Sail Date: December 2007
This is the second time in a year that I have sailed with Oceania. The first on Regatta from Rio to Buenos Aires this time on Nautica from Singapore to Sydney over Christmas. These smallish ship really are excellent, well if you are over ... Read More
This is the second time in a year that I have sailed with Oceania. The first on Regatta from Rio to Buenos Aires this time on Nautica from Singapore to Sydney over Christmas. These smallish ship really are excellent, well if you are over forty anyway, no kids, but nothing for kids. The whole dining experience is first class and the two `boutique` type restaurants would hold their own in the West End of London, excellent waiting staff and very knowledgeable sommeliers, mostly young and female, a very good wine list featuring well known labels from across the world. Most interesting and informative lectures, wine tastings and demos. The suites are clean, spacious and most comfortable, with good cabin staff. Entertainment whilst good is not Las Vegas but so what. The cruise director on both cruises was an `elderly`:-) Englishman, was is simply the best I`ve come across in years. On this cruise which was the first time in this area for Oceania the destinations were a little disappointing especially Indonesia and a lot of the tours left something to be desired, we usually take our own which is always cheaper. Fellow passengers on a small ship make a cruise, the majority are Americans. As a smoker you are very limited as to where, in this case on the pool deck. But that`s where the real fun is. Will I use Oceania again. You bet. John Read Less
Sail Date: November 2007
In reading this review you might think we are being paid by the ship because of all the pluses. Not true, we are somewhat reluctant cruisers but this itinerary was ideal for an extended journey thru the festive season We planned to make ... Read More
In reading this review you might think we are being paid by the ship because of all the pluses. Not true, we are somewhat reluctant cruisers but this itinerary was ideal for an extended journey thru the festive season We planned to make the most of the entire trip as it is such a long way from Australia to Rome to start, so we flew to Singapore, had a 5 day stop over in that fab city, then up to Kuala Lumpur for 4 days & back to Singapore for the flight to Istanbul. Spent 5 nights in Istanbul & did all the tourist sites & markets then flew across to Rome for 4 nights. This made getting to the ship a journey of its own. Ship day we took the train to the port & walked the short distance from the station to the dock, a cost of only E12 per person !st. cl. Big saving on buying a shuttle to the port. Dockside check in was a blur, bags were taken at the curb, we were ushered into the embarkation building & in minutes were on board heading for the buffet for lunch, never seen such efficiency & speed. By the time we had had a snack & went to the cabin our bags had beaten us there, another speed service. We were totally overcome with the beauty of the ship interior, it was immaculate in every way The decor was mind blowing, the lounges & dining room were works of art compared to some other ships we had been on. Every member of the crew had a smile & a greeting whenever they passed you & all wanted to know if they could do something for us. The attention was almost embarrassing but we loved it. The food---first night we went to the Polo Grille & made a big mistake we both ordered the appetizer, soup, salad then the prime rib. It was shameful to send back to the kitchen 1/2 of the rib. It was so huge I just couldn't eat more than 1/2 of it. Quality, taste, & presentation were excellent.This set the tone for the entire cruise of 41 nights in all the restaurants incl the Grand Dining Room, there was no repetition for us as there were so many options for food. BTW don't have b/fast get a thick shake from Waves at 11.30am. Apart from flavor which was excellent it was a lunch on its own. The only down side I found was the over attentiveness of the table waiters, they often barged into one's conversation to offer pepper or ask if one wanted anything or to place or take plates; this was a bit off-putting. There have been comments on the entertainment not being up to standard, I totally disagree, the entertainment in the theatre by the various musical groups was a very high standard. Sure there wasn't a Las Vegas style dance group but the entertainers were the BEST. The M.C who did a puppet show was unbelievable in his performance. I've never been a fan of pantomine but went to several of his performances. There were 2 female vocalists who were of international standard & these girls doubled up as hostesses during the day.   Shore excursions area personal issue, we rarely ever use the ship's excursions as we prefer to do "our own thing" & usually at a 1/4 of the ship pricing. One exception here is to use the ship in Port Said to Cairo & Safaga to Luxor. The taxis in Egypt have a definite death wish whenever they get behind the wheel. If you go it alone always find out where the gate out of the port is 'cause that's where you will find a horde of cabs waiting to do a deal.You might have to walk 2-300 metre but its worth saving over $100 for the day. Oceania go out of their way to give you a good time we made friends with many of the crew including of all people one of the chefs who would make us any meal our heart desired & then he would watch over you to ensure it was what you wanted, many waiters, the maitre de Carlos who fussed over you the whole time in his domain. Drink waiters soon learned your name & preferences & had drinks in front of you as quick as a wink. Can't comment on disembarkation as we got off in Brisbane & that was a casual stroll down to the reception, pay the account, say our goodbyes & just go home. The trip on the ship could have been 10 days less but that would have interfered with the Xmas period, I think the ideal is around 30 days to really have a shipboard experience. I met many people who flew to the ship , were transferred from airport to ship & then did the reverse going home which I think is a terrible shame as they went 1/2 round the world but didn't take advantage of either Italy or Australia Footnote---We have had to go on a serious crash diet program after 41 days on Nautica I've still got to loose 6 kilos. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2007
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: August 2007
