The July 3, 2012 London to London Viking Expeditions Cruise did not live up to our expectations. When we completed this cruise, we had sailed on Nautica for 85 days. Each time, Oceania seems to have lowered the bar.
On the positive side, the food continued to be excellent perhaps because of the the skill of Anthony, the Executive Chef and his staff, even better than our prior cruises. Along those lines, the High Tea and the string quartet were very good. The staterooms were as expected - small but comfortable - and our stateroom attendants did a great job. The cruise had a wonderful itinerary which included Iceland with an overnight in Reykjavik, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Dublin, Belfast and several other wonderful ports.
So how could Oceania turn gold into straw? Very simply, if you can't wait for a large dose of trivia, bridge and snowball bingo (whatever that is) an Oceania cruise with six sea days in cold weather (too cold for pool for most normal people) is the cruise line for you. If you expect something better, look for a different cruise line.
The cruise had an enrichment speaker and the destination speaker. Their lectures can best be described as painful. The Destination Manager served as the destination speaker and spent most of her lecture reading Oceania's shore excursion descriptions from its printed material. Consider that Oceania offered a 5 hour tour and a 7 hour tour that were identical except for a small component. She read both descriptions even though they were the same word for word except for the added 2 hour component. Bad, but the Enrichment Speaker, a retired coast guard officer, did a poorer job showing he got most of his local knowledge from Wikipedia. What happened Oceania, did you sell the rooms usually reserved for the naturalist (this was a cruise to Iceland and Greenland) and the professor of European History?
We normally do private or independent tours. On this cruise did 5 private tours and 8 Oceania excursions. We chose the Oceania excursions because Oceania discounted the tours if you bought and paid 8 in advance and some of the ports had poor tourist infrastructure. Despite the discount, the Oceania excursions cost $115 per person per excursion. I would rate 5 of the 8 as good to excellent; 3 as poor or worse. However, my final conclusion, which shouldn't shock anyone who has sailed on Oceania, is that the Oceania excursions did not offer great value even when discounted 25%.
Finally, the crew. This is the first Oceania cruise where we felt the crew seemed disinterested. We think it started from the top down. The Captain, General Manager and Cruise Director seemed distant and uninvolved. In fact, having cruised with Dotty and Willie Ames previously, we dubbed Leslie Jon, our Cruise Director, as the invisible man - hard to do but we saw him once in 13 disembarkations for excursions and for the entertainment he typically never appeared on stage. The Captain and GM were even less involved. Below this level, the crew seemed very inexperienced with many on their first contract. It seemed to us that Oceania has transferred most of its experienced staff to Riviera and Marina.