My attempt at a more objective and comprehensive review of Oceania Nautica:
ITINERARY – London to Stockholm, 14 nights 1 sea days, 3 nights at St Petersburg - an excellent itinerary.
• This is a port intensive cruise visiting major cities like, Berlin, Helsinki and Copenhagen, Stockholm, St Petersburg whilst also visiting quieter destinations such as Kristiansand, Klapeida, Tallinn, Karlskrona, Riga (listed in order of increasing preference).
• 1- 2 more sea day would be relaxing but we had to fly out. There were scammers who attempted to scam us at London and Berlin.
• Mostly smooth sailing with minor waves at night time in the Baltic seas. We do appreciate good stabilisation system with deep hull in the ships.
EMBARKATION – No lines, straight through at the later part of the day.
ROOMS – Very neatly appointed, the smaller bathroom meant a larger ratio of living space.
• The showers are small but have been told they will refurbish in the near future.
• The cabin is kept clean and stewardess Rosario was nice. I personally like the current bed style a lot and find the new design of the proposed refurbishment a bit tacky.
• The bed and pillows are very comfortable, probably the best I have had at sea.
PUBLIC SPACE – Spacious, lots of elegant seating in different decks. A few other cruises I have been on, felt like you must buy a drink to sit in the bar area, or must purchase this to lounge at a corner, i.e. less inviting. This ship had a lot more “free” space that you can comfortably sit and have a chat with friends. Dining alfresco in the Terrace café is great when warm; the sunset view (quick photo) is worth the chilly wind!
OTHER PASSENGERS – most demographics lean towards retirees from North America, Europe Australia etc.
• Some passengers are very warm and friendly, some others were very discerning, a few were ageist and slightly chauvinistic towards non Anglos because there is hardly any non Anglo passenger on board – no wonder other Asian male passengers were mistaken for crew and there were lots of staring.
• In Australia, we see a variety of nationalities like Middle East, East and South East Asia, Africa, South American people. Perhaps with a few of the passengers, they don’t see much of the greater world as much and developed more curiosity as such, hmm.
• I have also witnessed a few passengers been rather rude to the crew and are quite demanding, my guess is there is a correlation between more luxury cruises with more discerning cruisers. Contrastingly, I have witnessed people pushing in lines at buffet…but you probably expected this on any cruise.
• Passengers on other mass and premium lines saw happier looking passengers who are on holiday, Nautica passengers appears that this is the everyday life (probably because they cruised with Oceania a lot and this became their normal home).
CREW – Mostly excellent and friendly: only some very minor hiccups with some waiter and lady at the bar near the casino area. John the cruise director was amazing and the chef (not sure of the name) grilling lobsters, steak and fish in the terrace cafe for most part of the cruise is a master, the best grilled lobsters I have ever tasted. The chef changed on the last two days, the lobster quality dropped significantly and not cleaned properly (accidental slice of the excretory glands by the chef when cutting the lobster meant a unique taste…).
FOOD - Having cruised with Celebrity (same menu in different ships rotating), RCL, Carnival, Princess, this line has the best food out of the above. Celebrity and princess are still decent and I enjoyed my meals with them. Carnival was good value for money and fun, but RCL was cost cutting.
If food is important to you, as it is for me, you are likely to enjoy this cruise.
The only comment I will make is that the sashimi is not that great, i.e. powdery and breakfast was getting boring after 2 weeks of continental breakfast. This is likely because I am spoiled in Australia where the café brunch options are excellent and access to other cultures like Chinese dumplings, dim sums with congee and fresh sashimi etc. I am not sure how adventurous the other passengers are with trying “non-western” style breakfast. ..
The fruit options for breakfast are impeccable and fresh. I can’t rave enough about the grilled lobster done by that particular Chef in the buffet, simply the best, he needs a bonus.
The main dining room is mostly great, tip: the daily menus are better than the Pepin inspired ones. Miso glazed Sea Bass was delicious.
