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Sail Date: June 2009
I will try to be as complete, candid and unbiased as possible.  I will not tell you everything is perfect or that everything is terrible. All cruises have good points and bad points. Hopefully, the good far outweighs the bad.Pre-cruise, ... Read More
I will try to be as complete, candid and unbiased as possible.  I will not tell you everything is perfect or that everything is terrible. All cruises have good points and bad points. Hopefully, the good far outweighs the bad.Pre-cruise, Barcelona: We arrived after a relatively simple two flight legsLAX to Heathrow, Heathrow to Barcelona around 7:45 pm and took the VERY EASY "Aerobus" from the airport to Placa Catalunyasteps from our hotel, the Hotel Continental. A taxi could not have been much simpler or easier and the cost was minimal.The Hotel Continental is both incredible AND disappointing. The incredible: The location. There could not be a better location in all of Barcelona. We had a Las Ramblas View Balcony Room on the "Third Floor" literally looking straight down on all of the action on Las Ramblas. Right out the front door was a choice of restaurants, shops, bars and more. It was NOT noisy when the doors were shut and the drapes drawn. There were electric shades, operated by a switch near the door, which closed the room off from the outside light. The disappointing: My wife hated the bedthought the mattress was too hard. The room was rather small and the reports were correct about the "plastic furniture". I was fine with it.  It's not like we had to live there for more than three nights and, to me, the location was unbeatable. To my wife, she would have preferred a more upscale five-star hotel with a big soft bed.There was free internet and a public computer down in the main lobby area. The 24 hour buffet was well stocked including free 24 hour beer and wine.  Of course, it wasn't exactly Napa Valley Cabernet they were servingbut free is free.Embarkation: We checked out of the hotel around 11 am and took a taxi right to the ship. Embarkation was well run and easy and we were on the ship in minutes enjoying a nice lunch at the buffet. First, of course, we stopped by Polo and made our reservations for our nights in Polo and Toscana.The Nautica: This was our second cruise on the Nautica. We were on it in 2006, just after Oceania acquired it and refurbished it. Three years later I can tell you the ship is in great conditionlooks brand new. Hard to believe it is a 10 year old ship. There is not a single instance where I noticed any material wear. Our cabin (#7051midship deck 7, category A1 Concierge level) was exactly as I remembered from last timespacious, well appointed.  King sized bed, small love seat type sofa, desk, small table, balcony with two deck chairs. Public areas are limited, but appropriate for this size shipnever felt crowded, always able to find a seat in any venueincluding deck chairs on at-sea days and reasonably located seating for the shows even when arriving barely on time.Dining: This cruise confirmed for me that this is one of the really strong points for Oceania. The food was consistently excellent, menus were varied and offered many choices. Service was good (We'll get to the few issues later on). We generally ate in the Main Dining Room for all meals except our two nights in Polo and two in Toscana and the two occasions we had room service breakfasts delivered to our cabin. Toscana, in particular, was excellent. Some of our friends found Polo a little disappointingmostly in the quality of the steak.  Of course, I ordered lobster both nights so I wouldn't know.Entertainment: As much as Dining is a strong point, entertainment is Oceania's weak link. Of course, if entertainment doesn't matter much to you, it is no big deal. As there is never more than one show per night (at 9:45) and there could not be more than half the ship there, obviously, over half the passengers really didn't care. There were basically only three "headline" performers on the ship: Comedian Tom Drake, Guitarist Vincenzo Martinelli and Magician Harry Maurer. Being a small ship, I actually had the opportunity to meet, socialize with and have drinks with both Tom and Vincenzo as well as Piano Bar pianist and part-time headliner Jerry Blaineand these are all great guys and wonderful performers. Tom is quite funnyand a perfect match for a cruise shiprelates well to the audience and really seems to love this job. Vincenzo is an amazing guitarist. We have had the opportunity twice now to enjoy Jerry's work and he almost seems like family. So, when I question Oceania's entertainment, it really isn't an aspersion aimed at these guys. They are all quite good. What Oceania lacks is in quantity and variety. On a 14 night cruise, with only three individual headliners to draw from, you end up overexposing all of them. as good as Vincenzo is, hearing flamenco and classical guitar for four shows gets to be a bit much. Some nights, there was no real main showthe time slot was replaced with "Movie Night".  Three nights, the show was staged as a singing show spotlighting one of the female assistant cruise directors, Joanne and Lucy and one night by Jerry moving his act to the "big room". If one is accustomed to the entertainment one finds on the big ship cruise lines, this line-up can be quite disappointing. That said, we still enjoyed the showsthough we always felt a little let down to find only "movie night" on the program.Activities, night life and at-sea days: More noticeable to us than the entertainment deficiencies is the relative lack of activitiesas much a result of ship size and passenger demographic as it is any fault of Oceania's. With a small ship, you simply have limited venues and limited staff. And a majority of passengers seemed to be in bed by 9, so even where activities were scheduled, they were sparsely attended. I am a night person and, I guess, relatively young compared to the overall ship demographics. At night, after the aforementioned show, there was typically only one activity on the agendathe "disco". On a typical night, there were more crew members than passengers in the disco.  I guess that's one reason I found myself socializing with as much of the crew and entertainers as I did. There was Karaoke only two nights and very few volunteer performers.  I actually found myself singing four times (CCR's "Lodi" and "Looking Out My Back Door", the Beatles' "Back in the USSR" and the Boxtops' "the Letter") and those who know me well know well that I can't carry a tune.  Of course, that's what usually makes Karaoke fun.  But, on the Nautica, there was hardly anyone there to enjoy it.  Again, the passengers' fault, not Oceania's. What was Oceania's fault was the dreadful selection of Karaoke choices.  I wanted to do the Kinks' "Lola"and it was on the list, but wouldn't work.  