Background information: We are veteran cruisers with many years of cruising in different parts of the world on different cruise lines (includes Oceania, Disney, RCI, Celebrity, Princess, Holland America, Cunard). This was our 30th cruise, our longest cruise to date, our eighth on Oceania and our first on Sirena. I have done several other cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.
This cruise was entitled “Voyage of Discovery” and was 28 days long, with embarkation in Athens, Greece and disembarkation in Miami, Florida. We booked this as a single Grand Voyage and not as two separate back-to-back Cruises. Sirena is one of the four R-ships currently owned by Oceania Cruises (along with 2 larger, newer O-class ships) and it has passenger capacity of 650-700 passengers and an international crew of nearly 400. The R-ships are scheduled for major renovations over the next few years. Oceania is a cruise company under NCL Holdings.
Our trip began with flights on Delta Airlines from our home city through JFK to Athens, Greece. We purchased our own air. We also purchased transfers and a three-night Athens hotel package from Oceania. The hotel selected by Oceania was the Grande Bretagne, a beautiful five-star Marriott/SPG property located on Syntagma Square in the heart of the city. We thoroughly enjoyed the service and amenities at this hotel and its wonderful rooftop bar and restaurant with views of the Acropolis and other sites in Athens. Our pre-cruise activities in the city included visits to the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum and to the expansive Christian and Byzantine Museum, and we had a very enjoyable Greek cooking class in a Taverna, which we booked in advance through Trip Advisor/Viator. This was our first time staying in Athens and our second visit to the city.
Embarkation: On the way to our ship, we selected an excursion from the Oceania representative at the hotel that included a bus trip to Cape Sounion and the Poseidon Temple, located south of Athens before heading to the port. It took mere minutes to be processed at the Piraeus cruise terminal and we were on-board Sirena having lunch. Our cabin was ready around 1:30 pm and our luggage arrived shortly after that time.
Cabin: For this cruise, we selected an A3 category concierge veranda (cabin 7020, located on deck 7 forward on the port side). We are very familiar with this type of cabin, which has a total area of 216 square feet, including the veranda. The room was quiet and cozy, the bathroom is small but manageable, and the bed is heavenly (very, very comfortable). We did use our Veranda quite often on this cruise, with the hot weather. Our stateroom was maintained impeccably by our Room Stewardess and her assistant. The Concierge Veranda level comes with a new and very useful perk of three complimentary laundry services per sailing; since our cruise was composed of back-to-back sailings, we got six of these laundry services (maximum of 20 pieces per service).
Public areas: The small size of Sirena limits the public spaces to a few areas - Library (popular with many folks but a complete waste of space in my opinion as I usually bring an electronic book reader), Deck 11 sports area, Pool Deck, Baristas/GDR bar (did not use), the Upper Hall (home of the string quartet concerts), Martini’s bar (strangely, a big favorite for us in the past but we only visited a couple of times on this cruise), a tiny casino, the ample Sirena Lounge (entertainment, lectures, trivia, and meeting place for excursions), and the beautiful and expansive Horizons Lounge on deck 10 forward (the Room with a View). There are two tiny boutique stores on deck 5 and a card room on deck 9. There is also a decent-sized gym/workout facility and the Canyon Ranch Spa area on deck 9 forward. The public areas are nicely decorated but the OceaniaNEXT project will certainly be welcome.
Dining: Oceania is renowned for their cuisine and our experience ranged from good to excellent, with a couple of exceptions. We had most of our evening meals in the Terrace Cafe because of its convenience and outdoor seating, and the wide variety of offerings, including salads, pastas, grilled meats, specialty dishes, good side dishes, sushi, charcuterie, fresh breads, and desserts were superb. There were several special lunches or dinners in the Terrace, including Greek, Italian, Spanish, Mexican and Indian cuisine. Our breakfasts were divided between the Terrace Cafe (full breakfasts and cooked to order) and Waves Grill, which offers a continental style buffet. Waves Grill is also a great place for lunch (huge cooked-to-order burgers and sandwiches) and they have a salad bar, plus delicious ice cream and milkshakes. We ate a few times in the Grand Dining Room and enjoyed the selections, but preferred the more casual ambience of the Terrace Cafe and the ability to control portion sizes. The specialty restaurants on Sirena are Red Ginger and Tuscan Steak. We ate at Red Ginger once and Tuscan Steak twice. Red Ginger, specializing in Asian fusion cuisine, is not one of our favorites, but it was good. Unfortunately, my dinner at Tuscan Steak the first time we ate there was nearly ruined by an inedible ribeye steak. The first grey, over-salted, overcooked and tasteless steak I received was whisked away and replaced by another steak almost as bad. Apparently, the filet is a more “sure” thing; being from the western US, I am more of a fan of strip and ribeye cuts, but will not try most steaks again on Oceania. Everything else at that meal was excellent. Needless to say, my second meal at Tuscan Steak concentrated on the pasta selections, which were delicious. Another miss was the horrid lobster bisque in the GDR. Many folks complained about this over-salted and very fishy (in a bad way) soup selection. The service in the dining areas ranged from good to excellent; some minor issues with lack of service (set up, clearing of dishes) at the beginning of the cruise were rectified.
