Oceania - Regatta - Cruise - Dover to Stockholm-14 days
My wife and I took this cruise on July12, 2010. We flew to Heathrow and were driven to the ship at Dover by a van booked through Oceania (they also drove us from the ship to the airport in Stockholm at the cruise's conclusion). Cost per person: $189. Very smooth and easy...and pricey.
Our ocean view cabin on deck three was well laid out and typical of the cabins we had had on various other ships on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. The cabin included a t.v. and dvd player but lacked an adequate number of electrical outlets. If you are electronics heavy, bring a multiplug adapter. The worse thing about our cabin was that it was at wharf level when docked, which resulted in a lack of privacy unless the curtains were drawn.
The service we had everywhere on the ship ranged from very good to excellent. The Regatta has open seating in its main dining room and scheduled seating in its two "limited engagement" dining rooms, the Polo Grill and Toscana. These latter two had to be booked in advance (unless there was a last minute cancellation) and were only open for dinner. The number of advance reservations (which are at no additional charge) depended on your cabin class.
There was a buffet open for all three meals, plus a pool area sandwich style restaurant and an afternoon tea. In general, I found the food and service in the main dining room at least equal to that in the "limited engagement" restaurants, and the buffet good for breakfast. The lunch and dinner buffets were well prepared and the choices reasonably abundant, but the food, in my opinion, did not match the quality of the food served in the main, Polo, or Toscana restaurants. The service was great in all the dining areas, and the food excellent in the main, Polo, and Toscana dining rooms. The wine list was extensive. A bottle of decent California red (Rodney Strong 2006 or Franciscan 2006 Cabernet) was, with the mandatory 18% gratuirty included, in the $40 range. A bottle Chateau Petrus was available for $2000.
We explored most cities on our own. It would have been nice if Oceania supplied transportation from the wharf to the cities, when appropriate. We did take an Oceania tour in Tallinn, which was adequate. We booked three Oceania excursions in St. Petersburg. The first, of Catherine's Palace, was fine, largely because the guide spoke good English and was knowledgeable. The second, of the Hermitage, the highlight of St. Petersburg, was a disaster. The guide was inexperienced, spoke poor English, and gave inadequate and confusing directions. The museum was immensely crowded, the tour was rushed and scattershot, and, all in all, a tremendous disappointment. The third, of the Jewish Synagogue, was half disaster and half joy. The guide's English was not only poor, but he mumbled and was often unintelligible. However, when the Miami-trained Cantor at the museum sang for us, it was pure joy.
My advice to prospective passengers on this Oceania cruise itinerary (and probably on others as well) is to book your onshore excursions independent of Oceania. There are various companies available on the internet that will provide excursions (with necessary visas in Russia) and are, according to the passengers who did this, both superior and 30-50% less expensive.
I do want to include one issue that particularly irritated me. The folder that was sent to pasengers about a month prior to sailing noted that email "Charges are $2 for the first 100KB of each inbound message address and each outbound address," and that an Outlook Email account had been set up for us (addresses were included in the handbook. (p.40) However, when we visited the computer center we were informed this was the "old" policy, and that the "new" and current policy was that each email cost $3.95 plus $.95 a minute. Furthermore, you had to compose the email on rather than off line. When I complained that this ex post facto change was a bit unethical, I was informed, albeit politely, by the computer specialist, that there was nothing he could do and that I might wish to see the concierge, Furthermore, the promised email addresses had been cancelled.
In summary, the cruise featured great food and service, but poor and expensive excursions (although our experience in this last was quite limited). Will we book another Oceania cruise? I don't know, but we certainly will be more discriminating in booking excursions.
Nota Bene: I omitted references to entertainment because we did not attend any events. I was told that the magician was quite good, however.