14 Night Transatlantic Cruise on Regatta Nov 2010
Perspective: We are both 50ish ;). We have cruised 25 or so times mainly on main stream cruises, and did cruise once on Crystal. We favor value for the buck and cruising off season away from school holidays. We did a 12 night transatlantic cruise on Regatta in 2008 so many of the following observations where also made in the review for that cruise.
Pre-Cruise: We used FF miles to get AA ticket that had a stop in London Heathrow. Flight delayed because of radio problem and missed connection. Two hours delay plus 6 hours in Heathrow for connection. AA/BA provided £10 each for light meal. We missed one afternoon of sightseeing in Barcelona but still had two full days.
Embarkation: Our hotel had an 11:00 am checkout time. Checked out then and pulled luggage to taxi stand. Taxi was quick and easy to port. Porter met us at taxi for checked bag. We went straight in to port security which was a breeze, no mention of the bottles of wine that we had in our checked luggage. No lines anywhere. We were able to board immediately. Oceania check in was done on ship in the Regatta Lounge. Then on to the Terrace Cafe where we joined a couple in the back deck area for a sunny mellow lunch. Priority cabins were ready at 1:00 and others like ours were ready at 3:00.
Cabin: We had an inside cabin. We booked a guarantee inside about 1 and half year from cruise date and were assigned an inside on deck 8. We loved deck 8 for the convenience during the morning. Easy access to the terrace cafe and the pool deck area for exercise. Very nice mattress style bed with comforter/duvet. Heard a comment or two that the mattress pad was too soft for some and the duvet a bit warm. Cabin was larger than average for an inside; bathroom (particularly the shower) is small. Cabin had loveseat, one stool, and one small table as furniture. The closet, storage area and vanity/desk were typical. Safe worked fine. Our AC dial seemed to control air flow more than temperature. We tended to need to adjust it daily to keep the room a near constant temperature.
Cabin was serviced twice daily. It was very clean with very little wear noticeable. No towel animals. Our attendants were very efficient, communicated well, and friendly.
Overall Service: The cruise had around 670 passengers, i.e. fairly full. There was lots of friendly staff . Lots of staff were new to the ship and were getting some training. This was not an issue anywhere except in the Main dining room, which will be detailed in the food section. Loved the small ship with no lines. The reception desk had no lines. No lines at port visits or buffet. Very nice.
Oceania has added "included" beverages since our previous cruise with them. We asked for sparkling water with every meal which delayed things a bit. Occasionally we would have water from the pitcher poured in our sparkling water which was always promptly and cheerily replaced. We drank mainly bottled water, Indian Tonic, and club soda in the cabin and in the lounges. No issue with getting served the included beverages. A very nice added feature.
The Terrace Cafe is the buffet style restaurant. It is set up with two mirror image sides so that there are two duplicate service lines. All food is served for you. Beverages are served at the table. There is a self service beverage center that is always clean and available. It provides coffee, cappuccino, espresso, tea, water, lemonade.
For Breakfast, there are omelet stations; area for hot breakfast foods, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, breakfast meats, breakfast potatoes, and hot cereal; fresh fruits; canned fruits; cold cereals; and baked goods. The fresh fruit was the best variety I have seen in many cruises - usually raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, papaya, mango, kiwi, orange, pineapple, and melon. Also the baked goods are wonderful with about 10 different ones offered. The variety and freshness of the fruit and baked goods were EXCEPTIONAL!
Lunch at the Terrace Cafe was fairly typical buffet style. Salad bar, prepared salads, hot food, and desserts are available. There is a wonderful ice cream cart with about 4 kinds of home made ice cream and a sorbet available. One is sugar free. Lots of unique favors. My favorite was Cocoa Sorbet. Very rich dark chocolate sorbet. Exceptional!
Tapas on the Terrace is the buffet setup for the evening. The seating area is dressed up and tables are setup nicely for dining outside under the stars. Most items from the Grand Dining Room are offered plus sushi and a few extra tapa type items that change each evening.
Indoor and Outdoor seating is available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Very nice. Did notice that with an almost full ship the buffet area did get fairly crowded at prime meal times. We did opt for the dining room vs. the busy buffet a couple of times for lunch.
We did order room service for one dinner. The order was taken accurately and was delivered accurately. We order soup, salad, and steak which were all perfectly prepared, plated, and served at proper temps. We called at a busy time and the delivery time was about 1 hour. The tray pick up was very prompt. No compliant at all with our experience.
The Waves grill is just outside the Terrace Cafe and near the pool area. The grilled sandwiches are excellent. We had the grilled mahi-mahi and the hamburgers several times. We had the salads from the buffet , the grilled sandwich, and then the excellent ice cream for dessert. On this cruise, we rated the Waves Grill as the best tasting option for lunch, just a bit heavy for everyday.
The Grand Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast portions were a bit large. Lunch had a very nice variety, several sandwiches, salads, and hot entrees to choose from. Tables for two were fairly easy to obtain at lunch.
Dinner in the GDR is the usual wonderful multi course cruise dining experience. O is still a very wine-friendly line. The crystal stemware was beautiful. Nice wine list with reasonable prices, especially on the medium to higher priced wines. Or pay $20 corkage for wine brought on board. There is a wine package that provides a nice discount when you purchase 3 (mix & match) bottles from the package list, and a wine bazaar held on a couple days midway through the cruise which seemed to offer the same wines as in the package plus a few extra. Unlike many mass cruise lines, O. still has a dedicated wine staff, so your waiter doesn't double as your sommelier. The menu offers about 2 cold appetizers, 2 hot appetizers, 1 hot soup, 1 cold soup. 2 salads, entrees that always included seafood, poultry, beef, other meat than beef, vegetarian, and several always available items such as salmon, chicken, and steak. Lobster was served a couple of times and the beef served, including the always available New York strip, was of exceptional quality; in general the quality provided was very good. There is no dancing or singing by staff during the dining service.
