This would have to be the most difficult review I have undertaken and I know many of you will find it hard to believe, that the following occurred on our first cruise with Oceania, on the fairytales and folklore Baltic cruise.
As a past cruiser with Seabourn, Regent and Celebrity, I looked forward to experiencing Oceania on what was, a wonderful 19 day itinerary along the Baltic region. Regrettably, it was a nightmare from check in to check out.
The start of our cruise was the worst I have ever experienced in any form of travel. Check in, was simply disgraceful. In brief, some 150 cruisers who booked this cruise leg, were not on the passenger register list provided by head office in Miami. Accordingly, they and we, were not allowed on the ship.
All affected cruisers were forced to stand aside and wait in a small confined corner of the pier entry, like we were naughty children, whilst the crew debated with English border force and attempted to determine what the problem was.
During this time, no one from Oceania sparred any time to consider all those waiting in disgusting conditions. The necessities of life, like getting some water, food, additional space or chairs for those affected, especially the elderly and frail amongst them, did not even enter their minds, over the 3 to 4 hour period. Totally incompetent and that is understating it !
Some of those who waited and waited, desperately required the use of toilets, but were hesitant to leave, in the event, they would be called and permitted to enter the ship. It was quite sad to witness this situation, in my normal occupation as General Manager/President of a large construction company and distressing to many of those cruisers affected. I saw two women so distressed they started crying as they feared they would not be allowed on the ship. Terrible.
Personally, after witnessing this debacle continuing for far too long, I requested the attendance of the captain, cruise director and general manager on 4 separate occasions, as the current crew team were overwhelmed and simply incompetent. My requests were unsuccessful and denied. It was bewildering and beyond belief that my request was denied.
In a desperate attempt to get someone to view what was happening to all those affected and the level of distress exhibited, I called the Oceania 24 hour emergency line, to which no one answered. I could not believe it, no one answered. So, no leadership present, no assistance to those long suffering affected cruisers and now, no available emergency support. How does this happen in today's world ?
In a totally frantic environment, the crew started to issue ship passes on a progressive basis, with no apparent order at all, where some cruisers who had waited for 1 hour entered and others including us waited for 3. My pass was printed twice, with them calling our names as we finally started climbing the gangway. Honestly, it was a circus, a disgraceful and incompetent one at that.
But it doesn't stop there, it got worse.
Once on the ship, not only was there no record of our (and others) attendance on the cruise, all excursions pre booked were gone, with other cruisers booking those apparent available spots. All reservations for the speciality restaurants were also gone, with similar double booking occur. Once affected cruisers found this out, well you can imagine the anger was at boiling point !
But it continues, yes, it only gets worse, the Oceania provided ship credits were also lost and finally, no access to the Internet was provided due to the lack of records. To compound all this, as many were not recorded as cruisers, their rooms were simply not made as they were recorded as empty.
What an incompetent administration effort on behalf of Oceania Miami head office. It is clearly obvious, that the data which is transferred at the end of each cruise with the new cruise data, was incomplete. But when the crew tried to review this matter with Miami, due to time difference, no one was available. Remember that unanswered emergency call I mentioned earlier. Unbelievable !
To top it off, once ship had sailed, I received a call from reception seeking some of my passport details, as was required from others on the ship. I enquired why ? Then, what exactly do you require ?. It so happens that no passport details were on record, even though I had provided these 12 months ago and confirmed before departure from home.
So this ship, the Marina, left port, with the Captain, not being aware of the complete details of all his cruisers and corresponding luggage on his ship. Tell me, what captain of a ship, plane or any vessel, allows a depart unless there is a complete and accurate inventory list of every single person on this ship. What crew member after noting the problem, not contact each affected cruisers immediately enquiring for these vital details, BEFORE the ship leaves.
Simply, in today's world of security risk, there is no other way to describe this breach other than a fundamental failure in all the required security protocols and such is the seriousness of this breach, I will be advising the authorities of it, as it should not happen, never, ever. I condemn all responsible for this fundamental breach of our security.
Not only did Captain Leo Strazicic not attend or enquire of the suffering cruisers which still astounds me, but in the 10 days of the first leg of this cruise, I never saw him walking around the ship, attending the captains cocktail function, nothing !
