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.
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.
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!
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.......