38 Oceania Nautica Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

Unless you reserve in the two highest categories, you are treated very poorly. Dinner ereservatiiobns are not a priority unless you are in the top 2 categories, embarking early reserved for special class & expensive tours. Not at all ... Read More
Unless you reserve in the two highest categories, you are treated very poorly. Dinner ereservatiiobns are not a priority unless you are in the top 2 categories, embarking early reserved for special class & expensive tours. Not at all what we expected. Middle &uppe r maNAgement very impressed with themselves and not helpful. One notable excxception is genertal manager Guiseepe. Reception & Assistant purser/concierge have no peopkle skills Service kline & assistanec after tyiou have paid is just as bad or not worse with their Miami office. Tourtes as luxury cruise, NOT Read Less
Sail Date May 2015
In 2010, we cruised on the Azamara Journey which is an identical ship to the Oceania Nautica. Both ships and cruise lines are very, very good. Food and cabins were quite comparable on both ships - both were superb. Oceania crew might ... Read More
In 2010, we cruised on the Azamara Journey which is an identical ship to the Oceania Nautica. Both ships and cruise lines are very, very good. Food and cabins were quite comparable on both ships - both were superb. Oceania crew might have been very slightly better trained. Azamara provides complimentary wine with meals and gratuities are also included whereas both are extra on Oceania. Both cruise lines are recommended. Let itinerary be your deciding factor. We had veranda cabins on both ships and recommend that - very spacious. Oceania crew appeared to wake up with a smile on their face and stayed that way the entire day. Ship was very clean. Soft drinks are complimentary and cabin crew kept our refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke as we requested. Both specialty dining rooms are excellent. Main dining room is also very good. After some long days of touring, we chose to eat at the Terrace Cafe where we could dine in our shorts. Food is essentially the same as the main dining room but served buffet style. Eat outside on the rear deck if there is room - very nice eating out there. Waves Grill on the pool deck right outside the Terrace Cafe serves lunch until 4:00. This location make a good hamburger and an excellent panini. And their french fries are fantastic - your cardiologist would not approve but the fries sure taste good! In general, I recommend that you consider skipping all ship excursions and arrange your own private tours. With only two people, private tours are similar in price to ship excursions but more flexible. With two couples, price is cut in half. It is very easy to make all arrangements ahead of time via the internet. Note that most of these guides want to be paid in cash. Ship's first port was Nauplion (a.k.a. Nafplio). Patty Staikou (pstaikou@mail.gr) was recommended by Rick Steves' guidebook. She also agreed to give us tours of both Mycenae and Epidavros whereas ship excursions made you choose one or the other. Patty arranged for a taxi (we paid driver separately) to pick us up at the ship. Taxi was a very clean Mercedes and driver drove us to meet Patty. The latter is a superb guide. Zakynthos was next stop. We took ship excursion, Panoramic Zakynthos. Very disappointing. Can not recommend that excursion. Some friends took a private tour and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Monemvasia was another port. Here it is recommended that you walk to the town of Monemvasia. Lower city is quaint and easy to walk. If you are up for the hike, travel to the upper town. The latter is mostly ruins except for the 12th century Hagia Sophia. Now, if you are still energetic, you can continue up to the Citadel. Note that these "trails" are not particularly easy to traverse and you must be very careful coming back down. There are numerous very slippery rocks that must be negotiated and it is slow going. But the views are excellent. Kusadasi (Ephesus) is a great stop. You must go to Ephesus. We prearranged a tour through www.ephesusshuttle.com. The latter provided a very clean van with separate driver and guide. Haluk Caliskan was our guide and was quite good. This company was very flexible. Ship docks for a shorter time in Kusadasi than other ports and there is a lot to see. Ephesus Shuttle modified one of their standard tours in order for us to see what we wanted to see on the time we had. They are also reasonably priced and accepted credit cards. Other ports are discussed in the sections below this. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
We were originally scheduled to take the NYC-Montreal cruise, but we received an offer we could not refuse! Our September 19 - October 1 cruise (Greek Isles - Istanbul) on the Nautica was probably the best cruise we have ever taken. We ... Read More
We were originally scheduled to take the NYC-Montreal cruise, but we received an offer we could not refuse! Our September 19 - October 1 cruise (Greek Isles - Istanbul) on the Nautica was probably the best cruise we have ever taken. We used O's air, transfer and hotel in Athens due to the possibility of unrest. We upgraded to business class and were extremely pleased with our flights. A driver was waiting in the airport with our name on a sign as well as an O rep. Couldn't have been smoother! Arrived at the Hotel Grande Bretagne to find an O information center and our room waiting. Quite comfortable and we could view the parliament building (changing of the guard) from our balcony. Had dinner reservations for the rooftop restaurant. It was very crowded, but our "special anniversary" table was waiting for us with a view of the Acropolis. Spectacular! Food and service were both great, but as discussed on this board, a little pricey. Being from NY, we were prepared for that! A small demonstration in the street below broke out during dinner but was quickly contained. Slept well and had breakfast (included) in the same restaurant the next morning. The lobby was a little packed the next morning as post cruise passengers and new cruisers were coming and going. It was very organized and when our luggage was loaded, we left for the pier. Embarkation was smooth, but different from our last Athens departure. We checked in at the pier and headed for the lounge on 5 for actual check-in. Rooms were not ready yet, so lunch at the Terrace was next. Our suite was amazing. The wrap around balcony had a table and four chairs as well as two full sized lounges. Long stemmed roses were on the coffee table. The bathroom was enormous, and even better, the guest bathroom was ready and waiting for my husband's toiletries! The closet space was never ending, but I did manage to fill them up. I could see myself feeling right at home for 12 days! Our butler, Iljco came to greet us and ask what we needed to make our cruise special. It already was! We enjoyed full breakfast in our suite most days and had dinner from Toscana "en suite" 3 times. We changed and went to the cabana, where our attendant, Aung, introduced himself and asked what we would need. He always seemed to know what we needed before we did! We often enjoyed lunch from WAVES, ice cream, afternoon tea and drinks while in our cabana. Worth every penny! We dined in Polo 3 times and were always pleased with our meals and the service. The GDR was our favorite. The service was amazing (Brandon, Ron and Ernesto)and we always requested to be in their section. One nite, we even passed on the GDR when a table in their section was not available, that's how great they were! Did not make use of the spa except for the sun deck. Being a port intensive cruise and using the cabana daily, we never really had the time. While it is no secret that entertainment is not the reason to choose O, we often enjoyed snippets of a show or performance. I think we were just too tired after an early rise, an excursion, a big dinner, etc. The show rooms were always packed, though, and many people enjoyed the performances. O shore excursions were great this time. We purchased a number of "Oceania's Choice" excursions (10 - 16 people max) and they really worked for us. Tours were efficiently dispatched from the lounge, buses were always clean and guides knowledgeable and friendly. Ship was clean and well maintained. The staff seemed extra friendly. When I mentioned this to anyone, they always answered that the Captain sets the tone. Captain Rye, who renewed our vows on a previous cruise, was always friendly. It was fascinating to watch him work on the bridge. He took the helm and allowed all of his crew to answer our questions and demonstrate their duties. What a treat! Ports were amazing. We had been to some of them on a previous cruise, but Rhodes is my new favorite. We bypassed Delos and Mykonos due to weather, but having been there before, we welcomed the sea day. Kusadasi and Istanbul were exciting. Ephesus was special for us, allowing us to spend time at Mother Mary's house and enjoy the ruins as well. Our guide that day, Sibel, was very interesting and knowledgeable. It is never fun to disembark, but I must say that this disembarkation was the smoothest we have ever experienced. Kudos to Sonja and her staff! Not only was it efficient getting off the ship and getting to the airport, O reps even helped us off of the bus, got all luggage identified,loaded and scanned and escorted us to the check in desks. This is a chore we always dread, but it couldn't have been smoother or more pleasant. I can't wait for my next O cruise! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
Having returned last month from a 12-day Oceania Mediterranean cruise aboard the ship Nautica, I can attest to the fact that this cruise line is extraordinary. The cruise was entitled Greek Isles Odyssey, which sailed from Athens to ... Read More
Having returned last month from a 12-day Oceania Mediterranean cruise aboard the ship Nautica, I can attest to the fact that this cruise line is extraordinary. The cruise was entitled Greek Isles Odyssey, which sailed from Athens to Istanbul and visited Nauplion, Zakynthos, Corfu, Katakolon, Monemvasia, Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, Delos, Mykonos, and Kusadasi along the way. Overall, this trip was nothing short of spectacular. Oceania strikes the right balance of luxury without stuffiness that allows guests to feel unbelievably pampered but in a friendly, relaxing and elegant atmosphere. This welcoming attitude must be a part of Oceania corporate culture as it was evident from every single member of the crew and staff, from Captain Jahn Rye right on down. Oceania clearly has a wealth of experience in catering to the many and varied needs of their customers. The entire on-board experience works like a well-oiled machine and nothing is left to chance. From the seamless embarkation procedure to the comprehensive safety drill to the incredibly efficient tendering process, its evident that they have ALL the bugs worked out! In addition, we booked our flights and pre- and post-cruise hotels via Oceania and everything went incredibly smoothly. The airport-to-hotel and hotel-to-ship transfers were effortless and the hotels spectacular. Since this review is long, Ive categorized it by topics of potential interest Choosing a Stateroom: Our stateroom, although a modest size, was beautifully appointed and impeccably clean with all the amenities a traveller could wish for. If at all possible, it is well worth choosing a stateroom with a balcony as the beautiful views while entering and leaving port made for some memorable moments. Although we did not experience seasickness, others who had staterooms at the bow or the stern did, during a few days of moderately high seas. Some travellers told us that a stateroom mid-ship is your best bet if youre prone to motion sickness along with ginger lozenges, wristbands, scopolamine patches and Gravol. Pre- and Post-Cruise Hotels: As mentioned, we booked our flights, hotels and all transfers through Oceania and the entire process was flawless. In Athens, we stayed at the beautiful, very upscale Hotel Grande Bretagne, which has a wonderful central location and outstanding amenities. Be sure to visit the glorious Rooftop Garden Restaurant at least once during your stay. A word of caution though, this hotel is located directly across from the Parliament buildings where many of the current political demonstrations are focused. Immediately following the cruise, we stayed at the equally lovely Ceylan Intercontinental Istanbul. This hotel is exquisite although it is located in the new section of the city, about a 20-minute cab ride away from the old section of the city where the markets and primary tourist sites are located. This isnt necessarily a problem but it advisable to a) ask the hotel Concierge what the going rate would be for your planned cab trip; and b) use a cab that is endorsed by the hotel; and c) negotiate the cab fare with the driver before you set off. Most of these suggestions are just common sense though, no matter where in the world you are. Dining Aboard the Nautica: On other cruises that we have taken (NOT Oceania!) the emphasis was on eating morning, noon, and night but it was all about quantity, not quality. Aboard the Nautica however, the meals were exquisite. Each one was truly a fine-dining experience with a remarkable array of menu choices. For dinner, reservations can be made at either of two specialty restaurants Toscana or the Polo Grill. Depending on your stateroom level you are automatically entitled to a certain number of reservations. Nevertheless, we learned that if you go directly to the restaurants, additional reservations can sometimes be procured depending on availability that evening. DO NOT be disappointed, however, if you end up dining frequently at the Grand Dining Room! The meals there were equally fabulous with the same wonderful menu choices and an attention to detail that is beyond compare. Truly, it amazed us that such a high level of quality could be consistently maintained when preparing food for a large number of people. The policy of no assigned seating for meals encourages interaction amongst fellow travellers although you always have the option of dining privately. While on the topic of dining, it should be mentioned that the breakfast and lunch buffets, the casual Tapas on the Terrace restaurant, poolside grill, ice-cream bar and sumptuous afternoon tea all live up to the same high standards as the main dining restaurants. Shore Excursions: During the 12-day cruise we booked three shore excursions through Oceania and arranged three independent shore excursions prior to leaving home. Although the Oceania excursions were very nicely done and were relatively small groups, we still felt like sheep being rapidly herded from one site to the next. In one particular instance (Kusadasi), the tour ended with a Turkish carpet-making demonstration which was, in fact, a high-pressure sales tactic. Oceania excursion participants were virtually held hostage in a sales situation that was both uncomfortable and infuriating. Despite this glitch, in some cases, such as visiting downtown Istanbul, the organized Oceania tours may be desirable because there is a great deal to see and one needs to be able to find the highlights quickly and efficiently. For other destinations, such as on the island of Santorini, it is essential to be able to take your time and focus on the things that are important to you. Even though the Oceania buses were immaculate and the tour-guides friendly and knowledgeable, on subsequent trips we will likely make our own arrangements and eschew the organized excursions. Even though it is inherently riskier, it is also significantly less expensive (especially if you share the trip with others) and offers you unlimited flexibility. We had excellent success with private tour operators that we found on Trip Advisor and Cruise Critic, namely: George Letsios Taxi Katakolon; Jackie Boots-Gklavas Nefis Travel on Zakynthos; and Dimitris Nikolaidis OceanWave Tours on Santorini. Onboard Entertainment: To present a balanced perspective on the cruise overall, I would have to say that the weakest link of the trip was some of the onboard entertainment particularly the Enrichment Lectures. One presentation on the geologic features above and below the Mediterranean Sea was completely unsatisfactory and Im a science geek. The PowerPoint presentation was disorganized and antiquated and call me crazy but people *might not* want to sit through a talk about giant rogue waves and tsunamis whilst at sea! As for the rest of the entertainment, it ranged from very, very good (the on-board Entertainment Team and an excellent singer/impressionist) to disturbing (a brilliant concert pianist attempting to do a comedy routine that wasnt the least bit funny). However, it is reasonable to assume that people do not go cruising for Broadway-calibre productions and as such, the evening musical numbers seemed to be very well received. The very talented Marek Orchestra in the Horizons Lounge (and elsewhere onboard) offered a great finale to each day and, even though the late evening activities were often not well attended, the band continued to play until about midnight every evening. Certainly this was not a cruise for serious party-goers but for the vast majority of the primarily over-50 crowd, the entertainment and bar/lounge/casino options seemed to be absolutely fine. Additional onboard pastimes, organized by the Entertainment staff, included team trivia, Scattergories, bridge, shuffleboard, table tennis, golf driving and putting, magic shows, meet & greets, and many other fun, light-hearted activities. We all enjoyed the variety that was offered and no one was ever bored or dissatisfied. Be sure to check out the lovely Nautica library as well. Shipboard Staff: There are not enough superlatives to describe the amazing staff that makes cruising aboard the Nautica so special. The housekeeping personnel and the servers who work in the restaurants and bars are truly remarkable. They manage to uphold standards of excellence that are unparalleled while maintaining a cheerful attitude despite the very, very, VERY long hours that they work. The tipping policy of Oceania is that each guest is charged a set fee of approximately $12. per day, which is automatically added to the final bill at the end of the cruise. Apparently, a guest can decline to participate in this system although I truly cannot imagine anyone begrudging these hard-working individuals this small recognition. Fortunately, additional tipping is permitted at your discretion. We are absolutely THRILLED by the prospect of cruising with Oceania again in the future. When it comes to high standards, beautiful surroundings, well-chosen itineraries, and value for the money, in our opinion it is unsurpassed. Helpful Tips: - A stateroom mid-ship seems to be your best bet if youre prone to motion sickness. - Book your dinner reservations online on the Oceania site well before your embarkation date. - Once aboard, visit the specialty restaurants in the morning to see if additional reservations are available. - Most men preferred to wear sports jackets to dinner (without a tie). Most women chose to wear nice, day-length dresses with a light sweater or wrap, since it can be chilly and windy walking on deck afterwards. - If you decide that a full bottle of wine over dinner is too much, ask the staff to hold the remaining wine for you in a wine locker, ready to be enjoyed at your next lunch or dinner. - Arrange your own tours before you leave home or book organized Oceania tours, depending on your comfort level with the destination but avoid the carpet demonstrations! - When the Oceania brochures advise wearing sensible shoes to sites such as the Parthenon/Acropolis, pay attention. The walkways and steps of ancient marble are SOOOO slippery, even when dry, that sticky rock-climbing shoes would be a good idea. - If you choose to book additional vacation days at the beginning and/or end of your cruise, be aware that you will be expected to transfer to the ship quite early on the day of embarkation (11 am pickup at our hotel to transfer to the ship). Had we known this, we would have booked several extra days, not just one at each end. Remember, this is only one person's opinion (actually two, since my husband agrees with everything I say).... That's it folks. Bon Voyage!!! Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
This was our first Oceania cruise and we were looking forward to comparing it to the other cruise lines we have used, from Silverseas to NCL. It was excellent and a very good value for the money. Food, especially in the specialty ... Read More
This was our first Oceania cruise and we were looking forward to comparing it to the other cruise lines we have used, from Silverseas to NCL. It was excellent and a very good value for the money. Food, especially in the specialty restaurants, was excellent. Good variety and well prepared. As will smaller ships, the nightly shows are not Broadway extravaganzas but they were very good. We thought we would miss the formal nights but we didn't. This 12 day cruise had no sea days. It was a different island every day and when we returned to the ship we were glad we didn't have to dress formally for dinner. We will be on Oceania again. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
In a nutshell: perfect itinerary, outstanding service, and excellent food, but the ship is old & cramped. The entertainment & activities were way below par. With a starting port of Athens and and ending port of Istanbul, ... Read More
In a nutshell: perfect itinerary, outstanding service, and excellent food, but the ship is old & cramped. The entertainment & activities were way below par. With a starting port of Athens and and ending port of Istanbul, the itinerary was fabulous for extending our vacation. We learned that many others on the cruise did exactly the same thing. The embarkation process could not have gone more smoothly. We were super impressed compared to the torturous experiences with larger ships on Carnival. We arrived just when boarding began and our room was ready and luggage delivered. Yay! Our veranda stateroom was small and the bathroom tiny. An average person sits at a weird angle on the toilet and almost hits the ceiling in the postage stamp sized shower. However, there were towels galore and they were replaced at the slightest sign of use. The veranda held 2 chairs and a table. That's it. First day out, we ran into heavy winds at Mykonos and had to abandon that port to sail directly to Kusadasi, Turkey. Many passengers stayed in their rooms as the small ship was heavily buffeted by the wind & swells. By dinner time, things calmed and we enjoyed a great meal at the main dinning room. All the dinning areas (main, buffet, & 2 specialty restaurants) had outstanding 5 or more course meals. The service was impeccable. We made friends with some of the servers and their were smiles all around. So, this part of the cruising experience was excellent. The after dinner entertainment was very basic, mostly with 4 singers and 1 comedian. Yep, that's it. The entertainment & activities were targeted to 70 & 80 year olds. I'm hardly young but I found this was not nearly as much fun as that of bigger ships with more diverse passenger ages. The music included a show band, a string quartet, and piano bar. Other activities included bingo, trivia, 2 karaoke nights, and attempts as special events. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Getting on and off the ship was very professionally done. The room was smaller than I thought it would be. I know trick photography is used when taking pictures of the room, but a little more space for the price would be nice. Everything ... Read More
Getting on and off the ship was very professionally done. The room was smaller than I thought it would be. I know trick photography is used when taking pictures of the room, but a little more space for the price would be nice. Everything worked well in the room, tv, air, good mattress. No problems with the bathroom, plenty of supplies. The service was the best. 5+ for sure. The cruise entertainment director, Willie Aames, of 8 is Enough fame, was born for this job. A great job is an understatement. The food was very good for all meals, but the speciality restaurants, in my opinion, lacked the quality that the regular restaurants offered. The wine was reasonably priced with an excellent selection. They even hold a bottle for you until the next day and serve it in any restaurant that you go to. There was never an "at sea" day so we used the pool on only 2 occasions. Never a problem getting a place to relax. We didn't take any of the tours, which were extra; instead we opted to explore on our own. Even if they were free, it's not likely we would have taken them since many of them were too physical for us. Most tours went from 75-150 dollars. The ship often had courtesy buses in-town to take us to and from the ship. Nickel and dimeing is a problem. Charging 2 dollars for washing and 2 dollars for drying is ridiculous. So is having only 1 laundry room on the entire ship(700 passengers). The line starts at 7:00AM and planning a wash is not vacation time well spent. The Internet costs about 140 dollars for about 2 hours. Too expensive. All in all, the pluses exceed the minuses so it was a trip well worth it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Greek Isles Odyssey, 10-22 Sep, 2010 onboard Oceania ship, Nautica 3 days in Athens pre-cruise and 3 days in Istanbul post-cruise This is the "executive summary" or should I say, well expanded ES of our cruise. It will ... Read More
Greek Isles Odyssey, 10-22 Sep, 2010 onboard Oceania ship, Nautica 3 days in Athens pre-cruise and 3 days in Istanbul post-cruise This is the "executive summary" or should I say, well expanded ES of our cruise. It will be a combination of "here's what we did and liked/didn't like" and lessons learned from first timers (it may be worth exactly what you are paying for it ?)) Diane and I are not cruisers per se having only been on one 4-day NCL cruise in 2005. I am a retired navy guy so this is like a busman's holiday for me. Don't get me wrong, I love being at sea and the Nautica spoiled the heck out of both of us! (Okay, I've just finished this Executive Summary and found myself on page 6. So the first part will be a bullet point of key items. If you care to drudge through the full write up be forewarned that I did say 'drudge'. I don't mind answering direct questions and will read the Oceania board on Cruise Critic every so often should you have a question. Here goes.... Pre-cruise: • Join and absorb Cruise Critic boards about Oceania, ports of call and the roll call for your specific cruise. • Check out Tripadvisor dot com for city restaurants, hotel and site recommendations • Open up a separate checking account with an ATM card. Deposit funds for the cruise - protects your main bank account funds. • Use a 4-digit PIN for your cards. Do not start the PIN with a zero • Learn some language words and phrases. Audio books In Flight {Greek} Learn Before You Land and great • Pre-pack two weeks before the trip. Guys - no sports jacket is needed On board the ship • Concierge stateroom - 216 Sq. Ft including veranda; lots of storage space. Veranda a must • Board early especially if this is your first time on the ship. Lots of activities that first day • Get the small floral arrangement if you plan on ordering one • Future Cruises presentation - don't waste your time • Coffee available 24/7 in Terrace Cafe, starboard side. Machine makes single cups of coffee, cappuccino or latte. Horizons coffee and Danish service opens at 6:15ish. Room service is QUICK! Enjoy the coffee while sitting on your veranda. • In-room frig: you can get it stocked with your favorites Restaurants: • Toscana was favorite; Polo Grill excellent with unwavering menu. Grand Dining Room also excellent. • Food was well prepared and presented well. Service was fantastic with one experience in the Polo Grill being a bit too much. • Maximum time we ever waited to be seated was 3-4 minutes. Portion sizes were great. • Tapas on the Terrace was most often the choice for breakfast buffet. • Fruits and vegetables always fresh and plentiful • Can order a bottle of wine and have it available in any restaurant. • Additional reservations are made in Terrace Cafe at the start of breakfast. Line up early for better chance. • Pastries & cake were uniformly dry. Off ship activities: Port tours: Ship tours are good but don't cover as much as most privately arranged ones and are usually more expensive for what you get. Go with private tour guides who have been recommended on CC boards. Tendering: Ship tour folks have priority boarding of tenders but usually space is available from the first tender on for DIYers Get tender pass in Nautica Lounge - try and be there about 15 minutes before first ship's tour group is to arrive On board comments and general demeanor by ship's staff. • Problems and requests are handled very, very expeditiously. The entire crew is warm, welcoming and eager to be of service to make your trip the best it can be. Diane and I would rate the cruise 5 + stars Pre-cruise Planning help: I joined Cruise Critic and absorbed every bit of information that I could about the ship and the different ports that we were going to. A world of experience is available for the taking (ask your question - you'll get an answer! (in retrospect, I really don't understand anyone who complained loudly about shipboard stuff - it wasn't perfect but darn near) The roll call for our trip wasn't as active as I thought it would be but those of us who did communication were able to set up our private tours very quickly and nicely. I also reviewed TripAdvisor dot com and found that the ratings of the hotels, restaurants, etc. were fairly spot-on. Use of ATM on holiday On the advice of a CCer (Cruise Critic blogger), we opened up a separate checking account at our bank, transferred funds to meet our ATM needs while on the trip and felt much more comfortable knowing that our primary checking account was safe. !Use a 4 digit PIN that does NOT start with zero for use with European bank machines! Other stuff Learn a few language words & phrases. In-Flight Greek (& Turkish) Learn Before You Land audiobooks (under $12 through Amazon) are an easy way to learn a few key phrases in {Greek and Turkish}. Simply learning how to say Please, Thank you, good morning (and for me, "Beer") will bring you much warmth from those you come in contact with. Prepack Two weeks before our trip we pre-packed. Our goal was to travel with one (count 'em) ONE medium sized suitcase each and a reasonably sized carry-on. Pre-packing gave us an unhurried opportunity to figure out what goes where, what was missing and what we needed to take out. We made our goal! Guys, you really don't need a sports jacket! I took one but only wore it once. Next time it will stay home!! Shipboard stuff Stateroom Stateroom 7063 (starboard {right} side amidships was our concierge home-away-from home for the 12 day trip. The size was reasonable as we didn't spend very much time in it. What is nice - and I wouldn't do it any other way - is the veranda. Now I know there are lots of folks who would rather spend the $$ ion something else on the trip but having that veranda to view the waves, watch the sun rise or set and other out-of-ship experiences while sipping coffee in the morning or a cocktail at night makes it all worthwhile. We slept most nights with the slider ajar and the soothing sounds of the ship and sea along with the fresh ocean breeze was priceless. Our trip was a celebration of several milestones (we stretched the truth a tad on how close in time we were to those events}: Diane's x0 birthday; our 25th wedding