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225 Oceania Barcelona Cruise Reviews

OCEANIA REGATTA TRIP REPORT Barcelona to Dover July 5-19, 2003 Jim and Pam Murphy   There are a few things that I would like to mention before sharing my daily journal. I write this for personal reasons - it is something that I include ... Read More
OCEANIA REGATTA TRIP REPORT Barcelona to Dover July 5-19, 2003 Jim and Pam Murphy   There are a few things that I would like to mention before sharing my daily journal. I write this for personal reasons - it is something that I include in the photo album that I make for each of our trips.   Jim and I chose the inaugural cruise of the new Oceania line since we were very loyal cruisers of the old, bankrupt Renaissance Cruise Line. Two of the Renaissance 'R' series of ships are now owned by Oceania - The R1 and the R2 are now the Regatta and the Insignia. We wanted to be part of the excitement of these ships being back on the seas thus choosing the inaugural sailing. We went into the cruise expecting the good along with the bad - a person would be a fool to book an inaugural if they are expecting perfection. With an inaugural, things are still a "work in progress" - for anyone wanting perfection (if such a thing is possible) - I would suggest waiting before booking a new cruise line - till it has had the time to work out all of the kinks.   In this report I tried to be fair and to include the good with the bad. Please keep in mind that these are my opinions and in many instances people may not agree with them. We were given questionnaires to fill out on at the end of the cruise - Jim filled out ours and I didn't agree with all of his opinions. Differing opinions are what makes the world go round!   I was introduced to Frank del Rio at the cocktail party held on board for the Yahoo group -- Frank was previously with Renaissance cruises -- he and Joe Watters (formerly of Crystal Cruises are the brains and talent behind the new Oceania line. Frank gave me his card and requested that I send him a copy of my trip report. So what is in here is being forwarded on to Frank -- some of the included information is for his benefit.   July 4 Friday Fly Philadelphia To Barcelona   It seems like we have been planning this cruise forever. We actually pre-booked the cruise before the reservation computers were even set up. Oceania is a new line and since this is the inaugural many little glitches need to be worked out. The first problem was that our documentation arrived only about a week before sailing. We requested to fly out of Philadelphia, our closest airport. When we received the tickets we were booked on a commuter flight from Philadelphia to JFK - this seems very silly to us since we could easily have driven directly to JFK. Since the documents arrived so late we decided to make no changes and leave well enough alone. Our price with Oceania included air at no additional charge - since not paying for it, why not take the commuter flight and save ourselves the drive?   We have a town car pick us up to take us to Philadelphia. Jim likes to arrive at the airport very early - I've learned that it keeps him calm to do it this way and I can wait at the airport as easily as I can wait for a flight at home. This is the Fourth of July and we figured that we would either hit very heavy traffic or no traffic at all. The latter is the case and we sail to the airport. The town car we ordered picks us up at 11:30 am for our 3:30 flight. Our driver is an ex NJ State Trooper and a really interesting man to talk to -- he told us many hair-raising stories of his years on the narcotic squad.   There is no line to check in and no question on the weight of our luggage - anyone who has read any of my past trip reports knows that I have not mastered the fine art of packing lightly and usually get "heavy" tags applied to the luggage. This time only one bag gets the "heavy" tag. Security is a breeze - the airport is close to empty - neither Jim nor I are searched which is a rare occurrence for Jim.   The flight to JFK is on a small Delta jet - we need to walk outside to board the plane - it is necessary to put our carry on luggage with the checked bags but we were able to get them as we get off of the plane at JFK. This flight is all of 20 minutes in the air - quick and painless. Jim and I have a window and aisle seat together - since the plane is not full, Jim is able to move across the aisle and have two seats for himself and I now also have two for myself.   Upon arrival at JFK we need to take a bus from the plane to the terminal. Jim and I arrive at the boarding gate where we meet many of the people that I have been corresponding with for months on the Yahoo message boards. Laura, one of the moderator's of the board is on our flight. Many have sent photos to post on the board pre cruise. I printed the photos out before leaving home so that I will be able to recognize people. I see a young man who looks very much like Laura's husband John. Then when I see Laura with him, I am fairly certain that this is actually Laura. So out comes my page of photos and as I am looking - Laura is doing the same thing - looking at me and comparing the photo she has printed out. We have a good laugh over this one.   