Oceania Cruises has earned a fine reputation by providing great food, good and personable service on friendly well-maintained ships, with interesting itineraries. The company lived up to that billing on our recent 24-day Amazon Adventure cruise aboard Regatta. In many ways, we had a fabulous experience.
Unfortunately, a series of planning and communications failures by Oceania marred the trip and left many of us frustrated. The check-in procedure was a disaster, a purported computer snafu that kept us waiting in the terminal three hours. Worse yet, ports promised in promotional literature last year were switched. One port was skipped altogether. At a key port, we lost half a day of touring time because of sailing delays. The crew aboard ship, regrettably, didn't even want to acknowledge the problems. Let's hope there has been some private rear-kicking in the Miami headquarters.
This was an ambitious cruise: leave Miami, go through the Caribbean, visit various islands, then enter the Amazon for eight days and visit Santarem, Boca da Valeria, Parintins and Manaus for two days, then stop at various Caribbean islands on the way back to Miami. We paid about $5,900 per person including tips for our stateroom, 4049, very well located just steps from the reception desk and central stairway. The ship, although 13 years old, looks all but new. We had to look hard to see any maintenance issues. Our stateroom was pretty, in near-perfect condition, and quiet. Everything, including the air conditioning, which was really needed, worked fine. The stateroom attendant was seldom seen, but kept up the room twice a day in timely fashion. The public areas of the ship were very attractive and very well maintained. You could occasionally see crewmen doing painting, which is a good sign on a ship. The food was very good, sometimes excellent, sometimes even superb. The top chef was available to talk to passengers almost every day. They do, however, need a better recipe for scrambled eggs and hash browns in the mornings. Oceania has no separate charge for any of their restaurants. Let's hope that continues. The two specialty restaurants were excellent. Restaurant service was usually pleasant and good, although a little slow at times. Overall, the staff throughout the ship were a joy to be around. Entertainment was of mixed appeal. In various parts of the ship, we had a string quartet, which really adds class, a piano player, and a band. All were good and entertaining. Other entertainers were brought aboard for special appearances, and some were quite good. Passenger laundry facilities and internet service, like on all Oceania ships, were terrible. The enrichment lecturers weren't very useful. We suffered a lot by not having an Amazon naturalist aboard. Shore excursions offered by the ship were overpriced, and we heard numerous complaints about them. We booked private guides in several of the key stops, including in the Amazon, and they provided great experiences for us.
The problems on this cruise came with the ports. As we boarded, we were informed we would not stop in Tobago but rather go to Port of Spain. This was not an even trade. Because of that change, we lost a shore excursion we had booked privately in Tobago. They could have informed us of this change days before we left home. After Port of Spain, the schedule failed to allow enough time to get to Santarem. They knew or should have known that weather in this area can pose problems, and they surely knew that Brazil customs authorities are feuding with the United States and might hold us up as we entered the Amazon. Because of these delays, we arrived in Santarem at 3 p.m. and lost half a day of our privately arranged shore excursion. Our stop at Devil's Island was skipped, purportedly because of high seas. Again, they knew or should have known that this stop is chancy for cruise ships. We were NOT warned about that in promotional literature. As a result, we expected and looked forward to the stop. The captain could have tried to land, or could have waited for several hours to see if the seas calmed. He did neither, and did not even go slowly past the island to give us a photo opportunity. Originally, Grand Turk was to be our final port. But we were told after we had made our reservations that would change to Nassau. Again, not a fair trade.
While on the Amazon, if Oceania had planned properly, we would have had more time to visit one other city, perhaps Belem. Or we could have been given an overnight stop in Santarem. Instead, we spent too much time in Caribbean ports. We registered these concerns on board, including to the captain directly, but the ship personnel saw nothing wrong. They didn't seem to grasp that they should deliver what they promised. They never apologized for the computer snafu at check-in.
Considering complaints on other Oceania cruises about changing ports, and now the mysterious problem with Insignia, one has to wonder if Oceania is slipping a bit. While we love the memories of our Amazon trip, the big question is: would we schedule it again, knowing what we now know? The answer might be no.