I haven't published a review in some time, as many of the major cruise lines have thousands of reviews already and what can I add? But Oceania doesn't currently have that many reviews up, and certainly not many of this particular ... Read More
I haven't published a review in some time, as many of the major cruise lines have thousands of reviews already and what can I add? But Oceania doesn't currently have that many reviews up, and certainly not many of this particular cruise leg on Marina.
This was our first cruise with Oceania. We were traveling with my spouses parents, who have been on 50 or so cruises, mostly on the majors. They are (to be blunt) jaded. We wanted this cruise to be special, as we go on relatively few cruises ourselves. The big question we had prior to setting sail was "is the increased cost of a line like Oceania worth it?" If so, we would prefer to go on fewer cruises and have a better experience. Did it end up being better? I will attempt to answer that question in this review.
It seems the big difference between Oceania and other cruise lines is the way they package their cruises for sale. 2 for 1 cruise fares. Airfare included. Free this. Free that. I think this is a big part of their value proposition. However, whether someone feels this is an actual value may differ from person to person. We had the free airfare, $400 per cabin shipboard credit, free wifi, and maybe a couple other minor concierge-level things. Soft drinks are free for everyone. There are no charges for the specialty restaurants. So with everything included, it seems the price was comparable to some Holland America cruises, where you make all those other arrangements yourself, and you pay extra on board for the other services. The cruise itself was free of the constant begging and upselling which can be a real nuisance on some cruise lines (looking at you, Celebrity!).
One good thing about letting Oceania do all of the travel arrangements for you is that once you book your cruise, they will send you notices about upgrades, alternative itineraries, etc. which you can take advantage of if you haven't already made travel arrangements yourself. We were tempted to chose an alternative cruise offer (which would have given us a higher class of stateroom and some cash back), and the Oceania travel agency would have made all the changes for free. Plus, if they make the arrangements and there are delays or other problems, they fix it.
The bad thing is that you are hostage to their arrangements, and you really have no say in when you leave, what seats you get, what airline, etc. If you value these things, and I do, it drives you crazy to be so powerless.
You can have more control if you do their "Deviation Request" but this will cost extra.
Bottom line: if you like having someone else in control of the arrangements, this is a big convenience and they do an OK job. If you don't want to sit in the cattle section, pay for the business class upgrades. If you want to fly in a couple days early, pay for the deviation request. Their travel agents are competent and able to fulfill most any request...for a price.
Oceania makes much of the fact they "spend the most per passenger on food!" Perhaps they do. There sure is a lot of food. On the 3 larger ships they have 4 specialty restaurants. Pre-cruise you can make one reservation for each restaurant online. Then you can make additional reservations by the day. We had pretty good luck getting in to all of them.
Red Ginger - Asian - People seemed to really like this restaurant and they talked about it a lot with their fellow passengers. The first time we went I thought the food was too sweet. Fruit in everything. Sweet sauces. The second time we went it was better. I had the Malaysian Paenang one night which was very good. Overall I thought Red Ginger was so-so but others liked it better than I did.
Polo - Steakhouse - Our party really liked this restaurant. The beef was high quality. The appetizers and sides were excellent. The service was great.
Jacques - French - Namesake of famed French chef Jacques Pepin. This was by far our favorite of the four specialty restaurants. The lamb loin was easily the best dish I have ever had at sea. Fantastic service.
Toscana - Italian - In our opinion the weakest of the four. I ordered a pasta entree one night, it happened to be the special of the day, and I received 4 small ravioli on a huge plate covered with a little tasteless sauce. Disappointing. They had some fresh fish dishes that were good, but otherwise, all the pasta tasted the same.
Aside from the four specialty restaurants, the Main Dining Room had a fairly extensive menu. The buffet was actually pretty good, and they had a casual cafe, Waves, out by the pool. We ate breakfast mostly in the buffet. We didn't eat as many meals in the Main Dining Room as we do on other cruises.
Overall the quality of the ingredients was high. Preparation was mostly good as far as technique went. The restaurants and buffets are very clean - they didn't allow passengers to help themselves in the buffet.
