Oceania Regatta – Panama Canal – From San Francisco to Miami – 18 Days – October 8 to 26, 2018
This voyage was a significant disappointment to me, my spouse and members of our group.
It is doubtful if we and our group will patronize Oceania again because we did not receive a premium cruise line ship nor product and the negative specifics of this cruise as noted below sealed our decision.
1) Cancelled ports before we left the dock in San Fran. We had 2 cancelled ports, 1 port reduced to 2 hrs before darkness and 1 port swap.
Guests were provided minimal information on the reasons why quickly dying Sergio had such an impact on our itinerary - other than the Captain saying there is a tropical storm. San Diego was swapped for Cabo. Missed Nicaragua and El Salvador. Supposed to be in Puntarenas at 11 but arrived at 3. Were told tides were a problem there. We actually arrived 1.5 hrs before the lowest tide. The tide is 1 metre there. We believe that the tide excuse was a lie. We found out that the ship had to be at this port because staff were flying to Miami. They created 2 tours there both of which had the last 1 hour in total darkness. So they put their corporate requirements ahead of giving the passengers a real port day.
There is a history of mechanical issues with Regatta as previously posted on CC (see below). There are also CC Oceania regulars who note Oceania has a history of missing and shortening ports.
Bottom line - slowed down for 1 day to allow the storm to pass but missed 3 days of ports. The math does not work in Oceania’s favor.
2) No attempt to reinstate some ports given that Sergio moved across the Baja very quickly - many on the ship monitored NOAA so we were very much aware of the situation. Ship management never explained why we could not make another port. Total silence.
3) Number 2) then contributed to 3). On the pacific side, why was the ship going 15.3 knots for long periods of time? The ship is capable of a higher speed, why was it not engaged to reinstate a port?
4) On the Atlantic side, suddenly the ship was doing 20.9 knots. Why was this speed not available on the Pacific side? ie 2) and 3) above. The speed differential on the different sides set myself and the passengers into further disillusionment.
5) Water, Toilet, Power Disruptions - Lights were flashing from time to time, power was out 1 night at 2am, repeated toilet malfunction throughout the ship. Water was luke warm most of the time in the bathroom sink. No cold water in the bathroom.
6) Treatment of Guests. Guest relations was swamped with guests asking for information, return of port fees, more information on why the port cancellations, the unsatisfactory and unsafe tour buses in Acapulco, the poor tour in Puntarenas etc. Regatta management searched out guests who went to guest relations (particularly those requesting return of port fees and why no attempt to reinstate a port) and forced them to meet with the General Manager and other managers. In some cases there was 1 guest to 3 management. Guests were intimidated into signing paperwork to cease talking to guests, (myself included). If we did not sign, would be consequences. The defensiveness of the Regatta management was very overt. For 3 nights, Ray the CD, was booed in the Regatta show room.
Some of the guests forced a meeting with the Captain.
7) Decline of food quality. Post the new menu in August 2018, the food size, quality, appearance, variety in the GDR and the Terrace had declined since my last trip in Sept 2017. All meat was tougher and portions smaller. Something was off, there was so little taste to anything even when labeled as Cajun. Quality examples – salads swimming in mayonnaise, bean salad in the GDR was 3 types of canned beans with 2 sliced onion rings, no dressing, no taste. A salad had the white/pale yellow insides of an iceberg lettuce with 3 pieces of blue cheese and 2 walnuts that is it. A very noticeable cut back were the high tea sandwiches – much higher % of white bread, less ingredients and decoration, less seafood fillings – and, a number of them were frozen, not cold. A couple at the next table took the frozen sandwiches down to guest relations to complain. They came back to their table and told guests that they were dismissed. There was some repeats given the voyage was 18 days.
Thinking about Oceania's marketing "finest cuisine at sea" - did not end my trip with that impression. The food on this trip was similar to my mass cruise line experiences, with the exception of the specialties which were better.
8) The Ship and Cabin. A small ship with considerable movement in only 6 foot waves – would never book this type of ship again, found the movement actually dangerous. Given it is 20 years old it shows decent maintenance. As often reported of all the R ships of Oceania and Azamara, the small size of the bathroom and cabin size is not appropriate for a premium cruise line. A negative is also the balcony dividers, the dividers had a 2 inch opening against the hull so you really did not have privacy.
9) Shore Excursions. In Acapulco, the 12 person size tour van were unsafe. The seat belts did not work, there were no headrests and there was no A/C for the back half of the bus. Guests in the back left the excursion half way through. There was no pa system on the van, so the driver was constantly during towards the back to yell information - this often while driving!. The tour was good though seeing all the highlights and viewpoints. The vans were not premium quality as should be the case given this was an Oceania cruise. I and others were scared the entire time the van was moving. On to Puntarenas. As noted above, we were very late arriving. Only 2 hours to darkness. They put together two tours - one a brief area tour and shopping and one for a horse show. Our friends did the shopping tour. The bus was not well equipped and the last hour was driving in the dark. There was a very large lineup at guest relations and shore excursions thereafter.
On the positive side:
10) Staff/Crew - simply outstanding in every regard. Their smiles, salutations, work ethic, friendliness and engagement a 10/10. All the staff, everyone, was great. The room stewardess and steward were wonderful and kept our cabin spotless and in order. The service was at a premium level. Unlike Celebrity who used to have pool wait staff, Oceania does and they also provide glasses of iced water on a regular basis.
The service level was at the premium category.
11) Cabin 7047. Concierge. Excellent mid ship location. Quiet, no mechanical sounds and no operational rooms across from the cabin.
