I remember sailing into the Red Sea through gently undulating waters, the Arabian Sea stretched behind us like a sheet of hammered silver, the setting sun radiating its beams of light through the fluffy clouds.
We were enjoying our delicious dinner on the outdoor terrace of Tapas, the ship's Spanish-inspired casual dining restaurant, as we watched the dappled surface of the water reflect the sun's rays that changed from golden to orange to crimson. This was a lovely sight that was repeated many times during our time aboard the Nautica.
During our five weeks of cruising, we were blessed by unusually placid waters, the barely noticeable swaying of the ship reminding us that we are at sea during the day and gently rocking us to sleep at night.
The days were generally sunny and hot, but the humidity moderate, more temperate than can usually be expected in this part of the world. We marveled at the sights we have seen in Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Thailand, Singapore, India, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and sailing through the Suez Canal. The shore excursions, though a bit pricey, were uniformly excellent.
The ship, our "home-away-from-home", was comfortable and beautiful. It has modern amenities in the setting of an 18th century English manor house. This is one of three identical ships operated by Oceania. They are small by today's ship standards, carrying just 680 passengers, and that makes them more intimate and easy to settle into. This was our fourth time on these ships, and they are, by far, our favorites.
The entertainment was very good, with singers, magicians, comedy acts, classical pianists, a string quartet, an eight-piece orchestra, lecturers, and various talents from the ship's company adding to the variety.
The four restaurants are each beautiful with a wide variety of carefully prepared and beautifully presented food. Often it is a challenge to decide what to select, but the wait staff is always ready to provide assistance. Each restaurant has its own personality and charm; Tapas is the casual dining venue and is also the buffet for breakfast and lunch, Polo is the clubby steakhouse, Toscana is a Tuscan-inspired restaurant, and the beautiful Grand Dining Room serves a wide variety of continental cuisine under a painted domed ceiling.
There is an open-seating policy which results in joining different companions for dinner; this leads to interesting discussions about travel experiences and many new friends are made. Of course, many tables for two are also available and we also enjoy that from time to time.
Our cabin was cozy and comfortable, with a large verandah that overlooks the stern of the ship. We often sit on our chaise lounges and read during our days at sea, and watch the retreating shoreline as we depart from ports. It was also interesting to look for fish frolicking in our wake, to view passing ships, and to observe the islands we sometimes pass. We have had the same cabin, or the identical one next door, on all four of our voyages on Oceania, so we immediately feel at home.
The best part of the cruise experience is contributed by the crew. From the staff in the dining rooms, to the cabin stewards, to the entertainers, the staff is outstanding. They are friendly and helpful, quick with a greeting and a smile, and are a delight to get to know. Over sixty countries are represented, some from places we visited, and we regularly gain more insight into the daily lives of people from the staff than we do from tour guides. We have shared in their excitement as they are able to see their families, and sometimes bring them aboard ship, when we visit their countries. We have gotten to know many of them quite well and will be sad to say goodbye to them, our new friends. Hopefully our paths will cross again.
It is remarkable to be able to experience the amazing variety of geography, cultures, and people that God has blessed us to live with on this small, blue planet. We pray that this will give us a broader perspective as He puts new opportunities in our path.
But it was good to get home and have a pizza!