Our first Oceania cruise. Our rating is excellent, overall.
Our cruise started in Stockholm , sailing up and down the Baltic, Kiel Canal, North Sea, to Amsterdam, Bruges and then ending in London.
We chose Oceania transfers and after a 14 hour (in the air) over two flights from Vancouver, we were really glad we did. We barely knew our names, let alone trying to figure out where the cab stands were, schlepping our luggage, finding Swedish krona, etc. As we got off the plane, there was a smiling Oceania rep there with a sign with our names on it. He even helped us lug the luggage off the carousel. 28 miles later (yes, it would have been an expensive taxi ride), we arrived at the port of Varhamnen and proceeded on to the ship. Since this was a staggered embarkation all day, and we arrived at 6 pm, there was no one else there so went right on and got our paperwork and cards at the reception (the whole thing took about ten minutes!).
Our cabin was a verandah stateroom, small (especially the bathroom) but completely adequate for two people our luggage arrived about 15 minutes later, and we were pleasantly surprised at the incredible amount of storage in the room very well designed plenty to put everything away and with room to spare which was good because I knew I would be collecting things along the way. The bathroom is tiny with a small shower stall, but everything worked fine. We both perfected the art of sailor showers. The bed was super comfortable with gorgeous bedding and pillows. The verandah was really nice, very private and done out in teak - elegant to say the least. Very romantic to sit on the verandah with a glass of wine and watch the ocean together!
The food and service throughout the cruise was outstanding. I still can't imagine how they manage to serve such excellent food to such a large number of people. Your meat always came exactly as ordered (even my hubby's prime rib came rare when he asked) - even in the fanciest restaurants this doesn't happen! The portions were not huge but totally adequate, which is great because then you can enjoy your four or five courses! We ate breakfast every day in the Terrace buffet the fresh berries every morning were to die for, not to speak of the smoked salmon, and huge variety in all breakfast items. On the Terrace, you can sit inside or outside which is great on nice mornings.
We absolutely loved the Casual dining policy where you just show up in the dining room and ask for a table for 2. The tables for 2 are close enough that invariably you end up chatting with your neighbour if you want to. Or, as we did, we quickly made some friends and some dinner dates with them on a few nights. It was a great combination of sometime just us dining and sometimes dining with friends. Since all our other experiences on cruise ships had been the same dinner partners for the whole cruise, this was a very welcome change. We can't imagine ever going back to the other way! There are two alternative restaurants on the ship, Toscana and Polo, and our cabin level entitled us to one free reservation at each. We did make a reservation and tried both, they were good, but honestly, we preferred the food and ambience of the Grand Dining Room better this is just our preference, a lot of folks we met absolutely raved about the food in Polo and Toscana.
We can't comment on the shore excursions as we didn't take any Oceania ones. In St. Petersburg, we booked a 3 day tour with two other couples (SPB Tours) - it was a fantastic tour our van was right there every morning right on time and our guide and our driver showed us all the sights of SPB plus insights into many more experiences of Russian life and customs. I can't recommend them enough! In Berlin, we also took a one day tour with the same company - again with three other couples (different ones) and again the service was excellent, our guide was an American who had lived in Berlin for ten years, and we saw just about all the highlights of Berlin in the short six hours there. That, of course, is the big drawback it's a 3 hour drive each way from Warnemunde, a boring drive on the Autobahn the whole way. For all the other ports, we did our own thing - research ahead of time, decide what we want to see, and taxi or public transit into town and walk or transit to the sites.
The ports were truly amazing, Stockholm, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Bruges were our special favourites but I have to say they were all fascinating in their own way. The day on the Kiel Canal was very special. It is very narrow and there are towns all along it, so the scenery is constantly changing for about 6 hours, and there was many locals on the banks waving and shouting Welcome it was an amazing scene. And I noticed most of the men found the locks quite fascinating and good fodder for lengthy discussions about how they work.
Can't comment on the entertainment we never could stay awake long enough to attend. With this port-intensive itinerary we took advantage of every minute in port and after a nice dinner, were ready to call it a day and start all over the next morning! We did join a team for the Team Trivia a couple of days, though, and had lots of fun, and it was very challenging, the questions were really difficult so it was lots of fun.
The two things that stood out most for us as a complete contrast to other cruises we had taken: It was very quiet the music was interesting, tasteful and elegant like the ship, and so restful. No hairy chest contests on this cruise ship, thank God. Also, another lovely thing no photographers!!! There isn't a photo studio on board but the computer people will help you with your snaps if you need technical assistance.
There are no kids facilities on this ship frankly I can't imagine taking kids on a cruise like this, there were a couple of families with kids and the kids were super well behaved but looked bored. If I were bringing kids, I would choose one of the cruise ships that are set up for kids and cater to them. Most kids I know would be really bored on Oceania.
The only negative was that the ship's internet connection was incredibly slow absolutely unusable except to check e-mail and very expensive. Everyone was complaining about it. I didn't need it for business, but I tend to use the internet to get my information (doesn't everyone these days?) so things like checking weather, upcoming ports, buying admisisions to museums, etc. I thought I would do while on the ship. I even fantasized about sending a blog with a few pictures every few days to my family and friends. Well, nyet!! None of that was possible I gave up after a few days ...... I will be sending a letter to Oceania head office to let them know about my experience. I only mention this so you should know if you tend to rely on the internet while you are away, especially for business, you may be disappointed and will end up (as many did) putting their laptops in their backpacks and heading to an internet cafe once in port.
So, after 14 days we arrived in Dover and saw the magnificent white cliffs. Our disembarkation was organized we had our special luggage tags and they called us to go to immigration , your luggage tag corresponded to the bus name all the busses were lined up for the 2-hour trip to Heathrow, it was relatively painless.
So, overall, we have to say we are hooked on the "small ship" feeling, never any line ups for anything or rush or fuss nor cameras taking our pictures, just brilliant service, excellent food, comfortable beds and awesome ports and itineraries!
Fantastic memories and for us, a trip of a lifetime.