Bar offerings, wine selection, and service: We did not buy a beverage package on this cruise. We tried to go to happy hour every evening to help with the costs. The drinks are very expensive, especially wines by the glass, and that cost is exacerbated by an 18% service charge. The wine selections were quite good, however, and we did buy a few bottles that can be stored on-board for more than one meal. Beer selections are somewhat limited (a negative with hubby, who is a craft beer aficionado). Mixed drinks are good to excellent. Service is very good to excellent from the bar staff and sommeliers. Most of our bar service experiences were in Horizons lounge or Waves Grill/Bar.
Activities and Entertainment: We do not go on Oceania for their entertainment. The small entertainment staff is young and enthusiastic and the shows are fairly short and limited to one every evening at 9:30 pm, with a few guest performers in some shows. We usually head back to cabin to relax and read after dinner so we did not see most of the productions. The Sirena Show Band on our cruise was excellent and we heard them most often in Horizons before dinner. Other entertainment and activity options included enrichment lectures (did not attend most of them), trivia, bingo, sports activity contests, cooking demonstrations, and some pool deck contests (build a ship, country fair, crew contests). Our CD was Leslie Jon, who is very personable and an excellent announcer.
Service: As noted in the other paragraphs, service ranged from very good to excellent and minor concerns were corrected immediately. This cruise also featured the best and most competent Destination Services staff we have dealt with yet on Oceania, a wonderful and helpful Oceania Club Ambassador (yes, we are going again), and very friendly staff at Reception and in Security. Officers are business-like, but approachable. Captain Vitaliy Silvachynsky was very professional and trustworthy. We called him Captain “Early” because he would often leave ports ahead of the departure time if everyone was on board. He also made the right calls on avoiding Hurricane Florence and other tropical storms that were brewing in the Atlantic; our 8-day crossing was very smooth.
Ports and excursions: Separate port write-ups are included. This cruise was attractive because of its ports and the transatlantic crossing. We did ship excursions in almost every port and most were good to excellent. Sadly, two premium excursions we booked prior to the cruise that included gourmet experiences were canceled due to lack of participation. Our ports of call included Patmos, Rhodes and Crete in Greece; Limassol, Cyprus; Haifa, Israel (overnight); Valletta, Malta; Messina, Sorrento and Rome (Civitavechhia), Italy; St. Tropez, France; Barcelona, Cartagena, and Malaga, Spain; Funchal, Madeira; and Nassau, Bahamas. A planned overnight in Bermuda was replaced by a day in Nassau due to Hurricane Florence. We did not have any planned activities in Civitavecchia (Rome) as there were limited excursions on this cruise transition day and our choice of excursions was canceled, unfortunately. The top ports we visited were Haifa, Israel (two amazing and unforgettable journeys to Jerusalem on the first day and to Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee on the second); Patmos (beautiful island and fascinating history of St. John); Valleta, Malta (loved this unique and scenic small country); Messina, Sicily (we did a great excursion to Taormina, a lovely town south of Messina, and to a nice winery); Cartagena, Spain (a fantastic excursion to a Spanish horse ranch); and Funchal, Madeira (a gorgeous island with dramatic scenery and a fun city market). We also enjoyed all of the other ports and have good memories from each place we visited.
Disembarkation: We disembarked very quickly in Miami and had a private transfer to Fort Lauderdale for our non-stop United flight home.
Summary: Our overall experience on Sirena was excellent, with a few minor issues as noted in the details above. Usually, we are ready to go home, but we were reluctant to leave on our last day. We have already booked our next experience, a cruise on Nautica from Venice to Dubai in late 2019! We look forward to the renovated R-ships.
Our cabin was quiet, cozy and very well-maintained. Our room stewardess and her assistant did an excellent job keeping it very clean and well-stocked. We had a very comfortable bed and nice veranda and adequate storage space.
