Overall Impressions -- Everything about Oceania is first rate. The food is delicious, the ship is beautifully maintained and elegant, and the staff is attentive yet friendly. I would book another cruise on Oceania without hesitation. Everyone we met was having an equally good time on the cruise.
Demographics We are in our early 40’s. There were perhaps 20-30 active couples from their late 20’s to early 40’s onboard (makes sense the Caribbean itinerary would draw a few younger passengers who can take two weeks away from work). This is not a good ship for children as the only recreational activities are shuffleboard and ping pong.
Embarkation -- We flew into Miami one day early because we live on the West Coast. Several passengers were not able to fly in early, and ended up with redeye flights because there is no way to get from the West Coast to Miami in time for departure on the same day. We arrived at the cruise ship terminal about 12:00. There was a fairly large line, but we were on board by 12:45. We our first of many lunches in the Terrace Café, made reservations for dinner and picked out a few books from the library. Shortly after 2 p.m. the cabins were ready.
Stateroom -- We were in Penthouse Suite 8038, and were quite pleased with the size and layout of the room. We had plenty of space to store all of our belongings in the closets and dressers, and the suitcases also fit in the closet and under the bed. I do wish the coffee table could have been adjusted to card table height. The cabin steward and her cleaning team kept the room spotless and always had a smile on their faces when we saw them in the passageway. We called her to report a burned out light bulb, and it was fixed within 30 minutes. The butler appeared to be quite busy, but we did not use his services. On this ship everything is so close that it’s easier to walk up a flight of stairs to the Terrace Café and get a cup of coffee out of the machine than it is to call the butler. We never had course by course room service because we were able to get reservations every night in Polo and Toscana we tried, and had no problem getting a table for two in the Grand Dining Room on the few nights we wanted to eat by ourselves. Had the ship been full we might have used the course-by-course dining.
Ship Impressions -- Regatta is the perfect size for us. Even with four sea days we had no problems keeping busy. We spent several hours each day by the pool reading (sometimes in the shade, sometimes in the sun). The gym has treadmills, elliptical machines and bicycles as well as about 8 weight machines. There were times when all the equipment was in use, so the gym could have been crowded with a full load of passengers on this itinerary. The Mandara Spa staff was well trained and helpful, although I cannot say that the pricing is a good value. There were two lecturers onboard (National Geographic photographer and a book expert). The photographer gave a very professional lecture, and drew a good crowd. If you want a variety of scheduled activities beyond Bingo, trivia and art auctions you will be better off on another line. Thankfully there are no ice skating rinks or rock climbing walls on Regatta!
Dining -- We ate breakfasts and lunches at the Terrace Café. The pastries and fruits were always fresh and presented well with friendly service. Crew members were available to carry plates for those passengers wanting assistance. The lunchtime pizza counter at Terrace Café was a daily stop. We ate most dinners at the Grand Dining Room. We made full use of Oceania’s open seating policy, eating some dinners at 6:30 and other days at 8:30. Over the course of the cruise we asked to sit at 10, 8, 6 and two person tables, depending upon our mood. The breads, soups, salads, desserts and ice creams were all freshly prepared and perfectly served. The seafood and pasta were delicious. We ate dinner twice each at Polo Grill and Toscana. Everything at Toscana was prepared and served with Oceania’s trademark friendly yet attentive service. Our first meal at Polo Grill was disappointing. The steaks were very good (but not outstanding) and the side dishes -– potatoes and vegetables -– were prepared with way too much butter for our tastes. The second time at Polo Grill we had an outstanding lamb dish and skipped the side dishes in favor of appetizers. The afternoon tea in Horizons had an ever changing variety of pastries and sandwiches.
Ports -- Casa de Campo, DR -- After two days at sea, we were ready to get off the ship. Passengers are tendered to the Casa de Campo marina where there are a few high end stores and an Italian restaurant. There were some taxis available, but we had already chosen to take a catamaran snorkeling trip through Oceania. The time on the catamaran was relaxing, but the snorkeling at Catalina Island was not good since there was a lot of trash in the water. I did not have luck finding a good third party shore excursion through the Internet, and most of the Oceania excursions never left the Casa de Campo resort. Some passengers said they enjoyed the Chavon River kayaking trip.
Virgin Gorda, BVI –- Regatta tendered again, and again the crew kept the process running smoothly. The highlight of Virgin Gorda is The Baths. We spent about 2.5 hours hiking and walking around the beaches. We wished we had brought snorkel gear with us. Make sure you stop here and spend some time if you are reasonably fit and stable on your feet. To go through the baths you will have to duck walk under a boulder for about 10 feet, wade through knee deep water, climb a wooden ladder and walk up a wet boulder with assist from a guide rope. If you are physically able to do that, don’t miss this special place! There are food, shopping and restroom services available at the Top of the Baths as well as on the beach.
St. Kitts -– Regatta pulls up to the cruise ship pier in Basseterre. I booked the Basseterre to Brimstone tour from the Shoretrips web site. Our guide (Norris Martin) was very articulate and knowledgeable about the island’s history, politics, economy and geography. The highlight of St. Kitts is the Brimstone Hill fortress that was built by the British beginning in the 1690's. Parts of the fortress have been restored and there are spectacular views to the north, east and south. The road to the fortress is a real adventure, and you will be glad someone else is driving! The tour continued around the entire island so we were able to see the sugar cane plantations as well as rural villages.
Dominica -– Dominica does not have beaches, so it is likely to remain less developed than other Caribbean islands for years to come. What it does have is a lush tropical landscape with rivers, waterfalls and ponds. I arranged a private tour with Kens Hinterland Adventures that went to Trafalgar Falls, Titou Gorge and the Emerald Pool.
St. Lucia -– We took the Oceania Land and Sea to Soufriere tour. It makes for a long day, but the Sulfur Hot Springs are worth seeing.
Antigua -– Antigua is the first stop with good shopping. We booked Eli’s Eco-Tour as was highly recommended by many on Cruise Critic. We were not disappointed. Eli is a class act and treats his customers well. Eli mixes history, geography, politics and his childhood memories growing up on Antigua together to give the visitor full comprehension of the issues facing the island. There are opportunities to snorkel, climb rock outcrops and just enjoy the boat. Eli serves a delicious chicken lunch prepared each morning by his neighbor, Harriet. I highly recommend this tour.
St. Barths -– Regatta tenders again at St. Barths. We booked a car through the cruise line at $150 (including gas & pickup/drop-off), which seemed high but it turned into a wonderful day. I'm sure better deals are available directly from Budget, Hertz, Europcar or one of the local agencies -- but the arrangement with Oceania was a nice, last minute convenience for us. We drove past most every beach on the island before deciding to spend a couple hours at Governours. You can see the whole island and spend some time on your favorite beach in 5 or 6 hours. Roads are hilly, but safe because traffic is light, drivers are relaxed and friendly and it is impossible to drive fast on the roads (and also perhaps because the island is so beautiful everyone seems to want to drive slowly!). Of course, the most expensive island has to be my favorite!
Disembarkation -- Very smooth. We sat in Horizons reading for about an hour before our color/number was called to disembark (we had a late flight and didn’t mind waiting). Once our number was called, we disembarked, collected our luggage and were aboard a bus in less than 10 minutes.