WE chose this cruise to transit the Panama Canal
Sirena Cruise (Oceania Cruises)
We wanted to go through the Panama Canal so we got our agent to book a cruise that would do that and that would allow us to join another cruise from Ushuaia a few days after completing the first Cruise. We arrived in Miami and joined the ship Sirena having booked a vista suite which turned out to be marvellous and spacious with butler service. We then looked forward to Oceania’s widely advertised “finest cuisine at sea”. As the cruise departed Miami we treated ourselves to a G & T from the complimentary bar in our cabin and prepared ourselves for our first dinner of the finest cuisine.
The ship had multiple restaurants and we chose to eat in the Grand Dining Room. We arrived for dinner and were seated with great flourish by a maître d’ hotel and asked if we would like a drink to start. Of course thank you. It arrived and we ordered from the extensive menu, and were asked by the waiter if we would like wine, so said yes please. The wine list was extensive and focussed on Europe, USA and South American wines but WITH PRICES listed. And what prices! They would put most local Australian restaurant wine prices to shame and we know how expensive they are. What the hell we thought we are on holiday. So we had dinner with wine, but the whole experience was dulled by the expense of drinks and wine, after having paid a prestigious price for a prestigious suite. No one had told us drinks were not included but not guess as seasoned travellers we should have known! Well breakfast may be a better experience.
Breakfast was the usual buffet with a reasonable choice of brekkie fare, but there were no sugar free or sugar reduced items such a yogurt, juice or pastries., may of the choices needed cooking while one waited and waited and …….. The toaster was, as is always the case everywhere, slow as a wet weekend and required several runs through to get nice golden toast. Butter was all unsalted. So the finest cuisine left something to be desired and the meal was very slow while one waited for eggs, toast, pancakes and so on. All the restaurants were catering for rather non-adventurous tastes and the food generally was under spiced and under salted. It is a great shame this was so because the food was good and beautifully presented but lacking in flavours unless it was something simple like a grilled steak or dessert. I do not think that Oceanic has the ‘finest cuisine” afloat, we have been on ships with significantly better food.
The shore excursions were all pre-booked and fairly expensive. Our first was in Havana and was a nice walking tour after a short bus ride from the ship to downtown. An interesting tour with an informative guide, but not worth the money it cost. Several other tours were simply a joke. One to some ruins was all day and we spent most of the day in a bus. Waste of money!
Going to dinner one night in the Tuscan Steak restaurant my wife slipped on the top deck (painted but not non-slip paint) twice, the second time breaking her humours quite badly. We sat in the restaurant entrance and the maître d’ called some officer and the doctor. The officer was quite brusk and immediately said to my wife that her shoes were why she slipped. He continued to be unsympathetic and hung around like a bad smell even when she was taken to the medical centre. It got to the point where I requested he had nothing more to do with us. The ships doctor took x-rays and confirmed the arm was broken but could offer no treatment other than pain killers and a sling.
At our next port we were sent ashore to a small country hospital where locals congregated in the foyer chatting and eating and were seen by the resident who spent ages collecting data on my wife. After several hours an orthopaedic guy turned up and confirmed it was broken and that an operation would be needed to repair the break. At this point we left and went back to the ship. It was not the sort of hospital where we would have an operation, even though it may have been perfectly good. We carried on with the cruise until we got to Panama City and while we were having dinner we were informed we had to go to hospital and a driver was waiting. I grabbed passports and a few other essentials and away we were whisked. Half way to the hospital a call from the ship informed us we had left our luggage and that we had to return to get it. What was I to do, return and pack three suitcases and then go to the hospital again with all our luggage and a wife with a broken arm who could do little? So we continued. Big mistake, but then again we were offered No help by the ship. We had left the ship and our luggage. We fully expected to return and complete the cruise but these hopes were dashed by the ship refusing to accept us back on board.
We got my wife repaired and arranged to fly home to Sydney which we did and in so doing missed our second cruise. But that is not the end of the story.
On returning home one of the first priorities was to contact the ship for return of our luggage. Discussions via email continued for a month and eventually our suitcases were returned with only clothes minus shoes and underwear, at my cost (over AD$700). So back to the email saga,. I have some 20 emails with the ship and Oceania’s office in Miami. A month or so later another box was returned, again at my cost, but again not all our goods. They had kept everything of value. Back to the emails yet again. Another month and some valuables were forwarded, but again not all of them. Some of my critical medications were not returned.
Finally the saga plays out with Oceania refusing to send the last two items because they might create customs problems. I think they had no right to make such a decision on my behalf and their actions are tantamount to theft. I had receipts for the items they refused to send showing they were bought in Australia so ……..
In conclusion, Oceanic has nice cabins with great cabin service, very average food but beautifully presented, shore excursions that are not good value for money and slippery decks that are poorly signposted and senior staff who have no sympathy or understanding of their guest’s plight. Their advertising, in my mind, is not borne out in practice. Although I cannot recommend them, but, they have many devoted cruisers who always travel with them. Make up your own mind!
Excellent roomy and butler was great