I can't believe I am the first to review this fabulous cruise! Been home four days, and am still glowing.
Background information: I am a mobility challenged traveler, but very adventurous. Being dissatisfied with Oceania shore tours on two previous cruises, I arranged private tours for us in most ports, but my husband did take 2 Oceania tours that I did not.
Getting to the port of embarkation, Barcelona from our lovely quiet Hotel Gaudi was a snap of a short taxi ride. Embarkation was handled smoothly, including getting our luggage to our room in good shape promptly. No fuss; no hassle, great lunch awaiting us 12 ish.
Our Stateroom, 8125 was not far from the rear elevator, which turned out to be a big plus for me: most dining spots, the bridge/card room were located in that end of the ship. This was the largest, nicest stateroom of our three Oceania tours, and we didn't even use all the storage space for a change.
Dining? As close to perfection as you can get, including the Terrace Cafe, all four specialty dining rooms, and the Grand Dining Room.For a foodie to make that statement is saying a lot. Tasty, varied menus, consistency, hot food hot, cold food cold; from soup to dessert the food was top notch. We enjoyed eating alone sometimes, but whenever we wanted a table for 4 or 6, we met interesting fellow travelers. Service was outstanding in all respects.
The ports on this cruise were much to our liking: Malta, Rhodes, Barcelona, Israel, Crete, Cyprus, and the crown jewel: Istanbul, where we spent 4 days on our own, post cruise. I'm going to mention the private guides we had in most of those ports before I get to the criticism of the Oceania shore tours. Ram_dreng@yahoo.com made Istanbul come alive for us; can't recommend him highly enough. (Ramazan Guloglu)We took taxis everywhere in Istanbul, and they were comfortable, very inexpensive and fun. In Malta: Rita Fsadni: email@example.com; in Rhodes: Nicholas of Rhodes (taxi) firstname.lastname@example.org; in Israel: Mickey of email@example.com all did a super job of catering to my mobility limitations while giving grand tours for our small groups we put together, using cruise critic to get other passengers to join us.
A quick word about our one complaint: my husband's Oceania tours in Emphasis and Knossis in Crete were sadly lacking. Other passengers complained bitterly about the ship's tours in other ports. One Canadian friend we met muttered "never again!" after an extensive tour of Istanbul at the end of the cruise. There were so many complaints about the quality of the tours that the expensive side of them didn't get as much mention as the poor quality.
Back to the positives:a new feature on this cruise were the Culinary Center programs. I took two, and enjoyed the chef/intructor, the recipes, the facility, the reasonable cost of 69/small group hands-on instruction. Other passengers were very pleased with the entertainment; we were just too tired by the end of dinner to partake. String quartet aboard was excellent; we enjoyed the tea most afternoons. Tiny complaint: the chairs in the Marina Lounge were too low and could use replacement.
Service on this ship was outstanding in all respects: friendly, helpful, cheerful. We had a prepaid gratuity credit from our travel agent, but we did tip in addition due to total satisfaction with our cabin attendants.
Disembarkation handled smoothly on the ship, but it was a madhouse waiting
for taxis that we were not involved with, as our Istanbul arranged for a private pickup for us.
A caution re Israel: Jerusalem is quite far from Ashdod port; private tours
with small vans can get into places the large buses cannot. The Egyptian ports
were cancelled due to caution on Oceania's part, but Cairo is VERY far from Port Said, and imho only Oceania tours would be a good idea for future Lands of
We've done about 15 cruises previously, but for us, this was the best overall.
The ports were wonderful without exception, and no tender service was required.
Oceania's Marina crew had its act together, and that added to the experience.