My wife and I have just returned from our first, week-long Mediterranean cruise with Oceania on board the Sirena. We are quite experienced cruisers and wanted to try Oceania as an alternative to our usual shipping line and because the particular itinerary was interesting. The ship is very smart and comfortable but we found ourselves most confused by the system for charging drinks etc., which we felt was far too complicated and contradictory.
At the time of booking, we purchased the House Select beverage package for US $39.95 each per day which gave us free wine, champagne or beer by the glass during lunch and dinner. According to the footnote in the brochure, this also included gratuities, which I assumed were to be distributed amongst the whole crew. Elsewhere in the brochure, it was stated that optional gratuities in the sum of US $16 per guest per day would be added to our shipboard account and that an additional 18% gratuity would be added to all beverage purchases, which are quite high in the first place with two vodka and tonics costing US $20, plus a $3.60 surcharge.
I firmly expected that, having purchased the beverage package, these additional charges would not be levied. Although the daily charge was not applied, the 18% surcharge was applied to all drinks consumed outside of mealtimes.
We were also very confused by the charging during Happy Hours, when I would have expected drinks to be half price, but it was a two drinks for the price of one arrangement and if we didn't want a large measure or second drink, then we were charged for two anyway.
We really didn't want to have to make such complicated calculations whilst on holiday and, after discussing the issue with the Reception staff, made a written complaint. I was then invited to meet with the Food and Beverage Manager who explained that the gratuities with the beverage package went mainly to the sommeliers and that the 18% surcharge on drinks went only to the bar staff themselves as they did not receive a salary. I must say that I am quite disgusted with this practice in this day and age and it certainly explained why some of the bar staff were rather pushy in wanting to serve the more expensive drinks in double measures so as to increase their income. It also explained why, as soon as the sommeliers realised that we were on the package, their level of service deteriorated drastically and it was often difficult to get a second glass of wine, particularly at dinner even when they were not particularly busy. The bar service was also quite slow most of the time. When I pointed out that gratuities were supposedly at the discretion of the guest and not a mandatory payment, the Manager offered to remove the surcharges from our account
When we got home. our travel agent explained that Oceania is American owned and that gratuities are one of the problems with American owned cruise lines from a European perspective. The culture in America is one of tipping led by low base salary or even no salary at all. Given that most of the crew, including the senior officers, were either from Eastern Europe, Asia or Central America, one does start thinking about exploitation. I must say that on our previous cruises in American owned ships, we have never had any problems or queries regarding crew gratuities.
Generally, the food was of good quality and Oceania pride themselves on offering high quality cuisine but we both felt that there was insufficient variety. Typically, lobster bisque was on the dinner menu in the main restaurant every evening and other items were often repeated. The two speciality restaurants, Tuscan and Red Ginger were excellent and extremely popular to the extent that it was not possible to get a second reservation in either during the course of the week.
Getting ashore, particularly in tender ports was handled well and there were never any delays. The personalised World Card had a bar code which the gangway staff scanned when leaving and returning to the ship, which was most efficient. It was unfortunate that this automatic process did not extend to paying for drinks and the card had to be handed over to be manually swiped by the bar staff on every occasion.
Although we enjoyed the cruise and ports of call, in the light of these experiences it is unlikely that we will cruise again with Oceania.
The concept is good but not particularly well suited to Florence as the bus route did not go close enough to the various sites.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Very beautiful scenery.View All undefined undefined Reviews
An interesting and scenic train journey.View All undefined undefined Reviews