Probably our last cruise with Oceania: Marina Cruise Review by KBVegas

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Probably our last cruise with Oceania

Sail Date: March 2012
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami
Let me start by saying that we had a wonderful vacation; and most hotels and restaurants could learn a lot from Oceania. That said, my husband and I took a 10-day cruise aboard Oceania's Regatta last year. (Western Caribbean) It was the vacation of a lifetime. The experience was unforgettable and we found Oceania to be "Perfection," as I entitled my review. For a year, we have told people that we would never consider any other cruise line. The 10-day cruise ended way too soon, so this year we booked a 12-night cruise aboard Oceania's newest ship, the Marina. (Eastern Caribbean)

If you don't know: Oceania targets an older demographic and offers no activities or facilities for children. (YAY!) Its ships are mid-sized, carrying from 650 - 1250 passengers, so we experienced unbelievable personalized service last year. Dress attire is ostensibly country club casual (although it's amazing how many people don't seem to understand what that means). For these reasons, we More selected Oceania last year. Because our experience was "perfection," we did not even consider any other cruise line for this year's vacation.

Oceania's biggest failing is shore excursions.

The descriptions provided are apparently written by the shore excursion companies. What we found is that the descriptions are often inaccurate. As an example: The desciption for the "Sail Away to Savannah Bay" says that, after a 45-minute catamaran ride to an island, you can snorkel or swim or relax on the beach. I booked the excursion thinking my husband and I would frolic on the beach and splash in the shallow water, while others snorkled. When we arrived at the snorkel location, we anchored far from shore. It was then that we learned that, to get to the beach, we would have to swim ashore! And back! My husband doesn't swim; had we known that, we would have chosen a different excusion. I got in the water and swim the length of the catamaran a couple of times and came to the conclusion that, although I could probably make it to shore, I was not at all confident I could make it back. Too, we would have to leave our personal belongings (cash, credit cards and a new digital camera) unattended on the boat (no lockers were provided), as we had no way to carry them with us as we swam to shore. Oceania says it "stands behinds its shore excursions" but they don't. We had fun, but weren't able to do what we had planned: frolic on the beach together and enjoy the shallow water of the beautiful Caribbean sea together because the description was not accurate. Therefore, we asked Oceania for a 50% refund and were denied.

The other problem with the shore excursions: Oceania's lack of control over the quality of the excursion. In Dominica, we had booked "Dominica's favorites," as did many of our fellow passengers. So many guests booked that tour, that several buses were provided. With one exception, the buses looked fairly new, nice and clean. We had the exception. Our bus was filthy, old and poorly designed for adults -- especially seniors with all of our physical ailments. We were the second ones to board the bus. We chose a metal bench seat directly across from the door, thinking that the cross-breeze would keep me comfortable. We immediately realized our error, but passengers kept up a steady flow, filling the bus. By the time we were able to get up and move, all the seats had been filled so we were stuck. Here's the problem: The mechanics of the bus caused the floor to be stepped. (Think of where the transmission used to cause a big hump in the middle of your cars. No one wanted to sit in the middle because the floor rises up.) The floor had three levels to accomodate what lies beneath. The first step was where our feet where, not allowing sufficient space for the length of our feet! (We needed to have our toes amputated in order to fit.) I was able to stretch out my left foot, resting it on the next tier up, but our other three feet did not have sufficient room to accomodate the length of our feet. There was not adequate space for our legs, either. (I'm only 5'4; my husband is 5'9.) I have to wonder if the bus was designed for children. WE SPENT THE ENTIRE TOUR IN PHYSICAL PAIN! We took turns shifting hips; at one point, we changed seats: I moved to the outside and my husband took the aisle. At that point, I could no longer write in my journal (I had been taking notes of what the Tour Guide told us about the island), as there wasn't enough shoulder space. I had to sit with my arms forming a V and resting on the metal bar in front of our metal bench seat. This is an example of Oceania not having any control over the quality of the tour. Dominica seems to be a poor country. You can't expect them to give up the revenue associated with a bus load of tourists just because they don't have enough appropriate buses available -- but I can expect Oceania to inspect the buses and say "No, this is not acceptable." But they don't do that, so we spent the entire three hours in physical pain (less the time we were hiking up to the water falls). Again, Oceania claims they stand behind their shore excursions. They don't. I asked for a full refund -- we didn't spend $13,000 on a cabin plus liquor plus tips plus shore excursions plus plus plus so that we would experience hours of unnecessary physical pain. They did not respond to my request, nor offer an apology. (I know my end-of-cruise Survey was received.)

