25 Istanbul Oceania Nautica Cruise Reviews

Unless you reserve in the two highest categories, you are treated very poorly. Dinner ereservatiiobns are not a priority unless you are in the top 2 categories, embarking early reserved for special class & expensive tours. Not at all ... Read More
Unless you reserve in the two highest categories, you are treated very poorly. Dinner ereservatiiobns are not a priority unless you are in the top 2 categories, embarking early reserved for special class & expensive tours. Not at all what we expected. Middle &uppe r maNAgement very impressed with themselves and not helpful. One notable excxception is genertal manager Guiseepe. Reception & Assistant purser/concierge have no peopkle skills Service kline & assistanec after tyiou have paid is just as bad or not worse with their Miami office. Tourtes as luxury cruise, NOT Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
Other than being disappointed by Oceania once again taking two ports off the cruise as we were cruising the trip was amazing! We were supposed to stop in Cyprus and one additional stop in Egypt. VERY disappointed that we didn't. The ... Read More
Other than being disappointed by Oceania once again taking two ports off the cruise as we were cruising the trip was amazing! We were supposed to stop in Cyprus and one additional stop in Egypt. VERY disappointed that we didn't. The cruise line told us it was due to weather but we know that over 30 guests missed flights and so the ship stayed another night in Istanbul to save themselves money. I'm certain that guests would have understood had they told the truth. Had I been one of the people who had our flight delayed I would have appreciated the cruise line waiting. Knowing that we were lied to put a damper on the beginning of the cruise then later when we were again told that we wouldn't stop at a port in Egypt we wondered what the real reason was. This isn't the first time Oceania has done this. Every cruise we have been on with them they have eliminated at least one port....to save money?? When you sign up with a cruise line you expect to stop at all the ports you pay for. Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
This was our first Oceania Cruise. We picked it because of the itinerary Istanbul to Athens. Pros: We loved the smaller cruise ship with less then 700 passengers. Pick-up at the airport was prompt. Check-in and out was a ... Read More
This was our first Oceania Cruise. We picked it because of the itinerary Istanbul to Athens. Pros: We loved the smaller cruise ship with less then 700 passengers. Pick-up at the airport was prompt. Check-in and out was a breeze.Entertainment was Ok, nothing special due to the size of the lounge. The hot tubs were great temperature, we did not use the pool or the spa. Dining was excellent as we expected. Polo Grill was our favorite. The beef melted in your mouth. The buffet in Terrace Cafe was also of excellent quality. We ate breakfast and some dinners there with many great food choices. We met 18 other fellow cruisers and arranged a Meet and Greet with them. The staff was very willing to accommodate our needs. We also planned a farewell dinner in the main dining hall for 20, and again, the staff went out of their way to make it happen. I liked that Oceania gave us free bottled water when leaving or returning to the ship from side trips. Cons: Side trips were to expensive so we chose to do our own tours with private guides that met us at the ports. No free Wi-Fi. Really they should consider that option in this day and age. If it can be avoided never use the sick bay. My cousin was treated for a sinus infection and was billed $1700. When she was originally seen she asked what the cost would be. They would not give her an answer and just dropped the bill off at her door the following day. Outrageous! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
We took our second Ocenia cruise this year from Istanbul visiting some Greek Islands and Turkish ports before ending up in Athens (Sept/Oct 2013). This followed our first cruise on the same cruise line from Vancouver to Alaska in May ... Read More
We took our second Ocenia cruise this year from Istanbul visiting some Greek Islands and Turkish ports before ending up in Athens (Sept/Oct 2013). This followed our first cruise on the same cruise line from Vancouver to Alaska in May 2013. Although for the Mediterranean cruise was on the Nautica, and the cruise to Alaska was on the Regatta, the two ships were so similar that sometimes, I forgot exactly which ship I was on! Having read some comments of passengers' experience of other cruise lines where not all staff were nice and pleasant, this is something which we take our hats off to Oceania - practically all the Ocenia crews and staff were very pleasant and friendly. They always smiled and greeted you when they passed by you. They worked so hard and always tried hard to please, and nothing seemed to be too much trouble. We were very impressed with the positive attitudes of staff and the good training from Oceania management.Our belief is that Oceania Cruises staff are really one of the key assets of the company, and that's why they are so popular and successful. We were met by an agent of Oceania Cruise at Istanbul Airport where a coach took us to the boat docked near the olden part of Istanbul city. The traffic was so bad it took us about two hours to reach the Nautica. Some of us felt it might have been quicker had we got off the coach and walked - however, it would have been a problem had we done so as we all had quite a lot of luggage with us! CUISINE We know a lot of people raved about the wonderful cuisine and high standard of cooking on Oceania. Yes, we agree with them to a degree, but we have to say eventhough the cooking on Oceania is generally very good, it's not perfect! (Sorry, sorry, we know, we are being rather picky here! Gulp!!). To us, the bread served on Oceania Cruises (both Nautica and Regatta) was not very nice - it tasted to us as if it was dry and some was quite hard - the exception was the selection of breads in the Toscana Italian restaurant. We were also disappointed by the roast lamb which was very tough , and the lamb curry with chewy meat, all were served in the Terrace (Buffet) restaurant. Their smoked salmon did not always taste fresh, it was as if it had been in the freezer for too long and the texture has gone past its best. Also, during their Asian-theme lunch in the buffet restaurant, their Asian dishes were not very authentic and some of their Asian dishes actually tasted pretty awful ! Being Asian, I dare claim to have some knowledge of how "good" Asian food should taste like! An exception to the poor quality of their Asian dishes was their sushi, which was very nice. Of course, as there was such a large choice of foods to eat, we never went hungry because if some dishes or food items were not to our tastes, there was always something else that we would enjoy. And we believe other passengers also would not have a problems finding something they liked to eat on board. It was a shame that in the buffet restaurant, passengers could not help themselves but had to be served by ship staff. Perhaps this might have something to do with hygiene. However, they covered so many of the hot dishes to the point we could not see what dishes were offered at meal times. The Nautica had five places to eat - the Main Dining Room, the Toscana (Italian Menu), the Polo Grill, the Terrace (Buffet for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and the Waves which serves "high-class" burger-influenced lunch near the pool. In addition, for high tea and cakes, there is Horizons, which has a ceiling-to-floor window which gave us a wonderful view of the sea and horizon in front of the boat. There wais no charge for eating in their speciality restaurants but you have to book in advance. It was also very easy to find tables-for-two in all the restaurants if you were not in the mood to share tables and meet with other passengers. Soft drinks were complimentary but wines and other drinks had to be purchased. The wine and drinks prices were quite expensive, in our view, and this was made worse because like most American cruise lines, Oceania Cruise Lines added an extra 18 per cent on top of their already pricey drinks! ACCOMMODATION As some passengers commented the shower rooms were quite small, however, it is untrue that all cabins have the same small shower rooms. The largest rooms from penthouse suite upwards have bigger bathrooms. The beds in Oceania cabins had beds with luxury matteresses and comfy pillows- and there were several days when the weather was windy. The room had a fridge stocked with a selection of soft drinks and sodas and it was replenished every day. The rooms were cleaned twice a day and towels were replaced twice daily as well (if needed). The towels were not as luxurious as in some really nice hotels but they were adequate. We were not sure if Oceania cruises were trying to do some "cost-saving excercise" because the Bulgari toileteries which we had in the earlier Alaskan cruise were replaced by Oceania's own home-branded toileteries. Our cruise started from Istanbul, and it sailed to Kusa Dasi, followed by Marmaris ,Mykonos and Santorini. Before we sailed to Santorini, the Cruise Director whetted our appetites as he indicated Santorini was one of the most beautiful islands he had even seen. However, when we reached Santorini, we had an announcement that because the sea was too choppy, the captain had cancelled our stop there - it was too dangerous to take the tender boats to land on Santorini Island. We would have preferred that eventhough we could not land on Santorini , the captain could have at least sailed around the island. Instead, we sailed away into the seas without any fixed destination in mind, as if just to kill time and to pass the day/ So all we did was waste fuel and adding more carbon to the earth sailing almost aimlessly ! What a waste of time that was!! We had nothing much to do at sea that day and found ourselves eating even more of their delicious food out of boredom! At least, that was our excuse for eating more! Lol. Eventually, the boat headed for Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete which we docked the following morning. Our last port of call before reaching Pireus (for Athens) was Nafpleon. All these places we visited were nice, but it was a shame we had to miss the "Jewel in the Crown" of Greek islands, Santorini. Still, nevermind. ENTERTAINMENT & ACTIVITIES There was a daily newsletter that keeps passengers informed of the activities on board. The cruise director also made regular annoucements and appearances on TV to keep us up-to-date on the cruise. As the Nautica was a medium-sized boat, it probably did not have as many activities as in the larger cruise ships. There was a small but comfortable library, an ultra-expensive internet room, a spa and sauna, destination talks, cocktail piano sessions, string quartet, and the evening entertainment in the Nautica Lounge . We were disappointed that the evening entertainment in the Nautica Lounge was not on every evening. The standard of their own home singers were just average - their song choices were not all very good -, but the ship had some guest entertainers who were actually better than we expected. There was a magician, a guest musician, and a guest singer. The African-American guest singer was really a class act and we wished he had done more shows on our cruise - he was great. There was also a couple of channels on the ship TV but that is one area we thought the company could improve on - the quality and choice of TV channels. PASSENGERS The majority of passengers appear to be north of 60 years old - but many seem to have aged so gracefully and they still looked very well, it must have been the good life they have had, or they took the trouble to take care of themselves ! DRESS CODE There were no formal nights but guest had been advised to dress "country smart casual". That was one of the things we liked about Oceania cruises, we could be in stylish surroundings and eat in elegant restaurants, yet the men did not have to dress up in formal costumes like penguins. Some of the women passengers did take the trouble to dress up very elegantly though, although they were not required to do so. EXCURSIONS From our previous Oceania cruise, we realised that the excursions offered by Oceania were very expensive and you could get better deals else where - instead of taking any excursions from Oceania, we checked for alternative and cheaper cruise excursions online. Also we believe that Oceania may be one of those few cruise lines that allow you to bring your own liquor to consume in your room. Please do not take our word for it. Please check with the cruise company yourselves about their policy on this before doing so, just to be sure - we do not wish to be responsible for your bottle of alcohol being confiscated ! CONCLUSION We really enjoyed our first Oceania cruise to Alaska, and although we enjoyed the second Mediterranean cruise as well, because pratically everything on board was the same as the boat on the first cruise - decor, cuisine, etc, etc .By the time our second cruise finished, we thought that we had a nice time but we have had enough of Oceania cruises for a litle while. The next time we would like to try going on another cruise line. The thing with Oceania is, you know what you are getting, but many things remain the same for a long time. The same menus, the same decor, the same rooms, etc, etc. Only the ports of call are different. I supposed you could say we were spoilt but you could get a bit too much of a good thing. Didn't someone say you could even get bored on champagne and caviar ??!!!. Oceania cruises may not be quite champagne and caviar yet but its standards are very high. We have already booked on a cruise middle of next year with the rival company to Oceania, Azamara Club Cruises. We wish to get a slightly "different" experience to Oceania cruises and hopefully we can compare the two companies to see which one is better!   Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
This was our first Oceania cruise and we were looking forward to comparing it to the other cruise lines we have used, from Silverseas to NCL. It was excellent and a very good value for the money. Food, especially in the specialty ... Read More
This was our first Oceania cruise and we were looking forward to comparing it to the other cruise lines we have used, from Silverseas to NCL. It was excellent and a very good value for the money. Food, especially in the specialty restaurants, was excellent. Good variety and well prepared. As will smaller ships, the nightly shows are not Broadway extravaganzas but they were very good. We thought we would miss the formal nights but we didn't. This 12 day cruise had no sea days. It was a different island every day and when we returned to the ship we were glad we didn't have to dress formally for dinner. We will be on Oceania again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Getting on and off the ship was very professionally done. The room was smaller than I thought it would be. I know trick photography is used when taking pictures of the room, but a little more space for the price would be nice. Everything ... Read More
Getting on and off the ship was very professionally done. The room was smaller than I thought it would be. I know trick photography is used when taking pictures of the room, but a little more space for the price would be nice. Everything worked well in the room, tv, air, good mattress. No problems with the bathroom, plenty of supplies. The service was the best. 5+ for sure. The cruise entertainment director, Willie Aames, of 8 is Enough fame, was born for this job. A great job is an understatement. The food was very good for all meals, but the speciality restaurants, in my opinion, lacked the quality that the regular restaurants offered. The wine was reasonably priced with an excellent selection. They even hold a bottle for you until the next day and serve it in any restaurant that you go to. There was never an "at sea" day so we used the pool on only 2 occasions. Never a problem getting a place to relax. We didn't take any of the tours, which were extra; instead we opted to explore on our own. Even if they were free, it's not likely we would have taken them since many of them were too physical for us. Most tours went from 75-150 dollars. The ship often had courtesy buses in-town to take us to and from the ship. Nickel and dimeing is a problem. Charging 2 dollars for washing and 2 dollars for drying is ridiculous. So is having only 1 laundry room on the entire ship(700 passengers). The line starts at 7:00AM and planning a wash is not vacation time well spent. The Internet costs about 140 dollars for about 2 hours. Too expensive. All in all, the pluses exceed the minuses so it was a trip well worth it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
We began the cruise by sailing out of Istanbul, Turkey, at night surrounded by lights of all colors on buildings and bridges and the overwhelming sounds of prayers from minarets nearby and up into the hills. We ended the cruise by sailing ... Read More
We began the cruise by sailing out of Istanbul, Turkey, at night surrounded by lights of all colors on buildings and bridges and the overwhelming sounds of prayers from minarets nearby and up into the hills. We ended the cruise by sailing into one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town, South Africa. In between we visited small villages to large cities in emerging nations to established nations, and through our experienced tour guides or our inexperienced- but- so- excited tour guides we learned about the people, transportation, foods, and religions of so many very different cultures. Generally the seas were smooth, two rainy days, warm to humid, hot weather. We prefer a ship the size of Nautica. The staff is into service, captain so congenial and cruise staff very talented. The cruise director, Dottie, was great, and there was talented entertainment including a comedian, fantastic pianist and the group,The Olympic Duo. Margaret was the best dance instructor and entertainer. Super cooking demos and samples. Special guest speakers were very good. We think Nautica has the best library at sea with extremely comfortable couches and chairs, computer access and abundant book collections. Our cabin was fine with plenty of storage space, good TV and was supplied with slippers and comfy robes and wonderful bedding. The food consisted of daily delicious, fresh baked goods, light salads, fresh fruits, vegetables and fish, wonderful cheeses and freshly cooked poultry and meats. There were free sodas and bottled water -especially needed when touring in Africa. Enjoyed all the restaurants but preferred eating on the outside deck, Terrace Cafe. Depending on the port, local representative(s) came onto the ship to provide maps, tour info, stamps and mail service, postcards, and/or currency exchange. This was in addition to info provided by the ship's tour experts. In Africa musical groups and dancers in costumes performed on the piers and often many local products were available for purchase. Mostly we took ship's tours for reasons including health issues and that we were in areas of the world we didn't know. Not inexpensive, but all were good or excellent except one and Nautica satisfied our serious complaint. Other times we took free shuttle buses that the ship had running into towns.Complaints: Too few deck chairs on the "promenade deck" deck 5. We were very disappointed in that the special guest speakers did not talk about Africa although this was the focus of the cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
Likes and dislikes are individual tastes and here are mine. There are many pluses about the Nautica. The staff is very good. The rooms are comfortable with marvelous mattress and bed linens, plenty of storage, and adequate 220 and ... Read More
Likes and dislikes are individual tastes and here are mine. There are many pluses about the Nautica. The staff is very good. The rooms are comfortable with marvelous mattress and bed linens, plenty of storage, and adequate 220 and 110 outlets. I could bring alcohol and wine on board. Water and sodas are complimentary and water is always on the gangway as one debarks. Also, my cell phone received a signal on days at sea and in most ports (I have a SIMM which has both a US and international number). The best things about the Nautica are the size of the ship and its itinerary. These were the two reasons I chose to sail with Oceania and in neither was I disappointed. Entertainment is not a big deal to me. I am focused on the ports, people and their culture. However, Nautica seems to do a good job trying to entertain as many people as possible with a veritable plethora of games, contests, trivia, projects and crafts, and some lecturers. Terry Bishop, a historical lecturer, was excellent. The bands, from what little I heard, were good. There are endless interest groups almost to the point of nausea. Our Captain Junica Brajcic of Dubrovnik Croatia is charming and quite the celebrity. He commanded the Nautica during a Somali pirate attack in the Nov 2008. However, there are some issues to consider before sailing with Nautica or Oceania. First, the ship excursions are expensive and rather shallow. Comments from those on the tours ranged from "great" to "rip-off." I arranged private tours for the ports, did twice as much yet paid about a quarter of what the ship charged. As an example, in Ghana, their 5 hours to Elmina and Cape Coast Castles cost $229, their 6 hours to Kakum Park and the canopy walkway cost $229. Our private tour of 8 hours to Elmina and Kakum cost $90. For those not wanting to be off the ship too long, or miss their trivia game, or uninterested in seeing as much of the port as possible, I suppose the ship's tours are adequate. Meeting people thru the online Cruise Critic, there is an opportunity to form small groups and independently tour the ports. And by the way, it would also help, for those not using Oceania for overpriced pre-cruise arrangements, if Oceania notified us the name of the port where we were to find the ship. Secondly, the Internet is slow and expensive. It has been a long time since I have had to use dialup. I purchased a 100-minute package for $80. However, when these minutes were used, the next time I signed in it cost .95 each minute. An answer is WIFI. Before sailing, unsubscribe to sites and ask friends not to send any attachments. I took my iTouch and logged directly into my GMail account. I could download my mail, send 2 or 3 messages, and publish my Blog in about 6-7 minutes. And I could get a signal both in my cabin and everywhere about the ship. I am extremely disappointed in the air arrangements. I paid the extra fee to leave early and fly through Chicago to pick up my sister who is asthmatic and mobility-challenged. I paid for both of our cruises on my credit card, we stayed in the same stateroom, and I could not have stressed more how important it was that our flights be coordinated. No such thing happened. While we were on the same flights, our seats were at opposite ends of the plane and each leg of the trip I had to find someone to exchange seats. We were told by the airlines that our reservations were not linked. The Nautica has recently been refurbished and most public areas are quite nice. However, there is a lack of quiet deck space. Chairs around the pool are in a noisy area and at times the area was too hot or windy to use. And rarely did anyone ever come around to see if I wanted refreshments. There is an area along both sides of Deck 5 but only a few lounges. We were able to occasionally get a staff person to bring more lounges. I am not overly impressed with the dining nor the wine. Toscana was a major disappointment because of its unremarkable decor and menu. Our first and only dinner there took over 3 hours to serve. We cancelled all future reservations. Polo Grill was better but steaks were not consistently grilled. The food and service in the Main Dining Room was generally better. The best however, was dining on the terrace at Tapas (inside is utilitarian). Probably the best food most nights was cooked-to-your-order specials. For lunch, Waves was great. The wine at a minimum of $30 a bottle was not that good (add 18% service to all alcohol). Hopefully the $75+ was better. A real drawback is there is no place to get something to eat 24/7. To call for room service to get a sandwich or piece of bread or cheese is silly. Whatever you do, try not to exchange money on the ship. The absolute worst was when a "bank" came on board after docking. Perhaps the worst, and most offensive, issue with Nautica is the different colored WorldCard used to signify level of stateroom booked. In fact, many things are tied into the level of stateroom booked, from boarding times, amenities, and dining arrangements. Forget pre-reserving a table to include friends unless your guests are traveling at the same level of accommodation. My travel mates upgraded to Deck 7, we were Deck 4. They could not reserve a table to include us but 4 of their 6 reservations. Forget doing it later on the ship as this is just not going to meet with success. And what is the reason for providing different colored WorldCards according to level of accommodation? Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
We've sailed Oceania before and think they provide an excellent experience. Even so, a thirty day cruise was a log time and a lot of money, so we debated about it. The itinerary convinced us, with fifteen ports, most places we'd ... Read More
We've sailed Oceania before and think they provide an excellent experience. Even so, a thirty day cruise was a log time and a lot of money, so we debated about it. The itinerary convinced us, with fifteen ports, most places we'd never been that are difficult to get to any other way, sailing the West Coast of Africa. There were twelve sea days - interspersed nicely with the ports, to make for a very relaxing cruise, mostly through tropical waters. Midway through the cruise, I got to my 100th country. The Nautica is a beautiful ship - we discovered on a Renaissance cruise over a decade ago. The public rooms are nicely decorated, the cabins are reasonably roomy and easy to live in. Oceania beds are among the most comfortable we've experienced. Oceania is outstanding for service - friendly, helpful crew that always great you, even as you pass in the hallway. The crew was from 44 countries, making my custom of saying thank you in the right language a challenge, but one always met with a smile of appreciation. Food onboard was a highlight of the trip - the Grand Dining Room serves a four course lunch and a six course dinner with a variety of options that changes daily. Passengers are seated when they arrive, at a table for two or a bigger table for groups or those who want to share (a great way to meet new people). The Terrace Cafe offers cafeteria style (with someone to carry your plate and someone to spoon on the cottage cheese), convenient for breakfast and open three meals a day, with plenty of outdoor seating. The two specialty restaurants were there for dinners grander than the six course Grand Dining Room, with specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegar, larger portions and even more elaborate service. They required reservations, but we had no problem making them before departure and during the cruise. The breads are baked three times daily, special requests are honored easily, and wine follows you to the next meal if you don't finish the bottle. Several items were memorable from the dover sole at Toscany to the cold fruit soups that appeared regularly to the oversized roast beef at the Polo Grill. The entertainment staff were welcoming and friendly. Good enrichment speakers regularly provided at-sea day talks (unfortunately not on West Africa), the comedians were great, services were held every Friday night and all through Chanukah for the Jews on board - even latkes. The reception staff was helpful in solving problems. The disappointment was in destination services, where they couldn't tell us the location of the Modern Art Museum in Istanbul (it was a quarter mile away on the dock), were totally useless for travelers not booking on an excursion, and almost as useless for those investing in the badly planned and badly operated excursions (forced non-stop march through the market in Tunis). I actually tried the gym, a radical move for me. I preferred the library, but I signed up for three hours of trainer who helped me learn how to use all those exercise machines. She was delightful, but didn't overcome decades of inactivity. The West African ports were not ready for prime time - we were pioneering in stops in The Gambia, Togo and Benin. They did not have the tourist infrastructure to deal with 684 tourists arriving at once, staying eight hours, and leaving - things like money changing, taxis, even maps and materials. The people were delightful, happy to see us, ready to sell everything (good price - special for you). Their crafts and fabrics were wonderful, and we brought home many great memories and souvenirs. Dakar and Takoradi, Ghana were better organized, but still difficult. The tour of Goree Island and it's slave transit facilities was moving. The other stops, Crete, Malta, Tunis, Valencia, Casablanca, Canary Islands, Namibia and Cape Town are far better equipped to deal with tourists, and the four wheel drive through the Namibian desert was fabulous. We were not bothered by the thirty day cruise, although I'm not sure I could have taken the back-to-back cruise to Singapore that went for another forty days, as several of the people on the ship did. I was disappointed that it was over. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
PRE-CRUISE : We were most impressed with the professional, personalised brochure that arrived prior to joining. It contains full descriptions of all the excursions available, final itinerary times, and lots of information about the cruise ... Read More