I think some of the menu options in the MDR tried too hard. Some were overly complex. I was surprised that a lot of the offerings were so tasteless. They could have used a lot more herbs and spices. More heat. When you order a spicy dish extra spicy, you want it extra spicy. When you order off the "Menu de Degustation" you expect it to taste like something more than what is offered at the Macaroni Grill.
Also, maybe have some family favorites to order. Not every night has to be a 2 1/2 hour gastric extravaganza. Sometimes you just want a nice plate of spagetti and meatballs!
*The Ship and Staterooms*
Marina is a beautiful ship. Nicely appointed. Beautiful artwork. Some nice marble work. Spotlessly clean. She's smaller than most of the ships in the majors. I found Marina to be the perfect size.
I liked the Canyon Ranch spa and the concierge level spa deck.
Staterooms were okay. Supposedly they are more spacious than on other lines. The bathrooms are nice, but imo they should ditch the separate tub idea. The tubs take up a lot of room that could be used to make the showers bigger, and the staterooms a little bigger as well. The balconies were decently sized, but not overly large. The storage was adequate, though I thought the closet was a little small.
The bed was fantastic! Another Oceania exclusive is the bed and bedding. First rate. Unbelievably comfortable and luxurious.
Country Club Casual. They mean it. I wasn't real sure. But if you have slacks/polos or khakis/oxfords for men, that's all you need. Women can wear sparkly tops over slacks or skirts and be right at home in the evening. Some people dressed up more but typically if you just follow the "no shorts, no jeans, no t-shirts" maxim for the restaurants and MDR you will be fine. Shorts and T-shirts ruled during the day.
Excursions come up in the reviews I've read. Most people saying they are too expensive. I don't know about that. They seemed priced in line with the competition to me. One nice thing about booking the excursions through Oceania is the time guarantee. You don't have to worry about missing the ship. We were in port late one morning, and all the times of the Oceania excursions were adjusted accordingly. I imagine if you had made alternative arrangements all that would be up to you.
I did think a couple of them were overpriced for what you got. The book description of a few were really over the top compared to what we actually saw and did. One in particular was especially egregious. We were supposed to go see a Sea Turtle Refuge, and the description was quite exhaustive and made it sound like this was a really special place. All eco-touristy, save the turtles. Well, it was actually a dirty pond off the main road, with no sea turtles in it. At first they were going to skip it, but it was the whole reason why we booked the tour in the first place and a lot of people insisted they stop. Otherwise, it was just an expensive excursion to go sit around by the pool at a Sheraton Hotel. So this particular one - bad. But overall, no better or worse than any other cruise line imo.
*Itinerary* - quick notes. I may do separate port/excursion reviews sometime.
New Zealand - Tauranga and Bay of Islands. Fantastic. Nothing like sailing into the Bay of Islands at sunrise, smelling the jasmine in the air.
New Caledonia - Noumea. Good maritime museum.
Isle of Pines - Beautiful. Good snorkeling. Primitive.
Fiji - Fun place. Fijians are very entrepreneurial. I liked the orchid gardens.
Apia, Western Samoa. Samoans are the friendliest people in the world.
Pago Pago, American Samoa - Not as friendly as Western Samoans, but pretty friendly! Beautiful island.
Bora Bora. One of the most beautiful islands in the world. Spectatular lagoon. Good beaches. Warm water.
Moorea. Another beautiful island. Dolphin watching was fun.
Tahiti. Interesting but not as compelling as other islands in French Polynesia.
They really need to work on this. Very chaotic. By far the worst experiences of the trip.
Embarkation in Auckland. Masses of people leaving the ship trying to get taxi rides to the airport while passengers from the first 3 Air New Zealand flights were trying to figure out where to go. There really was no place to go, as we were at the alternative cruise terminal. We ended up taking a harbor cruise to kill some time. It was nice! And by the time we got back a few hours later we could board the ship.
