This was our first time sailing with Oceania. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. Our last two European cruises were on Azamara, so that's the basis for our comparison. We loved the cruise and the ship, but a few things could be improved.
We arrived by water taxi at the cruise ship terminal which is how many passengers do if they've spent a day or two in Venice prior to the cruise. Once we found an Oceania representative, I had to take the luggage out of the port and to the street where Oceania had a tent set up to drop the luggage off. While this is convenient if you're arriving by car (which most people don't) it would have been nice if Oceania at least had porters at the water taxi dock to assist with the luggage if they're not allowed to have a luggage tent set up inside the port.
Checking in was quick and easy. However, we weren't greeted with a glass of champagne when boarding the ship as Azamara does. This would have been a nice touch.
Ship and Clientele:
The ship is really nice and roomy with lots of art work. Except for the last few days of the cruise, the ship didn't feel like there were 1200 other passengers on board, even in the restaurants. It was nice that there wasn't a bothersome photographer on board.
Our fellow passengers were really nice. The few children on board were very well behaved.
We stayed on the concierge level. Our cabin was very nice and our room steward was very good but it's not worth the extra cost and the lounge is nothing special. We only received a form introduction letter from the concierge. If I didn't go to the lounge, I never would have seen him.
We had a very nice bathroom with both a tub and a separate shower. The doorknob to the bathroom was very loose but, after reporting it, it was quickly fixed, as was the refrigerator (the contents weren't cold).
My wife said the hair dryer was very cheap and didn't work well. It wouldn't plug into the bathroom outlet because of the outlet configuration. I had the same problem with other outlets when using my battery recharger.
As expected, the food is very good. I enjoyed the opportunity to have lobster daily. The lobster with a creamed mushroom sauce that was baked in the shell at Jacques was the best I've ever had. Unless you eat in the Terrace Cafe, it takes about two hours for dinner, though, which is a bit too long for me, although my wife enjoys it.
Getting additional specialty restaurant reservations is difficult, even though we saw empty tables at all the restaurants.
The Terrace Cafe closes at 2:00 for lunch, which I think is too early. The selection of food is very good. The milkshakes at the Waves Grill are excellent.
Room service was excellent. The staff was always professional and friendly. Most importantly, the food was always delivered on time.
The staff on the ship was very friendly and the restaurant staff was very attentive. The deck hands were very nice and provided excellent service.
We never saw the captain, and the passengers who did said he was a cold fish but the ship didn't sink and that's what's really important.
The shore excursions are expensive. The ones we went on were good, except for the one in Kavala. We prefer to save money by arranging to have our own private guide which we did in a number of ports.
They nickel and dime you to death. The pre and post-transfers and hotel prices are exorbitant so we booked our own and saved hundreds of dollars. We also booked our own flights because of the air deviation fees. Almost everyone I talked to booked their own flights for the same reason.
We didn't use the internet due to the very high cost. A number of other cruise lines have special pricing arrangements with AT&T when at sea. Oceania doesn't. I suspect it's to generate more revenue.
The wine packages are really expensive. There are no other drink packages offered and the individual drinks tend to be on the pricey side.
The biggest disappointment was the change in our arrival time at Istanbul. We were initially scheduled to dock at 11:00 a.m. Half way into the cruise we were told it was changed to 3:00 p.m.. We actually docked and were cleared by Turkish Immigration around 4:15 p.m. Because of this, we lost a half day in Istanbul.
There was a narrative over the PA system by the cruise director as we were arriving in Istanbul. It was a joke. Someone more knowledgeable should have done it.
Everyones passports were collected midway into the cruise. We were told we would get them back the night before we arrived in Istanbul. When I went to pick them up, I was told I had to wait until the ship was cleared by immigration the next day because we were ending the cruise, along with 27 other people, a day early. I talked to several staff members at the reception desk and no one could give me any worthwhile information about getting off the ship, other than to come back to the reception desk the next afternoon to collect our passports.
Getting off the ship was chaotic. Since we were late docking, the reception lobby and stairwells were wall-to-wall with people anxious to get off the ship. When I went to the reception desk to get our passports, no one knew where our passports were. To make a long story short, on my own, I had to find a crew member to find them. He finally discovered them in the immigration arrival hall, so we finally ended our cruise at 4:45 p.m. To save time, we followed another early disembarking passengers suggestion and took our luggage to the gangway on deck 4 (this is difficult to do even when the hallways arent crowded with people) to speed up the process. The whole disembarkation was very disorganized with very poor communication.
Comparison to Azamara:
Azamaras food is good but Oceanias is excellent.
The cabin, especially the bathroom, on Oceania is better than Azamara.
The Riveria is a newer and nicer ship with about twice as many passengers.
Tips are included in Azamaras pricing. On Oceania, theyre not unless its part of a special promotion.
Wine is complimentary at meals on Azamara. Oceanias wine package prices are very pricey.
Theres no complimentary shuttle service offered in every port like Azamara.
Oceania adds an 18% tip to every drink.
The shipboard sales were disappointing on Oceania compared to Azamara. Only a very small amount of cheap, local souvenirs were available for sale from just a few of the ports .
I was told Oceania charged passengers .25 cents, yes a quarter, to print a boarding pass.
The staff is very friendly though we were never referred to by name on the Riveria. On Azamara, it seemed we always were.
Disembarking on Azamara is easy. I spoke with other Oceania passengers who disembarked at the regular time, and they told me it wasnt easy for them either. Perhaps it was the Turkish officals.
Both cruise lines are very good. We feel you get more for your money on Azamara.
We would sail with Oceania again in an instant but wed pass on the concierge level as we dont feel its worth the extra cost, and were now aware of how they try to nickel and dime you. Considering the price of the cruise, I wish the cost would include tips, shuttle service and wine with meals even if its hidden in the cruise fare. A drink package for cocktails would also be nice.