Past that, NOTHING by Jimmy Buffett (and this is supposed to be a cruise ship??).  They had a few Rod Stewart tunes, but NO "Maggie May"!!!Trivia: Okay, for me, this is a BIG item. I love triviaand never miss a session on an at-sea day or when returning from port on time. We had a team comprised of members of our CruiseCritic.com Roll Call and won virtually every trivia session, even trouncing the competition, including a team made up of Cruise Director Dottie and the Crew the one day she turned the quiz over to one of our members to host (thus taking a valuable member off of our team). All lots of fun. But, here is the "downer": All cruise long, they were hyping the "Collect 'Big O' points".  On other cruise lines, there is "instant gratification" for winning a trivia sessiona key chain, a t-shirt, a water wallet, a hat, a luggage tag, a ball point pen or some other meaningless logo trinket.  I do have a drawer at home filled with these itemssouvenirs of a sort from many wonderful cruises.  Most sort of worthless, but occasionally a really nice prize like a t-shirt or a tote bag. Now, last time on Nautica, we had this "points" thing and, at the end of the cruise, they put out a table with a variety of items. We were sort of expecting the same this time.  I figured I'd walk away with maybe a hat and a t-shirt or something of the sort based on how many Big O points I had collected. Imagine our surprise at the end of the cruise when the ONLY items offered in exchange for all those Big O points (in my case, over a hundred) were Oceania Mouse Pads or plastic screwdriver/penlight combos.  Who even uses a mouse pad nowadays?Here's the thing, Oceania: DROP THE "BIG O" POINT THING.  It only infuriates people. If you are not going to give out some sort of meaningful prize, don't tell people to collect "points" for 14 nights. Other cruise lines give out better "prizes" for winning a single trivia game or other activity.  You look really cheap giving a mouse pad to someone who's won every activity for 14 nights. Rather than do what you are doing, it would be better to tell everyone in advance that the activities are for the fun of it only and no prizes will be awarded.  For me, I'd likely play anyway.  I enjoy the "sport" of trivia and other contests and no reward is necessary to gain my participation.  The "Big O" points would be fun if they meant somethingbut, in this case, it was more insulting than anything. So, don't publish "Big O Points" multiple times in each day's "Currents" and stop announcing it on the ship.The funniest part was the night AFTER they had the Big O point redemption, they had the "Game Show" titled "Brain of the Nautica"sort of a 15 person trivia challenge where contestants were knocked out of the running after missing their third random question.  I won.  My prize??? Three more "Big O points"!!!The ports: Actually, the biggest attraction on this cruise was the itinerary. The ports were sensational.  Of course, some better than others.  If I were to tweak this itinerary, I'd actually do it by removing two portsCrete and Cyprusand trading them for more time in Egypt and Israel. In Crete, we visited the Palace at Knossos on a ship's shore excursionand, though an interesting archaeological site, it pales compared to what one finds in Egypt and Israel. My assumption is that by cutting out Crete, you could get into Alexandria sooner than noon, maybe even the night or afternoon before, allowing passengers to do a more complete two days in Cairo and Giza if they so wanted. Cyprus was pleasant, but really little worth seeing compared to the other ports. It would be great to replace it with a second day in Ashdod. Jerusalem was easily a full day's worth of touring and it would have been nice to also visit Masada and the Dead Seabut, not enough timeand we wouldn't have wanted to have given up our day in Northern Israel out of Haifa eitherwe hired a private guide and went to the incredible archaeological sites at Megiddo and Caesaria.We also really enjoyed Tunisia and Malta and Ephesus is always enchanting. This was our first opportunity to visit the Terrace Houses and I highly recommend them.   Ports:Barcelona: We have been here several times, so we didn't really need to see anything but we did tour some of our favorite placespretty much on our own. We visited the Picasso Museum, took the interior tour of the Sagrada Familia, then took the rear elevator up and walked down [Note: For those visiting the Sagrada Familia, there are two elevators. 2.5 euro per person. The one near the front usually has a line with waits up to half an hour or more. The one in the back typically has no line. The front elevator allows for a ride both up and down, the one in the rear, for some odd reason, up onlybut the walk down is pretty cool with great photo ops along the way.], Park Guellwhere we went inside Gaudi's house.  We also took in a tapas dinner and Flamenco show at Tablao de Carmen in El Poble Espanyol on Montjuic-pretty good dinner and show.Tunisia: Arranged for a tour for sixwith fellow CruiseCritic Roll Call membersthrough Chris Sheridan at TouringMalta.com http://www.tourinmed.com/index.htm. Excellent tourcovered several sites including Ancient Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and the Medina.Malta: Same thing as for Tunesiaa private tour for six arranged with Chris Sheridan. We went to Valletta, Mdina, Hagar Qim and Marasxlokk. Hagar Qim was really incredible.  Sort of a several thousand year old Maltese Stonehenge. Best guide of the tripChristine Muscat kristinmuscat@hotmail.com She is the President of the Maltese Tour Guide Unionan Anthropologist by education.  Excellent.Crete: We took an Oceania Shorex to the Palace at Knossosnot our favoriteokay archaeological site.  But it's a short day in Crete and not much else to see there.Alexandria: We took the Oceania Shorex entitled "Roman Influence on Alexandria". It hits the basic three ancient sites really left in this townPompey's Pillar, the Catacombs and the Roman Theater. Another short day as we arrived only at noon. some from the cruise chose to do an overnight in Cairo, but we figured the first days was sort of a waste anyway as we wouldn't have much time to see Cairo that day.  The Shorex was fine.Port Said: We joined a group of six for the private van tour booked through Oceania. Went to Sakkara, Memphis and the Pyramid/Sphinx.  Yes, it is a long drive back and forth.  But the tour was pretty goodbetter than doing it with 30-40 people in a big bus. When you add the entrance fees and cost of lunch, it doesn't really come out to any more $ than the shorex.  Lunch was at Felfelavery good.Ashdod: We booked a private tour with Joel Berman of jtours.com. Very knowledgable. Retired Israeli army officer born in South Africa. Went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) in the morning, then a pretty exhausting tour of Jerusalem the rest of the day.Haifa: Joel met us again at the ship in Haifa and took us on a full day tour to Megiddo, Ein Shemer Kibbutz and Caesaria.  