We are new to Oceania and had booked what we considered to be a great N. Asia port programme. In the end so much of it just didn't happen.
I guess they tried hard to overcome the problems that beset this cruise but the first requirement in crisis management should always be talk to and listen to your customers.
For a large part of this cruise that just didn't seem to happen!
We arrived at the Tianjin terminal about noon to be greeted by NO SHIP and the request to drop our luggage, except carry ons, for loading when it did berth. after about an hour we were loaded onto a bus and ferried to the Sheraton Hotel, supposedly for a meal. Herded into the conference room and supplied with a sandwich in a plastic bag and a bottle of water.
That's when the information service started. A white board with "Next Update at 3pm" appeared. This became the subject of some humour or frustration as the only thing that changed was that the 3pm was changed progressively to 4 then 5 then 6. Information overload. Meanwhile the whisper went round that the ship was off the port which had been closed by fog. The grapevine as usual was more informative than the whiteboard.
Eventually around 6pm a group of us were herded onto another bus where we sat for about an hour waiting for something to happen. We were told then that we would be transferred to the Hilton for dinner and accommodation. Hilarious trip with the bus drivers getting lost, having to stop and work out if we were going to fit under overpasses and other adventures.
Arrived at the Hilton to be greeted by a superb suite, a rather good Chinese banquet meal, a comfortable night and a very good breakfast. At last the logistics clicked but we still didn't really have any info on when we would board, and in fact had to suffer another hour sitting in a bus waiting before we were at last transferred to the ship about 3pm.
Not a great start.
Captain opened the bar as some sort of recompense. Generously timed to coincide with happy hour and most passengers had a drinks package anyway.
Sailed for Seoul where we had our first experience with the mixed quality of the Oceania tour offering. Not good. While we enjoyed the On your own part of "Seoul on your own" being earbashed by a misogynistic loud mouthed guide both ways was not a good experience. Certainly not at Oceania tour prices.
Back aboard we were told that because Kim Jong Il was chucking missiles around and the US and Korean forces were engaged in war games we would stay in port for the night and miss the scheduled stop at Cheju for safety reasons. Not sure of the risk assessment that says sitting in the strategic Incheon harbour within artillery and short range missile distance of Kim's army was the safer option.
Oh well on to Hiroshima, what could possibly go wrong?
Not sure of the reason but the Japanese immigration people went through the full passport face to face and copying procedure. 2hours of shore time lost and a lot of queuing and congestion. With the passengers becoming increasingly frustrated with the problems there was some breakdown in civility.
Hiroshima was a good experience as was Kobe.
Shimizu was a delight. We were blessed with a clear day and fresh snow on Mt Fuji, an awesome sight.
Tokyo was marred by a very wet day on arrival but the tour was good even if it did rate with the Ginza shops for price inflation. The second day was fine and very enjoyable wandering round the markets and the upscale Ginza Department stores.
Between the time we booked and sailing our scheduled time in Shanghai had been cut from 2 days to 2 half days. The dreaded fog/smog combination was about to cut this further as the port was closed on arrival. At last a stroke of decisive genius. The decision was made to extend our stay to 2 full days and drop Xiamen as it was fogged in as well.
What can you say about Shanghai. You just have to see it to believe it. The skyline, the lights, the river traffic and the hustle a bustle of the huge diversified population are amazing. Ride a Sampan in the Water Village or experience 431kmh on the Maglev. Walk the historic Bund or wonder at the Pudong high rise towers.
Another sea day then Hong Kong for a day before disembarking.
There is an old Chinese curse which says "May you live in interesting times" . This cruise was certainly full of interesting times. It will make for great dinner conversations but I'm not sure if Oceania will get too many compliments.
Nautica is an R ship. Just the right size even if you do have to put the shower on rather than step into it. Clean and well decorated.
Food was mostly excellent if a little over complicated. But I guess that's what many prefer.
Service was good if a little over efficient. Sometimes it is good to savour a meal before the plate is whisked away. And when the saucer goas while you are still drinking your coffee it reaches a slightly crazy level.
Entertainment and activities was patchy. The on board singers and dancers and Nolan the cruise director did a great job. The guest entertainment was either good or very bad.
It is very noticeable that the cruise director is about the only regular contact between senior staff and passengers. Captain and officers just do not seem to circulate or converse.
The big fail for Oceania is the high priced and poor quality shore excursion programme. The dearest, and the poorest quality we have ever experienced. If you are cruising Oceania don't book with them it is far cheaper and mostly better to make your own arrangements. Just to add insult to injury if you have a tour cancelled because you skip a port the refund is in US$ rather than the AUD$ we paid in costing another exchange loss
View through gap between lifeboats
Private arrangements. Great wall and Forbidden City are musts.
Guide was loud mouthed and very much against women.
good tour - overpriced
Good tour - guide not very knowledgeable
Tokyo tour good considering weather. Overpriced
Sampan on Water village canals. 431KMH on the Maglev