PRE-CRUISE : We were most impressed with the professional, personalised brochure that arrived prior to joining. It contains full descriptions of all the excursions available, final itinerary times, and lots of information about the cruise line and what to expect on the ship. Concierge class provided priority embarkation, and the process was quick in Istanbul. We were not allowed access to our stateroom straight away, but upon boarding we had a nice lunch and were soon informed that our stateroom was ready for occupancy. Entering our stateroom we were greeted with a chilled bottle of champagne. We read most of the Cruisecritic reviews about Nautica, Oceania and some of the ports of call, and found the website to be the most comprehensive around. The roll-call for our particular cruise was very informative, and Grace did a fine job of encouraging everyone, and counting down the days to embarkation. OCEANIA POLICIES : We loved the 'country club casual' dress code! The website and brochures make it appear more formal than it actually is. Everyone is dressed nicely most of the time, but no dickie-bows or ball-gowns in sight. Open seating was another plus for us. On previous cruises, with other cruise lines, we have felt a bit restricted with having the same seating time every night, whereas Oceania allow you more freedom to turn up whenever you like and join another table or have a table for two (although these were a little bit harder to come by on our particular cruise). There is plenty of encouragement to book the specialty restaurants online before joining the vessel, or on the first day when you join, but in reality they were quite open to us turning up on the night and asking for a seat. Often at breakfast or lunch there would be staff approaching the tables in the cafe offering bookings for that night. As non-smokers we enjoyed the restrictive policy which prevents smoking other than an area on the pool deck and one in Horizons. It was great not to have wafts of smoke intrude on our balcony, and we quickly learnt not to use the door on the pool deck smoking side to avoid walking through a cloud of smoke. FELLOW GUESTS : It was very noticeable for us how the ship is more intimate than the larger ones, as we met lots of new people, and often saw them around the ship. This is enhanced by free seating encouraging meeting new people, or joining new friends for dinner. The best recommendation for Oceania came when a senior staff member told us that of 530 guests, some 510 were repeats on Oceania! The assistant cruise director called us the "junior cruisers" as the guests were mostly of retirement age and much older. This is mostly a reflection of the length of the cruise as working people can't often take six weeks off. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting people with such extensive cruising and travelling experiences to share. Oceania don't really cater for children and we were very happy to have none at all on our cruise. This was again probably due to the length of the voyage, as there were a lot of children arriving for the Christmas cruise. SHIP'S OFFICERS and STAFF : The Captain (Croatian) and many other officers were often seen walking around the ship and all were very approachable. The second Captain (Italian) was more likely to be seen in the smoking area, and was not much of a conversationalist. On disembarkation when he was standing at the gangway, a fellow passenger was heard to call him a 'cold fish'... On one of the first nights of the cruise there was a Captain's Cocktail Party, to which all were invited. We were pleasantly surprised to find it was very popular, and even more so that the bar staff were circulating with plenty of trays of FREE cocktails, wine and champagne - always our favourite type of drink! We had a lot of fun with the friendly restaurant and bar staff who represented some 40 different nations. STATEROOMS: We chose a fairly central cabin on deck seven, so it was only ever a couple of flights of stairs and a short walk to anywhere on the ship. The elevators never seemed to be too crowded. The room is a bit cosy for two people, but with a balcony it worked fine for us. Our issue is with the lack of shelves and storage, especially on a 40-night cruise. There really should be some form of bookshelves available at least. The balcony has lovely teak decking and comfortable chairs, however the table is ridiculously small! Room service out on the terrace was not really possible. The bathrooms are typically small but well designed on Nautica with a few shelves and a good cupboard. There are lovely toiletries, in decent sized bottles, which were replaced regularly. The air-conditioning was not particularly effective, with some nights feeling a little warm in the stateroom, despite turning the dial to the coldest setting. The temperature in the room was not helped by the poor seal around the sliding glass door, which made for a rather loud whistling noise, and allowed plenty of moisture inside. Once in the tropics we were 'treated' to our own indoor rain shower from the condensation dripping from the air-conditioning vent! The nightlight in the bathroom is a great idea. It provides enough light that you don't need to turn on the main one during the night. Other cruise lines provided a pair of binoculars in the concierge staterooms which were much appreciated, but these were not available on Oceania. Cashmere blankets and towelling robes are available in the concierge class stateroom. The stateroom attendants in concierge class were very attentive, cleaning our stateroom as soon as we vacated. The eight towels were replaced morning and evening, and a turn down service provided a chocolate on each pillow. A couple of tips that some people might not be aware of: - Most "walls" on a ship are metallic, so it is useful to bring an assortment of magnets to pin up schedules and reservations throughout the voyage. - Suction hooks are great to stick to the mirror to hang up dressing gowns or sarongs. - Travel shops can provide an elastic washing line with suction cups on each end. Great when you do some hand-washing, or even use the main laundry as you can stick the lines to the mirrors and windows and let your clothes dry naturally (and avoid the queue for the laundry). - Most ship's water is perfectly drinkable, if not better than the bottled stuff that Oceania regularly encourage you to pay for. Fill your bottles from the tap in your bathroom, add some ice and away you go! Oceania should really provide some free bottles, especially to those that pay for excursions. INTERNET and COMPUTERS :(here is the 'ugly') Internet speed, or a lack of it, is a major issue that Oceania badly needs to sort out. Prior to starting our cruise we had read (internet) reviews that it was slow but we were not prepared for it to be almost unusable. Many people on board had hoped to keep blogs up to date and send emails and photographs to friends and family, but after sometimes waiting 20 minutes for the homepage of Yahoo to even appear, this quickly becomes frustrating and tiresome. We wrote a letter of complaint a few days after arriving which we handed to the concierge. We were called to the computer room and asked if there was anything they could do to improve the service - of course we requested free minutes (which were not offered) but really the whole system needs to be overhauled. The staff thanked us for making a formal complaint, and we would recommend that others apply such pressure until things improve. The joining information gives you details of the email address that they assign to you for use during the cruise. We thought that this might be a free intranet situation, but again Oceania are being greedy and actually have the cheek to charge you two dollars per email for every recipient!!! There are classes for such things as Photoshop, but they are at the extortionate price of US$25! And charging US$20 to provide a CD (no, not a DVD) and copy your photos onto it is 'daylight robbery'! RESTAURANTS: The Grand Dining room provided excellent meals every time we were there. The menu was different every day, and there were favourite selections and light options always available. The Grand Dining room serves dinner to 9:30pm, but we were always able to sit much later with dessert and coffee service continuing. The others shut down around you at 9pm. The Polo Grill steakhouse was a little disappointing, if only because the Grand Dining Room provided decent cuts of meat and other similar menu items. We had an issue a few times with less attentive service in Polo. We found the Toscana restaurant was excellent every time, with an extensive menu of wonderful Italian food, and the staff doing a great job of hamming it up as Italians. The Terrace Cafe buffet was not particularly extensive, but there were different dishes available each day which made up for that (other cruise line buffets have been a bit repetitive). Iced water would be poured even as you sat down, and then a staff member would quickly offer to carry your plate to your table, after you selected from the ever-changing display. Tapas on the Terrace in the evenings was a nice, more casual alternative to the dining rooms (still a buffet), and on occasion there would be a themed meal. Waves grill had spectacular gourmet burgers, hot dogs and paninis, and a lovely salad bar. Like the others, your iced water was always filled, your plate carried to the table, and orders taken for things like the milkshakes and smoothies. The ice-cream selection was different every day. We used room service for breakfast on days with early starts which was always good. The orders were always delivered on time. Once again it is worth taking concierge class as this allows for more than a continental breakfast. ALCOHOL: We like a drink so this was an important issue for us. We took advantage of the lack of restriction on bringing our own supplies for the stateroom. We spent plenty in the bars but also enjoy a quiet drink in the stateroom or on our private balcony, for which we definitely needed more than the common allowance of two bottles of wine! We were a bit disappointed that the bars did not stock any local beers, even from Istanbul. We enjoy trying foreign beers when we travel, but Budweiser, Grolsch, Becks and Corona don't really count. Kingfisher was obtained in India but not available in all the bars. In many ports there was a duty free shop in the terminal, usually with very good prices for alcohol... SHORE EXCURSIONS : We did a few Oceania shore excursions and although the prices are a little steep, the companies used each time were very good and it was value for money for those not keen on doing it themselves. There was a local representative on the ship in each port, armed with maps and information for those who wanted to explore on their own. On occasion these were not too helpful - in Port Said the guy was sending people to the national museum that had been closed for three years! We did think that Oceania should make a little more effort to let people know about such things as Hop-on-Hop-off buses that are available in more and more cities nowadays. The staff was at the gangway every time offering water for sale - once again, this should be complimentary when you have already paid for an expensive excursion! We did a few private excursions for half the Oceania price and they always provided complimentary water. POOL DECK : We were regulars in the spa pools next to the swimming pool, with the bar staff making sure we stayed 'lubricated'. The spa is fresh water, while the swimming pool is salty. The pool was rather cool at first, but it quickly warmed up as the ship headed south. My swimming costume faded badly within a week due to the chemicals in the pools (mainly the spa pool), so don't bring your favourite one. There were signs in the pool area warning of this so they are to be heeded! In the early days of the cruise the deck staff provided lovely warm blankets to those who settled onto a deck lounger next to the pool. We usually were able to find a lounger in an acceptable position. There are lovely double loungers with extra cushions, and towels are always laid out on all of the loungers and quickly replaced as necessary. SERVICES : Oceania automatically add 18% service charge / gratuity on everything (bar bills, spa services etc.), which we strongly disagree with. Gratuities should be at the discretion of the guest, allowing you to reward those that provide better service. On the flip side we did discover that the junior bar staff are not actually paid a salary, instead relying on the gratuity for drinks they "sell". At least they are rotated around all the bar positions, so they have the opportunity to work in the more lucrative bars, rather than be stuck in a quieter one. All seems a bit unfair to us though, as we would rather reward the staff that provide better service. Like most cruise lines, various exotic spa treatments are offered at equally exotic prices. A neck-back-shoulders massage was $120 for 50 minutes, then the obscene 18% gratuity is automatically added, and on one occasion the staff had the cheek to encourage a tip - claiming that the 18% is a "surcharge". The boutique kept updating their stock with different logo items and souvenirs from the various ports, and there were often displays of jewelry, perfumes and clothing Initially we liked that there was no over-exuberant photographer insisting you pose next to a life size dolphin or other costume every time you went off the ship. In saying that, at the end of the voyage we were watching a television montage of shots taken throughout the trip that we thought might have been nice to purchase on CD. ENTERTAINMENT : We only attended a few of the performances, but reports of the music and dancing on offer were generally positive. There was a constant offering of organized activities where you could earn 'O-Points' that could be used to purchase logo items from the shop on board. Some people seemed to take this far too seriously, but plenty enjoyed the quizzes, games and competitions. We were pleased to see a BBC news channel on TV as well as the usual American selection. Unfortunately in India the selection was dramatically reduced to only Fox news, and this was not rectified over the last couple of weeks of the cruise. We would have thought this was just a case of retuning the satellite. Lots of people spent time in their stateroom watching the wide selection of movies available. Those that watched regularly thought that the selection should have been rotated a little more often. The destinations channel was very informative and prompted us to book a couple of additional excursions. The daily newsletter is only USA Today, although we did see a Canadian version delivered. The library has a most comprehensive range of interesting books, from magazines and novels through to non-fiction and reference materials. The radio channel had some decent rock music available, a change from the more classical or older music played in the public areas around the ship. Enrichment lectures were strangely lacking for such an extensive itinerary with so many historical sites to visit. We would like to have seen more available, at least on the television if not live talks. The Captain gave a very entertaining and informative talk about pirates, and the Nautica experience of last year. Every sea-day morning in Horizons was coffee-chat and needle-point, where small kits were available free of charge (yes, Oceania do give something out for free!), and a regular group turned up with knitting and other crafts. VISAS AND IMMIGRATION : We thought the information from Oceania before the cruise was lacking about which countries actually require you to have a visa in advance. After some research we only bought a visa for India in advance, and had no problem getting visas on arrival in Istanbul. Once on board, the staff was very efficient with handling passports and getting them distributed in the ports that required them. We didn't enjoy getting up at 06:30 for a face-to-face meeting with Israeli authorities, but again the staff made it as quick as possible, and arranged plenty of officers to ensure the process was quick. We had read on the internet that Jordan could be problematic but we didn't even have to get our passports. The paperwork for India arrived in the stateroom only requiring some signatures. Ditto for immigration paperwork required for Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. OVERALL IMPRESSION : We are already booked for the 35 night trip from Capetown to Singapore in 2010... Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
Istanbul to Civitavecchia (Rome) August 4th 2009 on board ms Nautica Without doubt Oceania Cruises is certainly among the "better" companies in the cruise sector. I read here several reviews, mostly positive but also ... Read More
Istanbul to Civitavecchia (Rome) August 4th 2009 on board ms Nautica Without doubt Oceania Cruises is certainly among the "better" companies in the cruise sector. I read here several reviews, mostly positive but also several pointing less or even negative point, and I believe that both are right! Lets try to put this somewhat together: Let's start with the positive points: - With only 680 passengers for this size of ship and 400 crew members, these ships are absolutely in a good midsize and they have an exceptional ratio of passenger / crew of 1.71 to 1. - The vessels are clean, well maintained, even when you are looking for garbage, dirty floors etc... you will have difficulties to pin them down! - Their major asset is of course the high quality cuisine. The Grand Dining room can accommodate serious quantity of guests and there is enough well trained staff. You have free seating and plenty of choice in the daily menu. The food is excellent, very presented: simply delicious. Jacques Pepin who is giving a certain imprint of the high French cuisine has adapted also at a certain point to some American tastes. We had French Chief Pâtissier on board and the desserts and pastry were really a top. The image of Jacques Pepin is somewhat overdone perhaps, when you find on the menu every under his ... a New York Sirloin Steak! Also the Toscana and the Polo Grill much smaller are worth a visit. They are "unofficially" restrained in practise to the higher-level staterooms. But at least once a trip you can make a reservation in each. To get a second one is more as complicated! Cuisine is indeed more sophisticated and excellent. However I had the feeling that the staff was less trained and certainly fewer in number as in the Grand Dining room. Terrace Cafe combined with Tapas on the Terrace is a self - service restaurant having an opportunity to have your meal outside (if space is available of course). We used it mostly for breakfast ; At night they offer basically the same dishes as in the Grand Dining room but with some extra of different items. The Waves grill is "basic" for a small snack at noon. - There are several bars but only the spacious Horizons at the front and Martinis offer a "happy hour" between 5pm and 6pm. - The staterooms are nice and well maintained ... unless you are in the top layer, you do not have a fridge in your room. The bathroom is rather small of size. - Very useful for passengers who are arranging shore visits themselves is the fact that at arrival in the different ports, a local person from the tourist offices is at board to give useful information and maps. Also the daily information on your television screen about the next ports are quite interesting. - Excellent pre-voyage documents in a personalised booklet. Never seen such!! - Check in at the terminal is well done and even if you are earlier, you can get your stateroom if available. - The cruise ports and stops mostly good. Arrival and sailing hours are reasonably good. In our specific cruise there was only one worthless port: Olbia. Even the local church was not a pixel worth for a photo! What I do not understand is that even last year people found it bad. Simply changing this port with Bonifacio in Corsica (70 km) would be wonderful! These are strong point, however there are a few shadows: - Oceania seems to be building up rather hierarchic and bureaucratic when something is not within the book of the "company policy". Argument used each time the staff cannot scope with your question. It goes from even small items where some are close to a "comedy caper" up to more complicated such as the use of Fitness by adolescent teens from 15 - 18 even accompanied by their parent. As rather irritant and later comedy caper, not very "bad as such" I give you the "water problem". When checking is at the room there 2 complimentary bottles of still water. I simply ask to have sprinkling water in stead of it as we prefer this. Last year on board of Windstar, it took perhaps 15 minutes and the bottle was changed for a bottle of Perrier. You cannot believe it, but the same on Oceania took 3 to 4 days! I had the visit in my stateroom of 2 managers, before the 4th day there were 2 bottles of Perrier with a personal note of the General Manager!! I still question myself if authorisation has been asked in Miami! On the other hand in each restaurant they spoil still water with hundred litre a day when you see the number of full glasses that people do not drink. We had the difficulty to ... refuse the water! But if you want sprinkling they will charge you! - If the ship is at anchor you needs the tender. Another person pointed the same problem. You have to go to the 5th floor, taking a coloured ticket , in theory wait in the lounge to be conducted as "cattle" down the stairs to the 3rd floor! Again on Windstar you simply go and take the first available place! Even Dottie was standing on the 4th floor to stop people (mostly non Americans, a little less disciplined)! - A major item is the rates and prices charged on board. Even when the USD is less as the EUR, they are simply high and even outrageous: a. excursions are simply outrageous expensive! We arrange them ourselves but when you that even a the less expensive tour in small places are charged between 80 and 100 usd and some other simply at usd 109 or 139 per person. In many cases you arrange it for 10 pct of the rates if not less! b. Wines and drinks are expensive. The "cheapest" red wine is a Rioja at USD 29 plus 18 pct service charge!!!. On Windstar you found several at usd 21 / 23 plus 15 pct. c. Another overcharge is the Internet connection. It is not the rate as such, which is the problem but the incredible low very low extremely low speed! To get in my web mail it takes normally even abroad at an internet cafe not even a minute! On board it took more than 8 minutes (yes 8!) to only get in... and then you did not read even the first message! At the rate of the first volume package it cost already usd 6.40! To get into your web mail! Same applies to all sites! Before you printed your boarding pass of your airline, be sure that you will have paid between 15 and 20 usd! - Television is mainly destined for American public. On my remark on the mid voyage questionnaire, I mentioned that with satellite they could easily add a few other language chains such a French, Italian and Spanish ones. Received a phone call from Dottie in person that 85 pct are US, so it is not necessary to put other language chains. If they want to attract to the European market in such a way ?? - Disembarkation is quite different. Suitcases have to be put already at night outside the room. Convenient if you know that items you use in the morning such as shaving cream and other liquids are prohibited ... in your hand luggage on the plane. Nice to see in the terminal people kneeling on the ground opening their suitcases to transfer all the forbidden items! Class!!! Also breakfast before 08AM otherwise nothing! Conclusion: Overall the cruise was excellent and Oceania is certainly a good cruise line. The negative remarks should not be a "showstopper", except perhaps the extra charges that are expensive. The problem is that the small things mentioned are irritating and there is really no reason to be so narrow minded with "company policy" . Perhaps I compare too much with Windstar (180° different) much more flexible. Read Less
Sail Date August 2009
Nautica Black Sea Serenade Review July 2009   We joined Nautica in Istanbul having organised our own flights from London and a private transfer from the airport with Istanbul Airport Shuttle (22 euros). It was our second Oceania ... Read More
Nautica Black Sea Serenade Review July 2009   We joined Nautica in Istanbul having organised our own flights from London and a private transfer from the airport with Istanbul Airport Shuttle (22 euros). It was our second Oceania cruise out of about 25 in total, and as expected was thoroughly enjoyable. The food and service were as good as we had experienced on Insignia last year. Rather than adding to all the existing good reviews of Oceania ships I intend to focus on the Black Sea ports.   I always try to do a lot of research before a cruise as we prefer to explore on our own than on organised tours and this is especially important for us in recent years as my husband uses a wheelchair for any distance more than a couple of hundred yards. Some of the ports on this itinerary were quite difficult to research as there was very little information available. I hope the following may be of help to future visitors.   Istanbul, Turkey   Our third visit to one of my favourite cities and we had the luxury of starting the cruise with an overnight stay. We had visited the main attractions before and, being a Sunday, the Grand Bazaar was closed so we decided to start with a look around the new part of the city. Leaving the port we turned right and walked along to the tram stop, bought "jetons" (1.5 Turkish Lira each = 60p = $1US) and took the tram one stop to Kabatas. This is the end of the tram line and from there we used the  underground funicular (well signposted, disabled access lifts and uses the same "jetons") to take us up to Taksim Square. There was a large military parade in progress, something like remembrance day it seemed, with hundreds of soldiers, military bands etc, but once they left the square was quite deserted.   From there we walked along the main street of Istaki Kadesi (follow the old trams to find the right street). Most of the shops were open and there were a few street vendors too. Our plan had been to take the "Tunel" funicular back down but we seemed to miss it at the other end of the main street (there was a Metro station which I think was probably the place) but we kept walking down, found the Galata Tower, and continued along a steep downhill street which brought us out by the Karakoy tram stop at the Galata Bridge. From there we took a tram up to Sultanhamet, the central part of the old city. The Blue Mosque, Cistern & Hagar Sophia are all easy to find within this area as is the Grand Bazaar.   However, this time we wanted to visit Topkapi Palace, as we had neer previouslly been there. From the map it looked as though we had to walk down the hill to get in, but in fact from that entrance we had to push back up a steep hill to get in (entrance 20 Turkish Lira = 8 GBP = $12US each). The palace is huge, they have tried hard to give wheelchair access wherever possible but of course by the nature of an old building some parts were difficult. but we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around and looking at several exhibitions (did not visit the Harem which would have been 15 lira extra). On leaving we found an exit which led to a gate just behind Hagar Sophia - a much easier route for anyone else who wants to visit ! Just follow the road with Hagar Sophia on your immediate left and you will arrive by the Topkapi wall.   We then walked down the hill to the Spice Bazaar at the bottom of the hill near the Galata Bridge, which was open and very busy even though it was Sunday, and some internet sites had said that it would be closed.   From here it would be walkable back to the ship but we opted for the tram again, as we find them so convenient and easy to use in Istanbul. Getting on at the Emminunou stop almost outside the Spice Bazaar involves quite a lot of steps down to an underpass and, surprisingly, there is no disabled access lift at this stop. Fortunately husband can manage the steps and I can carry the wheelchair ! We got off at the Tophane stop, to the old city side of the port and waked back - there is very little difference between the  distances of the 2 tram stops to the port - just a few minutes walk either way.   Nessebur/Nessebar, Bulgaria   The old town  is on an island linked to the mainland by a causeway and we tendered into a harbour close to the old city. I had been nervous about the accessibility here due to the hills and cobbled streets and Oeania's daily newsletter "strongly discourages the use of wheelchairs in this port". We decided to try with the backup plan of going to the beach if it was impossible to see the town. The cruise terminal itself was very hard work, numerous steps up and down into the customs building etc and from there we were immediately greeted with a huge flight of stone steps up to the town. However, there were some shops along a flat road to our left and passing those we arrived at the bus terminal, from where there was a nice gently sloping smooth tarmac slope up to the main square of the town. I would recommend this route for anyone other than the most active.   The old town of Nessebur/bar (the spellings seem to be interchangeable) is lovely, full of wooden houses and pretty little churches made from small bricks (in various states of repair). These days it is really a giant bazaar of several streets and squares (only about a quarter o f it cobbled, the rest is easily accessible for wheelchairs)  and the tourists flock in from the nearby beach resorts for a day of shopping. By lunchtime there were.hundreds of people waiting for buses back to Sunny Beach (fare 1 lei, I was told) and there was also a little train that cost 3 lei. We had bought a few Bulgarian Lei from home (1  lei = 50p) but there were plenty of ATMs in town. There we also a lot of money changing shops, although one shopkeeper told us not to use them as they sometimes give out fake money.   We debated a trip to Sunny Beach but the weather was not wonderful, it was cloudy and cooler than expected, so instead we walked across the causeway to have a look at new Nessebur. There are some hotels there and a few shops but nothing much. Further along the coast we could see some large hotels on a nice-looking beach but we did not walk that far, returning instead to the old town to use up our last few lei.   Constanta, Romania   The cruise terminal here is modern and bright but located in the middle of a large commercial port. There is a shuttle bus to Ovida square in the old town of Constanta about a mile or so away for $20 (yes $20 US for a maximum 3 mile round trip on  bus  - a rare black mark for Oceania!) but it was not a hard walk, even though it was hotter today. To begin with there is a long, flat, straight road to the port gate, which must be close to a mile. On the left just before the gate was a large bank with an ATM where we drew some Romanian Levs as we had been unable to buy any before leaving UK. We got 100 levs which was just over 20 GBP (so 1 lev = 20p = 30c US) but in fact the minimum withdrawal of 50 lev would have been plenty.   Once out of the port the casino building (no longer operating but an attraction of the city) is on your right and there is a short hill which leads up to some Roman ruins (less than impressive but work a quick look) just in front of the cathedral. The cathedral was quite nice - the entrance is on the left coming from the port, and continuing up that same street for a few minutes brings you to Ovida square. This square (actually more like a triangle) is home to a large archeological museum, which we did not visit but it looked very busy. Next to the museum is a smaller glass building housing the Roman mosaiacs (entrance 5 lev) and this was worth seeing, we thought. Beware of the toilet attendant on the square - she refused our offfer of a euros each but nearly frogmarched us to the museum cash desk to get change for her 1 lev fee !!!   