Megiddo and Caesaria are two incredible archaeological sites.  This was a pretty good choice of tours IMHO.Cyprus: We did another shorex to Paphos and Kourion. Paphos is pretty dull. Not really much there but some old mosaic floors. More of the same at Kourion.Kusadasi: We did a private tour for four of Ephesus including the Terrace Houses through Ekol Travel. Really good tour with a guide who stayed with us throughout. Terrace Houses should not be missed.Istanbul: We did a full day tour for four to the Cisterns, Spice Market and other sites along with another couple with Nejat Incedogan. [Note: Nejat does have some physical limitations, so if you want a fast paced tour, he may not be your guy.]. All four of us had been to Istanbul before, so this was really just to see some of the unusual sites we hadn't seen. Went to the Orient House at night for the Dinner/Showalways intriguing.Another day, we did a tour of the Dolambache Palace and visited the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaarthen vegged out the rest of the timewe were there four nights total including the overnight on the ship.  On the day of the overnight, we just hung out onboardnever left the shippretty quiet though. Post-cruise: By the end of the cruise, we were really exhausted.  So many full days of touringin hot weatherlots of walking and steps and dust and dirt. We were ready to just relax and wind down. Last time on Nautica, we stayed pre-cruise at the modern 5-star Conrad, so, this time, we wanted something completely different. We checked into the small 17-room Sari Konak. Room was very small, but nice. I walked out onto our balcony and realized we had the most incredible, completely unobstructed close-up view of the Blue Mosque. we stayed three additional nights post cruise and toured the Dolambache Palace, the Cisterns, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar and other sites at a very leisurely pacea really nice wind-down from the cruise.  Ate at the Orient House for the Dinner show one night, ate a lunch at the "Pudding Shop"as we had done three years ago (I like the place).  Otherwise, ate in small restaurants in the Sultanhamet.  One night, we ate with some of our cruisemates at the "Family Restaurant"Great misprint on their business cards says "She does the cook" (sic)!!Assorted comments re dining:1) Whenever we asked to sit with other people (We're sort of "social" and like to meet and talk to people), the Maitre d' would tell us it was "slow" and they'd seat us at a table for twoeven when it clearly wasn't "slow".  This was a big deal to my wife and at one point she suggested it might keep her from wanting to go back to Oceania in the future.2) They never ask if you might want some Iced Tea and even when you ask for it, it tends to take a LONG time to get it, then they rarely refill it.  I drink LOTS of Iced Tea and this one is a big deal with me.3) I am "Type 2" Diabetic and should not be eating sugar. So, I go out of my way to order "SUGAR FREE" jam for my toast and "SUGAR FREE" syrup for my pancakes. Somehow, Oceania doesn't quite catch onto the idea.  Yes, they stock and deliver the sugar free jams and syrup.  BUT, they deliver the pancakes with heaps of POWDERED SUGAR on them.  You'd think if someone had ordered "sugar free" pancake syrup that maybe they wouldn't want the sugar loaded right onto the pancake??? One time, my wife made it a point to specifically tell the waiter that the pancakes should NOT come with sugarliterally, pulling him aside and going on about it for 3 or 4 minutes.  You guessed it, they were delivered with sugar anyway.Crew: I used to think that Oceania's top assets were 1) Food, 2) Itinerariesbut, from this cruise, I am thinking maybe the best asset they have is the people.  We really had a great opportunity to spend a lot of time with a number of the crew membersspecifically Joanne, Lucy, Terese and Ian from the Cruise Director's staff, entertainers Tom, Vincenzo and Jerry, as I had mentioned before, Rocky from the jewelry shop and others and found them ALL to be genuine, friendly, good peoplemore fun and sociable than some of the passengers.  For 14 nights, I felt like part of the familyand that is a tribute to nothing but these individuals.  Tom (who, as we all learned, is married to Dottie, the Cruise Director), is much more than an entertainerhe is a "true believer"Oceania should put him to work selling the cruises.   And Oceania should consider themselves lucky to have Jerrythe guy puts in first class job night in and night out. Ian and the girls really go out of there way to get to know the passengersat least the ones who take part in games and activities.  After two weeks I feel like I've known these kids for years.  If there is one thing that will bring me back to Oceania, it's these guys (okay, and maybe the food and itineraries).Sickness: Though I never got sick on this cruise, we kept hearing from a lot of our fellow passengers that something was going around. There seemed to be a much higher incidence of this on this cruise than any other I've been on. We had tourmates who had to miss multiple ports. I can't really blame Oceania. I know that when so many people are confined to a limited area and there is a lot of personal interaction that, if someone catches something, it tends to spread.  And, I am not a medical doctor, so I really know little about the causes of this particular epidemic. I do know that Oceania had a number of disinfectant hand cleaner dispensers around the ship, though I didn't see enough people using them. I don't know what more Oceania could have done, so I will leave that to others to comment on.Overall: Despite my nitpicks (Don't get the wrong ideaI am not bringing up those negatives to put down the cruise line or the experienceonly to be thorough and honest), the cruise was and overall very positive experience. Oceania is a heck of a good product. There are some things that can be improved upon (as with everything) and there are some things that are merely beyond their reasonable control.  But, for the most part, it's pretty goodWell run, clean, high quality, luxurious, elegant. The ship is extremely pleasant, uncrowded, nicely and tastefully decorated and well-maintained.  The food is excellent, the itinerary sensational. We really enjoyed our 14 nights onboard and really hated to see them come to an end. We will very likely be back, especially with these tempting itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2009
Embarkation was quick and easy. First, let me say that the ship was beautiful, clean, and the perfect size. Every employee was polite, kind, and always had a greeting as you walked by. Service in all areas was outstanding. We ... Read More
