We booked this cruise almost 2 years ago. We liked the itinerary very much, particularly the 2 days in Bordeaux and several other ports in France. We also saw that this would be a special culinary cruise with Jacques Pépin attending, so that was of interest to us too.
This was our fourth cruise with Oceania and our second in Europe with them. We have also done a number of cruises on other cruise lines, including principally HAL. This was one of the best cruises we have taken. The ports we visited on this port intensive cruise, i.e.12 different ports in 12 days, were all great with two exceptions, Brest and Ferrol - not sure why these are included in the itinerary but they allowed us some downtime. The service on the was excellent throughout.
The ship is in great shape and is extremely well maintained. Everything is immaculate. We really liked our stateroom. Our cabin steward was wonderful and when we had requests she followed up on them right away.
We only took in two of the evening shows but they were both very good. We didn’t go to a couple of shows because they were for an older demographic (and we are 64 and 63 years old!). We felt we were about average age for the general population on board. There were minimal activities on board during the day. Since this was a port intensive trip and during the day virtually everyone leaves the ship to visit the port or go on excursions, this wasn’t a problem for us. On the Marina the 4 o’clock high tea tradition continues and we very much enjoyed that. We made it back in time to the ship for high tea at least 3-4 times. The high tea in the Horizons lounge with beautiful views in every direction, the classical music quartet and delightful snacks - little sandwiches, pastries and scones with jam and clotted cream – is a real pleasure.
Based on previous cruises with Oceania we had high expectations for the food. Overall I felt the quality of the food was very good. However, even though this was a special culinary cruise with Jacques Pépin there were very few cases where we "blown away" by dishes we tried in the MDR nor were there any special dinners in the MDR. There was a French menu night held at the Terrace Café but for some reason they did not do that in the MDR - strange. The specialty restaurants were all excellent, as usual. Breakfasts and lunches at the Terrace Café and Waves were fine. On the downside we tried the Terrace Café for dinner one night to eat outside and I had one of the worst steaks of my life there. So we didn't return to the Terrace Café for dinner after that. Also, Oceania advertised its new plant-based choices extensively so we were looking forward to trying that out. We were a little disappointed - we didn't see much difference in the number of plant based dishes on the menu as compared to previous cruises and some of these dishes we tried were not chef quality - we do better at home.
We took a mixture of Oceania excursions (4) and excursions we organized on our own or with others (2). In other cases we explored on our own. Ports like Bordeaux are great for that. Also in several ports (La Rochelle, Bilbao, Ferrol) we took advantage of the free shuttle buses that Oceania provided, which took us into the heart of the city and from there we set out to explore. We found the Oceania excursions we selected were generally well organized and interesting but they are pricey - we used our O-Life option to cover the cost of 3 of the excursions.
Standard complaints about the internet being very slow and spotty still apply. Hopefully they will be able to improve that next time the ship goes into dry dock for renovation.
Overall our experience on this cruise was very positive and we hope to do another Oceania cruise sometime soon.
Our concierge veranda stateroom was a nice size, everything worked well and we particularly liked having a full sized bath, which we used often to relax after long days visiting.
Spent 2 days pre-cruise on our own in Amsterdam. We stayed at the Amsterdam Hilton, just south of the central area, about a 15 minute walk from the museum quarter. Lovely area, great views of the canal, quiet room - excellent. Highlight of our stay in Amsterdam was our trip to the Van Gogh museum. Loved that! If you are going there make reservations in advance through the museum's website.
My wife really wanted to go to Buckingham Palace and was tickled pink to actually experience it. The tour was very well done, the parts of the Palace we got to see are magnificent and I liked the whole thing a lot too. As a bonus, driving through London on the way there and back we got a coach tour of many London highlights - Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, the Tower of London, Parliament and Big Ben. After the Palace visit, the tour also included a stop after in Covent Garden for lunch on our own and ostensibly some free time.. The downsides of this tour were that we were very rushed for the Palace tour and landed up having very little free time in Covent Garden as well. And the biggest drawback was all the time we spent in the coach - about 3 hours from Dover to Buckingham Palace and pretty much the same for the return. So definitely worth doing but it was a long day.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Excellent tour - our guide Michael was extremely knowledgeable. He made the visit come alive with personal stories of a few of the people who fought in the D-day invasion. Visit included stops at Omaha Beach, the American cemetery at Colville-sur-Mer, Pointe du Hoc, Saint Mere Eglise (1st town in France liberated during the Normandie invasion) and Utah Beach. We learned a lot about the Battle of Normandie and were very touched by our experience.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Visited on our own. Took the tender into town, then entered by the "Grande Porte" - through 2 imposing 15th century towers. Beautiful; little town, very walkable, easy to explore on your own. Started with the Saint-Vncent Cathedral - from where Jacques Cartier received a blessing before leaving to discover Quebec. That was very interesting for us. Another highlight was our crèpe lunch at "A La Duchesse Anne", right next to the Porte de St Vincent - a delicious savoury crépe and a sinful dessert crèpe with a bowl of cider for 15 Euros :-) Then walked on the ramparts around the city - beautiful views on all sides of the city, only takes about 1/2 hour or so, about 1 1/2 kms (1 mile) max.
Our ship docked in an industrial port. Took the free shuttle provided by Oceania into the port, which took about 25 minutes. Fell in love with La Rochelle - what a charming old city! We were there on Sunday, which meant most shops were closed. We went to the lovely market, Les Halles, bought some local cheeses and a baguette and had a picnic in the park in front of the near by Cathedral St-Louis. It doesn't get much more French than that! Also stopped for a coffee in a café on the Quai Duperré and watched the world go by, à la française. Lovely!
Tour included wine tasting at 3 exceptional Chateaux in the St Emilion region as well as a very short stop in St. Emilion itself. Our guide, Nicolle Croft, was exceptionally knowledgeable and selected the properties we visited to give us a better understanding of the wine growing culture of the area. A great day but very long - approx. 10 hours in total.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Took the Oceania free shuttle into Bilbao and visited on our own. Walked to the Casco Viejo (Old City) and explored, then walked along the river, across the striking Zurizubbi pedestrian bridge and continued on to the impressive Guggenheim Museum.
On our 2nd day in Bilbao we took an Oceania excursion to San Sebastian - loved the city. Highlights were extraordinary view of the city from Mont Igueldo and sampling pintos (Basque tapas) in pinxto bars in the old city. Would have liked more time there....
Not much to do there. Took Oceania free shuttle into the city and walked around a bit. Everything closes from 1:30 pm to 5 pm due to Spanish siesta. It's as if they rolled up the sidewalks.......
Excellent overview of the city, which we had visited earlier on our own. Guide was terrific. Just her explanations of the beautiful tile murals in the San Bentao train station were worth the price of the excursion. Had numerous other interesting stops, a bit of free time in the Ribiera, then crossed over the Pont Luiz I from Porto to Gaia, where we went to a port house tour and port tasting. That was lovely.View All undefined undefined Reviews