anniversary and two or three other minor occasions. In addition to receiving a Happy Birthday card and a Happy Anniversary card (and celebratory dinner in the Polo Grill complete with a special cake and singing wait staff) I ordered a floral arrangement for the room. It was a beautiful bouquet which livened up the room with color and fragrance but...after 3 days it simply was in the way. At 216 sq. ft. of floor space, including veranda, the floral arrangement assumed a disproportionate amount of space as time went by. (If you are going to get an arrangement for the room - get the small one) Boarding time Next time, we are going to board earlier. On the day of embarkation, we took a private tour of Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon and planned it so that we would arrive at the port of Piraeus about 3:30. Boarding and check in was quick and painless. When the limo pulled up to the pier area we were greeted by a Nautica staffer and a crew of stevedores (I think the Greeks call them that too). The luggage was checked against the manifest, tagged (I forgot to attach the ship's luggage tags...oops) and whisked away within a minute. Carry-ons over shoulder, the security and passport check was perfunctory and the bus to take us to the gangway (FYI: It's NOT a gang-plank...that's whats ya gotta walk when yur feed to the fish...arrrgh, matey} Had we known the 10 minute wait on the bus, the 10 second bus start up and door closing and the 23 second ride to the ship could have been avoided by walking...another "next time". Before actually boarding, our passports were checked again against the manifest, another package scan and we were escorted up from the deck 3 entry to deck 5 and the Nautica Lounge. There were 3 lines for checking in: Owner's Suite Vista Suite guests (1 couple in line); Concierge level guests (3 couples in line) and all other staterooms (10-12 couples). Pictures taken, "World Cards" made and given - along with a nice amount of shipboard info to read (no test on the material was ever given). The World Card is a combination ID, room pass and charge card. (WARNING - make sure you keep the World Card from magnetic stuff or whatever causes them to go flat. We had to get new ones 4 times! What's worse, if one person needs a new one both must get new ones.). The Nautica Lounge check-in took no more than 10 minutes. Up two levels to deck 7, turn left then right to head aft on the starboard side to room 7063. A quick check out of the room and read of some of the info we were given along with more papers that awaited us in the room. Champagne was cooling in the ice bucket and the floral arrangement was beautiful. As luggage had not yet arrived our plan was to tour the ship top to bottom. Forward and up the stairs (on naval vessels those things which you climb taking you from one level to another are called ladders. On the Nautica they were STAIRS - too ornate to be plain 'ole ladders.) to deck 11 - sun deck and cabanas - down the steps to deck 10, u-turn to walk forward and into the Horizons Lounge; back across the fitness track and visit the library and peruse the vast selection of books. Chatted with another couple we had met in Athens for a few minutes as we walked out to view the pool deck partial filled with passengers who were enjoying the sunshine and water in the pool... It had been about an hour since we boarded and so we skipped the rest of the self-guided tour and returned to 7063. Our luggage had arrived and was waiting impatiently for us in the passageway. Unpacking time! There was plenty of room for all of our stuff. In fact the plastic hanging shoe bag that we were going to hang over the bathroom door wasn't needed. Lots of wooden hangers in the closet, a safe for valuables and we were set. There were dual electric outlets: 110 & 220 on the desk and another in the bathroom so using the3-slot extension cord I brought it made recharging all of my electronics relatively easy (I had fried my outlet strip in Athens so I did need to change items to be charged every night). Just as we were wrapping up the distribution of clothes the call went out for the mandatory lifeboat drill. The Orange (lifejackets) stored in the closet were donned and all passengers made their way to the Grand Dining Room. A short presentation about how to put on the lifejacket was given and we trundled off to our lifeboat station on the outboard walking area of deck 5. There we listened while Leslie Jons, our fantastic cruise director, gave the "In case of emergency" lecture to all. By the time we scurried back to our stateroom it was time to dress for dinner which was preceded by our Cruise Critic party held up in Horizons Lounge. This was a no-host event that one of the bloggers set up with the concierge ahead of time. Nautica provided us with simple snacks and the wait staff was very attentive to our need for much needed beverages. Dinner in the Grand Dining Room followed on the heels of the CC get together. Bill & Vickie from Palm Desert, California shared a table with us that first night (I was delighted to see that they were both beer drinkers!!). This night, like every night eating in the GDR there was absolutely no wait for a table. But we did linger over the scrumptious meal and waddled out about 9:30 fully sated and satisfied. It was perfect timing as the ship got underway about 10 and we watch Piraeus harbor fade from sight from the comfort of Tapas on the Terrace, aft on deck 9. As both of us were quite tired by then we shuffled off to our room and readied for bed. Our heads were spinning with all of the constant activity that had gone on since we boarded! As we paused on the veranda - Diane with her evening tea and I with a final cocktail - we both agreed that "Next time" we will board earlier so that we can enjoy the ship and the day as a much more leisurely pace. Other stateroom related info Bashi, our room attendant, was great! Never did we see him without a smile or a warm hello. He (as well as a number of the staff) was kind enough to let us into his life. We learned about his home in the Philippines, he's family and some of his life's detail. It made us feel very welcomed. Bashi made up the room twice each day. (and even worriedly asked us if he could when we had the "do not disturb" sign on the door just so that he wouldn't need to). The room temperature/humidity was higher at night than we normally like. That was easily corrected by leaving the slider to the veranda ajar. That had the additional benefit of serenading us with the sounds of the ocean while we slept. Room service is 24/7. The last day was the only time we used it for anything other than morning coffee. Which leads me to one of the absolute necessities - morning coffee. The first night neither of us slept particularly well. I finally gave up trying to return to the land of Morpheus, grabbed my Kindle and went looking for coffee. In the Terrace Cafe on the starboard (right) side just aft of Waves Grill there is a new coffee machine which makes decent single cups of your favorite hot beverage: coffee, cappuccino or latte. I wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep. If you want coffee and Danish about 6:15ish then the urns of caffeinated, decaffeinated and hot water (for tea drinkers) are set up in the back of Horizons Lounge on the starboard side (sorry about the starboard/port thing.. I just can't bring myself to say left side and right side on a ship) But there is an even better way! Room Service! Here's how to: Arise groggily from your deliciously comfortable bed, pick up the telephone handset, feel around on the floor to find the handset because you dropped it; press #02 on the telephone keypad -the metallic voice will tell you to wait a few seconds while it's paging room service; hang up the phone and about 5 seconds later it will ring. A -much too cheery for this time of the morning - voice will say, "Good morning" and you can hoarsely mumble, "Two pots of coffee, quick"; hang up the phone and go put your bathrobe on. You'll need to do that quickly because it never took more than 4 minutes (usually 2) for a smiling waiter to be at our door with our two carafes of coffee! THAT was well worth the 1 Euro tip that we gave him. In-room frig The under-desk refrigerator is stocked with an assortment of things: water, soda, wine; beer, hard alcohol, etc. You can ask your room attendant to stock it with your own personal choices. The water is free and the alcoholic beverages are a price similar to that which you pay on an airline. As has been described on the CC blogs you can bring your own booze or soda aboard and drink it in the room (or in a lounge area if you don't flaunt it). Restaurants For us the choice of where to eat {I was going to list the 3 main meals but there are other times that you can eat/dine/sup that it begins to sound like Shire-like {as in Lord of the Rings}: "breakfast and then seconds, 3rd breakfast, 11 o'clock snack, lunch, tea......")...our choice of dining venue was mostly driven by the day's activities. Breakfast was usually in Tapas on the Terrace (7:00-9:00) and the buffet line. There are two sides to the main hot buffet area, both mirror images. Between the sides is the daily specialties; French toast, omelets, pastries. On the aft side of the room the food choices are the fruits, cereals nuts and berries, yogurts, etc. Fill the plate and head out to the alfresco area (or indoors) to select an empty table and await others to ask if they can join you or select a table already in use and join them for conversation. The wait staff will get you coffee, tea, juice, etc. Diane always has fruit for breakfast and the selection of fresh fruit in Tapas was extraordinarily good & fresh. I occasional tried a pastry and quite frankly found them to be very dry. This was uniformly true in all dining venues for all pastries and cakes - the only real disappointment in eating on the Nautica. The Grand Dining Room was my choice 3 times as I absolutely needed to have the grilled lamb chops - I was in heaven. The GDR is sparsely used for breakfast. Most days we were ashore at lunch time but we did eat in Tapas and Waves. Waves has burgers and good milkshakes and smoothies. My favorite sandwich was the Mahi Mahi burger with a side of French fries. Truth be told I found the fries to be a bit saltier than I like and the shakes to be a bit on the thin side. Never did eat lunch in the GDR. Like the fruit, the salad and fresh vegetables were excellent and always crisp and fresh. Dinner time is an adventure that we savored. Most of the time at home we are very plain eaters: grilled chicken (occasional fish or meat) and steamed veggies or pasta with a snippet of sauce. Dinner is over in about 20-25 minutes, max. On board the Nautica we lingered. Drawn by the multiple courses of the meal and conversation with new found friends resulted in supper being a 1 ½ - 2 hour event. We made reservations in the Polo Grill and Toscana on line before the cruise. Choosing nights early on in the cruise would, hopefully, give us a better opportunity to snag additional meals in these specialty restaurants. Our favorite restaurant by far was Toscana. The setting is soothing, the service was impeccable and the food on both occasions was done and served to perfection. The first meal in Toscana was, in our minds, one of the top dining experiences of our life. The bread basket delivered to the table was a work of art and the breads were crisp on the outside and tender, moist and warm on the inside. Our largest challenge was the olive oil and vinegar choices. The condiment cart was wheeled up to us and there was a choice of 8 different varieties and flavors of olive oil. {I need to go back to school and take a course in oils!). Salad, appetizer and main course were all perfectly size - thankfully. The menu is reasonably stable but there are nightly specials. The choice of pasta (capellini?) with crab salad was heaven on a plate. Diane had it as an appetizer and I for the main course. The place settings on the table are beautiful and very much enhance the meal. (however, while at school studying up on olive oils I am going to take a refresher in which of the 47 knives, forks and spoons to use when). I did mention the service being impeccable. Between the head waiter, 2 or 3 wait staffers assisting, the sommelier and the maitre 'de being unobtrusively attentive we felt well cared for yet not hurried. The Polo Grill has an Englishman's den feel to it. Leather upholstered chairs and china that evokes visions of fox-hunting pay compliment to the wood paneled room. We ate here three times (third visit was a gift from the Maitre 'de, Georgios (sp??). The food was good but first meal porterhouse steak was gristly . As I mentioned before, we found the portion sizes in the restaurant venues to be a good size (un-American like because the sizes weren't gigantic). In the Polo Grill it was a bit different. The steak was put in front of me and I took one look at it and said, "This isn't a Porterhouse steak, it's a porter mansion!" and I ordered a small one. I simply can't even imagine trying to wrestle with a 32oz steak! The first dinner in the Polo Grill also felt somewhat rushed. We were seated promptly (good) a menu was ready to be handed to us even before we sat down, drink order taken, and immediately the waiter was there to take our order. Bread, salad and main course seemed to come before we were finished with the previous course. Both issues turned into positives, as far as I'm concerned: On our mid-cruise comment card I made mention of both negatives from our visit to Polo. That card was turned in at the reception desk on deck 4 in the morning. By that afternoon we had received a call from the Polo Grill chef and Georgios, the Maitre 'de. The chef said he was glad to hear of our problem and assured us it would be looked into and taken care of - all future cuts of meat were excellent. We didn't get a chance to talk with Georgios about the rushed feeling but during our second meal in the Grill, 3 nights later, he stopped at our table and spoke to us at great length about our concerns. He apologized and then offered us another reservation, which we took. During the second evening in Polo the service was much better, less hurried. By the third visit we are positive that Michael, our head waiter, had been told to ensure that we were well cared for. We enjoyed Michael all three times there as he was very personable and very good at his job! The Grand Dining Room dining was also very high quality. Naturally the room is a bit noisier than the smaller venues but still within reason. The wait staff was usually prompt and took good care of their charges. There was only once when it was necessary to ask about our food delivery. Food was generally very tasty, well presented and the right temperature. Twice we couldn't decide between two entrees and opted to have both delivered together...made for a crowed table. Room service meals - The only time we had room service for other than our morning coffee was the last day. While packing we ordered some cheese and crackers. It was delivered within about 10 minutes and was a nice arrangement of several types of crackers and a good assortment of cheese - including, as our video showed - Limburger. I haven't tried Limburger since I was a pre-teen when my grandfather and I would take cheese and pistachio nuts down into the basement to share. It definitely is an acquired taste which we still have yet to accomplish....and really are not going to try. While we are on the subject of dining: There are several things which, in my opinion, make dining onboard Oceania Lines even nicer and one that's not so great: • You can order a bottle of wine with a meal and have it available later in most of the ding venues: Toscana, Polo, GDR and even Tapas. • Tip is automatically included with drinks and, of course, there's no tipping in the restaurant. It is very nice that when you are finished with a meal or a drink at the bar you simply get up and leave • Michael the head waiter in the Polo Grill • Making additional reservations in Toscana and the Polo Grill is cumbersome. The ONLY way to get additional reservations above and beyond your room's allotment is to go up the Terrace Cafe and wait in line before breakfast starts. I tried it twice arriving each time about 15 minutes before the restaurant opened and was about the 7th to 8th person in line. Didn't get additional seating either time. There's got to be a better way. Other shipboard related stuff Tours at each port It is not difficult to learn a great deal of information about most places that the ship will stop. Googling the name of the city/area will reveal a wealth of information. Tripadvisor dot com is a good site to find out information about restaurants, hotels and even places to visit. Of course, the tried and true book guides: Frommer's, Rick Steves (excellent!) But the best spot is the Cruise Critic boards. There you can ask very specific questions and learn from the experience of well-seasoned travellers (ya might say that some are...wait for it...old salts!) We decided, after extensive research on the various ports to do some DIY, some with a privately arranged tour and, to gain the experience of it, some shipboard tours. Most private tours that we took were much, much better than ships tour because we saw more sites, learned a greater amount of detail, could customize the tour to suit the tastes of the fewer number in the group and for the most part were less expensive that the ship's offerings. With a ship's tour there is always the necessity to ensure that ALL of the tourists in the group are on the bus or with the group as you explore. This means that the pace is CONSIDERABLY slower than a small group. Of course, due diligence must be taken when setting up the private tours: ensure the extent of the services that will be provided by you guide: transportation, dialogue while riding; qualified (and licensed) tour guides at major sites (Or at least arrangements for such a guide); itinerary and naturally the price. Confirm the arrangements about a month before the date of your tour AND confirm a day or two before. Using a cell phone is easy and relatively cheap in most places and well worth the dollar or two it costs to use. The use of tenders by those who are DIYing it or taking a private tour is painless. As can be expected, these on a ship's tour have first priority on the tender. However, if there are extra seats on a tender others may use them. We never found a day when we weren't able to get on the first tender leaving the ship. In the daily bulletin the ship's tours will be listed along with the time to report to the Nautica Lounge to pick up the tender tickets. If you are taking a ship's tour the voucher(s) for that tour will be in your stateroom when you board. Take the voucher to the Nautica Lounge at the appropriate time and trade it for a tender ticket that has on it the number of the tender to which you are assigned and bus pass. Wait in the Lounge until your tender is called (A nice Swedish voice will gently call out, "Those on tender #1 may now proceed to deck 3". Follow the leader down to the debarkation deck, deck 3. If you are DIYing or private touring and you want to get off the ship as early as possible be in the Nautica Lounge about 15 minutes before the first ship's tour people. Go up to the check in desk and they will give you a tender pass. If there are seats on tender #1 that's when you'll go. We took private torus in 4 or 5 ports and were always able to get on the first tender. Most of the time when we DIYed it we didn't leave the ship until an hour or two after the first wave of tenders departed so there was never any wait. In fact, the cruise director will announce when open tendering starts so you don't even need a pass. Returning to ship is even easier. Hopefully you've remembered where the boat pulled in (suggestion - take several pictures of the surrounding area so that on return from a long day of walking/shopping the location can be confirmed) There was always a welcoming Oceania umbrella with a table that had cool drinks of water or juice and a few chairs. Ship staff is on hand and greet you with a nice smile. The shore based staff will check your World Card to ensure that you are headed to the correct ship. Of course, if the ship is pier side there is no restriction on when any passenger can disembark. Other minutia and opinions: Cost of "extras" onboard. DIY vs. Laundry service. Opinion - we were on vacation we did not want to spend our time in the Laundromat. Even with sending out underwear to be cleaned and several loads of shirts/slacks/dresses our total laundry bill wasn't any more that $50 {yes we did rinse out our socks in tour bathroom}. Booze: No more costly than could be found at a decent bar/restaurant. $4.50 for a 'standard' beer and $6.00 for the two or three premium ones (Guinness, Grolsche). $9-10 for a martini. {I recently went into a local bar complete with pool tables and one or two patrons drinking shots & beers (NOT a high class joint). My bourbon on the rocks cost $8} Shipboard booze cost is really not excessive. 18% gratuity automatically included: I'll ask you this: If you got out to dinner at a nice restaurant and wait for your table at the bar with a martini or two, what will the bill be and how much tip will you leave? I see a $20 tab, I'm probably going to add 3-4 dollars - 15-20%. $12/day/person added to your ship's invoice: Again consider what would it cost if you would eat breakfast and dinner at a restaurant (the adjective 'nice' is assumed). Breakfast would cost $15-20 and dinner $60-80 at a minimum. Total per day would be $75-100. A 15% tip would then amount to between $11 & $15. Considering all of the other services rendered $12 ain't half bad. Port touring: I had meticulously planned a combination of ship & private tours and several stops where we DIYed it. Those DIY days were to be lighter on the shore based activities. Alas we didn't follow through with that plan. Reflecting back, we wished we did have more time on board the ship to lounge by the pool, join in some of the activities and just relax. NEXT TIME Future Oceania Cruises presentation: If it is anything like the one they gave on our cruise, don't bother. It was simply a reading of the list of cruises coming up. (If one of my students had made a presentation like that I would have flunked him/her) Response to 'suggestions' (read: problems). Whenever there was an issue that was brought to the attention of a staff member it was addressed immediately. You will notice that I didn't say "most of the time" because it was dome EVERYTIME. This is an extraordinarily superior service (and obvious mandated goal) of the ship and by extension the company... (The response was so good that one needed to be mindful of off handed comments because it may result in an unnecessary immediate response). Cases in point: Mid-cruise comments. This was filled out about the 5th day of the cruise and turned in to the reception desk before going ashore about 9 AM. When we returned in mid-afternoon, the door in our room was fixed; there was a note about reusing towels on our bed and a message from both the chef and the maitre 'de from the Polo Grill on our telephone's voice mail. The chef spoke to us about the quality of the meat cut and assured us it would be watched - never had a problem in the next two visits there. We missed being able to take immediately to the Maitre 'de, Georgios (from Corfu) but he came to our table 3 nights later and we spoke at length about the service. This concern was attended to and we were offered an extra reservation in the restaurant - which we took. A mention to Bridget, the trainer in the gym about missing towels brought an instantaneous supply; a question about use of the equipment launched a full blown demonstration on the equipment and some good info on work out routines. Bridget, by the way, was delightfully upbeat and pleasant any time we saw her in the gym or elsewhere on the ship. General ship's crew demeanor: The treatment and pleasant willingness of ALL of the crew was another very strong point of the ship. Especially those with whom you have numerous contact; room attendant, waiter, bar tender they were not only pleasantly polite but genuinely happy in their positions. Learning about their lives and families made the trip even more special because you felt a bit like you were with your own family. Was the entire ship-board experience perfect? NO, but then again perfection wasn't expected. But overall, 99% of the time we felt pampered and felt that whatever we wanted we could have. It was delightful to be spoiled and for us... NEXT TIME will definitely be Oceania Read Less
Sail Date September 2010
This was our 15th cruise and our first time on Oceania. We felt we were ready to get away from the "bigger is better" cruise ships and lines and we were generally pleased with the Oceania experience. The Nautica is a well ... Read More
This was our 15th cruise and our first time on Oceania. We felt we were ready to get away from the "bigger is better" cruise ships and lines and we were generally pleased with the Oceania experience. The Nautica is a well maintained ship that was recently dry docked for refurbishment.All new teak wood throughout the exterior spaces with new chairs as well. The only area of the ship that looked "dowdy" was the buffet area. Loved the Tapas on the Terrace area at rear of ship for eating outdoors. Pros: a great itinerary with access to smaller ports, such as Portofino & Amalfi, due to the smaller ship size. With less than 700 passengers, ship never felt crowded, very few children (all well behaved), better quality of food and service. Nice group of travelers, mostly couples. Cons: Destination Services (tours) overpriced and poor quality. We went for almost $1500 in tours and not one was decent,let alone exceptional. Destinations Service staff on board ship gave us a $30 refund per person when we complained that the description of a tour in Montenegro did not in any way resemble the actual tour itself. We are currently demanding a full refund of $298 & haven't received a response to our letter of complaint to Oceania in Miami. No shuttle bus was provided in the ports to get us into the towns. This is something that Oceania needs to work on. The specialty restaurant Toscana was a major disappointment. We are from the NY area and are inundated with decent Italian restaurants and this wasn't even in the "decent" category. Nothing on the menu was overly exciting...what is everyone raving about? Polo Grill, on the other hand, was fabulous and we ate there twice. The food and service in the main dining room was also very good. Used the laundry room iron to touch up a few items and it was always crowded with lines waiting to get in when it opened at 8am. Much too small. Limited entertainment, the comedian was good but not much else to remember. We were generally pleased with the overall experience, but when we did the math, the trip cost us approximately $1,200 per day, which was much more pricey than a similar itinerary on Holland America's newest ship, the Nieuw Amsterdam. We're still trying to decide if it was worth the difference. Read Less
Sail Date July 2010
My husband and I just returned from a 10 night cruise aboard Oceania's Nautica in the Mediterranean. We went on the cruise to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We had been to about half of the ports previously, but neither of us ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from a 10 night cruise aboard Oceania's Nautica in the Mediterranean. We went on the cruise to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. We had been to about half of the ports previously, but neither of us had been to Greece or Spain before. First, the pluses. The size of the ship was perfect for us, not too big or too small. The staff, with the exception of the "destination services" staff were wonderful. We dined in all of the restaurants and they were all fabulous. Our favorite was Toscana. Our stateroom was very nice. It was well laid out with ample storage. The bed was extremely comfortable. The outlets in the room accommodated standard plugs from the US, so we did not need to use converters or adapters. We loved the itinerary and the idea that we woke up each morning in a new place. We had three issues that prospective passengers should be aware of regarding the Internet, the excursions and the pre- and post-cruise arrangements. The Internet was important for us because my husband had to keep in touch with his office while we were gone. Using your cell phone is very expensive, especially when they add on maritime charges, so we thought that emails would be better. The Internet is very expensive and does not work well. We bought a package, so the cost was only 70 cents a minute. Unfortunately, many minutes were wasted trying to get to websites. The staff member in charge was very nice and credited us with some minutes to compensate, but it is still a ripoff based on what you get. You should look very carefully at the excursions. Most of them don't involve any real activities. Most of them involve you sitting on a bus with an occasional stop for a photo opportunity. They were very hit and miss. Some were fabulous and others a complete ripoff. We brought this up to the staff and they acted like they could care less. One of the biggest complaints we had was in Turkey. We paid $99 per person for a tour of Kusadasi. At the end of ALL of the excursions in Turkey was a "rug demonstration". The rug demonstration only took about five minutes, then they began to use high pressure sales tactics, similar to those you would get during a time share sales pitch, to try to sell you a rug. Mind you, the rugs were EXPENSIVE! They probably had some that were less, but most of them ranged in price from $10,000 to $40,000! I couldn't believe that we paid money to go on the excursion only to be lead to the rug merchants. My hunch is that Oceania gets a kickback on any rugs sold to their passengers. The last issue was with regards to the pre and post cruise hotel arrangements. Oceania charges WAY more than the hotel charges. Save your money and make your own arrangements. We made our reservations for the cruise and pre and post packages a year in advance. They only use two hotels in each city that we planned to stay in. We researched them before deciding. Long story short, when we arrived at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona, where we had pre-paid $2798 for three nights at club level, they did not have our reservation. The other four parties from our ship also had no reservations. The hotel was fully booked and we were taken elsewhere. This was after sitting for more than four hours waiting for the hotel and Oceania to try to sort it out. They told us the hotel they were taking us to was an equivalent five star hotel, though it is not one that they ordinarily use, but it wasn't. It paled in comparison. It wasn't near the beach, it didn't have a swimming pool and the lobby had not been updated since the hotel was built in 1919. I checked the rates through Expedia for the dates we were there. The junior suite we were in went for $426 per night. The club level room at Hotel Arts was $606 per night. We paid about $933 per night. The last comment I will make is regarding air arrangements. Oceania uses Delta for most of their passengers. Delta was horrible. They cancelled a flight when we were leaving Barcelona on a Tuesday morning. The flight we had the following day left three hours late because the crew was "stuck in traffic", therefore we and about 200 other passengers missed our connecting flights in Atlanta. We didn't get home until Thursday afternoon. Make your own arrangements and don't use Delta. Read Less
Sail Date June 2010