There seemed little else of interest in the old city - as generally reported it is quite grotty and most of the buildings are in a serious state of disrepair. I had read on the internet about a double decker city tour bus aand had asked the local tourist representative about this when she came aboard Nautica that morning. I do like the availability of a local representative most port days on Oceania but on this particular trip found several of them to be quite negative and unhelpful. The Romanian lady first denied the existence of a tourist bus but when I persisted and showed her the internet pages I had printed out she 'remembered' and marked on a map where we could get it - on the corner of Tomo Boulevard and Ferdinand St (on some old maps still called Republikki). So we walked up Tomo Boulevard from the old sqaure towards the new part of the city, which was slightly nicer but nothing special. We found the bus stop then walked a couple of blocks beyond to the pedestrian shopping street (Stefan St) (found a free wifi connection outside Western Union which was useful) but soon returned to catch the bus.   The 'City Tour' bus is in fact a shuttle service to the nearby beach resort of Mamaia, but the advantage is that it runs right up the beach strip to serve the hotels whereas the local bus to Mamaia seemed to terminate at the very beginning. We got off the bus (fare3 lev - very reasonable) at the central stop of the beach strip by the casino and this seemed to be the main part of a typical beach resort - shops, fairground rides, cafes, bars and a cablecar stretching for miles along a nice sandy beach..   I enjoyed a swim in the sea at last, although it was not as warm as expected, and we sat in one of th beach front bars for a while (about 5-7 Levs for a beer or soft drink) before catching the bus back to the station. Tired by then, and still having 30 Levs to spare, we decided to get a taxi back to the port rather than try to work out the local bus. We told the driver to stop when his meter got to 30 Levs and in fact that took us just to the port gate (but I don't think he went the most direct route !). In any event taxis are  not allowed into the port so we had to walk the last mile back along the straight road. So for anyone unable or unwilling to do that walk both ways the only options here are a tour or the $20 shuttle -  and to be honest there is very little within easy walking distance of the shuttle drop off, so a tour might be preferable if you are not up for the walk. Constanta is certainly not my favourite port, but I must say we had a nice day, especially on the beach at Mamaia.   Odessa, Ukraine   As expected, Odessa was a beautiful city full of amazing buildings, the opera house being the best of the lot. The cruise port is widely reported as being "right at the bottom of the Potemkin steps" which is it but there is quite a walk out of the terminal and across a long bridge over several railway lines then down some stairs (or sloping road, as we did) to the bottom of the famous steps. Fortunately there is a free funicular that runs just to the left of it and saves climbing 200 steps. At the top you find yourself in Primorsky Boulevard, a nice park  along the top of the cliff. Turning left leads to the City Hall and several museums, from where the Opera House comes into sight. Nearby we found a Bank of Piraeus which had an ATM with English instructions and withdrew some local currency (12 hryvnia = 1 GBP  so 1 hryvnia = 8p = 12c US). This was another currecny that seemed to go a long way - in all 3 Ukrainian ports a soft drink or beer  or ice cream was about 5/6 hryvnia from a stall or about double that in a cafe, public toilets cost 1 or 1.5 (and the attendants always seemed to have change).   After looking around the outside of the fantastic opera house we wandered down a road to the side of the large Mozart hotel and came to a park which turned out to be the city garden. Now, I am not usually a bad map-reader but I never did get my bearings in Odessa. The layout of the streets did not seem to correspond with either the map I had printed from the internet or the ones given out by the tourist information lady - but it did not seem to matter much as we found lovely things to look at just by wandering around.   Leaving the city gardens at the other end we turned left and soon arrived at an impressive building called the Vorontsov Monument - not sure what it was but it was surrounded by another nice park and a reasonable sized art & crafts market.   Continuing down the same street eventually lead to the Cathedral - it was further thn it looked on the map and when we got there only the crypt was open, but it was nice enough.   We made our way back to the funicular by a slightly different route (found free wifi near McDonalds in one of the main streets) and again enjoyed our day. Do be aware that maps are of little use here unless you have one with the street names printed with the cyrilic alphabet as well as English, as only the cyrilic ones are used on street signs and hardly anyone seemed to speak English.     Sevastopol, Ukraine   Sevastopol was another nice city and the map here seemed far easier to follow. From the port there is a road leading the short distance up to a square from where we walked along a very nice seafront park to the main  sqaure of the town, Lazarev Square (according to the map - again the street names were unrecognisable). Turning right at the roundabout (just past McDonalds) brought us into the central market. Later we followed the main street heading towards the famous Panorama Museum, visiting one of the catherdrals on the way. Unfortunately the Panorama is on top of a hill far too steep for us to climb with the wheelchair, but people who had visited al seemed impressed.   We walked back towards the ship along the seafront (Lenin) street which looked more direct but was not a very interesting walk, I think the other route was much nicer and did not seem much further. The tourist information lady had said 45 minutes to walk from the ship to the Panorama and I think that would be about right, it must be about a mile and a half to the bottom of the hill. There were horses there to take people up to the museum (husband declined this !!).   Apart from the Panorama there are monuments all over the city, mostly military I think, but it made it an interesting city to explore, nicer than I had expected,   Sochi, Russia   Russia can only be visited independently if you hold a Russian visa, which are difficult and expensive to obtain, which is a shame as Sochi looked like a nice resort town and we docked right on the promenade between 2 busy pebble beaches. However, one of our Cruise Critic group was kind enough to put together a tour with Sochi Holidays (www.sochi-holi.ru). It cost $70 US each for 10 of us for 5 hours with a driver and excellent English-speaking guide. We visited an Orthadox church, walked along the lovely seafront park then drove up Akhun Mount, 600 metres above sea level, to climb the observation tower for amazing views of the surrounding city, sea and mountains. From there we drove to Stalin's Dacha (holiday villa) which was interesting, visited a glorious old Spa Hotel from the Soviet era, sadly somewhat decayed now, and enjoyed a sightseeing drive around the city before returning to the ship at 2pm. This was considerably cheaper than the ship's tours and we saw much more. Also, all of the ship's tours stated that they were unsuitable for passengers with wheelchairs or walking difficulties, whereas our driver and guide really put themselves out to help - the only thing Paul could not do was the tower climb, everywhere else was fine. It was a very interesting day and highly recommended for anyone visiting Sochi.   All cruise lines like to encourage the belief that any guests not on one of their own tours needs a visa to be able to get off the ship, but I can confirm that (as in St Petersburg when we toured with Red Oktober a few years ago) there was absolutely no problem or query- our tour leader had given our names to the immigration officers in advance and we simply walked through with everyone else and were met by our guide outside immigration, where we paid cash for the tour on the day.   Yalta, Ukraine   Yalta is a beautiful resort city located in a bay surrounded by huge mountains, a really stunning view. Even though it was a hot, sunny day the mist never quite cleared from the mountain tops. Again the port is right in the centre of town and there is a nice promenade with many cafes, stalls and designed outlet shops (but not particularly cheap from what I saw).   The tourist info lady gave out good maps on board and was informative about public transport - bus 5 or 11 goes from next to the cathedral to Livadia Palace (of Yalta Conference fame) and there is a ferry from the jetty about half way along the seafront that goes to the pretty Swallows Nest Castle. We decided against Livadia as it was very hot and we didn't fancy getting on a crowded bus. There were also taxis offering tours for $20 per hour to both of these main sights. We investigated the ferry but there were no English timetables and the Swallows Nest ticket booth wasw closed when we walked past fairly early. We intended to go back later but time went on as we explored the city, visited the Alexander Nevsky cathedral (the nicest on this trip) and the huge market area near the port (shown as a 'shopping area' on the map - follow the pedestrian street behind the Kodak centre) so we did not get around to it, and with anearly sailaway of 4pm we found plenty to do in Yalta itself. There are several grey pebble beaches but they were completely packed with people enjoying the weather - there was hardly room to stand on the beach, let alone lay down a towel, but the whole place had a nice family fun atmosphere. (Free wifi outside a large hotel at the far end of the beach, near a small tourist craft market) And as we left port we could see the Swallows Nest castle in the distance.   The following day was at sea but an interesting one as we sailed through the Bosphorus, passing Istanbul in the morning and the Dardanelles in the afternoon, passing quite close to the Galipoli monument early evening. the cruise director gave commentary at the points of interest.   Kusadasi, Turkey   Since our last visit about 8 years ago the cruise port has developed enormously and in fact the whole town has cleaned up a lot to the extent that the bazaar is now more like a shopping mall. But it is still a nice place to visit and wander around the shops within a few steps of the port.   When we tired of shopping we went to the city beach a short walk to the left from the port. It was nice to have a swim and cool off,  but the water was not very clear or, probably, very clean. But it is handy and you can rent a sunbed & umbrella for 5 lira if you want to stay longer. Maybe another time I would get on one of the many minibuses that pass the port every few minutes going to Ladies Beach a couple of miles away.   Santorini, Greece   We broke the habit of a lifetime and stayed on the ship - Paul hates heights and would not go up the cablecar, on our last visit I had taken the cablecar up and walked down.   Athens, Greece   We had to vacate our cabin by 8am and leave the ship by 9am, breakfast was available until 8.30am so it was not too early a start. Our flight home was not until 7pm and from internet research had found that we were able to leave our cases at the Student and Traveller's Inn in the Plaka District for 2 euros per bag for the day.   It was our 4th time in Athens and in the past we had been rather unlucky, delayed by general strikes and overcharged by argumentative taxi drivers, and my impressions of the city have never been that good. But I must say that this time everything worked smoothly, the taxi driver had quoted 20-25 euros for the journey and although I could not persuade him to switch on his meter he asked for 25 at the end which was fine by us.   We duly left our bags in the luggage room at the Students Inn and paid our 4 euros. No receipts were issued for either our money or cases, receptionist assured me he would recognise me and it was not necessary. We had already made sure that my jewellery, laptop etc were in our day bag and nothing of major value in the cases, but there was no problem, they were there safely waiting for me when we went back later in the day.   Having focussed on the Acropolis on previous visits we decided to do something different this time, walked first through the (wonderfully wheelchair accessible) Plaka to the flea market at Monastiraki then from there to Syntagma Square, mainly to check out the airport bus departure point but while there we saw the changing of the guard at the Parliament building. Later we walked through the lovely  National Gardens, where is was much cooler than in the city, to visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus (2 euros each to go in but nearly as visible from the road really) and Hadrian's Arch. From there we wandered back through the Plaka to collect our suitcases then returned to Syntagma Square to catch the 4pm airport bus (X95 - runs every 15-20 minutes, costs 3.20 euros each).   Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
An Historical Voyage First of all, let me begin by telling you that I select my cruises on the basis of itinerary, so I have no loyalty to any one company. Thus, my review will be objective. I have taken more than 30 cruises and this is ... Read More
An Historical Voyage First of all, let me begin by telling you that I select my cruises on the basis of itinerary, so I have no loyalty to any one company. Thus, my review will be objective. I have taken more than 30 cruises and this is my second on the 'Nautica'. The appeal of this particular cruise was the ports of call, as 6 would be new to me. I booked my own flights, on line, and managed to obtain a better deal than the agents were quoting. The ordered taxi was waiting at Istanbul airport, and I would like to say that I was whisked away to the port, but we crawled along in the rush hour traffic, with the consequence that I didn't embark until 6.30 pm. Fortunately, we had an overnight in Istanbul, otherwise I would have flown in the day before. Registration was handled efficiently and I was on board quickly, but my late arrival meant I had missed the 'Singles Get Together', and I never did find the rest of the solo passengers. This was my third visit to Istanbul, so I had 'done' the mosques and Topkapi Palace and all the other 'must dos'. So, the following day, I decided to take the funicular to Taksim Square and walk back down Iskilal Cadessi, but many of the shops remained closed, as it was Sunday. I went to the top of the Galata Tower again, as I never tire of the view of this wonderful city. Folkloric dancers came on to the ship in the evening, and gave a live performance. I went to a CC meeting at 10 and met my fellow Cruise Critics and together we all watched the ship sail away, under the illuminated Bosphorus Bridge. The Ship The Oceania ships all flow well, and are easy to negotiate. Most of the evening activities are all on Deck 5 and, sooner or later, everyone passes through the piano (martini) bar, and usually stays to hear the pianist, Jerry Blaine, or join in one of his music quizzes. It's a very tastefully decorated ship and the library is one of the best afloat; certainly the only one I've come across that operates an honour system. Happy Hour is held there every afternoon, between 5 and 6 when drinks are sold at '2 for 1'. I think this should be changed to half-price, if they're going to have it at all, as it requires two people to order the same drink, at the same time; not ideal if you're travelling alone and fancy an occasional libation. There's a well-appointed fitness centre and (overpriced) spa. Pilates and Yoga are charged at $11 (+ 18% service charge) which probably why I saw only one person in the Pilates Class I looked in on. There are ample sun beds - some doubles - and private cabanas for hire, for those who want complete privacy. The standard cabins are fairly compact, but well-appointed. I would like to see the addition of a mirror on the inside of the bathroom door, or cabinet, so that one can see the back of one's head prior to stepping into the lift for a further inspection. I did attend a party in an Owner's Suite and it was spacious, and very luxurious. One thing I love about Oceania is their restricted smoking policy; I wish Crystal would adopt it. Food There are multifarious locations for piling on the calories. Apart from Room Service, breakfast is served every morning in the 'Grand' Dining Room (their word, not mine). I intended to try it, but couldn't tear myself away from the Terrace Cafe, with it's huge choice of fresh fruits and berries plus freshly squeezed orange juice. The coffee was a bit hit and miss, depending on the timing and location, so I preferred to make my own pot of tea each morning. The teabags stocked included Twinings English Breakfast - my favourite. Sometimes my teapot turned into a tug-of-war, as the attentive crew are horrified to see passengers lifting a finger. I tried lunch in the 'Grand' Dining Room once, but it was speedier and more convenient to eat on deck at Terrace Cafe or Waves Grill, both of which carried a good selection of ice creams. Highlight of the day was afternoon tea. The string quartet played while you chose from a selection of dainty sandwiches, scones and miniature pastries and tartlets. There was also some fruit being flambEed in alcohol each day. Dinner in the 'Grand' Dining Room was a fairly slow affair and if I particularly wanted to make an activity at 9 I had to be sure to get in early. It is nice, though, to have a drink with some new acquaintances and then toddle along to dinner with them, without the convention of a set time and table. I ate once in the two alternative restaurants, "Toscana" and "Polo Grill" and was disappointed on both occasions. I remember raving about the food on my last Nautica cruise but, since then, they have had a change of chef, and not for the better. There also seems to be a lack of communication between the wait staff and the kitchen, although all requests are written down. Some of the food was still terrific, (the carpaccio in Toscana, for instance) but I had tough calves' liver, duck and ostrich, which I can only think had been overcooked. Some of the vegetables were overcooked as well, in spite of being requested ' al dente'. And the creme brulee had only a passing acquaintance with the blow torch. Entertainment and Activities Oceania is not known for entertainment and, quite frankly, most of the people I spoke to were happy to do without the cheesy production shows. The Cruise Director, Dottie Kulasa, worked very hard, but would be well advised to dress in a more relaxed way. Her corporate trouser suits in stiff fabrics made it look as if she was about the attend a board meeting, and put a barrier between her and the passengers. Coincidentally, she was married to the resident comedian, Tom Drake, which no doubt saved on cabins. Tom appeared twice and, after the first appearance he admitted he was told to slow down his delivery, as the British audience couldn't follow his fast New Jersey patter. Consequently, he was better received on the second occasion. There was one appearance from a magician, Harry Maurer, who, while entertaining, did nothing original. Best of the bunch was Vincenzo Martinelli, a virtuoso of the Spanish/Classical guitar, who also appeared twice. His music was over-amplified, but I think this was a deliberate ploy to keep the soporific audience awake after dinner. Game shows were run by Dottie's sidekick, Ian, (Shane Ritchie on speed), and his deputy Dan. Lucy-Jo and Joanne completed this quartet. They played a silly version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" one evening, where clues were offered to artificially get the contestants to $1 million. This meant that there were only two participants and no suspense. When I've played it in the past, a wrong answer meant that the contestant was out of the game. Dottie was in charge of trivia each afternoon, with some fierce competition. My own team (which comprised eminent lawyers and doctors) erupted into a victory dance, on being told we were the overall winners. The "O" points collected for our efforts are a total waste of time - they might as well tell us it's for fun, not prizes. The minimum required is 30 points for a mouse mat. Who wants a mouse mat these days? They should invest in decent prizes, or abandon it altogether. Ports Nessebur, Bulgaria: This is a tender port. Do not bother with a tour here, as you can walk it quite easily yourself. There are an amazing number of churches and remains from the Hellenistic period. It's also interesting to see the wooden houses in the Eastern Rumelian style typical of the Bulgarian coast in the 19th century. It's very close to the resort town of Sunny Beach and you can take a boat or bus in fairly cheaply. Unfortunately, this resort has influenced Nessebur and the overall impression is of a small town full of little shops and stalls, all selling the same tat. Constanta, Rumania: I had pre-booked a private tour with other CC members with Modes. Our guide, Anneliese, was waiting promptly at 9, as arranged. We walked to the Peter and Pavel Cathedral, then the casino, along the esplanade. We then drove to Ovid Square, the centre of town. We were surprised to meet other passengers there who had come via the Oceania shuttle bus, and had been charged $20 for the privilege. We were escorted into the Archaeological Museum. Anneliese had words with the curator and told us the fee for photography and video would be waived. There were many interesting exhibits here which had been discovered during excavations. We went next door, to a public building which contains the remains of one of the longest mosaic pavements in the world.  Again, we were allowed to photograph. We drove out of the City to the beach resorts of Eforie and Neptun and had a wander around there, laughing at the menu translations - "crap" meat for crabmeat, for instance. We stopped at the Murfatlar Cellar for wine tasting with nibbles, and we were all so impressed that several bottles were purchased (and consumed). We had lunch there (and more wine) at the Crama Neptun, sitting at a long table on the shaded terrace. We drove back to Constanza, arriving at the ship around 3.30. Odessa, Ukraine: Here again, I had pre-arranged a private "Jewish Heritage" tour with ten other CC members with Intourist. Our lovely young guide, Natasha, was waiting and we drove the five minutes to the top of the Potemkin Steps. We strolled down Primorsky Boulevard, admiring the architecture, to the Opera House, where we reboarded the bus and drove to Shomrei Shabbat synagogue. There was a video conference taking place downstairs, so we were ushered up to the gallery, where a young man explained the history of the synagogue. We were fortunate to have Natasha, who conducted a simultaneous translation. We went on to the Holocaust memorial and then to the Jewish Museum (which was not part of the ship's tour.) We were scheduled to lunch at a kosher restaurant but we asked Natasha to take us to a typical Ukranian restaurant, which she did. We were entertained there by typical Ukranian folk singers and joined in the dancing. Fortunately, Natasha was able to provide translations of the menu, as we were concerned at eating 'Crazy Sheep' or 'Rabbit on the Lawn'. After lunch we walked through the park and shopping area, before returning to the ship at 4. Sevastapol, Ukraine: Another private tour with Intourist. Our guide, Eugenia, was every bit as good as Natasha, articulate and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city. We drove to the park and watched a naval exercise taking place in the harbour, then viewed the theatre, one of the few remaining original buildings. From there, we drove to Chersonesus to see the excavations of the ancient city and St. Vladimir Cathedral. We then drove to Balaclava, where we visited the Panarama museum at Malakhov Hill. It's a huge 360 degree re-creaction of the defence of Sevastopol, merging painting and models which draws one into the action. We had lunch on the terrace of the Balaclava restaurant, overlooking the harbour, full of luxury Russian-owned yachts. After lunch we visited a secret underground submarine depot, created by the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, carved out of a mountain and concealed behind huge camouflaged bomb-proof steel doors. Built in 1956 it now accommodates a Cold War museum filled with naval exhibits. It was amazing to discover this had been used until 1991. As we drove back to Sevastopol I read "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and we all felt we had learned more about the Crimean and Second World Wars. When we learned that Eugenia lived in Yalta, we begged her to try and arrange to be our guide there. The next day was, thankfully, a sea day. Sochi, Russia: This was the only port at which I booked a ship's tour - and lived to regret it. It was entitled "Sochi Highlights and Stalin's Dacha", but the highlights were few and far between. Although one needs a visa to visit Russia, any reputable tour guide will arrange this for you. We had 34 passengers on our bus and I counted at least 17 buses. We stopped at the Winter Theatre and strolled through a park. We then drove to the Matseta Springs and saw the sulphur springs, but the toilet stop took longer than the viewing. We then drove on the Stalin's Dacha which was, in fact, quite interesting, but very crowded. Returned to the ship at 2 pm, for a late lunch, after a disappointing morning. Yalta, Ukraine: We left the ship at 8.30 for a pre-arranged full-day tour and were delighted to see that Eugenia was once again our guide. She had asked the agency to switch her assignments as she had so enjoyed our company in Sevastapol. First stop was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, then on to the Livadia Palace. It was built in 1911 as a summer residence for Czar Nicholas II and Alexandra and their children but, sadly, they were only able to visit on four occasions before they were assassinated. However, it is full of photographs and drawings from their time there. In February 1945 it was used as the site of the Yalta Conference, attended by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. Roosevelt was, by then, a sick man, and was allowed to stay at the palace. From there we drove to the Vorontsov Palace, where Churchill stayed during the conference. This is a beautiful palace, built in the English style, with wood panelling. The gardens, extending down to the sea, are breathtaking. We continued on to the Swallow's Nest, a spectacular neo-Gothic castle perched high on a cliff overlooking the Black Sea. We stopped at a restaurant there, "Elena", where lunch on the terrace presented a perfect photo opportunity. We arrived back at the port at 3 and paid for all our tours at the office there. The next day was spent cruising the Bosphorus in the morning and the Dardanelles in the afternoon. The Cruise Director, Dottie, provided a live commentary as we passed sites, such as the Anzac memorial at Gallipolli. Kusadasi, Turkey: I had visited Ephesus before, so was happy to join others on a private tour from Sisan Tours to two villages in the hills. Our first stop was to Kirazli, where we visited the mosque and private houses, about 150 years old. The village children were attending Koran school and we were allowed to enter and became part of a lesson. The children were delighted to practice their limited English and ask questions about our respective countries. We, in turn, were able to have the opportunity to learn more about their village life, through our interpreter. We stopped for tea/coffee at a typical "Men only" cafe, then drove on to a Locomotive Museum. This was more interesting than I had expected, as it was a train graveyard for all the original 100 year old locomotives  (Stephenson and others) all set out in beautifully landscaped gardens. 'Health and Safety' hadn't reached here yet, and we were able to clamber all over these amazing engines, like kids. We continued to Sirince Village, visiting the orthodox church, before enjoying a meze-style lunch, being cooked, while we waited, over an open fire. We also sampled the local yogurt-based drink Ayran, which is an acquired taste. After lunch we browsed in the local market and sampled the local fruit wines. While we drove back to the ship, our lovely young guide serenaded us with Turkish folk songs. Santorini, Greece: This was a tender port and, unfortunately, there were four ships anchored that day. Who arranges these things? The wait for the cable car took 45 minutes, so I abandoned my plans to take a bus to Oia. The last tender left at 3.30 so I thought it safer to stay in Fira but the attractive little town was packed solid. I met others from the ship and, together, we walked to the next village, Firastefani, which was very pretty and afforded many photo opportunities. The queue for the cable car on our return was just as bad, so we decided to walk down. This was not easy, as one had to concentrate on avoiding the 'presents' the donkeys had left us, as well as the donkeys themselves, while staying upright. The aroma wasn't Chanel, either. We bought some souvenirs and returned to the ship. The next day we docked in Piraeus. I have visited Athens before, so decided to share a minivan to the airport, immediately upon disembarkation. There were 9 of us and it worked out at only $18 per person. We were the last to leave the ship at 9 am, so it was quick and easy to locate our suitcases. Unfortunately, the British Airways desks were not opening until 11 am, so there was a lot of hanging around. By then, of course, we were all one big jolly family, so it didn't matter too much. Summary: This was a fascinating itinerary and I would recommend anyone who is interested in European history to try it. Everyone has their favourite lines, and I don't think it would make much difference with whom you chose to travel. I, personally, prefer the small ships as I find them more conducive to forming friendships. Obviously, if you're travelling with a partner or friends, this is less of an issue. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Our family cruised on the Nautica Ocenia in 2009 July, from Istanbul to Athens. We were excited to cruise on the Oceania line, as we had never been on this cruising line before. From Australia were are very laid back people so with our ... Read More
