We've cruised extensively with Oceania starting with the Riviera maiden season in 2012. We were thrilled to have found Oceania as it met a niche for us that other cruise lines we had tried did not. Unfortunately, the product has declined dramatically over the last few years in so many areas. I won't be commenting on the itinerary in detail other to say it was fabulous!
Sirena was aquired by Oceania in 2016 and underwent a fairly extensive drydock at that time to bring her up to Oceania standards. Two months ago in May, 2019 Sirena undewent her biggest renovation ever as part of the much advertised Oceania NEXT program. The ship is gorgeous and absolulely looks better than new. Very impressive appearance. The cabins and bathrooms were gutted down to the steel and rebuilt using the same footprint. Unfortunately, that means standard cabins remain extremeley small and below industry averages for the premium cruise market. Even in the Penhouses bathrooms are VERY small and have poor ventilation. Air conditioning on the ship was consistently a problem - especially in the cabins. The new Oceania beds and bedding are heavenly as are the cushioned lounges with logo clad terry cloth covers.
So given the recent refurbishment you would think the Oceania Sirena has all necessary ingredients for a huge recipe for success. Despite all the expensive artwork, gorgeous decor and aesthetically pleasing touches Sirena suffers from a miserable crew which makes her very ugly. That being said, we certainly encounted a number of people on board who were exceptional (cabin stewardess Daniella) and interestingly a few confided in us that they are leaving for Seabourn, Viking and Crystal because "things have gone downhill since NCL purchased us". Many of the crew members remind us of the walking dead. Just zombies doing their jobs - at time begrudgingly. A smile or hello was tough to extract and never seemed sincere. The shore excursions staff and reception staff are indifferent, rude and nasty. Quite condecending actually. Getting a reception staff member to look up and acknowledge you is like pulling teeth and they are clearly annoyed to have to interact with passengers. Preoccupied with other things. Certainly, working on a cruise ship away from family and friends can be difficult for many as it is not a normal life. However, this is the hospitality business. I never encountered passengers being rude or demanding to the staff. Just the opposite. A really nice crowd on this cruise with a lot of kids - mostly very well behaved. Average age probably young 50's. We met many calm, even keeled passengers who lost their nerve over rude treatment on a vacation. A few people I never would have suspected really snapped (not at the crew), by venting to other passengers about their negative experiences and were clearly bothered.
Cut backs since NCL aquisition are evident everywhere. Bar service by the pool is quite limited as is the liquor selection (all over the ship). Food quality and offerings have dropped off significantly. On a bright note, Oceania still does one of the best jobs with room service. Bar drinks are expensive if you don't have a drink package and an "honest" drink (think Ruths Chris Vodka Martini) requires a double bringing the price of an "honest" martini that fills an appropriate martini glass to around $27. A few bartenders (Allen and Baptiste) were exceptional, but most were non-communicative, miserable, rude and don't listen. We were the only ones by the pool one morning starting at 11 and no other passengers showed up until noon. I had to go to the bar to ask for an iced tea (I know first world problem) and was treated as if I was inconveniencing the bartender who was doing some cleaning behind the bar. Not a good feeling. Simply put, we didn't feel like welcome guests on Sirena which is unacceptable for any cruise line, but especially for one who markets themselves as better than the rest and premium.
We have sailed with this cruise director before. In my opinion he is a lackluster cruise director who fails to set a vibe or personality for the ship. He vanished quickly from his mandatory appearances and it seemed he did not want to be seen by the passengers or mix and mingle. Same can be said of the rest of the social staff on board - I guess the fish stinks from the head and leads by examples (sometimes bad ones). Absent. The ship has no essence or personality which can only come alive with a happy and engaging crew - particularly a social staff that has the ability to take the lead.
Over the years Oceania has hired many more Filipinos and Indonesians for what I'm told is 1/3 the cost of hiring a European or South African. I believe these hard working employees are exploited victims of an underground that is not so underground, but right in front of our face and just as unconscionable as sweat shop labor. I had exensive conversations with a fwe crew members who were very open and honest about this issue. Compared to lines like Seabourn where it is not uncommon to have a cabin stewardess who has gone to college to train in hospitality and is fairly paid the Filipino and Indonesian crew are hired without experience, limited English and purely for financial reasons - certainly no fault to these human beings who deserve better, but take the jobs out of desperation. It's not fair to these crew members or the passengers as they are programmed to fail. I can perhaps understand the cheaper labor for mass maket lines, but it is not compatible for a cruise line that markets an ultra premium or perhaps even a luxurious experience to have such a service disconnect. To me Oceania is no different than my cell phone carrier that outsources its calls to the Phillipines because it is cheaper labor. Don't get me wrong - I love the Phillipines and all people. Essentially, my cell phone carrier is telling me I'm not worth talking to a more well compensated and well trained employee in the United States (or elsewhere). Anyone who has experienced these call centers knows it is not a satisfying experience and quite the insult. Likewise Oceania!
In summary, if you are looking for a pretty hotel with above average food to transport you from port to port and have no expectations of a "cruise experience" and don't mind being treated as persona non grata Oceania beats the mass market competition - especially when you consider their ships hold 600-1200 passengers compared to 6,000 passengers. There is a benefit to fewer passengers, but keep in mind Sirena has more than 600 passengers at 30,000 tons while Seabourn's Odyssey Class vessels only accomodate 450 passengers at 30,000 tons. So despite the fewer number of passengers one must consider passengers per ton and passenger space ratios. My wife and I just can't get past the rude, zombie, indifferent factor as we enjoy more personalized, interactive and sincere service that should be inherent to near luxury and luxury cruises. It's no fun to be treated rudly and is really irritating and unncessary. Fortunately, we all have choices and for us cruise fanatics there are lines like Seabourn and Crystal that offer this level of service. The beauty of cruising - there is something for everyone and this review is just my two cents.
Terrific refurbishment. Cabins were gutted down to the studs and rebuilt. Bathrooms are nicely appointed (see my live from Oceania Sirena thread on the boards with tons of photos), but VERY small - especially for a Penthouse Suite. Other than the small bathrooms A+ on the refurbishment. Very nicely laid out. Additionally, I love the sliding balcony doors as opposed to the ones that open out and slam all the time - often causing vibrations several cabins away. Electrical outlets and USB ports are plentiful. Lighting is excellent. Now all lights are LED. Bright white versus the darker yellow prior to refurbishment.
AMAZING!!! The ship cruised 75 miles up the river from the ocean to dock in the heart of Seville.
Great shuttle to center of town. We went through Viator and chartered a sail boat for six hours and then walked around the old town. Highly recommend.
We did an independent excursion to Nice and Eze. Fantastic! Hired a cab. $400 for the day for 6 people. Very professional driver.