My wife & I had been looking for a cruise to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and the journey of Oceania's Nautica from Hong Kong to Athens immediately captured our fancy. It included so many of the destinations we had dreamed of ... Read More
My wife & I had been looking for a cruise to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and the journey of Oceania's Nautica from Hong Kong to Athens immediately captured our fancy. It included so many of the destinations we had dreamed of visiting but thought we could never afford. Among the places we had wanted to visit during our lives were Petra, Cairo & the Pyramids, the Upper Nile Valley and the Temples of Karnak and Luxor, Viet Nam, Mumbai, Ko Samoi,& the Suez Canal Singapore. In addition,we were able to leave the ship for three days to take an independent trip to the incredible temples of Ankor Wat in Cambodia. There was also a diversionary side trip to the Taj Mahal, but we opted out because would miss Mumbai. As a special treat, our Captain took us through the cauldron of the Santorini volcano at sunset on the way home. This ship & captain was the same one who outran pirates in 2009, and we had 2 extremely interesting enlightenment sessions about pirates and the full description of the failed attempt last year. The enrichment sessions were extraordinary, and plentiful. On every day at sea, there were 2 or 3 interesting sessions, with well known speakers like CBS Olympic, NBA, Masters Golf, NFL announcer Vern Lunquist; Harry Chittick who thoroughly entertained us with stories history,culture, hollywood scandals, and a brilliant 5 hour narration through the Suez Canal. The President of the American Universery in Kabul, Afganistan enlightened us with insight about Islam, the struggles in Afganistan, and his perspective on international affairs. It was a credit to their presentation quality that you frequently had to arrive in the theatre well ahead of lecture time to get a seat. The biggest surprises: The beauty, architecture, parks, and modernity of the cities of Singapore and Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. They both rival the greatest cities in the world. Immaculately clean, prosperous, and ready to challenge the best of the west. Second surprise: Going to the pyramids and realizing that they are only a 10 minute or so walk from the millions who live in Cairo, with a dozen or more 5 star hotels just across the street. The highlight destinations were the extraordinary ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Well worth the hour walk each way. An extraordinary sight, lost to the world for many centuries, and just re-discovered less than 100 years ago. Also, the great temples of Ankor Wat in Cambodia. There were more than 40 of themin addition to the main temple, which is a World Heritage Site. I would like to compliment the staff on Nautica for their thorough and complete assistance to us in making this side trip, even though we made our own arrangements in Siem Reap. They were also very acommodating in assisting us for a private side trip to Luxor, even though they had a much more expensive trip to Luxor, sponsored by the ship. As to Nautica, it is one of the fabulous, smallish former Reniassance ships, with all the charm and sophistication of those vessels, but all the amenities of the big ships. Dress was smart casual - No tuxedos needed, and with the heat in this part of the world, that we great with us. Just the right size at 678 passengers. We had the best cruise director (Dottie)of any cruise we have been on, and the entire staff (from 47 nations) was extra special but unintrusive. Food was SPECTACULAR! 5 dining venues: Polo Steak House, Sabatini's Italian, Tapas of the Terrace, Main Dining Room, buffet. In addition there was an extraordinary lunch cafe (with free fruit smoothies & milk shakes, kobe cheeseburgers, Phily cheese sandwiches, and great salads) and of course, room service. The quality, presentation, and service was comparable or better to any top rated restaurant in America. The best I have ever had! No set meal times. You often needed to make advance reservations at Sabatinis and Polo,but all restaurants accepted walk ups. Entertainment was limited, but very high quality. There was regional talent and cultural experiences. A great full band, and three other entertainer groups. Managed by the finest staff of any ship I have sailed. Our cabin steward collected dark chocolates for me daily when she found I was a chocoholic, and even lent me her personal wash basin and filled it with ice when I sprained my ankle. We met some amazing and very interesting people on the cruise, and have made some lifetime friends (whom we have already visited with). The group was generally in their 50's 60's, and 70's, but very hip (Loads of IPods, IPhones, Blackberries, laptops, and Kindles around) and most loved the casual atmosphere. Plus, they and amazing stories to tell and experiences to share. I guess you get the idea that I really liked this Cruise Line and their staff. Before you think that this is a paid commercial, let me tell you about a few things I found fault with: 1. The ship doctor had the bedside manners of Mussolini or Howard Cosell, and overcharged me grossly. 2. The Port of Mangalore, India was the sorry-est port I have ever experienced in 30 years of cruising. No one on the ship could tell me why we stopped there (Ask them in Miami, they told me, they tell us where to go, and we take it from there). 3. The guest laundry was small and pathetic. It was so bad that the ship comedian had as the evening entertainment a play called "Episodes in the Laundry" featuring guests experiences there. 4. The "Crafts Ladies" who ran the daily craft program were pretty pathetic. I don't think they will get another gig. I had better crafts from a high school girl at the public playground. This was a real deal! We paid $7,899 each for the cruise, but that included airfare from Washington to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and return from Athens on Air France, all gratuties, and $500 each room credit. There are 4 rooms on decks 7 & 8 near the front which are the same size as balcony suites, but the area where the balcony would be is enclosed with a big round window. The result is the largest cabin on the ship (plus 80SF) except suites at a regular outside cabin rate. (My cabin # was 7007)   Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Blissfully Sliding on Garlic Infused Greece into Turkey Nautica: Athens to Istanbul, October 29 - November 10, 2009. We are not first time cruisers -- we are veterans of over 350 days aboard cruise ships including extended ... Read More
Blissfully Sliding on Garlic Infused Greece into Turkey Nautica: Athens to Istanbul, October 29 - November 10, 2009. We are not first time cruisers -- we are veterans of over 350 days aboard cruise ships including extended cruises of 30-65 days. This was our first cruise on Oceania having been attracted by a stunning itinerary (Athens, Crete, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon, Santorini, Delos, Mykonos, Rhodes, Kusadasi, Istanbul) packed efficiently into 12 nights. Nautica is a perfect sized ship from which to absorb these incredible ports. At a maximum capacity of 684 our passenger complement never overwhelmed our ports and we were often the only ship in port for half or all of our port time. Perfect. We have memories of exploring the extensive ruins at Delos as exclusive tourists peeking into the heretofore lost mysteries of our ancient past, and a quiet afternoon enjoying the scenic, gustatory and shopping delights of Santorini after the much larger Costa Fortuna had already left to steam on to her next port. Nautica is well maintained, exceptionally clean, and staffed with a core group of wonderful folks who continually went out of their way to make us feel like this ship was our elegant home. We enjoyed a level of service that has become difficult to provide on today's larger behemoths. We had originally booked a basic, outside cabin for this trip -- later we purchased a very reasonable upsell offered by Oceania. As Concierge Class cruisers we were allowed early embarkation -- there were no lines --there were but a few quick stops for details and a virtual walk on board the Nautica which was docked at Pireus in Athens. We enjoyed a quiet, excellent lunch at the Terrace Cafe on deck 9, our cabins were ready a full two or three hours before the cabins on the rest of the ship, our luggage was delivered to our cabin immediately, and we were able to negotiate the one self service laundry on board and complete three loads of wash (we had arrived in Athens several days earlier) before the throng of passengers from the lower deck staterooms began to flood this small facility. The dining experience at the Terrace Cafe was excellent. Our food was always served by Oceania Crew who cheerfully loaded our plates with exactly what we requested. There were no trays, but the size of the food venue was not large so getting seconds or additional courses in general did not involve long lines or, often, any lines at all so the process was quick and efficient. Crew members were usually there to carry our plates and help us find a table. The tables were set with clean linen place mats as well as glassware, napkin and silverware set ups. Beverages were not self service -- they were cheerfully provided by crew who attended to refills as soon as they became necessary. Emptied plates were cleared with similar precision. Surprise discovery -- orange juice (which certainly tasted fresh squeezed) was complimentary and available at all times in all dining and bar venues. As soon as a glass was emptied a refill was offered. Tea was served with a ceramic tea pot full of really hot water -- the capacity of the pot offers the tea drinker three or more cups of tea. The hot water never had a lingering coffee grounds taste as happens when carafes are shared between coffee and tea service. And a large selection of teas were available -- I was able to enjoy my favorite Jasmine Green Tea throughout my voyage. The ship is petite. The cabins are petite. They are well appointed with all the amenities that we could have desired, including robes, slippers, 150 ml bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel, shower scrub, and body refresher, soaps, sewing kit, lap robes, umbrella, tote bag, hair dryer, ice, glasses, mini-bar fridge... Extra bottles of bathroom amenities as well as bars of soap were always stored below the sink in our very tiny bathroom. Actually bathroom is a misnomer as there was only a shower sized for an average to small person to stand up but not necessarily turn around -- the room itself had a scant sized space in which only one person could expect to stand -- but there was adequate storage space for bathroom and toiletry needs and there were always twice as many clean towels available for us as we might need. Every time the room was cleaned towels were replaced. No signs about saving the environment and keeping towels. Though this policy may be a blow to the environment having clean towels twice a day (like having the crew serve all food on the buffet) probably helps to limit on board illness. The cabin itself was as well appointed as the bathroom, and also as petite. There was a small love seat, barely large enough to seat two, a small table, a desk, and the bed(s). In order to accommodate a fridge it was clear that the desk was extended about six to eight inches post construction -- an unfortunate 6-8 inches as with our beds in the twin position passage around the beds to the sitting area and verandah was a real knee knocker. Between closet, desk and bed side table storage we had no difficulty completely stowing all that we had brought with us for our journey. The verandah though petite had two comfortable chairs and a small table. Another surprise was what happened when we ordered room service. An alternate, larger table top appeared from behind the couch, it was placed on our cabin table and covered with a table cloth, and the breakfast was elegantly set out for us by the room service steward. We felt very honored to be passengers this cruise on the Nautica with Captain Jurica Brajcic who was the Nautica Captain who outran the Somali pirates a couple of years ago. One evening's entertainment was a talk by our captain on the details of Nautica's encounter. It was standing room only by the time we arrived at the Nautica Lounge for the talk so we enjoyed it later on video on our cabin TV. The ship offers the usual on board shops and casino which operate when at sea - and the entertainment staff offer daily bingo, trivia and other activities, as well as movies and live entertainment each evening. There were the strings that played in the Upper Hall and a real human musician dance band that played for dancing and enjoyment each day. There were also guest entertainers as well as musical reviews in the evenings. There is an onboard Canyon Ranch Spa offering all of the expected spa and beauty services. I have to admit that we took advantage of very few of these amenities since we experienced a very port intensive cruise -- only one full day at sea out of twelve days on board. The ship also has a gym area (petite as is the whole vessel) offering a petite array of free weights and machines and a small, open air "hamster track" for those desiring to walk or run. I truly missed the wrap around promenade decks found on ships like Holland America as the decks that wrap the whole ship are much larger than the confined tracks on Oceania, and they are also sheltered from the sun and much of the elements. On the upside you are allowed to run on the "hamster track" which is not allowed on a classic promenade deck. We enjoyed most of our evening meals in the Grand Dining Room which is open seating. It, too, is petite with very little space between tables and some tables that are located well back in corners -- blocked in by walls or railings that feel claustrophobic. Food is always subjective. We found most of the food just fine (we ate very well), a few items that were really special, and a very few items like the crispy risotto that I was served not really acceptable. The desserts were, unfortunately for my hips, excellent. And, according to our oenophile traveling companions the wine selection on board was also excellent. There was only one evening when we had to wait for a table in the Grand Dining Room -- on that evening we were offered the chance to go upstairs to the alternative Italian dining room Toscana which we cheerfully accepted. As for service in the dining room -- when it worked (which was about 60% of the time) it was excellent. The crew operated like a well oiled, very attentive machine providing service that was in finely tuned concert with our needs and desires. But then there was the other 30-40% of the time when things just didn't go as they should -- such as extensive waits between courses or to have that water glass refilled or to get the sommelier over to the table ... We find ourselves wondering if something happened along the way as our dining room service was impeccable during the first half of the cruise and it seemed to deteriorate somewhat as the cruise wound down. Our experience at the Toscana Restaurant was, in our opinion, over the top. The menu included the ability to order multiple courses (appetizer, soup, salad, pasta, entree, etc.) and the food was rich and done well -- with lots of garlic, and lots of over the top rituals ... for instance after our elegant bread basket was delivered a cart was wheeled up with an "olive oil" menu that contained no fewer than 20 olive oils and oil infusions from which to choose to fill our Rosenthal olive oil cups. Though we enjoyed the meal and the service was great it was a bit too much for us and we did not repeat this dining venue. We also supped one evening at the Polo Grill (steaks and seafood), another alternative dining room. Our experience there was excellent. We enjoyed superb steaks, salads, appetizers and sides and a high standard of service. It is interesting to note that on this cruise it was almost always possible to obtain a reservation at Toscana, but it was very difficult to get space at the Polo Grill -- the night we dined there the four in our party shared our table with another couple. We also enjoyed a few tasty hot dog lunches at the Waves Grill on the pool deck. They serve hot sandwiches, hot dogs and burgers as well as ice cream and milk shakes. And they are open until 4 pm so on those port days when lunch in port was not possible and when we could not get back before the buffet closed at 2 pm, this dining venue was essential. The ports on this cruise were absolutely fantastic. We cannot comment on Oceania's excursions as we usually did our own thing in port. We did our homework before the cruise and either walked ourselves to do our touring or we hired a taxi that we found ourselves after reaching the port. There were four of us in our party and we found that in most ports the cost of the taxis were very reasonable to share between four adults and the advantage to us was a personalized tour that went only where we wished to go. We had no trouble finding transportation anywhere. In most ports the going rate for a taxi was about 40 euros an hour however it was possible to bargain. For our ports in Turkey our travel agent at home had arranged for private tours to Ephesus and two days of private touring in Istanbul. Our guide in Istanbul was absolutely the best that we have experienced anywhere making our time there truly magical. Highlights of our experiences in port include walking all the way down the donkey trail on Santorini (not for the faint of heart), realizing that those orange-brown bits of stuff that were all over in the grass at Delos were actually large pottery fragments, the terrace houses at Ephesus, the Acropolis in Athens, and just about everything that we did in Istanbul. Nautica has a nice library with an excellent selection of books and resource materials -- especially so for a ship of her size. The ambiance aboard Nautica is reminiscent of a classy gentleman's club. She really looks great but if you look close, there are truly cheesy elements in her decor. I understand this this ship was one of eight originally built for the old Renaissance Cruises -- those that are not with Oceania currently sail under the Azamara or Princess logos. We cruised the Azamara Journey a few years ago and it is a dead ringer for Nautica -- down to the identical (and rather bizarre) paintings on the walls and ceilings, and the identical pieces of "art" around the ship. I am just as puzzled as to why the cherub in one of Nautica's dining room ceiling murals has his arm up the robes of the oddly one legged woman as I was on the Azamara Journey three years ago. I am similarly just as offended by the chubby, naked female statue which seems to have a coat hook rather than a head in Nautica's reception area as I was at the identical statue found in the Journey's reception area three years ago. The "plates" and other artwork that appear to be stored behind glass cupboard doors in the Grand Bar are, upon close examination, merely faux painted representations that sit behind glass on a shallow two inch faux shelf. This is certainly not the caliber of the art collections that we have experienced on lines like Holland America but, I admit, that the net effect works. Would I cruise Oceania again? Yes, without a doubt if another outstanding itinerary presented itself. We choose our cruises for itinerary first, cruise line second. And we did have an absolutely wonderful cruise. We very much enjoy extended cruises of 30 or more days. Would I be willing to do that (or possibly an ocean crossing) on Oceania? The answer here is a resounding No. So many of her amenities are packed into such a petite space on board this ship that for a period of time longer than, say, 15 port intensive days, or during several consecutive days at sea, I believe that we would get uncomfortably claustrophobic. DH and I who cheerfully completed 65 days aboard Holland America's Amsterdam a year ago but feel that we could not get along for that length of time in one of Oceania's petite cabins. Unfortunately, the purchase of larger digs would be prohibitively expensive for us on this cruise line. Other related difficulties to extended cruising aboard Oceania's current ships include the lack of a real, sheltered, classic promenade deck. The ability to take long walks without getting dizzy or sunburned while on a long cruise, or one with several consecutive sea days, is essential. We also feel that to meet the needs of extended cruisers Oceania needs to offer more laundry venues. At present, even on our 12 day cruise, the very clean and well maintained single self service laundry venue was always crowded and often tension ran high when trying to find an available dryer. The alternative is to send your clothes out for laundry or dry cleaning services which we also did. These services were good but rather pricey, charging by the piece. And, last -- we feel we need to mention what became our pet peeve on this trip. Our port side deck seven cabin was located not far from the aft stairs and three decks down from the Italian Toscana restaurant kitchen. Every day from mid afternoon through early evening we were infused with garlic odors that wafted down the stairs and filled our cabin. No question that we were well protected from vampires throughout this voyage but we did find the odors unpleasant and they did penetrate our clothing so that we brought home garlic infused garments. We have never experienced this type of proliferation of cooking odors on other vessels so we are left with lingering questions as to why they occurred on Nautica and what, if anything, Oceania could do to correct this situation. Even though garlic infused we have to give Oceania and this cruise five stars for providing a tremendous cruise experience for us and our travels through Greece and Turkey. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We traveled on Oceania in its inaugural year and it was fabulous.  In many ways, it is still a notch above other lines but it also is less than what it was.  The food is decidedly less varied, with cheaper selections.  There are no ... Read More
We traveled on Oceania in its inaugural year and it was fabulous.  In many ways, it is still a notch above other lines but it also is less than what it was.  The food is decidedly less varied, with cheaper selections.  There are no fresh pancakes or waffles in the morning and precooked items could break windows.  Lunch was fine but the dining room dinners were boring and somewhat repetitive with little shell fish on the menu.  Polo restaurant has slipped.  The lobster bisque was horrible and the ship does not know how to make real Caesar salad.  The ports of call were handled well but the ship provides no free water like Azamara does.  It also has no comfort station upon return with cold drinks nor cold hand towels. Too many ports are only half day.  The hotel they used in Egypt made hundreds of people sick from the food and the line at the doctors was unreal as our cabin was right across the hall from the doctor.  Entertainment was lacking.  The magician did the same tricks he did inaugural year and they should fire him.  The comedian was fine as was the quartet.  There are also not enough chairs at the pool and they do not enforce the policy of not holding deck chairs for hours at a time and then not returning.  The ship is clean, the crew is exceptional and service is polite and prompt.  But the line is trading on it past and needs to fine tune.  Bean counters have gotten to it.  They had no flowers nor wine for past repeat cruisers, no ship board credit until cruising five times and with what they charge should be giving kids free soda, instead of 2.50 a can plus 18% gratuity.  They are penny pinching and it is distinctly unclassy. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Our family cruised on the Nautica Ocenia in 2009 July, from Istanbul to Athens. We were excited to cruise on the Oceania line, as we had never been on this cruising line before. From Australia were are very laid back people so with our ... Read More
Our family cruised on the Nautica Ocenia in 2009 July, from Istanbul to Athens. We were excited to cruise on the Oceania line, as we had never been on this cruising line before. From Australia were are very laid back people so with our extensive cruising experience behind us we can fairly critique our experience on board. Food was amazing. It was bar far the best dining we have had ever on board. It was exquisite, everywhere! The Buffet, The Grand Dining Room, Toscana and the SteakHouse. Service was incredible; the staff when out of their way to service to ensure the best possible service: pulling out chairs, taking your plate to your seat after buffet service, new cutlery immediately, polite, friendly. It was the best service we ever received on any cruise, by the then 67 nationalities on board. Even the Captain and his staff were exceptional and went out of their way to accommodate us. The buffet themes were very good and food AMAZING! Rooms were smaller than we expected them to be, finding ourselves cramped and crowded in the bedroom and especially the bathroom. The shower size was small however the freshly stocked shampoos and body washes were great (their size was good). Towels instantly restocked. Beds made everyday, new sheets every second day. Fridges restocked instantly. Balcony always cleaned. TV and in-room entertainment was wonderful, lots of programs, movies and an in cabin DVD for you. Interconnecting rooms were wonderful (that was our room arrangement due to the limited four person suite accommodation) however expected larger sized stateroom space. Entertainment was average. The performers, band, magician, comedian... were all average (if sometimes below) however the staff were fantastic. The assistant cruise director Ian was the funniest bloke on board and a true gentleman, as well as other crew Lucy Jo and Dan. Meanwhile, Cruise Director Dottie was never spotted anywhere except Captains cocktails or her morning show. Activities were great as well. One exception to the entertainment was Vincenzo, the classical guitarist, who was amazing and very talented. His two shows were brilliant. Spa/Salon/Fitness centre were all fantastic and service and staff were again friendly and polite. Shop staff wonderful and always happy/friendly. Samuel, was in charge of the shops on board, and he was extraordinary. Everything was expensive: treatments, drinks, tours (I'll get to that)... Ports of Call were beautiful ports but most tours were expensive and disappointment. Nessebur (bulgaria) we did a village tour which seemed like a scam. For all that money the poor was very poor. Odessa was a beautiful port where we didn't do any tours. Sevastopol itself was very disappointing however the tour to Khersonushus was great. Yalta tour to Livadia palace was fantastic.... Sochi was awful, horrible, the worst port we have ever been to EVER. The tour was a MAJOR ripoff, overpriced. The spas were disgusting, smelt, rude people. The attractions could barely be called that and the best part of the whole experience was the air conditioned bus. Fortunately we saw Stalin's Dacha (villa) in between the over priced chaos. Turkey and Greece were amazing and worthwhile, despite Santorini being very busy (that comes with the time of year). There were not photographers on board, which is agreed to be a saving financially but our family enjoys such a memoir. Fellow cruising passengers were unlike our previous cruise experience. All passengers were American, with a few Canadians and us the Aussies onboard. Americans were very particular and fussy travellers, complaining with everything and making their arrogance and ignorance known TO EVERYONE on board. It doesn't get much better than Nautica. Though there are always exceptions to rules and some Americans were pleasant company, majority were rude, fussy and arrogant. On tours they were only concerned with the US and the Baltic relationships, asking them if they heard of Obama, knew of CNN and watched American television shows. For us and the Canadians it was annoying to witness, and we felt the Americans needed to know that the entire world (especially the developing countries in the Baltic such as Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine) don't revolve around them. Also, I can understand if people want to wear shorts and everyday shirts out to evening dining, but turning up to captains cocktails in shorts, polo as a collar(t-shirt), boots/thongs is an insult to the staff, the ship and the captain. Seeing fellow passengers in this attire on the most formal (and only formal) night on the cruise is really horrbile. THat was embarrasing on the fellow passengers behalf. The best part of the entire cruise was the second last night when there was the farewell show (which is better the 2nd last night as people are packing and giving farewells to staff the last night). Every act performed and then the string quartet performed TIME TO SAY GOODBYE. A DVd of our cruise experience was played and then the whole crew (all 600 of then) came to the stage and sang with us an Irish Blessing. We danced with them in the showroom till the wee hours of the morning. Never before have we experienced something so emotional and touching as that. Overall, this cruise was our best cruising experience and everyone from the waiting staff, to disembarkation people, to the salon staff, the tender staff, the captain and his crew and the everyone in between were extra ordinary, and it was our best cruise ever. five star!!!!! ultimate holiday and a voyage to remember! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
GREEK ISLANDS HONEYMOON NARRATION: 2009 * Wednesday, July 22 Depart from Boston Airport (10:00pm) to Frankfort, Germany, Airtime: 6 hours, 32 minutes. Ah! The flight with 50 nocturnal Italian teenagers! The sardine conditions daunted them ... Read More