Our family cruised on the Nautica Ocenia in 2009 July, from Istanbul to Athens. We were excited to cruise on the Oceania line, as we had never been on this cruising line before. From Australia were are very laid back people so with our extensive cruising experience behind us we can fairly critique our experience on board. Food was amazing. It was bar far the best dining we have had ever on board. It was exquisite, everywhere! The Buffet, The Grand Dining Room, Toscana and the SteakHouse. Service was incredible; the staff when out of their way to service to ensure the best possible service: pulling out chairs, taking your plate to your seat after buffet service, new cutlery immediately, polite, friendly. It was the best service we ever received on any cruise, by the then 67 nationalities on board. Even the Captain and his staff were exceptional and went out of their way to accommodate us. The buffet themes were very good and food AMAZING! Rooms were smaller than we expected them to be, finding ourselves cramped and crowded in the bedroom and especially the bathroom. The shower size was small however the freshly stocked shampoos and body washes were great (their size was good). Towels instantly restocked. Beds made everyday, new sheets every second day. Fridges restocked instantly. Balcony always cleaned. TV and in-room entertainment was wonderful, lots of programs, movies and an in cabin DVD for you. Interconnecting rooms were wonderful (that was our room arrangement due to the limited four person suite accommodation) however expected larger sized stateroom space. Entertainment was average. The performers, band, magician, comedian... were all average (if sometimes below) however the staff were fantastic. The assistant cruise director Ian was the funniest bloke on board and a true gentleman, as well as other crew Lucy Jo and Dan. Meanwhile, Cruise Director Dottie was never spotted anywhere except Captains cocktails or her morning show. Activities were great as well. One exception to the entertainment was Vincenzo, the classical guitarist, who was amazing and very talented. His two shows were brilliant. Spa/Salon/Fitness centre were all fantastic and service and staff were again friendly and polite. Shop staff wonderful and always happy/friendly. Samuel, was in charge of the shops on board, and he was extraordinary. Everything was expensive: treatments, drinks, tours (I'll get to that)... Ports of Call were beautiful ports but most tours were expensive and disappointment. Nessebur (bulgaria) we did a village tour which seemed like a scam. For all that money the poor was very poor. Odessa was a beautiful port where we didn't do any tours. Sevastopol itself was very disappointing however the tour to Khersonushus was great. Yalta tour to Livadia palace was fantastic.... Sochi was awful, horrible, the worst port we have ever been to EVER. The tour was a MAJOR ripoff, overpriced. The spas were disgusting, smelt, rude people. The attractions could barely be called that and the best part of the whole experience was the air conditioned bus. Fortunately we saw Stalin's Dacha (villa) in between the over priced chaos. Turkey and Greece were amazing and worthwhile, despite Santorini being very busy (that comes with the time of year). There were not photographers on board, which is agreed to be a saving financially but our family enjoys such a memoir. Fellow cruising passengers were unlike our previous cruise experience. All passengers were American, with a few Canadians and us the Aussies onboard. Americans were very particular and fussy travellers, complaining with everything and making their arrogance and ignorance known TO EVERYONE on board. It doesn't get much better than Nautica. Though there are always exceptions to rules and some Americans were pleasant company, majority were rude, fussy and arrogant. On tours they were only concerned with the US and the Baltic relationships, asking them if they heard of Obama, knew of CNN and watched American television shows. For us and the Canadians it was annoying to witness, and we felt the Americans needed to know that the entire world (especially the developing countries in the Baltic such as Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine) don't revolve around them. Also, I can understand if people want to wear shorts and everyday shirts out to evening dining, but turning up to captains cocktails in shorts, polo as a collar(t-shirt), boots/thongs is an insult to the staff, the ship and the captain. Seeing fellow passengers in this attire on the most formal (and only formal) night on the cruise is really horrbile. THat was embarrasing on the fellow passengers behalf. The best part of the entire cruise was the second last night when there was the farewell show (which is better the 2nd last night as people are packing and giving farewells to staff the last night). Every act performed and then the string quartet performed TIME TO SAY GOODBYE. A DVd of our cruise experience was played and then the whole crew (all 600 of then) came to the stage and sang with us an Irish Blessing. We danced with them in the showroom till the wee hours of the morning. Never before have we experienced something so emotional and touching as that. Overall, this cruise was our best cruising experience and everyone from the waiting staff, to disembarkation people, to the salon staff, the tender staff, the captain and his crew and the everyone in between were extra ordinary, and it was our best cruise ever. five star!!!!! ultimate holiday and a voyage to remember! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Our cruise began May 10, 2009, in Istanbul, Turkey, went to Mitilini, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Strait of Messina, Amalfi/Positano, Taormina, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Venice. We recommend the ship to any adults who want ... Read More
Our cruise began May 10, 2009, in Istanbul, Turkey, went to Mitilini, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Strait of Messina, Amalfi/Positano, Taormina, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Venice. We recommend the ship to any adults who want good food, good company, and good experiences ashore.We spent a day in Istanbul  before  embarking Nautica. We had a private tour to the wonderful sites Topakapi Palace, Church of St. Sophia, Blue Mosque and Covered Bazaar. Enjoyed it very much. We had our arrangements through Transbalkan Tours (www.transbalkan.com) which we used them for Ephesus as well during the cruise. We overnighted in a boutique hotel located in the old city. Next day we took a cab to Nautica. Boarding process was simple and friendly. We were in our stateroom within 15 minutes of leaving the taxi and at the welcoming lunch buffet 10 minutes later. Most of the luggage arrived promptly. The final piece was delayed a couple hours.Overall, the ship was beautiful, very well decorated, traditional but not old-fashioned, and superbly maintained. You could hardly find a scuff mark anywhere. The ship carries only 680 passengers, which puts it on the small side these days. We, and everyone we talked to, liked the size, which was big enough but not too big. While cruising, the ship was stable. The swimming pool was small but adequate, with two whirlpools, and the deck area was adequate. There were a variety of places to sit in the sun or lean on the railing. There was a nice library, a good-sized fitness area, a small casino, and two shops. A string quartet frequently played, as did a pianist. The stage entertainment was typical of cruise ships. There were few children on our trip, and there should have been none.Nautica doesn't encourage children, and these kind of trips aren't suited for them. Food was usually very good, sometimes excellent, and a few times even superb. It would occasionally fall into the "okay" category. The elegant Grand Dining Room operates during specified periods as announced each day in the ship newsletter. You are not assigned a table or an eating time.There are no formal nights. You dress "country club casual." No tie or jacket is required for men. Some jackets but only a few ties were in evidence. You decide whether to eat with others or not. Service was good. The buffet, at the stern of the ship, has superb views and is called the Terrace Caf? for breakfast and lunch and Tapas for dinner. On three consecutive evenings, we sat at one of the outdoor tables at the buffet and watched the sun set over the Black Sea, an experience to treasure. Menu selection was varied, and presentation was excellent in both restaurants. Oceania advertises that "legendary chief" Jacques Pepin created some of the dishes on the menu. That seemed overrated to us. Near the pool was a grill, operating from about noon to 4 p.m., where you could get good hamburgers and hotdogs, a few other sandwiches, ice cream, and go through a salad buffet. There are two alternative restaurants, Toscana, featuring Italian, and the Polo Grill, featuring beef. You make reservations, but do not pay extra at them. While fine, they are over-hyped. The dining room and buffet were just as good. The Nautica does not scrimp on food. Prime rib was on the menu several nights, a roast sucking pig was served one day, and shrimp prepared in various ways was available almost every day.We met the captain once at a ship's party. Otherwise, he was not much in evidence. Tours of the bridge, kitchen and engine room were not advertised. A concierge is available during the day. When our room keys acted up, he quickly had the problem fixed. The staff comes from many countries, and most had good command of English and were very friendly.Shore excursions were as with many ships, terribly overpriced. Details about them, necessary to decide which ones to select, were hard to come by before we boarded. Calls to the 800 Oceania number were answered by dour, unhelpful individuals. For some of the port of calls we decided to pre-book private shore excursions through local tour operators before boarding to Nautica. We were very happy with the tours provided through them. Saw more and Saved a lot.Local Tour Operators we used:Santorini: www.santorinidaytours.comKusadasi:  www.transbalkan.comAthens: www.athenstaxi.netIn talking to many of our fellow passengers, we heard nearly-unanimous praise for the Nautica. A surprising number of them had been on Oceania two or three times before, although the company has existed only a few years. One woman, apparently a chronic complainer, said maintenance of her stateroom was lacking, crew were impolite, and food was not "phenomenal." It was difficult to believe her first two claims. As for the food, meals were always enjoyable and delicious; for "phenomenal," you go to gourmet restaurants. Several passengers got on board without their luggage. I suspect that was the fault of airlines. I would strongly advise against arriving in Europe on the same day your cruise ship departs - WAY too much opportunity for trouble. Service in the Nautica buffet was at times a little slow. The staff should also enforce the dress code. We had a few louts who came to the buffet in sleeve-less t-shirts and baggy shorts, and one who talked loudly on a cell phone. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We arrived in Istanbul four days early to enjoy the city with local friends. The city is lovely, the people are wonderful and we had a great time. It was hard to break away to board ship - for about the first 15 minutes. That's how ... Read More
We arrived in Istanbul four days early to enjoy the city with local friends. The city is lovely, the people are wonderful and we had a great time. It was hard to break away to board ship - for about the first 15 minutes. That's how long it took for us to get aboard and to our stateroom, a concierge level room with veranda. Our greeting was by our room steward, who had worried about us because we hadn't spent the first night on board (the ship was in Istanbul 2 days). What a lovely personal touch. We met our cruising friends on board and we all promptly made our reservations for specialty restaurants and set about enjoying the ship. Nautica is small enough a couple hours was enough to familiarize ourselves with the ship, and we had no problems finding our way around, even the first evening. People were friendly, the ship was lovely and spotlessly maintained and we were duly impressed. Sailing out of Istanbul with the city lights glimmering was amazing! We awoke in the morning to sunshine, beautiful skies, and a new port to explore. This was our experience for the next 12 days. Almost heaven! We visited a total of eleven ports on our trip. All were fascinating and fun. We only took a ship's tour to Rome, and that was just a bus ride in, free time, and a ride back, because of the length of time it took to get to Rome from the port. Our only observation about the cruise was we wish we had an extra day or two at sea because we had a great time on board, and it allowed us to recharge our batteries and rest our aching feet! I highly recommend Nautica to adult cruisers. The ship is great, the crew is extremely friendly, helpful and professional. Oceania has the best selection of ports I've seen, and many are smaller ports not accessible to large ships. The food is always good, sometimes terrific. Fellow cruisers are mostly American. I'd hoped to meet more passengers from other countries, but our fellow passengers were also friendly, courteous and interesting. This isn't a ship for children since there is nothing geared for children or teenagers, but that's a plus for us. It's quieter that way. We enjoyed our Nautica cruise so much we have booked a cruise on the maiden voyage of Oceania's Marina in January, 2011. I expect great things from Oceania, and I have no question my expectations will be exceeded. Thanks, Nautica. Oh, and I always wondered how the gentleman celebrating his 85th birthday on the Nautica, and travelling along on the next leg of the cruise as well, felt about the pirate encounter. Anyone know? Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Personal Background and Travel Interests: Husband Gerry and I both are 57, and began taking annual fall vacations to Europe after our younger child started college. We both are business attorneys (I now am retired, G. remains working ... Read More
Personal Background and Travel Interests: Husband Gerry and I both are 57, and began taking annual fall vacations to Europe after our younger child started college. We both are business attorneys (I now am retired, G. remains working full-time), and both are very interested in history and art. G. is a military history enthusiast, with less interest in natural beauty destinations, and he absolutely abhors shopping, which he believes wastes precious touring time. I am a new docent at the Cincinnati Art Museum, so I am eager to visit any art-related sights on our trips. We usually take a fall vacation to Europe (to avoid both the heat and the crowds), and trips in the past few years were all land trips: Spain, England/Belgium/The Netherlands, Italy, and, last year, Normandy/Loire Valley/Paris. All of these trips were done independently, by train and bus, using the wonderful Rick Steves' practical and comprehensive guidebooks for sightseeing advice. (We rented a car for the Normandy/Loire Valley part of last year's trip.) We enjoy staying at small hotels and B&B's in preference to large or chains, and usually rely on the tripadvisor.com website for lodging recommendations when we travel, both in the US and abroad, and it has steered us well. Why Our First Cruise and Why We Chose Oceania: When G. indicated he wanted to visit Istanbul and some Greek islands, he decided we needed to cruise because he simply did not want to lug suitcases on and off ferryboats and worry about their changing schedules. We looked at Windstar, but after a seasickness experience I had last summer with my sister while on a ferry going from Copenhagen to Oslo, I looked around on the tripadvisor website and read about the 684-passenger Oceania ships. We thought the size was terrific, and heard the food was good and beds comfy. When their 2009 catalog arrived at our home in mid-May, G. was impressed with their itinerary for a Greek island cruise, checked weather reports for the fall months, decided on a September cruise and then contacted our long-time travel agent, who also had no familiarity with Oceania. Well, we were lucky to get a cabin at all in late May for a September cruise, but after a week, our lowest waiting listed cabin category became available, and we signed up. Airlines and Flights: Cincinnati is a Delta hub, which means we have the most expensive airfare in the US, and 95% of the flights are on Delta. Well, after a terrible experience last summer with Delta at JFK while going to and from Stockholm with my sister (delayed flights, cancelled flights, overnight at the airport on the way back, lost luggage both ways, etc.), I will do almost anything to avoid flying overseas through JFK (or any of the three NYC airports for that matter), so we ended up booking at a savings of several hundred dollars each over the Oceania flights, with USAir through Philadelphia both ways. In all fairness, I should point out that some of that considerable airfare savings came because we switched plans in Frankfurt on the way to Istanbul rather than flying directly from the US although the flight back from Athens went directly to Philadelphia. I was pleasantly surprised by our USAir experience both to Istanbul and back from Athens. The seats were more comfortable than on Delta (more padding), the food was edible, and all of our flights (five in all) were on-time. Vacation Itinerary: Oceania's 12- Day Aegean Adventures voyage: Istanbul, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Rhodes, Delos/Mykonos, Santorini, Katakolon (Olympia), Corfu/Sarande, Dubrovnik, Athens, with two sea days at beginning and end, plus an overnight on the ship at the embarkation and debarkation ports of Istanbul and Athens. Due to rough seas, we were unable to tender at Delos and Mykonos, and instead diverted to Milos, an island further south, which we were told Nautica had never before visited. We spent three extra nights at a hotel before boarding in Istanbul and two extra nights at a hotel after disembarking in Athens. Because I had perused Rick Steves' Istanbul, I knew I wanted at least four days there pre-cruise, and we decided to have three days for Athens, with the first day while still aboard available for a daytrip from Piraeus port to either Mycenae/Epidauros or Aegina if we felt so inclined, not knowing how tired we would be after the end of such a port-intensive cruise. (We ended up spending most of that day at the National Archaeological Museum.) Cruise Ship Nautica: Bearing in mind that we have no previous cruise ship experience with which to compare our time on Nautica, I absolutely loved almost everything about this ship and I highly recommend this cruise line. Our Cabin: As I mentioned above, we booked so late that we were lucky to get a cabin at all, and we cleared the waiting list for the lowest cabin type we would accept, obstructed view Ocean View Stateroom, Category E, a "guarantee" of this type of room, but not a particular cabin. (Neither G. nor I could imagine 12 days in an inside stateroom, so we would not accept one of those). I was very concerned about possible seasickness issues, so I was very happy to see that all of the OV's were in the middle of the ship on a middle deck, the best place for someone like me, but was a bit concerned about how much obstruction of any natural light there would be. G. couldn't care less; on such a port-intensive cruise, he would only be sleeping and changing clothes in the cabin. I was more dubious. Well, a couple of weeks before we left home, we found out that we were assigned Cabin 6033, which we found out courtesy of these boards had very little obstruction because a small zodiac boat was hung there, not a large tender or lifeboat. Well, the zodiac was hanging below eyelevel, so only the one stanchion from which it hung provided obstruction, which was minimal. And the picture window is huge, so there's plenty of light. Even with my bringing two suitcases, instead of our normal one each on all our previous trips, there was room for everything to be put away (suitcases fit under the beds), so I was happy. With such a small cabin, I did not want to accumulate any mess; I was able to stow away all purchases in the cabinets above or below the TV. Our friendly cabin attendant was on only her second cruise, and she and her assistant kept us well-supplied. The beds are indeed very comfortable, and, as chosen recently by CruiseCritic.com editors, the food is fantastic. Embarkation and Disembarkation: We boarded around 3:30 PM on a Friday, our third full day in Istanbul, having spent three nights at the Sirkeci Konak in the Old Town near the Gulhane tram stop. I have posted a full review of this marvelous hotel on the tripadvisor website. There was absolutely no one else boarding at that time, and our suitcases got to our cabin before we did. We disembarked about 15 minutes before the required 9 AM in Piraeus, immediately after our last breakfast and good-byes to some of the breakfast servers we had gotten to know. Our suitcases were immediately available and easily found at the cruise terminal. We took a taxi from there to our centrally located, but very basic, hotel, the Attalos, for two more nights in Athens, a review of which I also have posted on the tripadvisor website. Food: As recommended by others on these boards, after boarding around 3:30 PM, I went down to the Grand Dining Room and booked our two specialty restaurant meals. I decided to do both the first week in case we wanted to return to either, and indeed we returned to the steak restaurant the second week because I had one of the best prime rib dinners and my husband one of the best porterhouse steaks, comparable in his opinion to NYC's Peter Luger's, where we had dined in May. (Oddly enough, the second week the same ordered porterhouse was not at all of the same quality, a bit of a disappointment after the amazing meal the first time. Wonder why? Do they run out of the best cuts?) We chose not to go back to the Italian restaurant because although the food was good, we did not care for the dEcor, and somehow just felt more crowded in there. With the food so incredible in the Grand Dining Room, they truly never repeated the menu items in 12 nights, and the dEcor there so spacious and attractive, we were happy to dine there. All in all, the only food issues either of us had was twice, once when the doneness of the beef order was wrong: a medium order came out medium well, so we had it replaced, and once when the duck was overcooked, so I switched to a different entrEe after the captain said all the duck was well cooked. The service was impeccable, and I absolutely loved being able to eat dinner whenever I wanted based on the day's activities, with no schedule or required dressing up. All the advice from this summer's Oceania food thread was spot on: my favorite foods included chocolate croissants, fresh blueberries and raspberries, the recommended decadent lamb chops for breakfast in the Grand Dining Room (where I ate on our two at sea days), blueberry pancakes, crab cakes, any beef dish we ever tried, all the pates, a large variety of creative appetizers, cheesecake, all uniformly fine dining. We drink a lot of iced tea, and even that was good and tasted fresh brewed at meals. We found the wine list to be priced comparable to any good restaurant, with a good price and quality range, and any bottle not finished was stored with our room number for another meal. In view of the ports on this cruise (all Greece and Turkey), we felt no reason to buy any local wines to bring on board and drink at dinner for the $20 corkage fee. I am sure that we would have acted differently if we had cruised to any French, Italian or Spanish ports. One of the aspects of the dining I most enjoyed was that I was able to eat every breakfast and lunch on board out of doors because the buffet breakfast and lunch place, the Terrace Cafe, has outdoor seating, comfy wooden chairs with cushions and large umbrellas for shade. I really liked that servers placed the food on your plates at the breakfast and lunch buffets; it seemed very hygienic. The grill on the pool deck was very convenient for a very casual lunch. I liked that you were always provided with real silverware and cloth napkins and placements, no matter how casually you dined. We found the service to be uniformly top notch in the Grand Dining Room, with no issues whatsoever in having different staff serving us different nights because there was no assigned seating. We never waited more than a minute to be seated, even though we often arrived at 7:30 PM prime time. We also enjoyed meeting others at dinner due to the proximity of tables for two, yet also being able to have our own conversations at any time desired. Our first night at the Polo Grill, the specialty steak restaurant, was the only night the servers had any problems, perhaps because there were six of us dining together, and several people were making very specific and unusual requests. One of the big pluses to me of the Oceania line was the friendliness of the well-trained staff, as well as the diversity of national and ethnic origin of the staff. In less than two short weeks, relationships were developed and enjoyed. Shipboard Daytime Activities: I cannot really say much about the daytime activities on board, because we did not participate in any except for the lectures Kate Garnons Williams, a classics expert, and your image of a crusty dry-humored British academic. She gave three 50-minute illustrated lectures during the cruise, one each on Ephesus, Olympia, and Athens on the morning before we arrived at each of those ports (and available to be watched later on TV, as G. did after sleeping in one morning). They were very informative and helped in my appreciation of those destinations. I also went to a cooking class on our last sea day with the chief chef and a pastry chef, who showed how they made (and provided photocopies of) recipes for several items we might actually make at home. (No odd ingredients.) G. had his blackberry with him, so we did not utilize the ship's email services. I had a wonderful Turkish bath and aromatherapy massage at my hotel in Istanbul so we did not use the spa services either, except to fill up our water bottles conveniently before disembarking at most ports. Pool Deck. On the first sea day, the weather was glorious, and we spent the entire day on loungers on the pool deck, reading or meeting people, or taking a dip. On the second sea day, we spent the cooler morning reading in the comfortable leather chairs with ottomans in the library, and then the afternoon on loungers on the pool deck. We did find that many people went off to other activities yet insisted on leaving their things for hours on the coveted shaded lounge chairs, guarded by their spouses or friends who were not so active, which was somewhat annoying. I do not understand why so many did this, but there was enough coming and going that I never had to wait too long for a lounger in the shade. However, one needed to wait a lot longer to get two together. Entertainment: We enjoyed the string quartet which played before dinner (and at tea, which I attended once to check it out), and if we were done with dinner early enough we joined the trivia game hosted by a charming young man, who was very amusing. We always attended the evening one-hour show, but several nights I had trouble staying awake because our port days were so active! The entertainment was indeed a bit of a weak spot, six good shows in our opinion: a local folk dance group and belly dancer Princess Zahara our first night just before sail-away; a good Gypsy-type classically-trained Polish violinist two nights, a very funny US comedian two nights, and the top performer, a musical theater performer from London's West End. There also were two decent but not memorable female singers, both from Australia, and a female singer who works on the ship in another job, who was pretty awful with a very outdated song selection. The last night at sea, we had a variety show with some of the most talented (and least talented) of the performers, with a couple of the crew as well, and then a march in of perhaps a hundred or so of the crew in their work uniforms, clapping and singing. (Is this always done the last night?) Destination Services. We did not take any of the ship's excursions because we prefer to tour independently and not be bused around on the schedule of the slowest of 35 people. We also felt that Oceania's tour pricing was outrageously high. However, at every port, Oceania had a local tourist person on board for the first few hours after arrival, and that person provided excellent maps, which I always obtained and were very useful (I am a happy map enthusiast, the more detailed the better!), and also sightseeing advice and directions to local transportation for those who needed it. We used photocopies of materials from Fodor's and Frommer's guidebooks, plus the excellent advice provided by you on these boards, and we knew what we wanted to do in each port. Top Management on Board: That last night at sea party is when we were told that Joe Watters, one of the co-founders of Oceania (with Frank Del Rio), was on our cruise because he was invited to join the rest on stage. One mystery solved: when I was exploring the ship on the afternoon we boarded, I kept running into the General Manager who was giving a tour to a blonde woman, whom I figured was his spouse. Well, she is Mrs. Joe Watters. We ended up having breakfast outdoors the last morning in Piraeus at the table right next to theirs, they were doing the breakfast buffet just like us common folk, and they neither were demanding nor receiving any special service. I took the opportunity to meet him and convey our delight in our first cruise experience, particularly the friendly and helpful attitude of the crew. Fellow passengers: Our fellow cruisers were a diverse bunch with a common love of travel, with a few cruisers in their 40's, a good number in their 50's, but most 65 and older. Most were American, from all over the US, but a substantial number were from Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, with a sprinkling of Germans. People were friendly, smart, having fun, open, and very active. About 80 were traveling together as a Notre Dame alumni group. Ports of Call. Istanbul. Absolutely the highlight of the trip; four days there was not enough. You can easily sightsee on your own with a guidebook because most sites are within a very short distance from each other. The people are friendly, all the museums have English labels, the food is fresh and healthy, the city is clean and safe, and getting around by the modern tram is effortless. Our first day we toured Topkapi Palace, including the Harem, ate lunch at the cafe on Sultan's Point there with the marvelous sea views, and then toured the Aya Sofia. We ate dinner at Albura in the middle of the tourist area, then strolled back to the hotel through the Blue Mosque/Hippodrome area where everyone was out celebrating Ramadan. A wonderful festival feeling, with many families, music, snacks, booths selling sweet candies, calligraphers etching names on plates in a minute, etc. The second day we visited the Blue Mosque, Mosaic Museum near the Arasta Bazaar (the only remains of the great Byzantine Palace which once stood over much of this area, and the only time I have ever seen non-religious mosaics), stopping for a coffee with a rug merchant at the bazaar who was in business with a friend of mine, the Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, then late lunch at the nearby famous (and excellent) Sultanhamet Koftacisi (the specialty is ground lamb on kebabs, and I normally do not enjoy chopped meat!). We spent the remainder of the afternoon at the Archeological Museum, first viewing the incredible Alexander Sarcophagus, perhaps the best piece of ancient sculpture still surviving. We returned to our hotel for my pre-arranged Turkish bath and aromatherapy massage. After recovering from one of the most decadent experiences of my life, we took the tram to the New District, got on the funicular to Taksim Square and strolled down the pedestrian-only Istikil Caddesi to Sofyali 9, a traditional Turkish restaurant recommended by our hotel, where we dined again al fresco with the locals. It was noticeable that groups of men dining together outnumbered women or couples at the local restaurants off Istikil. We then strolled down the