Disembarkation in Papeete. Horrific. We had to leave the ship by 9:00 am. But the Air Tahiti Nui flights weren't until 10:30 pm and later. For us it meant 15 hours. We had arranged for a 5 hour circle island tour for the afternoon. Some people got day rooms. Most people were just cooling their heels in a "hospitality center" a few blocks from the docks.
Communication was bad. Nobody to tell you where this hospitality center actually was. We knew the day would be a buzzkill, so that's why we booked the afternoon tour on our own. There was nothing offered by Oceania for this day tour wise.
They did offer "airport transfer" for an outrageous price of $160 per person. For this, you got use of the hospitality suite all day. But you can use this anyway. Then they took you to the airport which is about 10 minutes away. In contrast our circle island tour was 44 Euros per person, and they dropped us off at the airport.
The airport in Papeete is pretty bad. Open air. It was hot. People burning crap nearby. Not many places to sit. Had to wait for the ticket windows to open 3 hours before each flight. Don't check in too early because there are few places to sit once you get inside.
Overall a brutal day, which ultimately made us a little less likely to cruise with Oceania again.
Would we do it again? We are thinking about it! But it would have to be a deal. Otherwise, I still think I prefer Holland America. But even our folks are up for going again on Oceania even though they are Diamond on Royal Carribean and, as such, get lots of perks and extras. So overall, a success I think. If you are looking for a bargain, or deep value, or you are too focused on economy, you probably won't like Oceania.
* Air New Zealand - terrible seat configuration in Economy on the 777-300. 3-4-3. Virgin Australia is 3-3-3. There is no legroom. If you are tall like I am, the head of the person in front of you will be practically in your lap. Service is great! But so uncomfortable. Really, it's a nightmare for a tall person. Pacific Premium Economy or whatever it is looks pretty good. Upgrading outside of Oceania is prohibitively expensive. If you go make sure your package includes the Premium Economy upgrade. Ours did not. Or do the deviation request for it. It's worth the extra money belive me.
* Air Tahiti Nui - The Airbus A340 is a rock solid transoceanic aircraft but it's getting old. Their legroom was no better than Air New Zealand. The armrests did not go up all the way. The seats are crammed together. Business Class didn't look so great, but it was a lot better than coach. They have 3 Boeing 787 Dreamliners set for delivery in 2017 so things should improve.
* Only 2 yoga classes in 17 days. They need more yoga classes. The yoga and pillates classes were $11 each. Probably just to keep the numbers down, as the classroom is somewhat small.
* The gameroom only has 4 tables. But there were other places to play games on the ship.
* Beautiful library, with nooks and crannies for reading either alone or with your SO.
* Demographics. Not as old as I expected, but only 2 teenagers on board and no kids (which is a plus imo). Largest number was from the 55-75 age range.
* Country of origin - my guesses - maybe 45% from the US and Canada. 20% from Australia and New Zealand. 25% from Asia - Japan, Korea, and China mostly. 10% from the UK and Europe, and a smattering from Central and South America.
* The exercise room was well equipped but small. But it was large enough for the number of people using it. So I guess, it worked out.
* Excellent stateroom attendants.
* We never saw the officers around. One thing I like about Holland America and Princess - you know who your Captain is. You meet the officers around the ship. And you feel like you have a connection to them.
* Entertainment - you don't go on Oceania for the entertainment, but I was pleasantly surprised. The string quartet was good. I really liked the jazz band. The song and dance show was a lot less lame than I expected!!
* Afternoon tea - a fun diversion. They do a good job.
* The staff works hard. Since its a small ship you see them at the restaurant at 10 pm the night before, then there they are at 7 am the next morning at breakfast. The deckhands work all day every day it seems. Very competent staff, very hardworking.
* Television was laughably bad. They did have a video library. But honestly, no reason to have such a poor selection on the TV in 2016.
* Casino was very small and the machines were outdated. They had some tournaments which were fun.
* Pretty strict hours on food service. After 9 pm your only option is room service. This only impacted us negatively one time. But depending on how you cruise, it could be an issue. Read Less