Regatta - Eastern Caribbean: Regatta Cruise Review by peabody99
Overall Member Rating
Regatta - Eastern Caribbean
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Fellow passengers: Nearly all fell into the 60+ range. A few scattered younger couples, although nearly all of those were traveling with older relatives. About 3 kids (great for us, not for them!) Everyone we met had traveled and cruised extensively. In many cases this did not translate to cultural sophistication. (i.e., the fellow passenger openly leering at a topless sunbather on a beach in St. Barts . Then, quotes overheard: When I was in Vienna I had a hard time getting by because I do not speak Austrian& I sure miss my Fox news&). Every passenger we met had seemed to have also cruised the luxury lines such as Crystal, Radisson, Silver Seas, Windstar, etc, yet they were very satisfied with Oceania which compared favorably. In fact, I think most people we met were return passengers. Additionally, a lot of More retirees seemed to be open to making new friends.
Embarkation, the Cabin: Embarking was the fastest we had seen. We arrived about 1:30 PM from the airport, checked in, and were handed our charge and key card. It was white, which I imagined kept us riff- raff from being confused with the other passengers who had blue or silver cards. While our documentation suggested we would have to wait until 3pm, we walked right onto the ship. Because the cabin was not quite ready, we headed to the Terrace Cafe for an outdoor buffet lunch. The choices and service were great (as they would be the entire cruise). We then went to our steerage (aptly named, category F) cabin which was now ready. I believe this cabin was about 160 square feet. Usually with a cabin this size, negotiations take place daily regarding who is getting showered and ready and when, as there is no way two people can move around the cabin at the same time. The cabin was in excellent condition. We found it to have adequate storage space. (As it turns out, I could have packed far less given the Country Club Casual dress code. More on that later&) For some unknown reason, I did not pack my hair dryer. What a mistake. The one in the bathroom was completely useless and it made every day a bad hair day.
Unlike every other cruise taken, we never met our cabin Stewardess. In fact, part way through the cruise, her name plate disappeared from our cabin. Sadly, who ever was taking care of our cabin did not change the sheets daily (may have even gone 3+ days). I realize I should have said something, but I am sympathetic that they probably fire people at the drop of a hat, so we let it go.
The cruise director named Shani was the real McCoy (as in the Julie McCoy character on The Love Boat series). Out of all the cruises I have been on she is he only one who fit my little delusion as to what a cruise director should be like. Always sunny, she made sure to personally greet or speak, however briefly, with every passenger on board. She was up at 7 am with the days news taped for TV, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with passengers and singing away in the lounge at night (which I never saw).
Dining: Of the other cruise lines sailed, I believe overall Regatta had the best food. It did not blow Century away though. I think my rating of cruise ship food will always be jaded by a strong preference for ethnic or spicy food and the desire to eat fresh, seasonal items. I would compare the food as it would be if you went to a large, very fancy wedding. Good, but because it is made in large quantities, it is, alas, banquet food.
That said -- The Grand Dining Room: Served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We only went for dinner. We dined here 6 nights. In a nutshell the appetizers are outstanding in taste and presentation. Make sure and have the blue tortilla encrusted duck breast, escargots, sweetbreads, and fois gras. As with other cruises, the salads in my opinion suffered with regard to freshness as the cruise went on. I also tended to find them underdressed. The Caesar however was quite good. I also found the soups uninspiring, but ship mates seemed to be happy. As with every cruise line, the entrees were vulnerable to being over cooked, particularly the veal, lamb and seafood dishes. The first night I saw my veal come out and wait in its covered dish for my husbands fish. It ended up cooking too long. In the waiters defense, as soon as he placed it before me, he offered to take it away. I already felt guilty enough about eating veal, so I ate it anyway. I found the portions to be way too big, and I am a person with a huge appetite. Not on one night could I get through all 5 courses. And not being a person who can stand food going to waste, I ended up choosing only 2-3 courses a night, or eating another appetizer for dinner. I would say beef is a strong point. I ordered it rare, and it always was. The seared scallops were nice as well. I ended up avoiding fish entirely--my husband ordered it twice and it was always overcooked, obviously frozen (and yes I know frozen fish can be good, but you need to defrost and prepare it well). To Oceanias defense, no cruise ship fish has ever been up to snuff in my opinion. Desserts ranged from outstanding (chocolate torte/custard) to good/average. The cheese board was quite good as well. Service here was always very good.
Toscana: We ate here two nights. The first night I had Carpaccio (very good), a lemon and oregano dressed salad with goat cheese and baby lamb chops. They were a tad overcooked. We tried the chocolate lasagna for dessert. It sounded better then it was. It was frozen too solid to enjoy. Another night, despite my moratorium on eating seafood on cruise ships, I had a starter portion of pasta of the daya shellfish alfredo, which was actually quite nice.