Embarkation was quick and easy. First, let me say that the ship was beautiful, clean, and the perfect size. Every employee was polite, kind, and always had a greeting as you walked by. Service in all areas was outstanding. We started by me being sick the first two days (not motion sickness) and stayed in bed not to give others my severe cold, then needing two more to recover. Good timing by me on that. Wednesday through Sunday was 5 straight days of bad weather and high seas. Although we do not get sea sick, the constant holding on and keeping balance was tiring. Try to take a shower in a rocking phone booth while you hold on with one hand. But that's a chance you take on a TA. The food was excellent overall, and the open dining was great. We enjoyed Toscana the most, and he kindly got us in several extra nights when I asked when the doors opened. The one downside was the coffee was terrible. It made Starbucks taste weak. Same coffee used on the whole ship. I never get a good iced tea on a cruise, so I order tea with a glass of ice, and make my own fresh. The entertainment was based on the average age of 70 of the passengers, but there could have been some more current soft music, and not so much 30's and 40's stuff. The band was very good, as well as the string quartet on deck 5 by the shops each day. The guest speaker, Dr. Roger Cartwright, was excellent. He gave a number of talks ranging from the history of cruising, battles at sea, and truths about the Titanic. They were interesting and he was a good speaker. The library was great, with a nice selection of books. Disembarkation was quick and easy, but we were the first off to get to the airport to begin our 23 straight hours of either being in the air, or in an airport. Arrghhhh! Oceania was a nice change from other cruise lines with the open seating, no kids, and relaxation. But 8 straight days at sea are a bit much. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
The Azamara Journey is a great ship. Beautiful, stately, small. All the things we like. Attentive service from a multi-national crew. Our bar service guys, Jose Jaimes and Alin were the best!!! Our butler, Angela (Alin's wife, I ... Read More
The Azamara Journey is a great ship. Beautiful, stately, small. All the things we like. Attentive service from a multi-national crew. Our bar service guys, Jose Jaimes and Alin were the best!!! Our butler, Angela (Alin's wife, I understand!) and her assistant Jose (whose wife just had twins!!) could not have done any better for us. As it is open seating in the dining rooms, we had many different servers. Roman and Daniel were superb. Hooray to the head Maitre 'de Marius. He kept me from any allergic reactions and his suggestions were spot on! Our hats off to Mags and her aunt Maria for their invaluable wine selection help. Victor and Bernard in the Looking Glass made the best drinks and took great care of us! Ron Hollywood, the DJ, was always open to our suggestions for dance music. Thank you for all the wonderful NEW music!!! Kudos to you all. The sea days intensive itinerary was just what we needed after a hectic holiday season. The pool was always a welcome diversion. We purchased the thalassotherapy pass for the trip ($175 per couple, $99 single), but had to have them refund us around day 10 due to the pool never being warm. It WAS warm once...at 6pm!!!!! Also there was no service there. It's not very relaxing to have to get up and go to the pool bar when you want something. Why there wasn't anyone coming by regularly is beyond me. The spa was nice tho. Steam room, two different showers, lockers, etc. All included and available to every passenger. Didn't use the gym, the stairs did me just fine. Ate all I wanted and didn't gain any weight!!! Might have lost a pound or two actually. Hmmmm. The shows were cheesy, but in a good way. Geared to an older crowd than we. Juggler, ventriloquist, magic show, group show (singers), etc. YES, this ship does tend towards an over 65 crowd. Not a problem for us tho. (I'm 46, my DH is 39) Sue Denning (cruise director)was a joy!!! Such a trouper, and always entertaining. Her "sidekick" Kelsie was a hoot. The orchestra was always great, and the ship's band entertained us many a day and night at the pool and Looking Glass. There was a pianist in Cova most nights that everyone loved, a wonderful harpist at the martini lounge in Discoveries that was just delightful, and a guitarist who was very entertaining. A great cruise on a lovely small ship. Perfect for those who like long voyages with an entertaining mix from the Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, and the USA. No children's facilities, and that's just fine by me! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2009
Uncertain as to how we would react to cruising, we chose a short (7-night) cruise to places we had visited many times previously. The exceptions were Grand Turk and Princess Cay, about which more later. Not to leave anyone in suspense, ... Read More
Uncertain as to how we would react to cruising, we chose a short (7-night) cruise to places we had visited many times previously. The exceptions were Grand Turk and Princess Cay, about which more later. Not to leave anyone in suspense, while we perceive some (inevitable) paradoxes in the cruise experience, we enjoyed our voyage and look forward to more cruises in our future. Our boarding experience was swift and pleasant. Our first sight of the cabin banished our principal anxiety: it was surprisingly large and thoroughly welcoming. The verandaha ballyhooed 50 square feet was great for standing on to observe waves and port scenes, but too small for anything else. We both liked the smallish size of the ship, the inherent intimacy. But we also felt that on a longer cruise, the choice of only two restaurants might be too limiting. Food and service are critical to a satisfying cruise, and particularly on a self-described luxury cruise. We always ate late, never entering Compass Rose or Portofino, the optional Italian restaurant, earlier than 8:00pm. Thus we were always offered the chance to join other passengers already seated. We eagerly accepted these assignments, as we thought that meeting our fellow cruisers across a dining table would be the easiest way to make on-board friends. There is a powerful temptation to fall back on hyperbole when writing about personal travel experiences. One's hotel was "superb." The food at a restaurant in Dubrovnik was "extraordinary." The guide in Buenos Aires was "non pareil." To be clear, we enjoyed our Navigator experience, but the following ratings are, I think, mercilessly accurate. The food. Bountiful, always at least good, sometimes very good. You cannot prepare meals for 450 people, offering them a dozen or more choices, and rival the cuisine at any Michelin-starred restaurant. That said, a curry one night was excellent. Fish was always very good. Corned beef hash in the morning