Nautica Cruise Review by Itti: See Asia this way
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See Asia this way
Our first Oceania cruise but 'seasoned' cruisers, we would sum up the experience as wonderful. First, the itinerary, because we know you are likely just like us, choosing the cruise company based on the itinerary. We wanted an over-view of Asia and that's what we got in spades! This itinerary took us to China, S.Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Thailand.
Excursions is our second consideration. Do they offer experiences rather than sight-seeing? We like to do, not just look. Oceania does this. We went on home visits where we met and shared food and conversation with actual families in S.Korea and China. We took a calligraphy class from a university prof, watched as potters created from clay in their backyard studio, took a relaxation class from Buddhist nuns in their home, met farmer who first discovered the terracotta warriors, canoed down the narrow canals around the Mekong river delta. It's important to read the descriptions carefully so you don't end up slogging More through museum after museum and returning to the ship every night exhausted and bored. Living history is so much more interesting than looking at cold hard history behind glass. Don't pay the extra for the smaller group. excursions. You don't need to. No tour had more than 28 people. Secondly, because Nautica is a mid-sized ship, we could dock right in town so we had much better access than companies with huge ships that are forced to dock as much as 2 hours outside a city.
A third distinction of Oceania, are the two-night stays that meant we could see so much more in one area and be ashore in the evenings, unlike so many itineraries that leave port by early evening.
Fourth, the ship itself rides smoothly and quietly through rough China Seas. There none of that odd smell ships sometimes have as you walk the long hall back to your room or open the bathroom door and are hit with that sour odor. It was always fresh and airy. Fifth standout was the dining seating policy. The open seating goes a step beyond other companies by encouraging people to share tables. This means that by the end of the trip, you've shared meals with many of the 680 or so fellow-travellers, meeting really interesting individuals from all over the world. Within 3 days, we had developed a friendship with 2 other couples and ended up basically travelling together the rest of the tour. But if you wanted to, you could always choose to sit alone. Afternoon tea sounded rather stuffy but on sea days it was a great time to meet up with friends and enjoy the china and goodies. The main dining room had good variety, flavours and service. It was gourmet quality but not over the top avant garde 5-star cuisine. The 2 specialty restaurants had limited availability and required reservations which made for a nice change from time to time. The services and food were not that different from the main dining room - just a more intimate atmosphere.
So now that we've discussed the itinerary and ship in general, what about the cabins? We were on the concierge level balcony room, down scale from the butler-assisted suites but up from the basic balcony rooms, in price. What we got for that 'upgrade' was pretty minimal and I am not sure worth the extra cost. The cabin was identical to any number of balcony cabins we'd had on other large ship cruise lines. Bathroom was small, storage was good, bed was really comfortable (I wish I could have it at home), maid service was usual, amenities were okay (Bulgari products didn't impress me). Our room needed a new couch and some repairs done to the cabinetry. We heard Nautica was heading for a refit within a month. As I said earlier, we never had that odd wet bathroom smell (as if we were smelling the sewage treatment or something) we'd had on many other ships.
Entertainment was varied, with many people coming aboard for a day or two to do a couple shows and then leaving. Four talented singer/dancers did 3 full shows (well choreographed and sung wonderfully) and some solo nights. They need to work on their chat between songs but the actually singing was great. Unadvertised but of great value was the lecturer, Terry Bishop. He talked on sea-days about the history of the areas we were visiting in a most entertaining manner. They also used him for evening entertainment on a few occasions that wasn't quite as successful. His wife led card making classes on sea days which were very good and needed ! Every trip needs some sort of hand-craft, I think.
One disappointment was the Canyon Ranch spa. It was ridiculously over-priced. Their services were very basic, without any of the little extras I would expect for the prices they were charging. $171 for a for rejuvenation massage? I didn't go back. Oceania needs to reconsider out-sourcing their spa services.
There's more I could say but this is too long already. I hope it helps you make you choice. Oceania is a good line if not the up-scale, luxury line they seem to want to portray. They are good. They offer good product. They attract 'well-heeled' 60+ aged people used to good service, wanting accessible adventure. Less
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