This was our first cruise in 10 years. Our last two cruises were with Holland America and NCL both of which fell short of our expectations so we thought that cruising was not for us. Our idea of a vacation is not being around screaming kids and eating in a crowded high school cafeteria. Our friends who are very experienced world travelers and know us well encouraged us to try Oceania as they felt we would enjoy the more upscale cruise line and fit in well with the type of passengers who cruise with Oceania. They were so right. From start to finish the cruise was a luxury experience. The dining was fabulous and every night I felt like I was in a five-star gourmet restaurant. The food was presented beautifully and always fresh and delicious, perfectly seasoned to enhance the natural flavors withoput masking them. The wait staff was always attentive but not obtrusive, friendly but they knew their place. The ship was beautifully appointed with original artwork everywhere. The attention to detail was quite noticeable and my wife who is as meticulous as they come was impressed as well.
Our itinerary gave us a good overview of the Almafi coast with a stop in both Sorrento and Almafi / Positano. We didn't take any of the ship's shore excursions, but I arranged private tours in advance at a few of our ports which were fabulous and one of the highlights of the trip. We docked in Messina in Sicily instead of Taormina "due to weather" which was a joke as every day was clear and sunny and the Mediterranean was as calm as could be. Oceania should have told us the truth why they wanted to dock in Messina. Messina did not have much to offer so we hired a taxi to take us to Taormina which was about a 45 minute drive and a lovely little community.
We stopped one day in Zakynthos, Greece which had absolutely nothing to offer in the way of scenery or shopping or anything we could find. Corfu, Greece was lovely and our private tour guide took us all over the island. One of my favorite ports was along the Dalmation Coast in Dobrovnik, Croatia, but the ship departed at 1:00 p.m. so we had precious little time to enjoy it. The cruise terminated in Venice which I'd have to say was a terrible tourist trap. Throngs of tourist crowds everywhere and it wasn't even in season, obscene prices for low quality food and goods, rude waiters in the restaurants, the water in the canals did not have a natural color so it must be treated with a chemical to prevent a smell or algea. We never saw any type of sea life anywhere. I'm glad I went to Venice to see it, but I'm sure I'll never be back.,
My one criticism was in the Toscana Italian restaurant, our waiter was an Indian national who was fluent in English but spoke with such a thick accent that neither my wife nor I could understand what he was saying. Besides, an Indian waiter in an Italian restaurant just didn't feel right.:) We had the same experience in Red Ginger the pan-Asian restaurant but our Indian waiter's diction was a bit better so we could at least make out what he was saying. That did detract from an otherwise beautiful dining experience.
Overall I give Oceania an A- and I've already booked another cruise in the Baltic Sea next year.