Travelled in a group of 10, only 2 of whom had cruised before. We had an extraordinary experience onboard Oceania. The food in all dining areas was exceptional. Ate twice in Toscana and had the lobster. The Polo Grill has a great ... Read More
Travelled in a group of 10, only 2 of whom had cruised before. We had an extraordinary experience onboard Oceania. The food in all dining areas was exceptional. Ate twice in Toscana and had the lobster. The Polo Grill has a great Porterhouse steak. We mostly ate in the Grand Dining Room for breakfast and dinner. (no reservations required). Highly suggest the creme brulee for dessert. Ate a couple of breakfast in the buffet which were also nice, with a view, but we preferred the catering of the sit down meal. Only 1 day at sea, so we were busy. In Marseilles, we walked to town (about 10 min) and took "Hop on/off Bus" around town. 17 Euros each. Great view atop the Notre Dame de la Guard, but be prepared for lots of walking up the stairs. Then on to Monaco, again we walked to Castle area & took open tram around the town. 7 Euros each. Then we took a local bus (#100) to Nice, France. 1.30 Euro each way. Scenery of the French Riviera was spectacular. Took about 45 min each way. Destination Services were very helpful in handing out maps & highlighting routes. Next day, we pre-arranged a driver with "Driver in Rome" and toured Rome. Tour Guide was very knowledgeable took us to all the major sites, including the Catacombs, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was nice to be a small van with only 10 people getting on & off, as compared with a larger group of people. For Florence, we booked "Bob's Limo Service" & highly recommend as well. For the Amalfi Coast, most of group went with "DriveAmalfi" and went to Pompeii and found it to be a great experience. The rest of us took the ferry to Positano (right next to where our tender docked). It was 12 Euros return and well worth it. Scenery from the boat along the coast is breathtaking. Great shopping in Positano, including a shoemaker who made me a pair of sandals while I waited. You could also find lots to do in Amalfi, just by walking around and visiting the unique shops with plenty of ceramics. We didn't do much in Sicily, other than to walk to main square and shop. Some on the ship went on an excursion to Taormina and raved about it. Then it was off to Malta, one of my favorite stops. Took a bus from beside dock (1 Euro) to centre of town. Big fountain there. Toured St.John's Co-Cathedral, which is a must see! Then strolled Republic Street (pedestrian street). Again lots of unique stores & a few internet cafes. There were also stores on the pier itself, including duty-free & Hard Rock Cafe. Finally a day at sea to enjoy the ship. The pool was always crowded so we didn't spend much time there. There were usually ample lounge chairs to be found. We tried to make it for "High Tea" each day. I would highly recommend that as well. We also did the team trivia most days and met lots of great people there. The library is probably the most beautiful room on the ship. The casinos were always full at night. A few of our group would 'donate' nightly. The computer room had about 20 computers. I did take a few complimentary classes on photo downloading. Our final stop was in Santorini. We were tendered to shore and some took donkey to top (you end up walking 1/4 of the way); we rode the cable car (4 Euro each way). Lots to see just in Fira, but we took local bus to Oia (1.20 Euro each way) and had great view from higher up. About a 30 min ride. Would highly recommend the trip to Oia. Found a great bakery in Fira for baklava (ZOTOE). Next day we embarked in Athens. Very organized! Room service provided prior to leaving. In conclusion, this was a wonderful experience. We found the other passengers to be friendly and well dressed for dinner (some men in jackets). The median age seemed to be 45-60's. Ship was easy to navigate and all the staff went out of their way to acknowledge you. p.s. forget to mention the laundry; there were 4 washers & dryers and a very busy spot. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2006
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
Wonders Rare and Familiar Nov. 15-28th 2006 Our excellent adventure started with reading a brochure from Oceania Cruise Lines, about Mediterranean cruises available in 2006. One immediately drew my attention, as it included Alexandria ... Read More
Wonders Rare and Familiar Nov. 15-28th 2006 Our excellent adventure started with reading a brochure from Oceania Cruise Lines, about Mediterranean cruises available in 2006. One immediately drew my attention, as it included Alexandria Egypt, which is a gateway to Cairo and the pyramids. Since I was a child I wanted to travel , a song was Far Away Places...With strange sounding names... calling to me, and they did.. Over the last few years Mike & I have visited many of those places. But this one was all places I have always wanted to see and none we've been to. The cruise was rather pricey so we debated, and Mike finally said Go for it.. So I signed up for the cheapest room available, and was on a wait list for an inside room, cheaper still...more money for tours we felt. Then I decided after reading posts on a Chat room..dedicated to Oceania cruises, to do extra days stays before and after, so refused their Free Air and got a credit, did my own air arrangements and 2 days in Rome at the beginning, and 1 day in Istanbul at the end for pretty much our air credit. Thus began my adventure into being my own, and ultimately others, travel agent for the trip. The Cruise Itinerary was : Rome (2 days before there), and Naples Italy (for trip to Pompeii), Tunisia , Malta, Crete (for the Minoan Palace of the Minotaur), Alexandria Egypt, Athens Greece, and Kusadasi, Turkey and ending in Istanbul Turkey, with an extra day there. Prices for the ships tours we very high I felt we must do tours there, so started my quest to get cheaper tours. It's amazing what you can do online! By feeling my way, and advice from the Chat room I decided to go with some ships tours, as some places port times were very short, and felt safer getting back in time to sail, and were not quite as pricey. In some ports though I found several alternatives , private guides, taxis etc. Using again chat room information, over the months arranged several tours, and advertised them on this Chat room, and soon had a whole group, going with us. Then someone else set up one when I'd finally said Enough, but asked if we'd like to be