I write this from the perspective of a 47 year old cruiser who has sailed with Oceania 7 times. My cabin experience has always been a PH2 or PH3 on deck 10 or 11 on Riviera/Marina and deck 8 on the R Class ships. For reference and point of view purposes I have sailed on most major mass market lines. In recent years my taste has changed and strongly desire smaller ships with less passengers and a more inclusive experience where you are not nickel and dimed. Therefore, lines such as Oceania, Crystal, Seabourn, Azamara, Regent and Silversea have been strongly preferenced.
The condition of the Marina is tip top shape - especially for a ship built in 2011. Food remains outstanding. Cruising on Oceania is more akin to staying in a really nice floating hotel as opposed to a true cruising experience. Highlights not only include the dining room and specialty restaurants, but also tea time and the strings. I also believe Oceania and Regent have the best pool areas at sea.
Unfortunately, I feel strongly that Oceania has lost ground compared to the competition - so much so that we just booked our first Viking Ocean cruise as reviews seem to compare the two lines as apples to apples with Viking Ocean being the better apple. Unfortunately, Oceania's apple has become a bit rotten. Here's why:
Despite a beautiful ship and producing excellent food something is missing on Oceania and has been progressively more noticeable. That "something" is service and absolute lack of personalization. I've noticed on my last few Oceania cruises that the crew does not engage with the passengers and it is clear they are there to do their job and that's it. There is frequent talk in front of guests about "when my contract is up". No similes, no being addressed by name, no remembering preferences. In fact, for the most part no warmth. For example, my wife and I kept bumping into a social hostess we met at a captain's function the second day of the cruise and we would always say hello and try to engage. She would not give us the time of day. A social hostess! Another example -
this one from the top - the captain's cabin was just in front of ours and I would frequently see him in the corridor. It was painful for him to return a simple hello. Staff were regimented and inflexible. All decisions - no matter how minor - had to come from the top. There was no willingness or ability to even make small decisions to cater to guests on their own. For example, at the juice bar I asked for bananas, oranges and ice. The employee said he was only allowed to make what was on the preset menu despite all the ingredients and a blender sitting right in front of him. Sounds picky? Not really when every aspect of any small request is treated this way. The overall lack of flexibility and unfriendliness of the staff is unfortunate. Part of what makes cruising enjoyable is the staff. When the staff is miserable and stupidly rigid it impacts the overall experience. In summary - regarding the staff - they walked around like creatures from the Walking Dead and did not seem happy.
Unless you bought a drink package getting an honest drink is impossible on Oceania. All drinks are measured pours and quite stingy. Even the "doubles" are weak. A double top shelf (i.e. Kettle One or Grey Goose) martini costs north of $22 before tip is included. Bartenders have zero flexibility to think on their own and actually some are worried about their pours because they are "scrutinized" according to one. Remarkably, Celebrity - a mass market line - makes much more honest and better drinks without the measured pour.
Oceania shore excursions are consistently awful. I would not waste your money and instead visit sites such as tours by locals or Viator to arrange your own tours. Not only will you have a more customized experienced and skip out on painful bus journeys, but you will save a ton of money.
As an aside, I think Oceania would benefit from increasing their prices slightly and making drinks all-inclusive. They should get rid of O Life promotions and just make every sailing with included WiFi, beverages, gratuities and lastly not insult guests by requiring tokens for the laundry. Those inclusions coupled with some serious Ritz Carlton style customer service training would potentially put Oceania back in the running.
On all my previous Oceania cruises I booked future cruises. Not on this one. I am done with Oceania for the foreseeable future as I've tried other options and liked them better; hence the danger of trying other things as you might just like them better and change your spending habits. Sorry Oceania - what was once a fabulous product is just fair now when compared to the competition in the market.