I’m an avid cruise enthusiast and a longtime reader of Cruise Travel Magazine. In planning our travels, I do a considerable amount of online research. This was our first trip with Oceania. Our cruise on the Sirena from Miami to Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Nassau was truly one of our better cruise experiences.
Oceania’s four small sister ships, originally built for defunct Renaissance Cruises, do not earn high marks for their tiny bathrooms, so-so entertainment, and a very limited variety of shipboard activities while at sea. But as described in the company’s colorful and prolific advertising, these ships are intimate and luxurious. Their guests (us included) are typically seasoned travelers enjoying their Golden Years. Anyone seeking budget prices, a party atmosphere, Las Vegas-style entertainment, and/or children and teen activities will surely be happier on a different cruise line.
For the Missus and me, the promise of an immersive itinerary and a high standard of service are what brought us to Oceania. Our itinerary featured FOUR days including one overnight in Cuba. At-sea days were nicely interspersed with port days; the former were a welcome opportunity to relax and savor onboard life. Not a fan of shuffleboard, Mahjong, etc., between ports I was content to sit on deck, keep up-to-date with email, and eat myself silly.
Oceania touts the “Finest Cuisine at Sea” and theirs ranks among the more extravagant chow we’ve experienced on a cruise. The food in the Terrace Café, Waves Grill, and Grand Dining Room was generally very good and of high quality. We encountered a couple subpar dishes (watery pasta and tough steak) which our servers cheerfully replaced. Bear in mind that food onboard is typically prepared in “banquet” quantities. The exception is the food in the specialty restaurants—Tuscan Steak House and Red Ginger—which, along with the service, was absolutely outstanding.
All of Sirena’s staterooms and public areas were scheduled to undergo a “sweeping array of dramatic enhancements” (in one word, refurbishing) during Spring of 2019. We don’t understand why this was necessary because the Sirena underwent a major revitalization in 2016 that gave it a fresh and elegant look. Oh, alright, the Grand Staircase with its faux skylight did look a bit cheesy.
We had a few other nits to pick. The Cruise Director seemed aloof and seldom mingled with guests. The ship’s two boutiques, featuring high-end jewelry and fashion, offered relatively few moderately-priced-to-inexpensive items. We disputed two bar charges to our shipboard account. One was for “half-price sail-away mojitos” that were billed at full price; ditto “2-for-1 Happy Hour” drinks. Due to protocols, it took a while for our account to be adjusted.
Apart from booze plus fees for some optional activities (e.g. Bingo) and services (e.g. Canyon Ranch Spa), Oceania is a welcome respite from companies that nickel-and-dime for every little extra. There are ZERO surcharges for alternate dining, steamed lobster, cappuccino, soda pop, ice cream treats, and room service. Internet (speed improved) is free and unlimited, a vital perk that other cruise lines have been slow to offer.
Oceania’s OLife option includes roundrip airfare plus a choice of free shore excursions, free beverage package, or shipboard credit. My advice? Compare airfares first. Then, if you go for the option, request the shipboard credit (you can apply this towards gratuities) and make your own port arrangements for considerably less than the cost of Oceania’s overpriced and underwhelming shore excursions and transfers. In Cuba and elsewhere, visitors are under no obligation whatsoever to purchase the cruise line’s shore excursions.
I seldom use the word “fantastic,” but this adjective perfectly describes the caliber of service we received from both our stateroom attendant and the servers in the various dining venues, all of whom were extraordinarily friendly and considerate. We celebrated a birthday onboard and the staff went far beyond the call of duty to make our occasion memorable. We’re looking forward to future cruises with Oceania.
Our stateroom on Deck 6 was compact but comfortable, quiet, and immaculate. The mattresses and pillows were so comfy that we slept very well. Apart from having to sit on the john sideways, our only quibbles were inadequate 115 VAC electrical outlets to charge our various devices and a TV remote control with a mind of its own.