Oceanica Regatta Sunsplashed Islands 6-16 January 2014.
Boarding in Miami was not the most organised, the were lots of crew about but none seemed to know what the procedure was and consequently there was a deal of confusion. The pre cruise information stated that boarding for PH class would commence at 1100am, it started at 1130 and was pretty easy however the cabins (suites) were not to be available until 1pm. There was a free lunch available to fill the time. Things were finally ready at about 1.30.
The suite was roomy with more than enough storage, hangers and wardrobe space. Cases were stored under the bed. It was while stowing the cases that my wife discovered the dirty underwear left by the previous occupants - so much for waiting 2 hours for the room to be 'prepared'.
Next was the lifeboat drill – let’s just say that at it did not fill me with any confidence that it would not be every man for themselves in the event of a real emergency.
The ship is not very large but even on cruising days it wasn’t hard to find a seat or a lounger. There are all the usual things on board but they are small, card room library etc. The internet is very expensive ad hoc use is 98c per minute.
Dining in the main restaurant is open which means that you can turn up anytime between 6.30pm and 9.30pm. As this ship is geared for the American market aim for an early time to eat turning up at 9pm you will likely be the only people in the room and the staff will be setting all the tables around you for breakfast which is a bit disconcerting.
Most of the guests are couples and tables for 2 required a short wait but if you were willing share then seating was straight away. If you want a table for 2 stay away from table 59 as the serving station is only a couple of feet away and the sound of plates and dishes is a constant background noise.
The meals were OK nothing to get excited about. Oceania, in my opinion, seemed to concentrate on the pretentious naming of the dish and the presentation rather than the taste of the food. On the first night my wife and I had to wait for 20 minutes for the main course, the staff was apologetic but the reason for the delay is still a mystery and when it arrived my wife's steak was cooked fresh while my chicken was dry and overcooked and the vegetables were cold. My guess is that it the chicken had been on a hotplate while my wife's meal was being cooked.
We had booked 2 meals at The Polo Grill, one of the specialty restaurants that can be reserved at no extra cost. The menu is upmarket but the execution is poor. On the 1st visit I had the saltiest clam chowder I've ever had. It was ironic that the wine waiter appeared at that very moment to see if I wanted anything to drink. After another 10 minutes the fillet mignon I ordered came. This was nice, a really good piece of meat. The sweet was poor, billed as 7 layered Belgian chocolate fudge cake it was rock hard and tasted of nothing discernable, if I hadn't of known it was chocolate then I would never have guessed. Apart from the mediocre food the meal was constantly interrupted by staff butting in to ask if everything was OK, even the chef interrupted my sweet to ask if I enjoyed everything. On the second visit it was my birthday and the meal was 10 times better and Oceania had gone to the trouble of realising what day it was and produced a cake and the staff sang happy birthday, a really nice touch.
We ate at the Toscana once and that was enough to me it had all of my criticisms of the food on this cruise in one place.
The Buffet, for me, was not very good either for breakfast or dinner. All buffet items were served to you so getting the piece of food you wanted in the right amount often was a drawn out affair as wanting 4 pieces of bacon required asking for bacon 3 times as it was given out 2 pieces 1 piece thereafter. Getting toast that was not either anaemic white or burnt black was a lottery as the setting on the machine appeared to do just one or the other regardless of which server was using it. The Buffet dinners were ‘themed’ so one night was Greek another Indian etc not much good if you don’t like that countries style of food.
Waves, the diner, has a limited menu but was good as the food was cooked fresh to order. Seating was limited but the staff was very good at cleaning and resetting the tables so I never had a problem getting a place to eat and the milkshakes were exceptional.
There was always plenty of seating in the bars, comfortable chairs and settees. Drinks were not cheap and varied from bar to bar in taste so after a couple of days you knew where to go for a nice drink and where not.
I thought the entertainment was good for the size of the ship
At the end of the cruise my overall impression of the trips was that they were very expensive for what you got and that it was possible to get much better value for money making your own arrangements.
Would I travel with this company again? Maybe. If I had to sum it up a sentence then it would be I expected excellence and received very good, Oceania fell down with the details.