This was our first cruise with Oceania, and will almost certainly be our last. We were unfortunate enough to board at a time when gastrointestinal disease had taken hold on the ship. This can happen on any ship, but the way that Oceania handled, or rather mishandled, this and the level of outright dishonesty was shocking. We were boarding in Lima, Peru and received an email even before we left home several days before the ship was due to sail, saying that our embarkation would be put back an hour as the ship was to be deep-cleaned. This is the extract from the email I received from Oceania:
" Recently, in the vicinity of Callao/Lima, there have been several outbreaks of influenza and gastroenteritis. To ensure that you and your fellow guests are able to enjoy your cruise and minimize the possibility of any health issues being brought on board, we will be delaying the start of embarkation until at least 1 PM local time. This delay will allow the ship’s staff ample time to implement a full “sanitation barrier” between the embarkation area and the Regatta, to ensure healthy guests and a healthy ship." It turned out it wasn't a healthy ship with restrictions imposed for more than half the cruise and on the previous leg from Buenos Aires..
Lima had suffered some pretty severe flooding so this seemed reasonable but it turned out that the sanitising process was actually trying to clear up an GI outbreak that had started long before the ship ever arrived in Lima. We discovered this in talking to other passengers who had been on the previous leg of the journey and who been told told to leave the ship so it could be deep-cleaned. We had this conversation during the melée of embarkation when ship's pens were being shared by passengers completing health questionnaires on the dock - you really couldn't make this up! Later in the cruise we were told that the problem was passengers who had embarked in Lima after the ship's own pre-trip to Machu Picchu - but this was just another lie as the deep-cleaning had preceded the arrival of these passengers.
We had booked a PH3 stateroom - we thought the basic staterooms were just too small. The cabin was nice - about 1.5 times the width of a standard balcony cabin so we had a nice outdoor area. The width of the cabin made it feel a lot more spacious than a larger cabin we had on Regent's Voyager. The bathroom though was a lot smaller even though it was about twice the size of the lower level staterooms on Regatta. We did see one of these and it really was tiny. Even though there isn't a walk-in wardrobe in the PH, there was ample storage, in fact I suspect more than the walk-in would have offered. There was a lot more room to walk around the bed and the sofa and two chairs and table were far enough apart to make eating in the cabin a practical proposition.
We liked Lima for all the warnings about safety & security. We spent a few days there before the cruise, making our own arrangements as it was much cheaper than using Oceania's. We the historic colonial centre, Huaca Pucclana and the fabulous Larco museum which is not to be missed.
We did our own thing here, taking a taxi from the cruise ship tender dock to the Casco Viejo, the old colonial town. It has undergone significant amounts of renovation & re-building, but there is more to do. We really enjoyed ourselves, walking along the old sea wall, photographing the restored buildings, dropping into cafes & bars when it got too hot. It was easy to get a taxi back to the ship.
We arranged an independent tour with Greenway Tours to Cahuita and then a boat trip on the Tortuguero Canals. It was a fraction of the price of the ship's excursions and was very well organised. We had a great time - saw two different types of sloth, lots of lizards, monkeys, etc.. Definitely want to return to Cost Rica.
There was little appeal to us for this port which seemed mainly to be devoted to beach resorts and beach excursions. The cruise port at Mahogany Bay was just awful, although worse was to come in Belize. After a short time on shore we returned to a largely empty ship and had our pick of the sun loungers around the pool.
The port area is petty dull and synthetic with the usual array of over-priced jewellery shops. We skipped through the port to make our way to the Native Choice Tours office as we had booked an independent tour to Dzibanche with them (along with quite a number of other passengers). It is less than 10 minutes walk away and easy to find. We were all split up into several small new Mercedes minibuses each with its own English-speaking guide and this at about half the price of the equivalent tour with Oceania which would have been on a large bus. 1* for Costa Maya, 5* for the independent excursion.
Just horrible. This is NCL's private resort island, allegedly an "authentic" representation of Belize. The person who wrote the blurb which included this word obviously doesn't know what it means and I doubt he or she has ever visited Belize proper. You can use your cruise card to buy things on the island but you have to pay for everything - at the time we did a circuit the bars & eateries were largely empty. The souvenirs were the same as we saw elsewhere but with inflated prices.
We took a ship's excursion (there is no way to reach the mainland to take an independent tour) to the Mayan site of LimniPunit and took a tour of Harvest Caye when we returned but found nothing to detain us.
There are literally thousands of sun loungers crammed together along the hard, gritty man-made beach without even a small table between them. We were the only ship in that day and the beach was largely deserted (whilst the ship's pool was heaving with people - tells you something). I can barely imagine how horrible it would be with a large ship in port, or even two as sometimes can happen.
We didn't spot a single fish in the water which is almost impossible to believe off the coast of Belize.
We had great expectations of Key Wes but frankly it was just a tacky, downmarket place with little or nothing to recommend it. About 15 minutes from the centre there are some pretty residential homes which was more like what we had been expecting.