was perfect. Hot dogs (in particular) from the pool grill were excellent. A Mexican fiesta from the same source at lunch was great. (Though for my palate, Corona is the least singular of all of Mexico's cervesas.) We thought service was never less than good, with frequent rises to refreshingly concerned. One lapse should be noted. If you plan to bring a Waterpik or other personal dental equipment have a care. In advance of the cruise, the Regent service desk assured us that outlets were available in the bathroom for 110volt (U.S.) appliances as well as shavers. Not so. On board, we asked for an extension cord to plug into the dressing table outlet which normally serves the 110volt hair dryer. After some consternation, this was furnished. The Waterpik whirred into life momentarily, and then fried. Could I be the only Regent passenger to travel with a Waterpik? To reiterate, cabin stewardess, bartenders, waiters and dining room staff were uniformly agreeable, almost universally in a way that suggests attitude coming from the heart, as well as from training. The ports. Our surprises were Grand Turk and Princess Cays. Our first trip to GT, though we had been to Provo a half-dozen times over the years. The cruise terminal is Disneyesque, and (thankfully) most passengers stay there. An enormous P&O vessel that dwarfed our trim little vessel was tied up across the pier, and disgorged more than 3,000 Brits at the same time as we disembarked. We rented a golf cart and puttered about the island, which is still recovering from hurricane Ike and, it appears, from the fraudulent activities of recently displaced government. Princess Cays, which we visited as our last port of call because of weather, loomed as another re worse Grand Turk. After all, one could reasonably expect the marketing gurus at a cruise line to trade island ambiance for an American Idol image of the Bahamas. Not so. Our 400+ passengers were easily accepted among the carefully planted palms. We delighted in feeding the frenzied fish the stale bread that was provided. And the barbecue was low key and satisfying, though Corona was (alas) the only beer available. So, kudos to Regent (or whomever) for their restraint in keeping Princess Cay more or less akin to its natural character. Though note that the islet can accept as many as 3500 passengers at once, and what it feels like submerged beneath that wave of sun-burning humanity is anyone's guess. So, where next? We would like to try a bigger ship on a longer cruise. Perhaps Regent Voyager? I think we would like a London to London cruise that touched at the Orkneys, Skye and other places a bit difficult to reach. A question that more experienced cruisers virtually all of you might be able to answer. Why do per diem costs increase as the duration of a cruise increases? That seems counter intuitive to the way most things, travel included, tend to work. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2009
INTRODUCTION My wife and I sailed on the January 17, 2009 voyage of the Royal Clipper round-trip from Barbados. This was our second cruise with Star Clippers, having also sailed on the Star Clipper in 2006. Our previous cruises were on ... Read More
INTRODUCTION My wife and I sailed on the January 17, 2009 voyage of the Royal Clipper round-trip from Barbados. This was our second cruise with Star Clippers, having also sailed on the Star Clipper in 2006. Our previous cruises were on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and NCL. We had grown tired of the larger ships and wanted to try a sailing cruise for a change. After sailing on the Star Clipper and Royal Clipper, we have no desire to return to the mass market cruise ships. ARRIVAL We took a taxi from the airport and arrived at the pier in Barbados around 4:00, and the check-in process had already begun. Check-in consisted of receiving our ID cards (which doubled as our room keys), dropping off our passports and leaving an imprint of our credit card for purchases on the ship. We finished with the process and were taken to the ship via a very short shuttle ride. As we boarded the ship, we were met by the Captain and Hotel Manager and given complementary cold drinks and light snacks on deck. We then were escorted to our cabin and our luggage was delivered to our room shortly after our arrival. SHIP The Royal Clipper is a fabulous ship. It is a sailing vessel, not a cruise ship. The ship is very elegant and sophisticated with none of the pseudo-glitz of the large ships. There are no casinos, ship's photographers, show lounges or elevators. There are three bars on board: the outside Tropical Bar; the inside Piano Bar and a Pool Bar. All of the nightly entertainment occurs at the Tropical Bar. The ship has plenty of teak and mahogany wood, all varnished to a high gloss. Additionally, there is lots of brass, which is also kept polished. The crew was working every day doing routine maintenance around the ship. The ship's passenger capacity is 220, and this week it seemed filled. The breakdown of passengers was international - from the United States, Canada and Europe. About one-half of the passengers had previously sailed with Star Clippers. There were several passengers on board for two weeks, combining the Grenadine Islands itinerary of this sailing with the Windward Islands sailing the week immediately prior to or after our sailing. The crew members were from 25 different countries. The ship offers several features not found on cruise ships: passengers could climb the main mast to the first level crow's nest (with appropriate safety equipment) on two separate occasions during the week; we could relax on the widow's netting at the bow of the ship anytime the crew was not operating the sails; there was an open bridge policy throughout the week; the crew lowered tenders one day during the week to give the passengers the opportunity to photograph the Royal Clipper at sea under full sails; and passengers were given the opportunity to steer the ship while at sea. Each day as the sails were raised as we were leaving a port, the ship would play the Vangelis soundtrack, "1492: Conquest of Paradise" over the sound system. The passengers would congregate on deck to watch the crew raising the sails and to listen to the music. The sailing during certain periods throughout the week was rough. We heard that some passengers were ill at points during the week due to the ship's movement. However, we did not feel any discomfort during the week. CABIN We booked a Category 6 (Inside) room, cabin 228. In retrospect, we would have booked a higher category (Outside) room to give us a little more space. The room had a fixed double bed. The bathroom had a shower, toilet, sink and a two-door medicine cabinet with plenty of shelving for storing toiletries. While most of the electrical outlets in the cabin are 220 volts, there are two outlets in the bathroom for 110 