Some of the people on our flight are: Laura and John from CA Randy and Luanne from CA Bill and Linda from Cape Cod Lee and Bill from Pittsburgh Kathy and Bill from Pittsburgh Carol and Earl from CA Jan and Jim from CA   Everyone is very nice and I have a feeling that this is going to be a fun cruise. Our waiting time seems to fly since we are all busy yakking, getting to know each other.   We board the plane and are on our way to Barcelona. At 5:55. We once again luck out. Jim and I have a window and aisle seat - he gets to move to the center section with three seats to himself and I now once again have the two for myself -- a very comfortable and smooth flight. The film shown is one that I haven't seen - "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" - cute and light.   July 5 Saturday Arrive Barcelona Board Ship   We arrive in Barcelona at 7:00am and are greeted by Oceania Representatives -- the transfer goes like clockwork. We were originally told that we would be taken to a hospitality suite until it was time to board the ship. To our delight we find that we are being taken right to the ship. The first thing we see upon our arrival at the ship is a woman (who turns out to be Jan Fishbein) standing on the balcony in her bathrobe waving to us all. I know that this is Jan from Carol and Earl who know her. Jan is a travel agent that booked many on this cruise. She is a very close friend of Frank del Rio who is the President of Oceania. Jan and her husband Stu were on the pre inaugural cruise (sort of a shakedown cruise for the owners and their family and friends). We have about an hour wait in the terminal to board the ship. There is a bar and coffee but for these you need to have Euros and many of us haven't had chance to change our money yet. But the time flies as we are still talking a mile a minute, getting to know each other. Jan quickly gets dressed and comes to join us. I have known Jan and many of the other fellow cruisers from the days of the old Renaissance boards - but have never met any of them in person.   Registration is quick and easy and extremely well set up. What a pleasure to be back on a small ship where there are none of those very long lines to contend with. There is no photographer set up to take those dreaded "Welcome Aboard Photos", as you can well imagine they usually aren't the best after flying all night! Think we have arrived too early since we later see him out there shooting away!   We are next taken to the Horizon Lounge since the rooms are not yet ready - but I am impressed that they get us on board as quickly as possible. We are told that there was a group of Spanish travel agents on board that spent the night on the ship. They are now preparing the rooms for us. Horizon Lounge is set up with a continental breakfast. The pastries are delicious, think we may be in for some wonderful food on this cruise.   This is the first encounter with the crew and they couldn't be nicer. We learn from them that the pre inaugural cruise was being referred to as the "Cruise from Hell" -- many of the guests were extremely rude to the crew and had them jumping through hoops.   We are sitting with Laura, John, Randy and Luanne - both couples are younger than we are but are a whole lot of fun. With time on our hands, Jim soon becomes the butt of our jokes. I just can't help myself telling them about a previous cruise in Barcelona when Jim was acting like the tour guide during our pre cruise stay in the city - we had previously been to Barcelona so Jim was more than willing to share all his knowledge with many of the other passengers that were in Barcelona for the first time. There was just one slight problem -- he was giving out all of the wrong information. He showed them a street that he said was Las Ramblas and went on and on about what a great place it was - this street wasn't even close to Las Ramblas - he pointed out our ship in the harbor - you guessed it - not even the line we were sailing on. There is just something about Jim that makes him sound like he is an authority on things - people will follow him rather than the tour guide - what a big mistake that is! Randy absolutely loved hearing this bit of information on Jim and little did I know just how much he enjoyed hearing it.   