April 2019 - My wife and I have been on numerous cruises (22+) throughout the world on various cruise lines over the years. This was our fifth cruise with Oceania; the previous cruises were the Northeastern Seaboard, Bermuda, Cuba, India, the Middle East and Europe and Southern Africa cruises. The 17-day Rio to Barcelona Cruise started on April 18, 2019.
Our trip actually started on April 14, with our flight landing in Rio on April 15. Our pre cruise Rio de Janeiro tour included a few days at the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel & Resort, which is located on the beach just west of Ipanema Beach; a great location. The hotel had great food and a very nice HUGE pool. It also had free car service to the city. We toured the HStern manufacturing offices and store (free tour from the hotel and back … worth the time to see how they manufacture jewels), Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf. The Oceania pre tour provided a lot of time to visit the local area on our own and also, the hotel pool area (nice pool). The hotel arranged for us to enjoy a Samba Dinner Show. The dinner was at a local restaurant and the show was near by. Both were wonderful.
Boarding the ship was very easy. Our room was at the front of the ship on deck 6, room 6014. This was a good location as we were near the entertainment areas and the Spa, Game and Computer Rooms. The primary sources of food are in the rear; decks 5 and 9. Most points of interest are on 5, dining room at the rear and the Sirena Lounge at the front. Deck 9 has the computer room, card room and spa. The ship is a few years old but was very nice; very clean. It will be remodeled after our cruise. The staff was great and the food was excellent. Coffee, including specialty coffees, was available 24/7 on Deck 10 front and also, during select hours on Deck 5 rear.
The ship provided complimentary water and soft drinks. The Program Director provided information about basically everything you needed to know on a timely basis. The ship had a cast of great entertainers on board and also a great band. They were very professional and excellent musicians. The cruise line provided two speakers who covered a wide range of interesting topics on the locations we visited and also, sea life.
The passengers and the crew were all very nice people from all walks of life. The people on the ship made the cruise interesting and enjoyable. The only real negative was the price of alcoholic beverages; they are a little pricey. I signed up for the Scotch Tasting (around $20). They provided 11 bottles of Scotch to taste but only allowed 3 tastings. Three very small tastings. The bottom line … Don't do it. Take your $20 and go to the bar for your own glass of one or two Scotches.
We had a lot of fun playing games and competitions to earn Big O points. We earned over 400 points which were cashed in on the last full day for Oceania merchandise.
The visited Ports of Call follow.
First, While in Brazil, the ship charges a 25% tax on purchases.
RECIFE, BRAZIL – Our first port was located north of Rio, just south of the Equator. Recife is a quiet little city. The tour included a nice view of the city from the high point in the area, a pretty little chapel, a free coconut drink in the market and generally, a nice tour of the city with nothing spectacular to offer. It was a good introduction to life in Brazil outside of a big city.
NATAL, BRAZIL – We took the Highlights of Natal tour. The drive out into the countryside was very nice and the world's largest cashew tree interesting (the tree is huge, covering more than a soccer field in area but only maybe 20 feet high). We stopped at an old prison that now is a market. The tour included a lot of time on the bus. Again, it was a nice tour of the area with nothing spectacular to offer …. oh, the cashew tree was interesting …. the highlight of the tour.
Crossing the Equator was fun. Those of us who had not crossed the line before on a ship were transformed from a Polliwog into the Ancient Order of the Deep through a Special Ceremony not to be discussed further. The Atlantic Ocean was relatively came the entire cruise.
MINDELO, CAPE VERDE – Cape Verde is sort of the middle of the North Atlantic, west of the African coast. The Mindelo – The Cultural Capital tour included a tour of several markets and the a liqueur tasting. The rum was great. This tour included a lot of walking through parts of Mindelo.
SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS – We took the Canada Del Teide tour. This was a wonderful tour that included a great lunch in a beautiful old monastery. This is a beautiful island with many interesting buildings and natural wonders. This was a very nice tour of the island.
ARRECIFE, CANARY ISLANDS – The Southern Lanzarote & Wine Tasting tour presented a completely different perspective on the Canary Islands. This island is volcanic! The tour included an extensive tour of volcanic areas of the island, a ride on a camel and a meaningless wine tasting, although the vineyards were interesting. The high point of the island is the treeless volcanic areas. It's like being on Mars. This was an interesting tour.
TANGIER, MOROCCO – The Highlights of Tangier tour was a fun time in a beautiful city. We visited a mountain top vista that overlooked the city and then drove down to the coast to walk into the Hercules Cave. This was interesting. We then toured the narrow streets of the city stopping in a market and a spice demonstration. The spice demonstration was very well done and worth the time. Tangier is a very interesting city with many different ethnic areas.
Again, while in Spain, the ship charges a 10% tax on purchases.
ALMERIA, SPAIN – We toured the area on the Mojacar & Cabo De Gata tour. The bus ride to Mojacar was very long but worth it: Mojacar is very similar to Santorini with white buildings (no blue roofs) built up on a hill top. The views are fantastic. The tour included a nice walk around the hill top city with some free time to walk around or purchase a beer, wine or whatever. The drive through Cabo De Gata reminded me of the hillsides of Southern California; dry. The tour is generally on the bus and the views are beautiful.
ALICANTE, SPAIN – We took the Alicante, Novelda and Wine Tasting tour. Alicante is a beautiful city. The tour took us to a beautiful hill top church with a organ being constructed of stone; stone is abundant in the area. We then visited the Bodega Heretat de Cesilia winery. The tour of the winery was very nice and the wine tasting … worth the wait! The wines were very nice and free flowing. Most of us purchased a bottle or two to take home. The winery is small but the grounds are large. A beautiful place to drink a few glasses. This was one of the better tours on the cruise.
BARCELONA, SPAIN – We left Barcelona immediately on a bus for Madrid. Getting off the ship was easy … you just had to wait your turn. Our tour guide was standing next to our baggage and when we all were accounted for, we left on a small bus. There were only 10 of us on the port cruise tour.
Our first stop was at the Poblet Monastery where most of us generally froze. We were not dressed for a tour of a cold stone fortress. The tour was very nice and worth the stop though. From there, we continued to Montblanc for a FANTASIC lunch and city tour. Then we continued to Zaragoza for the night. Our guide took us out for a beer and snack. We were then left on our own to walked around. This is a very interesting place … beautiful by night. The next morning, were toured the city including the El Pilar Cathedral …. unbelievable!!! On the road again, we stopped at Madinaceli for a quick tour and another FANTASIC lunch. That night, we were at the Melia Madrid Princess hotel. The hotel was in a great location and was very nice. The next day we took a tour of the city with the afternoon on our own. We arranged to go to a Flamenco Dinner Show. We walked there and back with several other couples. Great dinner and show. The next morning we were picked up and driven to the airport.
All of our tour guides were very good. They all spoke English well and were very approachable. Overall, the cruise was educational and enlightening … no security concerns anywhere.
Overall, the cruise was great and the pre and post trips fantastic. You will see many different types of architecture, topography, and vegetation. You will meet many very nice people on the ship and also, tour guides and locals. Oceania really took good care of us; they were always there to make sure everything was taken care of during the cruise and also, during the pre and post trips. They really seemed to care. A great trip.