Not a very interesting excursion but it was a way to kill time before embarkation. The temple of Poseidon is quite dramatic and the scenery was nice.View All 20 Cape Sounion Reviews
The greek cooking class was a fantastic experience. Eight of us (we didn't know the other people) made 7 dishes, including greek salad, dolmades, lamb with potatoes, spinach spanakopita, zucchini bowls with tzatiki, and dessert.View All 3 Culinary Tour Reviews
We did a great ship excursion with an excellent guide that included visits to the church in St. John's cave (where he wrote the book of Revelation), a visit to a local home and time at the St. John Monastery. We also had a lovely mezes (small dish) lunch with wine and greek dancing at a local restaurant.
Excursions were canceled in Rhodes due to a bus strike, so we spent time walking around the medieval city and enjoying some sidewalk cafes.
Our excursion actually visited two locations, Paphos and Kourion. In Paphos, we visited the remarkable mosaics at the House of Dionysus and had some free time in the port. We had lunch at a nice beach resort, then had some time at the archaeological site of Kourion. Not the most memorable day, but still a pretty good excursion on a blistering hot day.View All 6 Paphos Reviews
This incredible excursion included a stop to view the city from the Mt. of Olives, then we walked from the Dung Gate to the Western Wall (with time to visit the Wall), then through the old city to the Via Dolorosa. We followed this path upwards to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (incredible) and exited at the Jaffa Gate. We then had a delicious buffet lunch at a local hotel, then spent more time seeing the sites in Mt. Zion. Unforgettable day!!View All 20 Jerusalem Old City Reviews
This tour left very early in the morning and our first stop was in Nazareth to visit the beautiful and huge Church of the Annunciation. This was followed by a visit to Yardenit, on the Jordan river just below the Sea of Galilee. This oasis is the site of baptisms in the Jordan river and also has a very nice gift shop and restaurant. After Yardenit, we stopped at the Church of Tagbha (supposedly on the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes) and at Caperneum to see the church and ruins of the port city. We then had a nice lunch at a local kibbutz, then ended our excursion at the Mount of the Beatitudes church, high on a hill overlooking the Sea. It was hot and humid beyond belief, but we will never forget seeing these places of biblical importance.View All 26 Nazareth and Galilee Reviews
Our guide on this visit to the Palace of Knossos was very difficult to understand and spent too much time explaining the historical details. Although we knew ahead of time that most of the frescoes and relics are reproductions, it was still not that impressive. We did enjoy our free time afterwards in Heraklion.View All 57 Knossos Palace Reviews
This excursion included a stop at the splendid Mosta Rotunda church, followed by a panoramic drive through Mdina and Rabat. We had two shopping stops (not our favorite thing) at a glass-blowing factory and a filigree shop. We also drove to the Dingli cliffs and had time at the overlook.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Our first stop on this tour was in the lovely hilltop village of Taormina, where we had about ninety minutes of free time to explore the shops and churches. Next, we visited a lava flow from 1992 that stopped just short of a local village. Finally, we had a tour and tasting at the lovely Murgo winery. A very enjoyable day!View All undefined undefined Reviews
Herculaneum was a bit of a disappointment; some of the mosaics and frescoes are quite good, though. We have been to this area twice before and have visited Pompeii, which is extraordinary. We did enjoy our time back in Sorrento before boarding the ship.View All 6 Herculaneum Reviews
Our excursion was canceled (a transition day), so we stayed on the ship.
Our excursion was a visit to the hilltop village of Gassin, followed by a wine tasting at a local winery. The village was quite beautiful, although the little paths were quite steep (more than expected for many on our tour). The winery was also quite nice and featured a delicious Rose. We spent a little time afterwards in St. Tropez and had lunch.View All 11 Hilltop Village Reviews
We canceled our planned excursion in Barcelona as it was a Sunday and we would not be able to go into the churches as advertised. Instead, we did the Hop-On, Hop-Off tour (the bus came right to the World Trade Center Port). We did both loops and had some free time in between at Playa Catalunya. A very enjoyable day!View All undefined undefined Reviews
We did a ship excursion that visited a nearby horse ranch where purebred Spanish horses are kept and trained. This lovely location included some great demonstrations of the horse's skills and we had some delicious tapas and wine. One of our favorite experiences!
This city tour was comprehensive and included stops at the Moorish Palace and Castle, a break for sweet wine at El Pimpi (a huge and historic bar in the city) and a tour of the cathedral.View All 52 Malaga City Tour Reviews
We rode the bus through its entire first loop, then hopped off at the downtown area near the market. The best part of the day was spent exploring the market and walking the pedestrian areas of the beautiful port city.View All undefined undefined Reviews