Marina Cruise Review by chefboz: Sands of Time- Nov 2011
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Sands of Time- Nov 2011
This cruise began in Istanbul and ended in Athens. Because of the unrest in the middle east, Egypt was cancelled 6 months ago- a disappointment and I believe premature and wrong but I understand that Oceania has to try and protect their customers. A coworker just got back from Cairo and had a great time, there was no problems and because of all of the cancelled tours and cruises the monuments were the least crowded in probably over 50 years.
Just as the ship was starting boarding passengers we found out that the port we anticipated docking at in Ashdod was changed to Haifa over safety concerns. Again, frustrating and messed up our private tours we had scheduled months before but a safety decision.
Aside from that, the cruise was as expected. Food was too good with only a few only mediocre dishes, service was very good and I believe Oceania does a great job in screening their staff to appear happy and customer oriented.
PH3 was an offered upgrade and gave More us the opportunity to have in suite dining from the specialty restaurants as well as an additional amount of room in the suite and bathroom. The space was nice, the walk in closet was really nice because it really felt much more like a nice hotel room than a cabin. I had no issues with the shower, none at all. The rain head was nice, and the water wand was a good feature. The shower is not the size of modern American showers, and it is probably a bit short for those passengers well over 6 ft tall. I personally enjoyed the bath tub. My wife didn't use it, but I like to soak in a tub, and found it to be a nice addition. The bathroom was laid out very well and had plenty of storage.
The bed, as advertised was Heavenly and the bedding was very nice. Because we did use the in suite Butler delivered food the small table and odd chairs at the end of the bed made perfect sense and worked much better than traditional chairs for getting up and out. ( you can probably find pics of the chairs to see what I mean.
The television selection was OK, the DVD library was OK-but to be honest with the port intensive itinerary Oceania has, there is little time for TV anyway.
Internet in the computer lounge is slow and expensive, but anticipated that . Wife purchased 100 minutes for $80 and used it for coordinating changes in the tours and checking back home. I do remember the old days of paying very high fees for calling home from Italy or France in the 1970's and 1980's so to be honest instead of calling we email and it is really much more convenient because of the time difference. Again, just what we anticipated.
Embarkation was smooth and easy, and so was exiting from the ship. Very well organized and efficient. I have no suggestions at all for improvements in this area.I felt the ship was well organized. I saw a man writing in his comment card that he thought the signage was"terrible" and have no idea what his rationale for this was. You could put signs up everywhere and really mess up the atmosphere or you could just read the signs and remember where things are. IMO too many signs detract from the ambiance of the ship.
The artwork was really a plus. All of it modern, some of it fascinating, some of it from major names, Miro, Picasso and some of it just colorful. But all was well done.
The ship was spotless and the only criticism was because the ship uses the laundered cloth hand towels, they seem to run out of these as opposed to paper towels. But I love the cloth towels, they just need to track them more frequently. The round granite sinks in the washrooms were really nice looking with the rough hewn exterior and fit in very well with the polished black decor. But the bowl is small and water routinely splashed out. The neatness freak in me kept wiping up the spills because the washrooms looked so cool I didn't want to spoil it for the next person.
Adequate amounts of alcohol gel dispensers in front of the restaurants, but they may consider adding more to the public areas.
I never had any service problems with Reception or Destination Services. We had one shipboard tour with Nikki D'Souza who was our destination coordinator and she was very involved in coaching the Oceania assistant and checking to see how to tour progressed and trying to get passengers involved in the tour. Kudos to her.
Entertainment was OK, but didn't see a lot of it- too tired by 9:45pm. The Marina Lounge was nicer than the Regatta, and the enrichment lectures were good. On board shopping was nothing special, but the attendants were nice.
Fortunately didn't need medical services.
We tendered into one port, and leaving the ship we used a tender from the port and not the Marina boat, on the way back the waves had picked up and the tender was more of an experience. I had heard that some CC members thought the tenders were poorly designed. They are small and cramped, but using public transportation in Chicago we are used to that and I didn't have an issue with it.Food and Restaurants
Red Ginger was beautiful, I didn't get the decor at Jaccques. Polo looked nicer on Marina than on Regatta, and Toscana was OK.
Red Ginger had one dish that wife and I loved, the duck and watermelon salad was WONDERFUL. Other dishes didn't excite me like other reviewers. Jacques had a lamb in pistachio and puff pastry that was incredible. Had a great steak at Polo. The specialty restaurants were all good to very good.
I think we had better meals in the GDR on this trip than the last on Regatta. One morning went down and got the lamb chops for breakfast, yet another decadent treat I will be paying for over the next 6 months.
Waves Grill knocks out a good burger, really good fries and exceptional milk shakes and malts. The problem is that when they have peak time, they have to begin some of the sandwiches ahead of time and found on occasion they were either not hot or a bit soggy on the bottom. I expect this is done because there are people who I sat next to, who were going nuts because there meal wasn't delivered to them in about 7 minutes. So at peak time the staff either have to have people wait 10 minutes for sandwiches or they can prepare some a bit ahead.
Terrace Cafe was a good experience again. The change in ports ended up with many passengers coming back very late, missing their scheduled specialty restaurants and everyone ending up in Terrace Cafe at the same time. That was the only time I saw crowds and had to wait in line for anything. This was understandable and I felt acceptable. I think the grilling thing is overrated. The foods again are par cooked and essentially just grilled enough to reheat and put some grill marks on them. So again, the balance of better preparation vs speed of service. The salads were very good, the deserts were very good.
In comparison between the smaller and larger ships on Marina.....I would select the ship based on itinerary . The Marina is newer and nicer and offers more amenities and never really felt crowded. The smaller ships are a bit more intimate and able to get in some ports that the larger ships cannot.
The newer larger ships have two more specialty restaurants, but overall the quality of food IMO is the same. The library is designed very differently on the Marina than the Regatta. Much more like a library and less like a club room. I don't know if I would say it is better or worse than Regatta, just different, maybe a bit more difficult to get around.
Overall a happy experience with Oceania, good service, good food, great beds. Less
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Our room was fine. No outside hall noise, some sounds could be heard from an adjacent cabin but was so muted I couldn't distinguish what it was. Sounded like a TV but so soft it really wasn't an issue. Veranda was fine, everything was fine.
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