included. Finally we had some 16 of us sharing various tours, never more than 12 on any one. We made up a family in the long run. All done online through Cruise Critic message board for Oceania. Our air flight left O'Hare airport, Chicago 11/12/06 on British Air. Seats are fairly far apart, food was decent and you have your own Entertainment Screen with multi choices for movies etc. in back of seat ahead. nice flight, next one from Heathrow to Rome..very tight seating etc. But short thankfully. Our time in Rome was NOT the best, with tours from Viator, Greenline Bus Co. Bored guides, and the Trolley we chose to ride breaking down and leaving us standing for 2 hrs after their pick-up time, then they went to lunch. All in all we only saw the Coliseum (Italian Sp.) close up, drove by many other spots . Our transfer to the ship was 1 ½ hrs. and got a better tour from the driver , who was a tour guide also. Our Cabin was as remembered from the cruises we took with the Renaissance Cruise line that ran these same small ships (680 passengers). BUT a big difference was that we had a BALCONY!!. How this came about was another great story. We received our downgrade to inside at some point, as we had requested, to save money(400$ each), but then received a free upgrade to an outside room. Well, our travel agent called 3 wks before sail date, said he had a great deal, for us..for 200$ PP. We could go into ,not only a balcony, but the Concierge Class, (special perks for them over reg. Balcony). WOW we said yes naturally. In the long run we paid less than our original amount for the porthole cabin! (We paid 1200 pp under the price normally paid) We were really spoiled by that balcony!! Room service coffee (with warm milk! Daily), viewing these wonderful ports (well some of them were just shipping ports) Sunrises and Sunsets off our own rooms deck, small as it was (app.10x5). Not room for a party but didn't need it for that. Check-in went very smoothly, as by 2pm half the people were aboard, no lines, headed to our room to see that balcony!! Champagne was waiting for us, unpacking came next and watching further arrivals leave buses and climb aboard from our balcony with bubbly in hand (Meds. say NO so I sipped a little) next trip to set reservations for Specialty restaurants, 4 in all, plus they talked us into that evening for the Polo in addition. Food was excellent BUT too much...16oz of Prime Rib! Could have shared and had enough. First Port was Naples, which was our base for tour to Pompeii. (This was our ruin vacation) We left on the bus really early, as we only had 5-6 hrs. in Port. Pompeii was just a fascinating as I expected, but also much larger. We only explored less than 1/4 of the area already excavated, but then had to rush faster than I could walk on very uneven pavement which had been buried under 40-50' of ash for nearly 2,000 years, but was an old city before the Vesuvius eruption, streets deeply rutted. Some things are very well preserved. It was just as interesting as expected, the guide very knowledgeable, the trip back the ship interrupted by a stop at a Cameo shop which was rather interesting, but could have been done without! I was exhausted, as walking with cane was difficult there. In the afternoon we had a meeting of our touring group and had the additional pleasure of welcoming Carolyn, the Cruise Critic editor reviewing the Nautica. Dinner at the main dining room, again food was great, and meeting fellow passengers, new ones every evening, was wonderful. Some were to be friends for entire trip. The early departure was to make our trip to Tunisia possible, overnight. It was not a favorite port for most of us. I changed our tour to Tunis and the Bardo Museum, from Carthage ruins, as information stated all the best from there was now in the museum. The Mosaics were the best collection in the world, both wall and floor, from several eras, Roman occupation, Greek, Byzantine Christian, and then Moslem , all of whom did the mosaics. Best were the Roman. Took many photos here. The next stop were the Souks or bazaar, and carpet shop, which need be on the 3rd floor, with much huffing & puffing, I did the climb, as they said a panorama on rooftop was available above. Well, if you call ugly tops of other buildings a panorama, so be it! Carpets very expensive and we dont do carpets, but a short trip into the Souk was a foretaste of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Wild and persistent salesmen, and saying NO NO NO. Next an At sea day. Sleep in, and started a new tradition, coffee and warm milk on the balcony from room service, wonderful prompt service with a smile, always! All the staff on the Nautica were happy and friendly. First dinner at the Toscana. Wonderful Italian food. Low key entertainment but just right for people who are tired from touring. Cruise Director Leslie Jon was simply the BEST, from first thing in the morning announcements, to Trivia, to Hosting the evening in the showroom! Our next stop was Valletta Malta, a very historic island, founded by Sulieman the Turk, during 500 yrs ago. The sail in to port is spectacular, as the whole port is surrounded by fortifications dating back to the Knights of St John (Crusaders). This island in WW2 was daily bombarded by Italy and Germany later, as it was a part of the British Commonwealth, and in a very strategic part of the Mediterranean. They never broke, though suffering great loss and hardship. It is a beautiful island,as is the Old Capitol, Medina, the Silent City, no cars except by residents allowed. It's built of warm yellow-red color, very Italian in style, not surprising as its off the coast of Sicily and Italy's Boot. We got lovely pictures there, then moved on to the Cliffs of Dingl, which had a great view and another Photo op. Had also visited a lovely church, the Mosta, with an unsupported Dome, 3rd largest in the world, inside was very beautiful.. We did all this with a couple from our tour group, by taxi. Back at the ship (Other couple toured a bit farther) we enjoyed a quiet time, a late lunch and the view of the wonderful buildings surrounding the port, from our balcony. After the trivia in afternoon, a nap! Old fogies us! Later attempts to picture take of our sail away in the dark ,with all the buildings lit ,only a couple are any good, (need anti shake on the camera!) But it was beautiful. Iraklion , Crete (Greece) was our next Port. Our day again was short, so we took ships tour to the Knossos Palace,a Minoan palace, supposed to be the palace of Minos, Legend