During the day, there is a fair range of options for those looking for more than a suntan. Dance classes -- from salsa to country line -- are very popular, as are the variety of cookery demonstrations in the Plaza and the galley tours. The port talks are adequate but there are disappointingly few other lectures scheduled during the cruise.
Le Club is the venue that has seen the most radical change following the 2012 refurbishment. Gone is the rather dated nightclub-style red and black colour scheme; it's been replaced with a much more gentle grey, suede and cream design that extends to the carpeting, walls and furniture. Rather than just being a disco at night, it is now open throughout the day and acts as a multi-purpose venue for everything from lectures to craft classes, before turning into the disco at night.
There are regular art auctions, which are always well attended, with a dedicated space for the featured artists outside Le Club in an area now called Whitewall Art Gallery.
The usual cruise production shows take place either end of Deck 7. Footlights at the aft of the ship stages plays and revues, while Starlights, at the forward end of the ship, shows films throughout the day and is home to various comedy and cabaret acts, which are competent enough but sadly unimaginative. There are also the usual dire husband and wife duos, which seem to find a home on cruise ships, who play variously at the sports bar, Winners', the Atrium and outside on the Lido deck. The exceptions to this mediocrity are the classical piano and violin recitals.
There are plenty of places to drink, as you would expect on a British ship. These range from the posh Magnums, which is ideal for a pre-dinner drink, and Tiffany's bar-lounge to Winners' Sports Bar, which shows big matches in the day and hosts live music in the evening. The Monte Carlo casino is just beside Winners'.
The nautically themed Yacht & Compass bar-lounge is situated just outside Footlights Theatre; outside you can drink (and smoke, on the port side) at the Riviera Bar or the Pennant Bar on Deck 15.
An observation lounge would be a nice addition; only the Plaza has views forward and this is used solely as a dining area.
There is no service charge added to drink prices, which are already very competitive -- at least in the original currency (British pounds). Beers (British, American and European) cost from £2.85 ($4.30) a can, £3.45 ($5.20) a pint and £3.50 ($5.25) a bottle; soft drinks start from £1.50 ($2.25), and cocktails (for example, Tom Collins) cost from £5.25 ($7.90). Wines cost from £9.25 ($13.90), with a decent Burgundy just £12 ($18).
Oceana spends its time in the Mediterranean (both west and east), the Canary Islands and the Norwegian Fjords, and offers some outstanding shore excursions at competitive prices. The standout on our Eastern Mediterranean cruise was the two-day Grand Overland, which includes a night in Cairo, a sound and light show at the Sphinx, a Nile cruise and a visit to the Pyramids of Giza. It's not cheap at £279 ($419) per person, but it does offer a unique experience. The ship also offered the usual Holy Land excursions, and fun tours such as sherry tasting in Jerez.
Oceana Public Rooms
Most of the public rooms can be found on Deck 7, starting from the aft of the ship. A dedicated Card Room for bridge and whist has replaced the Cyb@Study. Now that there is Wi-Fi throughout the ship, the only place to get online if you don't have a laptop or tablet is on one of the five terminals beside the Explorers Bar on Deck 5. Internet fees are the usual sky-high prices, from 0.50p ($0.75) per minute, but you are better off buying a package: £35 ($52) gets you 100 minutes; £62.50 ($94) gets you 250 minutes, and there are bonus minutes for consecutive purchases. (Check for details in the Library.)
The Card Room leads into the Library, which is well-stocked and has a good selection of fiction and reference books and a librarian (who doubles as the Internet manager), who can advise you on books and getting online. Outside here is the Photo Gallery, which as well as selling photos and cameras, also hosts talks about photography, and staff are on hand to offer tips and advice on getting good shots.
The Whitewall Art Gallery is more of a space along the main Deck 7 corridor, sandwiched between Magnums and Le Club, with art hung along here and towards the main Atrium.
Linked by dramatic grand staircases as well as glass-sided elevators, the four-deck atrium is the focal point of the ship. On the lowest level, a central lounge area (often hosting the ubiquitous art auctions) faces the long reception desk. Live music -- from classical to steel bands -- is played here through most of the day. The shore excursion desk and onboard florist is on the other side, facing the Explorer's Bar, which has an overspill of computer stations at some of the window seats.
One deck above are the Bond Street and Regent Street shops selling the usual jewellery, fashion and gifts (including nautical memorabilia), as well as some general stores.
There is one launderette on each cabin deck that's free to use, but you must supply your own laundry soap (available to buy in one of the shops).
Oceana Spa & Fitness
The Oasis Spa is one of the areas that has had a significant refurbishment, with both the men's and the women's changing rooms given a complete makeover. The style is probably best described as "contemporary", with stone, steel and taupe colours throughout. There are seven treatment rooms and an extensive menu of different treatments ranging from a £39 ($58) massage to a £219 ($328)24 Karat Gold Facial. Tip: Look out for all sorts of spa offers and packages, especially on port days, which you'll find in Horizon magazine.
There is also decent-sized and well-equipped fitness centre, a large aerobics room and a Pilates/spinning and lecture room (taking up space previously dedicated to the golf simulator). There are also men's and women's sauna and steam rooms. A variety of classes are run throughout the cruise, including free aqua, step and salsa aerobics and mobility/stretch. There is, though, a charge for Pilates and Chi Yoga (both from £7 ($10.50) for 45 minutes).
Opposite the spa is the beauty salon, which has also been refurbished, with new flooring. All these facilities have superb ocean views.
There is also a semi-sheltered plunge pool (adults only) and whirlpools outside the spa.
The main pool area on Deck 12 has one main pool and another smaller, raised one, as well as two whirlpools. It can get very crowded on sea days, with a constant battle for sun beds, but there are plenty of other sunbathing spaces on the upper decks -- check out Deck 15 forward which has loads of beds and a splash pool for cooling off. There is a beautiful light show on Deck 12 as night falls, with the pools and the deck illuminated in glowing colours.
Atop the ship, there is also a sports court for tennis, soccer and basketball, table-tennis and golf nets, as well as a running track.
Next: Oceana Family
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