Anyone who comes to this site will naturally look at the overall rating and number of awards received by Oceania and its ships first. Beware: A little bit of investigation will show you that the awards and most of the positive reviews are all from results prior to 2018. Reviews closer to the present tell a less rosy story. Our recent experience with Oceania before and during a Mediterranean cruise on the ‘Sirena’ was marred by so many issues, it is best to categorize them:
Pre-cruise: After booking, be prepared for a veritable e-mail flood where the important vies for space with the nearly frivolous: So, you have booked and paid for your cruise and settle into joyful anticipation: Well, at some point an email from Oceania suggested we could get a discount when booking on another Oceania cruise or even obtain ‘all our money back’, provided we give up our present booking. What? On getting in touch with my Oceania contact person at Miami head office, he shrugged it off as an ‘offer’ coming from Oceania’s "Revenue Group‘’ which I could safely ignore. I can find no other explanation for such ‘offers’ than them getting many requests for popular destinations closer to sailing and that they could likely sell them for a lot more than early bookings. Then there are the almost threatening reminders of the need to avail oneself of a boarding pass at the latest 72 hours before sailing to be admitted on board. The pass requires the usual passport data plus a photo, which would not be a problem, provided Oceania’s software was more user friendly. The picture must be sized and centered to an exact standard, not an easy feat for everyone to do. Again, my contact at Oceania’s head office informed me that I could safely ignore the messages, that we could board without it, but then helped me to get the pass anyway. Finally, the constant reminders to watch the ‘Safety Video’ – again, one is almost led to fear refusal of boarding without having watched it. All this, and not a word – a pleasant ship or shore story for example - to heighten cruise anticipation. It feels as if different departments with different agendas are vying for attention, the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Grade: FAIL
Embarkation: It does not seem to occur to someone at ‘guest-relations’ in Miami that the barrage of emails, most of them allegedly ‘ignorable’, lead to saturation at the recipients' end. Once I had our boarding pass and the cruise contract stored, off we went to Europe for pre-cruise travelling. When I opened the boarding pass on the eve of our sailing, I realized to my slight dismay that ‘embarkation and check-in point’ was stated not to be the Venice Cruise Terminal as I expected from the contract and previous communication, but instead at Fusina, an industrial port site on the mainland, and very difficult to reach. A call to Oceania’s international helpline proved useless, twice the wait time exceeding my patience. An email to my Oceania contact at guest relations in Miami got better results: He confirmed right away that ‘embarkation and check-in point’ was indeed Fusina as stated on the boarding pass. Now what, how do we get there? A frantic call to my travel agent finally cleared it up: NO, not Fusina: Check-in point is still Venice Cruise Terminal, and guests to be bused from there by the cruise line to Fusina, and yes, I should have paid attention to this one message which was buried in an email sent by Oceania and to me a week prior to sailing. Ok, but in my defense, I would say that such an important change and message should have been highlighted and sent by Oceania as ‘important’ 48, then 24 hours before sailing, and, considering how much noise they made about the ‘boarding pass’ and ‘submission deadline’, why was no new pass with proper boarding instructions sent with it? That even their own guest-relations rep at head office in Miami was not properly informed about it and sent me the wrong instructions, is further proof of the lack of attention by Oceania. We met a couple on the bus to Fusina who had actually gone there on their own accord and with great difficulty, only to be refused entry to the ship. When I relayed this and our own experience later to the ship’s Executive Concierge, he shrugged it off as no big deal, 'he knew of four parties who did indeed board in Fusina’. Apparently, it depended on who just happened to be at the gangway whether someone was admitted or not. Very amateurish indeed!