We're just off the Oceania Marina's Tastes of Europe cruise, that ended in Rome yesterday, August 26,2011. The impressions are all fresh in our minds.
Overall it was a satisfying experience but far from the original expectations built up by the heavy advertisements in press and via internet. The passengers have the opportunity to fill in a feedback document, that we decided against submitting but it does serve as a good template for organising the comments below.
We had a Penthouse cabin provided with butler services. The accommodations were satisfactory along with the Stateroom maintenance. Too bad that the cabins are rather poorly built with squeaky doors and hissing sound from the wind outside, that the maintenance crew tried to prevent but didn't succeed entirely. The bathroom facilities were adequate and the towel service was prompt and unobtrusive.
The services provided were rather poor. To start with, most of the service desks, the travel desk, the reception etc would not answer directly and one should have expected to be called back in order to register the specific requests. After being denied service for a number of times (related to trip planning, concierge service and another time a special request for room service), we asked to speak to the cruise director. The request did not even generate a call from the director. Instead of it we had our complaints acknowledged by the respective service staff ?!. While we had access to the Executive Concierge service, it was almost impossible to get to the sole person who was supposed to provide them. The line up could take literally over ½ hour at any time of the day. The concierge was only available during limited intervals of the day (about 8 hours). Generally the reception and destination staff and management were 'lost at sea' looking for excuses rather than trying to do their job well. Totally uninformed about the locations we docked at, not ready to resolve any issues on the spot without going for 'approval' (this refers to mistakes in the billing)
The cruise staff was rather efficient but annoyingly eager to acknowledge the passengers at all times. This created an impression of artificial courtesy. The same comment goes for the Red Ginger and Toscana restaurant staff. One values one's privacy during the dining experience and a non intrusive, while attentive staff. It does get really annoying being asked 8 times during dinner if everything is all right !
The culinary experience was of a high quality. The specialty restaurants were well appointed (we actually dined twice, at each of them) with a wide choice of on each restaurant menu. The Far Eastern, Red Ginger restaurant was somehow disappointing, by trying to please all tastes but not able to concentrate on any of the far eastern cuisine well. It wasn't either a Chinese or a Japanese or a Thai restaurant, but had a dish from each cuisine . La Reserve's food was of a good standard but the wine pairings were mostly off (their excuse was that the Wine Spectator picked up the pairings ??!! ). The Grand Dining Room was OK.,.
The butler service proved worth its price after the first day when our calls were not returned for lengthy periods of time. We had a 'friendly talk' with the butler after which he got 'religion' and probably started servicing us ahead of other passengers.
The entertainment was of a very poor quality except for Bruce Parker who did a good job singing the tunes and getting the audience involved.
The shore excursions were a real disaster ! The group sizes varied from 40-50 people, the guides were impossible to be heard unless one was at a foot distance away and the tour content was extremely poor. We ended up going of 3 of these but heard the same comments from other passengers who went on other ones. We ended up actually renting a car in three locations, namely in Saint-jean-de-luz, Cadiz and Livorno. The prices charged for the shore excursions were a total rip-off.
Overall not a bad experience but it won't bring us back to the Oceania again. Lots of regrets to lose the good food experience (thanks to Jaques Pepin ?...who was on the cruise himself and I caught him ordering at lease 3 times hot dogs for lunch !!!)