12 Night Transatlantic Cruise on Regatta 4/22/2008 to 5/3/2008
Perspective: We are both 50ish ;). We have cruised 20 or so times mainly on main stream cruises, and did cruise once on Crystal. We favor value for the buck and cruising off season away from school holidays.
Pre-Cruise: We flew in on the morning of the cruise.
Embarkation: We arrived at Port of Miami around 1:00 PM. No lines anywhere. Did not use a porter; our large suitcase fit through the security check in just fine. So we knew we would have all our luggage with us at all times. Good, no worry about it getting delayed or lost. Bad, we had to lug it up to lunch and take care of it until the cabin was ready. We had to wait until about 1:20 to board and until almost 3:00 for the cabin to be ready, as promised.
Cabin: We had an inside cabin. We booked a guarantee inside about 1 year from cruise date and were assigned a handicap cabin by O. Very nice mattress style bed with comforter/duvet. Cabin was huge and so was bathroom. Cabin had one chair, one stool, and one small table as furniture. The closet, storage area and vanity/desk were typical. Safe worked fine. Our AC started leaking one night. We called it in at around 10:30 and were asked to move for one night to an outside cabin about 2 doors away so that the maintenance staff could have several hours to fix it. It was indeed fixed that night and we moved back in the next morning. We were treated to a complementary bottle of white wine for the inconvenience.
The tub/shower in the handicap cabin is built up so you use a step to get in. The ceiling is not raised so the shower is only about 6½ feet tall total. We enjoyed the tub so the shorter shower was just fine.
Cabin was serviced twice daily. It was very clean with very little wear noticeable. No towel animals. Our attendants were very efficient, communicated well, and friendly.
Overall Service: The cruise was only about ¾ full. There was lots of friendly staff who had plenty of time to serve as well as visit. There were no lines any where (well one, 4 folks wanting to make specialty restaurant reservations the first day) otherwise all service was so prompt it was impossible to have a line. The reception desk had no lines. No lines at port visits or buffet. Very nice.
The Terrace Cafe is the buffet style restaurant. It is set up with two mirror image sides so that there are two duplicate service lines. All food is served for you. Beverages are served at the table. There is a self service beverage center that is always clean and available. It provides coffee, cappuccino, espresso, tea, water, lemonade.
For Breakfast, there are omelet stations; area for hot breakfast foods, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, breakfast meats, breakfast potatoes, and hot cereal; fresh fruits; canned fruits; cold cereals; and baked goods. The fresh fruit was the best variety I have seen in many cruises - usually raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, papaya, mango, kiwi, orange, pineapple, and melon. Also the baked goods are wonderful with about 10 different ones offered. The variety and freshness of the fruit and baked goods were EXCEPTIONAL!
Lunch at the Terrace Cafe was fairly typical buffet style. Salad bar, prepared salads, sandwiches, hot food, and desserts are available. There is a wonderful ice cream cart with about 4 kinds of home made ice cream and a sorbet available. One is sugar free. Lots of unique favors. My favorite was Cocoa Sorbet. Very rich dark chocolate sorbet. Exceptional!
Tapas on the Terrace is the buffet setup for the evening. The seating area is dressed up and tables are setup nicely for dining outside under the stars. Most items from the Grand Dining Room are offered plus sushi and a few extra tapas type items that change each evening.
Indoor and Outdoor seating is available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Very nice.
Did not try room service.
The Waves grill is just outside the Terrace Cafe and near the pool area. The grilled sandwiches are excellent. We had the grilled mahi-mahi and the hamburgers several times. We had the salads from the buffet , the grilled sandwich, and then the excellent ice cream for dessert.
The Grand Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We did lunch in the GDR many days. The salad entrees were excellent. Highly recommend the Jacques Pepin salad with grilled fish and the Caesar Salad with grilled shrimp. Tables for two were fairly easy to obtain at lunch.
