The cruise was generally excellent mainly because of the the variety of food, the service, the gym and running track, and the itinerary. I will not go into detail on those factors because you can read about them in numerous other reviews. Instead, I will discuss a few deficiencies aboard Nautica and suggest some ways to overcome them so that they will not interfere with your enjoyment of the cruise.
The final week
After seeing Petra, there are 4 days a sea, then a ½ day stop in Salalah, Oman, and then another day at sea before stopping for a day in Muscat, Oman. Salalah is a dead-zone as far as tourism is concerned. There is nothing to see in the industrial area that surrounds the gigantic port. Moreover, the taxi drivers’ union does not allow the ship to offer its usual free shuttle into the town. We heard numerous complaints from other passengers about the boring tours of Salalah offered by Nautica (at outrageous prices). On that day, we stayed onboard the ship even though it meant we went 6 full days without going ashore. My advice: Take some good books and projects to help fill the hours in that final week.
Because we paid O-Life fares, we received 4 excursions each, which we used for tours that were only accessible by the ship's buses. We found the main problem on these excursions with 30+ people was that it was difficult to hear the guide unless you were standing right beside him or her. Oceania needs to take a lesson from Viking and provide Vox machines for all passengers on all tours. We found that for half the price of Nautica's shore excursions we could easily book better, small group tours using top-rated companies that we found on Tripadvisor. Then everybody could hear the guide and ask lots of questions. We used Love Egypt Tours in Luxor and Jordan Horizons for Petra.
Specialty restaurants reservations
Oceania does not reward loyalty; instead they give perks to passengers based on how much they pay for their staterooms. For example, someone who is a first time Oceania guest who buys a stateroom for $25000 gets to reserve specialty restaurants at least a month before someone who has been on several Oceania cruises and has spent over $50000 in total, but always on porthole staterooms on level 3. That's not fair. I booked the minute I was allowed to reserve specialty restaurants and did not get a single one of my choices because people in more expensive staterooms had taken all the available tables. However, when I embarked, I went immediately to the dining room and they exchanged all my (bad) specialty restaurant reservations for the times I wanted. Lesson learned: Oceania holds back a lot of times to satisfy unhappy customers like me who request changes when they are onboard.
It's also worth noting that we received better meals and equal service in the Grand Dining Room. We will likely not bother reserving in the specialty restaurants on our next cruise.
WiFi and Nautica’s computer lab
With the O-Life fare, you get free WiFi. However, it’s not their premium WiFi and it’s slow. I can't understand why Oceania offers a service such as WiFi when it is clearly substandard. The two hours before dinner seem to be the worst. Moreover, if you go to the computer lab you may find that some external drives cannot be read by the ship’s computers. I suspect it’s because those computers are PCs and don’t read files that are made on Apple machines. Before you leave home, if you’re a Mac user, test your external drives to make sure they can be read by a PC (eg. at your local library). Also make sure all your files are saved in PDF or .doc format.
Although the meals are generally excellent, we experienced 2 problems. First, chicken breasts or thighs were raw inside on 2 occasions. We sent them back and got well-cooked replacements. Make sure if you order chicken that you specify you want it well done. Undercooked chicken can be dangerous!
A second problem is that the Terrace Grill (the buffet restaurant that you will probably use for most breakfasts and lunches) has the worst design of any cruise ship we have been on. Why? -- 90% of the food is crammed onto counter-tops on both sides of a very narrow aisle, about 50 feet long. You’re continually banging into other guests who are shoulder-to-shoulder trying to get food. The solution: Go very early or very late.
I listened to one of the hour-long health seminars given by the fitness trainer. It was about all the “terrible” health problems caused by the accumulation of toxins in the body. Since I have a biology degree, it soon became obvious that although there was some accurate anatomical and physiological information given out, the majority of the “facts” simply involved vague, misleading half-truths. The objective was to sell several months’ supply of Canyon Spa teas and a seaweed bath product that would supposedly rid the body of toxins. (The cost: over $1000 for a six month supply delivered to your home) It was the worst example of quackery and “snake oil” sales I have ever seen, with not a shred of valid medical research to support the use of those products. Oceania should be ashamed of allowing that kind of misinformation to be foisted on passengers, most of whom have low scientific literacy. My advice: Use the spa for massages if you want to pay their ridiculous prices, -- but skip the seminars.
In summary, none of these problems affected our enjoyment of the cruise. I simply offer them as a warning to future passengers on Nautica or her sister ships. No cruise ship is perfect.