GREEK ISLANDS HONEYMOON NARRATION: 2009 * Wednesday, July 22 Depart from Boston Airport (10:00pm) to Frankfort, Germany, Airtime: 6 hours, 32 minutes. Ah! The flight with 50 nocturnal Italian teenagers! The sardine conditions daunted them not at all. They were in perpetual motion and their joyful mating noises echoed nonstop for seven hours. They entered the minute bathrooms in groups of three, and swarmed over and around us, happily using the back of my seat as a kind of pinball flipper when the lurching plane altered their intended trajectory. I discovered fifty painful positions to not-sleep in my cramped space. My favorite was back flat on the seat and legs curled over my chest like noodles. Gary sat bolt upright staring like a dead thing. I was impressed. It felt like a long flight, but compared with a recent eight hour drive from Massachusetts to Washington D.C. through New York city traffic, it wasn't that bad. * Thursday, July 23 Depart from Frankfort (1:50 pm their time) to Athens, Greece - 7 hours difference from U.S and Athens. Airtime: 2 hours. Arrive 5:30 pm and take transfer to Nautica, Oceania Cruise Ship. And would you believe all went smoothly! No runway jams, vomiting babies or violent weather! Food served on Lufthansa Airlines consisted of darling little portions of schnitzel noodles, delicately marinated chicken and exotic cheeses. The airport at Frankfort was memorable by its lack of color - a monochrome of regimented black and white. However, a maintenance guy wearing silver sneakers flashed me a heavenly smile as he pedaled an old grey bicycle down a corridor. We were met in Athens by a very beautiful woman named Elena from the Nautica. Gary was so impressed by her that he proceeded to call every female tour guide for the rest of the trip "Elena", (much to their helpless irritation as every tourist within hearing copied Gary's example) People do things for different reasons. Yes, we wanted to celebrate our love with a romantic voyage, and yes I'm an art teacher who loves archeology. But I also wanted to come to Greece because of two very wonderful dreams. I dreamed I was once a Minoan girl running along a cliff by the edge of the sea in ancient Crete. In another dream, I was Gaia, earth goddess, surrounded with stones from deep within the earth, and then flying above. I wanted to come to Greece to honor them both. It seemed a pity that our two top stops, Delphi and the Minoan palace of Knossos were at the beginning of our cruise, while we were still feeling slightly disoriented from the time differences, but oh well. I had insomnia the night before our trip to Delphi (home of Gaia, earth goddess). I woke up Gary to tell him. * Friday, July 24; (Departs 6:00pm) Athens, Greece Excursion 8 Delphi TOUR LENGTH: Full-Day (Approximately 9 hours) Enjoy a scenic drive through the Greek countryside on your way to Delphi, once considered by the ancients to be the physical and spiritual center of the earth. We had seen the Acropolis last year, and we admired it again in the distance as our bus circled through Athens. Some of the cruise passengers we talked to preferred small private tours they arranged on their own, but we've always enjoyed the tours offered by the cruise ships. They are effortless to book, (we did it on the internet one morning, as we lay in bed), and the groups have never felt too large. Listening to people's questions and responses to the sites has always been interesting, and there are plenty of opportunities to socialize. Our tour began with exiting Athens, and our guide (Jana, renamed Elena), proudly informed us that exiting Athens is near impossible, due to accidents, due to impatient Athenian drivers, which leads to sitting in traffic for the rest of your life. Gary asked about the mailboxes thickly lining both sides of the highway. They looked like miniature churches. Our guide informed us they were memorials placed by families for drivers who had crashed at that spot. Traversing five miles took us three hours of lurching starts and stops to avoid teeny little "smart" cars careening madly in all directions. Gary shared with me that the sickening lurches didn't bother him, because this was how his father drove. I draped myself over Gary and closed my eyes. I knew we had exited Athens when the lurching smoothed into a strange sideways rocking. I sat up to see huge mountains looming before us which we were traversing in hairpin curves. The narrow two lane road was paved right up to a sheer cliff dropping off on one side and rising up like a wall on the other. Although we were possibly doing 70 mph, little smart cars still whizzed past us, creating three lanes when they aimed at each other unexpectedly. Yes, there were LOTS of little lopsided mailboxes perched along the cliff edge. Near the top of the mountain we entered a picturesque town clinging to the mountain side. Our guide let us know that the shopkeepers refused to widen this medieval part of the road, making it difficult for tour buses. A bored looking policeman looked on as our tour bus was suddenly face to face with another tour bus coming from the other direction in what was a one tour bus space. Smart cars and motorcycles still careened between us, but we were clearly stuck. While the policeman watched, the drivers and guides of each bus screamed at each other in animated Greek. At long last a depressed looking man came out from a shop with a broken façade. He guided the buses up on the sidewalks to inch past each other. For tense moments we were nose to nose with a horrified looking Asian group on the other bus. After a five hour bus trip we arrived at Delphi. Our tour guide excitedly let us know our trip was possibly a record, a good two hours longer than it should have taken. Set nearly 2,000 feet high on the slopes of Mount Paranassu, the Shrine of Apollo even today exerts a potent grip on visitors. During the height of its glory, Delphi grew fabulously rich and although most of the magnificent structures have almost disappeared, you can still gaze upon these amazing ruins and picture how life here must have been during its 1,000 years of prestige in antiquity. During your visit to the site you will see the Castalian Spring; The Sacred Way, once lined with great statues and treasures; The Grand Temple of Apollo, beneath which the priestess Pythia sat; the theater with its excellent acoustics; and the well-preserved stadium with the marble starting blocks in position. Adding to your enjoyment of Delphi is a panorama laid out before you of incomparable grandeur. Your time here will also include a visit to the Delphi Museum where you will view such treasures as the Omphalos, which marked the center of the world, and the glorious bronze Charioteer, one of the finest pieces surviving from the 5th Century B.C. One of our fellow tourists anxiously asked Jana how our late arrival would affect our tour. She was a massive woman and she answered in a deep, determined voice, "It will be very quick and you must go very fast and do only what I say." We jogged through the museum with Jana yelling out things like, "This is my favorite piece, very nice, yes? NEXT ROOM, NOW!" The glorious bronze charioteer is very glorious, and I didn't feel shortchanged, but I'm sure it's the fastest any large group of old people ever moved through a museum. We jogged out the back door, up the sacred way, past the Treasury of Athens, up a cliff, past the rock where the Oracle sat, past the temple of Apollo and back down again. The steps leading to the temple glistened from the wear of human feet and the iridescent gleam of shells. Now an ancient mountain top, this rock had once been an ocean floor. "Water!" Gary gasped. "Gotta get water." I could barely breathe, but I managed to say, "She may leave you here if you do!" Gary can be like a bull dog when he gets an idea in his brain, but he was worried she'd leave him too. Knees pumping, sweat pouring off us, we leaped on the bus and collapsed. August is not the optimum month to visit Greece. However, I need to travel during school vacation, and hot Greece is better than no Greece. At the conclusion of your guided tour of Delphi, you will next travel to the village of Arachova, a popular destination for Athenians during the winter as the ski resort of Mt. Parnassus is located close by. Here, you will be treated to a traditional Greek lunch before re-boarding your coach for the return to Athens. The bus careened back down the mountain and gunned it through Arachova's narrow street to the restaurant. Jana announced on her microphone, "I have called ahead and they are expecting us. It is not fast food, but you must eat very fast to not miss your boat. They know this and will serve very fast because I asked it, THIS WAY NOW." We jogged in to a beautiful restaurant set into the side of the cliff, most of the walls clear glass to take advantage of the view. Our group rushed over to two long tables, set at intervals with plates and pitchers of wine. As we sat down, six waiters raced along the tables tossing greek foods at us with tongs. I felt a little like a family of walrus being fed in a water park. After several glasses of wine I could feel a distinct emotional shift in my fellow tourists. They were starting to hunker protectively over their plates. I watched a man on the left have a tug of war with his waiter over some yalanchi (grape leaves and rice). I myself liberated a bowl of yoghurt from a flying tray. It was delicious! I overheard muttered conversations on whether the cruise ship would really depart without 38 passengers, "And dammitall, who wants more wine?" The more serious question no one addressed was what Jana would do to us. Being a peaceful person, I took off to the ladies room. By the time I returned everyone was back on the bus and Jana was informing them she had been a tour guide for 34 years. On reflection, we all agreed it had been an awesome lunch. We arrived back at the cruise ship five minutes before departure time! Jana was an educated, logical/sequential woman who did not resonate with Delphi magic, and explained the Oracle's role rationally. Apparently, priest representatives from each of the Greek city states would meet at the Apollo Temple and discuss important political issues. If a joint decision was arrived at, the Oracle would announce it as a magic omen. If no decision could be reached, they would say the Oracle had announced the timing inauspicious due to a non-trembling albino goat, (which they ate.) That bought them another month to hammer out an agreement. In this way they successfully ruled a population of oppositionally-defiant Greek citizens who would have disagreed with any decisions arrived at by more normal means. I could tell Jana approved. HOW'ERE I still wish to believe that the more ancient relationship with Gaia that occurred before Greek males dominated the scene, was deeper and more instilled in magic - or reality, depending on your definition. * Saturday, July 25, (8:00am-6:00pm) Crete - Aghios Nikolaos, Greece Excursion 2 The Palace of Knossos TOUR LENGTH: Half-Day (About 4 1/2 hours) Forty-five miles west of cosmopolitan Aghios Nikolaos lies one of Crete's finest archaeological sites, "Knossos," the ancient capital of the great king Minos. The original palace of Knossos was constructed around 1900 B.C., but a few hundred years later, an earthquake destroyed it. In its place, another palace was rebuilt on an even grander scale. In 1900, its remains were excavated and some of the sections were painstakingly restored. The present palace consists of four wings, spread out from a central court, a complex that once served as the administrative and religious center for the whole region. As you tour the labyrinthine site, you will see the royal living quarters, rooms where state occasions were held, a theater area, store rooms and potters' workshops. Although the restoration, undertaken by Sir Arthur Evans, was controversial at the time, it offers great insight into the complexity of Minoan life nearly 4,000 years ago. With nervous trepidation, Gary and I boarded the tour bus, but the ride was blissfully brief. Our guide Helen (who only looked briefly puzzled when everyone started calling her Elena) was eager to answer any questions. High mountains gave way to a lonely stretch of road that curved along the coast. My dream of running along this coastline back in the heyday of King Minos, was reinforced by seeing exactly the same flowers growing along the cliffsides that I had seen in my dream. I asked Helen what they were called and she said they were Oleander. Ah, proof positive! The ancient palace of Knossos had the same feeling of antiquity as Mexico's Chichan Itza ruins, but such a different culture! Here, the wall frescoes did not depict war and human sacrifice. Minoan walls display dancing men with cascading curls and fashionably slender waists. Athletes somersault over bulls, and bare-breasted women apply mascara to their beautiful eyes. Helen shared that no scenes of war appear anywhere in Minoan art, and no fortifications were built around the castle. These were a peaceful, happy people. This tour also affords you a short visit to bustling Heraklion's main square, a wonderful contrast to the quiet splendor of Knossos. Gary and I toasted each other on a silly looking pirate ship docked next to the Nautica. That evening we had a wonderful dinner of lobster and steak. I am glad to think I was once a dancing girl in the Palace of Knossus, but I am happy to be a modern Crete tourist! * Sunday, July 26, Cruising the Ionian Sea The next day we woke late, and ordered breakfast in our room. The food was so pretty that Gary honored it with its own fashion shoot. In a larger ship, we never would have found deck chairs this late in the morning, but we found two perfect lounge chairs overlooking the pool right away. I sat like a queen in my very chic Italian bathing suit - the most expensive item I'd purchased for the cruise - and sipped discounted "drinks of the day" while I wrote what you are now reading. Gary re-read his beloved "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" on his Kindle's extra large screen. His kindle was much admired by many on the cruise deck, and gave Gary an opportunity to talk to people, an activity he also enjoys. * Monday, July 27, (8:00am-5:00pm) Dubrovnik, Croatia Walking the medieval wall on our own. Main street is the Stradun, and a restaurant on the wall. Now I presume that anyone perusing this journal is saying impatiently about now, "But what else did you wear?" Let me say that we had a few fashion "moments" that left me reluctant to give this important subject full justice. One "moment" was two hours before we left for our trip when Gary informed me that my absolutely to-die-for ivory satin sandals sent to the shoe repairman to have the backs fixed HAD NOT BEEN FIXED! The Neanderthal clod (referring to the shoe-repairman, although Gary was not one of my favorite people at this moment) had had the temerity to take the backs off, rendering them unwearable, and THEN suggest they weren't worth his while! I apologized several times to Gary later for my reaction. I believe there is a Greek Myth roughly on this subject - something about killing the messenger. The other incident, minor in comparison, has to do with the black and white bandana that Gary wears bunched in a large ball under his hat to soak up sweat. No one actually pointed when he removed his hat in Greece, possibly because they thought it had some strange religious importance. But I'd make him remove it when I caught people staring. On the whole, however, we were beautifully and stylishly turned out! For example, I shall briefly describe our ensembles worn to the prestigious Polo Grill. I wore a midnight-blue satin strapless cocktail dress, brushed antique gold leather sandals with an understated celtic design, a lighter-than-air white silk gauze Italian shawl, and a delicate three-strand necklace comprised of white gold, yellow gold and platinum. Gary wore a short-sleeved silk Mexican shirt with front pintucks, beige silk pants and loafers (which the shoe-man had deemed worthy of repair!). We set off for the Polo Grill and realized it was more "aft" than we had thought, and so we were forced to traverse the outside middle of the pool area in a fierce wind. We had a more "relaxed" ambiance when we arrived. On the somewhat less interesting subject of food, Gary ordered the oysters Rockefeller, tomato and onion salad, lobster bisque, and a 5 inch by 5 inch blob of raw flesh, which made him very happy. I had the crab cake with bEarnaise sauce, wedge of lettuce with blue cheese and bacon, lobster bisque with brandy, a wild mushroom ragout, and a whole steamed Maine lobster. I must add that the lobster arrived with a waiter who entirely de-shelled it with tiny dental instruments as I watched. He took about 10 minutes. I sweetly refrained from exclaiming, "Honey, I'm from Maine! Just shove the fork up its tail!" But the look on his face as he completed his operation was so proud that I thanked him warmly. Coffee and Crème Brulee completed our repast. * Tuesday, July 28, (8:00am-6:00pm) Corfu, Greece. Browse the Parisian arcades, Italian architecture and English cricket square. Known for silver, fisherman's sweaters, sandals and olive wood carving. Food: stuffed grape leaves, retsina wine, lamb souvlaki. This was a stop where we had not booked a tour. The proximity (according to a map) to points of interest looked do-able, so we were fairly confident when we set off at 8:30AM. I SAID to Gary as we left the ship, here's the map and I haven't got my glasses. Translation - "You do it." Is this hard to figure out? NO! But my new husband is a stubborn man. He understands "You do it" even when you don't directly SAY it. So he didn't acknowledge he'd memorized the map. Hey, what do I care. I love getting lost. Now Gary's agenda was that I should walk in front of him and go where he wanted me to go without his telling me. He SAID it was so he wouldn't lose me. Needless to say, I went where I wanted to go, without benefit of the map. While he ducked in a shop to buy water. NEED I SAY MORE! When I saw all the Corfu shops leading right, I went right. Gary was into walking in a hot parking lot for six miles because of the map. I found another issue interesting...what's "old"? Apparently the Corfu map had "Old Fort" and "New Fort" printed on it. I point out a clearly old area, (when I was retrieved and now obediently trekking through the parking lot) and say, "Is that the Old Fort?" "No", Gary grumps. "Why not? Looks old to me." I observe. "It isn't old enough," Gary says. "Why not? Looks old to me," I repeat. "No," Gary snarls. I insist. "Look, it has a green sign". "It's CONDEMNED!!!" Gary yells. "The green sign says GO AWAY BEFORE THIS FALLS ON YOU! It's not OLD!" "Looks old to me," I say cheerfully, loving every minute of this conversation. Payback of course for losing me. The Old Fort was subsequently found and yes, it was probably older than the New Fort, which was probably older than the falling down place with the green sign. I have to say that tours are useful. The end of Corfu consists of a labyrinthine maze of medieval streets packed with tourists and shops selling tourist items such as mugs labeled Corfu, salad tongs carved from olive wood and cheap miniatures of Roman statues. Stores also sold luxury fur coats, hammered silver and jewelry. I wondered how they could all exist, but the supply of tourists seemed pretty dense. Shop-keepers followed you attentively in the shops, boasting of their wares. "These very ancient silver objects have been in my family for generations," one informed me proudly. I had just seen 40 shops with identical items so I was skeptical. "And these are original cycladic sculptures," he went on..I looked at the endless rows of new, modernly simplified Chinese knockoffs and winced. Whatever. Gary let me know he was about to collapse, so we found a sidewalk restaurant and ate Greek foods while we people watched. I was finally able to try retsina, a Greek wine made from pine trees. It tastes like it should be in a lamp with a wick coming out of it, but it does grow on you. After we arrived home, Gary learned that pine resin had been used to seal the clay amphora the wine had been stored in, and the taste seeped into the wine. Our guide in Rhodes said that it became a source of local pride, and later was purposely added to wine. I also asked for a glass of ice water. My waiter looked up and asked the gods, "What climate does she think she's in?" And brought me a small bottled water which was added to the bill. It came in handy on our six mile trek back to the ship through hot parking lots. By the time we returned to our room, everything on Gary was soaked with sweat and I looked like a tomato. BUT, two lovely showers later, we scampered down to dinner like two over-fed rabbits. SUCH nice food everywhere! Wednesday, July 29, (8:00am-4:00pm) Katakolon, Greece Excursion 1 Ancient Olympia TOUR LENGTH: Half-Day (Approximately 4 hours) After a pleasant drive through the Greek countryside, you'll arrive in Ancient Olympia, site of the first Olympics in 776 BC and, most recently, where the shot-put competition was contested in the 2004 Olympics. It's soon apparent why this is one of the country's most popular attractions. The impressive, compact ruins at the foot of Kronion hill include the expansive Temple of Zeus and numerous temples and altars. As you walk the fabled grounds on the ancient fields of play, it's easy to imagine the fierce competitions took place here. Be sure to see the Leonidaion, a former guesthouse, and Pheidias's workshop, where the sculptor created his revered statue of Zeus. Later, tour the ancient village of Olympia. At the start of every tour the tour guide tells you over the microphone where you are going. Our guide bellowed desperately to get it through the thickest of us, "We are on our way to O-LEEM-PEE-AHHHH!" (No, not Baskin Robbins, you stupido tourists.") Moving east from the coast we passed innumerable, identical low hills. Before long our guide pointed to one of the hills and announced "THIS hill the ancients named as the place of the birth of Zeus' father Kronos, and because of this hill the site of the O-LEEM-PIX. I looked at it in baffled surprise. Delphi was marked by spectacular mountains, the most amazing among them chosen as godlike. Why would someone choose a boring little lump for the birthplace of the father of the Gods? I wanted to ask, but felt rude. When we drove into a parking lot our guide pled desperately, "We will not be parked at this spot when we leave! You will forget this spot. This spot you have never seen. Do not ever in your lives come to this spot. This has not happened!" Everyone on the bus looked childishly delighted and turned to his/her partner and attempted a Colonel Klink voice, "I know nothing!" Except for a middle aged fellow with a waxed apple face who approached nearly everyone in the group to ask, "I'm confused! Do we come back here?" I immediately thought "Brain damage!" Yet he seemed attached to a normal looking woman and three kids. The two daughters looked okay. The boy looked unfortunate, but he was young. The wife turned to Gary and muttered, "You can hit him with your cane if you want." We arrived on foot to a designated spot and our guide bellowed, "Use your imaginations. This is the site of the Olympic Games starting in 1700 BC. Picture forty five thousand people arriving in this small village to attend Olympic Games." (My imagination worked on a picture.) "They were all men," she continued. "Women were not allowed." (adjustment to picture) "Uh, naked men, as the Olympics were performed naked," she added. (adjustment to picture). "Here we have a sculpture of Zeus and a young boy he has fallen in love with. The male body was considered more perfect than the bodies of women, and love between males of all ages the most ideal." (adjustment to picture.) "When a woman disguised herself as a man to attend the Olympics, she was discovered to be a woman when she stood to cheer for her son. The only thing that saved her from being put to death was belonging to an extremely wealthy family." I wondered why, in the same part of the world, the Minoan culture accepted women as equals, yet they stood alone in the history of this region. I felt it was naïve to ask our female guide, but I asked anyway. "Why did men believe women were inferior?" "It is still so in Greece today," she answered bitterly. "It is the way of men everywhere." I felt glad to be with Gary, because it is not his way. * Thursday, July 30, (8:00am-6:00pm) Santorini, Greece No tour. Exploring the town of Fira on our own. The night before we anchored at Santorini, I was wakened from a deep sleep by the wild music of howling winds. I had a feeling of happy exhilaration. I had had the same magical experience last year when we arrived at this place. At no other island did I have this experience. When I fell back asleep, I dreamed of being under turquoise water. The surface above me was dappled with shifting, round coins of golden sunlight that lit the water. I was surrounded by submerged bronzes of gods and goddesses linked together in a long frieze. We were warned that eight cruise ships had descended on Santorini on the same day. The weather was scorching, and the wait to take the cable car up the mountain was brutal. But the views from the top were just as breathtaking as I had remembered. I am old, and in my life I have learned that there are times when you must leave behind you what you most love. I cried at leaving Santorini. I felt my heart breaking. In discussing our dinners, Gary and I had a divergence of opinion on the definition of "intimate". Typically, we would arrive at the main dining hall, the most popularly attended restaurant, which did not require a reservation. We were greeted by a gentleman who viewed the available tables and selected one for us. (1) Another gentleman led us to our table. (2) Another gentleman pulled my chair out and in. (3) Another gentleman placed my napkin in my lap. (4) Another gentleman asked us our liquor desires. (5) Another gentleman asked us our wine desires. (6) Another gentleman poured our water. (7) Another gentleman brought us a bread basket and tongs and asked if we wanted bread. (8) Another gentleman asked us for our menu selections. (9) Another gentleman brought the h'oeur dorves. (10) Another gentleman asked if we wanted ground pepper. (11) Another gentleman refilled the water. (12) Another gentleman brought new utensils for the next course, and removed the old. (13) Another gentleman wiped crumbs off the table with a silver brush. (14) Another gentleman brought the soup. (15) Another gentleman removed the soup and brought new utensils. (17) Another gentleman brought the salad. (18) Another gentleman offered more ground pepper. (19) Another gentleman brought more beer and wine. (20) Another gentleman removed salad and provided new utensils. (21) Another gentleman brought entrEe and stayed to prepare entrees. (22) Wine and water and pepper guys returned. (23)(24)(25) And crumb guy with silver brush. (26) Another guy removed entrEe dishes. (27) Dessert guy came and took our order. (28) And coffee order guy. (29) And new utensil guy. (30) Dessert guy delivered order. (31) Coffee guy delivered order. (32) Liquor guy made a last ditch effort. (33) Crumb brusher, water guy, entrEe guy, and remover guy returned for bows, say farewell, and pull out our chairs. (34) (35) (36) (37). As interesting as all this may be, (I couldn't believe the amount of silverware we went through!), if I am pausing conversation to accommodate 37 interruptions, I feel like I am part of a much larger group than two. The most awkward for me was the meal when we were first in the restaurant and all 37 guys, dressed in diverse and symbolic finery, clustered around us like butterflies. Gary liked it. Later that evening as we lay in bed with the lights out, listening to the ocean waves, I asked Gary if we could order room service. "You're hungry?" he asked in surprise. "There were all those people waiting on us! I got nervous." "Alright," Gary said. "What do you want?" I turned on the light and looked through the menu. "Fruit platter," I said decisively. "Alright," Gary said, getting up to dial room service. "And the cheese platter, and the shrimp platter and the dessert platter and the chicken dinner looks good." Gary put the phone down. "What?" I ask. Gary said carefully, "You're going to eat all that?" My eyes shifted sideways, "Eventually." "Alright," he said. Literally two minutes later a tiny Asian guy lurched into the room, staggering under the weight of the food. He lowered it to the floor, and lifted a huge banquet sized board from behind our couch, which he placed carefully over our glass coffee table. He covered it with a beautiful linen cloth and proceeded to arrange the silver plates of food, beautiful crystal, and obscene amount of silverware on top. When I thought he was done, he whipped out an extremely phallic Greek flower and placed it dramatically in the middle. Gary tipped him, and we enjoyed our midnight feast on our private balcony under a full moon. Every bite full of food was of the best quality and beautifully prepared. You have no excuse to ever be hungry on a cruise! On the topic of small cruise ships (such as ours, or larger ones such as we had last year), Gary much prefers small ones. However, I miss the more international and younger group we encountered on the larger ship. I like children, and I enjoyed watching the multi-generational families interact. In contrast, it seemed most of us on this cruise were ancient - our age! For example, Gary was complaining loudly that his Hawaiian shirt, (off the woman's rack) had the buttons on the wrong side and was difficult to maneuver. A young woman leaned over and said earnestly, "It's good exercise for your brain. It may stave off stroke for a little longer." I snickered. I also realized that my prejudice about old people is pretty ironic, considering I am one. Yet, I have to acknowledge that not one of our fellow passengers dropped out of our tours. I am delighted to know now that Gary and I have at least another 20 years to travel the world! As I am in a sharing mood, I will share with you that a Feng Shui interior decorator once informed me that my Chinese birth element is water. Apparently water people seek truth, creativity, sensitivity, are reflective and love bathrooms! When imbalanced, a water person can become restless or fearful. Bathrooms are our refuge! So, I digress on the topic of WC's. I found the architectural conservation of space on our cruise ship fascinating. Our bathroom sink was completely functional, but incredibly long and narrow, more like a tiny shelf with a faucet on one end. The best WC on the trip was a public facility on Mykonos. It was an ancient little adobe room perched directly on the sea and painted sunshine yellow. A huge window overlooked the ocean, and the sounds of the waves hitting the wall outside echoed all around me. As I came out, dozens of cats slept on a bench, surrounding an old woman, who was also sleeping. I placed a euro in a small plate and quietly left. The perfect bathroom! * Friday, July 31, (8:00am-12 noon) Delos, Greece; Excursion 1 A Visit to Delos TOUR LENGTH: Half-Day (Approximately 2 hours) The small, uninhabited island of Delos lies just a few miles from Mykonos, and, by law, it can only be visited during daylight hours. This tour offers that rare opportunity. Delos was once the religious center of the entire Aegean area, and according to mythology, it was the birthplace of Apollo, the god of music, sun, light, harmony and beauty. Pilgrims from all over Greece and other countries came to pay their respects to the god, bringing gifts and offerings, which made the island a highly respected sanctuary, a position it retained throughout antiquity. In the early 19th century, excavations uncovered the ruins of a whole city on Delos, much of which you can explore. Some of the most archaeologically important remains include the Naxos marble lions, the three beautiful temples dedicated to Apollo, and various houses with splendid mosaic floors. Rising above the ruins of this ancient city is Mount Kynthos, the island's highest point, where the earliest traces of inhabitation date back to the 3rd millennium BC. Our cruise ship anchored a short distance from the Island of Delos, and an unfortunate number of us packed into a small life boat to reach shore. The water was so rough from raging winds that the pilot lost his hat when he stuck his head out his hatch. I held Gary's hand very tightly and asked questions about 600 people stuffed into a boat made of old tires. "It's a LIFEBOAT, Meredith," Gary said testily. "It CAN'T sink." (But I found the sign on the wall "You are not a survivor until rescued," confusing.) Indeed, we didn't sink, and shortly arrived on the deserted shores of Delos. As we started to unload, I could see our tour guide waiting for us on a nearby rock. I thought she was oddly dressed for glaring sun and sirocco-like winds. She wore long pants, high shoes, a sweatshirt that zipped up to her neck, giant whole-face wrap-around sun glasses and a hat with a thick rope knotted under her chin. As I clambered onto shore, a gust of wind shot my skirt past my nose and blasted my naked thighs with Delos sand. I suddenly appreciated her attire. Brushing my hair out of my nose, holding my skirt down, clutching my hat, grabbing my pocketbook, map and glasses, I had to make quick decisions which two items I needed most, as I only had two hands. I chose my sunglasses and pocketbook. I buried my hat in my bag, and resigned myself to wearing my hair up my nose and skirt under my armpits. Gary chose his knapsack and camera. He bagged his hat. His head ripened to a cherry red under the glaring sun