We were apprehensive to try our first step up from mainstream cruising. Oceania came highly recommended by some friends of ours who share our taste in food, service and fellow travelers.
Despite a rocky start, this was the best cruise we have ever taken. Due to a norovirus outbreak on the previous segment we boarded a little late and spent several days under strict CDC sanitation guidelines (we have experienced this before). Also our itinerary was upset and we missed a few ports due to a need to turn the ship back to Hawaii in order to medivac a passenger who became ill. We lost about 26 hours, spending an extra sea day in the Pacific and we had to forego Cabo San Lucas and Guatemala from our itinerary. Honestly - we understood and while it’s disappointing and inconvenient - it did not impact our enjoyment of the trip at all.
Embarkation: We were notified by email early that day of the delay in boarding and boarded late about 2:00 pm and had to wait to enter our cabin for a couple of hours. While waiting we met the first of many amazing staff, Todor from Bulgaria who was a bartender/barista.
Our cabin 7099 was aft and starboard. The cabin was small but adequate. More of a matter of laughter than complaint .. I think the shower in our travel trailer is bigger. We had a *Concierge Level cabin. The bed is VERY COMFORTABLE.
The ships is old but really elegant and homey. Built in 1998 but maintained pretty well considering its age. Holding only 680 passengers it’s quite a bit smaller than what we are used to. AND WE LOVED IT. Lots of dark wood and comfortable furniture all over the ship, reminiscent of a European parlour.
There are so many things about Oceania that set them apart from the mainstream cruise lines. Here are some of the things we personally loved that they did NOT HAVE and some thoughts:
1) No photographers or photo galleries
2) No towel animals on the bed
3) No loud music or silly games at the pool
4) No dancing or singing waiters (except a very few Happy Birthdays)
5) No up charges for specialty dining, coffees or bottled water
6) No excessive announcements in cabin from the cruise director
7) No formal night and most everyone looked very sharp in “country club casual”
8) No kids (they are allowed but there are no amenities specifically for them)
9) No hard sell of tours, unwanted cocktails, merchandise (but all available)
10) No reservations needed for dinner in the main dining room
Here’s the short list of all the things Oceania HAS that we really loved and some thoughts:
1) Every single crew member from a maintenance worker to maitre’d was cordial and friendly beyond belief. Many of whom know your name by day 2 and are always smiling.
2) Food quality was superb. Portions were perfect. Truly the best cuisine at sea we have ever experienced. One night we had calm seas and had room service dinner on our balcony ... the filet mignon was cooked to perfection.* *Concierge level cabins may order room service from the main dining room menu as well as the regular room service menu.
3) Specialty restaurants by reservation and after that you can make a last minute reservation if they have space. Both are adventures in slow eating ..... and I mean that in a good way. A really good meal should never be rushed. Most nights we went to Polo or Toscana we spent 2 hours over dinner with cocktails, 4 course meals and desserts.
4) Beverage package + $20 per day per person upgrade. Cocktails with top shelf brands and really wonderful wines by the glass making it unnecessary to buy wine by the bottle. We did pay corkage for an exquisite bottle we brought onboard for one evening ($25 corkage fee including decanting and a very slow pace of consumption ...the sommeliers did not rush our pours and helped us enjoy the bottle of wine our way. Our favorite bartender Anna from Ukraine can make you the best Singapore Sling.
5) Cabin stewards unlike any we have encountered. Friendly, non intrusive, happy to do anything for you. Our cabin was kept impeccable and they were always on top of any little maintenance issues we told them of. (Older ship.. some hinges were loose, a shower head needed replacing and the heat wasn’t working properly one day... all RESOLVED immediately by Desy and Nilesh.
6) Bridge lessons and duplicate bridge as well as rubber (party) bridge on every sea day .. even on the Panama Canal day (extra bonus) ... our bridge instructors Kay and Darwin
Afdahl were so accommodating and such good instructors. We are beginners but they made us feel so welcome and we learned so much. I hope they continue to offer bridge on many more sailings.
7) Did I mention the FOOD?
8) The gym is excellent too. State of the art equipment - sufficient variety of machines and weights and floor space for the size of the ship. Morning stretch classes were frequented by many and the locker rooms and steam room is heaven.
9) Thassotherapy pool forward of the spa for *Concierge level and up was very relaxing yet NOT HOT ENOUGH
10) Two hot tubs (with no kids) were also very relaxing but NOT HOT ENOUGH .... that was our one complaint. We were told max was 104 but they were always around 85-90 degrees. We have a hot tub at home and need that daily soak for our aches and pains so this was a disappointment. We asked a maintenance worker twice but it was never adjusted.
11) Free internet. If even for just one account. This made the trip far more enjoyable for communicating with friends and family back home and although it’s was very slow, it was very much appreciated.
Excursions) We did only book one excursion via the ship in Acapulco. I have to say we were disappointed in the tour. We generally find tours are a better value on our own.
Fellow Passengers) The demographic of this cruise was definatly older than most cruises we have been on - so I think the entertainment is more geared toward that. We are 58 and 66 and enjoyed most of the on board entertainment, although I think there is room for improvement considering the tariff of an Oceania sailing. Personally I would like to see the show band hire a singer and provide more opportunity to dance to the American songbook type music.
A few more comments:
We really loved the ambience and we met far more fellow passengers than normal due to the size of the ship and small number of passengers. On disembarkation day we were all running around the ships trying to say goodbye to new friends.
The lecturers on board were drawing big crowds every day and well appreciated and if you missed the talk you could get a re-run on the cabin tv.
The library was extensive and beautiful.
The chairs and loungers by the pool are WONDERFUL and relaxing and comfortable.
The Internet cafe seemed mostly unused now that most people have laptops and iPads
The smoking section was too close to the only pool bar and the door leading in/out of the gym... terrible placement. No escaping the whiff of second hand smoke.
24 nights flew by .... we booked another voyage before we left the ship and are looking forward to our 2nd Oceania cruise to South America.
Our cabin 7099 was aft and starboard. The cabin was small but adequate. The bed is VERY COMFORTABLE. The closest were ample for 24 nights but I had to ask for more hangers. We missed not having drawers on the nightstands vs shelves. Note our new hardside luggage didn’t fit under the bed when closed, but I improvised and left mine filleted open and put all my shoes in one side and slid it in and out to access the shoe drawer! The balcony has comfy reclining chairs and you can put your feet up on the outdoor cocktail table to create a chaise effect.
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