has it to be the Minotaur's labyrinth, dated some 2,000 yrs. BC. Buried for much of the time since. Restoration has gone a long way, still ongoing. Some do NOT care for the fact that Wall Murals, Pillars, and other things were repainted to look like they did in the time of Minos, with VERY bright paint. Purists say it should have been left as it was, as was Pompeii, Ephesus, etc.. Regardless it is a HUGE place, with multi levels, and many small rooms on the lower level, the source of the Tales of the Labyrinth! The wall murals are very lovely and colorful, regardless of the controversy.Another early departure, so time again for Trivia, (got hooked)Leslie had HARD questions! Early in the day we were again underway on our way to Alexandria Egypt. The harbor there wasn't the nicest, all commercial ships and ferries, far out of town. This is the stop that we, and 8 other passengers had a private tour set up. As the ship arrived at 2pm ,and stayed overnight. The tours from the ship drove to and from Cairo/Giza in the one day, on the road for 5-6 hrs. Our tour took us off the ship ,and overnight in the Oasis Hotel in Giza. Our trip was hair-raising to say the least, with an armed security guard on the bus, and with us at all times during tours. We were escorted in by a police car with flashing blue lights, who PUSHED our way through rush hour traffic. (You ain't seen rush hour until you're in an urban area with 17 million people!!)We felt that we were attracting WAY too much attention, and counter productive to getting in safely. Traffic and drivers in themselves are scary when the white lines on the road are something to follow, not make lanes, and 4 lanes make 6 if you crowd. None the less we arrived to our Hotel in one piece! That night we attended the Light & Sound Show at the Pyramids, again pushing through traffic with escort. We enjoyed the show, tried to take Photos (no flash of course, which people didn'tt realize would just ruin their photos).Again only a few turned out. Bright and early the next morning, (before 7) we were on our way to the Pyramids again, as most people wished to climb up inside the Great Pyramid of Cheops, (I knew with my walking problems, I couldn't go) I instead choose the Solar Boat Museum, exhibiting a boat found in a pit next to the Great Pyramid, in pieces, and re-assembled over many years (No instructions included!)It was for the Pharaoh to sail to the afterworld. It is in amazing condition, made of Cedar from Lebanon. Pit was well sealed. After this we went to the Sphinx. The Guide ,a girl nicknamed Sue, said we had 20 min. or so to climb up to the plateau above, I decided not to go, but then changed my mind, she said she'd wait for me..the 20min. Was for those poky ones that already had made us late. So the security guy stayed with me all the time, as I was slow and alone sometimes, (too vulnerable) and helped me over the very rough ground, up steep inclines and steps. For some reason, I thought it was my cane that made people polite, but they made way for me all the time, and the persistent vendors faded away from me. A guard asked for my Ticket, which Mike had, as I hadn't been going up, and I tried to explain that, but then the guard backed off, said Go Go...into the mortuary temple, then a crowd came down a steep ramp, and my Guide/guard stepped in front of me, gave the crowd a LOOK, but they kept coming, so he casually pushed back his suit coat on the right side, and showed the AUTOMATIC PISTOL on his hip (with extra sized clip). All of the deference, and politeness was explained in that moment! He was handsome and my own personal bodyguard, must have made people think I was some celebrity (Yeah right!). Mike took some great photos up there and mine weren't too bad either. Then to the museum to see Tut's treasures. The items are fabulous but VERY poorly displayed, and dirty too, but wonderful to see even so. The 3 shrines that nested inside each other around the coffin, and that solid gold coffin and also the mask that is so famous. Wonderful. No photos allowed! Then we quickly (well in 3 hrs) returned to the ship (do you know cars sometimes drive without lights at night in Egypt??), to be welcomed back with the ships band playing (not just US but all that had traveled to Cairo, about 10 buses), cool towels, juice and officers shaking hands in welcome. Part of usual greetings, but also celebrating the date...Nautica's 1st birthday! Late supper,in the Tapas on the Terrace, the weather held enough that we could eat outside, and it became a favorite place to eat, waitstaff were same as other venues, seem to circulate around. Entertainment... then to bed. Next day was an At Sea Day, time to wash clothes, rest up from Cairo. Also Thanksgiving, strange to be away. My DH also found out that his brother had died the day before, so we were subdued for that day and to a great extent the rest of the trip, but we couldn't go home, made no sense, and so he carried on. Let me say here, that I wouldn't have lasted from the first day without him, he was my strength, my Pull Up when needed, or Boost to get into the buses we always were boarding, the waiting for me to rest, when my legs wouldn't go further.. One of our tour group wrote to the Chat Room, He's an amazing man...A Hero. I know he's my hero! He had our older camera and took some great photos, half our yearly calendar are his pictures! He's gotten a great eye over the years.. Thanksgiving...well the ship tried ,but those european chefs don't do it well! Should have taken the advice from CC members. Our next port is Athens. This was one of the tours I arranged for, a full day with taxi driver Paul, at much reduced rate over ships tours, we were 9 in all, as one wasn'tt feeling well. First we climbed the Acropolis. The time of year meant very few people were there, especially that early, 9am. I decided to try to climb the steps even though there was an elevator, Paul said they usually only take wheelchairs, so I climbed. DH got a photo of me coming over the top of the stairs,and it ain't a pretty sight, but I made it, then found a wet place to sit, yes rain in Athens, first and only bad weather on the trip..a light misty rain. Temperatures had been above normal most places, which meant comfortable,( in summer its unbearably hot there.) The Parthenon is in very poor repair, scaffolding and cranes everywhere, but the Majesty and beauty shows through. Same with the whole Acropolis. The Temple of the 7 Virgins, statues are replaced with copies. Pieces of pillars are stacked, waiting