When our (my wife and I) scheduled Crystal Cruise to SE Asia fell apart due to multiple schedule changes, and with 3 weeks suddenly open on our calendars, we opted at the last minute to schedule this Rio to Buenos Aires itinerary (as far away as possible from covid-19 issues). We literally booked on Sunday before a Wedn departure from Rio. We considered a Celebrity Buenos Aires roundtrip as well as an Azamara Buenos Aires roundtrip which fit the dates but we picked this one because it was one-way and had more stops. When we arrived at the pier in Rio on Wedn, our names were not even on the passenger list, but we got that straightened out easily enough. We booked a Veranda stateroom which opened up at the last minute---the cruise being completely booked when I first checked it. Embarkation went smoothly after our status was straightened out and we were thrilled to find a beautiful stateroom- bigger than most in this category and well-appointed. After a much needed nap, after having flown overnite from the US, we embarked on getting to understand the most important element of this cruise and cruise line-- the FOOD! Four specialty restaurants are available at no extra charge and the game (at least for us) was to try to get reservations at these restaurants whenever possible because all agreed it was a superior product to the Grand Dining Room or the evening buffet. All guests were entitled to at least one night in each. The four are comprised of Asian (Red Ginger), steak (Polo Grille), French (Jacques), and Italian (Toscana). Since we booked so late for the cruise, we had no advance reservations, so we headed to the reservation desk and got to work. If you are flexible as to times and whether or not you will be at a group table (usually 6), generally you will get in. On evenings where all advance reservations were full, we would show up at 645p (all restaurants opened at 630p) and ask if there was a late cancellation or no-show. This worked and we ended up eating at a specialty restaurant all 12 nights of our cruise, 3 times in each one. All are truly excellent and would be $100 meals (or more) at a nice restaurant in a big city. We thought Red Ginger was the most unique with a Sea Bass to die for. Jacques was a close second, but the others were terrific as well. You can't go wrong with any of them! Breakfast and lunch were fine at the Terrace Grille. The Grand Dining Room was fine but a little ponderous for both those meals. This cruise had two speakers, Verne Lundquist (an American sports broadcaster) and another who was a South American history and geography specialist. Verne was well-received by the Americans on-board but others did not know him. The S.A specialist (whose name I do not recall, sorry) was interesting. We did not use Oceania excursions at all because of our late booking. We did use Viator and Tours by Locals online. I looked at the Oceania pricing and they seemed about double what you might pay through Viator. Oceania had a very competent on-board group of singers and dancers who put on some excellent shows, including the obligatory Broadway show. Their two single performers (a comedian and a ukulele player) were simply not up to standards expected on a major cruise ship. The comedian was especially off in his second show when he regaled us with stories of a major fraud crime he apparently committed in his past as well as ending his set with a story about "spiking" someone's drink. The audience literally cringed. Service throughout was excellent. Staff come from a wide variety of countries and all who deal with direct customer service spoke English very well. They were truly one of the stand-out parts of the ship. All in all, we had a very good experience on a cruise line we had barely any knowledge of before this trip. The food and the port-heavy itineraries make them well worth considering on all cruise planning.

Last minute decision, very good choice.

Marina Cruise Review by famburk@aol.com

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: February 2020
  • Destination: South America
  • Cabin Type: Verandah Stateroom
When our (my wife and I) scheduled Crystal Cruise to SE Asia fell apart due to multiple schedule changes, and with 3 weeks suddenly open on our calendars, we opted at the last minute to schedule this Rio to Buenos Aires itinerary (as far away as possible from covid-19 issues). We literally booked on Sunday before a Wedn departure from Rio. We considered a Celebrity Buenos Aires roundtrip as well as an Azamara Buenos Aires roundtrip which fit the dates but we picked this one because it was one-way and had more stops.

When we arrived at the pier in Rio on Wedn, our names were not even on the passenger list, but we got that straightened out easily enough. We booked a Veranda stateroom which opened up at the last minute---the cruise being completely booked when I first checked it.

Embarkation went smoothly after our status was straightened out and we were thrilled to find a beautiful stateroom- bigger than most in this category and well-appointed. After a much needed nap, after having flown overnite from the US, we embarked on getting to understand the most important element of this cruise and cruise line-- the FOOD!

Four specialty restaurants are available at no extra charge and the game (at least for us) was to try to get reservations at these restaurants whenever possible because all agreed it was a superior product to the Grand Dining Room or the evening buffet. All guests were entitled to at least one night in each. The four are comprised of Asian (Red Ginger), steak (Polo Grille), French (Jacques), and Italian (Toscana). Since we booked so late for the cruise, we had no advance reservations, so we headed to the reservation desk and got to work. If you are flexible as to times and whether or not you will be at a group table (usually 6), generally you will get in. On evenings where all advance reservations were full, we would show up at 645p (all restaurants opened at 630p) and ask if there was a late cancellation or no-show. This worked and we ended up eating at a specialty restaurant all 12 nights of our cruise, 3 times in each one. All are truly excellent and would be $100 meals (or more) at a nice restaurant in a big city. We thought Red Ginger was the most unique with a Sea Bass to die for. Jacques was a close second, but the others were terrific as well. You can't go wrong with any of them!

Breakfast and lunch were fine at the Terrace Grille. The Grand Dining Room was fine but a little ponderous for both those meals.

This cruise had two speakers, Verne Lundquist (an American sports broadcaster) and another who was a South American history and geography specialist. Verne was well-received by the Americans on-board but others did not know him. The S.A specialist (whose name I do not recall, sorry) was interesting.

We did not use Oceania excursions at all because of our late booking. We did use Viator and Tours by Locals online. I looked at the Oceania pricing and they seemed about double what you might pay through Viator.

Oceania had a very competent on-board group of singers and dancers who put on some excellent shows, including the obligatory Broadway show. Their two single performers (a comedian and a ukulele player) were simply not up to standards expected on a major cruise ship. The comedian was especially off in his second show when he regaled us with stories of a major fraud crime he apparently committed in his past as well as ending his set with a story about "spiking" someone's drink. The audience literally cringed.

Service throughout was excellent. Staff come from a wide variety of countries and all who deal with direct customer service spoke English very well. They were truly one of the stand-out parts of the ship.

All in all, we had a very good experience on a cruise line we had barely any knowledge of before this trip. The food and the port-heavy itineraries make them well worth considering on all cruise planning.
famburk@aol.com’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Verandah Stateroom
Cabin B1
Very attractive room with King bed and sitting area. Nice verandah. Bath has both a tub and separate shower. Nice amenities. TV a little old school and plugs were more European than US although I understand that an upcoming redo (May 2020?) will include improvements in both those areas including usb plug-ins by the bed.
Deck 8 Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins