This was a follow on cruise from two previous cruises affected by Noro virus.
This was my 15th cruise on a variety of cruise lines but my first on Oceania. We took this cruise on the recommendation of a relative who had previous experience with Oceania and liked the line a lot. Their recommendation said " while " pricier than others the food is spectacular". Sad to say this was the worst of our 15 cruises and the so called great service does not compare with our trips on Regent, Celebrity and even Holland America.
While some reviewers act as apologists for Oceania by claiming "nor virus can happen on any cruise"; there is no doubt that poor handling and communications of the crisis worsened the experience for almost ever objective traveller.
To start with the communications were terrible. There was no advance notice from Oceania staff at our hotel who acted as if all was well. Next on arrival at the ship there was a major delay in boarding as the company provided busses to a shopping centre to pass time. When asked what the problem was we were told "there are issues". This was a lame attempt to diffuse the issue in spite of the fact that a letter had been sent to travel agents a few days earlier. Upon boarding there were further delays as the staterooms were not available for hours. When rooms were finally available they were not made up fully, lacked soap, shampoo another items. The room had not been properly vacuumed or cleaned. It was clear that am major undertaking under CDC supervision had taken place to ensure the trip was not cancelled.This ship should not have left port until it was fully scrubbed and cleared instead of doing it on the fly. Clearly a decision that put revenue ahead of customer satisfaction and value fro the price paid.
It took four days to get the ship cleaned. It appeared that 15 % if the crew wandered around with disinfectant wiping down anything that did not move. This only made the task of customer service more difficult for the depleted crew members still doing their job.
The sticky surfaces on tables, chairs and anything else made it very difficult to even think that the food was great. It took five days before the restrictions were lifted and salt shakers could appear on the tables. Compared to Regent ( Higher price but all inclusive) or Celebrity Aqua class ( priced a lot lower) the food was average to poor and the service average. The crew was clearly stressed and we saw numerous disagreements and testy interchanges amongst crew members. The captain appeared to go AWOL as he was not seen or heard except for the daily noon update and the special dinners with multi trip Oceania Alumni.
As an example of how poorly they handled the crisis when the ship had to divert to disembark a passenger with a serious health issue no announcement was made that it had nothing to do with the Noro problem. This led to significant speculation that the ship was in trouble again.
While we did not come down with the virus we did experience sickness and stomach issue fro most of the cruise. I suspect it was caused by the chemicals use because as the second day after we left the ship the pains disappeared.
The crew tried to do their best under difficult circumstances but there were very few smiles and a lot of complaining. The specialty restaurants were hit and miss. Some were good and others poor.
Food was average and service hit and miss. On cruises we usually choose to sit at tables with others so we can meet new people and share experiences. After five days we chose to eat most of our meals alone because we could no longer take the negativity. The cruise line tried to satisfy the anger by holding an open bar for 2 hours as an apology gift. This was far short of what they should have done and needed to do. Most people on board agreed that the cruise ship never should have left the port. A refund of 50% of the value should have been returned to all passengers because this was not the service or the quality people had paid for and expected. The company should appreciate that they have damaged their brand with not only the passengers on board who felt cheated but also with their hundreds of friends to whom the story and experience was shared with upon return. ( For example my email to friends asking how our vacation went had the headline : CRUISE FROM HELL ... WORST VACATION EVER)
It is highly unlikely that most new cruisers, or first time cruisers will ever give Oceania another try.
Shore excursions were compatible with other lines but somewhat pricier. Some excursions were missed because of stomach issue noted above from the chemicals on the tables. In St parts when my wife bought goods at a local store the sales lady commented : "Oh you are from the sick ship": Clearly she had heard the horror stories as well.
The entertainment varied from very good to amateurish. The comedian was truly outstanding and offered a good escape from the terrible experience on the ship. The singer soloist who had appeared in the "love Boat " series many years ago was ver good and a pleasant surprise. The cast of dancers paying tributes to broadway and tribute to the music of was amateurish and singing off key most of the time. In fact I heard a passenger chiding his wife that they should have taken an aisle seat so they could escape. Another passenger was heard to sat he "heard better singing from drunken salarymen in a Japanese Karaoke bar." Needless to say we did not go to their other shows.
Disembarkation was confused and hectic. I suspect that was because people could not wait to leave the ship and head home. I found it ironic that passengers paid hefty prices for a vacation cruise that did not meet the promises and or their expectations were anxious to go home and rest.
All in all a terrible experience that left a bad taste. A feeling that profit and revenue took precedence over service and value for the fare paid.
Cabin was as advertised. Staff did well under difficult circumstances. Cleanliness of the ship for the first week was poor. Finding toenail clippings on the floor from the previous cruise which had suffered a full nor virus breakout when we boarded was disgusting.