re-assembly. Sad really. The museum was interesting but small, only to do with the Acropolis. The sun arrived, so we got some extra good pictures with blue skies above. On to the remains of the Temple of Zeus, the largest ever built in the world, now only a few pillars remain, but they are huge. Then to the changing of the guard, done hourly, a very interesting routine. Guards wear those short kilts over white leggings, since it wasn'tt a special holiday, they were in black not the white pleated kilt. Pompons on their shoes. All these things have a meaning but do NOT remember what. Very stylized routine to march. While there DH decided to feed the birds, pigeons around the Unknown Soldier monument and was attacked and buried under birds. I kept trying to take a picture, but some Japanese tourist kept getting in my way, he was taking photos of DH, so I only got a couple. After this we had lunch at a open air restaurant next to the Archeological Museum, which has many of the beautiful sculptures ancient Greece is known for, and beautiful pottery. No flash inside building, but I got some marvelous photos anyway. Then we voted to go to the Ancient Agora, near the Acropolis, ruins and a fairly intact temple, BUT we never found it, walked the wrong way from the Taxi /mini bus. But we did go back to the beautiful old church viewed across Cemetery City ruins, (driver didn't know where name came from). The photo DH took of the church, (I was too tired and sat in the bus ) looks like a painting. Then rush hour again and long trip through narrow streets to Piraeus, the port for Athens. We had a wonderful tour, I was SOOO relieved, as Id planned it and was afraid it might not go well, and have 7 people upset with me! Now to sail away at 5pm to Kusadasi Turkey. Evenings are usually spent at the entertainment, except if we talk too long at dinner and miss it! We never watched a TV movie, or took out the DVD's we could have had in our cabin. Again a tour I'd arranged for, but things had kind of gone awry near the end, with changing guides back & forth. I'd gotten a very well respected guide to agree to tour us to Ephesus ,but then a previous commitment came up...and still in the end he took us on the tour, to his favorite place. Nejat Incedogan is from Izmir, nearby, but lives in Kusadasi now. When he picked us up from the ship, We were about 10 of us, 2 having not shown up. Nejat had to use 2 canes to walk!! Finally a guide who walked MY SPEED. It was great, to stop and rest often while he explained what we were, and would be seeing. The city of Ephesus was a very important Roman Port, until the river (Meander of all things, and it does, hence the word) silted up and the sea is now 5 miles away. So the decline of the city. It is considered to be among the best Roman ruins anywhere in the world. The Library of Celsus is beautiful and very complete. We really enjoyed Nejats talks and the city is amazing, the Marble road is ,as stated all marble. New discoveries, now under a roof to protect it,are the Terrace Houses. They cost extra but he paid for those who wanted to go to them, (but with the 56 stairs, this late in trip I wasn't up to it) so DH went ,camera in hand so I could ,in a small way visit them also. They were rich Romans' villas, (condos really), and the wall paintings, mosaic floors etc. are in incredible condition. Work continues on it today. Earlier in the day we visited Mary's House where legend has Mary and her son John, so named by Jesus on the cross, lived out their lives. Some credence is given to the story, as Paul the Apostle spent time preaching in Ephesus (hence the letter to them in the bible). The museum isn't much. Before Ephesus we did a short stop at the ruins of the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the world,(Cheops Pyramid being another so we saw 2 of them, and should have passed a 3rd, the Pharos lighthouse in Alexandria ,but didn't see what is left of it). The temple has 1 standing pillar, and Nejat said it wasn't really from the temple, but foundations were there. Karaoke in late evening, contest for the Oceania Idol, DH didn't win! Now on to Istanbul. Nejat had asked another guide to take us on our 3 tours in Istanbul, his friend Levent Solmez. He is even more respected than Nejat. We arrived at 1pm, and he picked us up to take us to the Aya Sofia Museum (St Sophia) (not open the next day for our long tour) which has the 2nd largest dome in the world. It had been a Byzantine Church, converted to Mosque when Islam came into Istanbul. Beautiful Gold trimmed Mosaics of Jesus and Mary and other Christian figures of the time were covered over by the Moslems with plaster. It was thought they were destroyed, but found later to be under the plaster. Many years has gone into removing this plaster ,some 6" thick Underneath the Mosaics are beautiful. One of Christ was partially destroyed, by Crusaders looking to loot the gold tiles. When it was discovered the gold was only a glaze they stopped. That one, the face of Jesus is remarkable. Also toured us to the far side of Istanbul, the Asian side. We actually were on 3 continents, Europe, Africa, and Asia on this cruise. Next day was our disembarkation day, luggage packed, taken to dock. Levent picked us and Luggage up 8am, to go with us all day while we WALKED the whole of the Sultanamet district, including :the Hippodrome (now a road, once the largest, longest racecourse in the roman world)The Blue Mosque (Actually called the Sultanamet Mosque)where I climbed a 3 story ramp to the top floor to view things from there..I was crazy (and now completely washed up!), to the Topkapi Palace Museum to view famous jewels, and other treasures of the Sultanate Era. The Palace Hareem appropriately houses those jewels, jeweled couches, beds of gold and jewels etc..That evening we went to a dinner theater to watch a Folkloric show including Belly Dancers Found out their star was same one we had at the ship the last night! Lastly we got locked into our hotel, not the room, the whole hotel,and had to call the desk to get out!! So we could call taxi to go to the Airport! Some 14 hrs later back in Chicago.. exhausted but filled with great memories, and 1000 photos! Read Less
Sail Date: October 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
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2006
We just returned from our 28th cruise, on the Oceania Nautica, and my wife says it is her best ever. I had booked several customers on Oceania who raved about the service and we wanted to find out for ourselves. We flew to Barcelona a ... Read More
