Background: This was our second cruise with Oceania. The first was in 2005 on the sistership Insignia. The Caribbean cruise was 12 days from Miami to eastern and southern Caribbean. Stops included: Grand Turk, Dominican Republic, Tortola, Antigua, St. Lucia, Dominica, St Barts, and St Kitts (diverted from Virgin Gorda due to adverse sea conditions).
We flew into Ft Lauderdale and were surprised about how difficult it was to obtain a ground transfer at the Ft. Lauderdale airport to the Miami area where we stayed in a hotel for one night before the cruise.
Embarkation: The pre-cruise paperwork had stated that the ship would embark passengers starting at 3 pm. After arriving at the cruise terminal early, we were pleasantly surprised that boarding was moved up to 1 pm. The process was extremely efficient and took only about 15 minutes to pass through screening and to complete all the paperwork. Our stateroom was impeccably prepared by out steward (Francis). It took More
about 4 hours for all of our bags to arrive at the cabin. We quickly started to make the rounds to request desired shore tours (we had not pre-booked any with Oceania) and to make the specialty restaurant reservations. They only had one poor person in the Horizons Lounge taking restaurant reservations for our group of cabins. This made the process very slow and it took about 45 minutes to complete our request. The Terrace Cafe was open for a lunch buffet so we had a delicious meal.
Stateroom: We had a very nice porthole stateroom on the 3rd deck. It was exactly as described in the brochure. The bed was very comfortable with plush linens. The stateroom was attended to twice daily with complete changes of towels. We had extraordinary service throughout the cruise from our steward who made sure everything met our requests. He coordinated with room service to provide a pitcher of water and ice twice a day so we could keep cool drinks on hand. The third deck location is kind of out of the way, but also many of the crew come out of their quarters via the 3rd deck.
Ship: All of the Oceania ships are identical in both configuration and naming of rooms/restaurants. This made it very easy to quickly regain familiarity with the various locations. The ship is a mid-size and had about 670 passengers. All of the public areas are very nicely decorated and the housekeeping crew keeps them spotless. The fitness center was well equipped with spectacular full height windows looking out to sea.
Favorite deck chair location - 5th deck, but you need to claim the spots early! Dining: The food was gourmet quality. The menus had a wide variety of delicious main courses. The fresh fruit was a wonderful treat at every meal! The deserts were delectable. The bircher muesli with fresh berries was a great start for breakfast. All of the wait staff were extremely pleasant, our favorite waitress in the Main Dining room (Ivana) was superb. The dining is very flexible as you can choose to eat whenever, and with whoever, you like in the Main Dining room. Our experience was very good with both the Polo Grill and Toscana where I had a wonderful filet mignon for each meal.
Entertainment: The cruise had a very talented classical guitarist aboard who played two shows with Latin themed music. The ship also had a string quartet that played beautiful music several times during the day, it was always a treat to listen to them following dinner.
Service: The hallmark of the ship is the quality of the crew. They were wonderful in every respect and thoroughly spoiled us. They all take pride in their work and always had a sunny disposition. Can't say enough about the positive attitude of the crew. Tours: We booked several tours through the ship and did some on our own. At Samana booked the catamaran snorkeling trip. This was a nice way to see some of the area. Had a great stop at a local restaurant for fresh fruit and a rum punch. The snorkeling wasn't anything special as there were few fish and the coral was not very colorful. At Grand Turk booked the stingray encounter which was very unique to get up close and personal with a large stingray. At Tortola booked the Peter Island kayaking/snorkeling trip. This was very nice. Got to spend some quality time exploring the reef area and saw a large number of tropical fish. On Antigua we booked our own tour and saw the sights of the island and enjoyed a beach for a couple of hours. On St Lucia we booked our own car to explore the bumpy island roads while driving on the wrong side. Having to do over, I would leave the driving to a taxi driver. Booked the Favorites of Domica and saw the beautiful water falls and Emerald pool. We rented our own car on St Barts (a steal at $40/day through Hertz) to explore the beaches - our favorite was Flamonds Beach. Due to high sea swells the ship diverted from Virgin Gorda to St Kitts where we shared a taxi tour of the island. Overall - the ship tours were very nice, well organized, but a bit on the expensive side.
Disembarkation: This went very smoothly, were scheduled to leave the ship at 9:15am as we had independent transportation to Ft Lauderdale airport. Our bags were waiting ashore and we had no problems getting through customs.
Summary - Overall we truly enjoyed the cruise as this was our first visit to islands outside the BVIs. We were thoroughly spoiled by the very friendly and attentive ship's crew. The gourmet quality of the food made each meal a dining experience. If you have children, this is not the cruise line for you as there are no kid-specific activities. The ship is beautifully maintained and is able to make ports of call in interesting places due to being a mid-sized ship. Less