Our cruise on Sirena was chosen primarily for the itinerary, which followed the Atlantic coasts of Spain and France. We also wanted to revisit Oceania’s smaller ‘R-class’ ships after several cruises on the larger ‘O-class’ ships. We were hopeful that Sirena would dock nearer the port cities, since recent cruises on the larger ships required long bus rides from the dock to reach the cities. We also expected that Sirena would be an improved version of the smaller ships, since it had been recently remodeled.
The actual cruise was a mixed bag in both areas. We enjoyed the itinerary; some of the ports required a shuttle bus to reach the city, but in Bordeaux, we were docked in the heart of the city. When shuttle buses were required, there were never lengthy lines or long waits for shuttles (as there were on recent cruises on the larger ships). The overall port experience was very pleasant, although our stop in St. Malo (and excursion to Mont St-Michel) was cancelled. We were very disappointed by this cancellation, but it was due to damage to the ship in Bordeaux. I wasn’t really surprised - every Oceania cruise we’ve taken, one highly-anticipated port has been cancelled mid-cruise.
As for Sirena, the ship too was a mixed bag. Some areas of the ship have been beautifully redone. The Spa Terrace and Waves Grill have lovely tiled mosaic patterns on the back wall, and the Spa Terrace has been fitted with a wonderful spa – like a smaller version of Riviera’s thalassotherapy spa. The Grand Dining Room is truly ‘grand’ and elegantly decorated, and the addition of the Barista’s/bar at the entry is a nice touch.
Port location in Lisbon is very convenient to town for embarkation.
Sirena docked about 40 minutes out of town, but a shuttle buses were provided and well-organized. There is a hop-on/hop-off bus just a block from the shuttle drop point, which is a nice tour of both sides of the river. The town is very walkable, but there are some steep hills!
We took the ship excursion to Santiago de Compostela, which we enjoyed. We left the tour almost immediately after we arrived in Santiago to attend mass in the cathedral. It was one of the best moments of our cruise; very moving. We then rejoined the tour for lunch in the Parador.
Shuttle buses were provided for the ~30 minute ride from the port to Bilbao. I had bought tickets for the Guggenheim in advance, so we toured the museum when we arrived. The line to purchase tickets was quite long, so buy them in advance!
When then took a pedicab to the old town, shopped booths around the square, and sampled pinxtos in several bars. A wonderful day, even though all the shops were closed on Sunday.
Because of the delay in Bordeaux, the ship did not go to Saint-Malo. Sadly, this is the port I was most looking forward to. As I mentioned in the review, we have missed an important port on every Oceania cruise - including this one!
The cruise did not go to Paris of course, but we had a wonderful day in Normandy. We were docked a short walk to the Le Havre cruise terminal, and took a taxi to pick up our Europcar rental. We then had a nice drive to the American Cemetery in Normandy. Roads were in great condition and well-marked, and the only traffic was at the toll stations. There was ample free parking at the cemetery, which has no admission charge. It was a sobering, but very moving and beautiful visit (we rented the movie 'The Longest Day' before we visited, which added great background for our visit).
We then drove the coastal road toward Arromanches, and had the best meal of our trip in Port en Bessin overlooking the harbor - wonderful tiny Moules. We had a leisurely drive back to the ship, arriving before 5pm. We were able to park overnight directly behind the cruise terminal, and could see our rental car from the ship.
When we disembarked, we were able to load our luggage directly from the terminal into our rental car to continue on to Rouen.