and I worried about him the entire tour. The history of Delos was perhaps the most fascinating of all our tours, and the complexity of ruins the most evocative of bygone times. Pompeii was saved for archeologists by volcanic ash. Delos had no earthquakes and volcanoes, but these powerful winds had buried the ruins in African dust. At one point every inch of this barren island, sacred to Apollo, was utilized as prime real estate. Tall homes built next to each other were separated by narrow roads. Each home had indoor plumbing and was connected to a public sewer system. The city-state of Athens took over the religious site and in order to maintain political control, ordained that Apollo didn't like death and therefore no one was allowed to be born or die on Delos. Control passed from Athens to a more international business complex through the ages, but the island remained a major religious site, with temples dedicated to Greek, Christian, Egyptian and Jewish gods. More than 25,000 people lived on the barren rock, enjoying a cosmopolitan lifestyle that was the hub of the ancient world. In 88 BC Mithridats VI, King of Pontus, now Turkey, came in with a militia and killed everyone. And looted Delos. And set it on fire. After which no one came back. So, our guide began our tour. "And here is a typical home," she informed us. "Here is the central garden with mosaic floor. And here is the dining area where men enjoyed socializing with other men and mistresses. Wives were not allowed. And here is the bathroom for 12 used by men only. Women not allowed. And here is the theatre where all of Delos came to enjoy wonderful plays by brilliant writers. Women not allowed. And here is gymnasium and baths for men. Women not allowed. There also boys were educated, but not girls. And here is agora, or public meeting place. Women not allowed. Dionysus the god of wine, ecstasy, and of epiphany, "The God That Came" was worshipped and here we have examples of 7 foot marble penis and testicles which appeared often throughout Delos, in his honor. Here in agora slaves were brought in chains and sold like animals. Animals were brought for sacrifice to the gods and was said that the smoke from fires cremating their dead bodies could be seen by sailors for hundreds of miles. No one was allowed to be born or die on Delos, so all pregnant women, old women, or sick women were taken to the next island to die. Very high mortality rate, and most women died in child birth." I'm thinking about this time Greek culture had a lotta warts. And I'm not impressed by the Delos population being wiped out in one afternoon - keep in mind that Delos men hung out in the gym all day! Friday, July 31 (2:00pm-10:00pm) Mykonos, Greece; No tour. Most popular port city in Greece. Windmills on hill, Archeological Museum of objects from Delos, 15th century bakery. Narrow whitewashed streets were designed to confuse pirates. Panagia Paraportiani church in the Little Venice district. Waterfront walk you can see Petros the Pelican. The island was over-run by bars and rich kids on motorcycles. The archeological museum closed just as we arrived, and every shop sold the same merchandise. We know because we saw them all, although not by choice. The narrow whitewashed streets designed to confuse pirates confused us as well. We never actually found the bakery, although we smelled it several times. Gary and I had just chosen a lovely outside cafe to collapse in by the dock, when the star of the island made his appearance; Petros the Pelican. A fearless and cosmopolitan resident, he flew in on giant wings and proceeded to smirk and strut up and down the entire dock. He had the presence of Dean Martin, pizzazz of Cary Grant, and strut of Red Skelton. Whatta Bird! * Saturday, August 1 (9:00am-6:00pm) Rhodes, Greece; Excursion 1 Highlights of Rhodes TOUR LENGTH: Half-Day (Approximately 4 hours) The old port of Mandraki, where this tour begins, is believed to be the site of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Historic sites abound in Rhodes, as you will soon discover after enjoying a panoramic view of the city and Rhodes Bay from atop Mount Smith. You will then visit the fully restored 14th-century Grand Masters Palace, which contains beautiful alabaster windows, French and Venetian furniture, and floor mosaics with scenes from Greek mythology. It served as a fortress in times of war, and a residence for the Grand Master and a meeting place for senior knights during times of peace. As you continue down the Avenue of the Knights, where the knights lived, the cobblestoned street seems to exude a noble and somewhat forbidden aura, as its lofty buildings stretch in an unbroken wall of honey-colored stone, punctuated by huge doorways and arched windows. At the conclusion of this tour, you can either return to ship, or remain in the old town to explore further. Today I, Gary, will narrate the continuing saga of our visit around the Aegean Sea. We arise to the strident ringing of the 6 am wakeup call. The tour doesn't leave until 9:15 but you can't be too early. We have time for a leisurely breakfast on deck 10 overlooking the port of Rhodes - Eggs Benedict, hash browns, and coffee! It doesn't get any better than this. The attention of the coffee server is welcome. He seems to lurk somewhere behind me and appears whenever my cup is half empty. If only the beer guy was as attentive. We proceed to the collection area where we exchange our tour tickets for two small cards with a blue 5 imprinted on them, and wait to be called. Finally the number is called and we all travel down the stairs to deck three. Interestingly enough, the two stairways going down merge into one, causing a traffic backup not much different than the commute most of us are trying to avoid by going on vacation. We look for bus 5 and who do I see but Elena from our first bus ride! She is our guide for Rhodes. It turns out she is a numbers person. As we ride along, she tells us of the number of olive trees, the number of foreign occupations, the number of gods and children of gods, and the number of cities they founded. As Elena checks the time and waves impatiently at the bus driver, I am guessing she knows exactly where she should be in her narration at exactly what time. The roads are just as narrow and twisting as the roads of Delphi, but our driver travels at a slower pace, untroubled by the constant passing of small cars and motorbikes that made our other bus trips so memorable. I also notice there are less roadside shrines, so maybe life in Rhodes is calmer. We arrive at the top of Mt Smith (Smith was an English general who used the mountain to spy on the French when Napoleon was running his fleet in the area). This points to a Basic Problem we tourists encounter. There seems to be a number of names for any one place, used interchangeably. I am reminded of the New Englanders' habit of giving directions using landmarks that no longer exist. "Turn where the old white church used to be". Which reminds me of the Colossus of Rhodes, a huge statue said to have straddled the entry to the harbor of Rhodes, which also smells like Maine. The Colossus was a 105 foot Apollo holding a torch. All ships passed between his legs. As it is no longer there and nothing remains, there is some doubt about where it might have been. This somewhat diminishes the story. If he didn't straddle the harbor entry, and he was just another giant statue somewhere in another old city, what happens to Rhodes' claim to fame? Many of the ruins of Rhodes are Medieval. The Knights Templar, also known as the Order of St John, had settled on the Island for 200 years (1309-1522), and were finally forced out by the Ottomans. Prior to purchasing Rhodes from a king, they had tried living in many locations in the region, such as Crete, in an attempt to keep their considerable wealth intact. Upon receiving Rhodes, they began building forts palaces and monasteries on top of pre-existing Greek temples. One of the stops on our tour was the ancient Greek Temple of Athena at the top of Mount Smith which the knights had converted into a monastery. Here, the Knights lived a celibate life. At any one time there were only 600 members, some Spanish, English, French or Italian. If a knight died, a replacement would be sent for from Europe. By the harbor of Rhodes, the knights built an impressive fortification called the Palace of the Grand Master. Many years later, during the Turk's occupation of Rhodes, (in what appears to be more than a simple twist of fate), ammunition was stored in the basement, and it exploded. Sound familiar? What happened to the Acropolis in Athens? Those pesky Turks playing with dynamite again. Not only should we beware of Greeks with gifts, look out for Turks wanting to store things. The palace was totally destroyed and then rebuilt by the Italians as a summer home for Mussolini around 1940. The second world war intervened and Mussolini, executed in 1945, never set foot in the new palace. Rhodes reverted back to the Greeks, whose culture and traditions had remained intact, despite the numerous foreign occupations. Today, the Palace has become a public museum, housing art treasures from all over Greece. * Sunday, August 2 (8:00am-2:00pm) Kusadasi, Turkey; No tour. Missing what could have possibly been Virgin Mary's retirement home, now a church. Missing Grand Theater in Ephesus where St. Paul preached. See Kusadasi bazaar and nearby shops selling rugs and antique jewelry. (Gary again) Our ship docked and we walked through customs into a brilliantly beautiful day. Our first encounter with the people of Kusadasi was a nice young man wearing a red tie who asked us earnestly if we were English. I thought he meant do we speak English, but no, he wanted to know if we were from London. This curiously pointless conversation included information about his family, and his knowing somebody who had been somewhere he thought might be near Springfield, MA. This segued into a staggering bit of misjudgment as he insisted on showing us a 9 karat diamond ring...for only $35,000 per karat! We turned him down on exiting the port, but succumbed on our return. It became obvious he was a portent of things to come. Kusadasi salespeople thickly lined the middle of every promenade (drinking apple tea). Loudly and insistently, they tried to herd passersby into their shops. Think Time Share sales times 1000. (Meredith describes more encounters below.) Looking only down, with a constant "no thanks" on our lips, we ran up the street, hoping for relief. I was so concentrated on avoiding sales pitches; I almost didn't hear a beautiful young woman who simply said, "I have pins". It took 5 steps before it registered in my brain. I stopped, turned back and pointing to my hatband heavily weighted with pins, said stupidly, "You have pins?" "Come into my shop", the spider said to the fly. I followed after her. She headed to the back of the shop and I passed an assistant mopping the tile floor. He gave me an evil grin. The thought occurred to me that this was the remains of the last customer. But yes, she had a small collection of pins. "You want biggest one? You take four, yes?" I purchased ONE small Turkish emblem for only 2euro. (My turn) (I just added to Gary's part what the saleswoman said about buying more than one pin. "How did you know that? I thought you were out in the street the whole time?" Gary asks. I give him a pitying look.) Anyway, we lasted less than an hour before we came back to the ship drenched in anxiety related sweat. It was awful beyond conception. Mind you, I purchased the carpet I wanted and three boxes of Turkish delight. I owe this to experiences from my past which gave me a demonic shopping fury that kicks in when needed. Our second salesperson poked us with his fingers, blocked our escape with his chest and confused our brains with curiously transparent lies. He also told us the complete history and construction of Turkish rugs. The only way we could have avoided his twenty minute diatribe was physical violence. He paused to breathe and we ran away. Every store salesman, often in groups of three or more, stood outside their establishment and screamed aggressively at us, often blocking our way physically, "Come inside, Where you from? I take your money! You need me now! You need leather jacket, nice plate, carpet, jewelry! Why not? You tell me why not, NOW! This is better shop than there, the others they all cheat you! Don't look at him, look only at me! You break my heart! You come with me!" I made the mistake of slowing in front of a second window and trying to see what they sold. Several salesmen dragged us by our elbows to a deserted third floor and plied us with apple tea we didn't want while I kept insisting, "NO! I have no money! Just BROWSING! PLEASE, NO!!!!" They showed us small silk rugs of exquisitely beautiful design he said were worth $35,000 to $160,000 and he would sell for only $3,000 to $10,000. When we tried to say no, we got another half hour lecture on the construction of Turkish rugs. We got loose from that one too, and sprinted down the street dodging fists grabbing at us, while I screamed, "NO!" And Gary whimpered, "This is the single worst experience of my life! Can we go now?" My chin jutted out, my teeth clamped shut and my eyes narrowed. I had had it by this time in our trip with Mediterranean Men. I marched into the next rug shop and when we were bodily lifted to an upper floor I turned on the salesman and snarled, "I will take your $10,000 piece of carpet if it is FREE. I won't if it isn't. I have less than one hundred dollars, my ship leaves in an hour, and DON'T WASTE MY TIME." (Gary collapsed on a luxuriously carpeted bench with another apple tea and was visibly hyperventilating). The salesman eyed me briefly and brought a new pile of rugs quoting prices $300 up. He started in on the "construction of Turkish rugs" lecture, but I jabbed one with my finger and said, "That one, onefifty now. I'm leaving." He stared again, shrugged and sold me a ten dollar rug for one hundred fifty dollars. We both thought, "ass-hole!" My adorable, well-mannered husband and I marched our way back to the ship and the first abusive salesman we had encountered said sadly, "Ah, you bought something, but not from me." Gary announced with pride, "She's part Turkish." Another positive result from the experience is that we now feel quite knowledgeable about the construction of Turkish rugs! * Monday, August 3 (12:00noon- ) Istanbul, Turkey Excursion 6 Ottoman Essentials W/Visit to Grand Bazaar TOUR LENGTH: Half-Day (About 3 1/2 hours) This delightful half-day tour of one of the world's most fascinating cities is designed to show you the highlights of Istanbul's stunning architecture and attractions. Starting off by coach, your first stop is the impressive Blue Mosque. This breathtaking mosque is the only one in the world with six minarets. Although built between 1609 and 1616 by Sultan Ahmed I (and named after him), the mosque is known as the Blue Mosque because of the 21,000 Blue-green Iznik tiles, which decorate the interior. After a look at this amazing site, you'll next proceed to the Byzantine Hippodrome, which lies in front of the Blue Mosque. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, the Hippodrome was the center for entertainment, amusement and sports in the city. Later, during the Ottoman rule of the city, the Hippodrome grounds were used for festivities and ceremonies. No visit to Istanbul is complete without seeing marvelous Topkapi Palace, which served as the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans for more than four hundred years. The Palace is located where the Acropolis of Byzantium once stood, on a promontory overlooking the Golden Horn, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara. The palace complex covers an area of approximately 700,000 square meters and it is surrounded by five kilometers of walls. Within the palace grounds are courts, pavilions, mosques, fountains and a beautiful treasury section. One of the richest collections of French, Japanese & Chinese porcelain collections and the most valuable pieces of the treasury of Ottoman Empire are on display in the pavilions of the Palace. Your final stop will be at the Grand Bazaar, the largest and the oldest covered market place in the world with more than 4,000 shops in the labyrinth of streets. Enjoy the colorful array of shops that offer an endless selection of goods that includes jewelry, fabrics, spices and local handicrafts. Our tour guide Hyatt, explained to us that her name meant "life" and not "Hotel Chain." She was a No-Nonsense, Muslim woman, (about 70 years old), who spoke English with a Pennsylvania Dutch lilt. Calling us Dear Friends, she stiffly informed us of her doctorate in sociology and masters in art history. As our bus passed many beautiful mosques with tall minarets, roman ruins, and narrow, medieval looking shops filled with beautiful things, Hyatt described their significance. When we stepped off the bus into 115 degree heat at our first stop, I was startled to see that Hyatt was barely more than four feet tall. She herded our group across a busy street, and when a car started backing into us, she rushed over to the driver with the fury of a pit bull and abraded him, pounding his door with her small, elegant fist. "One can see, but not see," she explained with royal displeasure. When salesmen on sidewalks interrupted her lectures, she stopped for a full minute to give them a long, low "evil eye". They retreated in terror. Gary was delighted! With grand precision, Hyatt described the history of an immense Egyptian obelisk placed amid Roman ruins, and a beautiful fountain covered with gold leaf. She paused. At the exact moment of noon, the ululating cry of Muslim singers rang out from every Mosque in Istanbul. Exaggerated by sound speakers, their wild cries seemed to make the hot air pulse, and I could feel myself starting to cry. Later, in the courtyard of the Blue Mosque, so named for its mosaic tiles, Hyatt described her Muslim heritage with defensive, but passionate love. In the mosque, we had to remove our shoes and Gary had to wear a blue skirt to cover his knees. Naked feet - good, naked knees - bad! The interior of the mosque was a vast space with lights suspended from the roof on long wires. A tall latticed fence extended all along the exterior walls, behind which heavily robed women knelt in prayer. An inner area, not available to tourists, was filled with chatting men and little Turkish boys dashing about or rolling comfortably on the rug. Hyatt stood on a bench to address us. "When I was a girl and I came here to the Blue Mosque, I could not understand why I was not allowed to pray at the alter with my father and brothers. Later, as a young woman, I protested that it was not right. But I have at last come to terms with it, in a way that is just my own. Please know that Devils are always presented in art as male. See how it is men who pray right by the alter. Our God must speak to them very closely. Angels are always presented in art as female. See how our women look out over our men from a distance, like angels over devils." I thought to myself that here yet again was another female tour guide informing tourists about yet another misogynist male culture. I heard bitterness in all their voices, but Hyatt seemed the most heroic. She loved her Muslim culture, and with education, wisdom, humor and compassion, had found a way to resolve the philosophical conflicts. It was interesting to me that my standard art history background, small and inaccurate as it was, had made me feel quite comfortable in Greece. But I was very uncomfortable viewing Arabic art until my rudimentary studies in Islamic calligraphy kicked in. When Hyatt discussed the beautiful tiles covering the interior of the Blue Mosque, I felt quite proud that I already knew some things. For instance, out of respect, Islamic artists were not allowed to represent living creatures that only Allah could create. Instead, they depicted organic designs and calligraphy from the Koran. They looked like a geometric variation on Irish Celtic designs, and were very beautiful. Hyatt was outraged that the ancient Turkish prayer rugs that had once covered the floors had been replaced by a cheap wall-to-wall carpet ten years ago. "Very wrong capitalist plan to line pockets," she sniffed. "Very inferior! They have been replaced now several times! Traditional carpets do not wear out! Do you know how our carpets are made?" she asked, looking directly at Gary and I. She seemed startled by the pain in our jointly screamed, "Yes!" Next, Hyatt led us across several streets to arrive at the Topkapi Palace. Most of our guides had been adorned with stunning jewelry, stopping our tours to advocate expensive jewelry stores. In contrast, Hyatt was dressed modestly and stopped us only to buy postcards from a tattered young man who was selling them from a box on the sidewalk. She announced proudly that he was from an honorable family, and he was seeking an education, and if we were to buy from him, our money would be well-spent. The royal treasure houses displayed an incredible wealth of precious objects from the Ottoman Empire. I wandered through several rooms, viewing daggers adorned with emeralds the size of eggs, flasks of gold and diamonds, ruby studded helmets that rose up to points at the top, and amazing jewelry. Gary didn't come with me because the rooms had no oxygen. I thought he looked like he was going to pass out, so we found a cafe selling water. Interestingly enough, unlike Greece, Istanbul accepts all money, any money, of any denomination. The cashier looked at my American dollars with distain, but took them and kindly gave me American change. Our last stop was the Grand Bazaar, which Gary will write, as well as our flight home. (Gary) The Grand Bazaar is reported to be the largest, oldest covered shopping area in the world. I can believe it. The bus dropped us off about 2 blocks from the Bazaar on an open promenade lined by shops and restaurants. We ducked into the first open door. Wow! Who'd guess it would be a rug shop! We were escorted up stairs to the viewing rooms "like a museum" our abductor announced proudly. The sounds of scampering feet could be heard and lights were turned on by invisible hands as we passed. We entered another showroom with rugs hanging from the walls and piled around the room. Benches covered with rugs lined the walls. I took a seat and Meredith tried to explain we had already heard the "rug construction lecture," and only wanted to see small, cheap wool rugs. Our salesman seemed to understand we weren't in the market for a $20,000 floor covering and showed us the under $1,000 stuff. This is where it gets interesting, as they seem to use various currencies interchangeably. "Look," they say, "the price is marked right here 1000." "1,000 what?" we ask? "Lira, dollars, euros?" I thought a lira was .68 cents USD and the euro 1.42 USD - quite a variation. Anywho, we bargained a price of 300 USD and everyone seemed happy. He offered us apple tea and even wanted to send out for a beer for me. So I guess we got taken. They did pack the rug up neatly and offered to hold it for us until the bus returned. I asked what would happen if I carried the package into the Grand Bazaar. Specifically, would other rug guys leave us alone. Our salesman laughed and said, "No! They will ask, where, what and how much. Then tell you they could have sold it you cheaper." We re-entered the street and proceeded ten steps to a nice cafe for a Turkish coffee and beer. The bill was once again in lira, so I used an application on my phone to calculate the US amount and left that amount. No complaints from the waiter. Two blocks later, we entered the Grand Bazaar! It had a big arched entrance, beyond which were painted domed ceilings, and crisscrossing streets lined with small shops. We walked up and down, left and right, and never saw an end. The shopkeepers were less aggressive here, probably because there were lots and lots of people walking the halls. Luckily, we were able to find our way out again and get back to the bus with just enough time to retrieve our rug. • Tuesday, August 4, (1:55pm) Depart from Istanbul to Frankfort, Germany, Arrives 3:55pm. Leave Frankfurt (6:00pm) Arrive in Boston 8:15pm. The last day arrived too early. The 5am call to prayer is impossible to ignore as it resonates through the city like an electrified cat fight. All our possessions, other than the clothes on our back and a limited amount of carry on stuff, had been packed up and taken away in the dark of night. After arising and showering, we went up to the 9th floor for breakfast: my last eggs Benedict of the cruise and coffee - with of course, extra bacon. With the variety of food available on the ship, the only pork I saw was bacon...a mystery. Sadly, we traveled down to the waiting area. We were called after a short wait and preceded off the ship and into the baggage area. The bags were sorted by tag color, so we had no trouble locating ours. Customs was easy and we got on to the bus. Being one of the first off the ship, we had our choice of bus seating. However, as the driver was busily loading luggage, he had not started the bus and there was no AC. I started to steam and sweat, finally running out to cool off in the 110 degree sunlight. Finally, the bus was loaded, started and cooled. I reentered for the ride to the airport. We arrived at Istanbul airport (TAV) at about 9:30am for a 1:55pm flight. We left the bus, gathered our luggage and were pointed toward the entry. I'm sure if we had done our "homework" more thoroughly, this part of the trip would have felt less stressful. Maneuvering specific airports is something we'll be sure to ask our travel agent about before our next adventure. For instance, this airport did not have assigned check-in areas. The counters are unmarked until someone turns on an electric sign board. We plopped down in front of a large display of flight numbers, and after a bit of study it appeared all the Lufthansa flights were assigned to E-F counters, so we wandered down the terminal. Meredith found an airport personnel who pointed to an unmarked counter, verifying that Lufthansa would open there at 10:30. I figured the Germans to be a punctual people, so I was a bit surprised when they opened at 10:45. But we had nothing else to do, so who cares? Not quite true, as Meredith found 2 more boxes of Turkish candy for gifts, and only spent $55.00! With seat assignments in hand and baggage checked, we proceeded to the gate. As we still had 3 hours to kill, we stopped in a nearby cafe to wait. Meredith said, "Just for ha-ha's, how much did the candy cost?" We discussed the candy incident while drinking a draft beer and house wine. We noted that the drinks were comparable to the candy. And there was no way I was going to pay another $12.00 for a draft beer. So on to the gate to wait. It hadn't opened yet, but a small bar proved that this beer was only $8.00. A bargain! The gate finally opened, and we had to enter another security gauntlet - belts off but shoes ok. Onwards to the plane and off to Frankfurt. Lufthansa is a great airline! NO charge for German bottled beer! Frankfurt; We arrived at terminal A and maneuvered a long confusing walk to keep site of the arrows marked E. The gate waiting area had its own bar. so the wait wasn't as bad with beer and pretzels close at hand. By this time I was too tired to care what I was charged. But it was only 4.80 euro per beer. At long last we boarded and lifted off. The woman in front of me immediately reclined her seat to its full extent. I tried to do so also, but a small child behind me kicked constantly, so I sat up, placing my face 10 inches from the TV screen in front of me. Head phones were not passed out at take-off, so I killed time watching a film with Chinese subtitles and making up my own dialogue. When the ear phones finally arrived, they proved useful to block out the screams of numerous small children. I watched movie after movie, drinking free beer and praying for a UFO event where everyone but Meredith and I were removed from the plane for probing. But soon enough we were in Boston! Off the plane! Through customs! Waiting for the shuttle service to the car! Loaded the car! Off we go! I had brought my GPS on the cruise just for fun, and it was able to track the ship and identify various islands, although it was unable to give us a street list on the various islands. For kicks in Istanbul, I asked it to calculate the directions home and it sort of expired. After arriving in Boston and connecting it in the car, it was very vague about directions. It calculated time backwards, estimated it would take 10 hours to get to Springfield, (a 2 hour trip), and kept trying to direct us back to the airport. Happily, it has Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
            This review of our second-ever cruise is unbelievably lengthy (no surprise to the readers of my review of our first-ever cruise last fall!), so it is organized by labeled topics so that readers can scroll down to the ... Read More
