It's taken me almost six months to write this review, but I hope it will prove helpful now that I've finally done the hardest part of writing...applying the seat of my pants to the seat of the chair. Our cruise was Caribbean Pearls on Oceania Regatta, 12 nights and 8 ports, 6 of which were new for us. We've cruised previously on Norwegian, Carnival, MSC and Celebrity. The Oceania fare was reasonable and the itinerary fantastic, so we went for it.
Embarkation: We stood around (not enough chairs) for about an hour before being allowed on the ship. We had arrived at the port at around 12:30 pm, and so had everyone else. When we were allowed on the ship, we were told that our room was not ready and were directed to the buffet, which was nothing special but at least was not the mob scene that larger ships can create on departure day. Our room was ready at 3pm as promised. We had booked an inside guarantee but were "upgraded" (against our will, but that is what can happen with a guarantee and we understood that) to an obstructed oceanview on deck 6. These rooms are about 20 square feet smaller than the insides and we were worried it would be cramped...needlessly, as it turned out. The room was great, functional, comfortable, and well-designed. There was plenty of storage space. We didn't care about the lifeboat hanging over the window as we had anticipated an inside cabin anyway.
Ship: Okay, I'll say it: One of us (your reviewer, as it happens) thinks the ship was too small. I am prone to seasickness and needed to take medication the whole time, which has never happened on larger ships unless the weather is really rough. That said, the ship is beautiful and elegant, and only rarely did it feel crowded, specifically at Martini's at 9pm for trivia, where by the third night you had to show up at 8pm to get a seat. I don't know if the pool area was crowded because we rented a cabana, which was fun but not something I'd do again. Tendering was another time the ship felt small and crowded...people were lined up the stairs for two and three decks waiting for tenders, and we tendered at four out of eight ports, ick. Isn't the point of a smaller ship that it can dock, or am I missing something?
The one completely and utterly fabulous space on the ship is the library. It's completely spoiled me for anything to follow. It's huge and gorgeous and...I could go on and on.
Fellow Passengers: A range of ages from early 40s on up. It was not a ship of ancients, and everyone was pretty active. There was a good core of Cruise Critic-ers, although unfortunately Oceania didn't do anything special for us. To punish them, a few of us (and you know who we are) won all the twice-daily trivia competitions and left with our bags stuffed with Oceania merchandise so that now we're walking advertisements for the line whenever we grab a T-shirt. Okay, maybe we didn't punish them that much.
Food: We're foodies, and we had high expectations. In our opinion, Jacques Pepin's "signature" cuisine was a little boring. The ingredients were fresh (we watched them loading crates of cauliflower onto the ship and had cauliflower soup that night) but rather unimaginatively prepared. Think classic (kind of old-fashioned) French. That said, there was always something tasty to eat, even if very few dishes stand out in our minds. The service was very good, and we never had to wait for a table for two, although the tables are close together and sometimes it felt like the two tables for two were really a table for four. That's great if you like listening to other people's dinner conversation, but we don't.
One lovely perk of Oceania is not paying a surcharge for the two specialty restaurants, Polo Grill and Toscana. We went to Toscana the second night. Unfortunately that's when I was at my seasickest, but it LOOKED like a lovely meal, and dear husband enjoyed it a lot. The choice of balsamic vinegars was unexpectedly wonderful. We actually went to Polo twice...even if you aren't a suite passenger (they get two reservations at each restaurant), if you ask nicely and they have room, they'll let you make another reservation. Everything is fresh and well prepared at Polo, with nice desserts (key lime pie, yum). Unfortunately our second night there was the night they had caviar in the main dining room, but when we asked for some, we were told they couldn't get it. That was too bad, as up until then the staff had pretty much given us everything we wanted and a few things we didn't even know we wanted until we got them.
In general we found the wine list (very heavy on French wines, almost nothing from the New World) to be somewhat unimaginative. We drank less wine on this cruise than on MSC, a line with a younger, fresher, more interesting wine list.
We went to afternoon tea three or four times. It's wonderful, with different items every day. The only problem with it is that it starts too late to substitute for lunch and it's difficult to enjoy one's Jacques Pepin signature chicken at dinner two hours after you've scarfed down a Bananas Foster crepe, four different tea sandwiches, a plateful of cookies, a piece of sponge cake, a scone with jam and clotted cream, several cups of tea, and whatever else your husband snagged from a passing trolley. You can see the kind of problems one has on Oceania.
Entertainment: There isn't much, and that's a fact, and we knew it before we cruised and so weren't surprised. We entertained ourselves by admiring the library and never missing trivia. We entertained Oceania by losing at bingo a couple of times and putting a few dollars into the slots in the pathetic casino that's so small it's pretty much in a hallway.
Would we sail on Oceania again? Absolutely, if the price and the itinerary suited us. We'd especially like to try Marina, which as a larger ship would probably have even more to offer. We had a wonderful time. Previously, our longest cruise had been 10 days. On Regatta, 12 days flew by in a wonderful, pampered blur: cabana and canapes, tea and trivia. Thanks Oceania!