steep hill past the Galata Tower to catch the tram back to the Old Town. It was quite late by then, but we never felt any safety issues in this marvelous city. Day 3 we took a taxi out to the Chora Church for the magnificent mosaics, then toured a portion of the Old City walls, before taxiing back to the Grand Bazaar for my too-short allotted one shopping hour (lovely pashminas), then back to our hotel to retrieve our bags and board Nautica. Our last day in Istanbul, we visited the Dolmabahce Palace, then took a 90-minute Turyol boat ride (only 6 YTL) up the Bosphorus to the second bridge and back, sharing the pleasant ride with many families out for a relaxing Saturday afternoon. Afterwards, we walked across the plaza to the Spice Bazaar, where we purchased some local snacks, and then took the tram back to the ship. Kusadasi/Ephesus. We arranged through Ekol Travel for a six-hour guided tour with no shopping to Ancient Ephesus, including the Terrace Houses (an absolute must but not available to large tour groups), St. John's Basilica and the Archaeological Museum in nearby Selcuk. We also stopped briefly at the Temple of Artemis and the Isabey Mosque. Our guide Ali was excellent and I can provide his contact info to any who want it. After the tour, G. returned to the ship, and I perused the excellent tourist shopping in Kusadasi, purchasing a pair of gold earrings and a large pottery plate with a hand-painted pattern similar to one I loved at the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. Rhodes. We toured the Old Town, first visiting the lovely synagogue and its museum, then strolling over to the Temple of Venus, up the Street of the Knights to the Grand Masters House, and over to the Archaeology Museum. We originally planned to go the beach in the afternoon, but we took a bit longer in the Old Town than anticipated, so opted to return to the ship and relax because it was very warm that day. Unless you plan to visit Lindos, again there is no reason to hire a guide because the ship docks right by Old Town Rhodes. Delos/Mykonos. As mentioned above, the sea was too rough to tender, so instead we cruised south to Milos, the first time Nautica had been there. I was sorry to miss Delos, but because we had planned to just go to the beach at Mykonos, we stuck with our original plan and went to a lovely sand beach on Milos (by local bus), and enjoyed the views and the water. Beach umbrellas and chaises were free, and we sat next to a group of touring young adults from several European and South American countries whose common language was English! Santorini. We took the cable car up to Thira (a 40-minute wait because many ships were in port), visited the small, old archaeology museum right by the cable car entrance, and then toured the absolutely fabulous new museum built to house the Akrotiri artifacts. This is a do not miss; the wall paintings alone are worth the trip. We had planned to rent an ATV to explore, but G. felt very unstable on one, so we simply rented a car from Europcar on the main driving street (40 Euros for the day), which even had automatics available (I cannot drive a stick shift). We drove directly to the lovely Oia, explored, ate lunch with an amazing view over the caldera, and then completed our driving circuit down the non-caldera side. I purchased some lovely linen items in Thira, and we took the cable car back down around 5 PM, with no wait at all. Katakolon/Olympia. We did not dock until the afternoon, so we did not have enough time to use the train service to Olympia. I had prearranged a car rental (because I needed an automatic) from Katakolo Rent-a-Car right across the street from the dock for 45 Euros and we took the easy 30-minute drive to Olympia (it took almost 40 when I drove there because I foolishly obeyed the speed limit, but wised up and drove like the locals on the return trip) where we spent a lot of time at another excellent Archaeological Museum, which includes the Hermes of Praxiteles, then strolled the ruins (which are extensive, but very "ruined"). Having just heard the lecture about Olympia that morning on ship, and then visited the museum, it was a lot easier to appreciate this site. Corfu/ Sarande. Because we only had ½ day in Corfu, we spent it entirely in the Old Town, taking a taxi to one end, enjoying the winding lanes and then visiting the grassy Esplanade, the Old Fortress, which has superb views, St. Spirodon Church and the small synagogue, which was unexpectedly open for visits. The ship then moved on to Sarande, Albania, where many did not bother taking the tenders to town. However, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons (I had wanted an entire day to explore the lovely island of Corfu), and had arranged for a private tour of the Butrint World Heritage site, which only is a 30-minute ride from Sarande. We used a guide recommended on these boards, Luis Seiti, and we spent several happy hours with him climbing around Butrint, which was inhabited over many historical periods, and talking about life and politics in Albania over the past 50 years. We returned to the ship after a brief stop in Sarande to view the synagogue mosaics there. Dubrovnik. Two days before our visit, the ship's daily newsletter announced that we were tendering into the new port, rather than directly into the Old Town, and that taxis would be scarce. Well, we were anchored so far away that only a US naval cruiser was further out. Our location really reduced our time in town on a day when I knew many ships were in port. The sky was overcast, the seas were rough, the tender ride was at least 15 minutes (it was the only stop where we had to wait to leave the ship), and the local bus another 10 minutes into the Old Town, but wow, Dubrovnik is lovely. First thing, I forced G. against his strenuous objections to walk the walls with me. (He claimed after climbing up the stairs at the Pile Gate that I was going to make him have a heart attack!) I told him that if we left, I would start shopping, and that we could stroll at his pace. Well, we had the most marvelous two hours up there; every few steps another gorgeous view. We finally descended at the Ploce Gate to the main square, had some lunch, visited the small synagogue and museum, purchased some silver earrings in the unique intricate globe shape only available there, and worked our way back to the bus stop in our first rain of the trip. Athens. Our first day in Athens, while still onboard from another night, we took the bus around the port area to the excellent metro, which goes into downtown Athens in about 30 minutes, to visit the National Archaeological Museum, only a few blocks from the Victoria metro stop. (You cannot buy a ticket for the bus on the bus, so we had to find a magazine stand vendor who still had tickets because the one right by the port was sold out.) We spent five hours there! The Mycenae artifacts, gold galore, with amazing workmanship, filled several rooms in the center, Akrotiri wall paintings upstairs, nice small lunch area downstairs, the largest Cycladic figure ever found (five feet tall!), etc. OK, you get the idea. The next day, after an eye-opening taxi ride to our hotel (yikes, graffiti and trash everywhere, definitely more like NYC than Istanbul!), we were off to walk the paths of the ancients (saving the Acropolis itself for our last day when we could get an early start). First down to the Agora, its museum, across and up to the Temple of Hephaistos, then Hadrian's Library, Plaka stroll, Temple of Olympian Zeus (gargantuan), Changing of the Guard at the tomb at Syntagma Square, hotel again, and stroll up pedestrian street to a relaxing dinner at Filistron up on the roof with lovely Acropolis views. Our last day, we took the metro to Acropoli stop so we could take the easiest route up the Acropolis, ascending up the southern slope rather than the northern (mostly ramps; much fewer steps; a good decision). We also visited the New (and controversial) Acropolis Museum, where I enjoyed the modern bathroom and great water fountains, but regretted that the Greek government had closed the old museum, but was not planning to open the new one, except for a view from 50 yards away of two carytids, until sometime in mid-2009. We stopped for lunch at Psarra taverna, in a lovely part of the Plaka, purchased some souvenirs, and returned to the Attalos, where G. napped while I enjoyed watching the sunset and lights slowly come up over the northern slope of the Acropolis from the excellent hotel rooftop bar. We dined nearby in close-by Psyrri. We certainly made the right decision in choosing Oceania for our first cruise, and I heartily recommend this lovely ship, itinerary and cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Our second cruise on Oceania. Love the "country club casual" dress, although I did wear a sport jacket on occasion. With no assigned dining times or tables, we met interesting people at dinner. Breakfast and lunch was in the ... Read More
Our second cruise on Oceania. Love the "country club casual" dress, although I did wear a sport jacket on occasion. With no assigned dining times or tables, we met interesting people at dinner. Breakfast and lunch was in the terrace cafe, food was varied and interesting. Outside seating can be difficult so we usually opted for inside. Never had bkfst or lunch in the dining room. We had one meal in the Polo Grill and 3 in Toscana. We would read the evening menu for the dining room and then decide whether to eat there, in the Terrace cafe or try for one of the specialty restaurants. After the initial rush, the specialty restaurants were easy to get a table. Our outside cabin on deck 4 was adequate but the shower was tiny. The ship was very clean and the wait staff friendly. We took a couple of the ships tours (at the last minute) but in Istanbul and Kusadasi, we had private guides arranged before we left home. In Istanbul we stayed at the 3 star Hotel Nena. A great location as they are within easy walking distance of all the sights in Istanbul. They have a roof top restaurant with a nice buffet breakfast in the morning and a discount for dinner. The hotel provided free airport pick up and even took us to the cruise ship after our stay. This hotel is definitely worth looking into. In Venice we stayed at the 4 star Hotel Georgione. It was a short walk from the Ca d'oro stop on the vaporetto and there were no bridges/steps to navigate with luggage from the stop to the hotel. It's in a wonderful residential neighborhood with lots of restaurants. It was an easy walk to the Rialto and St Marks square. Like the Nena, it was a great hotel for the money. With the dollar high against the Euro, prices are a bit expensive, even for simple meals or pizza. Be prepared. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
My sister and I took this cruise together and she lives in Mississippi and I in Texas. From the beginning, Oceania sent everything to me. My sister never received one thing directly from the cruise line. I had to email or mail her ... Read More
My sister and I took this cruise together and she lives in Mississippi and I in Texas. From the beginning, Oceania sent everything to me. My sister never received one thing directly from the cruise line. I had to email or mail her everything which was extremely irritating considering how much we paid for the cruise. I have been on several cruises and each time it was with someone who lived in a different town, but all of those line were able to get info to each passenger individually. We had a terrible time getting to Istanbul - cancelled flights, etc. and we did not arrive at the ship until almost 2:00 a.m. We were completely exhausted when we boarded and the reception didn't give the escort our card keys so we had to wait for her to go back to the front desk and retrieve the key. We had a penthouse level suite and from the pictures on the website, we expected more than we got. The room was not very big and we were definitely disappointed. I thought the bathroom was a decent size as was the bathtub. I loved the size of the verandah, but the panels separating each verandah gave very little privacy and they rattled terribly during windy nights at sea. We called up someone from maintenance and they couldn't eliminate the noise which was very distracting. When we were getting settled in the room, my sister called to get one of the hypo-allergenic pillows that they advertise on their website only to be told that they did not have any. My sister is very allergic to down so we never went to bed that night which was approximately 72 hours without sleep. She was able to get one the next day. The other thing that bothered us was the noise from level 9 (the pool deck) when they moved the chairs around every morning at 5ish. It doesn't seem to be the brightest move to have the suites right under that level. After reading all of the rave reviews about the food on Oceania, we were so excited about trying the food. I can't say that I thought that it was better than other ships that I have been on. It was fine, but that is about all I can say. The only outstanding meal that I had was in Polo Grill - the rack of lamb was cooked to perfection and it was truly the best lamb that I have ever eaten. Pretty much everything else was mediocre. I did enjoy the pasta of the day prepared at Tapas on the Terrace. One of the guys made it to order each night. The sandwiches at Waves were also very good and the lemonade was excellent. The personnel on the ships were for the most part excellent. Our butler, Dimitry, was wonderful and our cabin stewardess, Maria, was outstanding. Nipat, one of the pool waiters, was so sweet that we wanted to bring him back with us. The security officers who check people on and off of the ship bordered on rude. I can't forget to mention Philippe, the reception manager. He was so nice and helpful and I really enjoyed getting to know him. The tender situation sucked! I have never been on a cruise where they make you get a ticket so by the time that we figured out that we needed a ticket, they stopped the tenders going to mykonos because of the rough seas. We found out later that this was the third time in the last three cruises that this had occurred. Seems like they should figure out some other alternative if it happens so often. That was the one place that I most wanted to return to since I know several people there and I wanted to visit. It was very disappointing. They also do not enforce the policy about saving deck chairs on the pool level. We only had two sea days since the itinerary was so port intensive. On one of those days, they opened the upper level sun deck and we went up there to sun, but on the second day, it was too windy for them to open that deck. We watched several chairs that had personal effects on them and no one sat in them for over three hours. My sister and I were not able to get a chair next to each other. I also hated the nickel and dimeing they do on board. I think it is ridiculous that they charge for soft drinks. You would think that at a minimum guests in a suite should get one a day. I don't have a problem with a charge for alcohol, but soft drinks? Especially considering how few children sail on this line. I love that the cruise is non-smoking, but we were able to smell the smoke from level 9 on the starboard side (one of the designated smoking areas) when we sat on our verandah at night since the window to that area was right above us. We knew that entertainment was not the strong suit of this cruise line so we didn't have very high expectations. We only went to one night's program and it was so bad that we never went to anything else. The string quartet at high tea was very good and we did enjoy listening to them. High tea was also very nice. We only had one spa service and that was a facial. It was very relaxing and the technician was very professional. We also enjoyed using the thesolatherapy pool that is in the spa area. The ship also has a decent workout facility and library. One final word on the cruise - the passengers. This was by far the rudest group of traveler that I have ever encountered. I thought that maybe we felt that way since we were not "a couple", but we talked to our neighbors, L and J, and they felt the same way. They spoke with one of the ship's employees (I won't mention any names in case it might cause the person trouble), and he/she said that it was the rudest group that had been on the ship since he/she had been employed there. If these people were as rude in port, then I know where the term "ugly American" comes from. The only thing that was entice me to sail with Oceania again would be the size of the ship, the no-smoking policy, and the staff and crew on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
It is hard to realize that a year has passed since we boarded Oceania's Nautica for our cruise from Istanbul to Singapore. We had heard good things about this line, and our every expectation was met on this cruise. Upon boarding we ... Read More
It is hard to realize that a year has passed since we boarded Oceania's Nautica for our cruise from Istanbul to Singapore. We had heard good things about this line, and our every expectation was met on this cruise. Upon boarding we were met by refreshments and a string quartet - and the mood of casual elegance was set and lasted for the full 25 days we were aboard. The ship is very well appointed and its size is perfect, so that faces quickly become familiar and friendships established. This was the first time we had cruised Freestyle - without being designated a table in the dining room for dinner. At the outset of the cruise we wondered how this would work, since we had been in the habit of socializing primarily with our table mates in the past. We quickly learned that people bonded with those with similar interests - so that the trivia teams or the ping pong players toured and ate and socialized together. The cabins were very comfortable and the suites sumptuous. The food was great and varied - the best we had experienced in our total of 6 past cruises. The tours were pricey, but most were well done. The overnight at Luxor was worth the handsome charge, but tea at that opulent hotel in Dubai was not worth the money. The service at that hotel was marginal and you could tell that they wanted to rush these lookie loos through their splendid setting, give them little for their bucks and bid them farewell as quickly as possible. Service aboard the Nautica was in direct contrast. The cruise was advertised as gratuities included, so the service personnel changed from room to room and were universally pleasant and attentive. The fact that they seemed happy and said they were well treated was appreciated. Their affect certainly seemed to confirm their claims. The only complaint we ever heard about the ship or the cruise, was that the wait and the line-ups for prizes at the end of the cruise was too long and very cumbersome. We would sail on Oceania again in a heartbeat, especially now that Orient lines - with which we enjoyed less luxurious but bloody marvellous cruises - is about to disappear. Can hardly wait to put to sea again - and hopefully it will be with Oceania. They flew us to Europe on British Air - and we booked extended stays on both ends of cruise. BA arranged our hotels with good rates and very fine accommodation (save for the Tavistock in London which we would avoid in future). The whole wonderful experience is flooding back to us now that we are addressing Christmas cards to friends we met aboard - some of whom are on Oceania adventures over this holiday season. Read Less
Sail Date November 2006
I've just returned from the Nautica Ancient Turquoise Seas 12-day cruise from Istanbul to Athens. I have never been a great fan of cruises and over the last 12 years have only been on three others - twice on Royal Caribbean and once ... Read More
I've just returned from the Nautica Ancient Turquoise Seas 12-day cruise from Istanbul to Athens. I have never been a great fan of cruises and over the last 12 years have only been on three others - twice on Royal Caribbean and once on NCL. Oceania is definitely in a class much higher than these other two lines. Since the ports on this cruise have been well covered in other critiques, I'm going to limit this review to the cruise itself and some of the comments that I have read in other reviews and message boards. My dislike of cruising has primarily been against the Las Vegas atmosphere of most cruises, the assigned seating at assigned times for dinner, and everywhere I turn someone trying to force me to join the party. Oceania is nothing like this. Boarding the ship was like becoming a member of an exclusive club. The dEcor is refined, there are no bands playing at every turn, no photographers insisting that you pose as you board and disembark - just excellent service and outstanding food. We boarded in Istanbul earlier than listed on our cruise documents. We had a B1 cabin class, a cabin with a balcony but not on the concierge level. The cabin size was comfortable and adequate and as represented in the brochure - no surprises. Embarkation went smoothly. From the time we were dropped off at the port by taxi it took no more than 5 to 10 minutes to check in and board the ship. We were asked to have lunch in the Terrace Cafe while our cabin was being readied. We made our two dinner reservations at The Polo Grill and Toscana and sat down to eat. After a pleasant buffet lunch, we dropped off our carry-on luggage in our cabin and left the ship to continue sightseeing in Istanbul. As I mentioned before, the service on board was top notch. Everyone was friendly and seemed anxious to please. I want to give special thanks to Christine, our cabin steward who was exceptionally friendly, helpful and efficient. The restaurants were all excellent. I would give the edge to Toscana, but this is just my opinion. In talking to others on board ship it seemed that everyone had a different favorite, but all thought that the food was excellent in each room. Service in Polo Grill and Toscana did seem to be a little more relaxed than in the Main Dining Room, but not significantly so. We did have one night in the dining room that was rushed, but I think that it was more a factor of our waiter than the room itself. We just asked him to slow things down a bit and he did. I only had dinner in the Terrace Cafe once. It was also very good and many of the dishes were the same as what was being served in the main dining room. The nights were often cool on our cruise so eating outside was not usually an option. If you find a waiter in the main dining room that you especially like, you can request a table at his or her station on subsequent visits. It isn't guaranteed, but they will do their best to honor your request. It also didn't seem to matter what time we showed up at the main dining room, we were always seated quickly and usually were able to get a table for two, if requested. I was concerned about being able to get into Toscana and the Polo Grill for more than one visit each since we had a standard cabin. Even though the cruise was full I would go to the restaurant host in the Terrace Cafe in the morning (first thing, if possible) and request a reservation. Each time he told me that the restaurant was booked but I could put my name on a waiting list. Each time, I got the reservation. It seemed that as long as you were flexible to the time and whether or not you sat with others, they would usually honor your request. Later in the day there would be a card on your cabin door advising you of the time of your reservation. We had breakfast in the main dining room only once. It was very nice but it was so much more convenient to go to the Terrace Cafe for the buffet. The food was excellent and you could get eggs and omelets to order. Plus it was nice to be able to sit outside on the veranda. I only ordered room service twice. The menu is limited but adequate. The entertainment aboard ship was better than I expected, based on reviews, but certainly nothing spectacular. I saw only one entire show, a magician/comedian that was quite good, and parts of two other shows. For me, the emphasis of this cruise was the ports and sightseeing. After re-boarding the ship at each port, I mainly wanted to relax, have a nice dinner and then get to bed, the entertainment just wasn't that important to me. In chatting with several people aboard that had been on many different cruises I asked those that had been on Crystal how they would compare the two. All said that the entertainment on Crystal was outstanding, but all thought that the food and service on Oceania was as good if not better. Good praise for cruises costing as much as 50% less. We did not book any shore excursions. In Ephesus we booked with Mesut Yilmaz (www.mesutyilmaz.org). We were able to tailor the tour to our likes and it was just for the two of us. He was very professional and easy to understand and less expensive than the excursions offered by the ship. Whether you book privately or through the ship, I highly recommend this being one excursion that you do take. The ruins and the terrace houses are not to be missed. Other than Ephesus, we did our own research and reading and explored the islands on our own. From a friend that took a similar cruise, I recommend against renting motor scooters on the islands. He said that they are poorly maintained and many break down around the island. He almost missed boarding his ship because of this. Regarding the additional cost of the concierge class versus the B category cabins, I asked a couple of people that were on the concierge class if they felt it was worth the extra money. All seemed to say, not really. I did not use the gym but visited the steam room twice, which was larger than I expected and with no additional charge. The cost of massages at the spa was too high, in my opinion, almost double what I am used to paying at home. I do expect to pay a premium on a cruise ship, but their prices did seem a little excessive. In some of the other reviews, people complained about the cost of drinks. I did bring aboard my own bottle of vodka and mixer and just asked my cabin steward to fill my ice bucket at 4:00 each afternoon. When I returned to the ship from sightseeing, everything was ready for me to enjoy a drink on my balcony. Each day, there were drink specials at reduced prices and I would often try those as well. The wine policy was not bad. I ordered a bottle of wine the first night, enjoyed two glasses and then asked for them to hold the rest. Regardless of the restaurant the next evening, the bottle was retrieved and the enjoyment continued. This seemed much cheaper than constantly ordering wine by the glass or even buying wine in the ports and paying the corkage fees. Disembarkation was as smooth as embarkation. Nothing even worth mentioning. If you have children or like the party, Las Vegas atmosphere of other cruise lines, you probably won't like Oceania. For me, this was an excellent cruise and a line that I am already looking to for the future. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
First, at the risk of offending the diehard Oceania fans out there (who always seem to defend the line with a passion), I will try to be as accurate and even-handed as possible--so, please excuse me if I sound a little negative at times--I ... Read More
