Aegean Gems on Riviera - May 2013: Riviera Cruise Review by PY33

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Aegean Gems on Riviera - May 2013

Sail Date: May 2013
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Venice
Arrived back from this cruise yesterday so here's a quick review whilst things are still fresh in my mind. We're not so experienced as many of you who visit this site. This was our fifth cruise overall and our first time on Oceania, so I'll try to make some comparisons with what I've experienced elsewhere.

Getting there....

Flights were included in the deal from London Heathrow. We live in North Wales so this necessitated a drive down to London the day before. Booked in to the Park Inn and got a room for the night and up to 15 days' parking. Left the car at the hotel and took the Hotel Hoppa bus to Terminal 1 the following morning.

We booked the cruise quite late and couldn't get a direct flight to Venice; instead we were routed via Dusseldorf. Only an hour's wait there to change planes and everything ran on time. My major concern when changing planes is whether the luggage will make the change too. Our bags were among the last on the carousel so I was getting More nervous, but thankfully they made it.

Transfers were not included (more about that later) and we took a taxi from the airport to the cruise port at a cost of 46€. No delays at check in, arrived in our stateroom at 15:00 and the luggage was there 5 minutes later! Marvellous start to the holiday.

The Stateroom....

We booked a Penthouse Suite -- 11025 right in the middle of the ship. Included in the deal is a bottle of chilled champagne which was waiting for us. This was the real thing -- Jacquard. Suited my wife because she doesn't like champagne which is bone dry, and this is a very pleasant drink indeed. If you book a suite with Princess they bring you a glass of "champagne" on embarkation. With Holland America you can go to the Neptune Lounge and have a glass or two there. However, it's not the real thing. With a HAL it's a palatable sparkling wine. With Princess it's a not very pleasant one! It's the real stuff on Oceania.

The butler came along to introduce himself. We never use room service so we hardly saw him after that. The maid came along too, and she kept the suite pristine all the time we were on the ship.

The Ship....

Absolutely beautiful. It's only a year old so everything is still sparkling, and it's finished everywhere with marble and polished wood.

There's a marvellous feeling of space. I got the impression that the dining rooms and public areas were as spacious as on the bigger ships but with half the number of passengers. We never had to queue in any of the restaurants, we could always get a seat in a bar or lounge, and there were always plenty of sunbeds -- well padded with loads of towels.

There are no onboard photographers so you are not repeatedly having a camera thrust in your face when you leave the ship.

The Staff....

Relentlessly cheerful and couldn't do enough to please. Happy to share a joke and very friendly indeed.

In my limited experience on other ships there has always been a preponderance of Filipinos and others from the far east. Oceania is different. There were lots of Europeans and a smattering of staff from India, the Caribbean and Africa. I'm not trying to imply a preference of one to the other, but I found it interesting to talk to staff from Russia, Croatia, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Jamaica as well as staff from further east.

The food....

We were attracted to Oceania by the promise of "the best food at sea". We weren't disappointed. Every meal was superb. Not Michelin starred standard perhaps -- there are too many guests for the degree of fussiness which such cuisine demands -- but very good indeed. The contrast between the four speciality restaurants is terrific but the main dining room is also excellent.

I have read complaints in these pages that the food was sometimes tepid. It didn't happen to us. If there is any better food at sea please let me know -- I want to try it!

Drinks prices....

Similar to what you might pay in a top class restaurant. For example, we had a bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2012 which cost $72 plus 18% tip. This is around 2.5 times what I would expect to pay if I bought it from a wine merchant in the UK. This markup is not out of line with that of a good restaurant on land.

Soft drinks are complimentary throughout the ship. Even non-alcoholic cocktails such as a Virgin Colada are free, and they take as much effort to mix as the alcoholic equivalent.

The entertainment....

This cruise was a "Jazz cruise". I didn't know this when I booked, and it wouldn't have made any difference. I'm not a fan of Jazz but I could see that the musicians were talented.

As far as the resident company is concerned, the singers could sing and the dancers could jump around energetically, but the productions hadn't had the same amount of investment in scenery and stage sets as you get on the bigger ships. If you want razzamatazz, loud music on deck and a sense that there is always something going on then stick to the bigger ships.

The general ambience was quiet and peaceful. I remember a large MSC ship pulling in to port at the next dock part way through the cruise with loud music blaring and it felt quite intrusive.

Shore excursions....

We don't like to be herded and much prefer to do our own thing. We only took one Oceania excursion and this was to Ephesus from Kusadasi. It was perfectly pleasant and well organised. As with other cruise lines, the prices are ridiculous.

The journey home....

We were scheduled to fly home from Athens and we needed to get from Piraeus port to Athens airport. Oceania offered to book us a taxi for $219, or a place on a coach for $99 each. They should be ashamed of themselves for trying to charge these prices. We simply walked off the ship, collected our luggage and jumped into a taxi at the taxi rank immediately outside the terminal. The driver took us to the airport and charged us 49€ - approximately 30% of the price Oceania wanted to charge.

Overall impression....

Would we cruise with Oceania again? Yes, tomorrow if we could!

Would I recommend them? Yes, without hesitation. Just organise your own excursions and transfers! Less

Published 05/18/13
Helpful? Thank PY33

Cabin review: PH111025 Penthouse Suite

Lots of storage space. Beautifully appointed bathroom. Balcony has an overhang from Deck 12 above so you can't sunbathe there. Some occasional noise of moving furniture from the floor above but only during the day.

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