We chose this cruise - our 4th on Oceania ships - for the September timing and the itinerary. We explored Venice for a few days prior to embarkation (is there a better port for a sailaway?) and were delighted to combine old favorites (Sorrento, Civitavecchia, Monaco and Barcelona) with new-to-us ports like Kotor, Montenegro, Corfu and Taormina. This was our second cruise on Sirena, and the experience was even better.
First, we thought the ship excursions were better organized and for the most part had excellent guides. Being used to independent travel, we would not have taken ANY ship excursions had they not been included in our fare - but our view has tempered somewhat after this cruise. Tours in Taormina - where we were able to enter the Greek Theater despite a Dalai Lama event - and in Cannes to Gorges du Loup and Gourdon - were extremely worthwhile and worry-free. If travel wasn't so fraught with delays and misadventures, I would cruise - on Oceania ships - more often.
Second, the food was back to the level we have come to expect on Oceania after a somewhat disappointing Panama Canal cruise last December. We dined twice in Red Ginger, thus were able to sample several items between us. I did have to order that wonderful Ginger Lemongrass tea from Tea Forte when we got home. Tuscan Grill, the combination of Toscano and Polo Grill from the O-class ships, just doesn't work as well for me as well as having the two venues separate - it's simply too difficult to choose between entrees, much less appetizers, salads and desserts. Service, from our amazingly telepathic cabin attendant to the Terrace Café servers who remembered us from a cruise nine months earlier (I DO love my desserts) and everyone in between was stellar.
Kotor is amazing and virtually undiscovered. The City Wall climb is easy to do on your own, then grab a very inexpensive beer or gelato in a sidewalk café on the way back to the ship.
We LOVE Sorrento, having spent a week here when our son worked in London. Thus we've covered just about everything in the environs, including Naples. Therefore, on our last two cruises we've hopped an early morning hydrofoil to Capri. Two years ago we rode the Monte Solaro chairlift, and this year we hiked around the other end of the island to the Faraglioni and Arco Naturale. If you start early (before 10?) and do the walk counter-clockwise, you'll end up at Le Grottelle for a well-earned lunch.
wow, amazing! we went on our own to Eze-village since I've always wanted to see the Botanical Garden at the very top but never had the chance in previous visits. The views of the Riviera were incredible, and the village itself was beyond charming.
We did take a ship excursion last-minute of "3 Medieval Villages." The tour guide compared and contrasted the three aptly, and we learned a lot.
Barcelona - our disembarkation - always rates five stars, but we sensed the disorder to come just a week later with the independence referendum. There were explosions on Friday night along Las Ramblas - probably fireworks but at any rate not the greatest idea in the exact spot of the terrorist truck attack just a month earlier. We were happy to leave when we did and hope to be back next year in better circumstances.
Having been to Venice several times we simply wanted to explore new sections of the city on our own.
If you're lucky enough to dock right in the heart of the Old City, it's nice to just wander around. National parks were a bit too far away by bus to be appealing excursions.