This was our fourth cruise and first with Oceania. We did not use the cruise lines air arrangements and took their credit instead so as to have more flexibility. This enabled us to arrive in Auckland two days before the cruise to adjust to the time change. We stayed at the Westin Harbor Quay and liked its location. The day of the cruise we were able to walk to the wharf after breakfast to ensure that the Nautica was there.
Check-in on the ship was fast and professional. The ship is immaculate with pristine public areas that show no sign of wear. Our cabin was ready after lunch and our luggage was nearby in the hallway (first time in last three cruises!). The cabin while small was clean and showed no signs of wear and tear. There was adequate storage space for clothing. The balcony for us was a must-have. The cabin attendant was excellent and responsive. We used the ship's laundry service several times and our clothing always came back perfect. There is a self-service laundry, and make sure you don't book a cabin nearby.
We like the open dining experience and preferred larger tables to meet the very congenial passengers (mostly Americans with many Canadians and some British). The food was very, very good on the ship. Unlike other cruise ships it was well-spiced and nicely presented. Service in the main dining-room was excellent. The bread, deserts and pastries stand out as being special. The ship has an excellent policy when it comes to wine. You may buy a bottle and the wine steward will keep it for you and bring it out with diner every evening. We were visited by the maitre-d and the chef several times to ask how we enjoyed the meal. We took room service breakfast the days we toured and it was prompt and reliable.
Entertainment while lacking huge production numbers was good. The singers were excellent and we particularly enjoyed the vaudeville style British magician and his wife. The library is well-stocked and larger than the casino! There were also hundreds of dvds available. TV coverage was okay, but geared towards Americans. The cruise director Dottie and her assistant Margaret (great dance lessons) were pleasant and accommodating.
Sailing the Tasman Sea was cloudy, damp and at times rough. I enjoyed going up to the Horizon Lounge on Deck 10, having coffee and a croissant and watching the waves. This lounge was also a great place to view Milford Sound. Even at sea in decent weather the pool deck never seemed crowded and we were always able to get lounge chairs.
We met some of our fellow cruisers on the Nautica roll-call. This enabled us to form a group of 8 passengers; several of whom were energetic and kind enough to make all the tour arrangements on the cruise. We used private contractors at all the ports that we found thru Cruise Critic(easy to do in friendly, safe, and English speaking New Zealand and Australia) for less than half the price of the ship's tours. We usually traveled in a small bus or van on a tour that was specifically modified for our requests, often combining the best of several of the ship's tours. Because we were a friendly, small group little time was ever wasted that often is a problem with a large group. Many of the ship-run tours were canceled due to lack of interest.
Negatives: The internet system was totally inadequate (bandwidth problem) and it took forever to download your email. The ship also lacked "hot spots" and you had to be near the computer room to use your wireless connection. Half-way into the cruise our AT&T Blackberry telephone stopped working on the ship. No one was helpful and the reception desk denied that their system supports AT&T.
Departing the ship in Sydney was easy, and done at our convenience (but by 9AM). We stayed at the Marriott Circular Quay. We strongly recommend that you stay at either of the Marriott, Hyatt, or Four Seasons in Sydney that are near the Harbor. This central location enables you to visit the Opera House (we were able to buy tickets for "Madame Butterfly" after our tour), the Rocks, the Botanical Gardens, the Harbor Bridge (avoid the bridge climb in the late afternoon as the wind is very strong; we took the FREE bridge walk to North Sydney and back) or to catch the state run bus to the beaches(the beach walk south of Bondi is impressive). We were in Sydney only four days; this was not enough.
This is a well-run happy ship with a happy crew resulting in happy passengers. Simply put, this was the best cruise we have ever been on.