We just returned from our 28th cruise, on the Oceania Nautica, and my wife says it is her best ever. I had booked several customers on Oceania who raved about the service and we wanted to find out for ourselves. We flew to Barcelona a day early to enjoy the city, staying on the Ramblas in Hotel Royal. $159 plus tax and we had a room overlooking the Ramblas on the 4th floor. No noise. And it is a short ride to the pier. We stayed in a category B2 balcony cabin 6077. The next cabin forward was a B1, and more expensive. All the balconies on the B2, B1, and A1,2,3 (concierge) are the same size. Only suites on deck 8 are larger. Balconies are very private. The cabin is typical of balcony cabins, but no refrigerator. The shower is very small. Service is exceptional, with 400 staff for 684 guests, and they really appear to enjoy their work and provide exceptional service. Dining is open seating in the Dining Room, and Tapas on the Terrace (the high end buffet style dining), and by reservation in the two specialty restaurants Toscano and Polo. There is no service charge for the specialty restaurants. There are plenty of tables for two, and only twice did we have a short (5 minute) wait for a table, in the Dining Room. Dinner menus seemed to have a lot of steak and beef, but there was an ample choice of fish, which included sea bass, grilled tune, corvina, swordfish, salmon, and a wok seafood dish of shrimp, scallops and salmon. Desserts were excellent, including creme brulee in the dining room and specialty restaurants. Tables for two are arranged close enough to others to talk, but separated enough to be "separate". The single pool was never crowded and there are plenty of loungers, including double seating lounges, all with cushions and terry cloth covers. The casino is small but adequate. We had not expected much entertainment, but during the 10 days we had three shows by a staff of 4 singers, and we also had a terrific illusionist, and two musical/singing performances by a husband wife team...the husband is the orchestra director. There is also a pianist in the piano bar nightly. Dancing was available nightly in a variety of locations, usually the Horizon Lounge on Deck 10 forward where a sextet from the orchestra played until 11 or 12 at night. There are no live "port talks", just a repeating short TV talk by the cruise director, and it had no port map with the daily newsletter. It wasn't until the 4th port that we discovered that for a few hours each port morning there was someone near the purser's desk who distributed local maps and provided directions and port information. These passengers are, for the most part, 55+ and well travelled. We heard no "griping" all cruise! While advertised as country club casual and the brochures show men in jackets, there were very few jackets, no ties, and women did wear nice dresses in the evening, including some cocktail dresses. The day wear was like any other ship. Internet service is VERY slow but they do have wireless hotspots all over the ship. The internet lab had about 24 stations, and there were 2 more in the library for use if computer classes were in session. They had good TV with CCN, Fox News, BBC, and a number of movie channels. There were no lines onboard, for anything, even tenders, except for embarkation check-in, which was done onboard in a lounge. There was absolutely no "pushing tropical drinks" and no onboard photographers, at all. Fine! In Barcelona they allowed me to go back on the pier, purchase wine, sangria, and gin and bring it back to my cabin. Our itinerary was termed Art Reigns Supreme and the ports reflected that. Sailing from Barcelona, we visited Marsaille, Monte Carlo, Civitavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Florence/Pisa, Amalfi, Taormina, Valetta Malta, one day at sea, and an overnight in Athens before debarking. A smaller ship, we often were in choice berths, with the larger ships further from the port. Lots of walking! And I think I have now seen all the churches and museums I could stand for a while, but the art was superb, including Gaudi in Barcelona, the Vatican Museum, the Accademi in Florence, St John's in Valetta, and of course the Acropolis, Agora, and Plaka in Athens. Without doing a travelogue, I will add that I did use Bob's Limos and Tours http://romelimousines.com/ in Civitavecchia and Livorno, and we were very pleased with experience, especially with the driver in Livorno/Florence/Pisa, who even took us via the Tuscan countryside at our request. In Athens we did use George Taxi and Limo http://www.greecetravel.com/taxi/, where George's son Dennis picked us up in a limo instead of taxi, as his father, the taxi driver, was on vacation in the islands. He took the time to help me find the house I lived in there from 1972-75, and at our request took us to local, non tourist, restaurant for lunch were we enjoyed salata horiatiki with a giant slab of feta and kalamata olives, tzetziki, moussaka, lamb fricasse, and swordfish kabobs. The "free air" included was Lufthansa from Dulles to Barcelona via Frankfort, and Air France from Athens via Paris to Dulles. Lufthansa was superb, and both offered multiple meals, and complimentary wine and cordials. All our baggage made it, leaving a day early, but some passengers whose flights were through London, never got their luggage until we arrived in Athens, due to the security scares in London. On the way back, at our connection in Paris, at gate check-in they researched all carry-ons and body searched every passenger. Having watched the news on Fox and CNN we had no problem, but it meant we didn't try to bring back bottles of olive oil or liquor, as we had planned. Oceania is a bit pricier than the premium lines (HAL, Princess, Celebrity), but the service and ambiance is wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2006
This was our first time cruising on an "upscale" trip. We boarded the ship at Athens. The baggage transfer was smooth and efficient. The check in process took all of about 10 minutes. Having been on 3 day "cattle ... Read More
