This was our first experience traveling with Oceania. We usually choose our cruise based on the itinerary. We had always wanted to see Easter Island and Pitcairn Island so we booked the trip. Oceania was offering free air as well as free internet and prepaid gratuities. They also offered $500 in onboard credit and our travel agent also gave us $500 in onboard credit. Even with inflated wine and drink prices we would have a hard time spending that.
We chose to take a credit for the airfare and used frequent flyer mileage to get to Santiago and fly back from Papeete. This gave us a little more flexibility and allowed us to stay on for a few days at the end of the cruise. We flew down from Los Angeles on LAN Chile and we are very impressed with the service LAN offered. We spent a couple of days in Santiago pre cruise and then took the bus down to Valparaiso. The ship offered transfers but they were expensive. The bus from Santiago was about $8 and very easy to take. Very modern Mercedes buses leave about every half hour for the 2 hour trip.
Check in was super easy. We were onboard about 20 minutes after we arrived. Of course our cabins were not yet ready but we hung out in the upstairs restaurant having a light lunch while we waited. It wasn’t long until we could get into our cabins and stow our carry on luggage. We then explored the ship. We mostly have cruised with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Holland America. We quickly noticed a big difference in that Oceania isn’t always trying to sell you extra stuff. There were no photographers trying to get you to pose for pictures. That is not to say there were not opportunities to spend money. There is a small casino but there were not really that many people playing in it. Wine was expensive (least expensive bottles were around $35 but most were closer to $50 and some were in the hundreds) When we first got on, they were selling a wine package where if you bought two bottles you got a 20% discount and if you bought 3 bottles you got a 30% discount. We had a lot of shipboard credit so we used some on wine.
Our cabin was quite spacious and the bath was fantastic with full bathtub as well as shower and granite counters and tile. The shower was a bit small so it made it a bit difficult to bend down if you dropped the soap. Still it was without doubt the best bathroom of any ship we have been on. The bed was extremely comfortable and we had a large balcony. The one design drawback was the closet access was limited by the location of a bedside table. It just meant that to access it, you had to lean way over. The room stewardess kept the room made up and always seemed to have it ready by the time we returned from breakfast. One small early complaint was that they forgot to bring ice several times. After I told them I really liked having ice, my ice bucket was filled twice a day.
The food. What can you say that hasn’t been said a thousand times. It was the best we have ever had on a cruise. We were allowed 4 reservations at the specialty restaurants and we visited them all. We also could make additional reservations the day of, and managed 3 more visits. Red Ginger was our favorite but I couldn’t really see the need for being offered 6 different kinds of chopsticks. If we were not at a specialty restaurant, we ate our meals in the main dining room, usually asking for a share table. We met so many interesting people over dinner. The cliental on this ship were very well traveled. One dinner we sat with a couple that were taking their 53rd cruise and the other couple were on their 35th. Many dinners extended beyond 2 hours, partly due to the interesting conversations, and partly due to the wait staff not hurrying you to clear your table for more diners. In fact the main restaurant was rarely crowded. Many people were in the specialty restaurants and people in more of a hurry were eating in the buffet. We did eat in the buffet one night and it was very good for a buffet but it still didn’t have the elegance of the main dining room where you were treated like royalty and waited on. Still, the food at the buffet in the evening was just as good as the food in the main dining room, with lobster tails available every evening – not something we had experienced on any other cruise.
The tours. We arranged tours for Easter Island and Bora Bora in advance with local tour companies. They cost less than half what the ship was charging and we saw a lot more. The only advantage I could see with a ship tour is you had priority for the tenders. We did take the “Le truck” bus tour around the island on our second day in Bora Bora but that was because we had extra shipboard credit to use up.
The shops. They supplied the ship when they were in Barcelona so by the time the ship got to Valparaiso, there was not all that much available to buy in regards to clothes. They had a lot of high end jewelry but overall, the shops were small with limited selection. And we were surprised that there was no liquor store on board. Wine was available for purchase but that was the only alcohol.
We were pleasantly surprised that they had a very good bridge program onboard. They had two excellent bridge instructors who taught lessons and then every afternoon on sea days, they had a duplicate game. We usually had 12 tables and they gave out ACBL points if you were an ACBL member.
One disappointment was we never got to land on Pitcairn island. I had read prior to the cruise that usually the ships don’t land passengers due to the difficult harbor and the changing sea conditions but we had hopes we might be the lucky ones. Alas, we were not. A group of Pitcairn islanders did come out to the ship and they set up a bazaar in the observation lounge where they sold all sorts of stuff they make on the island. (honey, moisturizing cream, wood carvings, stamps, postcards, T-shirts and a whole lot more) They are trying to build a new harbor on the lee side of the island but for now, if you go to Pitcairn and want to actually land, you better go on a smaller boat and pray for absolute calm sea conditions.
Entertainment was only so so. They had one show at 9:45 each night.. I liked the magician and have no idea how he did what he did. I was very disappointed in one of the comics as his material bordered on racism as he mocked the accents of Latinos. I just thought it had no place in a show, especially one that sailed from Chile and had lots of Spanish speaking folks on board. The music was sort of hit and miss. They had one lady who had been in a number of Broadway shows and she could really belt out a song. I kind of look at the entertainment as sort of a bonus. You don’t take an Oceania cruise for the shows.
My overall impression of the cruise was very favorable. It was a little more expensive than what we were used to but the value was there. I will sail with Oceania again if I find a cruise that has an interesting itinerary at a time that fits my schedule.