liked. We stopped in and had a delicious snack before getting back on the ship. Also, the shops at the dock had all their prices listed in Euros instead of Turkish Lira - the only place we saw this.
Santorini: As everyone knows there are 3 ways to get to the top - cable car, donkeys or walking the 500+ steps. We choose donkeys. We waited in line for about 5 minutes and for 5 euros enjoyed our ride to the top. It was not scary and a fun thing to do. We walked through Fira and straight to the bus stop. Tickets were bought on the bus (1.60 euro each) and the busses are well marked. They arrive every 20 - 30 minutes and they were always packed to the gills. We took the bus to Oia, walked around, took lots and lots of pictures and had a lovely lunch with wonderful views.
Athens: We took a food walking tour in the morning, which we enjoyed. The owner of the company was our guide (Despina) and she was very knowledgable, kind and entertaining. We made 6 stops and there were 6 adults on the tour (along with one toddler and one child). The other couples then went on their way and Depsina and the two of us went on to the Acropolis. It's another long walk up and after seeing Ephesus was a bit of a letdown. But, we are very glad to have seen it as well as the huge "rock" from which Paul preached to the Athenians.
Malta: I had bought tickets to the Hypogeum months ago, which was a good thing because the sign inside said tours were booked through August 25th. It is an underground burial site from 6000 years ago. They only allow 11 people per hour to tour the site. That, along with the nearby Tarxien temples (the first known mad made structures - also 6000 years old) were quite fascinating. We then went to Mdina - charming medieval city. I also love taking pictures of all the colorful doors. To get to the Hypogeum we just got a taxi right at the port. We asked if he would come back to pick us up after our Hypogeum tour and he was more than happy to do so. He then brought us where we wanted to go for 2 hours for the cost of 50 euros. We also walked around Valleta - touring St. John's Co-Cathedral and the armory. The walk back to the ship was not exactly clear cut but we eventually found our way.
Trapani, Sicily: We had rented a car but at the last minute decided to cancel and just take a taxi to the cable car and the cable car to Erice. The destinations services person on board made it sound like the bus/taxi stand was right when you got off the ship. We must have missed something because we never saw it. We did eventually find another taxi "stand" and got a taxi to the cable car. The cost was 11.60 euros but when we were searching for coins for the 1.60 our driver just told us that 10 was enough. He then gave us his business card and said to call him when we came back down. The cable car costs 6 or 7 euros (for both ways). The town of Erice is also very charming and SO much cooler being 2000+ feet above sea level. Unfortunately is was a bit of a rainy, overcast day but we still really enjoyed our time there. We called the taxi guy as we made our way back down by cable car and within 15 minutes he had arrived to take us back to the port.
Sorrento: We had been to Sorrento before as well as Pompeii and Capri so we decided to book a driver (in advance) to take us back to Positano (my husbands favorite place in the whole world) for the day. Tendering on the Regatta is so easy. We got our tender ticket at 9:00 from the lounge and within minutes were on a tender. We first stopped at a ceramics factory in Positano because we love the pottery from that area. We bought a small round table, picking out the pattern, one platter and one bowl - which will arrive in October. Our driver than dropped us off so we could wander around Positano for a little over an hour. We then went to La Tagliata - back up the mountain for lunch. It is a wonderful restaurant with outstanding views. We had about 7 different appetizers, a bottle of wine, a bottle of water, a plate with 4 different types of pasta for our main dish, a plate of fruit and a plate of desserts (all enough for two to share) for 25 euros a person. It was a wonderful day.
Sardinia: We decided to stay on the ship this day. From what we heard (and from my research) it seemed the only thing to do was to go to a beach, which are supposed to be beautiful. We talked to some people who took the free shuttle into town and they said there really wasn't anything to see and do there.
Rome: We were in Rome ten years ago and saw all the main sites then but still spent two nights here after our cruise. We shared a ride into Rome with two other couples from our roll call board, which worked out great. I had booked a catacombs and crypts tour for that afternoon and it was very interesting. We went to three sites and the tour lasted about 3 hours. There were about 25 people on the tour with two guides. In the day and a half we were there we walked to the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, just strolled around the city in general, had lots of gelato and some delicious meals.
Overall, we loved the cruise and would be more than happy to sail with Oceania again.