We usually pick our cruises by selecting places we would like to visit and then looking which lines go there. This means that we have travelled with a fair variety of the major cruise lines but this was the first with Oceania.
They market this as six star cruising and in many ways it is - so what were our impressions and experiences?
Check in at Athens was a breeze, we went straight to the counter and on the boat. To be fair it was mid afternoon so perhaps we missed the rush. First thing we noticed was that there were no photographers trying to snap you before you boarded - in fact there were none at all on the cruise which makes a refreshing change!
The boat is lovely, as I suppose it should be because it's so new, but it really is beautiful. Our veranda cabin was the best that we have ever had, better than some suites on other lines. The wardrobe was full of coat hangers! The bathroom is out of this world with a good sized bath (although the taps are a bit awkward to reach) and a wonderful large shower with a glass door and a large rain effect shower head. We could have stayed in for ages!! The room was serviced well but we did have a bit of trouble with shower gel not being replaced. After we had twice chased up David (steward)for more he left us four at once so no further trouble.
Service throughout the whole boat really was excellent - nothing seemed too much trouble and it was always with a smile. Full marks for this.Oceania sells these cruises on the dining options and we did try them all. We enjoyed this but also liked the main dining room with its wonderful chandelier. I don't know if it was just us but the waiters did get our orders a bit mixed up (or wrong) quite a few times. Although there were a reasonable amount of hand gel machines their use was not promoted too much, however all the food in the buffet was served to you - no self service - and we never heard of any illness on board.
Activities were not so hot. The band was good but mainly used for backing the shows. The resident entertainers were good and in their last week so were well rehearsed! They were restricted by the rather small stage and some of their high jumps almost grazed the stage lights above them. There was other music available from mid afternoon but there didn't seem a lot and the ship was very quiet with large empty areas after 9.30pm.
There was a lot of non-hosted events in the daily programme and the art work on board was given the hard sell with previews, auctions, last chance to buy etc!
David Shermet the Cruise Director took a mostly low profile and the only time we really saw him was introducing the shows and at the pool party.
There was also three guest lectures about the Economic Situation in Greece and the EEC. Yes, well I went to one but was surprised that as the voyage was about Antiquities this didn't feature in the lecture programme more.The complimentary tea, coffee and soft drinks were very nice, but the alcoholic drinks were a bit pricey with 18% service charge added. Gratuities were added to your bill at $14.50 per person per day but you could adjust them or even remove them if you so desired.
The shore excursions were pretty much a rip - off. For example we arranged a 7 hour tour of Istanbul with a private guide in a large air conditioned mini bus for four of us for £44 each (Smart Price Tours). The same trip on the boat in a group of 10 - 16, seeing exactly the same sights was sold at $385 pp !!
Another major rip off was wanting to charge us $49 for a Turkish visa. When we docked at Kusadasi there was a visa office on the dock where the visa could be obtained for £10 or $20. We were told about this by another passenger and when we went to reception to get our passports back we asked them if it was possible to get the visa on the dock they told us of course it was. Any announcements to the passengers? Of course not! This left a bad taste in the mouth.
So in conclusion - lovely boat, excellent staff, beautiful ports. Six star cruising? Well not quite but well on the way.