My husband and I were on the Nautica for the 10-day Western Europe Escapade. We sailed from the Port of Rome to Barcelona and then visited Cartagena, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Oporto, Portugal; Bilbao, Spain; and Bordeaux, France. It ended in Southhampton, from which we were bused to Heathrow.
The very beginning of our cruise was also the worst part of it. I thought it would make things easier to let Oceania book the flights and airport transfers. The flight from Seattle to Heathrow was long but not too bad. We paid extra for premium economy. Then it was a couple-hour flight to Rome. We were supposed to be met by Oceania representatives once we cleared customs and retrieved our checked bags. We did find the people, but they accused us of being "late" and said the bus had already left. Believe me, we had come through as quickly as we could, not even stopping to use the bathroom. We and one other hapless couple were told we would have to wait until there were more people for a fuller bus. By this time we were exhausted, hungry and getting very irritated. After about two hours, just when we were about to find private transportation, we were told we could get on the bus. Ninety minutes later we were on board, sipping Champagne in our stateroom.
We found the ship quite stately and attractive, especially the artwork that was everywhere. The public rooms were beautiful and pleasant. We particularly enjoyed Martinis Bar and Horizons at the top of the ship.
It was fairly warm for our first couple of days in Spain, and I did get a chance to enjoy the very small swimming pool. But for most of the cruise, the pool and all the lovely lounges around it sat empty. It was too cold and windy even to sit outside, much less swim.
I loved the weightlifting equipment in the gym and spent a fair amount of time on the treadmills and stationary bikes.
Although Oceania boasts it has the finest cuisine at sea, I found the food uneven. For example, one evening, at the buffet I had sliced roast turkey, which was moist and quite good. Another day I tried the roast beef, which was tough and inedible. The main dining room featured many choices, but some were disappointing. For example, I sometimes like to order Eggs Benedict, but these were way overcooked, more like hard-boiled than poached. Possibly the best food was at the grill, which mostly served simple burgers and the like. But since it was partly open to the air, and it was so cold much of time, we couldn't eat there very often. I did appreciate the 24/7 "coffee bar" at Horizons.
We didn't go to any of the evening shows, but my husband and I really enjoyed the string quartet that played for afternoon tea at Horizons and at other times. We also liked the jazz piano player in Martinis. Best of all was the lecturer, Dr. Stephen Wesley. He did a good job of preparing us for the many architectural styles to be found in Barcelona and for the classical underpinnings of so much of modern Europe.
Service was excellent. Our room was made up promptly twice a day and was always immaculate. The only problem was keeping it that way since it was so small our stuff tended to get strewn about.
This was a good itinerary. We especially loved Cartagena, Oporto, Bilbao and Bordeaux. Probably our best single day was our first day in Bordeaux. We got there a little before noon, got off the ship and walked into the town. Even though it was raining we found it quite beautiful and soon found a little place to have lunch. That evening we had a very special excursion to a chateau in the Haut-Medoc. The winery owner led us on a tour of the cellars, including the "secret cellar" where the best wine was hidden during the Nazi occupation during World War II. Then she escorted us to the dining room of her chateau, where we had a very French dinner (including foie gras) with appropriate wines throughout.
Would I go again? Probably not on Oceania. For the approximately $20,000 we spent (including $500 each for that tour and dinner at the chateau), I think I could do better.
It was very small and cramped, but the bed was comfortable. The shower was unbelievably tiny, but since we were concierge level we had access to the spa. I took to taking showers and steambaths in the spa, which was spacious and rarely used.
We did not take an excursion but found Barcelona a fairly easy city to navigate, especially after listening to Dr. Stephen Wesley's excellent lecture. There was cab waiting when we got off the ship, and we took it directly to Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia cathedral. We did not go in (you need to get tickets ahead of time for that) but walked slowly around it, taking in the details of this still-unfinished dazzling work. From there we grabbed another cab and asked to be dropped off at the food market on Las Ramblas. This was an amazing market, for fish, Spanish ham and other meat products, produce and everything you could think of. Then we made our way through the old quarter to the Picasso Museum, where we saw many of the master's early works. We found a little tapas place for lunch. I always thought tapas were "small plates," but these were quite large, and we got to taste that delicious ham, a tortilla (Spanish omelette) and other specialties. We grabbed another taxi and went to Miro Foundation, a wonderful building with Miro's works well displayed inside and out. By this time I had the taxi app downloaded on my phone (I'm not sure why I didn't use Uber) and summoned one to take us back to the ship. This was a great way to get to see the things we were most interested in without a lot of extra expense.
The excursion I wanted to take (to experience the mud baths) got canceled so we didn't book one here. It turned out to be a perfect place to simply walk around and look at the beautifully restored buildings and to enjoy the many pedestrian streets.
This was a minimally narrated tour (no actual tour operator, just ear buds) that really didn't explain things very well. We got off before we went all the way around the city and walked around on our own.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This tour included both a walk around the city and a ride on a riverboat. It was fascinating, well-narrated and gave us a great view of this town that figured so importantly in the port wine business.View All 45 City Tour Reviews
We took the Highlights of Bilbao tour and found it to be excellent. It made three stops where people could get out or not and take pictures. The stop at the overlook was great -- you could look down on the Guggenheim and the whole town. We also loved getting out and walking around the Guggenheim, taking in the arresting architecture and the wonderful sculptures, such as Jeff Koons' "Puppy," completely covered with blooming flowers. We learned a great deal about the town. It was once a dying industrial city, polluted, dirty and unattractive. Now it has everything most people want in a city -- parks, walkways, places to sit, quiet trams, great art and architecture and interesting museums. I would really like to come back and spend more time here.View All 7 City Tour Reviews
This was a very expensive excursion ($500 each), but it was probably the most memorable of our trip. We not only got to visit a winery and chateau in the Haut Medoc and taste the wine, we got to eat a many-course dinner there. The tour leader and the winery owner, the first woman to head up the operation in five generations of family ownership, told us the story of Bordeaux and of this particular winery. I loved all the wine we tried and loved finding out more about the history of the place.View All 45 Wine Tasting Reviews