First, at the risk of offending the diehard Oceania fans out there (who always seem to defend the line with a passion), I will try to be as accurate and even-handed as possible--so, please excuse me if I sound a little negative at times--I honestly do not intend this to be a negative review. I only want to be honest. ALL cruise lines do some things well, others less well. All have areas where they can stand to improve. The criticism, in part, is in hope that the cruise line will recognize the deficiencies and improve. There is also the notion that EVERYONE has different criteria, different standards and put different weight to the importance of those criteria. There are no absolutes. There is no way for anyone to say ANY cruise line is better or worse in any area in any objective way and for it to mean the same thing to every reader. I might feel the entertainment is sub par, but someone else might love it--and to some people, they could care less as it is simply an unimportant part of the experience (Yes, we met people who never even went to a single show). I could say the food is excellent and someone else might think it poor--it's a matter of individual taste--perhaps influenced by what we're accustomed to eating back home or what we grew up with. So, basically, what follows are MY opinions--based on MY criteria, my experience and my weighing of importance. Istanbul: Spent 2 nights there plus the "overnight" on the ship. Fascinating city, great history. Stayed at the Conrad-which was absolutely first class all the way. If there's an issue at all, it's that the location is not in the heart of the tourist area (but maybe that's a good thing). Luckily for us, we had private tours arranged and people picking us up at the hotel so location was never a problem. I really recommend the Orient House Dinner/Show--really a highlight. Entertainment on the ship the night in Istanbul consisted of some EXTREMELY amateurish local dancers followed by a very good belly dancer. Next day was at sea. Then Kusadasi--Where we had a very fascinating private tour to Ephesus, Miletus and Didyma. Next Rhodes--Did a half day excursion to Lindos through the ship and wandered Rhodes on our own. Not sure I'd do Lindos again--a long drive and a lot of stair climbing for a few pictures--not as nice a town as Rhodes. Next was the bizarre day in Mykonos. We were supposed to have visited Delos until noon and Mykonos from 2 pm until 11 pm. Early in the morning we learned that we would not be anchoring at Delos due to high winds--but that we would be charged $69 (rather than the $49 originally charged) for our excursion to Delos since the extra $20 would go for small boats to bring us there from Mykonos. We were in the Nautica Lounge around 8 am waiting for them to call our tour when the announcement came that the Shore Excursions to Delos were cancelled completely. We could pay $20 for bus transfers into town if we liked--but, we figured that price was a bit steep and we'd find a taxi. But since no one expected the ship to be there that early, there were no taxis at the pier, so we opted to walk--about a 35 minute walk from the pier to town. We found an internet cafe, then some shopping, then stopped in a local cafe for a little lunch. Little did we know that by around 10 am, they were no longer letting ANYONE off the ship. Most of the passengers never even got into Mykonos! Around 1:30 pm, while we were eating lunch, I spotted a Nautica crew member informing some other passengers at a nearby table that they had to return to the ship immediately. Strangely, the guy didn't bother searching out to find there were another couple of tables of Nautica passengers at that restaurant!!! Luckily, I overheard and called him over. We were told to walk to a waiting bus and get back--that the ship was LEAVING, the winds were too high for them to stay anchored at the dock. We got back to the ship around 2:00--and the ship LEFT the dock at Mykonos, short 45 passengers still unaccounted for somewhere on the island (as they were located, they tendered them to the ship). Next was Athens. It was supposed to be Santorini next, but Oceania changed the order due to the number of ships in each port on each respective day--probably for the better, but it wreaked havoc with our prearranged private tour. We didn't find out until we boarded in Istanbul--and we had to call our driver, Spiros, by cell phone--and, as luck would have it, he was NOT available on the changed date. He sent a friend, but I'd guess, based on Spiros' reviews==and on our experience with the friend, Fotios, our tour was somewhat downgraded in the commentary and insight department. Still, it was a very interesting day of ancient sites in the Pelopennese--Corinth, Epidaurus, Mycenae, et al. Mycenae ranks among my wife's favorites. On Santorini, we took the cable car up and down and we rented a car and visited Ancient Thira on our own--an incredible site on a mountain top--the road and hike were both something we will not soon forget. Also did lunch on the far side of the island and some wine tasting. Next, another day at sea. Amalfi--We did a full day tour with Salvatore of the Amalfi Coast--EXCELLENT guide and driver. Taormina--We did a ship's excursion to Mt. Etna. A major change in pace from all of the ancient archaeological sites we had been visiting. We were a little disappointed--we had booked a FULL DAY Shore excursion to My. Etna and Taormina. But, when we got to the ship, there was a note awaiting us that it had been cancelled. The explanation we got was that the ship wasn't in port long enough for the entire tour. Didn't Oceania know this AHEAD OF TIME? Why hold our money for several months? The port times didn't change. Couldnt they have just slightly abridged it with a little bit less free time on the crater? As it was, after the Etna tour, we never got to Taormina--not that there wouldn't have been time--there definitely was, it's just the logistics of finding a taxi and knowing that we'd be able to find one to come back to the ship (It docked fairly far from Taormina) were pretty daunting. So we walked around and had lunch in Naxos instead. Had they told us earlier that this tour wasn't available, we would have hired a private driver for the day. Kotor--Surprisingly charming little town. We did a shore excursion to Sveti Stefan and Budva. Sveti Stefan was picturesque, but otherwise dull. Budva had much more charm to it. We walked through town and up and around the town walls (a bargain at 1 euro apiece). .Apparently, everyone in Budva is either going to or coming from a beach--and there must be some sort of local ordinance requiring all young women to wear skimpy bikinis. .Kotor itself was charming and picturesque--but it may take them some time to gear up to standard tourism--not a decent T-shirt to be bought in town. Friends, catch it now while it is still relatively unspoiled! For Dubrovnik, we had planned on doing it on our own, but they added an excursion that didn't waste time in Cavtat (We were bored with Cavtat last time). It was a brief tour of Dubrovnik, followed by a visit to a remote local farm for a very good and entertaining lunch--with wine, wine and more wine. Very good excursion. Venice, we'd been to several times before--we had three nights there, the "overnight" plus two more at a hotel, the Anastasia. Our hotel was a VERY WELL located and reasonably priced (130 Euro per night including breakfast) 17-room hotel--very close to San Marco and the Valaresso Vaporetti station, wedged between the Westin and the Violin d'Oro on a very quiet little courtyard--with elevator, air conditioning, etc. We ended up taking the Vaporetto there from Piazzale Roma--and were pleasantly surprised when we left to find that our Vaporetto pass (can be bought for 24 hours for 12 euro or 72 hours for 25 euro) INCLUDED the bus ride all the way to the airport! In Venice, we wandered at length for three days, including visits to the Ghetto, the Ca Rezzonico and to the island of Burano (absolutely beautiful). Okay, on to the ship. Cabin: Ample and well designed, comfortable bed, decent storage space. Public rooms: Grand Dining Room: A little crowded in places (They might as well remove the pretext of "tables for two"--and replace them with larger tables for six since they stack three "two-spots" close together in a row--so you're just as close to the next couples as if you were sharing a table)--not really a complaint--we LIKE eating with others. Toscana and Polo--much more intimate, very nice rooms, long and narrow with views from Deck 10. Terrace/Tapas on Terrace/Buffet--Buffet area (the food serving part) is a bit small and limited, the seating is adequate with some nice views from the outdoor tables on the rear deck--at least in the morning while it's still relatively cool. Horizons (lounge on Deck 10)--very nice as a bar, but horrendously laid out for other uses (for some inexplicable reason, they held Karaoke here for the two nights they had it)--the stage is small and not visible from MOST of the tables/seating--the bar is really designed to drink and gaze out the windows, not as an entertainment venue. Casino/Piano Bar ("Martinis")--The casino is quite small (a few slots, four blackjack or poker tables and a roulette wheel) but seemed to be the most (and only) crowded venue at night after the show. The piano bar is attached, meaning the sounds of one are infringing on the sounds of the other. Grand Bar: Nice little bar at entry to Dining Room, making it a little less amenable for drinking--mostly taken up by people awaiting their dinner dates. Nautica Lounge: A fairly nice, intimate venue for a "show room". I do like the "lounge/bar" style seating arrangements. Library: Very nice and most comfortable little room. Pool Deck: For those thinking they are avoiding "big ship" problems by going on a smaller ship, it's not necessarily so. All the same "chair hog" problems you'd find on Carnival, Princess or Royal Caribbean and not an unclaimed chair to be found after 8 am on an at sea day. I have one giant problem regarding the much-ballyhooed "Cabanas"--they seemed to be the one part of the pool deck that was underutilized. They're lined up along the front of the ship in a location that otherwise would have provided great viewing and photography area for, say, the sail into Venice. Food: On the whole, excellent. A few minor disappointments: The New York Steak in the Grand was not up to expected standards--and the "gratinated" Lobster in Polo was somewhat dry and tasteless. Otherwise, most entrees, appetizers and desserts were quite good--definitely not disappointing even the higher expectations. Service: Cabin Steward and assistant cabin steward were excellent. Dining Room staff was very inconsistent. Some days good, most days either slow, forgetful, impersonal. Several times, they got the orders wrong, one meal, they forgot my soup entirely. I'll go into my cruise line comparison a little later, but one very noticeable lacking is the "waiters who get to know you"--obviously, there are both good and bad points to "open seating", but for me, a major failing is in that lack of relationship between the waiters and customer. I drink a LOT of Iced Tea--and I like it replaced FREQUENTLY. That rarely seemed to happen on Oceania--sometimes I'd get a waiter or assistant waiter who would catch on--ONCE in 14 nights I got a waiter who finally recognized that I immediately remove the lemon wedge and he stopped bringing it with the lemon. But, most nights, I'd have to continually ask for refills and MAYBE get one or two refills. Entertainment: This is DEFINITELY NOT one of Oceania's strong points. We were prepared for a lack of "production shows", but it goes beyond that. I'm sure a lot of it is basic economics, but here's the rundown: In some order or another, the nightly "shows" consisted of: 1) The amateur Turkish dancers and Belly dancer 2), 3), 4) and 5) The four assistant cruise directors singing boring, unimaginative medleys of 80 songs in 45 minutes, trying to fit in a bland version of something for everyone (Note: Some of these kids were talented, for sure, but the productions lacked staging, style and variation) 6) and 7) A magician and his assistant--actually quite good. I'd say the best shows onboard 8) and 9) Oceania's Entertainment Director, Mark Friedman and his wife Rodi. Decent enough and professional enough for one good show 10) and 11) A singer who apparently sang somewhere in the background of the original pilot of the "Love Boat" -- Okay I guess, but I've seen a lot better. 12) The Piano Bar piano player moving his act to the "big room". He's not bad--but, on most ships, this is what you go to the piano bar for. 13) The "lecturer" giving a "prime time" talk with slides on the subject of.----Benny Hill (I guess you have to have been a Benny Hill fan)--and 14) The "finals" of the Karaoke contest (the "winner" being a 12 year old kid doing show tunes in a key other than his own). The bottom line is that it seems MOST passengers certainly don't sail Oceania for the entertainment. Other entertainment/activities/things-to-do: Again, scale and economics comes into play--smaller ship, fewer venues, less people translates to far less to do. Whereas on most cruise lines, the daily schedule, especially on "at sea" days takes up three pages with multiple activities in multiple venues going on at the same time, on Oceania, it's about half a page. There's the "Team Trivia" at 4:30 daily in the Grand Bar. Two nights had "Name That Tune" in the Piano Bar, two nights had Karaoke in Horizons. "Dancing" was often listed in the program but rarely seemed to materialize undoubtedly due to lack of interest.--or maybe musicians. Food, other than meals: Well, I guess they had "Tea" at 4 pm each day, but we were usually in port. Past there, there was scant little to be found, especially in the late night. We are accustomed to eating dinner before the show, then venturing out to other venues and capping off the night with a little late night pizza--or milk and cake or some fruit or whatever. But, on this ship, everything but room service is closed down after dinner and we really just like a small nosh and don't want to deal with room service. Cruise Director: David Shermet--a really nice guy and a Southern Californian. Overall, seemed to be a really hardworking guy. Other notes: Prices for goods and services onboard tended to be a little on the HIGH side. Oceania T-Shirts in the gift shop started at $35--though late in the cruise they put out some on a "Sale" table for a mere $20. Clothes, jewelry, purses, and gift items in the ship ALL tended toward the expensive end of the spectrum. Drink prices were high with "well" mixed drinks going for $7 AND UP and the drinks were not exactly "amply" poured. Often, I felt like sending it back and asking if they wouldn't mind filling the glass to at least the halfway mark! In the past on these boards, I've always scoffed at the folks who like to bring their own booze on board and pour their own--but, with the bars on Nautica, I'm beginning to see their point. Internet usage was an outrageous $0.95 per minute on a system slower than molasses with frequent disconnects. Dress code: For me, I particularly like not having formal nights. I hate schlepping a tux and having to get all decked out. On the other hand, my wife loves that and missed having it on this cruise. "Open Seating": I am sort of a traditionalist--I love having an assigned table and dedicated waiters and the same tablemates each night (hopefully we get assigned a good bunch). Even on traditional seating ships, we still get to meet a lot of folks at breakfast and lunch--which are usually open seating. But there are also a few advantages, especially on an itinerary such as this--If there are late hours in a particular port, going to dinner (except at Polo and Toscana where you have to reserve a specific time) is at your leisure--show up when you're ready. Of course, it seems like MOST people showed up around 7:30-7:45 (Dining hours went from 6:30 to 9:30 nightly, shows generally started at 9:45). Going at around 7:30 seemed to fit with most folks schedule--So, if you went to dinner at, say, 6:30 or 6:45, you'd be in a fairly empty dining room for awhile. We did a couple of times. Of course, the wait staff seemed to go at a particular pace no matter what time you started, so it seemed we ALWAYS ended up finishing at the same time, whether we showed up at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30 or 8:00. They seemed to just catch everyone up during the appetizers and by the time dessert came, we were all on the same schedule. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. As I kept saying "It is what it is". If what you want is a smaller, quieter cruise with a very slow pace and you really only want to tour the port, come back and have a drink and eat a slow-paced elegant dinner, then off to bed, it's a near perfect cruise. The ship is elegant, the food is excellent, the service is decent, the cabins are ample. It is very casual--both in terms of dress AND pace. The cruise itself is decent value for the money (so long as you don't drink too much or add on their overpriced hotel packages). The passengers were mostly upscale--very few families with kids. I'd say the bulk of the passengers were between 50-75. They really don't cater to younger folks at all--no kids programs (Heck, even older teens and college-aged kids would be bored--they like to stay up late on most ships, hanging out at the Pizza bar or buffet late into the night--and those just don't exist here). The people we met on the cruise were, overall, a really good bunch. Dinners and other meals were pleasant, conversation lively. The fellow passengers may have been one of the better aspects of this cruise. And the real highlight of this cruise was the itinerary itself--a truly outstanding collection of ports with decent hours in port for most of them. All in all, though I still prefer Celebrity for the greater variety of activities and off-hour food and better dining room service, we'd likely cruise with Oceania again--perhaps to the Baltic, where they often offer a three-night stay in St. Petersburg. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
My wife and I are in our early sixties. We went on a Royal Caribbean cruise of the Caribbean about 20 years ago, were disappointed with the food, unhappy with our table partners and not impressed with the service or shore excursions. We ... Read More
My wife and I are in our early sixties. We went on a Royal Caribbean cruise of the Caribbean about 20 years ago, were disappointed with the food, unhappy with our table partners and not impressed with the service or shore excursions. We swore off cruising after that. A friend convinced us to join them on the Renaissance R7 for a cruise from Barcelona to Dover seven years ago, and we were much happier. Then three years ago we went with friends on the RSSC Seven Seas Mariner to Alaska [chosen because it had good food!] and we were hooked. Last year we took the Paul Gauguin around French Polynesia. This year we looked for a RSSC cruise to the Greek Islands. We couldn't find one that met our schedule, and found the Oceania Nautica had an itinerary with everything we were looking for, plus Amalfi, Taormina, Kotor, Dubrovnik and Venice, all for the same price as the RSSC seven day cruise. It was an offer we couldn't refuse. The Nautica is almost identical to the R7, so we knew we'd like the boat. Oceania's reputation for food was as good as Radisson/Regent's, so we were comfortable there. I was somewhat concerned about the nickel and diming of charging for cokes, bottled water, and wine with dinner and add-on tips, but we decided to try it. As a result, this review will tend to compare Oceania with RSSC. In brief, the cruise met our expectations, exceeded some, and was at least as good a value-for-money as the RSSC. The food was outstanding, the crew excellent and the ship comfortable. The itinerary was a highlight. The Nautica began the fifteen day cruise in Istanbul, spent a day going through the Dardanelles and down the Aegean Coast to Kusadasi, then Rhodes, Mykonos/Delos, Athens, Santorini, then a day through the Straights of Messina to Amalfi, back to Taormina and across the Adriatic to Kotor in Montenegro, Dubrovnik, then up to Venice. One night was provided on-board in port at both ends. It's an itinerary unlike many of the other Greek Isles itineraries we found, and was the main attraction of this cruise. This turned out to be a common reason on the cruise. The ship Nautica is an old Renaissance ship, built in 2001 and updated in 2005. Its 684 passengers have a high percentage of balconies and reasonably sized cabins ý nothing like the suites on the Seven Seas Mariner, but reasonable. The shower was minimal, and my wife missed the marble bath. Our cabin was at the very front and center of the ship, with windows facing forward. We were concerned that it would be too windy to sit out there when at sea, but that was only the case when the 50 knot winds made the entire out-of-doors unpleasant. On the days we cruised through the Dardanelles, the Straights of Messina, the Kotor Fjord and the Venice Lagoon, sitting out there was delightful ý the best seat in the house. We also often had nice views in port, and could watch the crew docking on the deck below us. The bedding was the best we've ever encountered, and the cruise will probably result in our purchase of a new mattress, linens, pillows and duvet from the Oceania web page. Absolutely outstanding. The cabin had more than adequate storage space, a love seat and a little desk. Two 110 volt outlets and two 220 volt outlets on the desk met all our needs, recharging palm pilot and camera batteries simultaneously. There was no minifridge ý that was one deck up, so we had to make do with the ice bucket. Public rooms on the Nautica are elegant, from the Library to the Grand Dining Room to the specialty restaurants and lounges. The dark wood interiors of the Renaissance ships have been polished so they glow. The Nautica Lounge, the entertainment venue, has cocktail table seating, with heavy chairs that had to be rearranged to see the show ý clumsy but workable. The biggest musical review had five entertainers and the band, and the space was more than adequate. The pool deck had more space devoted to chairs than water, and two hot tubs flanking the small pool. It was crowded often, not just on sea days. However, seeing every chair claimed on the sea day, enroute to breakfast, when only three people were in the pool was annoying. The sun deck above had cabanas [for a fee] in what was clearly the best location for watching the world go by. The exercise room was much larger than I remembered on the R7, and I never saw it crowded. The casino also seemed to have grown, with excess slot machines, blackjack tables and a roulette wheel. The two shops specialized in fancy, not the place to buy toothpaste. The grand staircase was mostly useful for formal portraits. The ship is small enough to be easy to navigate. Onboard services Cabin service was provided at our level by a team of two cabin attendants who made up the room every morning and did a complete restoration with turndown service every evening, providing reading materials both times and chocolates on the pillows in the evening. They were both cordial, asking about our day's plans or evening options, discussing the ports, and putting up nicely with my high school Russian (she was Ukrainian and he was Bulgarian, and they both understood the good mornings and good evenings). They were quick to bring more ice and hangars. The front desk was well run and helpful even replacing my laundry token without debate when somebody opened our dryer and didn't push restart. The wait staff was outstanding, from the Maitre d' to the bus boys. Oceania has open seating, so we had service from a many different waiters and they remembered us from previous meals. The hostess overheard my wife telling our tablemates (at a shared table) that it was my birthday, and at dessert I was presented with chocolate cake with candle on a plate that said Happy Birthday David, serenaded by the wait staff. There is seating for two, four, six, eight or ten, and as we were traveling alone, we generally asked to be seated with others at dinner. By the end of the cruise we had many friends, including the waiters. Service in the Grand Dining Room and two specialty restaurants was elegant, with fish knives and forks substituted for the meat ones, Rosenthal china service plates, and napkins placed on your lap regardless of gender. Food was one of the reasons we chose Oceania, and food was provided to meet our needs, desires, expectations and fantasies. Lobster and caviar were served as were a variety of meats, fishes and vegetables to meet any needs. The standard dinner menu had three Spa entrees (meat, fish and chicken), three Jacques Papin specialties, three or four cold appetizers, three of four hot appetizers, two soups, two salads, a pasta and four or five main courses. Nothing I ate was bad. Nothing was even mediocre. Some things were extremely good, like the cold blueberry yogurt soup, the creme brulee, and the multi-grain bread. The scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam at tea were heavenly, the lamb chops at breakfast wonderful, and the bowls of fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries served whenever and wherever I asked were great. Presentation was excellent especially for deserts. The meals in the two specialty restaurants were special occasions, with new breads, special appetizers, and outstanding main courses. In the Polo Grill, the steak was good. In Toscana the veal was wonderful, and the chocolate lasagna, as I'd been warned on Cruise Critic, was to die for. The buffet had sushi at dinner, and most of the Grand Dining Room main courses, and a very pleasant back deck to eat on. Breakfast and lunch were less elaborate. Service in the buffet left something to be desired catching the waiter to get water or iced tea. The pool grill was ordinary, but available until 4 handy on days in port. Entertainment was OK -- major production shows are not expected on a small ship, and weren't provided. Shows with four singers were sincere and well performed, but not great. The magician was successful in performing tricks I couldn't explain, the Borsht Belt comedian got me to chuckle, the Barbra Streisand imitation was successful. The enrichment speaker talked about Venice (very useful) and Benny Hill. I didn't play bingo, spent less than five minutes at the art auction, and didn't do the trivia since it wasn't accompanied by tea as it is on RSSC. Destination services were a low point. The tours provided were not attractive, the tour personal were not particularly helpful, and there were a couple of times it was downright annoying. For example, the itinerary said Taormina a medieval town up the slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily. The ship anchored off Giardini-Naxos, down the hill. Destination services provided two options for independent tourists, a bus at nine, returning at one, or a bus at ten, returning at two, for $40/person. They knew nothing about the public bus where it stopped, when it ran, or what the fare was. We got off the ship and asked, found the bus stop, boarded the bus and went to Taormina for 1.10. There were three buses each hour in each direction comfortable air conditioned buses with reclining seats. In my opinion, if they advertise Taormina as the destination, they should provide a shuttle to Taormina. There was a similar problem in Athens, where the Metro fare was 1.30. The passengers on this trip were very well traveled, and looking for out-of-the-way places. Destination Services didn't help. The ports At one point I turned to my wife, as we entered the walls of Dubrovnik, and said "If you've seen one medieval town, you've seen them all." That's not true, Santorini was very different from Kotor, which didn't even have T-shirts to sell, but they had a lot in common. Port by port: Istanbul -- I worked in Bursa, Turkey five years ago and have been to Istanbul many times, so this visit was mostly to see friends. We stayed at the Sultanahmet Palace Hotel for a few days before the cruise (highly recommended for location, value and charm), and took a taxi to the ship from the hotel at a cost of $6. Taxis from the ship back to Sultanahmet wanted $40, but the tram was only $1. Destination services were no help at all to others who asked. Istanbul is one of the great tourist destinations in the world, and requires at least three or four days to see, but the overnight on the boat was a nice touch. Kusadasi -- This is the port for Ephesus, an impressive Roman archaeological site, but we'd already been, so we looked for other options. The tours focused on Ephesus. We ended up wandering around town. Rhodes -- A medieval pedestrian town. We decided to walk on our own, and headed for the Jewish Quarter; saw the synagogue and the museum. Rhodes had 4,000 Jews before WWII, seven families are left. Mykonos/Delos -- We were plagued with 50 knot winds so out tour of Delos was cancelled. We ended up with the $20 shuttle bus from the port into Mykonos and a fight of the wind to walk into town from the end of the bus route. We were found by an Oceania crew member and hustled back to the ship, as it was so windy they were concerned about damage to the ship in port, and went out to sea and dropped anchor. The latecomers had an exciting tender trip to the ship. The shuttle bus cost was refunded due to the terminated services. Athens -- We took a tour to Corinth. we'd been to Athens and my wife teaches Oedipus and wanted to see where he was from. The Corinth Canal was impressive, but our tour guide would rather have been somewhere else. We got back to the ship and took the Metro to the Acropolis, just to ride the Metro. Santorini -- Another medieval pedestrian town, so we walked on our own, taking the cable car up. The pedestrian path was crowded with donkeys and odorous. We would have liked a tour that included some beach time. Amalfi -- we'd arranged in advance, based on Cruise Critic advice, with barbarapositano@starnet.it to be met at the ship and go to Pompeii. We looked for another couple to join us, and found most of the people we asked had already been to Pompeii, so we went on our own. An overwhelming experience that should have been a tour option -- it's an hour from Amalfi. That night at dinner we met a couple who had asked Destination Services about a tour to Pompeii and instead of being told to contact us, as I'd asked Destination Services to do, they were told "it's too far, you shouldn't go." We stopped for lunch in Ravello on the way back, made it with three hours to spare. Taormina -- As discussed above, we took the public bus up the hill and saw Taormina, another charming medieval pedestrian town. Kotor -- The new kid on the block of charming medieval pedestrian towns -- with a fantastic fjord to reach it. While we were there, they had no power or water, but shops were open anyhow. Dubrovnik -- Fully restored after the 1991 war, with the second oldest synagogue in Europe. Venice -- The trip through the lagoon into Venice was one of the highlights of the trip, enhanced by the information we'd gleaned from the enrichment lectures. We stayed at the Hotel Anastasia after the cruise, an easy walk from the San Marco vaporetto stop. we'd been to Venice before, but were delighted with the tour of La Fenice, the fully restored Venice opera house. Summary Overall, the cruise met our expectations, and often exceeded them. The food was better, the new places we visited were more interesting, the congeniality on the boat, of both passengers and staff was wonderful. We'll definitely cruise Oceania again, but we're also still interested in RSSC offerings. The nickel & diming came to about $700 when we added it up, far less than the difference between Oceania fares and RSSC fares. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
My wife and I have been on numerous cruises, all "Large" ships. This was our first experience on an Oceania ship and it will definitely NOT be our last. The pre-cruise documentation was excellent. All papers, directions, ... Read More
My wife and I have been on numerous cruises, all "Large" ships. This was our first experience on an Oceania ship and it will definitely NOT be our last. The pre-cruise documentation was excellent. All papers, directions, instructions were clear and concise. I was able to book the shore excursions on-line before departing and that saved a lot of hassle. We had been planning this trip for about 5 years but, because of various reasons, had to keep putting it off. I knew that I wanted to participate in a lot of the shore excursions and when I chose the one's I wanted I found that for about $50 more I could have an excursion in every port, perfect! The cruise package included air connections from Miami to Istanbul with a lay-over in Heathrow, and reverse from Athens. There was a bit of a long layover each direction but it seemed that all travellers had some delay. Once we arrived in Istanbul the transfers and luggage handling were superb. We had a standard cabin, on deck 3 with an ocean view. It was more than adequate. In fact, the bed and pillows were about the best we've encountered on a ship. We don't spend time in the cabin except to sleep and dress and the amenities aren't that important to us. One thing I have to say is that if you wanted to stay in the cabin the TV programming is the absolute best. Beside the regular ship channels and the standard news programs they have channels devoted to TV Comedies such as Friends, I Love Lucy, etc. Others cover CSI Programs, National Geographic and, best of all Movie channels that show first run movies and well as others showing old classics. If you don't want to leave your cabin you'll have a great time. Being a small ship it was most easy to get oriented and know where everything was. Food in the Rear, Fun in the Front. Aside from the main dining room and buffet they have two excellent themed restaurants, a steak house, the Polo Grill, and an upscale Italian, the Toscana. There are no surcharges in either but they try to limit you by allowing you to make two reservations. After that you can make arrangements in the morning, if tables are available. We dined with another couple and never had a problem. Being from New York the Italian was our favorite. The quality of the food in all the restaurants was excellent. The only thing I could say in a negative way would be the variety of the menu in the mian dining room could have been a little expanded. I made a comment that if I was going to Greece & Turkey I would have like to have a choice of a "Local" food offered. The Buffet for dinner was a "Tapas" bar and I'm sorry I only went there once. The choices were excellent. The staff all through the ship were excellent. Warm greetings, concern for your pleasure, always a nice feeling. I didn't realize until I came home that the Oceania line doesn't allow children under 15. We just thought it was the time of the year that we went that there weren't any, and we have to say it was relaxing. The entertainment was very good. Because of the size of the ship there were no big Broadway Productions but the shows were performed by four talented kids that were terrific. They had other entertainers, an excellent violinist, a singer and the cruise director himself put on a show that was the best. The choice, variety and timing of the shore excursions couldn't have been better. They try to accommodate the passengers by getting the tour busses as near to the ship as possible to avoid long walks. All the local tour guides were quite knowledgeable and personable. The efficiency of the disembarkation was organized and efficient. The luggage was easy to locate and transfers to the airport were perfectly handled. All in all we really loved the ship and the service and will be planning to take Oceania cruises to other destinations in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
