We had looked for a cruise at this time of year and with a time and duration that suited our work schedules. Oceania has been interesting me for a couple of years with great reviews and a loyal following on the cruise critic boards. We had approx 80 cruise dinners under our belts over 7 cruises in the previous 5 years (3 cunard, 1 orient, 1 carnival, 1 HAL, 1 celebrity). We have cruised in the Med. Mexican Riviera and Alaska. The most consecutive days at sea was 2 returning from the Med to Southampton. The thought of 8 consecutive days at sea from Miami to Funchal had me hoping that we would find enough things to do on this relatively small ship. We had to add a supplement flying out of Calgary, and we were also charged for a deviation because we flew a day early. United Airlines via Denver. One thing we hadn't realized when we booked was that the Friday of travelling was Good Friday...Both flights were over full 20 over in Calgary and 5 in Denver. The airline staff at the gates were offering good incentives for volunteers to stay behind. We arrived to find the Hyatt in the midst of a major power problem and all the guests being ferried to other hotels. They transferred us to the Marriott with a Harbour view. The Marriott is adjacent to the Grand hotel and there is a convenient wine/liquor store downstairs we bought some wine to take on board.
Embarkation at 11.30 was easy, no lines, no photos, no fuss, calm and friendly. 540 passengers on this sailing. We were directed to lunch in the Terrace cafe, smiling staff at every turn to show us the way. Our stateroom was ready at the promised time and our bags were waiting for us. We immediately liked our room (8005). Plenty of hanging space and sufficient drawers and cupboards to unpack clothes from 4 large cases 2 at 50lbs and 2 at 35lbs. The following dimensions are approximate. Door to window 21'; width 12'6";bathroom 5'x6';wardrobes 6';dresser 7'. there was a hide-a bed couch, 2 club chairs, a dressing chair and a glass table. The balcony was 12'6" x4'6" with fully reclining lounger chairs and foot stools. without doubt this is the quietest cabin we have ever been in. The air conditioning worked well and minor adjustments to the thermostat adjusted the temperature quietly. The TV/dvd combo was a little dated and the screen had a blue hue in one corner but it did not warrant a complaint.
The food! wow! we ate in all the dining venues. The Grand Dining Room had many varied and interesting menus, we were extremely pleased with the food and only had one incident with a waiter who showed great reluctance to our ordering a small portion of an entree as an appetizer sized plate. we said please try and sure enough it arrived as requested. That along with the rushed service on our final dinner was the only downside. Polo grill was great we sat in awe as one gentleman at an adjacent table attacked the 32oz prime rib. The Polo menus are only changed every week or so. If you are a carnivore this is the place for you. I had excellent lamb (twice!) and my wife really liked the lobster. Toscana was a delight with very friendly staff and great food. Now having mentioned these fantastic restaurants it only gets better...The Terrace Cafe and its grown up cousin Tappas on the Terrace was by FAR the best ship's buffet we have experienced. The staff were friendly, had time to chat, were ever vigilant to guests needs, helped carry plates, brought drinks quickly, removed used plates promptly. the Maitre de Terrace, Michael, was great, especially because he kept up with soccer scores and when things were running smoothly, as they often were, he would come over for a couple of minutes to chat and make sure that all was well. When a buffet has a whole suckling pig roast in the carvery you have to believe that you are on a ship that takes it's cooking seriously. Breakfast berries were always available, fruit was fresh, deserts were great. My wife jokingly commented to our children that I was having three desserts with lunch and dinner and was really glad that I couldn't get dessert at breakfast (she overlooked the Chocolate Croissants!! but will only know if she reads this).
Service...our Butler, Mihai, was ultra efficient and he never failed to succeed in achieving our requests. He quickly remembered to put the tea in the carafe when he put the boiling water in. His attitude was excellent, a good sense of humor and very courteous. The funny thing was that whenever we asked him to solve something a little out of the normal for room service, he would put on a worried look and then depart only to return with a wry smile and "success against all odds" written over his face. The un-requested pots of tea (both earl grey and english breakfast), with cookies, that awaited our return from an 11 hour tour to Sienna (next cruise) were most thoughtful and very, very welcome. He sorted restaurant reservations and had pants laundered when we mentioned an encounter with soot from the smokestack on the terrace chairs. We even had a laugh at Martini's one night, we were tired leaving Monte Carlo and we suggested to our non butlered friends that we might go back to our room and get our butler to describe the view so we could rest!!!
Passing time...I put my watch in the safe, we tried the exercise room; very good but walking around the track was way good..30 minutes = 30 laps = 2.5 miles all the fresh air you can breath, holding onto each other on the tight corners when it was swellish and windy, watching the distant horizon, looking for pirates. 1200 miles from land 18,000 feet from the sea bed. Martini Tasting demo from Antonio, what a great bartender. "did you go to the quiz?" "Is it at a scheduled time" "yes 4.30" well I'm not wearing my watch and I'm having a great time" Get up when you wake, eat when your hungry, sunbathe when it's warm, swim a little, read a lot, missed most of the lectures (no watch, again!) Weather glorious 24C, sea temp 24C After dinner/pre show dancing in the Lounge. Shago Band very good. dancing to a trio on the Back shelf (Tappas) at dinner, dancing on our own in the Horizons to the sounds of a five piece from the shago band. we got to choose the music. My wife told the band leader (Drummer) that I had agreed to three dances then home, well he played a Swing then a Rumba he asked if we wanted a Waltz. It was after about ten minutes that I realized I had been tricked, my wife was laughing because the band had just strung together three waltzes without missing a beat. It was our own private nightclub., Most people were either in their rooms or in Martinis and the Casino area. Great memories. Friday 28th opened the curtains at 9.45am saw a ship!! first object, other than a plane and a white plastic barrel, for 5 days. 30.00N 37.77W 2279 miles from Miami...the TV told me so! Swell 4 to 6 feet.
Only Port Day...Funchal. Walked into town along the promenade. three other cruise ships in. Short stay 6.00am to 1.00pm Very good market, uncrowded early on. walked around the old town. Nice safe town, reasonable shopping not long enough for some who were suffering from shopping withdrawals.
We are getting near Barcelona and the second cruise of our Back to Back.