So now the negative part of the Grand Dining Room experience on this sailing. Tables in the middle section were extremely noisy and the service was slow. For anyone to be heard at the larger tables, they had to nearly shout and when the room is full of people shouting it gets very loud. Tables on the edges of the dining room were better; but were all taken at 6:30 (anyone eating at 7 or later had to sit in the middle or wait until around 8). The service was much slower at almost all diners except one where we did go at 6:30 and sat next to the window. One night we had our appetizer served fairly promptly but then it was 2 hours until the salads were served. Often condiments were never offered, even one night never got salad dressing. The wait staff appeared very busy at all times. Really could not see what the issue was probably the newness of some of the staff. Did not want to complain because without assigned seating you probably won't get the same waiter again so why get him in trouble when you don't really know what the problem is. Noted dining room service problems on the comment card.
The specialty restaurants is where O shines in our opinion. There is Polo Grill, a steak house, and Toscana, Italian style restaurant. On our 14 night cruise we ate in them 6 nights (officially we were guaranteed two reservations but we waitlisted for several more). The menus are excellent with many great choices. Our favorites at Polo were the fois gras, crab cake, clam chowder, onion soup, lobster, and filet mignon. Our favorites at Toscana were the bread and olive oil to start (great selection different breads, oils, and balsamic vinegars), minestrone, pastas, and lobster. The service and menu really where Special.
Entertainment: As far as the bars and lounges, we visited them several times at happy hour from 5 to 6 most evenings in Horizons and Martinis. Martinis had a piano soloist most nights. And Horizons had a dance combo most nights.
This cruise had three lecturers on board. On sea days two enrichment lectures were provided. Highlight was the one lecture given by John McDaniel, famous music arranger. We attended the daily beginner's bridge lesson which was excellent and even played a few afternoons. The transatlantic was a great way to get involved with bridge. We joined a trivia team the first sea day and had such fun that we attended daily.
The nightly show started at 9:30 each evening. The nightly show on this transatlantic cruise was not always polished, plus it meant eating very early since the dining room service was slow. We are very easy to please as far as entertainment goes and give O's entertainers a C this trip.
We used the walking area above the pool and the gym. Nice locker room with two showers plus steam room (no charge to use). Very nice and not crowded. Did not use the spa or the spa deck area.
There is one main pool with two hot tubs outside. The area is teakwood and lined with loungers. Loungers are available in the sun and shaded. Double loungers are also available. Each lounger had a pad and terry cloth cover.
Did not use internet service this trip ( yeah!!!). The internet manager did help me get a boarding pass for my flight home which was greatly appreciated. The library is wonderful. Good selection of reading material including recent magazines. Comfortable seating.
The Casino is next to Martinis in a walk through type arrangement. It was not very busy during our cruise. Usually about 2 tables open and maybe about 5 slot players. Nice blackjack game for a cruise ship. Six deck shoe; dealer stands on soft 17; $10 min, $5 on some afternoons. I seem to have trained myself to avoid the smoke in these areas, of course on O this area like most is non-smoking; very nice.
Ports of Call:
Tangier, Morocco We did not do a ship's tour. Our goal was to just walk about it a bit to have the boast of having stepped on the soil of Africa. Well, the local tour vendors are aggressive. They take forever to take No for an answer, all the while warning you how dangerous a place the Medina is and how you have no chance to walk to the Casbah without being surrounded by vendors. One followed us for about 20 minutes before accepting "No Tour" as the final word. We did link up with 4 others and were able to walk as in a convoy. However the entire experience was pretty miserable. If you must see a particular attraction, it probably is better do a tour, even though you will waste a lot of time at the required vendor stops. If you are used to the aggressive environment, more power to you and enjoy. Tangier tour vendors made the vendors in Mexico and the Caribbean seem very tame.
Madeira, Portugal No ship's excursion here either. We did get good advice from the local tourist advisor that came onboard to use a taxi to get to the Museum that we wanted to see and then walk back - DOWNHILL. We enjoyed the Museu Quinta des Cruzes and two lovely parks. The tiled sidewalks are lovely but are rough on the feet. We walked back to ship and enjoyed views from the walls along the port.
Hamilton, Bermuda We had an overnight call here. The weather was rainy the first day. We got the O provided umbrella out and walked up to Fort Hamilton and then browsed our way back through Hamilton to the ship. The second day was overcast with bits of sun. We took the bus to St. George. We did a guided tour which lasted one hour and was too short because the guide was excellent and the price was right - free. There was a brief play to follow but the rain convinced us to return to the ship.
Weather and Seas: Weather in Barcelona pretrip was very mild, wonderful for sightseeing. We had cool temps most days at sea and in the ports of call. We had two days of rough seas, not horrible but enough that maybe half of the cruisers were affected. We had a couple of days nice enough to sunbath.
Disembarkation: Oceania gets a low rating here. Not well organized with little information available besides your departure time. Everyone was waiting on deck 4 to depart which was where all previous port departures happened. The gangway was open and manned with crew. That crew and ourselves were surprised to learn that passengers would depart on deck 5. So about 100 passengers lugged their possessions up the stairs or waited for elevators to disembark on deck 5.
Loved our fellow cruisers. Most cruisers were very friendly and outgoing. They usually introduced themselves and greeted you on following days. The bridge lessons and the trivia contests provided us with many friends to dine and recreate with. The fellowship was the highlight of the cruise.
On this sailing the Grand Dining Room had some issues. In general O shines with the no extra charge specialty restaurants, few children, practically smoke free environment and small ship advantages such as no lines and onboard convenience.