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.
Other areas of the ship still need some work. The Sirena Lounge is dark, dismal and smells musty. The smell and appearance set a bad tone since this is the first area guests visit when embarking. Horizons was similarly unappealing and usually deserted except for the tea hour. The casino seems larger than I recall on any of the other Oceania ships, but it and the bar area seemed overly ornate and frumpy. And if you do laundry (as I have on every cruise) the laundry room is simply horrible – hot, cramped, dirty and very poorly maintained.
Passengers in general did not seem pleased with the cabins, but I can only describe our concierge veranda cabin. The verandas have been very nicely redone – the new furniture is more comfortable and takes up less space. The rest of the cabin was not so pleasant. As expected, the size of the cabin is like all other R-class ships. The closet area seems like the other ships as well.
But the vanity is smaller than I recall on other ships, and really inconvenient. The hair dryer needs to be used there, and all electric devices must be charged there (for us, 2 phones, 2 tablets and 2 cameras) and there is simply not enough space on the vanity for all this. This space is also littered with many papers that accumulate during the voyage. It could be helped by adding a vertical file box, but I was told these are only for O-class penthouse cabins when I requested one. Hey Oceania – make them available for all cabins/ships! They’re inexpensive and practical. The telephone also occupies lots of vanity space. It’s large, old and ugly - also useless since there was no directory or guide for the buttons. Couldn’t even call reception to complain!!
There have been many negative comments the bathrooms. The shower is small, the curtain is clingy, but we didn’t find it as bad as others have said. We were more inconvenienced by the frequent lack of hot water and water pressure, which seemed to be a problem for many passengers. The bath is very small, especially if you’ve been spoiled by the palatial space on the O-class ships – but it’s what we expected. Be sure to bring a cosmetics bag which can be hung from the bath door. It is a necessity for the small bath!
We disliked the new “ultra-tranquility” bed as much as we loved the old tranquilty beds. I absolutely hated the duvet, which was much too hot for summer and so securely tucked in that it was hard to move under it. The pillows were flat and uncomfortable. And the air conditioning worked sporadically – sometimes making the room too cool, sometimes not cooling at all – at the same temperature setting. Fortunately, our cabin attendant Olga was absolutely superb, and provided a light blanket in place of the duvet and fluffy foam pillows.
I wish the service in other areas of the ship was as excellent as that of our cabin staff. Bar service was nearly non-existent anywhere. We waited so long for drink service in most venues that we ended up getting out own drinks at the bar. And service in the Terrace Café was just awful. There were not enough servers in most areas, and most servers spoke very limited English. Many seemed to have little interest in helping guests. Getting a salad with dressing on the side was a huge challenge. It was not possible to get whipped cream on a dessert. Almost any request made of terrace café servers seemed like an imposition.
Red Ginger was exceptional. The room is the most beautiful restaurant on any of the ships – the addition of windows and stunning décor makes it far superior to the O-class rooms. And the food and service were the equal of any fine restaurant ashore – really excellent. We have never liked dining in Red Ginger on the O-class ships, but it is a super experience on the Sirena, which starts with the lovely maître d’ greeting and wonderful ambiance.
Toscana was another mixed bag. The maître d’ there (the fabulous Fabio) also set an excellent tone for fine dining. And the many window tables, especially those overlooking the stern of the ship, make for a very pleasant room. But the combined Polo/Toscana menu is neither as interesting or the food as well-executed on Sirena as the individual restaurants on the other ships. Though the service was excellent, the food wasn’t memorable.
And Jacques Bistro? After lunch there, I wanted to write a “Dear Jacques” letter. Jacques Pepin would be embarrassed by the awful food we were served there. The servers were also badly informed and inept. “Veal piccata” was breaded tough mystery meat, covered with brownish gravy and mushrooms. No lemons ever touched this dish. When questioned, the server informed us that this is what “real veal piccata” is like. My ‘fruit de mer’ consisted of three mussels (two of which I discarded because they were still tightly closed) a couple small shrimp and one scallop on a soggy pastry. Avoid Jacques Bistro, and go for the still-excellent surf and turf in Waves for lunch!
There’s clearly been an effort to improve entertainment on Sirena. The Gloria String Quartet was wonderful, playing every day during tea and in the atrium before/after dinner. They were all very talented, and also added to the musical productions in the evening. The Sirena Show Band was also a very entertaining group, playing before the evening productions. There was a featured production every evening, which always seemed well-attended. We didn’t stay to watch much of it, but this is the first time we have ever enjoyed entertainment on Oceania.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise, and it generally met our expectations – except for the poor service in the Terrace Café. But we do not plan to sail on Sirena again.
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.
Sirena was docked right in the center of town in Bordeaux. It was supposed to be an overnight stay, but we ended up staying two nights. The pilot hit a large metal buoy when docking, and repairs to the ship required an additional night.
There's lots to see in Bordeaux. We started with hop-on/hop-off bus, and then had plenty of time to explore on foot. We also had a lovely dinner in town.
The shore excursion was just okay. St. Emilion village is lovely, but it was a hot day and we had a determined guide. So we again ditched the tour after we arrived and had a cool drink in the lovely courtyard of a Relais et Chateaux hotel overlooking the town.View All undefined undefined Reviews
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.