volts, which I used for charging our digital camera's battery. These outlets could also be used for electric razors or charging cell phones. There was a hair dryer attached to the wall in the bathroom. The cabin had just enough storage and closet space for the two of us. A safe with a programmable lock was located in one of the cabinets. There was a TV in the room, which received a few English speaking programs, including CNN International. A DVD player was also in the room, and video disks could be borrowed from the ship's collection. Our cabin attendant was excellent. Towels were exchanged each morning and evening. MEALS All meals were served in the main dining room. Like the rest of the ship, the main dining room was very elegant. It was very common for the ship's officers, including the captain, to join a group of diners at each meal. All dining is open seating, with service between 8:00 and 10:00 for breakfast, 12:00 and 2:00 for lunch and 7:30 and 10:00 for dinner. There are no formal nights - dress for dinner is resort casual for men and women. Buffet meals were served for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast, there was an assortment of cereal, yogurts, pastries and fruits, along with scrambled eggs, French toast or pancakes, bacon, sausage or ham and potatoes. There was also a station for fresh omelets and eggs each morning. Lunchtime had a nice assortment of salads, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits and homemade soups, plus one or two hot entrEes. There was also a carving station each day with either fish or meat. The breakfasts and lunches were all very good. An afternoon snack would be served daily between 5:00 and 6:00 at the Tropical Bar. Like the breakfasts and lunches, the afternoon snack was very good. The snack would consist of items such as finger sandwiches, fruit, a hot dish and dessert. The dinners have improved since our last cruise on the Star Clipper. On our prior cruise, we were disappointed in the dinners served, both in the nightly selection and quality of food. We were much more pleased with the dinners on this cruise. Dinner would feature four choices for the main course: a seafood entree; a vegetarian entree; a meat entrEe and a Caribbean chef's special. Lobster Tail was served on Thursday night, which is the Captain's Dinner. One nice thing about the dinner food on this cruise (and on the prior Star Clipper cruise) was that each night, the various entrEes would be displayed in the piano bar for the passengers to get an idea of what would be served that evening. An early morning breakfast of croissants and pastries was also available in the Piano Bar from 6:00 to 8:00 in the mornings. Many mornings, we would be up early and grab a croissant and coffee and tea and sit on the deck as the ship sailed to the next stop. Coffee, tea and fresh fruit are available 24 hours a day in the Piano Bar. The coffee on the ship is barely drinkable. I think that they must let it brew too long and leave it on the heat after it has finished brewing. The best thing I found was to grab a fresh cup as soon as the brew cycle finished or to mix the coffee with hot water to dilute it somewhat. SERVICE The service in the main dining room and throughout the ship was good. However, with the ship filled to capacity, the service seemed slower than three years ago. We often had to ask for refills on water or coffee. Bar service was mainly at the bars, with no bar waiters hounding you to purchase drinks every few minutes. The guys (and one young lady) on the sports crew were excellent. As noted above, our cabin steward was excellent. The crew that worked the sails was also very good, showing great patience as the passengers were on deck as the crew was trying to raise or lower the sails. They were also very helpful with any information that the passengers asked them for. ENTERTAINMENT Entertainment on the clipper ships is very limited - this is one area that could use improvement by Star Clippers. There was one entertainer on board who sang and played the keyboard during the afternoon snack period. He also played the piano in the Piano Bar during the dinner hours and served as the deejay for nighttime dancing. The music selection for nighttime dancing seemed strange and hardly anyone danced after the organized entertainment ended each evening. It would have been much nicer to have a talented duo or trio providing the dancing music in the evenings. There were organized entertainment activities each night at 10:00 at the Tropical Bar. The first night was a Welcome Aboard party. Other nights featured crab races, a musical trivia quiz contest and a fashion show. A crew and passenger talent show was held on another night, which was very funny and enjoyable. While we were docked Monday night in Grenada, a very good steel drum band came aboard to play for us. Other forms of entertainment centered around the cruise director's daily talk on the upcoming port and the captain's story time. Every morning before we reached a port, the cruise director would hold a briefing on the bridge. He would explain the history of the island and places of interest to visit. He detailed what times the tenders would operate to the town or to the beach, and what time the last tender would return to the ship at the end of the day. The captain held two story times. The first session lasted about one hour and consisted of the captain narrating a slide show of sailing ships and then answering questions from the passengers regarding the ship and sailing in general. He also held another story time later in the week, demonstrating sailing maneuvers from the bridge area. ITINERARY This is not a typical cruise ship itinerary. Because of its small size, the ship can fit into ports that the larger ships cannot. The stops are in remote islands and harbors. The focus on the stops is on sailing and enjoying the natural beauty of the islands. There is not a lot of activity going on in most of the ports. At most stops, the ship would run two tenders, one to the town for limited shopping and to meet the shore excursions and the second one to a beach. For each beach stop, the sports crew would take water ski equipment, a wave board (similar to a snow board), a windsurf board, sea kayaks, and small sailboats. All of these beach activities were provided with no additional charge. Snorkeling gear was also issued at the beginning of the week for use throughout the cruise, again at no additional charge. After departing Barbados on Saturday, Sunday we stopped at uninhabited Young Island for a full beach day. On Monday the ship called at Grenada and spent all day docked at the pier in St. Georges. Several excursions were offered by the ship but we opted to walk into town in the morning and stopped at a public library to use the Internet connection. During the afternoon, we took a private taxi tour of the island, stopping