Well! Well! Where to begin?
Flight problems: After receiving our flight information, I called the airlines to see if we could upgrade to first class. We were told that since our tickets were "bulk" purchase (more on this later), we could not upgrade. While I was talking to Delta, the man mentioned that we had no tickets for the flight home. I called Florida, and was told that there was no problem, of course we had tickets to fly home. Since we have never used a cruise line's air before, I assumed that the woman from Oceania knew what she was talking about, NOT! The night before our flight, we tried checking in on line and was refused, so we called the 800 number that Oceania gave us to use if something goes wrong while traveling. The phone rang for 35 minutes, so we gave up on Oceania. We decided to go to the airport right then, the night before, in order to find out what was wrong. The woman we talked to there said a) our flight segments weren't done correctly, and b) we didn't have tickets to get home. Surprise! She said she had everything fixed and everything should be fine. And she said that because they were "bulk" tickets, we can't do things on line or get email notifications. The next morning Delta wasn't flying, but Delta got us on a United flight. At the end of the cruise - guess what - we got to Nice and was told that we didn't have tickets to get home. Air France at Nice managed to get us on fully booked flights when, fortunately, some travelers didn't show up.
Excursions: 4 of the 7 excursions that we booked through Oceania did not go as planned. They were cancelled, partially cancelled, moved to another time, or modified. The partially cancelled one was due to a forest fire, so I can excuse that, but people on other tours said that their guides just flexed and did other things, while we were offered to walk the city streets of Marseilles, and we were not interested in doing that.
Next, we were repeated told by other cruises that they NEVER use Oceania's excursions because they cost 3 to 4 times what you can get by booking your own tours.
There are too many people on the excursions. Most tours have 30 people. They do not use the Whisper systems, so you can't hear unless you are very close to the guide. many of the streets are narrow, so the participants have to line up to get through some areas. Europeans don't use lines like Americans do. If there is a line of 15 pairs of Americans waiting to enter a street, 50 Europeans will merely walk to the front of the line and butt in. So, a couple of times, we were so far back that the guide had already turned a corner and we lost sight of the flag, but managed to recognize another of the ship's passengers and follow that person until we caught sight of the flag again.
Most of the excursions are described as giving you free time. It is unnerving to be in a city where you don't speak the native language where you haven't been given a map or the guide's cell number and be told to meet back at a particular spot in 3 hours. We've never felt so abandoned when taking other cruise line's excursions.
Meals on excursions: We only took one excursion that included a meal and we considered ourselves fortunate. The one that included a meal gave us a salad and a bowl with a cup of soupy rice in it. That's not a meal in my mind.
The cabin: It's not laid out as well as a Disney ship, it has very little shelving to hold the dozens of pieces of paper that are left in your room. By the third day, we just started putting all the papers in the trash.
Service: We were really surprised with the lack of service. On all our other cruises, someone came to our room the first day to show how to operate the lights, and how to get hot water in the shower and to welcome us on board. That doesn't happen on Oceania. Service is mixed in the dining area, I'll explain next.
Dining: Unless you have a penthouse suite, you will eat once in each of the four specialty restaurants and the other four nights you can choose the grand dining room or the buffet. The buffet is a standard cruise buffet, and it opens at 6:00. Enough said about that.
Specialty dining: Unfortunately, you have to reserve your time and penthouse suites go first, we were Concierge, so we reserved after penthouse, and the early times, 6:30 and 7:00 were often all taken. So the earliest you can get may be 7:30 and these are 3 hour meals. After getting up at 7 to make the 8:00 calls for the excursions, we were exhausted after dessert and just crashed into bed. So you will have to make a lot of sacrifices, either don't eat in the specialty restaurants, or don't take excursions, or do what we did, take both, and have a miserable night's sleep because you went directly from dining to bed.
Polo was great, but slow.
Tuscana was great, but slow.
Red Ginger, the ceviche was not what Americans call ceviche and the avocado lobster salad was not what Americans call avocado lobster salad. Also, service was slow.
Jacques was the worst. We had been forewarned about the French onion soup, so we knew to avoid that, and we both ordered the pumpkin soup, which was the best thing we ate there. The cauliflower au gratin was the blandest thing I have ever put in my mouth, horrible! Hubby had the pork rack and said it wasn't very good either. We were there 3 hours and they hadn't taken our dessert order yet, so we just left without it.
Grand dining room: The menus are very limited. Each night there will be only ONE appetizer that has any protein in it. Tip - avoid the beef dishes like the plague! I ordered a sirloin and it was simply inedible. I had something that was called macaroni gratin and it was 2 pieces of macaroni with grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on it. When someone asked how it was, I pointed to it and said, "that's nasty". Enough said. Another diner ordered the Jacques Pepin signature New York strip, and it, too, was inedible. My husband ordered the wiener schnitzel and it was about a pound of deep fried batter and an ounce of veal, so I would suggest you avoid that dish, too.
Potatoes: All the menus had multiple potato dishes, and very few green vegetables, only what you get in mixed steamed vegetables. The side dishes were very uninspiring.
Entertainment and activites: we didn't participate because we took all day tours to see Europe and it took 3 hours for dinner.
Pool: this was A Plus. The pool was great.
Ports: This cruise went to wonderful places.
Embarkation: We found it very easy to get on and off the ship.
Children: This is not a cruise for kids, just don't even try. They will be miserable.
Other passengers: I've read in many reviews that this line attracts rude people, but we didn't see that. Everyone was pretty nice except a German family traveling with 3 teenaged daughters.
One thing that Mike and I noticed is that many people signed up for excursions labeled "strenuous" who should not have. Ladies, if you can barely walk, don't sign up for an excursion that says you will have 170 (or however many), steps to climb. Don't sign up for a 10 hour excursion labeled strenuous if you aren't in good shape.
The ultimate question is would we use this cruise line again. The answer is maybe. But we would arrange our own excursions and flights. We would also just accept that we're going to be eating at a buffet every night. We can't go to sleep at 11:00 when dinner doesn't finish until 10:30 and then get up at 7 for an 8:00 excursion that is going to have us power walk for 6 hours.
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