Others have posted comments about this Nautica cruise, which sailed on 27 June from Barcelona, and I am not in total agreement with these comments, however everyone has their own views. My husband and I dined one night with one of the other reviewers. Nautica was well-maintained and all the staff were very helpful and friendly. When you asked how they were, the reply ‘excellent’ did get a bit wearing, though. The staff and the ship are definitely the line’s biggest assets. We found the dining room dinners unimaginative and only “so-so”.
Other cruise lines, including Princess will generally accommodate realistic “off-menu” orders, provided sufficient notice is given. My husband asked the dining room Manager one evening, for a repeat the following night of a main course of that evening’s menu. The answer, ratified by the ship’s Maitre’d, was that this was not possible due to “health and safety reasons”. This is a nonsense as other cruise lines can do it and was clearly an excuse. Oceania’s strap line is “let us exceed your expectations” – sorry Oceania, you fell at the first hurdle here.
We were very disappointed with Toscana. If you don’t eat veal, there is very little other choice, as so many dishes have veal in some form or another. I do not eat veal on principle because of the way the animals are kept in mainland Europe. In an half-empty restaurant, service was indifferent, with a wrong main course order one night. The lobster was tough and overcooked, then swamped in a chilli pasta mess. We heard of several other passengers cancelling their reservation in Toscana, after being disappointed on the first visit. Much better was the lobster in the Polo Grill, where we ate four times, Michael, the manager, being very accommodating. The food here was the best on the ship, especially the lamb rack. Dinner in the Terrace was also only so-so, with so many of the dishes being lukewarm. The dish of the day, cooked in the wok, was typically bland for the American palette; we have previously been told Americans dislike garlic and spice in their food. After the Cairo visit had laid low about half the ship, who went down with Pharoah’s Revenge, all the dining venues were quiet. Even so, the ship was far from full, with only 610 passengers. The only swimming pool is sea water, which is changed regularly. This is far more hygienic than fresh water pools on other ships because we saw hardly anybody shower their sweat and sun cream off before getting into the pool, a really disgusting habit. Would you like to swim around in other peoples sweat residue? Another plus is that Oceania cover the sunloungers with white towelling which is changed daily. Other cruise lines take note about the hygiene benefits of this. My husband got ringworm off a sunlounger that must not have been clean.
We partook of virtually no entertainment, so won’t comment. What was annoying, though, was the repetitive announcements by cruise director, Dotty, whose booming voice echoed round the ship like a foghorn. The issue which really wound us up (and many others), surprisingly not commented on by any other contributors who were fellow passengers, was the Great Oceania Visa Rip-Off. I’m going to make a separate posting about this to warn future passengers. In short, Oceania charged us $49 for an Egyptian visa we didn’t need, and which the Egyptian immigration staff we spoke to onboard said cost nothing. (I speak a little Arabic) This was just a money-making scheme by Oceania. We were also unhappy at the onboard price hikes since June 2008. Bar bills now attract 18% ‘gratuity’, whilst stewards’ gratuities have also gone up around 20%, but I bet the staff haven’t seen such a pay rise. Drinks prices were a deterrent too. A bottle of average Californian red cost $42 + 18%!
Another “cutback” was the lack of “Britain Today”, the daily page of news from the UK, with the excuse that there were not enough Brits on board to justify printing, there were 40 – it had been supplied last June when we had half that number. It was only due to the persistence of one of the passengers, that it was provided half way through the cruise.
Another slight annoyance was the introduction of a flow impeder on the sink taps, apparently only a week before we boarded. If this was done, as someone suggested, to save water – why was it also not added to the shower? The only way to fill the sink without waiting for ten minutes was to use the shower head.
The shore excursions are also inadequate and over priced, and the shore excursion department need to be brought into the 21st century. Their presentation on the ports to be visited are amateur and consist of slides of dubious vintage. They need to take a leaf out of Princess Cruises and show videos of all the ports.
The daily programme for disembarkation day said that passengers had to be off the ship by 9.00 am at the insistence of Turkish immigration – utter rubbish!!! We disembarked at 09.45 and we were by no means the last and there was no sign of immigration questioning why we had not previously disembarked. This is clearly a ruse by Oceania to clear the ship, so don’t get conned next time if it happens to you!! Despite getting everybody off the ship so early, they still cant make cabins available before 1.00 pm, or 3 pm (depending on cabin grade), unlike Princess where you can embark straight to your cabin from 12.00 noon or even earlier and with a passenger complement of at least triple. .
Overall, the cruise was not as good as that on Nautica in June 2008. The service and the cleanliness of the ship were again excellent, however the food was not and the visa rip-off soured the atmosphere. We had cruised on Silversea in February. In the present climate, Oceania is poor value for money when set against the all-inclusive Silversea experience. I’ve decided there are two categories of cruise ship – those that play bingo and those that don’t. Oceania play bingo, Silversea don’t. One of our fellow passengers has complained about the Big O prizes or lack of, which I totally agree with, particularly as it is pushed daily. The comment made by the Cruise Director about what items were finally available for points redemption, was that their deliveries had not arrived!! What a weak excuse.
By contrast Silversea took a very liberal view when our accumulated points were insufficient for the item we wanted –we got it anyway! – Bingo versus no Bingo!
All cruise lines are making economies or trying to squeeze extra onboard revenue, when you’re already hooked. Oceania’s efforts show up badly and tarnish, what was supposed to be a quasi-luxury brand. Nautica's penny pinching and revenue generation ruining what had been a lovely experience.