That second night, we had the filets. They were served with cheese on top, which was odd for a gourmet restaurant. If I were to eat at mass market chains (which I do not) such as Applebees or Outback, I imagine this is how they would serve a decent fillet if they indeed had one. We peeled the cheese off, and the filet was excellent in preparation, taste and presentation.
The service here was not as good as other venues. There were uneven lags between courses, empty water glasses, forgotten olive oil for the bread. They were so sweet and charming though, that all was forgiven.
Polo: At home, a restaurant such as this, a club-like steak house, would not be my first choice. Nevertheless, the food was excellent from the escargot, salad, lobster bisque with brandy and a strip steak cooked perfectly Pittsburgh style. The porterhouse ordered by my husband was not as good, a little sinewy and tough. Service was great here.
Terrace Cafe (breakfast and Lunch): We ate every breakfast and most lunches here. By far the best quality, presentation and taste of any cruise ship buffet thus far. Nice touches like fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and kiwi made breakfast something to look forward to every A.M. Try the chocolate croissant at least one day. The smoked salmon was good the first few days out, but seemed to suffer thereafter (Was I just tired of it, or was it getting less fresh as time went on?) The best part was that staff served the food on the plate. Nice touch service wise, but from a health standpoint this is a really good thing as you are not touching the serving spoon that a hundred other passengers have with questionable hand washing hygiene or health.
One interesting observation regarding the type of passenger on this ship: I saw no plates groaning under piles of food, like every other cruise I had been on. I think this crowd has cruised enough not to feel that a buffet is a food orgy.
Lunch buffets were nice as well. There is the obligatory pizza station, nice roasted meat (pork and turkey were great), salads and typically an ethnic theme, such as Asian, Italian, Latino, etc., a nice fruit and dessert station. There was raw sushi that was good the first day if you compare it to sushi you may get at grocery store, not your favorite Japanese place. The second time I tried it, I could not eat it at all -- it was either not fresh enough or if the fish was frozen it had been defrosted too long. As a foolish yet comical touch Oceania had the Thai staff assigned to sushi, presumably they believed S.E Asian staff looked closer to being Japanese than the Romanians or Jamaicans. The poor fellow did not know any of the basic sushi terminology (e.g., nigiri, sashimi, nori) As always, the service was outstanding in the Terrace&probably better here than anywhere else.
Waves Grill: This was the grill by the pool. I had a cheeseburger here a few times after being in port, and they were great.
Tapas: Mediterranean themed dinner venue (in the Terrace restaurant). In addition to some Mediterranean items, it often served what was in the dining room, albeit buffet style. We would have eaten here a lot more often; however, there always seemed to be some starter I just had to have in the grand dining room that was not available in Tapas. The one night we did eat here all was terrific--a nice meal with great service and setting.
Afternoon tea in Horizons: Great setting, good tea selection (sadly tea bags, not loose) and a selection of sweets and savory cakes and sandwiches. They had a nice string quartet that played nearly every day.
Midnight Buffet: Just kidding, thankfully there was not one.
Room service: In the steerage cabins, there is a breakfast menu (to be ordered night before) and 24 hour menu. Due to illness one morning, I missed the breakfast and it was too early for lunch, so we ordered a couple of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. They were just fine.
Bars: Great service, over priced drinks. Drink specials were weak. Alcohol policy is nice&bring your own but enjoy in room J sure, okay. You can bring back purchases made in port to your cabin.
Public Areas/other stuff: Nice, although sedate dEcor. Art was nice, but not as much as say some of the Holland America ships and Celebrity. Lots of places to sit and enjoy a drink, a book, or conversation. The library is outstanding. Ship was full, but never crowded (except pool deck where there was a lot of somewhat justified grumbling and controversy over reserving of chairs by putting towels or books down in AM and never showing up until hours later) . Occasionally a band came on to the pool deck. The ragtime they played was a change of pace from the usual reggae. If the steel drum band gets on before a sail away from one of the ports, dont miss it. Thankfully there were no conga lines, hairy leg or hog calling contests or the like. Mostly people were lolling in the pool or buried in a book.
I did not go to any shows, because we find cruise ship entertainment ridiculous. If you like being entertained on a ship this may not be for you. The passengers are pretty self sufficient. They did seem to like trivia and bingo, so I heard. We did enjoy the string quartet that played at tea and before dinner. Also went and listened to the guest lecturer, Michael Mendelsohn, twice and enjoyed the Ernest Hemingway lectures.
Nice details, too many to remember, abound: cloth towels in the restrooms, cool clothes passed poolside on the only too hot day.