            This review of our second-ever cruise is unbelievably lengthy (no surprise to the readers of my review of our first-ever cruise last fall!), so it is organized by labeled topics so that readers can scroll down to the information, if any, in which they have an interest.                          Personal Background and Travel Interests:  Husband Gerry and I both are 58, and began taking annual fall vacations to Europe after our younger child started college.  We both are business attorneys (I now am retired, G. remains working full-time), and both are very interested in history and art.  G. is a military history enthusiast, with less interest in natural beauty destinations, and he absolutely abhors shopping, which he believes wastes precious touring time.  I am a new docent at the Cincinnati Art Museum, so I am eager to visit any art-related sights on our trips.  We usually take a fall vacation to Europe (to avoid both the heat and the crowds), and trips until last September were all land trips: Spain; England/Belgium/The Netherlands; Italy; and Normandy/Loire Valley/Paris.  All of these trips were done independently, by train and bus, using the wonderful Rick Steves' practical and comprehensive guidebooks for sightseeing advice.  (We rented a car for the Normandy/Loire Valley part of our 2007 trip.)  We enjoy staying at small hotels and B&B's in preference to large or chains, and usually rely on the tripadvisor.com website for lodging recommendations when we travel, both in the US and abroad, and it has steered us well.                Last September, we took our first-ever cruise, Oceania Istanbul to Athens, in order to visit Istanbul and some Greek islands, a dream of Gerry's for the last several years, without worrying about ferry schedules and lugging suitcases.  The cruise more than met our expectations: we were happy with the comfort of the beds, the food and the excellent service.  We were so taken with our four days pre-cruise in Istanbul that I have remained a daily participant in the Istanbul forum of tripadvisor.                         Why Our Second Cruise and Why We Chose Oceania:  I began planning a land trip to Italy for October 2009 to visit areas we had never visited, particularly the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre.  However, on January 6, I received an email from Oceania setting forth $2,000 price reductions on certain Mediterranean cruises for this summer and fall.  I immediately excluded all those in July and August simply because I cannot take high temperatures and humidity.  Of those left, I spotted the Athens to Rome itinerary, which included two days on the Amalfi Coast, an opportunity to see Delos/Mykonos, missed last September due to high seas, and a day in Malta, which I knew could be the hook to get my military-history-oriented husband to sign up.  He checked them out that night, called our long-time travel agent, and were booked the next day in the same cabin we had in September and on the same ship, Nautica.                 Airlines and Flights:  Cincinnati is a Delta hub, which means we have the most expensive airfare in the US, and 95% of the flights are on Delta.  But I called Delta that same day we booked this cruise, and, just an example of how bad our economy was, I easily got skymile tickets for a departure on June 3 and return on June 22, less than five months in advance.  Normally, you have to call promptly 11 months in advance and be very flexible, but this year, no problem at all.  I refuse to fly through JFK (numerous lost luggage and cancelled flight stories), so we flew on Continental to Newark, then overnight on Continental to Athens and back on Delta (really Northwest), Rome to Atlanta and Atlanta to Cincinnati.                             Well, we had a rough start to our journey: some yoyo (actually a former neighbor of ours) stuffed two large carry-on bags into one small overhead luggage bin on our small regional jet, which bin would then neither open nor fully close.  One hour was spent trying to remove the luggage, and finally the entire bin was disassembled.  I wonder how many passengers missed their connections because this guy and his wife planned to spend three weeks in Eastern Europe with three carry-on bags but simply would not check any luggage.               The overnight flight to Athens was less than 2/3 full, so G. moved and I had two seats on which to try to spread out and doze.  This flight was on-time and not crowded, what more can you ask for? Of course, when we had our own movie screens with the choice of dozens of films to wile away the hours back from Rome, I enjoyed watching three Oscar-nominated films, which truly made the time go faster.  This Rome to Atlanta flight was packed, not a surprise because our Delta flight vanished in April and we were moved to a Northwest flight.  Fortunately, after our rough start in Cincinnati, the other three flights all were on-time.               Vacation Itinerary:  Oceania's 12- Day Enchanted Escapade voyage: Athens, Delos/Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, sea day, Malta, Taormina, Sorrento, Amalfi, Livorno, Monte Carlo, Portofino, Rome; only one sea day and no overnights in port, so a jam-packed itinerary.  Because we had spent three days in Athens just last September, we booked only one extra night before boarding, planning to visit two museums we had missed, but decided on five extra nights in Rome after disembarking to get in some of the sightseeing we had planned on when this vacation was still an Italy land trip.                Cruise Ship Nautica:  Bearing in mind that we have no cruise ship experience on any other line, and that we traveled on the same ship that we were on last September, I absolutely loved almost everything about this ship and I highly recommend this cruise line.                  Our Cabin:   We booked the same cabin we ended up in after clearing our guaranty last fall, Cabin 6033, obstructed view, but really just obstructed by a large davit from which a small zodiac hangs below the large picture window level, so plenty of light.   About a week before our departure, our travel agent received an upgrade offer for us which she admittedly mishandled (a long story), and the following day she had managed to arrange for an upgrade at a good price to a B veranda, Cabin 6073.  Of course, now I am spoiled by the veranda, and it will be difficult to return to smaller quarters.               Even with my bringing two suitcases, instead of our normal one each on all our previous land trips, there was room for everything to be put away (suitcases fit under the beds), so I was a very happy camper.  I did not want to accumulate any mess, and I wanted to keep the small couch for lounging. I was able to stow away all purchases in the cabinets above or below the TV.  Our friendly cabin attendant was on her first cruise, and she and her assistant kept us well-supplied.  (She adored my spouse because when we arrived, apparently the bathroom had not been cleaned, and, without telling me, he whisked me away to lunch, had a discreet word with her, rather than complaining to her supervisors, and I never would even have known about it except upon seeing her later our first night on board, she was so effusive and grateful to him, that I ended up finding out the story.)  The beds are indeed very comfortable, and, as chosen by Cruisecritic editors, the food is fantastic.               Embarkation and Disembarkation:  We boarded just before 3 PM on a Friday, our second full day in Athens, having spent one night at the Athens Cypria, about a five-minute walk from Syntagma Square.  The taxi ride from central Athens to the cruise ship cost 20 Euros and took about 20 to 25 minutes. I have posted a review of this very reasonably-priced and well-located hotel on the tripadvisor website.  There were just a few people boarding at that time, and our suitcases were at our cabin when we returned from our late lunch at the Terrace Cafe buffet, which stays open until 4 PM on embarkation day.  We disembarked about 15 minutes before the required 9 AM in Civitavecchia after our last leisurely breakfast.  Our suitcases were immediately available and easily found at the cruise terminal.  We shared a van from there to our centrally located hotel near the Campo di'Fiori, Hotel Smeraldo, for five more nights in Rome, a review of which I also have posted on the tripadvisor website.                The van, Bob's Limousines, www.romelimousines.com, was an excellent price for the lengthy drive into central Rome, but Bob refused to drop us at our hotel, saying that the van was too large to navigate on the tiny streets near the Campo, but that is an absolute falsehood.  I had stayed at the same hotel three years previously, and many large delivery vehicles travel there daily.  So we were forced to schlep our three rolling suitcases plus carry-on bags several blocks from the Largo Argentina tram stop.  Bob wanted to drop us even further away because he truly had not bothered checking out the precise location of our hotel.  I was pretty steamed about this, but our four travel companions, all met on cruisecritic, simply were the loveliest people imaginable (and had also uncomplainingly survived a lousy private day tour with us that I had arranged), so outspoken me actually kept her mouth shut for once.                       Food:  As recommended, after boarding and having lunch, we went down to the Grand Dining Room and booked our two specialty restaurant meals.  I once again decided to do both the first week in case we wanted to return to either, and indeed we returned to both the second week. However, with the food so good in the Grand Dining Room, they truly never repeated the menu items in 12 nights, and the dEcor there so spacious and attractive, we were happy to dine there.                All in all, the only food issues either of us had simply was that the more people with whom you shared a table, the more time it took to both get served and eat.  So if you prefer to eat at 7:30 PM, as we did, but you want to play 9 PM trivia with staffer Ian, you need to dine alone!  And if you dine with six others, you will be very lucky to catch the 9:45 PM show.  Ultimately, we decided that the company, almost all fellow cruise critic members met on our fabulous roll call, was far superior to the entertainment, and we just went with the flow.  I absolutely loved being able to eat dinner whenever I wanted based on the day's activities, with no schedule or required dressing up.                  All the advice from last summer's Oceania food thread was spot on:  my favorite foods included chocolate croissants, fresh blueberries and raspberries, crab cakes, any beef dish we ever tried, all the pates, a large variety of creative appetizers, cheesecake, all uniformly fine dining.  The appetizers and desserts outshine the entrees a bit, which seem to be geared to more conservative palates. We drink a lot of iced tea, and even that was good and tasted fresh brewed at meals.  To nitpick, the cappuccino (free!) was not very good, particularly suffering in comparison to those I drank at breakfast daily in Rome, and the coffee also suffered in comparison to the mixed strong coffee and hot milk I drank in Rome.  We found the wine list to be priced comparable to any good restaurant, with a good price and quality range, and any bottle not finished was stored with our room number for another meal.                One of the aspects of the dining I most enjoyed was that I was able to eat  breakfast and lunch on board out of doors because the buffet breakfast and lunch place, the Terrace Cafe, has outdoor seating, comfy wooden chairs with cushions and large umbrellas for shade. I really liked that servers placed the food on your plates at the breakfast and lunch buffets; it seemed very hygienic.  The grill on the pool deck was very convenient for a very casual lunch, and I enjoyed several grilled pastrami Reuben sandwich lunches there (although not for the health-conscious!).  I liked that you were always provided with real silverware and cloth napkins and placemats, no matter how casually you dined.                We found the service to be uniformly top notch in the Grand Dining Room (with one minor exception), with no issues in having different staff serving us different nights because there was no assigned seating.  We never waited more than a minute or two to be seated, even though we often arrived at 7:30 PM prime time.  This trip we seldom dined alone because we developed several friendships from our roll call, and it was a real pleasure to exchange shore experiences with those with whom we had corresponded in the months prior to the cruise.  Even if you dine at a table for two, the close proximity of the other tables for two allows you the choice of meeting fellow cruisers or having your own conversations at any time desired.  One of the big pluses to me of the Oceania line is the friendliness of the well-trained staff, as well as the diversity of national and ethnic origin of the staff.                Our two meals each at the Polo Grill (wonderful beef) and Toscana (superb pasta and veal chop) were uniformly excellent, and, because one of our Polo meals was a pre-arranged birthday celebration for a fellow roll caller celebrating his 50th birthday, we literally closed the place that evening!  I had no problem arranging for one return visit to each by requesting a reservation the same morning at the desk at the Terrace Cafe.  I found that being flexible on my times and willingness to share with others resulted in spaces being found.                      Shipboard Daytime Activities:  Once again, I cannot really say much about the daytime activities on board, because we participated in very few.  We attended one lecture by Dr. Tom Stauffer on Malta.  He gave three 50-minute illustrated lectures during the cruise, one each on Greece, Malta, and Italy, but we only attended the one given on our one sea day, the day before our Malta visit.  I thought that it was very informative; G. had read a lot about Malta already, but he thought the lecturer did a good job.                I also went to a cooking demonstration the morning of our sea day with the chief chef and another chef, who showed how they made (and provided photocopies of) recipes for several items we might actually make at home (no odd ingredients) and then samples of those dishes were provided to all.  G. had his blackberry with him, so we did not utilize the ship's email services.                We played the afternoon trivia game that sea day as well (at 4:45 PM), at the urging of one of our roll call friends (G. is great at trivia) but several of the players on our own team were so intense and focused on winning, that I said never again, I want to enjoy my trivia games.  We stayed with the evening trivia with Ian or pianist Jerry in the Martinis lounge, where the focus was on having fun.  We accumulated enough "O" points from these trivia games to get the Oceania mouse pad for each of us, a wonderful reminder of our trip every time I sit down at my computer.  The leftover points are put away with my extra Euros for our next O cruise.                                          Pool Deck.  On our sea day, the weather was glorious, and we spent most of the day on loungers on the pool deck, reading, gossiping with fellow roll call members, or taking a dip.  We also often swam late in the afternoon after returning from our sightseeing. We again found throughout the cruise that many people went off to other activities yet insisted on leaving their things for hours on the coveted shaded lounge chairs, guarded by their spouses or friends who were not so active, which was somewhat annoying.  I do not understand why so many did this, but there was enough coming and going that I never had to wait too long for a lounger in the shade.  However, one needed to wait a lot longer to get two together, and we simply sat separately until people started disbursing to prepare for dinner and then we rejoined each other.                Entertainment:  We enjoyed the string quartet which played before dinner (we never made it to tea to hear them play), and if we were done with dinner early enough we joined the trivia game hosted by Ian, a charming young man, who was very amusing.  We often attended the evening one-hour show, but several nights were spent dining late with our lovely roll call members, and we knew we generally were not sacrificing any memorable entertainment to stay with our friends in the GDR.  The entertainment was indeed a weak spot, the best being a classical guitar player, followed by an admittedly silly, but amusing, magician, and a pleasant classical violinist.  On our last cruise, we had a really top performer, a musical theater performer from London's West End flown in for a few days, but there was nothing like him on this trip.  The night we were sailing past Stromboli, an active volcano just north of the Straits of Messina, all were invited to the top deck as we sailed by late in the evening, and a passenger, who knew his astronomy, took out his laser pointer and showed us some constellations, a lovely end to our day.               Destination Services.  We did not take any of the ship's excursions because we prefer to tour independently and not be bused around on the schedule of the slowest of 35 people.  We also felt that Oceania's tour pricing was high.  However, at every port, Oceania had a local tourist person on board for the first few hours after arrival, and that person provided excellent maps, which I always obtained and were very useful (I am a happy map enthusiast, the more detailed the better!), and also sightseeing advice and directions to local transportation for those who needed it .  We used photocopies of materials from Fodor's and Frommer's guidebooks, plus the excellent advice provided by you on these boards, and we knew what we wanted to do in each port.                   Fellow passengers:  Unlike our September cruise, where we were at the younger end of the age spectrum, this cruise had many families (one with over 20 members), and there were several young children, many teenagers and young adults, and then couples in their 40's and on up to the expected over 60 demographic.  Most were American, from all over the US, but a substantial number were from Great Britain, Canada, and Australia.  People were friendly, smart, having fun, open, and very active.                 Ports of Call.             Athens.  Having spent three days in Athens last September, we chose to fly in just a day early and stay near the very central Syntagma Square in order to visit two museums which we had missed on our last visit.  I have been active on the Athens forum of tripadvisor for almost a year, so I knew precisely where I wanted to stay, eat and visit.  Unfortunately, the anticipated March opening of the New Acropolis Museum had become a June 20 opening, so we missed it again.  After hotel check-in, we went to the famous Ariston Bakery nearby and purchased three hot pies for lunch.  We dined al fresco at the cool curtain wall fountain on Syntagma Square, sharing a fine eggplant and zucchini pie, a better spinach pie, and an absolutely sublime mushroom pie.             Now refreshed and fortified, we walked over to the Benaki Museum for a fascinating three-hour exploration, returning in the late afternoon for drinks on the pedestrian street of our hotel before our 7 PM dinner reservation at Tzitzikas & Mermigas. We shared the ten-vegetable house salad (wonderful), some eggplant salad (my addiction) and chicken masticha, which was fantastic. A stroll down Mitropoleos and back up Ermou, enjoying the active night scene, and then off to bed for the jet-lagged.             The next morning, after stopping at the Masticha Shop for a look around and the purchase of a 20-gram tin for cooking usage, we visited the incredible Museum of Cycladic Art, where I drooled over most of the first-floor exhibits, enjoyed mingling with the parent chaperones on a grade-school visit from Piraeus, and then drank in the Classical Greek life gallery and videos. A short distance up the street, G. got to take a quick look at the artillery around the War Museum, and then we grabbed the metro to Monastiraki to check out the completed square, which was under construction during our September visit. We really enjoyed the underground archaeological displays at the metro stop there, plus the gorgeous new square. We then checked out those at the Syntagma metro before retrieving our luggage and taking a taxi to Piraeus to board Nautica.             Athens is very easy to tour on your own because, unlike Paris or London, the main tourist sites all are within a very small, easily walkable area.  Yes, the graffiti is rampant, but it is a vibrant city full of great museums, a good metro and bus system, and many pedestrianized streets in the historic core.                   Delos/Mykonos.  Unlike last September, the sea was like a sheet of glass, so we easily tendered into Delos for a lovely two-hour stroll on our own (using information copied from some guidebooks to tour at our own pace) through gorgeous wildflowers and evocative ruins.  What a lovely and peaceful place. There even was a breeze from the north to help me with the lack of shade on the island.                After lunch on board and the short sail to Mykonos, enjoyed on our veranda, we tendered into Mykonos.  We had planned to go to the beach, but a dearth of taxis led us instead to simply wander through Little Venice up to the windmills and do a little shopping before tendering back to swim on the ship.  A pretty town, but Delos was the both the point and highlight of our day.                   .              Rhodes.  We had visited last September, and chose once again to tour the lovely Old Town, first visiting the lovely synagogue and its museum (which now had an intern from the mainland to provide information to summer visitors), then strolling around the shopping areas while G. explored some of the back streets, and finally to the Grand Masters House, where I wanted to re-visit the magnificent mosaics looted from elsewhere by Mussolini. There were great breezes through the large open windows, so we took our time.  After strolling down the Street of the Knights, we opted to return to the ship and relax on the pool deck in preparation for our ambitious day in Santorini.  Unless you plan to visit Lindos, again there is no reason to hire a guide because the ship docks right by Old Town Rhodes.                Santorini.  We took the cable car up to Thira  (no wait at all because only a few small ships were in port until mid-afternoon) and picked up our rental car from Tony's, reserved in advance because I only can drive an automatic (40 Euros for the day plus 8? Euros for gas).  We drove directly to the lovely Oia to arrive before the cruise ship tours, found it absolutely empty of tourists, explored all the way down to the church and up to the point, shopped very leisurely, focusing on art pieces, ate lunch with an amazing view over the caldera, picked up a large replica of an Akrotiri wall painting, and finally set off for the southern part of the island, including the black beaches of Perissa, and historic Megalochori, where I almost ran out of room to navigate the narrow lanes.  After returning the car, I purchased some lovely linen items in Thira, where I also had purchased last year, and we took the cable car back down at 5 PM,  with no wait at all.               Santorini also is easy to do on your own with a rental car because there is very little traffic once you leave the main town of Thira, clogged with shoppers, and the island is small, with free and easy parking everywhere.               Malta.  We got up at 7 AM to enjoy the sail into one of the most magnificent harbors in the world (and my screensaver for the months before our cruise).  Our first stop (after walking up the car tunnel to the free elevator which lets you off right at the bus hub outside the walls of old Valletta) was the Co-Cathedral of St. John, where we stayed much longer than expected because the audio tour included with your admission is great, plus the dEcor is amazing, plus the Caravaggio is beautifully displayed.  We then visited the Archaeological Museum before taking a taxi (we just missed the bus) for the 10-minute ride to the Hypogeum for our scheduled 2 PM one-hour visit.  In my opinion, this is a do-not-miss in Malta, a 5,000-year-old underground necropolis, with admission limited to 10 pre-booked visitors per hour, and like nothing you ever have seen.  We then walked about  five minutes to the Tarxien Temples, which I found a bit underwhelming (it was very hot), then caught a bus back to Valletta for more strolling, a bit of shopping (for Mdina glass), a visit to the Upper Barracca Gardens, with its incredible harbor views.  We then walked down the hill back to the ship.               Taormina.  After such a busy day in Malta, it was great to have a leisurely day in Taormina, with no museums to visit.  We shared a taxi from the port town of Giardini Naxos to the main square of Taormina (six Euros each), visited the Odeon ruins, then strolled up to the Greco-Roman theatre, which has wonderful views from all sides, and then strolled down to the public gardens first planted by an exiled ex-mistress of Edward VII.  G. ate his first gelato of the trip, I ate the requisite famed cannoli of Taormina, we finished our stroll down to the plaza at the west end of town, and we once again shared a taxi with some fellow Nautica cruisers whom we encountered back to the port.               Sorrento.  We caught the free Oceania-supplied shuttle bus (a welcome first in our cruising history with Oceania) up the hill to the main Plaza Tasso, walked over to the train station (about an eight- minute walk), picked up a train schedule and caught the next Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii.  After you buy your ticket, be sure to pick up the excellent "Brief Guide to Pompeii" booklet at the information window to your left (about 80 pages of descriptive information cued by number to the map you got with your ticket). You will not get it automatically, but must ask for it.  As huge archaeology/history fans, Pompeii was one of the highlights of our trip, and we staggered out again after almost five hours when G. literally started tripping over the stones from fatigue.  There is shade there and we were fortunate to have a breeze the day we visited, but there are no bathrooms except at the entrances/exits.  That is insane!               Upon our return to Sorrento, we had a very late lunch at Da Franco (the best pizza place in Sorrento), just a couple of minutes down the main street from the train station, shopped a bit, and then paid an outrageous price for a taxi back down to the harbor.  (The free shuttle bus put on by Oceania stopped running at 4:30 PM.)               Amalfi.                   Originally we planned to go on our own this day because it was my birthday, but Nautica was sailing at 3 PM, so we rethought and ended up joining four of our lovely roll call members for an Amalfi Drive with Marcello, owner of seesorrento.  (J., thanks again for including us.)  The friendly and knowledgeable Marcello picked us up at the dock in his comfortable clean Mercedes van at 8 AM (our earliest departure day!) and drove us first to Positano, then back through Amalfi to Maiori, then up the hills to Tremonte, down to Ravello,  We then stopped for an unbelievable lunch in Pontone, wonderful cuisine with great views.  We met up there with eight other roll call friends, who were touring with an associate of Marcello's, and scarfed down plates of at least 10 different appetizers, followed by three pastas and three desserts, all served family style with unlimited red and white wine plus several varieties of limoncello, all for at a very, very reasonable price.  Champagne and a birthday cake for me came out with the desserts (again, thanks J.), and I never, never had such a birthday in my life.  We returned to Amalfi around 2 PM and spent a few minutes exploring and shopping in the lovely main square.               Livorno.               Because we had spent almost a week in Florence and Siena just a few years ago, we decided to use this day to visit the Cinque Terre, knowing it would be very crowded on a Sunday.  After a lot of research, and contact with six tour companies, I organized a private tour with the well-respected romeinlimo, which described a good itinerary on its website to visit the four towns I wanted to see there, and I enlisted four others from our roll call to join us.  It is a 90-minute drive each way, and I had my Rick Steves' guidebook and the boat schedule with me.  The 20-minute Path of Love from Riomaggiore from Manarola was mobbed with tour groups from the enormous new Renaissance ship, Independence of the Seas, and the boat ride from Manorola to Vernazza also was crowded.  Fortunately, once we left the dock area in Vernazza, we recovered our equilibrium, and spent several lovely, relaxing hours touring this most charming town and dining at a modest trattoria where we sat with several hikers (older than us), who had just finished the very demanding hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, the reportedly most difficult part of the hiking path among the five CT towns.  Our tour mates dined at the more up-scale Belfort above the harbor.  We met up for the boat ride to Monterosso, where we were picked up and driven back to Livorno.                         Monte Carlo.               Two couples traveling together from Cleveland had engaged Sylvie di Cristo for a private tour of the Cote d'Azur, having toured with her previously, and then posted on the roll call for others to join them.  I jumped at the opportunity because I had read so many wonderful things about her, and she more than lived up to my expectations.  This lady is amazing, maneuvering a large van through very small, traffic-filled areas while continuously educating us with such a breadth of knowledge that I simply was blown away.  She also made adjustments in the schedule throughout the day to accommodate some last-minute requests, and it all worked out fantastically.  She provided not only my favorite tour of the trip, but my favorite private tour ever, a full day of beauty and wonder.  What a pro!               We began by touring Monaco itself, following the exact path of the recently-completed Grand Prix F1 race, then over to the Lower Corniche to Nice, where we stopped to visit the Chagall Museum, the one place I had requested, then we drove over to St. Paul de Vence, where we had lunch outside the old city walls at the cafe next to the boules court, where several old and young men were playing.  After some time enjoying the views and beautiful shops and art galleries there, we stopped at lovely, non-touristy Haut Cagnes, where many artists painted (copies of the pictures are placed in front of the actual places painted), then took a highway back to Monaco so that those who wanted to visit the Cathedral where Princess Grace is buried could do so. We visited there and the Palace where Prince Albert lives before returning to the docked ship.               Portofino.               We spent a leisurely day here before disembarkation in Rome, hiking first towards the lighthouse, stopping at the Chiesa San Giorgio, then touring the empty Castello Brown, with its breathtaking postcard views of the harbor, before strolling down the zigzag path through its extensive gardens which cover the hillside all the way back to the pier.  A bit of shopping and pack to the ship for packing.                         Rome.               Five days of pure bliss: great art, museums, and food.  We had visited the Vatican Museums/St. Peter's and Forum/Palatine Hill/Colosseum just a couple of years ago, so we did not return.  The highlight of our visit was the do-not-miss for art lovers Borghese Gallery (Bernini and Caravaggio), which was the best two hours we spent in Rome.  We purchased our Roma Pass there, which provides free and discounted museum admissions, and three days of free public transportation.   We also enjoyed the Ara Pacis, the National Museum of Rome, San Clemente Church (with its three levels: 2nd c. Mithraic cult; 4th century Christian; 19th c.), Jewish Ghetto area, including the Museum and Synagogue, the Pantheon, Trastavere, including the Villa Farnesina, the Gallery Doria Pamphily, a private palazzo with fabulous art and public rooms, and too many churches with great art to list.  The culinary highlight was our meal at Piperno in the Jewish Ghetto, a top 10 Rome restaurant.  Our last night in Rome was Midsummer's Night Eve, and our stroll from the Campo di'Fiori to the Pantheon to Giolotti's for our last gelato, then over to the Trevi Fountain and back were magical.                               We certainly made the right decision in choosing Oceania for our second cruise, and I heartily recommend this lovely ship, itinerary and cruise line.  This cruise was even better than our first due to the wonderful itinerary and, more importantly, the fantastic people we met through our roll call with whom shared this lovely experience. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
Others have posted comments about this Nautica cruise, which sailed on 27 June from Barcelona, and I am not in total agreement with these comments, however everyone has their own views. My husband and I dined one night with one of the ... Read More
