I would like to break the cruise down in to various categories as it is important that I recognise the good and bad with Nautica/Oceania Cruise. It is also based on our experiences on other cruise lines and is my personal perspective from a non-American perspective.
Embarkation : Being Concierge certainly helped with an early and speedy check in in Hong Kong. Well organised.
Disembarkation : In Dubai and the most organised we have have seen on any cruise vessel and they even had porters organised for us and which were paid for. Went as smooth as silk.
Food : Firstly, a vessel who has pastry chefs who know how to make nice and fresh desserts and pastries. Apart from Croissants(however no-one on vessels seems to be able to do them correctly.
Terrace/Tapas - was our main eating area. Great food and the evening meals were great. However, calling it Tapas is a mis-naming for the evening.
Polo Grill was great and the meat was cooked exactly how I like it(french Blue). First Prime Rib I have had in some 15 years that had no fat in it.
Toscanas - most meals were great except for the prosciutto(Not good and very unitalian).
Grand Dining Room - only ate there a couple of times for dinner - Food was average and was just like any large restaurant in the USA. Get the order, serve it fast. Do not blame the chefs or waiters as it is the biggest restaurant on the boat and it is always full. Never ate b/fast or lunch there.
Waves - Food was just OK - hamburgers were very bland - smoothies were great
Service - generally extremely good - from cabin stewards to waiting staff to front desk and hospitality desks. They were absolutely brilliant
The mixture of nationalities of the crew is amazing and we found that talking to a lot of them was a most interesting experience especially regarding the ports were visiting.
One very annoying thing was the speed at which plates were removed from your table with cutlery. Take the last morsel and a hand was there to take the plate away. When are people going to learn that we non-Americans(there a were a lot of non-Americans on this cruise) do not put everything on one plate we have a different plate for each course.
One other thing is the coke tasted like diet coke. Found out why. It is served as a type of coke that is produced for maritime and air travel purposes only so a lot less caffeine.
Also took a while for the staff to work out what an espresso coffee is.
Alcohol - This is a rip off - $USD20 bottles of wine in Australia being S50 - $60 per bottle plus 18%. Not good. However, had some great wines from South America and Europe on the list which we did sample.
Tours - we booked our own as most were only 50% - 60% of the cost of the boat tours and we had a private driver and guide with a vehicle. We did 2 small tours with Oceania(one on a large coach and one was for only 10 - 16 people). Take the 10 - 16 people one as it has more freedom. But if you can try and do your own thing.
Passengers : Met some great people from USA, Canada, Europe and England who have travelled a lot also and this also made it an interesting trip. I mention this as most people we have met on RSSC are there for the looks and name and not interested in most places being visited. The international passengers(Non-Australian) on Nautica were great and very pleasant.
I will apologise for some of the Australians who's behaviour I thought left me a little embarrassed.
Also to the couple of Americans who say Australians do not tip. Our gratuities are included in our fare we pay for the cruise and also some Australians did pay tips to tours guides and drivers(EG we did)
Cabaret- Did not go there as we go on these trips to visit places and we also tend to eat late.
Entertainment - saw one act and that was not that good. One thing missing is a piano bar where we can listen to some music and have after dinner drinks in a quiet area and not near poker machines.
Ports of Call - Most were very good and those that were not we were aware of anyway before we embarked onto Nautica(checked on the internet and with a local travel agent in each place we went to(used the net again). Yes, some ports were a bit out of the way or just industrial wharfs but this will happen as cruising into some of these ports is only just beginning on a regular basis.
EG Chang May(Vietnam and backup for DaNang) is an industrial port with no facilities at all, no shops or townn there, roads are extremely bad but it is still easy to get to DaNang/Hoi An or Hue from there. Saigon(HCMC) cruise terminal is near city centre - great location - however for other very large cruise vessels they may berth at the new port some 90 minutes out of HCMC centre, Phuket again is out of the main town centre but taxis and tuk tuks(4 wheel variety) are cheap and get you there in 25 - 30 minutes, Yangon(Myanmar/Burma) wharf we berthed at is Thilawa some 60 minutes from Yangon Centre. Again no facilities there as an industrail/commercial wharf area but again you are not there for that. Muscat(Oman) was again a difficult port to get out of but we had shuttle buses for the 5 minute drive into the city area and from there do what you want in total safety
Cabin. Yes it is a lot smaller than RSSC and we were concerned about it. However, after a few days we were OK with it and all went well. It was clean, the room stewards were brilliant. bathroom is a little small(especially the shower). Plenty of storage areas for things.
Other nice features not on other vessels we have sailed on.
Shuttle buses provide at many of the ports.
Having a local tourist board person come on board in a number of portswas great.
Having the local bank come on board to exchange USD to a local currencyand then take local currency back(incl. coins) and giving us USD back was a brilliant idea. Exchange rate was also very reasonable.
Having organised and paid for porters at port of disembarkation made this process so much easier
For a coffee drinker we had access to coffee on a 24/7 basis
Using the Ships Laundry was so reasonable compared to other cruise lines
Paying for the use of the laundrette on deck 7
There is the only one laundrette and it is small so very crowded
If a presentation by the Oceania Ambassador is being made some idea of the make up of the passengers helps so that we can be told what the cost is w/o airfares as they are no use to non-Americans flying to say Hong
Kong or Capetown or Buenos Aires or Rio De Janeiro
I also think that Head Office and the vessel management need to know what each other is doing as once on board they knew what was being done(EG shuttle buses). Blame this on Floridian office of Oceania.
A few more external power points in various lounges would be good so one can do trip reports, download photos etc. with a cup of coffee and pastry.
Only found one in card room.
Overall, the vessel was great, generally food was good, cruise was brilliant, staff/crew were great, well organised and yes we have booked another cruise with Oceania in 2012 as it meets our requirements and goes to those places we have on our bucket list to see whilst we still can. Very few other cruise boats do a lot of the cruises Oceania do and I suspect that is why we met a lot of very interesting people who had travelled a lot.
Oceania, apart from some minor irritations, was great and provides a better value for the dollar than RSSC.