In summary: Shore excursions are Oceania's weakness. I would advise against booking them. Go ashore and make your own arrangements.

Last year, by the second day of the cruise, all of the pretty female drink servers at the bar knew my husband by name and what he drank. "Here's a cold Heineken for you, Mr. Bird." "Would you like another Heineken, Mr. Bird?" This year, most of the drink servers were male; they never (in 12 days) learned my husband's name or what he drank; and service at the pool was very inconsistent. Sometimes, they were attentive; other times, we would finally get up and get our own drinks. This holds true for the bar at the pool as well. One time, I asked for the check. The bartender acknowledged my request. I never got it. So I moved to a deck chair while my husband waited for the check. It was half an hour before he finally got the check for our two drinks - after asking a second time.

We met our Butler the first day. We asked him to keep a carafe of iced tea in our suite for me at all times, as well as a bucket of ice. He did so. We also told him that we only need two things in the refrigerator: Diet Coke and Heineken. We asked him to make sure there is always cold Diet Coke and cold Heineken in the refrigerator. We ended up going to the Executive Lounge to get Diet Coke more often than not. Our butler went MIA on the third day; turns out, the rough waters made him "green around the gills."

We also found that we're less than enamored with the guests this year. Because Oceania caters to an older demographic, a lot of guests are infirm. We too have walking challenges but are considerate enough (on the ship, at work, in public) to step to the side rather than hold up people behind us who can and want to walk faster than we can walk. Very few of Oceania's guests were considerate in this regard. A group would take up the entire passageway, moving excruciatingly slowly, and not step to the side to allow us to pass. Obviously, Oceania has no control over this; but one should be aware of this fact when selecting cruise lines. After sharing the pool at Margaritaville in the Grand Turks with a ship from Crystal Cruise Line, we decided "No more old people cruises." It was so fun to share the pool and bar with people of various ages; to see younger people actually play in the pool; young women on men's shoulders (ah! memories); beautiful tanned bodies; a few young children laughing as only children do.

Again, we had a good time. Most hotels and restaurants could learn from Oceania. BUT:

Service aboard the Marina was inconsistent and Oceania does NOT (regardless of what it claims) stand behind the shore excursions to the extent that guests might expect. For these reasons, among others with which I will not bore the reading public, we will consider other cruise lines in the future. Various guests consistently named Regent Silver Seas (which is all-inclusive, by the way) and Crystal as their preferred cruise lines. Next time, we'll check them out.

Bon voyage! Less

Published 03/21/12
2 Helpful Votes

Cabin review: PH111057 Penthouse Suite

Walk-in closet with safe, shoe racks and lots of wooden hangers was great! Bathroom includes tub and separate shower stall, as well as lots of storage space. Bath towels AND bath sheets! BUT one cannot plug in a hair blower; not even the ship-provided one! Gotta blow dry your hair in the bedroom, rather than the bathroom. Great idea: Dressing table with magnified make-up mirror. Very poorly executed. The mirror isn't adjustable so it fits people of only one height. To apply mascara, I moved the stool and got onto the carpet, on my knees which put me at the exact right height to use the make up mirror. I complained about this in my mid-cruise Survey at which time the Cabin Attendant brought me a stand-alone make up mirror which worked perfectly. At night, we'd hear them moving the furniture around on the pool deck. I think they dragged the furniture in order to mop the deck floor. I can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, so it didn't interfere with my sleep but it was sometimes an issue for my husband.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Like a Mexican border town: "Van," "I give you a tour," "Taxi," "You like my sister?" Ok, no one offered his sister, but otherwise we were hounded. Even a thin sun-tanned blonde American accosted us outside a casino, trying to get us inside. We walked to St. John's (touted as a "must see") only to find that it's closed for renovations. Returning to the port area, we were uncomfortable with some of the locals. Had cold drinks in a bar (very good rum punch) and then immediately returned to the ship. Dirty, crowded, and humid.
Read 1192 Antigua Reviews

Emerald Pool

The pool is hardly "emerald" in color. Many people, including my husband and myself, chose not to walk to the emerald pool but to view it from afar due to the difficulty in getting there. If you are not entirely able-bodied, do not attempt.