Others have posted comments about this Nautica cruise, which sailed on 27 June from Barcelona, and I am not in total agreement with these comments, however everyone has their own views. My husband and I dined one night with one of the other reviewers. Nautica was well-maintained and all the staff were very helpful and friendly. When you asked how they were, the reply 'excellent' did get a bit wearing, though. The staff and the ship are definitely the line's biggest assets. We found the dining room dinners unimaginative and only "so-so". Other cruise lines, including Princess will generally accommodate realistic "off-menu" orders, provided sufficient notice is given. My husband asked the dining room Manager one evening, for a repeat the following night of a main course of that evening's menu. The answer, ratified by the ship's Maitre'd, was that this was not possible due to "health and safety reasons". This is a nonsense as other cruise lines can do it and was clearly an excuse. Oceania's strap line is "let us exceed your expectations" - sorry Oceania, you fell at the first hurdle here. We were very disappointed with Toscana. If you don't eat veal, there is very little other choice, as so many dishes have veal in some form or another. I do not eat veal on principle because of the way the animals are kept in mainland Europe. In an half-empty restaurant, service was indifferent, with a wrong main course order one night. The lobster was tough and overcooked, then swamped in a chilli pasta mess. We heard of several other passengers cancelling their reservation in Toscana, after being disappointed on the first visit. Much better was the lobster in the Polo Grill, where we ate four times, Michael, the manager, being very accommodating. The food here was the best on the ship, especially the lamb rack. Dinner in the Terrace was also only so-so, with so many of the dishes being lukewarm. The dish of the day, cooked in the wok, was typically bland for the American palette; we have previously been told Americans dislike garlic and spice in their food. After the Cairo visit had laid low about half the ship, who went down with Pharoah's Revenge, all the dining venues were quiet. Even so, the ship was far from full, with only 610 passengers. The only swimming pool is sea water, which is changed regularly. This is far more hygienic than fresh water pools on other ships because we saw hardly anybody shower their sweat and sun cream off before getting into the pool, a really disgusting habit. Would you like to swim around in other peoples sweat residue? Another plus is that Oceania cover the sunloungers with white towelling which is changed daily. Other cruise lines take note about the hygiene benefits of this. My husband got ringworm off a sunlounger that must not have been clean. We partook of virtually no entertainment, so won't comment. What was annoying, though, was the repetitive announcements by cruise director, Dotty, whose booming voice echoed round the ship like a foghorn. The issue which really wound us up (and many others), surprisingly not commented on by any other contributors who were fellow passengers, was the Great Oceania Visa Rip-Off. I'm going to make a separate posting about this to warn future passengers. In short, Oceania charged us $49 for an Egyptian visa we didn't need, and which the Egyptian immigration staff we spoke to onboard said cost nothing. (I speak a little Arabic) This was just a money-making scheme by Oceania. We were also unhappy at the onboard price hikes since June 2008. Bar bills now attract 18% 'gratuity', whilst stewards' gratuities have also gone up around 20%, but I bet the staff haven't seen such a pay rise. Drinks prices were a deterrent too. A bottle of average Californian red cost $42 + 18%! Another "cutback" was the lack of "Britain Today", the daily page of news from the UK, with the excuse that there were not enough Brits on board to justify printing, there were 40 - it had been supplied last June when we had half that number. It was only due to the persistence of one of the passengers, that it was provided half way through the cruise. Another slight annoyance was the introduction of a flow impeder on the sink taps, apparently only a week before we boarded. If this was done, as someone suggested, to save water - why was it also not added to the shower? The only way to fill the sink without waiting for ten minutes was to use the shower head. The shore excursions are also inadequate and over priced, and the shore excursion department need to be brought into the 21st century. Their presentation on the ports to be visited are amateur and consist of slides of dubious vintage. They need to take a leaf out of Princess Cruises and show videos of all the ports. The daily programme for disembarkation day said that passengers had to be off the ship by 9.00 am at the insistence of Turkish immigration - utter rubbish!!! We disembarked at 09.45 and we were by no means the last and there was no sign of immigration questioning why we had not previously disembarked. This is clearly a ruse by Oceania to clear the ship, so don't get conned next time if it happens to you!! Despite getting everybody off the ship so early, they still cant make cabins available before 1.00 pm, or 3 pm (depending on cabin grade), unlike Princess where you can embark straight to your cabin from 12.00 noon or even earlier and with a passenger complement of at least triple. . Overall, the cruise was not as good as that on Nautica in June 2008. The service and the cleanliness of the ship were again excellent, however the food was not and the visa rip-off soured the atmosphere. We had cruised on Silversea in February. In the present climate, Oceania is poor value for money when set against the all-inclusive Silversea experience. I've decided there are two categories of cruise ship - those that play bingo and those that don't. Oceania play bingo, Silversea don't. One of our fellow passengers has complained about the Big O prizes or lack of, which I totally agree with, particularly as it is pushed daily. The comment made by the Cruise Director about what items were finally available for points redemption, was that their deliveries had not arrived!! What a weak excuse. By contrast Silversea took a very liberal view when our accumulated points were insufficient for the item we wanted -we got it anyway! - Bingo versus no Bingo! All cruise lines are making economies or trying to squeeze extra onboard revenue, when you're already hooked. Oceania's efforts show up badly and tarnish, what was supposed to be a quasi-luxury brand. Nautica's penny pinching and revenue generation ruining what had been a lovely experience. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
By the time I added the cruise cost and my final bill, I could have cruised the luxury lines for very little extra.  I would have had a suite almost twice the size and and forgotten how to sign my name.  Not to mention having to order ... Read More
By the time I added the cruise cost and my final bill, I could have cruised the luxury lines for very little extra.  I would have had a suite almost twice the size and and forgotten how to sign my name.  Not to mention having to order doubles to taste the booze.On the plus side, the staff was very attentive (though only one or two staff took the time to learn our names in two weeks, remember our desires (like real creamas we sat at the same tables with the same wait staff).  Destination staff was really lacking in attentiveness, responsiveness to problems with tours and general demeanor.Polo and Toscana were saviors as the dining room was at best hit or miss.  HAL and Princess do a better job at mass dining with no special orders allowed:  not even shrimp cocktail when not on the menue.Itineraries seem to be the saving grace for Oceania.   They are unique compared to others and the ship size for the money (though not cheap by any means) allows docking at smaller ports.Sea Dream II docked along side in Kusadasi.  A breath of fresh air.  I took some friends for a tour (having sailed SD many times, I knew the Captain, Christophe, Frank, and others).  Christophe took us on the tour and while in the spa treated us to a 10 minute massage.  I honkered down at the Top of the Yacht for at least one complimentary champagne (it was noon somewhere).  We almost jumped ship as there were a few cabins available and they were on their day 2 of 9.  Alas, the dog would not have appreciated us.  SD II....now we are talking small and wonderful!!Having done a few two week and longer curises, this was the first that I could not wait to get home.  Enough was enough.OH!!  We received a gift early in our cruise on our bed one evening:  a small tube of sanitizer....was that a clue or what.  No other notification from the ship but several cruisers had to have IV's due to dehydration.  I think the greatest profit center on our cruise was the doctors office!!OH!! The internet computer program on Oceania "sucks".  At amost a $1.00 per minute and slow as mollasses.  Silversea is only 40 cents a minute and twice as fast.  Oh, Well there is a Starbucks at almost every port with free WiFi.And to my predecessor's comment about the magician, Harry Maurer and the "lovely" Carol Ann, they were delightful and entertaining.  Besides, I wanted to see the 3 ring trick and the rope trick again and again.  The certainly outshined the social hostess singing (good voice lousy program).Speaking of quality, the cruise director Dotti, was always entertaining except for her growner joke about the 3 legged dog...(I gave that to her and she used it !!!) and her husband Tom, the comedian, were spectacular.  OK!  That should be enough flavor for one cruise and one review.ASHDOD AND HAIFA Israel is one of the most interesting countries I have sailed to. A full day walking tour of Jerusalem didn't even scratch the surface. When you go a local guide on a personal tour is an absolute necessity. Haifa is the gateway to the Golan Heights. GO GO GO! We actually left the ship in Ashdod overnighted at the Crown Plaza in Haifa and rejoined the next night. The local color in Haifa and the added touring time was well worth the cost of the hotel. Alexandria and Port Said in Egypt were overkill. They both are about 3 hours from Cairo and the National Museum (a must) and Giza to see the pyramids (once is enough and once is necessary). Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
We had actually planned and put a deposit on a Celebrity itinerary that went to many of the same destinations BUT started and ended in Rome. Then the Oceania brochure arrived in the mail and I found the itinerary that I really wanted! ... Read More
We had actually planned and put a deposit on a Celebrity itinerary that went to many of the same destinations BUT started and ended in Rome. Then the Oceania brochure arrived in the mail and I found the itinerary that I really wanted! Athens to Istanbul. Didn't have to deal with Citavecchia, alot more time / ports in the Greek Isles and ending in Istanbul so we could add a few days to see all the sights there at a leisurely pace. But the price! We had a balcony booked on the Celebrity ship, we booked a porthole cabin on the lowest deck on Nautica and it was costing more. We reserved our cabin in July 2008, by the time final payment was due the economy had sunk, the Nautica had a fair amount of empty cabins and for $300 more per person we upgraded to a balcony. I did love my balcony but this trip was the most expensive vacation I have ever taken - was it worth it?We did our own air and transfers. It was nice that the ship had an overnight in Athens at the start of the trip so we did not have to fly in early "just in case". We took the bus from the airport to Pireaus (easy do) but others posters had said you could walk to the ship - it would have been warm (and this was only May) and a fair hike. We took a short but worth it 12E taxi from where the bus let us off.Our cabin was very nice - we knew not to expect super-luxury size wise and it was very comfortable with room for all our stuff. Robes were provided and the TV had a very good assortment of current films plus the usual port talks and various channels from around the world. Also there were free DVD's you could check out - the assortment of movies and DVD's were a nice perk from any other ship we have been on.The ship was beautiful and very tastefully decorated with reproductions of famous pictures (lots of Impressionsits) and some lovely glass pieces in the Horizons bar. The size of the ship and the decor were IMO much nicer than the mammoth super ships used by so many other lines. Nautica is elegant not glitzy. Three things lured me onto the Nautica - itinerary, ship size and food. Unfortunately I think my expections were a bit too high for the food - by the time I boarded the ship I was expecting the best 12 dinners of my life (and I'm used to eating pretty good food between my own cooking and Atlanta restaurants). I think because of that, I ended up being a wee bit disappointed. I was also frustrated with the specialty restaurants. Our cabin entitled us to one reservation in Polo and Toscano but on the CC boards some posters mentioned it was not difficult to get extra nights if you were flexible. That proved not to be so for us and the frustrating thing was the ship was not full and the nights we dined in both Polo and Toscano, they were not full. But every morning I would ask if we could get a sitting in either of the speciality resturants and was refused with the comment "We want to accommodate all our guests" huh? But I may be being a bit nit-picky now. The other frustration was unlike other cruise lines where you can ask the wait staff to point to the best choices on the menu and request a different choice if you are unhappy with the first one, that did not happen on Oceania. Someone said the staff is told not to give recommendations because "every choice is delicious" - well not quite. Especially disappointing was the lobster in Polo - tough and chewy. But now that I have expressed my grievences, I will give praise where it is due. Most of the food in the GDR was good to very good. The beef was always high quality and cooked to order. I love lamb and had that several times, always tastey. Some of the desserts were wonderful - the chocolate tear comes to mind (but that chocolate lasagna that gets raves on the boards, we thought was bogus!). In the specialty restaurants there was a fresh fish choice that was excellent. There were some wonderful pasta choices (and a few mediocre ones too). We always ate at the buffet for lunch and dinner - we especially liked the freah tossed salads of the day and the delicious cheeses. The format of no assigned time or table works well on a European cruise and we enjoyed meeting new people each evening at dinner. But sometimes if you opted to be seated at a larger table, you ended up waiting for it to fill up - one night it was about 20 minutes and a bit frustrating. Overall the food was very good, certainly the best cruise cuisine I have had - but probably the best food on the trip was the Greek food when we ate off the ship.Well you can tell by now I am a foodie - I don't have nearly as many comments on other aspects of the trip. The ship went to Crete, Dubrovnik, Olympia, Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, (we had to skip Delos bcause of high waves), Rhodes, Kusadasi, and ended in Istanbul. At every port there was a local travel agent with helpful maps, money and transportation tips - Oceania gets an A+ for this feature. We did all ports on our own so I have no comments on the excursions offered by the ship. We thoroughly enjoyed the ports - felt we got a nice exposure  to many of the different islands and the port stops were long enough to do a fair amount of exploring. It was nice to be on a small ship - no waiting for tenders but unfortunately at several of the ports "we were not alone" as the cruise directior liked to say. So some days we joined a heavy tourist swarm. But it was a great itinerary. Istanbul at the end was a mix. It was quite crowded and it took us a bit to get used to the interaction with the locals. Numerous rug solicitaions. We stayed at the Pierre Loti Hotel - excellent location and price. By the time we left, we were feeling more comfotable. I must add tho that we did not feel unsafe - I got alot of "you're going to Turkey - be careful". We used the trams and buses to get around and I was less wary of being pick-pocketed there than in many of the other big EU cities. The locals are very friendly but they often have an agenda - a polite refusal usually ended any solicitation.Entertainment - not for me (I read) but my daughter (30 year old) really liked the magician. She also used the gym and the  spa and would give them good marks. Service - EXCELLENT - sometimes almost too attentive, but that's just me. Fellow passengers, yes, mostly 50 and beyond, very well traveled, many Oceania fans. Most of the people we met were very pleasant and made nice dinner companions.So was it worth it? Would I sail Oceania again? - definately yes if the price was less. The itineraries, the ship size and decor,  the flexibilty of dining times and no formal nights, the local travel agents on board, the friendly staff - all very attractive and unique qualities of this line. But it was pricey - I can do a 2 week land trip (not a tour) for thousands less so it may be that this wonderful trip will have been  a "once in a lifetime" experience. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
Our cruise began May 10, 2009, in Istanbul, Turkey, went to Mitilini, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Strait of Messina, Amalfi/Positano, Taormina, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Venice. We recommend the ship to any adults who want ... Read More
Our cruise began May 10, 2009, in Istanbul, Turkey, went to Mitilini, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Delos, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Strait of Messina, Amalfi/Positano, Taormina, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Venice. We recommend the ship to any adults who want good food, good company, and good experiences ashore.We spent a day in Istanbul  before  embarking Nautica. We had a private tour to the wonderful sites Topakapi Palace, Church of St. Sophia, Blue Mosque and Covered Bazaar. Enjoyed it very much. We had our arrangements through Transbalkan Tours (www.transbalkan.com) which we used them for Ephesus as well during the cruise. We overnighted in a boutique hotel located in the old city. Next day we took a cab to Nautica. Boarding process was simple and friendly. We were in our stateroom within 15 minutes of leaving the taxi and at the welcoming lunch buffet 10 minutes later. Most of the luggage arrived promptly. The final piece was delayed a couple hours.Overall, the ship was beautiful, very well decorated, traditional but not old-fashioned, and superbly maintained. You could hardly find a scuff mark anywhere. The ship carries only 680 passengers, which puts it on the small side these days. We, and everyone we talked to, liked the size, which was big enough but not too big. While cruising, the ship was stable. The swimming pool was small but adequate, with two whirlpools, and the deck area was adequate. There were a variety of places to sit in the sun or lean on the railing. There was a nice library, a good-sized fitness area, a small casino, and two shops. A string quartet frequently played, as did a pianist. The stage entertainment was typical of cruise ships. There were few children on our trip, and there should have been none.Nautica doesn't encourage children, and these kind of trips aren't suited for them. Food was usually very good, sometimes excellent, and a few times even superb. It would occasionally fall into the "okay" category. The elegant Grand Dining Room operates during specified periods as announced each day in the ship newsletter. You are not assigned a table or an eating time.There are no formal nights. You dress "country club casual." No tie or jacket is required for men. Some jackets but only a few ties were in evidence. You decide whether to eat with others or not. Service was good. The buffet, at the stern of the ship, has superb views and is called the Terrace Caf? for breakfast and lunch and Tapas for dinner. On three consecutive evenings, we sat at one of the outdoor tables at the buffet and watched the sun set over the Black Sea, an experience to treasure. Menu selection was varied, and presentation was excellent in both restaurants. Oceania advertises that "legendary chief" Jacques Pepin created some of the dishes on the menu. That seemed overrated to us. Near the pool was a grill, operating from about noon to 4 p.m., where you could get good hamburgers and hotdogs, a few other sandwiches, ice cream, and go through a salad buffet. There are two alternative restaurants, Toscana, featuring Italian, and the Polo Grill, featuring beef. You make reservations, but do not pay extra at them. While fine, they are over-hyped. The dining room and buffet were just as good. The Nautica does not scrimp on food. Prime rib was on the menu several nights, a roast sucking pig was served one day, and shrimp prepared in various ways was available almost every day.We met the captain once at a ship's party. Otherwise, he was not much in evidence. Tours of the bridge, kitchen and engine room were not advertised. A concierge is available during the day. When our room keys acted up, he quickly had the problem fixed. The staff comes from many countries, and most had good command of English and were very friendly.Shore excursions were as with many ships, terribly overpriced. Details about them, necessary to decide which ones to select, were hard to come by before we boarded. Calls to the 800 Oceania number were answered by dour, unhelpful individuals. For some of the port of calls we decided to pre-book private shore excursions through local tour operators before boarding to Nautica. We were very happy with the tours provided through them. Saw more and Saved a lot.Local Tour Operators we used:Santorini: www.santorinidaytours.comKusadasi:  www.transbalkan.comAthens: www.athenstaxi.netIn talking to many of our fellow passengers, we heard nearly-unanimous praise for the Nautica. A surprising number of them had been on Oceania two or three times before, although the company has existed only a few years. One woman, apparently a chronic complainer, said maintenance of her stateroom was lacking, crew were impolite, and food was not "phenomenal." It was difficult to believe her first two claims. As for the food, meals were always enjoyable and delicious; for "phenomenal," you go to gourmet restaurants. Several passengers got on board without their luggage. I suspect that was the fault of airlines. I would strongly advise against arriving in Europe on the same day your cruise ship departs - WAY too much opportunity for trouble. Service in the Nautica buffet was at times a little slow. The staff should also enforce the dress code. We had a few louts who came to the buffet in sleeve-less t-shirts and baggy shorts, and one who talked loudly on a cell phone. Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We arrived in Istanbul four days early to enjoy the city with local friends. The city is lovely, the people are wonderful and we had a great time. It was hard to break away to board ship - for about the first 15 minutes. That's how ... Read More
We arrived in Istanbul four days early to enjoy the city with local friends. The city is lovely, the people are wonderful and we had a great time. It was hard to break away to board ship - for about the first 15 minutes. That's how long it took for us to get aboard and to our stateroom, a concierge level room with veranda. Our greeting was by our room steward, who had worried about us because we hadn't spent the first night on board (the ship was in Istanbul 2 days). What a lovely personal touch. We met our cruising friends on board and we all promptly made our reservations for specialty restaurants and set about enjoying the ship. Nautica is small enough a couple hours was enough to familiarize ourselves with the ship, and we had no problems finding our way around, even the first evening. People were friendly, the ship was lovely and spotlessly maintained and we were duly impressed. Sailing out of Istanbul with the city lights glimmering was amazing! We awoke in the morning to sunshine, beautiful skies, and a new port to explore. This was our experience for the next 12 days. Almost heaven! We visited a total of eleven ports on our trip. All were fascinating and fun. We only took a ship's tour to Rome, and that was just a bus ride in, free time, and a ride back, because of the length of time it took to get to Rome from the port. Our only observation about the cruise was we wish we had an extra day or two at sea because we had a great time on board, and it allowed us to recharge our batteries and rest our aching feet! I highly recommend Nautica to adult cruisers. The ship is great, the crew is extremely friendly, helpful and professional. Oceania has the best selection of ports I've seen, and many are smaller ports not accessible to large ships. The food is always good, sometimes terrific. Fellow cruisers are mostly American. I'd hoped to meet more passengers from other countries, but our fellow passengers were also friendly, courteous and interesting. This isn't a ship for children since there is nothing geared for children or teenagers, but that's a plus for us. It's quieter that way. We enjoyed our Nautica cruise so much we have booked a cruise on the maiden voyage of Oceania's Marina in January, 2011. I expect great things from Oceania, and I have no question my expectations will be exceeded. Thanks, Nautica. Oh, and I always wondered how the gentleman celebrating his 85th birthday on the Nautica, and travelling along on the next leg of the cruise as well, felt about the pirate encounter. Anyone know? Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This cruise was picked by our folks to celebrate their 60th plus wedding anniversary. They have cruised over 25 times and they wanted to show us (3 "kids" & spouses) the old world. The Eastern Med in October is right at the ... Read More
This cruise was picked by our folks to celebrate their 60th plus wedding anniversary. They have cruised over 25 times and they wanted to show us (3 "kids" & spouses) the old world. The Eastern Med in October is right at the end of the season (for tourists in this region) and the weather isn't blazing. Oceania handled the air arrangements as we all came from various parts of the US. We flew out of Seattle on Lufthansa to Frankfurt & on to Venice. After a pause at a quick and painless Italian Security check point right at the boat, we boarded and were directed to our stateroom. My Brother & wife had been on a sister ship to the Nautica and had warned us about the size of the stateroom & bathroom. We weren't shocked by the very small shower in the dinky bathroom. Everything else was roomy enough for two and we had a nice veranda. Having read previous reviews on Cruise Critic, we were in awe of the interior furnishings we found as we strolled thru the boat within the first hour being on board. We were greeted by friendly staff at every turn. We ran into the head Chef taking a break for coffee on the fantail of the Terrace Cafe. He was nice enough to give us some advice on how to get around in Venice, "take the water taxis to get anywhere!" We did and it worked out great! No formal nights meant that packing was a bit easier than with other boats. But we, as a family, did a tropical night where we all wore Hawaiian prints shirts or flowered dresses! I'm not sure that the other guests figured it all out. The food on the Nautica was superb! Whether you eat in the Grand Dinning Room, the Polo Grill, the Toscana, or Tapas on the Terrance, the Staff caters to your every whim. Tapas Staff member Bailey's "bon Appetites" at each meal was warm felt & honest. The crew wants the guests to feel special and we did! We had stops each day in places like Rovinj, Croatia; Ancona, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Greece; Sarande, Albania; Crete, Satorini, Greece; Kusadasi, Turkey; Delos & Mykonos, Greece; and finally, Athens! All the stops were great with the exception of Albania; we could have skipped this very tired land. Enough said. Kotor, Montenegro, should not be missed. There's an old enclosed city with a fortress overlooking the entire area. The climb up to the top of the fortress is said to be 1500 steps above the old city. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's more like 2500 hard climbing steps to get to the top! But worth every step! After playing tourist all day, it always felt great to return to the Nautica and it's smiling crew! The worlds best lemonade is available 24/7 & finding a comfortable place to rest up before dinner is always easy to find. These small boats of Oceania are great for adults! But really only for adults as there are no kids programs of any sort on this boat. Leave the little ones home and experience the luxury of being pampered by the best boat on the seas today, Nautica! Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Personal Background and Travel Interests: Husband Gerry and I both are 57, and began taking annual fall vacations to Europe after our younger child started college. We both are business attorneys (I now am retired, G. remains working ... Read More