12) Other – Very good specialty restaurants with significant menu choice, a real high tea every day, a real Sunday brunch with ice carvings etc just like the old days, excellent live music aboard, excellent soundtracks and volume level, the breads were divine, port lectures good. The Oceania mattress was excellent.
13) No ship within a ship – everyone on Oceania ships mingle together and eat together and enjoy the same level of service. There is no overt class segmentation which isolates guests from each other like on the mass lines. There were many guests I spoke to who were on Oceania and Viking and Crystal because they refuse to sail on the mass cruise line ships that promote physical class segmentation. This is a major reason I have sailed with Oceania.
14) No mass market shrilling for sales, photo sales, painting sales etc. It was delightful to not have the mass market intrusive revenue generating experience.
15) Appropriate entertainment. The Oceania orchestra was excellent and very personable. "Grace" the string group were super especially their rendition of Michael Jackson's Thriller. The type of music like 60's and 70's songs, Broadway theme songs complimented the passenger profile. There were no Vegas style shows.
Bottom line on this trip, the premium quality was not there and there was no trust in Oceania ship management and corporate.
Like my household, many guests booked this cruise for the birding and naturalist opportunities to be provided in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador - all were eliminated.
I and others, ended up not trusting Oceania's explanation of why our itinerary was adjusted to such a significant degree. Everyone was aware of dying tropical storm Sergio. Perhaps a more customer friendly and detailed explanation of the impacts of the storm might have enabled guests to understand and accept the significant changes. It seemed that Oceania was not interested in working hard to reinstate a port for the benefit of the guests. The ship was plodding along at below 16 knots for many days, we do wonder why an original port, or another port of many along the Pacific side, could not have been reinstated since the ship can sail in excess of 18 knots.
As well, there were guests who were well aware of Regatta's past mechanical history in the past year. This information became common knowledge on the ship. Some of these mechanical issues have previously been reported on CC. November 7, 2017 being towed by the Coast Guard into Honolulu after being dead in the water with no power. May 2018, delayed in Cartagena awaiting parts. On the Alaska cruise just before this one, the ship missed Juneau and again was dead in the water for hours.
Other than the excellent service and excellent specialty restaurants, Oceania’s product was not better than other mass market cruises.
One of the most telling experiences on this voyage was on the last day. By the pool, groups of guests were completing their questionnaires. People were talking and sharing their forms with the general comments being “cruise from hell”, “poor value”, “don’t trust them”, “food really declined” etc. People were angry. The group of 12 guests close to my chaise lounge were competing to see who could produce the most negative rating.
In the end, Oceania management's aggressive response to guest questions told me they had something to hide.
Cabin location mid ship. Well located. No noise from other cabins nor mechanical noise. No mechanical or service areas across from the cabin.
Cabin and bathroom too small for a premium priced cruise. Cabin smaller than similar level on Cunard, Celebrity etc. Bathroom size did not allow 2 people in the bathroom at the same size. Very awkward design. Bathroom shower tiny with clinging shower curtain.
The balcony divider had a 2 inch gab between the hull and the divider which meant you could see people on the next balcony.
The nite stands on either side of the bed were a joke, small and hard to use. The Oceania mattress was excellent.
Furnishings were getting worn but assume this will be replaced in upcoming refit.
The tour highlights were good, saw all the key places in Acapulco.
Put the 12 person van was unsafe. No seat belts that functioned. No headrests in case of front end crash. No A/C in back half of bus.
Half the guests left after part of the excursion as it was too hot in the back.
No pa system so driver was constantly turning around in the drivers seat and yelling at the guests. He often turned around while driving to describe something - this was totally unsafe.
Basically was scared the entire time the van was moving.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Waste of a day. Not much there.
We rented a golf cart and drove around the town.
We did San Fran on our own 2 days before the cruise.
Have to say the dirt, drug needles, garbage, homeless, aggressive pan handlers in most tourist based locations was a disgrace.
Will not return to San Francisco.
Never got there as Captain cancelled this port. Put us at San Diego instead.
Never got there. Captain cancelled this port.
Never got there. Captain cancelled this port.
Was supposed to arrive at 11. Got there at 3, two hours before darkness.
All birding and naturalist tours were cancelled.
Left at 8, leaving so late served no purpose as everyone was on the ship when the last tour buses arrived at 6pm.
Walked into town, little opportunity to shop as limited options.
The 2 hastily organized tours (shopping and a horse show) spent their last hour driving in the darkness. Significant lines at guest relations and shore excursions with passengers demanding to be reimbursed.
This stop was an insult to the passengers
Decent large tour bus. Took a tour boat tour of Gatun lake. Was good, Saw sloths, monkeys, birds etc. Then to the Gatun lake new visitor centre. Saw a 10 minute movie of the new canal construction. Watched ships lock through. The tour was about 3 hours. Had a very good tour guide who seemed to infer she was an owner or part owner or supervisor.View All undefined undefined Reviews
We had been there before so we walked around the old city. Things looked a little more prosperous than before.
The aggressive pan handling was more overt this time.
A reasonable bus was provided. The tour guide was good and spoke English well.
Drove around the suburbs and to the cemetery. The host there was a total blast - he was a true member of the Cuban mentality - blessing Castro and praying. He made this stop the highlight of Cuba. As per organized tours - far too much time spent in gift shops and on this trip for cigar purchases. Went to forts but not to see the history but rather to buy cigars.
After the tour we walked the historical city centre on our own.View All 251 City Tour Reviews