Dinner in the GDR is the usual wonderful multi course cruise dining experience. The service and choices are slightly better than the major cruise lines. The crystal stemware was beautiful. Nice wine list with reasonable prices, especially on the medium to higher priced wines. Or pay $20 corkage for wine brought on board. A large selection of wines went on sale some afternoons; we purchased a magnum (1.5L) of Brunello di Montalcino for $60 + 18% tip and enjoyed it with dinner on 2 nights; unfinished bottles of wine are stored by cabin number and can be quickly retrieved to any restaurant, breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Unlike many mass cruise lines, O. still has a dedicated wine staff, so your waiter doesn't double as your sommelier. The seating is open seating. We found that if you want a table for two it was best to arrive before 6:30 or after 8:00. Otherwise you had to wait or take seating at a larger table. The menu offers about 2 cold appetizers, 2 hot appetizers, 1 hot soup, 1 cold soup. 2 salads, entrees that always included seafood, poultry, beef, other meat than beef, vegetarian, and several always available items such as salmon, chicken, and steak. There is no dancing or singing by staff during the dining service.
The specialty restaurants is where O shines in our opinion. There is Polo Grill, a steak house, and Toscana, Italian style restaurant. On our 12 night cruise we ate in them 6 nights (officially we were guaranteed two reservations but we waitlisted for several more). The menus are excellent with many great choices. Our favorites at Polo were the fois gras, crab cake, clam chowder, onion soup, lobster, and filet mignon. Our favorites at Toscana were the bread and olive oil to start (great selection different breads, oils, and balsamic vinegars), minestrone, pastas, veal chop, and filet mignon. The service and menu really where Special.
Entertainment: As far as the bars and lounges, we visited them several times at happy hour from 5 to 6 most evenings in Horizons and Martinis. Martinis had a piano soloist most nights. And Horizons had a dance combo most nights.
The main lounge had a lecturer each day at 10 AM. At night various performers where featured, not really production type shows with large staff. We really enjoyed the guitarist and the string quartet.
We used the walking area above the pool and the gym. Very nice and not crowded.
There is one main pool with two hot tubs outside. The area is teakwood and lined with loungers. Loungers are available in the sun and shaded. Double loungers are also available. Each lounger had a pad and terry cloth cover. We had great weather and spent some time out by the pool each day.
Did not use internet service this trip ( yeah!!!). The library is wonderful. Good selection of reading material including recent magazines. Comfortable seating. This library is so nice occasionally seating is not available.
The Casino is next to Martinis in a walk through type arrangement. It was not very busy during our cruise. Usually about 2 tables open and maybe about 5 slot players. This area always shocked me. I seem to have trained myself to avoid the smoke in these areas, of course on O this area like most is non-smoking; very nice. They offer a very good blackjack game for a cruise ship: $10 minimum ($5 most afternoons), blackjack pays 3:2, insurance pays 2:1, 6 deck shoe, double on any first 2 cards, double after split (except split AA gets one card on each ace), dealer stands on any 17. They also had a No-Limit Texas Hold'em tournament, but I missed the start. I think it was $100 buy-in /w re-buys permitted.
Port of Call: Madeira, Portugal We did not do a ship's excursion. We tasted Madeira at 9 AM (we were in port from 8 to 1). We took one of the cable cars to views above Funchal. Then we walked along the tiled seaside. The tiled sidewalk runs for miles with many different patterns. This area is very busy. Funchal is very cosmopolitan and developed. We walked back to ship and enjoyed views from the walls along the port.
Weather and Seas: We had very calm seas; we could barely tell the ship was moving most of the time. The weather was sunny with not a drop of rain that we saw. The highs were around 70F each day, just ideal. The good weather really made the trip. We spent a lot of time by the pool reading and sunning.
Summary: We were very impressed with the O product. I was a bit afraid that we would be spoiled and not be able to return to the major lines. The big pluses for us were the specialty restaurants, few children, and no smoking environment. The small ships also shine for the ease in moving around the ship and getting on and off in port (which effectively increased time and enjoyment of ports). We really enjoyed our O cruise. However, on most itineraries the price that O can ask is high enough that we probably will stick to the major lines and just cruise when children are in school. It really depends on one's available time and budget.