We’ve sailed Oceania before and think they provide an excellent experience. Even so, a thirty day cruise was a log time and a lot of money, so we debated about it. The itinerary convinced us, with fifteen ports, most places we’d never been that are difficult to get to any other way, sailing the West Coast of Africa. There were twelve sea days - interspersed nicely with the ports, to make for a very relaxing cruise, mostly through tropical waters. Midway through the cruise, I got to my 100th country.
The Nautica is a beautiful ship - we discovered on a Renaissance cruise over a decade ago. The public rooms are nicely decorated, the cabins are reasonably roomy and easy to live in. Oceania beds are among the most comfortable we’ve experienced. Oceania is outstanding for service - friendly, helpful crew that always great you, even as you pass in the hallway. The crew was from 44 countries, making my custom of saying thank you in the right language a challenge, but one always met with a smile of appreciation.
Food onboard was a highlight of the trip - the Grand Dining Room serves a four course lunch and a six course dinner with a variety of options that changes daily. Passengers are seated when they arrive, at a table for two or a bigger table for groups or those who want to share (a great way to meet new people). The Terrace Cafe offers cafeteria style (with someone to carry your plate and someone to spoon on the cottage cheese), convenient for breakfast and open three meals a day, with plenty of outdoor seating. The two specialty restaurants were there for dinners grander than the six course Grand Dining Room, with specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegar, larger portions and even more elaborate service. They required reservations, but we had no problem making them before departure and during the cruise. The breads are baked three times daily, special requests are honored easily, and wine follows you to the next meal if you don’t finish the bottle. Several items were memorable from the dover sole at Toscany to the cold fruit soups that appeared regularly to the oversized roast beef at the Polo Grill.
The entertainment staff were welcoming and friendly. Good enrichment speakers regularly provided at-sea day talks (unfortunately not on West Africa), the comedians were great, services were held every Friday night and all through Chanukah for the Jews on board - even latkes. The reception staff was helpful in solving problems. The disappointment was in destination services, where they couldn’t tell us the location of the Modern Art Museum in Istanbul (it was a quarter mile away on the dock), were totally useless for travelers not booking on an excursion, and almost as useless for those investing in the badly planned and badly operated excursions (forced non-stop march through the market in Tunis).
I actually tried the gym, a radical move for me. I preferred the library, but I signed up for three hours of trainer who helped me learn how to use all those exercise machines. She was delightful, but didn't overcome decades of inactivity.
The West African ports were not ready for prime time - we were pioneering in stops in The Gambia, Togo and Benin. They did not have the tourist infrastructure to deal with 684 tourists arriving at once, staying eight hours, and leaving - things like money changing, taxis, even maps and materials. The people were delightful, happy to see us, ready to sell everything (good price - special for you). Their crafts and fabrics were wonderful, and we brought home many great memories and souvenirs. Dakar and Takoradi, Ghana were better organized, but still difficult. The tour of Goree Island and it's slave transit facilities was moving. The other stops, Crete, Malta, Tunis, Valencia, Casablanca, Canary Islands, Namibia and Cape Town are far better equipped to deal with tourists, and the four wheel drive through the Namibian desert was fabulous.
We were not bothered by the thirty day cruise, although I'm not sure I could have taken the back-to-back cruise to Singapore that went for another forty days, as several of the people on the ship did. I was disappointed that it was over.