We have just returned from the 2008 Nautica voyage from Hong Kong to Athens. A little background, we are a semi-retired couple in our late 50's. We've done quite a bit of cruising with several different lines but this was our first Oceania cruise. We used the Oceania "free" air program with a deviation so we could spend a couple of days in Hong Kong. We booked our own hotel in Hong Kong and it was a winner.
Pre-Hotel - we stayed at the Marco Polo Hong Kong and chose the continental club floor. The hotel is attached to the Harbour/Ocean centre which is where the Nautica docks in Hong Kong. Our room was very nice and the amenities offered on the club floor level are extensive. They include an American buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, and evening cocktail hour (which besides all you can drink includes tasty tidbits that could make a meal!).
The Ship - What can I say that hasn't been already said. The Nautica is a very well maintained ship. Our stateroom was a balcony More
at the rear of the ship. It was a little smaller than I expected but had adequate storage for all the things we took and what we acquired over 35 days. On a couple of occasions we did experience some vibrations from the propellers but it was not annoying. Before we went I was not a fan of the anytime dining concept but we were totally won over by the ease of this system. We utilized all four of the dinner restaurants - Grand, Polo, Toscana, and Tapas on the Terrace- and each has something to offer. We never had any trouble making reservations at Polo or Toscana and we never had to wait for a table in the Grand dining room. The food was, in my opinion, too fancy but we are not gourmet foodies. We were impressed by the variety and the presentation of the food. All of the wait staff were very friendly and we were sad to leave them in Athens.
Entertainment - We knew before we left (thanks to Cruise Critic) that the entertainment on this smaller ship was not of the caliber of the larger ships so we were not expecting much. We did have Jack for the first part of our cruise and he was great!! His talks are much like he writes on the boards and, even my husband who never looks at CC, really enjoyed them. There were a couple of entertainers early on in the voyage that we found quite entertaining and hope they will be on other voyages. They were Geraldine Doyle and Rory & his wonder dog. I wish they had spread these two out as they were both in the first 2 weeks and then it was very "highbrow" entertainers in the last 3 weeks. Never went to see them so can't comment. We did enjoy the lectures done by Ronnie Sampson. He seems to be quite a character and his lectures showed it.
Shore Excursions - We did some on our own and we did some with Oceania. We did do the Taj Mahal 3day/2night and the overnight in Luxor with Oceania. Both are pricey but they deliver value. The Taj Mahal trip was a WOW! One passenger I talked later said that a fellow passenger had talked him out of going because there wasn't anything to see besides the Taj. Oh how wrong can one be!! Yes, the Taj is the focal point of this trip but, IMHO, there is so much more. There is way more to the Taj Mahal than you see in the pictures, which surprised most of us, and the other tours to see the "Deserted City", the Agra Fort, and the mini-Taj were from out of left field!! The "private" plane and the "deluxe" meals are not quite up to par. It's not very private when there are 120 of you on the plane and like most low cost carriers there's not a lot of leg room. The meals were very ordinary airplane food and there was no choice. They would have been better sending box lunches from the ship. The hotel in Agra - the Taj View- was first class. We had a lovely room that faced the Taj Mahal. Too bad we didn't have any time to enjoy it. The meals provided at the hotel were disappointing but by this time we had gotten used to the superb meals served on the ship so maybe it's not a fair comparison. From the comment of other who went on this trip, I would like to make a suggestion. Cut the tour to 2 days/1 night and fly back to Mumbai with an early evening flight. This would allow people to have a day in Mumbai. As it was we got back to the ship just in time for it to sail. The other major excursion was to Luxor. This is a long trip (3 hours on the bus from port to Luxor) but was also well worth it! We toured both Karnak and Luxor Temples and went to see the sound & light show at Karnak on the first day. The hotel (we stayed at the Steinbrugger) was very nice. The meals provided here were slightly better than those in Agra but it's hard to compare them to the ship. On the second day, we went to the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatsheput temple, and Colullus of Memmon (spelling doesn't count!. Again we only got back to the ship just before it sailed but it was nice to have the band playing and senior staff to greet us as we came back on board. If you plan on doing this itinerary in the future, I would recommend looking into the Oceania private vans. For 6 or 8 people this is often a cost effective alternative to the mass market tours and you get to decide what you want to see. We, also, had managed to get a group together on our roll call and, one of our group, had arranged private tours in 3 ports. For the third biggie of this itin - Petra- we had a private tour for 12 of us that took us to Wadi Rum and Petra that ended up being 12 hours instead of the 15 hours of the ship's tour and was about 1/3 of the cost.
Disembarkation - Surprisingly, this was quick and painless. We appreciated the ease with which Oceania accomplished this difficult ending. After 35 days we had made so many friends and it was not easy to leave this beautiful ship.
We have done many cruises but never over 14 days before this one. Before we left we thought we would be more than ready to come home BUT not the case! We loved the Nautica. We saw more wonders of world in one cruise than I ever thought you could. If you only ever do one major cruise do this one!!! The itinerary is hard to match, the ship is wonderful, and, should you be as lucky as us, the people you meet will be friends for life! Less