at a spice plantation, Annandale Falls and a scenic point overlooking the harbor. On Tuesday the ship stopped at an uninhabited island in the Tobago Cays for a full day. This was probably the most beautiful beach we have ever been on. In addition to the beautiful beach, the natural harbor was filled with sailboats in the area for the day. You could take a short walk to the other side of the island where more sailboats were anchored offshore. There was good snorkeling right off of the beach. The ship's crew provided a full beach barbecue for lunch at this island stop. On Wednesday morning, we stopped in St. Vincent at the capital city of Kingstown. This was by far the worst stop of the week. No one could understand why the ship stops at this island. The pier area is crowded and dirty. Once you leave the protected area of the pier, you are hounded by taxi drivers. We did not feel comfortable walking through the city and headed back to the ship. Fortunately, we left St. Vincent around noon and sailed to Port Elizabeth, Bequia. As bad as St. Vincent was, Bequia was just as good. It is a beautiful island. The beach area is wide and sandy, without any rocks. There is a small town at the pier with many charming shops, restaurants and pubs. I know that many passengers made suggestions that St. Vincent should be dropped and the whole day should be spent in Bequia. There were two stops on Thursday on Martinique. During the morning, we stopped at the capital city, Fort de France. We spent the morning walking the city streets. During the afternoon, we anchored off of Grand Anse Beach. While on the beach, the sports crew led a snorkeling excursion to another part of the island on their Zodiac boats. Two excursions were offered, each with a capacity of eight persons. I was fortunate enough to go on the first excursion, and it was simply the best snorkeling I have ever done. Our excursion stopped at the same site as the local scuba dive tours. The water was incredibly clear, as we were able to see the ocean floor at least 70 feet below us. The coral formations living on the rocks were fabulous. During our time in the water, we saw two eels and an octopus, along with many other colorful fish. The best part of the snorkeling excursion was that it was free - no additional charge for the side trip. After snorkeling, we stayed on the beach until the last tender at 6:00 and witnessed a beautiful sunset on the tender ride back to the ship. The final stops on Friday were St. Lucia. In the morning, we stopped at Marigot Bay. A tender service was offered into a small marina, which turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. There was a coffee shop with nice patio seating along with several small specialty stores. There were several beautiful sailboats and yachts docked at the marina. A very nice resort hotel with beautiful grounds, Discovery at Marigot Bay, was located at the end of the marina. In the afternoon, we sailed to Soufriere Bay, where the sports team offered another snorkeling excursion - this time a one Euro fee was charged as we snorkeled at a St. Lucia national park, and the one Euro fee was the entrance fee to the park. During this snorkeling excursion, we saw and swam with a sea turtle for 10 or 15 minutes. The ship also offered shore excursions and a tender service to the town of La Soufriere. The passengers who went into the town were very disappointed, as they were harassed by local youths begging for money. SUMMARY This was another great week with Star Clippers, and we would definitely love to sail with them in the future. Read Less
Sail Date: December 2008
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful ... Read More
It was a delightful trip and interesting to be away over Christmas. I flew down to Florida and stayed at the Hilton on the Beach in FLL; on the 18th we boarded the Voyager. I must add, that for a chain hotel, the Hilton was delightful and had not only a lovely dining area overlooking the ocean and pool, but great food. I was pleasantly surprised. Santa left us cookies and candies and a lovely passport folder. Many suite doors were decorated. One suite was apparently done to the hilt. Having never sailed on Regent, Voyager, just out of a major dry dock work was to be under my scrutiny. Because I am so 'wedded' to Seabourn, I couldn't imagine that it could be as nice. Different and good, but not as nice. Well it was. Embarkation was a breeze and I was given a wheelchair assist through the process. I did not need one once onboard. Disembarkation was a mess attributed to the slowness of the luggage handlers off-loading. We got off early, but later, I understand it was a zoo as all colors were called at once. The decor and layout of the ship was very good, lots of nooks and crannies for reading, napping, and card playing. We did all three a lot. The top deck with the pool, jacuzzis and Veranda Cafe and Pool Grill were very crowded on sea days and to be avoided. However, on the port days, I didn't get off (except for a brief trolley tour in Curacao and it was ok.) The 'show theater' had a balcony and i even watched 'Mama Mia' in it. Always cold, the best entertainment was the Crew Capers the last night. The crew is mostly from the Philippines and performed folk dances and singing. I found out my favorite crew member (Manny of Room Service) was the star and choreographer. Otherwise, the entertainment was pretty poor and to be avoided. Christmas Eve there was carol singing in the atrium and a holiday show that was ok, including the numerous children on board who sang carols. Actually the many children had onboard programs and were not annoying to me at all. I even found the team in the scavenger hunt trying to find 4 crew to pose for the YMCA logo quite amusing.The dumb parents who took toddlers in diapers in the hot tubs were just that, dumb. I did see cool towels being passed about in the afternoon. There were lots of activities, always a tea time with music and a 'quiet tea' in another spot. Nice idea. I played Trivia once. It was difficult and the first day, came in second with a score of 6. the winners got 7/15. I mean, who knew that Melanie of the Spice Girls was the first to put out a single record? Besides, the afternoon time, 4:00 was inconvenient to my nap times. I am looking to the blood sport of Trivia on the Legend Crossing in November. The library was very good and belatedly I found out I could have gotten the NY Times delivered daily (for a fee, of course). There was a huge computer room and a coffee nook as well. While there were DVDs available, there was a large on-demand selection of movies of which to avail. Loved the 'Bee Movie', great humor for adults. The TV channels left much to be desired. FNN, CNN, ESPN, and TNT. Never set foot in the spa, gym, casino, or boutiques. Listened to one of the enrichment lecturers on TV replay, interesting about Obama and