This was our first time cruising on an "upscale" trip. We boarded the ship at Athens. The baggage transfer was smooth and efficient. The check in process took all of about 10 minutes. Having been on 3 day "cattle car" cruises where the check in procedure took over an hour or more, this was a pleasant surprise. We checked in early so our cabins were not ready, however, the ship offered a buffet lunch (which I think is standard) until our cabin was available. We took the time to make reservations for Nautica's 2 reservations only restaurants, and to tour the ship. Nautica carries a little under 700 passengers, and as the cruise progressed, we were able to make quite a few acquaintances. The passenger mix was predominantly American, with a nice number of Australian and New Zealanders. The age was primarily 45/50 up, with very few children, which made the pool deck quite enjoyable. Poolside service was great, with deck chairs available with terry cloth covers and ample bath towels. There were enough deck chairs pool side to handle the busiest period. The food was excellent throughout the cruise. The quantity, presentation and service was very good. Several things impressed me about Oceania. 3 days into the cruise a preliminary "How we doing" questionnaire was circulated. The concierge personally followed up on my comments and we received a bottle of champagne for our efforts. The deck chairs on the Terrace restaurant were teak. We were not constantly "badgered" over the loudspeaker by the Cruise Director regarding the daily activities, which were clearly identified in the ship's daily newspaper. The wait staff remembered "little things" regarding our preferences. The crew were happy, in fact several commented on how the Oceania made it a priority to treat the crew well. Oceania had a philosophy that a happy crew made for a successful voyage....and it showed. There was constant followup. We put some misinformation down on our debarkation questionnaire, and it was caught and corrected. The cruise and the service by Oceania exceeded our expectations, and we will cruise with them in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
NAUTICA -- Travelers may not know about a relatively new line called Oceania Cruises, but they should learn. We took The Black Sea Interlude on the Nautica, one of three Oceania ships. The experience was delightful. Our cruise began ... Read More
NAUTICA -- Travelers may not know about a relatively new line called Oceania Cruises, but they should learn. We took The Black Sea Interlude on the Nautica, one of three Oceania ships. The experience was delightful. Our cruise began July 2, 2006, in Piraeus, the port for Athens, went to Santorini, Kusadasi, Yalta, Sochi, Sevastopol, Odessa, Constanta, Nessebur and ended in Istanbul. We recommend the ship to any adults who want good food, good company, and good experiences ashore. We spent several days in Athens first, at the Athenaeum InterContinental. Oceania had a welcome desk there before cruise departure, but you could seldom find the Oceania person and when we finally did, she was unhelpful and gave us inaccurate information. The InterContinental put us in a taxi to the cruise terminal, where we went through a perfunctory and useless security check. From there, Nautica took over and the 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. We found the stateroom, 4049, well located--about 35 steps from the reception desk, central stairway, and elevators. The room was beautiful, in perfect condition, quiet, about average size for a cruise ship, with dark woods, a large window, a comfortable queen-size bed, a small desk and padded stool, small love-seat and a coffee table, and a functional TV that showed movies. Storage space was more than adequate, and suitcases fit under the bed. We had no balcony, and never felt we needed one. The bathroom was on the small side, with adequate storage space but a tiny shower. The hot water was always hot, but the shower is probably the worst feature of the Nautica. An attendant cleaned the room twice daily, did a perfect job, and was seldom seen. 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 doesnt encourage children, and these kind of trips arent 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 Cafe 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 hot dogs, 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 ships 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 adequate, but, 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. Information from excursion leaders on the ship was much better. Guide service ashore was generally good, as was the quality of English spoken. Shuttles to bring you closer to a town center were offered in two ports, and were quite helpful. An official from the local tourist bureau was usually on the ship the morning of a docking. In 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 departstoo 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. A few words about our ports. Athens and Istanbul are utterly fascinating. You can easily spend five days in each city. Santorini was crowded but interesting. Kusadasi is a Turkish/European resort, and is close to the ancient ruins of Ephesus, which everyone should see. Yalta was wonderful. We toured the conference hall where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met to discuss the end of WWII. Sochi is a prime Russian vacation area, very interesting, and we got to tour Stalins Dacha and stand by his desk. Sevastopol and Odessa in the Ukraine are interesting cities where you can just walk around and the soak up the atmosphere. Outside of Sevastopol, we toured the battlefield where The Charge of the Light Brigade took place, with a guide who was clearly enthused about her subject matter. We spent a day in Constanta, Romania, and another day in Nessebur, Bulgaria. Some passengers pooh-poohed those two stops, saying they offered little. Untrue. They offered a real slice of Romanian and Bulgarian life, a highly beneficial experience. Bottom line on Oceania and the Nauticaget their pamphlets and consider their cruises. 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: June 2006
We were just on the Rome to Istanbul cruise on the Nautica. The itinerary was fabulous and we can't wait to go back to some of the places we visited and spend more time there. We spent 4 nights pre-cruise in Rome and 2 nights ... Read More
