Port: Miami, Florida
12 Night Caribbean cruise - 8 Ports of Call.
(This is a Man's observation!!).
This review is more about the ship, its staff, service, food & beverage rather than the ports of call.. The weather was great and the seas were fairly calm most of the time.
First of all I must say that the service and food was the best I have experienced in the 18 cruises I have taken in comparison to Norwegian, RCL, Celebrity, Holland America and Princess. I would say that Celebrity is a close second if you include their specialty restaurants ( Tuscan Grill & Murano).
This was our first experience with Oceania and we boarded the Marina without having any high expectations, which we always do with any cruise line.
Our balcony stateroom was nicely furnished. If there was any down side to the stateroom it was that the closet is situated beside the bed which is a bit awkward, especially for women, perhaps not men. But when your sharing, it is the man who is always in the way! (Just kidding!) Very nice large flat screen LCD/DVD TV. The bed, mattress & bedding was very comfortable.
We did find however that being located near the front of the ship * (Deck 8 starboard side forward) , we found that we always had a very wet & salty balcony plus our two chair cushions were wet and covered in salt. I know that this is from the spray of the ocean but I found this quite interesting because of all the balcony rooms we have had in the past I have never seen the accumulation of thick salt like this. We advised our stateroom steward to please take in the cushions at night to keep them dry and salt free. However, this seemed to slip by most of the time which then ended up with our doubling up on towels to place on the cushions. Not a big deal.
The washroom is very nicely appointed with a very large bathtub and separate shower. Unfortunately, I am not sure what the ship designers were thinking as the shower is so tight most people would (and did) have trouble manoeuvring around.
It was a waste of space and the shower should have been in the tub area as in most other ships. The shower reminded me of the capsule that was used to free the poor Miners in Chile. No exaggeration. Everyone we talked to had the same opinion of the shower along with the poorly designed Toilet paper dispenser and shower soap dish. If you drop the soap be careful!!
The elevators located at the front of the ship were very narrow in design. This was another common complaint. Should have seen it when it was busy, trying to get on and off the elevator.
The four specialty restaurants (Toscana, Polo Grill, Jaques, and Red Ginger) were good to very good ( and no surcharge!!). Tried to go back to either Toscana or the Polo Grill but they were booked solid the rest of the trip. We were even on a cancellation waiting list.
We dined in the Main dining room 3 times and we found that dining outside ( aft ) at the Terrace Grill ( 5 times) for dinner was one of our favourites!! Food & Service was great. P.S. Give the dining room a miss when it comes to lunch. Loved the Terrace for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The seating and small stage in the main entertainment theatre (forward) was not designed properly and provided poor viewing. The acts and performers were ok. but we did not expect anything more than what we experienced. We and others had to keep moving in our seats in order to see around the person sitting in front of you. Recommendation....sit in the front row!!
Although we are not gamblers the Casino was very mundane with dark contrasts and no glitz. To an avid gambler they probably would not notice or care! I was quite surprised though at the lack of decorating that they put into the casino. Certainly does not match up to the casinos we have seen on other ships.
Great Fitness center! I used the fitness center on 8 of the 12 days on board. Nicely equipped and the best for any mid sized ship that
I have been on. Being a gym buff all my life I could see that it could use a few extra pieces of equipment but overall is was great for a cruise ship. I would rank it as second only to Celebrity's Millennium & Solstice class ships and who I think have the best fitness centers at sea..
Bonus..The Marina's fitness center had a fridge with complimentary bottled water, Gatorade & Vitamin water.
The fitness center is kept constantly clean by staff. Plenty of disinfectant spray, hand dispensers and wipes. Lots of towels. Major points in this area!! Very impressed.
Forgot to mention that all pop ( can ) and bottled water ("in room and around the ship") is complimentary. And the pop is not the fountain syrup type you get on most ships that you pay for!
For coffee lovers...Check out Baristas overlooking the pool area and located next to the Library and internet. Lattes, Cappuccinos, Espressos etc. ( no charge!! & pastries) are complimentary!
Went to Baristas almost every morning for a Latte, sometimes twice a day and the view is nice.
Another plus is that the staff are not hustling you for drinks and there is very little in the way of noisy irritating out of tune bands playing, or those constant P.A. announcements. Pool and deck is nicely laid out. Lounge chairs are not only padded but covered in a very soft towel like material. I noticed how attentive the pool area staff is and how hard they work. A Major thank you to all the staff.
If you want to save on drinks ( Cocktails ) make sure you go to Happy Hour ( 5pm to 6pm ) as they are all 2 for 1 on all their bar drinks ( Beer, Wines, good name brand spirits like Mount Gay & Bacardi rums, Tanquerey & Bamboo Sapphire gins, Gray Goose vodka etc.)
I did have one minor complaint that I did voice with the bar staff in Horizons observation lounge (forward). On three occasions during Happy hour ( 5pm to 6pm) we found that the staff was very slow on noticing us before recognizing that we were waiting to be served despite our efforts to give them the high sign for service, which you should not have to do if the staff is experienced.
On the third occasion I finally brought this to the attention of the cocktail server who finally arrived to take our order. The server was very apologetic. I pointed out that this was the third time in three visits to Horizons that we had poor service. This is also the first time I have ever had to complain about service on any cruise. We did not go back. I guess we should have sat right at the bar so we would be noticed.
Health & Cleanliness is another good point for Oceania. Unlike other cruise lines we have been on, Oceania does not allow you to serve yourself. I think this should be an adopted policy throughout the cruise line industry as it reduces the risk of disease & the spread of influenza. Plus it cuts down on the waste of food.
When it came to disembarking, Oceania should consider reviewing its procedures. It would really make sense and avoid the frenzy of anxious and crowding by allowing the passengers to wait in their staterooms until their colored number is called, which is the case for some of the other cruise lines.
Also, for those cruises embarking and disembarking from a U.S. Port, why don't they explore the logistics with U.S.-DHS of having a pre screening program the last night of the cruise to expedite passengers ( especially NEXUS holders ) with disembarking in a more efficient manner. Oceania should also consider having a second disembarkation door as the one they have is too crowded.
Several of the passengers we met had sailed on Oceania's smaller ships and preferred the smaller 600 passenger ships. Overall, our Oceania experience was great! Would I cruise with Oceania again? Yes! I would like to try their smaller class ships next time but would go back on their newest ship which is about to launch "the Riviera".
We are heading off in May for a 7 day Coastal repositioning cruise on the Sapphire Princess, but in all fairness you just can not compare to Oceania. As with the Marina we do not have any high expectations with the Sapphire Princess.
We are also looking forward to doing a 13 night TransAtlantic crossing on the new Celebrity Eclipse from Southampton to Miami in October 2011. The Eclipse is a Solstice class ship and we really enjoyed sailing on her sister ship the Equinox back in December of 2009. It will be interesting in comparing the two.