Country Club Casual (dinner time only): I know how people in a country club dress, and it sure isnt me. As it turns out I really didnt see people dressed like they would in a country club, as least any I had been to. Just picture how your parents (or you if you are 60+) dress at their Florida retirement or golfing community. Some bright colors, women in very casual slacks and sandals, no long sleeves on men or women. The exception was Captains cocktail night where some chose to dress up as they might for a nice but not formal wedding, but those that did not did not standout. Because I do not dress like a 60-year old, for dinner I had packed some sun dresses, semi formal dresses, and a pair of black slacks and dressy spaghetti string tops. Of all these only the slacks and nice tops worn with strappy sandals worked. I ended up having to do laundry and taking home a suitcase of clothing that I never wore. A younger person could wear a Banana Republic look and still have style but not standout compared to the oldsters. As to be expected, no one wore shorts or jeans in the dining room, but there were some nice jeans in Tapas, and it was fine.
In conclusion: I would sail Oceania again in a heartbeat. This seemed to be the consensus of fellow passenger as well. Somehow despite a crushing workload, the crew was able to make you believe they were happy to assist you. While I would never test it, I was made to believe every wish would be fulfilled.
The Ports: La Romana: The choice was to partake in excursions at or take shuttle to a nearby ritzy resort with a pretend village and a man-made beach, a tour to Santa Domingo (or get a cab and go your own--2.5 hours each way. Vans or mini buses were too unreliable for such a long trip), or checking out La Romana. I do not travel out of the country to see pretend towns ala Disney, nor as interesting as Santa Domingo sounded, did we want to sit in a cab for 5 hours. So the choice was made to check out La Romana. Surely it would have some of the lovely attributes of Latin culture that I love. I longed for a nice starchy, spicy plate of Dominican food, washed down with a local beer, with a backdrop of fascinating street scenes. It was not to be. We met a nice man at Eduardos Galleria who said the town is very poor and locals need to leave the town to find an affordable restaurant with Dominican food. The restaurants in the town catered to tourists tastes: Italian, French, Chinese. There were some touristy shops with mass produced paintings and carvings (saw the same ones on other islands). We did purchase a nice sampling of local rums in small bottles which we enjoyed over the next few days. If we stopped for a minute to decide which street to take next, we were surrounded by hucksters, one child was practically reaching in my husband pockets. Look where youre going because you may step on a dead rat, or be splashed with urine by folks relieving themselves on the street (all right, I admit back in the day NYC was the same on this count!) While things improved somewhat further from port&.including a visit to a department store--always interesting to see what is there, I can recommend no part of the experience. Could it have been the security guard in front of a bank with the machine gun making kissing noises at me? The locals pushing and shoving for plastic guns and dolls at the open market? I will say I did find a gem of a little painting at Eduardo Galleria. In the backroom collecting dust was a little 8x10 original surreal paining that looked like a cross between a Francis Bacon and Dali. At $14.00 U.S it made a nice souvenir.
Later back on the ship, fellow passengers gave mixed reviews to the resort. They described to me what sounded like a gauche, vulgar display of wealth (10,000 + square feet homes with his and hers Lamborghinis) thumbing its nose at the very poor community outside its walls. It also was made to look historic, but it was all new. I could do some serious editorializing here (e.g., Why not invest money in the real town that is so clearly suffering?), but will spare the reader.
Virgin Gorda, BVI: We chose to travel to the Baths on our own ($3 a piece each way). After a nice hike down to the beach, we did a little snorkeling, including swimming to the next beach over around the rocks, to Spring Bay. The water was rough that day so I didnt stay out long. I chatted with the woman running the concession who gave me a requested recommendation for local, simple cuisine--where she would eat. She recommended Thelmas Hideaway just off north Dix Rd, outside of town (can walk to from port). After sharing a cheeseburger with 3 rag tag cats, we hiked back into the Baths which was great, and enjoyed some more time on the beach.
When we headed back toward town we asked the driver to drop us at Thelmas Hideaway. I loved this place, but would recommend to the public with reservations, b/c it is not a place for typical tourists. The restaurant was open air, and looked like it was a night club in the evening. Given that it was 3pm we were the sole customers. The menu written, on a chalkboard, said fish, chicken, pea soup no details such as types of fish, preparation, sides, or price. Going with the flow, we ordered one fish and one chicken with no questions asked. The fish, as it turns out was a trigger fish, one of my favorites to swim with on the reef. Nevertheless, he was delicious, a lot like snapper. This was the best fish I have had in a long time. It was served whole with onions, over beans and rice, with a plantain (may have been a green banana) and a root veggie described as sweet potato, except it tasted like nothing I had ever had before and was fabulous. The chicken was a baked thigh and leg over rice and beans with mac and cheese. It too was terrific. We splashed both entrees with Thelmas home made scotch bonnet pepper sauce (not for the faint of palate) and washed it down with a couple of Caribs and another local brew I cannot recall the name of. All this came to $30 US including a generous tip. We made the short walk back to port and browsed around and had another beer.
