We were originally scheduled to take the NYC-Montreal cruise, but we received an offer we could not refuse! Our September 19 - October 1 cruise (Greek Isles - Istanbul) on the Nautica was probably the best cruise we have ever taken.
We used O's air, transfer and hotel in Athens due to the possibility of unrest. We upgraded to business class and were extremely pleased with our flights. A driver was waiting in the airport with our name on a sign as well as an O rep. Couldn't have been smoother!
Arrived at the Hotel Grande Bretagne to find an O information center and our room waiting. Quite comfortable and we could view the parliament building (changing of the guard) from our balcony. Had dinner reservations for the rooftop restaurant. It was very crowded, but our "special anniversary" table was waiting for us with a view of the Acropolis. Spectacular! Food and service were both great, but as discussed on this board, a little pricey. Being from NY, we were prepared for that! A small demonstration in the street below broke out during dinner but was quickly contained. Slept well and had breakfast (included) in the same restaurant the next morning.
The lobby was a little packed the next morning as post cruise passengers and new cruisers were coming and going. It was very organized and when our luggage was loaded, we left for the pier. Embarkation was smooth, but different from our last Athens departure. We checked in at the pier and headed for the lounge on 5 for actual check-in. Rooms were not ready yet, so lunch at the Terrace was next. Our suite was amazing. The wrap around balcony had a table and four chairs as well as two full sized lounges. Long stemmed roses were on the coffee table. The bathroom was enormous, and even better, the guest bathroom was ready and waiting for my husband's toiletries! The closet space was never ending, but I did manage to fill them up. I could see myself feeling right at home for 12 days!
Our butler, Iljco came to greet us and ask what we needed to make our cruise special. It already was! We enjoyed full breakfast in our suite most days and had dinner from Toscana "en suite" 3 times.
We changed and went to the cabana, where our attendant, Aung, introduced himself and asked what we would need. He always seemed to know what we needed before we did! We often enjoyed lunch from WAVES, ice cream, afternoon tea and drinks while in our cabana. Worth every penny!
We dined in Polo 3 times and were always pleased with our meals and the service. The GDR was our favorite. The service was amazing (Brandon, Ron and Ernesto)and we always requested to be in their section. One nite, we even passed on the GDR when a table in their section was not available, that's how great they were!
Did not make use of the spa except for the sun deck. Being a port intensive cruise and using the cabana daily, we never really had the time. While it is no secret that entertainment is not the reason to choose O, we often enjoyed snippets of a show or performance. I think we were just too tired after an early rise, an excursion, a big dinner, etc. The show rooms were always packed, though, and many people enjoyed the performances.
O shore excursions were great this time. We purchased a number of "Oceania's Choice" excursions (10 - 16 people max) and they really worked for us. Tours were efficiently dispatched from the lounge, buses were always clean and guides knowledgeable and friendly.
Ship was clean and well maintained. The staff seemed extra friendly. When I mentioned this to anyone, they always answered that the Captain sets the tone. Captain Rye, who renewed our vows on a previous cruise, was always friendly. It was fascinating to watch him work on the bridge. He took the helm and allowed all of his crew to answer our questions and demonstrate their duties. What a treat!
Ports were amazing. We had been to some of them on a previous cruise, but Rhodes is my new favorite. We bypassed Delos and Mykonos due to weather, but having been there before, we welcomed the sea day. Kusadasi and Istanbul were exciting. Ephesus was special for us, allowing us to spend time at Mother Mary's house and enjoy the ruins as well. Our guide that day, Sibel, was very interesting and knowledgeable.
It is never fun to disembark, but I must say that this disembarkation was the smoothest we have ever experienced. Kudos to Sonja and her staff! Not only was it efficient getting off the ship and getting to the airport, O reps even helped us off of the bus, got all luggage identified,loaded and scanned and escorted us to the check in desks. This is a chore we always dread, but it couldn't have been smoother or more pleasant.
I can't wait for my next O cruise!