As virgin ocean cruisers, but experienced river cruisers, we were not sure what to expect. We chose this particular cruise mainly because of the reputation of Oceania, the cruise had only one sea day, a relatively small number of passengers (684), many destinations that we had not visited and a competitive price.
Getting on and off the ship was easy at all times of the cruise which was one of concerns about ocean cruising, although our luggage took a long time to appear even though we were one of the first to board.
The ship itself was also pleasantly fitted out and with many activities to participate in, although the only ones that we took advantage of were the daily trivia (good fun), lectures (excellent) and the evening shows (average).
We preferred the informality of the buffet meals in the Terrace Cafe to the formality of the speciality restaurants (Toscana & Polo Grill) and the Grand Dining Room. The food and service in all locations was good with the best choice at the Terrace Cafe.
We took three of the four free excursions in St Petersburg due to the visa restrictions and took the other one in Visby. The remaining eight locations were all 'do-able' on our own, using complimentary coaches, local tourist reps on board, internet research, local transport and a willingness to walk a bit. The exception was Berlin where we had stayed on the way to joining the ship in Copenhagen. We also took a few extra days in Copenhagen before the cruise and Southampton at the end of the cruise. We would recommend both these locations.
The size of the Nautica meant it could get close in to most cities so we were never left struggling in a remote commercial port.
The highlights of the cruise were the approach and departure from Stockholm plus the (short) time St Petersburg. Transiting the Kiel Canal was also interesting for us as it had a bit of a river cruise feel about it.
The negatives were :
1) the alcohol pricing policy with wine starting at US$47 per bottle off the wine list or US$27 corkage per bottle for BYO.
2) the price of optional excursions which were several times the price which we could purchase them on the internet.
3) the claim of free unlimited Internet access which is actually limited to one login per cabin at any time, limited by the number of users at any time, limited by quality of signal and limited by where you were on the ship.
We think that Oceania should reconsider this pricing policy (the heart of their 'O-Life' sales pitch) as it distorts the true cost of a cruise if clients pay the price of the add-ons.
Overall we enjoyed our first ocean cruise as it met most of our expectations.
Would we take another Ocean cruise? - Yes provided it went to places we want to go with minimal sea days.
Would we go with Oceania again? - Yes provided that the prices were competitive.
Is River better than Ocean cruising? - We prefer the intimacy of the smaller boats but if you have certain places on your bucket list (eg Alaska, Norwegian Fjords) then Ocean cruising is the only way to go.
The bed and cabin were comfortable with enough space to relax on the sofa or the balcony.
Adequate storage for clothes. Desk space a little small mainly because of large water bottles and ice-bucket on the desk in spite of a fridge in the room. Bathroom functional.