St. Kitts: We took a cab out to Friars Beach (known as Timothy Beach on the ship excursion) for I believe, around a $10 cab ride. On the way out I saw a large monkey foraging on the side of the road. We rented 2 lounges and umbrella for $10 from the well oiled Mr. X from Mr.s Shiggety Shack Bar and Water Sports. We spent the whole day there snorkeling between a stone jetty and a large cliff. It was outstanding not so much for the coral or clarity, but for the diversity of the fish. We snacked at the Monkey Bar (Conch Fritters). Due to the fact that I had not known if there would be concessions at this beach, I had made some cheese sandwiches and a trail mix from granola, nuts and dried fruit back on the ship and packed in Ziploc for a picnic.
As we floated in the water we enjoyed watching a huge herd of free ranging goats cascade down the mountain to graze next to us, and curiously the young monkey that hung out with them. Back in town just about everything was closed as it was Sunday. A duty free liquor shop was open and we picked up a bottle of Absolut for a shockingly low $12. Had I known what the duty situation was (one bottle per person when returning to US) we would have picked up another. The people were also very nice and unobtrusive here, and I could easily see a return visit one day.
Antigua: We got a late start on this day due to me having a migraine (too much sun, snorkeling, etc from day before). As I like to when ever I can, I wanted to take public transportation to Darkwood Beach, south of town. We had a nice long walk through town, where the farther you got from port, the less likely you were to be aggressively solicited for business. We went to the West end bus stop, by the local open market, which I regret not exploring, and caught the #22 bus ($3 US for both for the 20-minute ride as opposed to $20 US+ in a cab). It leaves when ever it fills up, not really a schedule. We raced through the country side at breakneck speed where I was able to make the observation that everything in Caribbean culture goes at a slower pace, with the only exception being motorized transportation. We passed free ranging herds of goats, cattle and chickens, and that wonderful ramshackle Caribbean architecture: pint sized cottages of weathered wood, painted in vibrant colors. The terrain was green and hilly between the little towns. The driver dropped us off at Darkwood Beach which turned out to be very peaceful and quiet with only 3 other people on nearly ½ mile of beach. There was a little concession, restrooms and a woman giving aloe vera massages right on the beach under a cabana. I indulged and the last of my migraine slipped away. The beach was pristine and clean, the water crystal clear and smooth. The snorkeling though (off to the right) was not good (too much sediment). Nevertheless a good time was had. We were lucky in that when stepped out to the bus stop, one happened to come (there were no waiting cabs there). With awesome island music blaring we rode back into town at rip roaring speed with polite school children in tidy uniforms and mixture of other locals. I was surprised to learn that 19 people can fit into a relatively small van. We had a nice walk back to the ship, dropped off the snorkel gear, ate a quick snack from Waves Grill, and wandered back into town to poke around. Again the touristy places near the ship where not to our liking aggressive solicitors, but there were also some very nice shop keepers as well. There is a reasonably priced internet cafe by the dock.
St. Barts: This, as everyone knows, is a very chic retreat for mostly wealthy globe trotters. It is actually quite quaint and lovely. We took a cab from the capital out to St Jean, which has two beaches divided by a jetty. We started at one end and were treated with obvious disdain at a resort for inquiring about renting a cabana (no, guests only) another resort had them at about $75 US per day. At the last concession before the airport strip (great fun watching planes takeoff), a very nice man had chairs and umbrellas for $12 U.S (each, thus 2 chairs and umbrella were $36). Still, a bit steep in my opinion, but more comfortable than sitting on a towel. The beach is gorgeous, with a nice bar and restaurant there. We had two beers costing $6.50 each, served by a bartender clearly disgusted with having to wait on people less fabulous and beautiful than her other customers. The water was lovely, but too rough for snorkeling that day. I had packed some nice sandwiches and a chocolate croissant which were enjoyed looking out at the water. The stores on St. Barts are fabulous, but quite pricey. I did find a great tee shirt and funky ring for a reasonable price, and regret not picking up a bottle of wine to sip as we headed off from this last port. Try to keep your jaw shut when you take a walk around the yacht harbor. When you get home, you can revel in the pictures of the celebrities and super models cavorting on the very beach you enjoyed.
The two final days at sea flew by. Embarkation was behind schedule, but it was no problem as we lounged comfortably on deck. Less