We are just back from 26 day Miami -Barcelona cruise aboard Regatta. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but this cruise line did not live up to the rave reviews we had seen posted. A number of incidents on this cruise that made it less than enjoyable for us. The following experiences and impressions are the personal observations of my wife and I only, and certainly may not reflect the feelings and experiences of other people on the same cruise who were more lucky than us.
We do a great deal of cruising and had booked on Regatta because of the positive reports, and the fact that Joe Waters from Crystal had and interest in the operation, and that this line was going after a niche market priced below Crystal but offering similar luxury. We were upbeat and excited when we arrived at the Oceania desk in Miami - as we all know it is always an effort to get packed, travel and finally get to the ship. To our dismay the girl at the Oceania desk never looked up, only grunted instructions like "passport", "tickets" etc. we were taken aback by the gruffness - so we boarded the ship with the wind taken out of our sails. Little did we know that this was only a precursor of what was to come.
We sailed at 9pm after a 3 hour delay, caused by some passengers who experienced a flight delay from Vancouver. We were pleased with our cabin, but unlike other cruise ships our steward never came by to introduce himself. I made a point of introducing myself to him the next day, he was a fine young man and, as it turned out, did an excellent job. We were in cabin 7049 and although we had a veranda, the plastic "Wal-Mart" chairs were so uncomfortable that it made use of the veranda for more than 10 minutes at a time difficult.
Two days out of Miami, I decided to have a massage - $99 plus $15 tip. The next night on everyone's bed appeared a flyer offering $20 off "for the rest of the cruise" on the very massage I had the day before. I felt this unfair & went to the Spa suggesting that if they would refund the $20 it could go directly to my cabin steward. I did not want the money, but out of principle it just did not seem right. The Spa turned me down flat. I went to the front desk to plead my case, never thinking I would have a problem. I repeated my proposal to the lady at the desk who was most understanding. She brought out the General Manager, Mr. Volpe, who took an immediate confrontational attitude saying, and I quote his words exactly "I approved that, and I don't know why you are getting so upset over such a small thing. For example if you booked a cruise today and we dropped the price tomorrow you are out of luck". I gave up at this point and walked away. Now I was angry and depressed, thought that we still had to endure over 20 more days on this ship. One of the reasons we go on a cruise is to relax, and here I was being aggravated no end by the employees. That was the end of this matter, there was no follow up by the General Manager, who obviously had a "don't care" attitude.
We had similar "attitude" shockers from the Destination Services desk on a couple of occasions. The casino staff were not a happy lot and most unfriendly. Example: One fellow, who had a personality clash with the manager, was in the casino every day for hours. All of a sudden toward the end of the cruise the casino would not cash his travelers cheques because the manager said all of a sudden his signature didn't match that on the cheques. He showed them though - he won $1,800 on one machine and $2,500 on another - he didn't need to cash any travelers cheques after that.
This is far from my definition of the luxury cruise line that had been advertised. I kept justifying my displeasure by telling myself "you get what you pay for". This was a relatively inexpensive cruise compared to the luxury cruise lines. I should not try and compare the two for it would be like comparing apples to oranges. I say it was inexpensive, but by the time you get finished paying for every little thing (other postings show it as nickel & diming) I'm not sure how much less expensive it really was from a luxury cruise.
We love sea days, and having done consecutive sea days often. For instance: New Orleans-Hawaii; LA-Hong Kong. There were always activities if you so chose to participate. Regatta is about destinations, so on our first segment which involved crossing the Atlantic it was boring, very boring. There were lecturers but the topics were poor (Reorganizing the Pentagon" & "Transforming the Army") so unless you wanted to take bridge lessons or play bingo at $15 per card, there was virtually nothing to do for 8 days other than read, eat, drink and hang out in the casino.
Most nights there were long waits to get into the dining room if you went around 7:30 to 8pm. We solved this by eating at 9pm, but then missed most of the shows which started at 9:45pm. There is no extra charge for the specialty restaurants. This is understandable, because the food is equally good at all three venues, Toscana, Polo and the Main Dining Room. We went to Tapas only one night, because we are not fans of buffets for dinner, but the food there was also very acceptable. We differ with the claim that the food is "the finest at sea". I think it is good and compares favorably with Crystal and Raddison, but a notch below some of the best specialty restaurants like the "Olympic Restaurant" on Millennium. The service was inconsistent in that Oceania was apparently staffing Insignia at the time and half of our crew were new, and although they were trying hard they were definitely on a learning curve.
The second segment Lisbon to Barcelona was better in that we had numerous ports to occupy our time. I heard complaints about the cost of the tours, but I can't comment because we have not cruised in this part of the world before and cannot compare the tour prices on Oceania with those of other cruise lines. Examples of a couple are: A 90 min bus ride to Seville and back with a tour of a cathedral and a couple of hours free time to shop was $125US pp and the Vatican was $150US pp for the day. We took seven tours, and found the guides ranged from good to mute (hardly talked). Speaking of ports, I noticed on various postings here that shortly before we boarded people complained of a virulent upper respiratory virus infecting many passengers. With this in mind we were surprised (or perhaps not surprised) to see there was no disinfecting of hands when boarding the ship at various ports and no disinfecting of handrails on the gangplank as has been done on the 5 cruises we have been on since the SARS outbreaks.
The shows were done on the cheap, but we thought they were very good. Singer, John Paul Almon (who ran the shuffleboard during the day) did a couple of shows and was sensational. The pianist from the Martini bar did a show a couple of nights and the assistant social hostess Diana Dimarzio did a show, as did a group from the Orchestra, plus the Orchestra itself did a show.
In all our years of cruising, we have never counted the days until the end of our cruise - this time we had a countdown going before the cruise was half over. The highlight of our cruise was the day we disembarked.