After a wave of complaints, at times heated abuse from those affected, numerous meetings which continued for 4 to 5 days after departure, finally, Oceania acted in their view, where they provided a $ 150 credit. You have got to be joking ? As one cruiser said to me, "I drank that in an hour to try and calm my nerves !"
How does $ 150 per suite resolve the lost feeling that you normally feel, when you walk onto the ship embarking on your next cruise. How does it compensate the tears that numerous women shed, in this totally confusing and challenging environment ? How does this support Oceania motto, "your world, your way"
The lack of compassion and attentive care was breathtaking. The captain, the cruise director, destination manager, no one cared, then it all clicked when the second leg started, Captain Leo Stratzicic, Mr Peter Roberts (cruise director) and Mr Peter Morris (destination service manager) all departed for their breaks, which I'm sure they will enjoy, unlike us.
Oceania lacked, without doubt or fear of error, the understanding of what determines the point of difference between all other cruise lines. That being, personal care for your cruise experience and attention to ensuring you are happy.
Simple things like, no glass of refreshing juice, water, cold towel, whilst you check in. Returning from excursions, no refreshments and welcoming crew members. At the pool, at bars, a lack of serving staff to provide drinks which is puzzling given they charge you for drinks.
A bottle of champagne is provided in our penthouse suite, which honestly, we didn't even open, the moment of happiness being on another cruise was gone. I was dreading what we just went through and wondered what we would be confronted with in the future.
The direct crew that deals with you on a daily basis, such as our butler, the waiters, they all try to do the best, but obviously lack the necessary level of training that is consistent with Oceania's promoted alleged level of personal service. They were poorly supported and let down by their leaders.
The reception desk is difficult, probably due to abuse they had received by frustrated cruisers. Restaurant reservations frankly, was useless, not able to assist with any simple request for instance, altering a restaurant reservation. It was simply too hard for them. It was so poor, I felt that they simply, did not care. We had better success with the managers.
As mentioned earlier, excursions office was incompetent and dismissive of a number of cruisers who had lost their booked trips. I witnessed the manager, Mr Peter Morris, not even batting an eyelid, when a woman who had booked and paid for 14 excursions, commenced crying. Needless to say her husband was justifiably annoyed with the lack of required compassion and care. Hell after they left, I expressed my view that his conduct was disgraceful and how could he make women cry ? Again, didn't bat an eyelid !
The only positive I can express on Oceania, is on the food side, it is very good, especially the speciality restaurants. Red Ginger (Asian) an absolute highlight for me, followed closely by Jacques (French cuisine), then Toscana (Italian) and Polo Grill. All these require reservations.
So, after all this, honestly, I just wanted to get off this ship, the experience had ruined our holiday, a $ 28,000 AUD cruise holiday. And even then, I couldn't get off the damn thing. Disembarking was an absolute disgrace as well !
Here we are, over 1 hour late, hundreds of people jammed in tight, on the 5th floor, desperately trying to get off, but we could not, as the luggage was not totally removed off the ship. The new cruise director, David, apologising to all, but everyone had simply, had enough.
To top it off, a large contingent of Chinese cruisers, who pushed, rudely bullied there way like a thundering heard of cattle throughout the second leg, ignored the pleas of David as he told them they had to wait. Again, I saw a woman suffering anxiety as she was so concerned she would miss her plane flight home. No one there to help, guide, or lead. Again I took upon myself to make way so she could at least get off as quick as possible.
Then it was mass hysteria trying to get a cab, as everyone got off at once rather than a programmed and time consumed manner. Again, no one to direct cruisers, no indication where your bags were, amongst the thousand stored. A total and absolute disgrace.
This unforgivable conduct, unprofessionalism, incompetency and total disregard to the safety and well being of its clients, I place at the steps of senior management who lacked clear leadership, ability to make decisions with the necessary compassion and understanding to act immediately upon discovery of fundamental failures, all of which they caused. Every single one of them.
And it starts from the top, from head office in Miami which I will be clearly expressing to Mr Jason Montagne, their president upon my return.
So would I return back to Oceania, definitely not. Even if they were the only cruise line on earth.
I will be returning back to the excellent service of Seabourn and Regent cruises, where at least, you are treated as a valued customer, for the same cost of this sad and terrible cruise experience.
If you want the Oceania type of casual service, do yourself a favour, go to Celebrity cruises for at least half the cost and be actually treated better rather than be treated as a herd of sheep. Read Less