Just got home after cruising on Nautica from Barcelona to Istanbul. It was a great trip and most of our experiences with Nautica were positive. We had a great Oceania excursions (with one exception) but the staff in charge of disembarking at ports (especially when we tendered) were disorganized and sometimes seemed clueless regarding the process. Excursions: Menorca (Ciudadella City Highlights), Rome (OE Vatican City tour - but very crowded in Sistine Chapel), Amalfi (Emerald Grotto was a terrific experience), Sicily (Mt. Etna with lunch - guide spent a bit too much time in Catania, but it was still a good tour), Kavala and Phillippi (the ruins in Phillippi are amazing and the tour guide was an archaeologist so we got some great information), Istanbul (OE Best of Istanbul, two mosques and scrumptious lunch - tour guide spoke perfect English. It was the highlight of the cruise), Antibes, the Glassblowing tour in Biot (Antibes, France port of call) was a bust (the glassblowers seemed like they didn't want us there, the guide was more interested in us buying than experiencing the process).
Food on board was very good in the main dining room, Terrace Cafe, and excellent in Toscana. Not so good in Polo Grill, at least in our opinion. The higher level staff (especially Emil, General Manager, and Mario, Executive Chef), our butler (the first one [Abhi] we had two because one left after a week for his vacation), and our two housekeepers, Cho-Cho and Ivy, were wonderful. The restaurant staff in Toscana and main dining room were also excellent, but for some reason the staff at Terrace Cafe and Polo Grill didn't seem "happy to be there." We did have a few hiccups regarding flights. On the way to Barcelona, our flight was delayed so we would not be able to make our connection in Chicago for the flight to Barcelona. American Airlines came through with an early flight so we made the connection, but we didn't get any help from Oceania when we called to ask for assistance (we opted for their OLife which included flights, transfers and hotels); on the way back, we encountered the same problem with a delayed flight out of Istanbul which made it impossible to make our connection in London for the flight home. Again, the airline arranged the rebooking - we had to stay overnight in London. Oceania's Airline staff did nothing, and as a matter of fact, they did not return our call after saying that they would when we contacted them (it took 20 minutes to get them on the phone using the emergency number). Another family we met on the bus to the airport in Istanbul were experiencing the same issue.
Notes on the ship: Nautica is smaller than the last ship we cruised on, the Riviera. While you get to know more people since you see them often, it offers less amenities that the larger ships. Only two specialty restaurants, smaller (it seemed) swimming pool, smaller bathrooms. We decided to select the Marina for our next cruise, we like the option of more specialty restaurants and larger cabins. All in all it was a wonderful cruise and itinerary. There is always something that doesn't go well, but these are first world problems. We feel very fortunate to be able to take these vacations.
Not sure I selected the correct abbreviation for our cabin, OS. We were in the Owners Suite. We sailed last year on the Riviera and had the Vista suite which was amazing and decided we wanted a spacious one again. Even though the Owners suite is the largest cabin on the Nautica, it was still half the size of the Vista suite on the Riviera. I know, 1st world problems! It was a very good sized suite and we loved it with one exception: there was a step up to the master bathroom and I tripped on it a few days in. Fell hard on my left knee and bruised my right knee. Can't believe that I recovered within a day and was good to go for walking (6 miles a day some days). The living room was spacious and we had meals delivered on a regular basis which was so nice. The veranda was quite large and we enjoyed sitting out there when we returned from excursions and sunbathing on the one sea day. Closet space is plentiful and so is the drawer space.
We began our cruise in Barcelona, but arrived three days early to enjoy a guided tour of Picasso's museum and places he visited. Also to enjoy strolling around the city and eating the wonderful tapas and Paella. Recommend tour of Gaudi architecture sites as well as Picasso - and visit La Boqueria (food stalls on steroids!)
Enjoyed Minorca, went on an excursion "Ciudadella City Highlights" which was a great tour. Energetic tour guide, Carmen, and the driver, Christian should get an award for driving through tiny streets. Note: the tour stated to wear clothes appropriate for going into the cathedral but the tour did not include going inside the church without paying a fee. The description should have said that there was an extra fee to go in - and it was "on your own" when we had personal time to roam around the town. However, we enjoyed the tour and we had time to enjoy a latte at an outdoor cafe and shop. It was not a touristy town it seemed so it was nice to begin our ports of call with a laid back experience.
The rating is a reflection of the excursion: Glassblowing in Biot. This was a 30 minute bus ride from Antibes and it wasn't worth it. The guide was boring, the glassblowers could have cared less that we were there to observe them, and it was all about selling overpriced glass at the shop. When our bus arrived back at Antibes the tour was scheduled to go on to include Antibes but we left after giving the tour guide a tip and said were were going on our own. We had already scoped out the places to go on our iPhone before leaving the states. The guide was very surprised, but we ran into the tour group while on our own and they were too late to buy anything at the outdoor market and seemed a bit harried. Good choice on our part!
Amalfi is beautiful. Lemon themes everywhere! We took the excursion to the Emerald Grotto which was such fun. Afterward we walked around town and had pizza (a rip off at the cafe because they made us buy two), then had lemon sorbet/ice cream in hollowed out lemons. Very tasty! The lemons are bigger than the ones in the US and sweet and tart. Delicious. This is a must see port. Everywhere is a photo op.
We took a tour of the ruins at Phillippi. Amazing if you are into ancient history. Our guide was an archaeologist so we had great insight into the digs. Kavala port is not very touristy which I liked, but not for everyone. Another guest and I walked into the shopping area from port (a bit of a challenge but other travelers gave us directions) and shopped and bought Greek pastries to take back to the ship.
I had to give 5 stars for Rome even though it was very crowded and the ride from the port was 1-1/2 hours. We had to go to the Vatican. Took an excursion with only 15 people to the Vatican and surrounding area (Trevi fountain). It was very good but so crowded in the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Wish they would control access so people could really enjoy the artifacts and art. They do that in Milan for DaVinci's Last Supper and it makes such a difference. Anyway it is worth it to have been able to experience the grandeur that is the Vatican. One and done for me. The crowds at the Trevi fountain were also just suffocating but we managed to get close and enjoy the beauty of it. Did some shopping and enjoyed a good amount of time on our own before we had to get back on the bus.
Went to Mt. Etna and Catania. The guide spent too much time in Catania so we were rushed at Mt. Etna because the tour included lunch. It was good but could have been better. Catania was okay, we were scooted away from one cafe when we tried to sit down and order something to drink but the cafe across the plaza was welcoming and we enjoyed cappuccinos and did some people watching. Could have skipped Catania and gone directly to Mt. Etna.
By far a favorite! We took a 7-1/2 hour tour that included Topkapi palace, Blue and Sophia mosques, had a scrumptious lunch in the Pera Palace hotel that Agatha Cristi (allegedly) wrote Orient Express, the restaurant was called "Agatha" and the hotel was absolutely beautiful. We fully enjoyed the excursion. The guide was fluent in English which made it so much more pleasant!