We booked this cruise from Buenos Aires to Rio De Janeiro because we wanted to see these 2 cities, and to visit Brazil and of course to sail on Regatta again. We had had such a fantastic time on our previous cruise on board her. However this time we were sadly so disappointed. So much was not right.
Embarkation in Buenos Aires was delayed for about 4 hours with little information and certainly no refreshments, not even a drop of water. We did hear later that some guests received emails about the delay and were even given on board credit as compensation but we certainly received neither. We were eventually told that the delay was due to a complete sanitisation of the ship as virus had broken out on the previous voyage. We later also discovered that the guests who were not leaving the ship in Buenos Aires were given a complimentary excursion with lunch but those joining the cruise there were ignored.
On board ship we discovered the full extent of the infection through the written notifications delivered to our stateroom and announcements by the Captain. In addition life on board was seriously curtailed. The guest launderette was permanently closed although guests could have items laundered at separate prices for each item. Only later in the week was this switched to a bag of 20 items for a fixed price. Regatta has a wonderful library and although it was kept open the bookcases were locked shut and each had a warning notice displayed. It was even reported that some books were destroyed at the end of the previous cruise. I cannot understand how touching books or keeping the launderette open would increase the chance of spreading this sort of infection.
Food hygiene was much more important so we were not allowed to serve ourselves in the buffet restaurant or at afternoon tea. Guests were not allowed to handle the salt and pepper shakers at all and there was always a staff member watching as guests entererd the restaurants to ensure that the hand sanitisers were used. The toilet doors in the public areas were wedged open also presumably to prevent guests from touching the handles. So these precautions were kept in place but still the infection continued. However there is one service which remained open throughout the cruise which could be the cause and that was the Casino. Every day guests and croupiers handled Dollar bills, they fingered cards and they passed chips back and forth across the tables. Other guests pressed the buttons on the slot machines. No-one was standing at the Casino disinfecting the surfaces and the chips. There were no notices pasted to the walls and tables. I believe this was one of the main ways in which the infection continued. Was Oceania irresponsible in this aspect or perhaps the Casino was kept open because it generated a healthy profit for company? Maybe I am being a bit too cynical, but many of the guests thought that was nearer the truth.
There were so many other things which were not up to Oceania standard.
We choose an Inside cabin because my wife does not like to see the movement of the sea. However it was very basic, worse than we remembered from our previous time on board. There was not much evidence around the ship of the refurbishment which had taken place but rather the opposite, with the ship looking tired in some places.
While the food was really good the service in both the Grand Dining Room and the Terrace buffet was slow and patchy - until we complained and only then did it improve. Waiters and sommeliers were really slow at refilling glasses. In fact the service throughout the ship was poor to say the least.
The senior officers were rarely visible, perhaps they were afraid of being lambasted by the guests. There was no Officer's Challenge and there was limited deck entertainment whatsoever. The whole entertainment provision was really poor. One act was on three times in twelve days. Another was on twice. On the night of the storm the show by the Violinist was cancelled but the Cruise Director arranged for it to be on at 3pm the following day. As most people had been stuck inside the ship for over 24 hours, many even staying in their cabin, I asked him if he could possibly put the show on out on deck. He refused, saying it was not possible. He was a really poor Cruise Director. He lacked imagination and initiative. He knew the guests were disgruntled but did nothing to generate extra interest and enjoyment amongst the passengers. He also lacked regular presence around the ship talking to the guests. The activities programmes was very limited indeed.
As guests arrived back at the ship at each port there was no smiling crew member welcoming us back, with cold towels and a drink. Instead everyone was again made to cleanse their hands. While this was understandable in the circumstances it certainly did not generate goodwill or good customer service. There appeared to be a shortage of staff to offer general service to the guests in all areas but especially around the pool and the hotel manager admitted to me this was due to them being sent to other duties.
As we approached Brazil we were informed that all purchases would have a 25% tax added. Guests were advised to order all their wine for dinner in advance and it would stored. I don't drink wine so I asked if I could pre-order ten bottles of beer but was told it would not be possible. Perhaps it was a case of there was not enough profit in a bottle of beer!
My wife purchased a bag from the boutique on Deck 5 and the strap broke the first time she used it. She had great difficulty obtaining a refund and we had to take the matter right up to the Chief Purser before the money was credited to our account.
We discussed the discontent and poor service felt by many passengers with both the Concierge and the Hotel Manager and they stated that they were aware of the issue amongst the guests and steps were being taken to redress the situation.
A few days later it was announced that in view of the difficult circumstances on board there would be an Open Bar from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm. While many of the passengers may have benefitted from a free drink those on the drinks packages did not. Oceania were quick to accept pre-payment for these packages but no-one thought about offering any form of credit whatsoever for the delay in boarding or for the Open bar.
And so it continued. There was no improvement in services, guests continued to do their best, the crew all looked tired and the waiting staff in the restaurants were certainly not providing typical Oceania standards. It made us ask ourselves why we paid the Gratuities in Advance. We certainly never received the promised service.
But of course, throughout all this the Casino stayed open!!!
During my discussions with the General Manager he stated that the infection started well before Regatta reached Buenos Aires and had at least been present from Lima. Why then was the ship not taking out of service and the guests given the option of a full refund or an alternative cruise or even flights home? Oceania's management of the crisis was terrible. It explains why nearly all guest were complaining. It explains why I am having to write such a poor review.
My wife and I have been on several cruises. This was by far the worst. The whole ship lack atmosphere. It is the first time we have been on board a cruise ship from which we were glad to disembark. We feel we did not receive anything like the quality of cruise we paid for even taking into account the problems on board.
We disembarked in Rio relieved to be off the ship. We should have have just spent the first 3 days of out holiday in Buenos Aries, a great city to visit, and then flow directly to Rio. Its an amazing city. While this whole experience may not have put us of cruising altogether the chances of us booking Oceania again are very slim.
We boarded a city tour bus at the dockside because it was raining. The guide was not great.
Had to take ataxia to the trolley tour and Pele museum. They were interesting places to visit.
Two excellent tours of the city.
Our hotel was right on the beach and we walked for miles.
Our 3 days in Rio were filled with activities. The tour guide was excellent.
Our 3 days in Rio were filled with activities. The tour guide was excellent.