We choose the Oceania Sirena based on an itinerary that would not require us to fly anywhere, together with the line's reputation for outstanding cuisine and an upscale experience. This was our first Oceania cruise, but we have ... Read More
We choose the Oceania Sirena based on an itinerary that would not require us to fly anywhere, together with the line's reputation for outstanding cuisine and an upscale experience. This was our first Oceania cruise, but we have sailed on many other lines.
Embarkation was very easy as we decided not to arrive at the terminal until 3 pm. No lines and no problems, but 3 pm seems extraordinarily late for a cabin availability time given that the ship began disembarkation the same day at 8 am and passengers had to be off by 9. Our late arrival left just enough time to unpack before the lifeboat drill. Oceania handled this drill far worse than most lines. First you sat in a crowded lounge for 35 minutes, then you stood next to a lifeboat (not necessarily the one you would report to in an emergency) for another 20 minutes. Check is was manual, which was surprising given the badges readily available to be read to account for passenger. Large waste of time.
We chose the Grand Dining Room for our first dinner, and was surprised at the size of the line of people for such a small ship. The maître d' staff was not very efficient in processing the line, in part because they were turning away everyone in jeans (I was not so dressed, and this did not affect me). Still, it lead to many arguments. I do understand that Oceania has a dress code for evenings in the Grand Dining room, but only jeans were reason for non-admittance. Athletic footwear and non-collard shirts were welcome despite being prohibited by the dress code. Either enforce the dress code or don't.
Our room stewardess was friendly enough, but watching her during the week, we noticed that the number of rooms she was required to service appeared to be double the number serviced by room stewards and stewardesses on other lines. This obviously left no time for personal touches like towel animals, etc. Still, room cleanliness was satisfactory.
As others have noted the rooms, even the balcony cabin we had, are very small. The bathrooms are child-sized. While I as somewhat heavier than the average for men my height, I am not enormous by any means. Yet the tiny shower required that I first rinse, then turn off the shower and open the two glass doors to provide enough room to soap up, then close the doors and rinse off. What an inconvenience.
We did find the bed and couch to be comfortable, although for some odd reason, the stewardess adjusted the room temperature to 15 C every time she serviced the room. That translates to 59 degrees for those on the American system. Much has been made of Oceania's transition away from plastic bottles to a purified water system. The purified water is tasty, but Oceania leaves only 1 to 2 glasses in the cabin, and the heavy glass bottles are intended for pouring, not for drinking directly from.
We were enticed to book Oceania in part by its promise of free internet. We boarded with the expectation that it would be slow, and it was very slow. What surprised us was that the internet was free only for one passenger in the cabin and only for one device. That limitation may or may not have worked well for the average Oceania passenger (more about the average passenger next), but my wife and I had a total of 5 devices on board. I had 3 as I am required to be reachable as part of my business. The cost to add other devices was enormous, and I ended up having to add Cellular at Sea, at a high cost (at least it was faster than the Oceania internet.
As we have cruised frequently, we are accustomed to ships with average passenger ages in the 70s, and even though we are a decade younger than that, mingle well with that group. I would place the average age of the Sirena passengers at over 90 years old, probably 92 or so. Not surprisingly, Oceania tried to cater to the group that they had, and the effect was music and "entertainment" that we could not relate to throughout the week (e.g., a number where a singer changed the lyrics from "old man river" to "elderly gentleman river", what a comedian lol) and even worse, to temperatures in the entertainment venues usually exceeding 82 degrees F. We did not see any of the shows in their entirety as a result.
Before boarding, I had reviewed the shore excursions and found them lacking, so I booked my own. Hearing from the other passengers, I am very happy that I did. We had a wonderful private tasting tour in Santa Ynez, a terrific trip to Muir Woods and a very informative behind the scenes tour to the Catalina Casino. The ship offered none of these.
My wife and I like to walk, and we particularly like to walk around a deck after a big meal. Choices for walking on the Sirena were limited. There is no promenade deck, and the only walking space is a jogging track on Deck 10 that requires an amazing 13 laps to the mile. This deck would have been adequate except for one thing: Immediately below the jogging track on deck 9 is the open air smoking area. We rarely see any smoking areas onboard anymore, and perhaps we lack compassion towards smokers as we are not, but no one wants to breath tobacco smoke wafting up from the deck below while they are exercising. The placement of the smoking area was very poorly considered.
We do join other commenters in noting the nearly complete lack of activities on board. The usual activities were trivia, bean bag toss, and a mensa quiz. Pretty boring. The enrichment lecturer not only lectured on areas having nothing to do with the cruise itinerary (someone may be interested in fish reproduction, but what does that have to do with the California coast), but featured humor that was corny at best.
This brings me to the highly touted food. While the menu does offer what appears to be high quality dishes (lots of steak, lobster, veal, fish), neither the quality nor the quantity is there. Portions are small (two of the offered entrees appeared to be one restaurant entrée), and preparation was poor - I had overcooked chicken at least 3 times. Worse, the service was not good. If anything special was requested, the guest was treated with rudeness, and the item often never arrived at all. Water glasses and coffee cups were not kept full in any of the eating locations. We only ate at one specialty restaurant, the Tuscan Steakhouse, and were disappointed. My "20 ounce: porterhouse weighed 12 ounces cooked, which means it was likely on 14 ounces uncooked The onion soup was terrible, and the crab cake mostly filler. Our table companions did not enjoy the steamed lobster, and the Dover Sole was not well filleted as bones were present in quantity. Sauces were forgotten, one need to ask and then they were brought. The restaurant may have been inspired by a NY steakhouse, but it would not survive a month in the competitive NY restaurant environment.
So what did we like? We, Oceania made it very easy to get off the ship and we were very thankful that they did, as we could not wait. Likewise, embarkation was easy. Read Less