ISTANBUL - GREEK ISLANDS CRUISE M. V. NAUTICA MAY 17 - 29 2006 Introduction My name is Phil H and my wife is Edith G. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and former health services provider. We live in Phoenix, ... Read More
ISTANBUL - GREEK ISLANDS CRUISE M. V. NAUTICA MAY 17 - 29 2006 Introduction My name is Phil H and my wife is Edith G. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and former health services provider. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and this would be our 18th cruise. Our prior sailings have been on Carnivals Elation to the Mexican Riviera; on the now defunct Commodore Lines Enchanted Isle to the Caribbean for 11 days; a 7 day cruise, also in the Caribbean on Celebritys Galaxy; followed by a marvelous cruise from Santiago to Buenos Aires on Mercury, another Celebrity vessel. We then did our Alaskan cruise on Sun Princess, followed by a third 7 day Caribbean trip aboard Norwegian Sun and a trans-canal on Celebritys Infinity. We then sailed on Millennium for a Mediterranean cruise in May 2003, followed by a Baltic cruise tour on Regal Princess later that year. We then went to Hawaii for the first time on Infinity in November 2003 and did our first HAL on Veendam in the Caribbean the next spring. In March 2004 we took Galaxy from Baltimore to Rome, and returned to the Caribbean in October on Zaandam. In November 2004 we went back to the Mexican Riviera on Diamond Princess. We enjoyed our first Oceania experience on Insignia for a very different Amazon River cruise in March 2005, followed by a short repositioning cruise up the west coast from San Diego to Vancouver in May that year. on our only Royal Caribbean ship to date, Radiance of the Seas. In November we spoiled ourselves on Crystal Serenity for eleven days on a Caribbean trip. All except the first two cruises have been reviewed on cruisereviews.com. Why This Cruise? In a word - Istanbul. We had attempted to book a similar cruise in 2002 or 2003 on Crystal, only to have our travel agent call them and find out that they had just cancelled Istanbul. Edith has always wanted to see this city, so when this cruise came up with the right timing, we jumped at it. The Itinerary Oceanias itinerary called for an overnight in Istanbul at the start and another in Athens at the end. In between we would have one sea day, then Kusadasi (Ephesus), Rhodes, Delos and Mykonos (one day), Santorini, Katakolon (Olympia), Corfu, Dubrovnik, a second sea day and then Athens. Review Format; What is Covered and What is Not Although this is a cruise review, Istanbul was obviously not only a part of the cruise because of Oceanias scheduling, but of interest to many of our fellow passengers and perhaps the gentle reader also. For this reason I will not discuss our Istanbul experience in any great length as part of the review. For the rest, I can only cover what we did; and there are always aspects of any cruise that do not and did not command our attention. We do not gamble, or take part in Karaoke, trivia games and the like. Our poolside experience was limited, and we did not, as usual, use any of the cruise line tours, but did our own shore expeditions and planning. Pre-Planning any Cruise This paragraph is Cruising 101, and experienced cruisers can skip it. But since I hear from newbies to cruising, I will include a few remarks. If you have questions about any ship or cruise line, you can get a review of most ships and cruise lines in the Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2006 Douglas Ward; Berlitz Publishing Co.; the Unofficial Guide to Cruises; 8th Edition; Kay Showker and Bob Sehlinger; Wiley Publishing Co. and Sterns Guide to Cruise Vacations 2006; Steven B. Stern, 13th ed. Pelican Publishing Co. You can find (or order) these at most large bookstores such as Borders or Barnes & Noble. New editions come out each year. All three of these books will also provide a wealth of detailed information on cruising. Since itineraries are subject to change, and not set much more than a year in advance, you should go to the cruise lines websites to get the correct itineraries and dates. You then can check with your travel agent to see the brochures which will give you a schematic of the ships layouts and cabin locations. Cabin locations can be important, and early booking also gives you a wider choice. On some ships the design is such that verandas on upper decks look down onto portions of the verandas below; which might concern some people. Some of these problems are not obvious from the deck plans but are mentioned in the books cited above. You also might want to avoid a stateroom directly off the elevator/stair wells, as this area tends to be noisy . We usually try for a stateroom between two elevator/stair wells (and not near the laundry). In many cases you can order brochures directly from the cruise lines, but these brochures for the major lines cover separate specific destination areas, and not the entire cruise line repertory in one brochure. Small lines (like Crystal) with few ships are an exception. The pricing options vary widely. Every line has an early booking discount; many offer specials in the last days before sailing if you want to take a chance; and there are a variety of specials and package deals available through various travel agencies. No one recommends that you do your booking through the net; having your travel agent do the actual talking to the booking clerks is best; but the net can provide a lot of information. Some people make the itinerary the prime factor, some the cruise line or a specific ship, and others are controlled by time constraints and the availability of cruises within their budget range. Like many people, we consider the itinerary first, and then look at the cruise line and date options. Planning This Cruise This was one of the more intensely planned cruises we have ever done; due largely to the somewhat exotic character of a number of our stops. We planned to arrive in Istanbul on Monday, May 15th, stay two nights in a local hotel, board Nautica the 17th before a sailing that departed at 11:00 at night on the 18th. This gave us three and one-half days in Istanbul. To do this we purchased an air deviation from Oceania (which included airfare in its pricing). Locating a good tour guide was a consideration, and we succeeded through information from prior cruisers on the Cruise Critic website boards. This also gave us a guide to Ephesus at our Kusadasi landing. We wanted a tour of Rhodes which took us to Lindos, a city with a local Acropolis of some renown. But we also wanted a guided tour of the old Rhodes medieval city. This took some doing on the internet. Delos is a small place and we did not need a guided tour, and we did not plan on doing much in Mykonos. We knew we wanted to see the original Olympic Games site in Olympia, which is near our Katalokon stop, and were concerned about taxis to and from. We planned to rent a car on Corfu, walk around the old City of Dubrovnik and rent a car to drive to Delphi in Greece after landing at Piraeus. We do not like large tour buses with hordes of passengers, so we were looking for an individual guide. Most of them use small vans which work out well carrying six to eight passengers; an ideal sized group. I spent a lot of time on the net finding people to join us. This was not easy since everyone had slightly different days or times of arrival in Istanbul, and plans once there; but on the whole things worked out well. It takes considerable patience making sure that everyone knows the itinerary, price, pick-up locations and times, etc. It helps to remember that in most of the world dates are written as; eg. 17 May 2006; and that times use the 24 hour clock. I will describe each tour as it occurs during the cruise. Shipboard Accommodation Planning Once you have decided on the cruise line and itinerary, the next decision concerns the actual accommodations to be selected. The range here is again very large, from suites of more than 3000 square feet (how big is your house?) to standard cabins of about 180 square feet. Obviously the difference is price. These days the newer ships feature verandah cabins which make up almost half the cabins available. Then there are a variety of staterooms labeled suites; some of which, like Celebritys sky suites are little more than larger cabins with added amenities and features such as butler service, access to spa facilities at a reduced rate, etc. Many people, like us, enjoy the outside access of a verandah, where you can sit on a small deck all your own and enjoy the sound and smell of the ocean for a better at sea experience. Others, including a travel agent I know, book the lowest cost inside cabin on the theory that they dont spend much time there, and they can enjoy the rest of the ship to the same extent as the people in the largest suite. Traditionally the higher decks are more costly for identical cabins. Very often the costlier suites are on the upper decks; the Millennium class ships of Celebrity being an exception with all its expensive suites being located on deck 6. Most cabins have only showers, and only very expensive suites have double sinks. Unless you bring an excessive amount of luggage, you will find that cabins, even the smallest, hold a large amount of clothing, toiletries, etc. Ships architects have long mastered the art of squeezing the maximum amount of storage space out of every square foot of cabin area. Hotel architects could learn a lot by observing how ships utilize space. What about your bags? In most cases they will fit under the bed, but the ship will store them elsewhere if necessary. For a week we certainly did not need a suite. Kissed by the Upgrade Fairy We booked a concierge veranda cabin on Deck 7. About a month or so prior to sailing, we received an invoice with the final billing from Oceania. There were a few items of note. We were charged $46.00 each for Turkish Visas. Since we had found out on the web that you can pay $20.00 for a visa at the airport, we had our Travel Agent request that this be removed. We also noted two charges for transfers, one from the Istanbul airport to the ship and one from the ship to the airport in Athens. Since we were arriving on May 15 we obviously did not need the first transfer, and requested that to be removed also. But we did note that our stateroom had been changed to Penthouse Suite No. 8019, with no additional charge. There are two explanations for this that occurred to me. The first is the most intriguing. I wrote a review of our Insignia Amazon cruise which was largely very favorable. During the period before this cruise I had received information about our flights that I thought was incorrect. On Oceanias website I found the name Christina del Rio with Coordinator of Marketing job title. I sent her an E-mail with my question, and mentioned that she might enjoy my Insignia review. The reply I received was from someone else in public relations. But as I suspected, Christina is related to (I believe the daughter of) Frank Del Rio, one of the co-founders of Oceania. Maybe that Insignia review got me an upgrade. The other explanation is more mundane. Cruise lines dont like to turn down customers. If there was a request for a concierge suite on Deck 7 that could not be filled because they were all booked, and there was an opening in the Penthouse Suite category, the cruise line would bump someone up rather than lose a sale. They might well upgrade on the basis of either the earliest booking or a combination of early booking and prior customer status. And I met both of these criteria. So matter what the reason was, we enjoyed the upgrade. Clothes Planning Cruise lines may offer suggestions, and advice can be found in the books mentioned above. The season; the itinerary, the length of the cruise and the cruise line life style will be the major determining factors. I saw more black ties on Crystal than on any other line; with Celebrity and Holland America next in order of formality. Even with formal nights, there is a much more casual air permeating Carnival, Royal Caribbean and even Princess. However, Oceania has no formal evenings and the dress code is either Country Club Casual or Informal. Its ships do have self service laundries as do every cruise line we have traveled on with the notable exception of Celebrity . We were not certain of the weather in Istanbul where we were spending four days; and it turned out to be more chilly that we would have guessed. I did bring my Travel Smith basic blue blazer; several casual khakis, a couple of better slacks; a number of good long sleeve shirts, one dress oxford shirt and one tie. I also brought several pairs of walking shorts for land based trips since I expected the Greek Islands to be warm, and they were. Edith has her packing down to a science, leaning heavily to soft fabrics that do not require ironing, and using interchangeable blouses and skirts. She felt she could have used a warmer sweater in Istanbul; but she is more cold sensitive than most. We had no trouble with the now enforced weight limits. We do make out careful and complete packing lists before we leave, starting them several weeks early so we do not have last minute panics. Getting to the Ship and Back Home The next consideration is planning the route to and from the ports of embarkation and debarkation, which very well may not be the same city. All cruise lines offer to purchase air fare to and from the cruises for you. If they do so, they will normally include the transportation between the airport and the pier both ways. You can purchase your own air tickets, of course, and you may be able to buy transfers to and from the pier separately. If you are going round trip from the same city for departure and return; a common event for Caribbean and Mexican Riviera cruises, you can probably do better buying your own air tickets, especially if you are good at internet shopping. Your travel agent may be willing to help if you have bought the cruise from him or her, even though their commissions these days on air travel are virtually non-existent. If you are required to use open jaw flights; i.e. leaving from different cities for embarkation and debarkation, it is a little more complex to get any savings compared to the cruise lines, who can save money by block booking on major airlines. [For a good example of pre-cruise flight planning, read the review of our Celebrity Mercury cruise from Santiago to Buenos Aires in January 2002 on this website.] However you may end up with weird routings as we did on our Infinity Hawaii cruise (Phoenix to LA to San Diego!); because we felt we should use Celebrity in order to insure the right connections to the embarkation port of Ensenada. You can vary the departure dates, but the cruise line might charge extra for this service. Celebrity waives any deviation charges for cruisers who are members of its Captains Club. If you can do so, always provide extra time, and for safetys sake, an extra day in planning your air connection to the departure city. This is particularly true for us when we fly east to embark from a Florida port since the time zone difference virtually requires either a red-eye flight or an overnight stay. Oceania normally includes air fare in its pricing. They do add air taxes which on overseas flights can mount up. However, since they often have somewhat exotic routes, it often is better to use their air routing rather that try your own. It would have been three times as long to get to Manaus, for example, on our Amazon trip on Insignia in March 2005, by commercial air than it was to use Oceanias chartered flights from Miami. Since we were arriving in Istanbul three days prior to the actual departure, we did have to pay $50.00 per person air deviation fee. Trip Insurance Finally, there is the issue of trip insurance. We recommend it, but suggest that you buy from one of the independent insurers rather than the cruise line. The basic reason is that insurance you buy from the cruise line only covers you for services supplied by them. If you fly independently, take off on shore excursions that you book yourself, or extend the trip before or after on your own, the cruise line insurance will not cover you. However, your own carrier will cover all events within the dates you specify. We have found a firm known as CSA to be responsive and reasonable. Incidentally, you do not have to insure for all the costs; but you can pick a figure you would settle for to cover the travel portion. In other words, you dont have to add the flight cost to the cruise cost because you would probably not lose both. The main point is that with any coverage you get theft insurance, baggage loss, baggage delay and health coverage. You can even get pre-existing health condition coverage if you buy a higher priced policy as soon as you book the cruise. Talk to your travel agent about various policies that are available since they are commissionable also. It is worth it for peace of mind. Having said all that, it probably does not apply with as much force for Alaska and Hawaii cruises, since you are in the United States and both Medicare and your own health insurance will be available. If you are a dedicated shopper, you can go to www.insuremytrip.com and come up with a wide range of comparisons, as well as choices of coverage. Just for an example, we opted for trip cancellation of $2000.00 and trip interruption of $3000.00 per person; travel delay of $1,000 pp (max 150.00 pp per day), baggage delay - $200-$400; baggage and personal effects loss or damage - $1,000-$2,000 (how much is your camera worth) rental car collision waiver damage - $25,000; medical or dental expense - $50,000.00; air flight accident - $100,000-$200,000; emergency medical evacuation - $250,000 and Identity Theft Insurance - $20,000. The cost for both of us was a total of $276.00. For traveling to the Middle East for 15 days, this seemed reasonable. Off to Istanbul This is a fairly long flight, involving changing planes at Dulles and again in Frankfurt. We started on Sunday morning and arrived in Istanbul at about 1:00 P.M. on Monday afternoon. Our tour guide had agreed to pick us up since he would be at the airport shortly before, and it was nice to have a very reliable source of transportation to our hotel. Istanbul is a very large city with the population estimated at about 9 million. It is divided into three areas. The Sultanahmet District marks the southernmost section, below the inlet off the Bosphorus known as the Golden Horn. This is the old city, containing the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace. North of the Golden Horn is a ;larger, newer section containing the high rise commercial area and most of the larger hotels. It stretches along the Bosphorus nearly all the way to the Black Sea. Then, across the Bosphorus is the Asiatic portion of the city. Overall Istanbul is a fascinating city. What marks it particularly is the open feel provided by the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, as well as the hills. Traffic can be difficult, particularly in the old city; but again you can walk from Topkapi Palace to the Hagia Sophia to the Blue Mosque, and visit the cisterns under the city, all in the same neighborhood. We were very pleased with our three and a half days in Istanbul before we left. Our guide was Nejat Incedogan, and his e-mail is; nincedogan@yahoo.com. He is rather popular, so anyone wishing to use him should line him up well in advance. A typical full day tour runs from $75.00 to $90.00 per person. I spent a good deal of time on the net lining up people to tour with us. This was done through the boards at www.cruisecritic.com; which seems to be the largest of the sites available to prospective cruisers. There are many excellent guide books on this city, and anyone spending a few days there would do well to consult them. The Turkish Lira is now about $0.75, and there are many ATMs available. Credit cards are accepted in most places, although oddly, our hotel wanted cash and I had to walk down to the end of the block to find an ATM and bring back Lira. Since the two night stay was less than $150.00, I was happy to do so. Our guide also wanted to be paid in cash, but did not accept any money until we left him in Ephesus after our tour there. While Turkey is a Muslim country, and you will be awakened by the morning call to prayer broadcast over loudspeakers attached to the many mosques; it is a secular state with fundamental Muslim practices out of tune with most people and the prevailing culture. Ever since Kemal Ataturk virtually created modern Turkey in 1923, this country has been western oriented, and now is most anxious to join the European Union. American are welcomed in a very friendly way. There were problems a few years ago with the Kurds in Eastern Turkey which caused some cruise lines to cancel tours, but this has subsided. Ataturk died at 9:05 A.M., November 10, 1938, and at that time on that day ever since the country has paused for a moment of silence and remembrance. His photograph is displayed in virtually every public place. We had arrived in Istanbul on Monday, May 15, and stayed in our hotel, the Hotel Hali, for two nights. On the 17th we had our guide take us to the pier where we boarded Nautica.  Embarkation and the First Day Aboard The ship had actually docked on the 16th, with its passengers spending one night on board. We were not allowed to embark until 1:00 P.M. but as suite holders we had priority and walked on board exactly at 1:00, about two minutes after arrival at the pier. The check in process was as easy as we had ever experienced. We did not even have to provide a credit card, but were told we could go any time to Guest relations and have it swiped. We were escorted to our suite, always a nice touch provided by Oceania, Crystal and Celebrity. A Penthouse Suite on these ships is really an oversized cabin on the order of the Sky Suite on Celebrity vessels. Our cabin had a three cushion couch, a small dark wood table with two covered arm chairs. There was attractive wall lighting and a full mirror on the wall opposite the couch. Next to the couch was the desk unit of dark wood. It was good sized, about 8 feet long with three drawers on one side and three shelves on the other. There was a swivel magnifying cosmetic mirror on the wall next to this desk unit. The bed was opposite the desk. There were two night stands on either side of the bed and a dark paneled wall next to the left side night stand. At the end of this wall was a shelf area containing the TV (with DVD player), which could be pulled out and swiveled to provide viewing from the bed. This shelf area also has a safe and small refrigerator with a mini-bar supply of hard and soft drinks. The closets are to your left as you come into the cabin and were quite reasonably sized with extra shelves and a large number of good quality wooden hangers. Behind the couch near the veranda entrance was a door leading into the stateroom next door. It was locked of course. The veranda itself was wide, but not deep, with a teak deck, two lounge chairs and a small table. The outside railing was clear glass with a teak rail at the top. The dividers between verandas were small, not being much more than about six feet in height, open at the bottom and with a small gap next to the side of the cabin. Overall there was not much privacy on these verandas. The entire wall leading to the veranda was glass with the usual sliding door; but this gave a lot of light and was quite pleasant. The bathroom contained a tub shower and a single sink set in some form of faux marble. The floor was tile and the walls made of some sort of beige colored textured composition material which was clearly waterproof since it extended into the shower. area. As usual on board ship, the well designed shelving provided more than enough space for all our toiletries. The walls of the cabin were of some high quality textured linen like material with dark wood crown molding and the same molding at the room corners. The ceiling was interesting, being formed of panels about 15 inches wide with recessed niches about one inch wide and one each deep in between. There were several nice prints above the bed and couch. The ceiling lights operated off a main switch next to the door into the cabin. Also, immediately to the right of the door was a small wall mirror with an attached shelf. The carpet was a blue and beige leaf pattern with the blue matching the blue of the couch and seat coverings. Terry bathrobes, slippers, throws, a very large umbrella, shoe horn and clothes brush were provided. While we were looking the room over, and before our luggage arrived, we met Bogden, our Romanian butler, and he was a very pleasant and personable young man. We met some friends from our earlier Istanbul tours for a light lunch in the Terrace Cafe, overlooking the Bosphorus; a very pleasant experience. By the time we returned from lunch our luggage had been delivered. After unpacking we went to the Reception Desk to activate our shipboard card with our credit card. We then went to the Library, which has always garnered much praise for its ambience and comfortable furniture. We returned to our cabin for a briefing by Bodgen of the features of the Penthouse Class. They consist of: extra hangers on request; complimentary hors doeuvres daily, complimentary pressing of two items, full meal room service, and having our butler make for us any reservations we wanted at the specialty restaurants. We took advantage of this last to reserve two meals at Toscana and the Polo Grill. We had arranged to meet one of our fellow tour couples for dinner, which was excellent; but a little slow. We had to skip dessert to get to the evening entertainment on time. All shows are held in the Nautica Lounge, which has cocktail lounge type seating, small tables with upholstered arm chairs or upholstered bench seat, all surrounding a dance floor used for the actual shows. The stage area is only large enough for the dance or show back-up band. Since the room does not hold many more than 350 people, timely attendance is a must. This first show was provided by local entertainers. The first half was not very exciting, but then the main feature, a belly dancer, came on and she was quite spectacular. Nautica In my review of our Insignia cruise down the Amazon in March 2005 I described that sister ship to Nautica. Nautica has had some upgrades, and they appeared in the form of beautiful Rosenthal china (hotel grade, but Versace design nonetheless) in the dining room and upgraded cabin furniture. But the ships were and are very elegant; with a most convenient layout and extremely comfortable. They hold only about 680 passengers and I believe this trip was full. They are mid-sized vessels of 30,000t tons displacement, with a length of 593 feet and a beam of 83 feet. The passenger space runs from Deck 3, with a few window cabins and tender access, to Deck 10, with an open Sun Deck 11 forward. Nautica has added 8 cabanas on the forward portion of this deck. They are basically canvas affairs, with a canvas roof and dividers between cabanas. A day bed for two is provided along with fruit skewers in the morning, ice cream in the afternoon, along with afternoon tea, ice towel wraps, a complimentary 10 minute chair massage; and discounts at the spa. All this is offered for $50.00 a day on port days and $100.00 per day on sea days; with a full cruise package available. We did not see many people taking advantage of this cabana service. The ship has two stair/elevator wells. Deck 4 has picture window cabins and medical center forward. Midships is occupied by the reception desk, excursion desk and two seating areas with a concierge desk, plus a grand staircase to Deck 5. This next deck has the Insignia Lounge with a dance floor and small stage for the orchestra forward. Proceeding aft you go through a small casino with 32 slot machines, one roulette wheel; two $5.00 minimum and two $10.00 minimum blackjack tables. Aft of this on one side is the photo shop and gallery and on the other the Martini Lounge with a piano. Proceeding to the stern you pass two boutique stores on either side before coming to an open Upper Hall with cocktail tables and side chairs. Then, down the starboard side you enter the Grand Bar which leads into the Grand Dining Room; the principal dining venue. Deck 6 is almost all verandah cabins except for two large suites forward and two aft. Deck 7 is the same. Deck 8 has the verandah suites, which basically are staterooms about 40% larger than the regular verandah cabins, or about the same size as Celebrity Sky Suites. Deck 8 forward is occupied by the bridge and officers quarters, and it also has two large suites aft. There are about 20 interior cabins on Decks 7 and 8 and 18 window cabins overlooking the lifeboats on Deck 6. Deck 9 has the spa and gym forward, the pool and teak pool deck with two Jacuzzis amidships and the Terrace Cafe buffet with its aft outside terrace completing this deck. It also has a card room and Cyber Space, the computer training and internet center. Deck 10 consists of the Horizon Lounge forward, a rubberized fitness track around both sides leading to the aft section which houses the library and the two specialty restaurants, Toscana and the Polo Grill. The Sun Deck on Deck 11 has a golf net and shuffleboard in addition to open deck space and the cabanas forward as mentioned. The self service laundry is opposite Stateroom 7076 and has 4 washers and 4 dryers. They are token operated with automatic detergent dispensers, There are also two ironing boards with irons. I visited it at 2:00 P.M. on the first sea day and only one washer and dryer were in operation. The walls in the public areas are normally dark brown, with matte brass lighting fixtures, well upholstered furniture and nicely patterned carpeting. The Toscana Grill has cream walls with Doric half columns and prints of Roman scenes. The Polo Grill has medium dark brown walls with photos of Hollywood stars from Charlie Chaplin to Paul Newman. The walls in the passenger area are a soft cream and have framed prints. The cabin doors are royal blue with brass hardware on the outside also. The carpeting is patterned. The stairwells have soft brass railings with glass side panels containing a black outline floral design. The art in the stair wells is from the art auction supply, and some pieces were changed en route. The library is very large for a ship of this size, stretching across almost the entire width of the ship, with a number of comfortable sofas and chairs, and a false fireplace completing the illusion of a country house library. It is by far the nicest library we have ever seen. The selection of books was quite good for a small ship with fewer than 700 passengers. The library check out system is strictly on ones honor. As someone explained, the design calls for entertainment forward and food aft. The result