The Russian evening buffet was outstanding with lots of choices and interesting dishes. We really appreciated trying other cuisines and the culture, especially when the food is made nicely.
Desserts – I have not had a bad dessert on board and have gotten seconds, very nicely presented and produced. You will be eating with nice silverware and plates. Afternoon tea with string quartet is very good but often hard to find a seat.
SHORE EXCURSIONS –
• Did a private tour for SPB for Catherine palace + Peterhof and it was great.
• The complimentary shore excursion to Hermitage was disappointing, I could only look and take pictures of the ceiling because it is too crowded to see artworks on the side. Perhaps I needed to grow a few inches taller. Good thing that the ceilings were intricately beautiful. Because of the massive crowds, I did not see the peacock clock. Your face is literally up behind someone’s back. It was like a battle against time and the 50-60k people per day to take a quick peak of some highlights and get out ASAP. Don’t get me wrong though, the rooms within the hermitage were very opulent.
• The local guide who gets on board at the ports Is quite good – provides a local maps with tips and answers. Also the shuttle to city centre, both very nice touches added by Oceania.
• The complimentary tours for the 3 cathedrals however, were very good. See the ports info below for tips.
• In general the ship excursions and transfers are very expensive for what they offer.
The lectures on history of the ports were interesting and John’s magic show and talks were excellent. You are more or less expected to entertain yourself on board, which is perfectly fine given the intensive itinerary. Take the extra time to recharge, read a book and relax somewhere. I will be more than happy if Oceania spends the money on other things to improve vacation experience. There was minigolf and a shuffle board.
Summary of tips: take naps in the very comfy bed and deck chairs with good cushions, try the afternoon tea listening to strings, try Toscana, try the miso glazed sea bass, eat the desserts, relax in the public areas, read in the library and relax after a long day (30k steps per day sometimes) of sightseeing ! Baltic cruises are definitely not only for the retirees.
ROOMS – Very neatly appointed, the smaller bathroom meant a larger ratio of living space. • The showers are small but have been told they will refurbish in the near future. • The cabin is kept clean and stewardess Rosario was nice. I personally like the current bed style a lot and find the new design of the proposed refurbishment a bit tacky. • The bed and pillows are very comfortable, probably the best I have had at sea.
Stockholm – we left early, but our brief stay was welcomed by friendly locals, cute shops, pretty old town to stroll around. I will need to come back to see more. I liked the sailing into stockholm via the archipelagos.
Casual stroll to soak in sun and Norwegian laid back lifestyle. Walk along the dock and ocean towards the centre. There is a park with good view of the city that is recommended.
Berlin on your own - shuttle bus, but no aircon on the way back in 35 degree heat. That is just bad luck. We encountered scammers so mind your bags. Walked around the major sites. If had more time I would check out the palaces outside the city. I felt Berlin had lots of history, but personally have enjoyed other cities more.
Riga: Amazing architecture all around in the old town, beautiful cafes, intricate details on Art Noveau style buildings (so much better than modern apartments), little markets, and traditional alleyways. Because we docked early in the morning, hardly anyone on the street – perfect photo moments. Beautiful old town that is easy walk from the port, thumbs up.
Took a Ferry to Curonian Spit, which is an amazing stretch of sand habitat over 50km long. However those postcard photos are not visible on the ground level, recommend drones. Old town of Kaipeda is a quick walk around and easy to navigate. Lots of cobblestones… I personally liked Riga more.
Medieval architecture that is beautiful, I loved the city wall and the iconic towers with orange domes. This is a very walkable city, a tour will give you more history and context but definitely easily doable on your own. The downside – too many tourists and very crowded.
Helsinki – small ship is good for Baltic – docked in the centre of the town with great views. Walked around and had a good day out. Don’t recommend the rock church…. But I recommend looking around the alleyways and see some of the local shops, museums and art.