the challenges he faces nationally; missed part II of the international dilemmas. Smokers seemed rare and there was a cigar room. Never went in there, either. The food was very good, varied with lovely presentations. The main dining venue is the Compass Rose, large and serving all 3 meals. Two specialty restaurants, Signatures which is to be 'cordon bleu' and Prime 7, a steak house. Both were smaller and more intimate. We ate at both twice and were pleased. On time we joined a table of 6 others and that was fun. Room service is always my favorite, breakfast with a great omelet was the treat. Bar service at the pool was fine, but they can't make a BBC like Nelson on Seabourn. I switched to the Blue Hawaii, a drink from my past, and a virgin Madras, which I learned was cranberry and grapefruit juice without the vodka. The weather was lovely, soft bouncing on some nights. People complained, but I had two balsa angels on a narrow shelf and they never moved, nor did the apple perched atop a narrow dresser top. Speaking of the dresser, the layout of the suite with a balcony was delightful. Bigger than Seabourn (not including the balcony) and with a huge walk-in closet and bathroom with both shower and tub. And, the sofa was large enough to stretch out and actually nap comfortably. It did, however, lack a comfy throw to ward off the a/c chill. The table was enlarged with a plastic top for dining. That was a bit wobbly, but we managed. The bed was great, with a comfy duvet and I actually had real 'Turkish' towels! The itinerary was ok, because I have been to most of the islands and to me they are all alike and with not much to buy. My partner wandered off in most ports and in Aruba found a grocery store and we had good Edam cheese on which to nibble. He found St Lucia grim and the others fair to poor. Many of the tours were more vigorous than I could do or care to. The one trip, deep sea fishing, was closed before the cruise started. Embarkation was a breeze as was disembarkation, after the hour wait because of slow teamsters unloading the luggage. We had a car waiting, and were charged some extra time, but it helped to make our early flights. From checking out of the ship (9:40) to my gate at FLL was 40 minutes. But we were off in the first crush. I did not book another cruise onboard, but with the right itinerary, would certainly go again. ABOVE ALL, WE FOUND THE COURTESY AND FRIENDLINESS OF THE STAFF TO BE 5***** Read Less
Sail Date: July 2008
This was our second time sailing with Oceania (the other in 2005 Barcelona to Istanbul). We like the smaller ships (less than 700 passengers) and the port intensive itineraries of Oceania. The ships are very nicely appointed and have a ... Read More
This was our second time sailing with Oceania (the other in 2005 Barcelona to Istanbul). We like the smaller ships (less than 700 passengers) and the port intensive itineraries of Oceania. The ships are very nicely appointed and have a "country club casual" ambience. No need to pack all that formal wear. Although staterooms are known to be on the smallish side, they are very well laid out and comfortable. In 2005 we had Concierge Level balcony Stateroom which was very nice, however on this cruise opted for the somewhat larger penthouse suite which had a bathtub and came with butler service. Our butler was extremely pleasant and efficient but did not find having a butler significantly contributed to our enjoyment of the cruise. Although I was completely satisfied with the concierge level stateroom, my husband enjoyed the extra space of the penthouse suite especially as was 14 day cruise. Dining on Oceania was wonderful experience. Maybe not quite ***** but certainly much better than many of the larger cruise lines. We generally dined in the main Dining Room - no set seatings so could dine when you pleased. Had the option of dining alone, with group or to be placed at an open table. Many of the tables were for 2 but well positioned so could have a private meal but were at the same time conducive to meeting others. Particularly enjoyed the speciality Italian restaurant Toscana and dined there on a number of occasions. Polo Grill was also nice but menu limited to fairly standard steaks & chops. For breakfast we generally ordered room service & ate on our balcony or had croissants & coffee up in the Horizon Lounge (very quiet). We are not buffet type people and generally avoided the buffet except to pick up a few appies to enjoy in our stateroom. Unlike other cruise lines, Oceania do allow you bring your own liquor aboard to consume in your stateroom. Can also bring your own wine to dining room but charged a corkage charge so not worth extra cost. Normally we would order bottles of wine with dinner, and what was not finished was stored by the wine steward for the next day. Without set seating, you did not always have the same service staff. However being a smaller ship and longer cruise we did get to know a number of the staff. Service was exceptional and friendly. Where Oceania falls down is on entertainment and shore excursions. Entertainment - The house orchestras were OK but the headlined acts were so so bad. I generally would walk out but my husband would stay because they were not only bad but they were terrible! One of the entertainers on our Baltic cruise was the same as on our Mediterranean cruise in 2005. Oceania is adult oriented and do not have children's/teen programs. Not a "party boat". Shore excursions: Grossly overpriced and Oceania have the habit of canceling excursions at the last minute if they don't have enough people signed up. Excursion desk staff, although pleasant, were unable/unwilling to provide port information other than related to their tour. Generally a local tourist official would board when we got into port but a bit late for advance planning. For St. Petersburg , Oceania gave us the impression that it was very difficult to get a visitors Visa for Russia and it would not be possible to get off the boat without taking one of their excursions. Fortunately at the last minute we learnt this was not the case & booked 3 day tour with Alla Tours which was fabulous. Best advice is to try and pre-arrange own tours or get a good guide and do it on your own. With this last cruise, had a few problems pre-cruise with our flight deviations. Our itineraries were different as husband was returning a week later from UK. We received our flight confirmations from Oceania and all seemed OK as we had requested until we called the airlines to book our seat assignments. Evidently my husband's reservation had been changed & he was scheduled to fly out to Stockholm a day later than me. Took over a week to rectify. Would I sail again with Oceania - probably yes but am a bit hesitant because I enjoy going to the evening show as part of the cruising experience. Read Less

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