Personal Background and Travel Interests: Husband Gerry and I both are 57, and began taking annual fall vacations to Europe after our younger child started college. We both are business attorneys (I now am retired, G. remains working full-time), and both are very interested in history and art. G. is a military history enthusiast, with less interest in natural beauty destinations, and he absolutely abhors shopping, which he believes wastes precious touring time. I am a new docent at the Cincinnati Art Museum, so I am eager to visit any art-related sights on our trips. We usually take a fall vacation to Europe (to avoid both the heat and the crowds), and trips in the past few years were all land trips: Spain, England/Belgium/The Netherlands, Italy, and, last year, Normandy/Loire Valley/Paris. All of these trips were done independently, by train and bus, using the wonderful Rick Steves' practical and comprehensive guidebooks for sightseeing advice. (We rented a car for the Normandy/Loire Valley part of last year's trip.) We enjoy staying at small hotels and B&B's in preference to large or chains, and usually rely on the tripadvisor.com website for lodging recommendations when we travel, both in the US and abroad, and it has steered us well. Why Our First Cruise and Why We Chose Oceania: When G. indicated he wanted to visit Istanbul and some Greek islands, he decided we needed to cruise because he simply did not want to lug suitcases on and off ferryboats and worry about their changing schedules. We looked at Windstar, but after a seasickness experience I had last summer with my sister while on a ferry going from Copenhagen to Oslo, I looked around on the tripadvisor website and read about the 684-passenger Oceania ships. We thought the size was terrific, and heard the food was good and beds comfy. When their 2009 catalog arrived at our home in mid-May, G. was impressed with their itinerary for a Greek island cruise, checked weather reports for the fall months, decided on a September cruise and then contacted our long-time travel agent, who also had no familiarity with Oceania. Well, we were lucky to get a cabin at all in late May for a September cruise, but after a week, our lowest waiting listed cabin category became available, and we signed up. Airlines and Flights: Cincinnati is a Delta hub, which means we have the most expensive airfare in the US, and 95% of the flights are on Delta. Well, after a terrible experience last summer with Delta at JFK while going to and from Stockholm with my sister (delayed flights, cancelled flights, overnight at the airport on the way back, lost luggage both ways, etc.), I will do almost anything to avoid flying overseas through JFK (or any of the three NYC airports for that matter), so we ended up booking at a savings of several hundred dollars each over the Oceania flights, with USAir through Philadelphia both ways. In all fairness, I should point out that some of that considerable airfare savings came because we switched plans in Frankfurt on the way to Istanbul rather than flying directly from the US although the flight back from Athens went directly to Philadelphia. I was pleasantly surprised by our USAir experience both to Istanbul and back from Athens. The seats were more comfortable than on Delta (more padding), the food was edible, and all of our flights (five in all) were on-time. Vacation Itinerary: Oceania's 12- Day Aegean Adventures voyage: Istanbul, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Rhodes, Delos/Mykonos, Santorini, Katakolon (Olympia), Corfu/Sarande, Dubrovnik, Athens, with two sea days at beginning and end, plus an overnight on the ship at the embarkation and debarkation ports of Istanbul and Athens. Due to rough seas, we were unable to tender at Delos and Mykonos, and instead diverted to Milos, an island further south, which we were told Nautica had never before visited. We spent three extra nights at a hotel before boarding in Istanbul and two extra nights at a hotel after disembarking in Athens. Because I had perused Rick Steves' Istanbul, I knew I wanted at least four days there pre-cruise, and we decided to have three days for Athens, with the first day while still aboard available for a daytrip from Piraeus port to either Mycenae/Epidauros or Aegina if we felt so inclined, not knowing how tired we would be after the end of such a port-intensive cruise. (We ended up spending most of that day at the National Archaeological Museum.) Cruise Ship Nautica: Bearing in mind that we have no previous cruise ship experience with which to compare our time on Nautica, I absolutely loved almost everything about this ship and I highly recommend this cruise line. Our Cabin: As I mentioned above, we booked so late that we were lucky to get a cabin at all, and we cleared the waiting list for the lowest cabin type we would accept, obstructed view Ocean View Stateroom, Category E, a "guarantee" of this type of room, but not a particular cabin. (Neither G. nor I could imagine 12 days in an inside stateroom, so we would not accept one of those). I was very concerned about possible seasickness issues, so I was very happy to see that all of the OV's were in the middle of the ship on a middle deck, the best place for someone like me, but was a bit concerned about how much obstruction of any natural light there would be. G. couldn't care less; on such a port-intensive cruise, he would only be sleeping and changing clothes in the cabin. I was more dubious. Well, a couple of weeks before we left home, we found out that we were assigned Cabin 6033, which we found out courtesy of these boards had very little obstruction because a small zodiac boat was hung there, not a large tender or lifeboat. Well, the zodiac was hanging below eyelevel, so only the one stanchion from which it hung provided obstruction, which was minimal. And the picture window is huge, so there's plenty of light. Even with my bringing two suitcases, instead of our normal one each on all our previous trips, there was room for everything to be put away (suitcases fit under the beds), so I was happy. With such a small cabin, I did not want to accumulate any mess; I was able to stow away all purchases in the cabinets above or below the TV. Our friendly cabin attendant was on only her second cruise, and she and her assistant kept us well-supplied. The beds are indeed very comfortable, and, as chosen recently by CruiseCritic.com editors, the food is fantastic. Embarkation and Disembarkation: We boarded around 3:30 PM on a Friday, our third full day in Istanbul, having spent three nights at the Sirkeci Konak in the Old Town near the Gulhane tram stop. I have posted a full review of this marvelous hotel on the tripadvisor website. There was absolutely no one else boarding at that time, and our suitcases got to our cabin before we did. We disembarked about 15 minutes before the required 9 AM in Piraeus, immediately after our last breakfast and good-byes to some of the breakfast servers we had gotten to know. Our suitcases were immediately available and easily found at the cruise terminal. We took a taxi from there to our centrally located, but very basic, hotel, the Attalos, for two more nights in Athens, a review of which I also have posted on the tripadvisor website. Food: As recommended by others on these boards, after boarding around 3:30 PM, I went down to the Grand Dining Room and booked our two specialty restaurant meals. I decided to do both the first week in case we wanted to return to either, and indeed we returned to the steak restaurant the second week because I had one of the best prime rib dinners and my husband one of the best porterhouse steaks, comparable in his opinion to NYC's Peter Luger's, where we had dined in May. (Oddly enough, the second week the same ordered porterhouse was not at all of the same quality, a bit of a disappointment after the amazing meal the first time. Wonder why? Do they run out of the best cuts?) We chose not to go back to the Italian restaurant because although the food was good, we did not care for the dEcor, and somehow just felt more crowded in there. With the food so incredible in the Grand Dining Room, they truly never repeated the menu items in 12 nights, and the dEcor there so spacious and attractive, we were happy to dine there. All in all, the only food issues either of us had was twice, once when the doneness of the beef order was wrong: a medium order came out medium well, so we had it replaced, and once when the duck was overcooked, so I switched to a different entrEe after the captain said all the duck was well cooked. The service was impeccable, and I absolutely loved being able to eat dinner whenever I wanted based on the day's activities, with no schedule or required dressing up. All the advice from this summer's Oceania food thread was spot on: my favorite foods included chocolate croissants, fresh blueberries and raspberries, the recommended decadent lamb chops for breakfast in the Grand Dining Room (where I ate on our two at sea days), blueberry pancakes, crab cakes, any beef dish we ever tried, all the pates, a large variety of creative appetizers, cheesecake, all uniformly fine dining. We drink a lot of iced tea, and even that was good and tasted fresh brewed at meals. We found the wine list to be priced comparable to any good restaurant, with a good price and quality range, and any bottle not finished was stored with our room number for another meal. In view of the ports on this cruise (all Greece and Turkey), we felt no reason to buy any local wines to bring on board and drink at dinner for the $20 corkage fee. I am sure that we would have acted differently if we had cruised to any French, Italian or Spanish ports. One of the aspects of the dining I most enjoyed was that I was able to eat every breakfast and lunch on board out of doors because the buffet breakfast and lunch place, the Terrace Cafe, has outdoor seating, comfy wooden chairs with cushions and large umbrellas for shade. I really liked that servers placed the food on your plates at the breakfast and lunch buffets; it seemed very hygienic. The grill on the pool deck was very convenient for a very casual lunch. I liked that you were always provided with real silverware and cloth napkins and placements, no matter how casually you dined. We found the service to be uniformly top notch in the Grand Dining Room, with no issues whatsoever in having different staff serving us different nights because there was no assigned seating. We never waited more than a minute to be seated, even though we often arrived at 7:30 PM prime time. We also enjoyed meeting others at dinner due to the proximity of tables for two, yet also being able to have our own conversations at any time desired. Our first night at the Polo Grill, the specialty steak restaurant, was the only night the servers had any problems, perhaps because there were six of us dining together, and several people were making very specific and unusual requests. One of the big pluses to me of the Oceania line was the friendliness of the well-trained staff, as well as the diversity of national and ethnic origin of the staff. In less than two short weeks, relationships were developed and enjoyed. Shipboard Daytime Activities: I cannot really say much about the daytime activities on board, because we did not participate in any except for the lectures Kate Garnons Williams, a classics expert, and your image of a crusty dry-humored British academic. She gave three 50-minute illustrated lectures during the cruise, one each on Ephesus, Olympia, and Athens on the morning before we arrived at each of those ports (and available to be watched later on TV, as G. did after sleeping in one morning). They were very informative and helped in my appreciation of those destinations. I also went to a cooking class on our last sea day with the chief chef and a pastry chef, who showed how they made (and provided photocopies of) recipes for several items we might actually make at home. (No odd ingredients.) G. had his blackberry with him, so we did not utilize the ship's email services. I had a wonderful Turkish bath and aromatherapy massage at my hotel in Istanbul so we did not use the spa services either, except to fill up our water bottles conveniently before disembarking at most ports. Pool Deck. On the first sea day, the weather was glorious, and we spent the entire day on loungers on the pool deck, reading or meeting people, or taking a dip. On the second sea day, we spent the cooler morning reading in the comfortable leather chairs with ottomans in the library, and then the afternoon on loungers on the pool deck. We did find that many people went off to other activities yet insisted on leaving their things for hours on the coveted shaded lounge chairs, guarded by their spouses or friends who were not so active, which was somewhat annoying. I do not understand why so many did this, but there was enough coming and going that I never had to wait too long for a lounger in the shade. However, one needed to wait a lot longer to get two together. Entertainment: We enjoyed the string quartet which played before dinner (and at tea, which I attended once to check it out), and if we were done with dinner early enough we joined the trivia game hosted by a charming young man, who was very amusing. We always attended the evening one-hour show, but several nights I had trouble staying awake because our port days were so active! The entertainment was indeed a bit of a weak spot, six good shows in our opinion: a local folk dance group and belly dancer Princess Zahara our first night just before sail-away; a good Gypsy-type classically-trained Polish violinist two nights, a very funny US comedian two nights, and the top performer, a musical theater performer from London's West End. There also were two decent but not memorable female singers, both from Australia, and a female singer who works on the ship in another job, who was pretty awful with a very outdated song selection. The last night at sea, we had a variety show with some of the most talented (and least talented) of the performers, with a couple of the crew as well, and then a march in of perhaps a hundred or so of the crew in their work uniforms, clapping and singing. (Is this always done the last night?) Destination Services. We did not take any of the ship's excursions because we prefer to tour independently and not be bused around on the schedule of the slowest of 35 people. We also felt that Oceania's tour pricing was outrageously high. However, at every port, Oceania had a local tourist person on board for the first few hours after arrival, and that person provided excellent maps, which I always obtained and were very useful (I am a happy map enthusiast, the more detailed the better!), and also sightseeing advice and directions to local transportation for those who needed it. We used photocopies of materials from Fodor's and Frommer's guidebooks, plus the excellent advice provided by you on these boards, and we knew what we wanted to do in each port. Top Management on Board: That last night at sea party is when we were told that Joe Watters, one of the co-founders of Oceania (with Frank Del Rio), was on our cruise because he was invited to join the rest on stage. One mystery solved: when I was exploring the ship on the afternoon we boarded, I kept running into the General Manager who was giving a tour to a blonde woman, whom I figured was his spouse. Well, she is Mrs. Joe Watters. We ended up having breakfast outdoors the last morning in Piraeus at the table right next to theirs, they were doing the breakfast buffet just like us common folk, and they neither were demanding nor receiving any special service. I took the opportunity to meet him and convey our delight in our first cruise experience, particularly the friendly and helpful attitude of the crew. Fellow passengers: Our fellow cruisers were a diverse bunch with a common love of travel, with a few cruisers in their 40's, a good number in their 50's, but most 65 and older. Most were American, from all over the US, but a substantial number were from Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, with a sprinkling of Germans. People were friendly, smart, having fun, open, and very active. About 80 were traveling together as a Notre Dame alumni group. Ports of Call. Istanbul. Absolutely the highlight of the trip; four days there was not enough. You can easily sightsee on your own with a guidebook because most sites are within a very short distance from each other. The people are friendly, all the museums have English labels, the food is fresh and healthy, the city is clean and safe, and getting around by the modern tram is effortless. Our first day we toured Topkapi Palace, including the Harem, ate lunch at the cafe on Sultan's Point there with the marvelous sea views, and then toured the Aya Sofia. We ate dinner at Albura in the middle of the tourist area, then strolled back to the hotel through the Blue Mosque/Hippodrome area where everyone was out celebrating Ramadan. A wonderful festival feeling, with many families, music, snacks, booths selling sweet candies, calligraphers etching names on plates in a minute, etc. The second day we visited the Blue Mosque, Mosaic Museum near the Arasta Bazaar (the only remains of the great Byzantine Palace which once stood over much of this area, and the only time I have ever seen non-religious mosaics), stopping for a coffee with a rug merchant at the bazaar who was in business with a friend of mine, the Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, then late lunch at the nearby famous (and excellent) Sultanhamet Koftacisi (the specialty is ground lamb on kebabs, and I normally do not enjoy chopped meat!). We spent the remainder of the afternoon at the Archeological Museum, first viewing the incredible Alexander Sarcophagus, perhaps the best piece of ancient sculpture still surviving. We returned to our hotel for my pre-arranged Turkish bath and aromatherapy massage. After recovering from one of the most decadent experiences of my life, we took the tram to the New District, got on the funicular to Taksim Square and strolled down the pedestrian-only Istikil Caddesi to Sofyali 9, a traditional Turkish restaurant recommended by our hotel, where we dined again al fresco with the locals. It was noticeable that groups of men dining together outnumbered women or couples at the local restaurants off Istikil. We then strolled down the steep hill past the Galata Tower to catch the tram back to the Old Town. It was quite late by then, but we never felt any safety issues in this marvelous city. Day 3 we took a taxi out to the Chora Church for the magnificent mosaics, then toured a portion of the Old City walls, before taxiing back to the Grand Bazaar for my too-short allotted one shopping hour (lovely pashminas), then back to our hotel to retrieve our bags and board Nautica. Our last day in Istanbul, we visited the Dolmabahce Palace, then took a 90-minute Turyol boat ride (only 6 YTL) up the Bosphorus to the second bridge and back, sharing the pleasant ride with many families out for a relaxing Saturday afternoon. Afterwards, we walked across the plaza to the Spice Bazaar, where we purchased some local snacks, and then took the tram back to the ship. Kusadasi/Ephesus. We arranged through Ekol Travel for a six-hour guided tour with no shopping to Ancient Ephesus, including the Terrace Houses (an absolute must but not available to large tour groups), St. John's Basilica and the Archaeological Museum in nearby Selcuk. We also stopped briefly at the Temple of Artemis and the Isabey Mosque. Our guide Ali was excellent and I can provide his contact info to any who want it. After the tour, G. returned to the ship, and I perused the excellent tourist shopping in Kusadasi, purchasing a pair of gold earrings and a large pottery plate with a hand-painted pattern similar to one I loved at the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. Rhodes. We toured the Old Town, first visiting the lovely synagogue and its museum, then strolling over to the Temple of Venus, up the Street of the Knights to the Grand Masters House, and over to the Archaeology Museum. We originally planned to go the beach in the afternoon, but we took a bit longer in the Old Town than anticipated, so opted to return to the ship and relax because it was very warm that day. Unless you plan to visit Lindos, again there is no reason to hire a guide because the ship docks right by Old Town Rhodes. Delos/Mykonos. As mentioned above, the sea was too rough to tender, so instead we cruised south to Milos, the first time Nautica had been there. I was sorry to miss Delos, but because we had planned to just go to the beach at Mykonos, we stuck with our original plan and went to a lovely sand beach on Milos (by local bus), and enjoyed the views and the water. Beach umbrellas and chaises were free, and we sat next to a group of touring young adults from several European and South American countries whose common language was English! Santorini. We took the cable car up to Thira (a 40-minute wait because many ships were in port), visited the small, old archaeology museum right by the cable car entrance, and then toured the absolutely fabulous new museum built to house the Akrotiri artifacts. This is a do not miss; the wall paintings alone are worth the trip. We had planned to rent an ATV to explore, but G. felt very unstable on one, so we simply rented a car from Europcar on the main driving street (40 Euros for the day), which even had automatics available (I cannot drive a stick shift). We drove directly to the lovely Oia, explored, ate lunch with an amazing view over the caldera, and then completed our driving circuit down the non-caldera side. I purchased some lovely linen items in Thira, and we took the cable car back down around 5 PM, with no wait at all. Katakolon/Olympia. We did not dock until the afternoon, so we did not have enough time to use the train service to Olympia. I had prearranged a car rental (because I needed an automatic) from Katakolo Rent-a-Car right across the street from the dock for 45 Euros and we took the easy 30-minute drive to Olympia (it took almost 40 when I drove there because I foolishly obeyed the speed limit, but wised up and drove like the locals on the return trip) where we spent a lot of time at another excellent Archaeological Museum, which includes the Hermes of Praxiteles, then strolled the ruins (which are extensive, but very "ruined"). Having just heard the lecture about Olympia that morning on ship, and then visited the museum, it was a lot easier to appreciate this site. Corfu/ Sarande. Because we only had ½ day in Corfu, we spent it entirely in the Old Town, taking a taxi to one end, enjoying the winding lanes and then visiting the grassy Esplanade, the Old Fortress, which has superb views, St. Spirodon Church and the small synagogue, which was unexpectedly open for visits. The ship then moved on to Sarande, Albania, where many did not bother taking the tenders to town. However, I decided to make lemonade out of lemons (I had wanted an entire day to explore the lovely island of Corfu), and had arranged for a private tour of the Butrint World Heritage site, which only is a 30-minute ride from Sarande. We used a guide recommended on these boards, Luis Seiti, and we spent several happy hours with him climbing around Butrint, which was inhabited over many historical periods, and talking about life and politics in Albania over the past 50 years. We returned to the ship after a brief stop in Sarande to view the synagogue mosaics there. Dubrovnik. Two days before our visit, the ship's daily newsletter announced that we were tendering into the new port, rather than directly into the Old Town, and that taxis would be scarce. Well, we were anchored so far away that only a US naval cruiser was further out. Our location really reduced our time in town on a day when I knew many ships were in port. The sky was overcast, the seas were rough, the tender ride was at least 15 minutes (it was the only stop where we had to wait to leave the ship), and the local bus another 10 minutes into the Old Town, but wow, Dubrovnik is lovely. First thing, I forced G. against his strenuous objections to walk the walls with me. (He claimed after climbing up the stairs at the Pile Gate that I was going to make him have a heart attack!) I told him that if we left, I would start shopping, and that we could stroll at his pace. Well, we had the most marvelous two hours up there; every few steps another gorgeous view. We finally descended at the Ploce Gate to the main square, had some lunch, visited the small synagogue and museum, purchased some silver earrings in the unique intricate globe shape only available there, and worked our way back to the bus stop in our first rain of the trip. Athens. Our first day in Athens, while still onboard from another night, we took the bus around the port area to the excellent metro, which goes into downtown Athens in about 30 minutes, to visit the National Archaeological Museum, only a few blocks from the Victoria metro stop. (You cannot buy a ticket for the bus on the bus, so we had to find a magazine stand vendor who still had tickets because the one right by the port was sold out.) We spent five hours there! The Mycenae artifacts, gold galore, with amazing workmanship, filled several rooms in the center, Akrotiri wall paintings upstairs, nice small lunch area downstairs, the largest Cycladic figure ever found (five feet tall!), etc. OK, you get the idea. The next day, after an eye-opening taxi ride to our hotel (yikes, graffiti and trash everywhere, definitely more like NYC than Istanbul!), we were off to walk the paths of the ancients (saving the Acropolis itself for our last day when we could get an early start). First down to the Agora, its museum, across and up to the Temple of Hephaistos, then Hadrian's Library, Plaka stroll, Temple of Olympian Zeus (gargantuan), Changing of the Guard at the tomb at Syntagma Square, hotel again, and stroll up pedestrian street to a relaxing dinner at Filistron up on the roof with lovely Acropolis views. Our last day, we took the metro to Acropoli stop so we could take the easiest route up the Acropolis, ascending up the southern slope rather than the northern (mostly ramps; much fewer steps; a good decision). We also visited the New (and controversial) Acropolis Museum, where I enjoyed the modern bathroom and great water fountains, but regretted that the Greek government had closed the old museum, but was not planning to open the new one, except for a view from 50 yards away of two carytids, until sometime in mid-2009. We stopped for lunch at Psarra taverna, in a lovely part of the Plaka, purchased some souvenirs, and returned to the Attalos, where G. napped while I enjoyed watching the sunset and lights slowly come up over the northern slope of the Acropolis from the excellent hotel rooftop bar. We dined nearby in close-by Psyrri. We certainly made the right decision in choosing Oceania for our first cruise, and I heartily recommend this lovely ship, itinerary and cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Our second cruise on Oceania. Love the "country club casual" dress, although I did wear a sport jacket on occasion. With no assigned dining times or tables, we met interesting people at dinner. Breakfast and lunch was in the ... Read More
Our second cruise on Oceania. Love the "country club casual" dress, although I did wear a sport jacket on occasion. With no assigned dining times or tables, we met interesting people at dinner. Breakfast and lunch was in the terrace cafe, food was varied and interesting. Outside seating can be difficult so we usually opted for inside. Never had bkfst or lunch in the dining room. We had one meal in the Polo Grill and 3 in Toscana. We would read the evening menu for the dining room and then decide whether to eat there, in the Terrace cafe or try for one of the specialty restaurants. After the initial rush, the specialty restaurants were easy to get a table. Our outside cabin on deck 4 was adequate but the shower was tiny. The ship was very clean and the wait staff friendly. We took a couple of the ships tours (at the last minute) but in Istanbul and Kusadasi, we had private guides arranged before we left home. In Istanbul we stayed at the 3 star Hotel Nena. A great location as they are within easy walking distance of all the sights in Istanbul. They have a roof top restaurant with a nice buffet breakfast in the morning and a discount for dinner. The hotel provided free airport pick up and even took us to the cruise ship after our stay. This hotel is definitely worth looking into. In Venice we stayed at the 4 star Hotel Georgione. It was a short walk from the Ca d'oro stop on the vaporetto and there were no bridges/steps to navigate with luggage from the stop to the hotel. It's in a wonderful residential neighborhood with lots of restaurants. It was an easy walk to the Rialto and St Marks square. Like the Nena, it was a great hotel for the money. With the dollar high against the Euro, prices are a bit expensive, even for simple meals or pizza. Be prepared. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
My sister and I took this cruise together and she lives in Mississippi and I in Texas. From the beginning, Oceania sent everything to me. My sister never received one thing directly from the cruise line. I had to email or mail her ... Read More
My sister and I took this cruise together and she lives in Mississippi and I in Texas. From the beginning, Oceania sent everything to me. My sister never received one thing directly from the cruise line. I had to email or mail her everything which was extremely irritating considering how much we paid for the cruise. I have been on several cruises and each time it was with someone who lived in a different town, but all of those line were able to get info to each passenger individually. We had a terrible time getting to Istanbul - cancelled flights, etc. and we did not arrive at the ship until almost 2:00 a.m. We were completely exhausted when we boarded and the reception didn't give the escort our card keys so we had to wait for her to go back to the front desk and retrieve the key. We had a penthouse level suite and from the pictures on the website, we expected more than we got. The room was not very big and we were definitely disappointed. I thought the bathroom was a decent size as was the bathtub. I loved the size of the verandah, but the panels separating each verandah gave very little privacy and they rattled terribly during windy nights at sea. We called up someone from maintenance and they couldn't eliminate the noise which was very distracting. When we were getting settled in the room, my sister called to get one of the hypo-allergenic pillows that they advertise on their website only to be told that they did not have any. My sister is very allergic to down so we never went to bed that night which was approximately 72 hours without sleep. She was able to get one the next day. The other thing that bothered us was the noise from level 9 (the pool deck) when they moved the chairs around every morning at 5ish. It doesn't seem to be the brightest move to have the suites right under that level. After reading all of the rave reviews about the food on Oceania, we were so excited about trying the food. I can't say that I thought that it was better than other ships that I have been on. It was fine, but that is about all I can say. The only outstanding meal that I had was in Polo Grill - the rack of lamb was cooked to perfection and it was truly the best lamb that I have ever eaten. Pretty much everything else was mediocre. I did enjoy the pasta of the day prepared at Tapas on the Terrace. One of the guys made it to order each night. The sandwiches at Waves were also very good and the lemonade was excellent. The personnel on the ships were for the most part excellent. Our butler, Dimitry, was wonderful and our cabin stewardess, Maria, was outstanding. Nipat, one of the pool waiters, was so sweet that we wanted to bring him back with us. The security officers who check people on and off of the ship bordered on rude. I can't forget to mention Philippe, the reception manager. He was so nice and helpful and I really enjoyed getting to know him. The tender situation sucked! I have never been on a cruise where they make you get a ticket so by the time that we figured out that we needed a ticket, they stopped the tenders going to mykonos because of the rough seas. We found out later that this was the third time in the last three cruises that this had occurred. Seems like they should figure out some other alternative if it happens so often. That was the one place that I most wanted to return to since I know several people there and I wanted to visit. It was very disappointing. They also do not enforce the policy about saving deck chairs on the pool level. We only had two sea days since the itinerary was so port intensive. On one of those days, they opened the upper level sun deck and we went up there to sun, but on the second day, it was too windy for them to open that deck. We watched several chairs that had personal effects on them and no one sat in them for over three hours. My sister and I were not able to get a chair next to each other. I also hated the nickel and dimeing they do on board. I think it is ridiculous that they charge for soft drinks. You would think that at a minimum guests in a suite should get one a day. I don't have a problem with a charge for alcohol, but soft drinks? Especially considering how few children sail on this line. I love that the cruise is non-smoking, but we were able to smell the smoke from level 9 on the starboard side (one of the designated smoking areas) when we sat on our verandah at night since the window to that area was right above us. We knew that entertainment was not the strong suit of this cruise line so we didn't have very high expectations. We only went to one night's program and it was so bad that we never went to anything else. The string quartet at high tea was very good and we did enjoy listening to them. High tea was also very nice. We only had one spa service and that was a facial. It was very relaxing and the technician was very professional. We also enjoyed using the thesolatherapy pool that is in the spa area. The ship also has a decent workout facility and library. One final word on the cruise - the passengers. This was by far the rudest group of traveler that I have ever encountered. I thought that maybe we felt that way since we were not "a couple", but we talked to our neighbors, L and J, and they felt the same way. They spoke with one of the ship's employees (I won't mention any names in case it might cause the person trouble), and he/she said that it was the rudest group that had been on the ship since he/she had been employed there. If these people were as rude in port, then I know where the term "ugly American" comes from. The only thing that was entice me to sail with Oceania again would be the size of the ship, the no-smoking policy, and the staff and crew on the ship. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007
Nautica Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 3.9
Dining 5.0 4.3
Entertainment 3.0 3.3
Public Rooms 5.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.8
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.0
Enrichment 5.0 3.5
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 5.0 3.5
Rates 5.0 3.9

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