Island tour

Read my review of Oceania Cruise Lines for details. Basically, most of the buses for "Dominica's Favorites" appeared to be fairly new nice and clean. But too many guests, I guess, so they pulled a filthy old bus that was probably designed for children and put it into use. The seats are metal benches. Our bench seat was too small -- for our feet (we needed to have our toes amputated in order to fit); for our shoulders; and for our legs. (Neither of us is tall; I'm 5'4 and hubby is 5'9 or 5'10.)

Trafalgar Falls

You must be able to walk on a slippery, uneven uphill path. Falls are lovely.

We put in at a man-made village which I believe was built by Ocean and Crystal cruise lines. As such, it is pristine. Lots of shops but I couldn't find several of the souvenirs I wanted! Ocean is nice. Gotta get there early to get a chaise in the shade. Lots of chaise lounge chairs, rental equipment (floatation devices), beautiful clear water. But the beach itself is uneven, so we relocated to the pool at Margaritaville -- WOW! Great pina coladas. Great pools with lots of beach chairs. Swim up bar. Good service at the bars. Great music. Great fun. Couldn't get served in the restaurant, though, so we went back to the ship for lunch. (There were plenty of empty tables; lost revenue; money in my pocket.)
Read 1707 Grand Turk Reviews

We took a horse-drawn carriage ride which gave us a tour of Old Town. It's $25 a person and worth it. We toured Don Q which makes the most delicious rums! Tour is free and you get to sample one rum of your chosing. I had the Passion Fruit and added pineapple juice -- yum! Hubby had the coconut rum and added orange juice. Delicious. We found a lot of souvenirs (as more sunscreen) at the CVS Pharmacy. I've visited San Juan before, back in the 1980's. Toured the Bacardi rum factory and went to dinner and watched flamenco dancers. Recommend both. Beautiful architecture. Take the time to see San Juan. My nephew recently took the "Flavors of San Juan" tour and highly recommended it.
Read 2982 San Juan Reviews

Shops are closed on Sunday. We found a bar (Bucanneer's Route?) that served the most wonderful Rum Punch --topped with nutmeg. (It's very near the church.) We regret that we didn't rent an open-aired vehicle and drive the island ourselves; or rent a cab. If you want to do that, do it pronto! Availability is limited. But we walked for quite a while. It's a nice and seemingly safe and clean place to walk.

I went ashore alone and felt perfectly safe. Took the water taxi ($5 round trip, although our cruise line personnel told guests that it's $3). Had a yummy rum punch. While enjoying the weather and the punch, I was approached by a friendly man peddling his wares. I did buy a necklace from him, but beware that this is a risk. Enjoyed some calypso music in the square. Your typical (although clean and pleasant) tourist stop.
Read 1137 St. Lucia Reviews

Cleaner than most ports of call. We should have taken one of the open-aired "bus" tours. Talked to guests who did; it's well praised. Instead, we walked and did some souvenir shopping. Everyone seemed to speak English, although with melodious accents. Because we didn't take one of the open-aired tour buses, we came along a lot of people offering us tours. Had to wade past them to get to the shopping. Found Pusser's Rum here; wish we'd bought a large bottle. It's really good. Give the old man a couple of bucks and have your picture taken of you with him and his burro.
Read 1241 Tortola Reviews

I recommend the Sailaway to Savannah excursion IF you are able to snorkel AND if you are able to swim to shore and back AND if you don't mind leaving your personal belongings unattended and unsecured aboard the catamaran. The Guides make a kick-ass rum punch! Had a couple of PainKillers at a local bar. I had been in a royally bad mood all day. Drank two PainKillers and my mood made a 180 degree turn! Woo-hoo! The public restroom we found was beyond disgusting. Lunch was overpriced and we kept our fingers crossed we didn't get sick. (We didn't.) Suggest you try a PainKiller, but return to your ship to eat lunch. (Pack a breakfast or protein bar to tide you over.)

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