The newly refurbished Sirena with a very interesting 'must do" itinerary from Athens to Rome including Cairo, Alexandria and Jerusalem.
So imagine our surprise and disappointment when on checking in at the cruise terminal in Athens we are handed a sheet of paper which informs us that (for "geopolitical situation reasons" and out of an "abundance of caution" Cairo and Alexandria have been cancelled. Now we fully understand the potential reasons, however no warnings were being highlighted by either the British Foreign Office or the USA Homeland Security. Additionally a new schedule had been organised with tours, excursions all printed and ready for distribution. This along with all the other services, new ports, catering, waste management etc that need to be arranged means that Oceania had the means to contact their customers /clients at least a fortnight before the ship sailed. As a significant percentage of cruisers are destination driven the fact they (Oceania) operated a "fait accompli" approach which is morally unfair, not businesslike and with other elements of the cruise outlined below will make us seriously consider Oceania again before sailing with them again.
The ship, the refurbishment in the public areas is without a doubt very impressive, with very nice furnishings and a nice feel and ambience.
On arrival at our cabin and unpacking several observations. First the Pro's: Plenty of storage space in the cabin and the bathroom and through the trip the A/C worked very well in some very warm / hot conditions, and the cabin was very well designed with plenty of storage space.
Secondly The Con's: 1) Dirty bathrobe hanging in the wardrobe, 2) Debris from previous guest left in drawer, 3) Underneath the picture window the ledge had small visible black sticky lumps and there were gaps in the painting, 4) The half wardrobe uses the standard coat hanger which we understand Oceania had placed all over the ship. Once you place shirts etc on the hangers the wardrobe door does not close. ie: the hangers are wider than the wardrobe!! 5) Carpet was stained in places, Wooden surfaces worn and not stained properly on the refurbishment, 6) The fridge was not stocked properly. Basically very tacky and not worthy of the Oceania name.
Visited reception and whilst appreciating boarding day is a madhouse I requested that if the team could a) contact us within the next few hours and b) arrange a convenient time to remedy the above. The response was "the concierge will contact you within the next two days once we are at sea". Obviously not the sort of response that we expected and needless to say it was remedied in two tranches, immediately for the most important items and then when we went ashore the cabin had a for a deep clean, carpet clean and some repainting. Finally the shower was not what we really expected for a ship carrying the Oceania name, small with a "wrap around" shower curtain.
More importantly on lifeboat muster I noticed that the boat station and cabin number was missing from my life jacket. Despite speaking to reception immediately after and a crew member on the drill it was not replaced for three days when I finally managed to speak to a deck officer who sorted it out straight away.
What the above indicates is that the snag list on completing the cabins after the refit was not carried out properly. Certain crew members are not fully aware of what is required in terms of lifejackets and staff training, cabin staff training awareness falls very short of customer service and finally the person in charge of coat hangers in Florida needs a tape measure for a christmas present.
The food, possibly some of the best and most consistent that we have experienced during our time sailing with the likes of Oceania, Celebrity and Regent. Likewise the dining room staff, who were absolutely superb and exceeded our and other passengers expectations.
Tuscan Steak excellent for both the consistency of the food and the service, however Red Ginger was a big disappointment in the quality and menu offerings, although the dervice was very good.
For various reasons we were unable to pre book the Speciality Restaurants before we boarded so we expected a slight delay in booking tables for the cruise on the first night. Imagine our amazement when we were informed that there where NO tables available for the remainder of the cruise in either Tuscan or Red Ginger...unfortunately another walk to the Concierge who was needless to say very surprised. We were booked in and not surprisingly the restaurants had at least six empty tables all night on all three occasions. Again, unprofessional and poor service and why??
The ships deck company officers, never smiling, and never appeared to say greet passengers unless they were greeted first, certainly not reflective of other cruises we have been on and we never saw the captain, other than the introduction night. Possibly there were inagural sailing pressures, but....
Shows, better than Ann Ryan, but only just, but to be fair they are limited with regard to performing area.
Announcements. Far too many "Bing Bongs" on social activities, not needed and not useful. There are plenty of notifications on the TV and programmes for the next day are delivered every night to the cabin. Not reflective of a premium cruise line.
Dress code. We all know that it is becoming more relaxed, but jeans and cut offs? in both MDR and Speciality with both men and women being the guilty parties . We did query this with the dining team and it appears that clients get a bit upset when they are politely reminded of the dress code, the clients then complain to the officers in charge and the dining staff are not supported, which is very poor (cop out management style).
Organisational basics and our feeling that Norweigen may just be looking to place Oceania more midway between Norweigen and Regent. Hence the pricing and the passenger mix. This makes business sense and presumably is why they bought this ship second hand which whilst looking very nice in some areas but lacks the finer points in what we have experienced before on Oceania which for us is disappointing.
The positives, good position on the ship, quiet and with a picture window with an non obscured view, however on tender days the tenders do move momentarily to lower, but no issues there for us.
Storage, well planned with (for us), but beware the coat hangers in the half wardrobe are wider than the width of the wardrobe?! So you angle your hangers so that the door closes. Plenty of power points.
However, the cabin was the worst prepared that we have ever experienced as outlined in our review and for a Premium line we do not expect a shower the size that it is with a wrap around shower curtain, but the saving grace plenty of bathroom storage.