We were just on the Rome to Istanbul cruise on the Nautica. The itinerary was fabulous and we can't wait to go back to some of the places we visited and spend more time there. We spent 4 nights pre-cruise in Rome and 2 nights post-cruise in Istanbul. Service - The ship's staff was excellent and we had wonderful service from everyone we encountered. Every staff member we came across took a moment and greeted us with a smile and were all very good at making sure we had everything we needed to have a good cruise. Food - Grand Dining room food was very good, we only had slow service there one night. Tapas/Terrace food was also very good and the best buffet we've experienced on our cruises. Toscana was very good but make sure you have an empty stomach when you get there. Polo had excellent grilled food, make sure you ask them about what they consider rare, medium rare and well done. We ordered medium to get what we usually consider medium rare. Entertainment - so-so, we knew the entertainment would be low key ahead of time and it was. Shows aren't important to us and we only saw a few. The violinist they had was ok in her playing but her personality turned us off and we left since she annoyed us so much. Others thought she was great. Art auctioneer was terrible, completely unprepared and unprofessional which probably saved us money since we just couldn't get excited about any of the pieces she showed. Shore excursions - we only did one ship sponsored excursion and it was a good value for the money. The rest of the ports we did on our own. Cabin - Cabin was about the equivalent size of the cabins we have been on in past cruises, we thought the storage was very good and had no trouble storing our 3 weeks worth of clothes. 7116 is an aft cabin and has a deeper balcony, we had a great time with the other "back of the ship" folks watching the sail aways. Embarkation/debarkation - We arrived at the ship at about 3:30 or so, and were on the ship and at our cabin within 20 minutes. Debarkation was also very easy and smooth. Overall we had a fantastic cruise experience and would sail the Nautica and Oceania again. It was a very intensive port schedule and we enjoyed all the ports we saw, Rome to Istanbul cruise. Read Less
Sail Date: May 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: March 2006
I remember sailing into the Red Sea through gently undulating waters, the Arabian Sea stretched behind us like a sheet of hammered silver, the setting sun radiating its beams of light through the fluffy clouds. We were enjoying our ... Read More
I remember sailing into the Red Sea through gently undulating waters, the Arabian Sea stretched behind us like a sheet of hammered silver, the setting sun radiating its beams of light through the fluffy clouds. We were enjoying our delicious dinner on the outdoor terrace of Tapas, the ship's Spanish-inspired casual dining restaurant, as we watched the dappled surface of the water reflect the sun's rays that changed from golden to orange to crimson. This was a lovely sight that was repeated many times during our time aboard the Nautica. During our five weeks of cruising, we were blessed by unusually placid waters, the barely noticeable swaying of the ship reminding us that we are at sea during the day and gently rocking us to sleep at night. The days were generally sunny and hot, but the humidity moderate, more temperate than can usually be expected in this part of the world. We marveled at the sights we have seen in Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Thailand, Singapore, India, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, and sailing through the Suez Canal. The shore excursions, though a bit pricey, were uniformly excellent. The ship, our "home-away-from-home", was comfortable and beautiful. It has modern amenities in the setting of an 18th century English manor house. This is one of three identical ships operated by Oceania. They are small by today's ship standards, carrying just 680 passengers, and that makes them more intimate and easy to settle into. This was our fourth time on these ships, and they are, by far, our favorites. The entertainment was very good, with singers, magicians, comedy acts, classical pianists, a string quartet, an eight-piece orchestra, lecturers, and various talents from the ship's company adding to the variety. The four restaurants are each beautiful with a wide variety of carefully prepared and beautifully presented food. Often it is a challenge to decide what to select, but the wait staff is always ready to provide assistance. Each restaurant has its own personality and charm; Tapas is the casual dining venue and is also the buffet for breakfast and lunch, Polo is the clubby steakhouse, Toscana is a Tuscan-inspired restaurant, and the beautiful Grand Dining Room serves a wide variety of continental cuisine under a painted domed ceiling. There is an open-seating policy which results in joining different companions for dinner; this leads to interesting discussions about travel experiences and many new friends are made. Of course, many tables for two are also available and we also enjoy that from time to time. Our cabin was cozy and comfortable, with a large verandah that overlooks the stern of the ship. We often sit on our chaise lounges and read during our days at sea, and watch the retreating shoreline as we depart from ports. It was also interesting to look for fish frolicking in our wake, to view passing ships, and to observe the islands we sometimes pass. We have had the same cabin, or the identical one next door, on all four of our voyages on Oceania, so we immediately feel at home. The best part of the cruise experience is contributed by the crew. From the staff in the dining rooms, to the cabin stewards, to the entertainers, the staff is outstanding. They are friendly and helpful, quick with a greeting and a smile, and are a delight to get to know. Over sixty countries are represented, some from places we visited, and we regularly gain more insight into the daily lives of people from the staff than we do from tour guides. We have shared in their excitement as they are able to see their families, and sometimes bring them aboard ship, when we visit their countries. We have gotten to know many of them quite well and will be sad to say goodbye to them, our new friends. Hopefully our paths will cross again. It is remarkable to be able to experience the amazing variety of geography, cultures, and people that God has blessed us to live with on this small, blue planet. We pray that this will give us a broader perspective as He puts new opportunities in our path. But it was good to get home and have a pizza! Read Less
Nautica Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 5.0 0.0
Entertainment 3.0 0.0
Public Rooms 5.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 5.0 0.0
Family 2.0 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.0 0.0
Enrichment 5.0 0.0
Service 4.0 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0
Rates 5.0 0.0

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