was a ship that was the most user friendly we have ever encountered. We could get anywhere from our cabin very quickly, and used the stairs almost exclusively throughout the entire trip. I do not like to abuse the word elegant; but that truly epitomizes Nautica. It is a delight to the eye, convenient as a ship can be, and as pleasant a venue for 12 days as can be imagined. Passenger Services We found the office personnel at the Reception Desk uniformly friendly and helpful. The ship provides the normal news sheet; Oceania Currents and we found that it was delivered to our cabin relatively early each evening, usually between dinner and the entertainment. We also received a four to eight page daily satellite U.S.A. Times with world and general USA news, including sports. Before each port day we also received a Destination Services Port Information Sheet. This was primarily designed to promote tours, but actually had a lot of very useful general information. The one exception was that little information was provided on how to get to the Old City of Dubrovnik if you were not on a tour, and a number of people felt that those of us who like to do things on our own were treated poorly at that stop. The ships TV had BBC and European CNN, both of which had a few glitches from time to time. The TV also showed maps with the ships location, port information talks, a replay of lectures and a number of movies and old TV shows. For the suites with DVRs as part of their TV sets, there is a DVD library with 500+ titles available from Passenger Services. Ocean Currents was quite informative, and listed the movies each day in addition to some good information on the stops we were making. Except for the lifeboat drill announcement the limited public address announcements were not broadcast into the cabins. E-mail is available at $2.00 per session, which also means you are charged $2.00 for each incoming E-mail message. Cruise long packages are available. There are two E-mail computer stations in the Library in addition to the Cyber Space Room which was often crowded with very popular computer classes. The Horizon Lounge has two binoculars fixed on stanchions, one forward starboard and one forward portside. There are also two telescope spyglasses on each side aft. Food The Grand Dining Room is an attractive venue, although in the center section it can become noisy; interfering somewhat with conversation. As noted before, the tableware was of excellent quality, appearing to give Crystal a run for its money, which is really saying something. The service was generally excellent and we never had to wait more than a few moments for people ahead of us to be seated. The service was very good, although at times a little rushed. While we normally do not like free style dining, preferring traditional seating with the same table companions and same wait staff; we had no complaints on Insignia and none here. We always requested shared seating, and met a number of people that way. We always enjoyed the Terrace Grill buffet for breakfast, and for the limited number of lunches on board. We went to Tapas on the Terrace one night and that was quite nice, although it did not truly have tapas as served in Barcelona. The selection offered at lunch was usually wide ranging and had some imagination including a Mexican lunch. This was rather mild for these Arizonans accustomed to a more authentic fare; but it was good nonetheless. The appearance of the Terrace Grill is extremely pleasant, with a cheerful light green and yellow theme. The seating is at armchairs with wood arms, and striped upholstered seats and backs. The tables are cultured marble and set with place mats, cloth napkins, glasses, cutlery and good quality china. At night, when set up for Tapas, the chinaware is in a brightly decorated pattern. There is a pizzeria on one side which doubles as an omelet station for breakfast on one side and another similar station on the other. The walls are decorated with murals and the windows have drapes which can be used to reduce the bright sunlight. We ate twice at the Toscana Room and once at the Polo Grill. The meals in the Toscana Dining Room can contain up to seven courses! Hot Appetizer, cold appetizer (antipasto), soup, salad, pasta, entrEe and dessert. Even limiting this somewhat results in too heavy and too long a meal. On our one experience with the Polo Grill my filet was done exactly as ordered, and on the whole this was a better experience. The service in both specialty restaurants was excellent and less rushed than in the main dining room. We ordered room service for one breakfast, and it was delivered promptly by our butler and was good, although without the selection offered at the buffet. The actual room service breakfast menu is very limited, but Bogden told us we could write in what we wished as suite guests, so we did so, but still felt we had fewer options than when we could graze the buffet lines. The meals in the main dining room were all created by the French Chef, Jacques Pepin. The dinner menus always offered the same three signature items, beef, chicken and fish. The normal menu is typical of most cruise ships with a selection from three soups, four appetizers and five entrees, always including at least one fish dish and one pasta dish. The dessert menus are presented later and normally have six or so items. In addition dessert drinks are available. Coffee, cappuccino, espresso and tea were available without additional charge. One vegetarian dish is also available, and Edith normally chose this. She had one bad experience at one meal with a highly salted entree and a very oily salad; but otherwise the meals were quite excellent. There is no way that a central dining room serving several hundred people in a relatively short space of time can match a gourmet restaurant on land; but we certainly looked forward to dinner and were not disappointed. {I should note one exception to the foregoing - the lobster meal I had at the Silk Road on Crystal Serenity was one of the finest meals I have ever enjoyed anywhere.] We would rate Oceania as generally equal to Celebrity, with a slightly better buffet; and far better than any other cruise line. I should not end this topic without mentioning the daily tea in the Horizon Lounge. This is a very attractive room, and the Paradise String Quartet played every afternoon for tea. The tea itself was quite substantial with sandwiches, cakes, tarts as well as smaller pastries in addition to either tea or coffee. Some of these were carried around on trays, some on a wheeled cart which had problems getting up one step to a portion of the Lounge, and others were available at a table in the back of the lounge where you could simply go and fill up your own plate. This was something we took advantage of almost every day since we often returned from shore trips in time to indulge ourselves. Only Crystal offers a comparable daily servings such as this. Princess, Celebrity and Holland America all have teas once or twice depending on the cruise length, and they tend to be more formal; but we really prefer Oceanias teatime. Sea Days We only had two sea days on this cruise. The first was as we sailed out the Dardanelles, past the Gallipoli Monument into the Aegean Sea. A one page, quite detailed information sheet described the area, its history and the story of the Battle of Gallipoli and the role of Kemal Ataturk. The lifeboat drill was held on this first sea day at 10:45 A.M., and went smoothly. There was an Enrichment Lecture at 9:30, but we had gotten up too late for that. A digital camera hints program was held in the Cyber Space Room but was so crowded I could not participate. Aside from that there was an Art Auction, the usual health and fitness seminars selling spa services, bridge and a line dance class. Pretty much the same routine occupied the second sea day towards the end of the cruise between Dubrovnik and our debarkation port of Athens. Altogether the sea day offerings were pretty minimal. We had a better effort made on Insignias Amazon cruise, but perhaps the nature of that cruise and its larger number of sea days allowed for a more extensive program. Entertainment As usual, this portion of the cruise had its ups and downs. As on Insignia, we greatly enjoyed the string quartet, this time composed of two young men and two young women from the Ukraine. Their offerings were more inclined to show tunes and light classical, rather than a fairly good inclusion of straight classical music provided on Insignia, but it made for delightful, relaxed and elegant listening all the same. The evening Nautica Lounge entertainment was varied. There was a violinist who was not bad musically, but whose English was pretty awful, making his announcements about his selections virtually unintelligible. He did two shows. There was a pianist who did not live up to the extremely fulsome presentation provided by the Cruise Director. We heard that the comic impressionist was pretty poor from people who had been on the prior cruise, so we skipped him both times he appeared. The Show Time entertainment was provide by four young singers who were working together for the first time. This showed up in a little stiffness in their initial show, but they had relaxed with a few more rehearsals and were pleasant if not spectacular. By far the best performers only appeared for one full show, and this was a British couple, Paula King and Barnaby Pout. They both had good solid stage voices and knew how to deliver a song. The final offering was a show by the Cruise Director, Leslie Jon. We did not see it and were told we had not missed much. There was also a regular pianist in the Martini Lounge, but he did not seem to be playing much and we never heard him, even walking past that lounge. This was in contrast to his counterpart on Insignia who seemed to play a good deal and often had an audience. The Cruise Director was highly visible and approachable. He would listen to your issues and respond as well as he could. He did not attempt to be a comedian too often, and this was good. While his introductions and follow-up remarks concerning the entertainers were full of the normal semi-hysterical fulminations, we have all gotten used to that and ignore it. Itinerary and Ports of Call As we noted in the beginning of this review, Istanbul was the attraction for this cruise. If one had a full week, one could see a lot in this city, but the three and one-half days we had there were very enjoyable. Kusadasi and Ephesus After our sea day sail through the Dardanelles and into the Aegean Sea we arrived in Kusadasi for what was really day four of the cruise (the first two being spent in Istanbul). There we were met by our guide Nejat, who actually lives in Izmir, only about 40 miles away from Kusadasi; and driven through the fairly modern port city into the country side towards Ephesus. This is an archeological site of great significance dating as far back as 1500-1000 B.C. The harbor, which was the reason for its existence, started filling with silt shortly after the Christian era began and the city was abandoned by 550 A.D. On a hill nearby there is a small stone house set in a quiet hillside cypress and pine grove which was purportedly the home of Mary, where she was brought by the Apostle John after the Crucifixion. The evidence of this is not conclusive, but circumstantial. If true, John found a lovely place for her. It was quite crowded with tourists even though we got an early start. We then visited a ceramic factory; a small place where they were making bowls, cups etc. by hand. One of our group bought a large bowl and had it shipped home. We had lunch at a local restaurant and then went to Ephesus proper. The ruins are fairly extensive and contain marvelous examples of various stages in Greco-Roman-Persian architecture. There is a well preserved amphitheater which holds probably 20,000 people and was actually used for concerts in recent years until the crowds caused too much wear and tear. Edith and I climbed virtually to the top. There was a group of Japanese tourists at the bottom. Four of the ladies got up and went out onto the arena floor to sing. We could clearly hear their small Japanese voices in the top row. This was very impressive. All in all this was a pretty great tour for a full day at $80.00 per person (not including lunch). At the conclusion we paid Nejat for all four days and actually received a discount. Here we arranged our own tour through a local tourist agency, Sarantis Travel, reached through website: www.pytheas-travel.gr . There was a little confusion over credit card information but it all worked out. We were met a little late by our driver in a Passat. She spoke rudimentary English. We traveled with a couple we had contacted on the net. We stopped briefly at a small, but pretty beach along the southern coast. We then arrived in Lindos, about 40 miles from Rhodes City. This had been the original port city but, like Ephesus, lost its ability to dock ships through silt filling the harbor. The principal, and very striking feature of the town was its Acropolis - a smaller but well preserved version on the one in Athens. It took some serious climbing to reach the top, but the views were marvelous. We went back through the town and had an excellent gelato at a small shop for a very reasonable price. The town itself has no real hotels, only a number of homes converted into pensions. We then drove over to the north side of the island. There were only a few farms in between and the countryside surrounding Lindos reminded us of the Big Rez the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona - very dry with brown hills. As we got over the mountains running down the center of the island the land greened up a little. We drove back to Rhodes City through this northern section, and past the airport and a lot of tourist hotels as we got closer to town. We then were dropped off near the old walled medieval city and met our tour guide; a very bright young lady who spoke not only very fine English, but Spanish, Italian, French and Turkish. She pointed out that Rhodes is a forty minute ferry ride to Turkey, but a sixteen hour ride to Athens. She led us around the old city pointing out and describing the buildings built by the Knights of St. John [officially named: The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta]: when they controlled the island from 1309 to 1522. They were forced out by the Ottomans and found their way to Malta where they reestablished their order, controlling that island until Napoleon took it over. While mostly French, the order had English, German, Spanish and Italian members, and each country had its own headquarters building. The city was restored by the Italians when they occupied the island from about 1912 to the end of WWII, when it was returned to Greek control. Rhodes is an altogether fascinating island, and the medieval old city a marvelous place. We returned to the ship in the late afternoon. Dinner was very good but little rushed and the waiters forgot to serve coffee with dessert. But the sommelier also forgot to bill us for Ediths wine. Shh! Dont tell Oceania about the wine! Delos and Mykonos Delos is a very small island. It was considered a holy sanctuary and no one was permitted to be born or to die there. Now, no one lives there or stays overnight. The ruins are extensive and some are quite attractive. It is reached by tender. We were there on a Monday when no regular tours were offered and with no ferries arriving from other islands, so special arrangements were made for Nautica. Edith and I had not signed up for a tour so we wandered away and started to climb Mt. Kithnos to get an overall view. We were chased away by a rude tour guide who told us we had to remain with the regular tour; at that point nowhere near us. We did some looking around on our own however; although this was an aggravating experience. There is not much point in staying on Delos for more than a few hours, so we sailed to Mykonos at noon, arriving about and hour and a half later. This is a small but busy town, with a pretty semi-circular harbor and gleaming white buildings. There were four other cruise ships with us, all tendering in. These were Grand Princess, Regent Seven Seas Navigator, and the Louis Cruise Lines ships Perla and Sea Diamond. We enjoyed ourselves walking behind the stores in the residential neighborhoods. We rode back to the ship with our Cruise Director. The ship did not sail until 11:00 P.M., but we doubt if any of our fellow passengers were able to enjoy Mykonos fabled party-party night life since all had to be back on board by 10:30 and the evening does not begin on the islands until that time. Santorini As you can see from the Google Earth satellite photo below; Santorini is a unique island. It actually is the crater [caldera] of a volcano which exploded around 1500 B.C. We had been there before and followed the same routine. I went up the cable car and Edith, who does not like heights, rode up on a donkey. We missed connections and wandered around for a while looking for each other. I found an ATM and then went to the bus station where she showed up. We took the bus to Oia at the north end of the island for 1.10 Euros, up from the 0.85 we paid in 2003. The bus was newer and larger though, and very crowded as before The return bus trip involved much maneuvering by the crowds waiting to get on it as it backed and turned several times before opening its doors. Edith got on through the back door and saved me a seat. We returned to Thira by going down the hill from Oia and proceeding along the flat area occupying the eastern portion of the island. We had not seen this part of the island before and there was a fair amount of agriculture, especially grape arbors for Santorinis own wine. Thira is about 40% of the way south down the island, approximately opposite the southern tip of the small island occupying the northwest quadrant of the caldera. We bought some rather expensive wine at 18 Euros, in town and returned to the ship, walking down the hill from Thira to where the tenders picked us up. The tenders this time were not ships boats, but provided by a tender service, which could have learned a lot about customer service from Oceania. The crew was pretty obnoxious, pulling away from the dock when half full, and then returning after backing around the dock area for a few minutes to no apparent purpose. We noted that mules were still going up the hill at 5:54, shortly before we sailed, perhaps because twoother cruise ships, Regents Seven Seas Navigator and Ibis, unknown cruise line, were still anchored in the caldera. Katakolon and Olympia Katakolon is a small port serving primarily as a sea gateway to Olympia, the site of the original Olympic games. We docked at 11:00 and arranged a round trip taxi ride for four of us for a total of 90 Euros; pretty much the going rate. The charge for a very nice museum combined with the Olympic grounds adjoining the museum was 9.00 Euros. One should allow about 45-60 minutes for the museum, which was designed to let in natural light, making non-flash photography possible. A relatively complete tour of the stadium grounds will take a little more than an hour, so 3 hours would enable you to see everything and take detailed notes. It started to get crowded in the museum, but the grounds were easy to see, although as we left there were many buses from Costa Victoria (which had not been there when we docked) arriving. Be advised to wear a good sun hat as it is quite warm. Our driver picked us up at the museum entrance on time as promised and we returned to Nautica, about a 20 minute ride, by 2:30. We had a snack at the Waves Grill outside the Terrace Grill, and went back into town to buy Edith a bottle of Greek wine at a less expensive price than the Santorini wine, to use on the ship; since she was saving the good wine for home. Corfu We docked at 8:00 and looked for our car rental people. They never showed up, but there was a rental agency in the pier building, so we picked up a small, cute red Nissan Micra. It has air conditioning, a stick shift and four doors, with no trunk, its size being very handy on Corfus narrow, winding roads. We drove to the north shore over some hills. The coast was beautiful, but the water too cold and the air too windy for swimming. We had lunch at a seaside cafe in a town called Roda, surrounded by Brits on vacation. We were provided with two substantial Greek crepes, quite good; wine for Edith and tea for me; all for 12 Euros; a fine meal. We then drove over to the Adriatic side and up to the striking Castle San Angelo, several hundred feet above the water and with a view back across the island. Corfu is very hilly, green and attractive, with much new condo type construction for European visitors. We returned in time for tea, having spent 10 Euros for 9 liters of gas or about $5.40 US per gallon. However, this was enough for the whole trip. When we returned to Corfu City, or Kerkyra as it is spelled in the Roman alphabet (road signs fortunately used this alphabet as well as the unintelligible Greek alphabet); there were two ships in the harbor. Our instructions on returning the rental car were to leave it in a parking space at the dock, be certain not to lock the door, and to put the keys under the floor mat. I suppose there is not much future in stealing a car on a fairly small Greek island. By getting to Corfu (as well as Katakolon) early our Captain had secured preferential docking rights. One of these ships in Corfu was Golden Princess, which carries from 2600 to 3100 passengers. The other was a ship called Blue Dream operated by Pullmantur Cruise Lines. At tea I chatted with Paula King, the British singer and she told me that this ship was actually our sister ship, originally Renaissance 5 , and bought out of bankruptcy by Pullmantur, a Spanish cruise line, along with Renaissance 6, now called Blue Star . When I looked at it through my binoculars I could see the furnishings on deck seemed to be plain white plastic on the Terrace Lounge area. There did not appear to be any penthouse suites on Deck 8, and overall it probably was nowhere close to Oceanias three former Renaissance vessels, Nautica, Insignia and Regatta. The Pullmantur website has a photo of Blue Star and Regatta side by side in Dubrovnik; the Spanish ship painted dark blue and Regatta gleaming white. Paula was delightful to chat with, showing a wide range of knowledge about cruise ships and obviously very much enjoying working at sea. She and her partner, who is also her fiancE, had mentioned during their show about residing in a small town in the south of England and when I asked her which town, she said, as I knew she would, that it was Eastbourne. I told her we had spent a week at a time share there, and she was as delighted with this, as we were with her town. Dubrovnik Once again we arrived early, and with no other cruise ship in sight, which meant we were able to dock. The Pullmantur site had showed Blue Dream docked there, with Golden Princess barely squeezing in behind it and another cruise ship in the harbor. We had been able to dock when we were last there on Millennium in 2003 but recent postings on some boards have noted that Celebritys ships were scheduled to tender on their arrival in Dubrovnik. As we noted above, we were left pretty much on our own to find our way to the Old Town, which was not easy since there was little information provided at the pier. We walked into town a little way to change Euros into Kuna and caught a city bus to the Old City. This time we did not walk the wall, but covered a lot of this charming little city. It was quite crowded with tourists who obviously arrived by land. We noted that the prices for pastries and coffee had gone up quite a bit since our prior visit three years ago, but still were reasonable by European standards. We returned to the ship by 3:00 and lazed around a little. I went into the pool, which was cool but nice, and was easily able to find a comfortable deck chair for a short while before tea. Altogether a very relaxed day once we were able to work out the bus system. Second Sea Day We had room service for breakfast, but as noted, the selection is limited compared to the Terrance Buffet. The lunch theme was Italian, and good as always. For lack of any other entertainment we went to the art auction, and enjoyed a very active auctioneer who sold quite a lot. We went to an Oceania Club meeting of prior Oceania cruisers. We were told there were 140 on the ship, which seemed to be at its capacity of 675. The meeting was about future cruises, but only had limited information about the rest of 2006. When I tried to inquire about 2007, I was advised to try the website, which is free at Cyber Space, but the site contained very little about 2007. It now is available through November 2007. Piraeus and Delphi Here again we had arranged for a rental car, which was a little late showing up. We drove our rental agent partly out of Piraeus and dropped him off within sight of the main freeway to Delphi. We had been to the Acropolis and to Poseidons temple in Sounion on our 2003 cruise. The trip was relatively easy. We traveled on a main freeway, mostly through flat countryside with much agriculture, until we approached the mountains and could see Mount Parnassus with snow still near the top. We then left the highway and started climbing on a country road into the hills eventually arriving at Delphi. It was fairly well crowded with visitors, although none from any cruise ships since we were the only ship in the harbor and there were no ships tours of Delphi. We had anticipated that there would only be one temple building housing the Oracle and were surprised at the extent of the town and the number of buildings as well as a substantial arena. The main temple used by the Oracle still had several large pillars intact. We marveled at how they could have gotten all the pillars and building blocks up the side of what is a very steep and high hill. The site overlooks a long and very pretty valley and is certainly a striking location for what was basically an area of worship. There is an extensive and excellent museum and, as at Olympia, you can get a single ticket for both museum and ruins for 9.00 Euros. Greece has an amazing array of ruins from its Golden Age, from the Parthenon on the Acropolis Hill in Athens to Poseidons Temple at Sounion, to Delos, the Acropolis in Lindos on Rhodes to Olympia and Delphi. They are all amazingly beautiful in their individual styles and locations, and worth the effort to get there in all cases. After we left, we stopped at a small town about ten miles away called Arachova for lunch. The restaurant we chose was occupied entirely by local residents, although the waitress found a menu written in somewhat imaginative English. The food was substantial and tasty, if not exactly gourmet, and the atmosphere very pleasant. The trip back was without incident, although we had to buy a calling card to contact our rental car agent so he could come and pick it up at the pier. This also involved a considerable wait since all the telephones were occupied by crew members making lengthy calls home. Back on board we packed and went to dinner, retiring immediately thereafter due to our extremely early rising the following day. Debarkation Oceania had booked us on a 6:00 A.M. Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt to start the return trip home. This meant getting up at 2:30 for a quick breakfast and then boarding the bus at 3:30 or thereabouts. Fortunately it was easy to locate our bags and they were loaded on the buses for us. An Oceania representative accompanied us on the bus. Driving through Piraeus at this time of day was fast, but we could imagine the problems once the rush hour started. We then got on a freeway, but the total trip was well over half an hour. The airport had only light crowds and we boarded without difficulty. We had a wait of almost five hours in Frankfurt and a weather delay of three hours on the runway at OHare in Chicago, arriving in Phoenix at 11:30 after being up more than 24 hours. This was not a fun day, even though the actual debarkation from the ship was smooth and easy. We did hear that those who opted to spend time in Athens may have had a problem because a taxi strike was scheduled to start at 5:00A.M. the day we left. Overall Impression We wanted to see and enjoy Istanbul, and we certainly did. We looked forward to a comfortable cruise and our upgraded Penthouse Suite provided that. We looked forward to Oceanias overall elegance, great food and charming surroundings, and Nautica lived up to our hopes. We expected good company, and scored well again. We hoped we would enjoy the stops we had made before and the ones which were new to us, and our expectations were met. We loved Rhodes, and were surprised by how much we enjoyed it. Ephesus is very impressive, and Marys home a bonus we did not anticipate. Delos and Mykonos were enjoyable, although warm. Corfu is a delightful and laid back place. Olympia is quite interesting. Santorini and Dubrovnik had been visited before and were enjoyed again; but if we return we will opt for a different day on shore. Delphi was strikingly beautiful, and somewhat of a surprise in its extent and the beauty of its hillside site. We would recommend this cruise without hesitation. We found Nautica extremely convenient and handy for getting in and out of the various ports, aside from being a beautiful little ship with excellent service and food. Anyone considering this area for cruising should plan on at least three if not four days in Istanbul and two or three in Athens at the other end (vice versa if you go the reverse way). While we commented on Oceanias weakness in the entertainment arena, especially on sea days; sometimes on a cruise like this with a great number of port days it is nice to have a sea day with little to do but relax. Our fellow passengers were delightful. We think that on cruises with fewer people, there is more passenger interaction, and everyone is pleased to recognize and speak to others that we have shared time with in various venues. Of course the fact that we knew several couples from our Istanbul tours helped also. Oceania still tends to nickel and dime a little; with an 18% service charge on a $10.00 yoga lesson coming to mind. We thought the excursion pricing was high, but Europe does charge more than the Caribbean for example with its highly competitive tourist business. We also feel that they should not have put us on a 6:00 A.M. plane out of Athens. We know there were flight options, and one couple who complained a lot, got a later flight. But these were all pretty minor matters given the overall joy of this cruise, the ship, the crew and the itinerary. Oceanias solitary substantial weakness is the fact that it only has three ships, thus limiting its itineraries. We are going to have to do some serious looking to find one in the future that we have not already done; but when we do, we will be happy to sign up with this cruise line again. Bon Voyage Read Less
Sail Date May 2006
Nautica Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabin 4.0 N/A
Dining 5.0 4.3
Entertainment 3.0 3.3
Public Rooms 5.0 4.4
Fitness & Recreation 5.0 N/A
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursions 4.0 N/A
Enrichment Activities 5.0 N/A
Service 4.0 4.5
Value for Money 5.0 N/A

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