Our first Regatta cruise was our third Oceania sailing, and it was familiar territory. The Regatta is a lovely, small ship, well kept and immaculate, but beginning to show her age in small ways - wood floors were water damaged here and there, a few windows in public areas were discolored, obscuring views, some steel was damaged from the salt air but covered by paint. That said, it didn't diminish the "O" experience.
The food, on which Oceania prides itself, varied from average to excellent, overall very good. Polo was head and shoulders above the other venues on this cruise. Steaks were perfectly prepared aged prime beef, lamb chops were excellent, and the accompanying dishes were well designed, well prepared and well presented. We were lucky enough to eat at Polo six times! Fresh seafood was available in several dining venues several days during the cruise, and it was all wonderful. I would have appreciated a few simpler dishes on the menus as the days went by. The complexity of the food was interesting and fun, but, you know, sometimes a simple but high quality meal is really a pleasure too. The menu also seems to repeat after two weeks - interesting since Oceania offers numerous itineraries over two weeks and has numerous passengers on back-to-back cruises.
Service was excellent, as we have come to expect from Oceania. The executive chef, Farid Oudir, was especially friendly, funny and hospitable - he even rushed down to the Main Dining Room from Polo one night when the fish dish he explained sounded so good, he insisted we just had to taste it. Our cabin was comfortable, and it's hard to beat Oceania's wonderful bed, but one of my few complaints was that it was usually noon or later before the stewards finished servicing the cabin, even though we'd vacated by 8-8:30 A.M. - possibly too many cabins assigned to these hard-working people? Regatta's verandah cabins and baths are not as large as on some other ships, and I found the lateness of the room make-up unpleasant.
Oceania is not known for its entertainment, but the entertainment staff was professional and warm. These young people easily mingled with people old enough to be their parents and grandparents, and seemed to genuinely enjoy their interactions with passengers. The three lecturers were all well versed in their topics and were interesting and available for questions and additional discussions. Special thanks to the "StarLady", Donna Giesler, a bubbly, friendly and absolutely obsessed star watcher, whose enthusiasm for her topic was contagious, whether she was on stage or around deck.
We rented a private cabana on Deck 11 for the entire cruise. It was a wonderful way to achieve peace when one wished, and a great icebreaker/party venue for the Panama Canal transit. That brings me to our fellow passengers. We met so many wonderful people on this cruise! One of the things we like best about Oceania is the interesting people one meets aboard an Oceania cruise. The demographic of "O" is ~50-85 years old, generally well educated and well travelled folks. And although there were more electric carts on this cruise than any I've seen on any cruise before, there were also lots of active, adventurous folks too. There was always someone to talk to or share a meal or a sunset with aboard, and there was a mix of folks sharing land tours too.
The highlight of this cruise was the Panama Canal, of course, and it was an amazing experience - not to be missed if you ever have the opportunity! The Costa Rican rainforest was also a highlight. We only took one ship tour, in Cartegena, and it was professional if not especially inspired. We missed Key West, our first port, due to recent engine work and slow break-in sailing speeds. This was not well handled by Oceania. We did not learn of the itinerary change until we arrived aboard and read the initial day's newsletter. It made no difference to us, but one couple reported they had friends flying into Key West to visit, so they had no way to notify their friends of the change, and another couple did not make the initial sailing due to medical issues and wanted to join in Key West but were forced to fly to Cartagena instead. Needless to say, they were not happy passengers! The company has the right to change the itinerary, certainly, but being upfront about the change BEFORE passengers board would be a more courteous way to handle the issue. Cruise director, Willie Ames, did a good job of handling the issue, but the company did not make his job any easier with their lack of candor regarding this issue.
Embarkation was slow, with long lines. However, that was largely due to things beyond Oceania's control (slow immigration clearance from the previous disembarkation and a full Coast Guard inspection of the ship), and Oceania made up for the inconvenience in other ways during the cruise - most notably a really special afternoon tea one day. Disembarkation was smooth, organized and fast.
Our overall experience was very good, on par with our past Oceania experiences, and we will definitely return to Oceania in the future.