I pick up a shore excursion form and the first thing we do is to sign up for the tours we want to take. I have a few disappointments -- the times certain tours are offered doesn't work out for us to be able to take all those we had wanted. I ask at the shore excursion desk if the shore excursion crew has been on all of these tours and they haven't. I personally think that they should experience them all so that when a question is asked they have first hand knowledge of the answer. Perhaps in time they will take them. I think that it would be a great asset for Oceania to have the staff familiar with each tour, even if it means flying them in to the port ahead of time. I have never been on a cruise line where this is done but think it would be something that could set Oceania above the others. There is nothing more frustrating than asking how much free time you will have and no one knows.   This is the first cruise that we have taken that doesn't have a video of the different ports, of the shore excursions and the shopping. Believe these videos of the ports and shore excursions are made by a company called Sea Video in CA. I find these very helpful in choosing my tours. I asked Greg (head of shore excursions) about it and he said that having Sea Video make these is very costly and with Oceania just starting out that they didn't want to invest this kind of money. I personally think it might be a wise investment to consider. The videos, once made, could actually be a money maker for the cruise line if they were available for sale when one books a particular cruise. I purchase travel videos for the different ports before a cruise and they run into hundreds of dollars because all the ports aren't on the same video. This would be one video that could be purchased for maybe $25 - $30 dollars that would include each port the cruise includes. It would be helpful to anyone trying to choose between the excursions offered and also for people wanting to do a port on their own. Jim and I choose our cruises because of the itinerary and reading the shore excursions helps us decide which ones to book. If someone is considering several cruises -- having the ability to purchase these videos would be beneficial in choosing the cruise that is best for the individual. I feel that this would be a wonderful marketing strategy for both selling cruises and also selling shore excursions. There are shore excursion talks held on board but these cover no more than what is in the printed information - if you can read, why bother attending -- I would like to see more extensive information given on each port, tour and the shopping in the port.   After waiting awhile, no one tells us if the rooms are ready. So one by one we go up to check our rooms - we have been given our keys and they are ready so we all clear out of Horizon. As we are heading to our rooms we meet Bob and Joyce from the message boards. This really is like old home week!   We go to our cabin, room 6086 - the last room on the port side - the balcony has a slanted wall on the one side which impairs vision a bit but it is fine and we are comfortable. We find all sorts of goodies waiting for us -- we booked through Shirley Binder and she had a lovely floral arrangement there for us and also a $50 ship board credit - such a thoughtful thing to do. For anyone lucky enough to receive one of these beautiful arrangements - you will need to sign the card and give it to the cabin stewardess for the flowers to be delivered. The arrangement has tiger lilies, roses, carnations, and daisies with pretty yellow filler -- it adds a lot of color and cheer to the room. There is also a gift from the cruise line for us - a wooden decorator box with an image on the Regatta to commemorate the Inaugural Cruise - another very nice gift.   You have no idea of what a thrill being back on this ship is for me. I have always loved these ships and was heartbroken when Renaissance went bankrupt. In my opinion, these are the prettiest ships on the seas, with a warm homey ambiance and the charm of the old days of luxury sailing. In my past trip reports, I have described these ships so in this report, I am mainly going to concentrate on the changes since the days of Renaissance. First of all, I noticed that the Horizon Lounge has new big accent pillows - they are very pretty and comfy (I later find out that Frank and Marcy del Rio personally picked out the fabric for them). The balconies have had teak decking added which looks lovely and is a definite upgrade. The Terrace Cafe has had new window blinds added which look great. We had heard that the balconies would have new furniture and not the same cheap plastic chairs from the Renaissance days. The same chairs are there but cushions have been added. When it is time to replace these, I would suggest getting chairs where the back reclines with cushions on them - even if they are only plastic they would be far more comfortable for snoozing out on the balcony - something to consider, Frank! Believe this is what we had on Silver Seas and they were great.   The beds look just wonderful - I am fighting not to jump right into it - but know that I have to stay awake to get onto European time as quickly as possible in order to enjoy the ports. The old bedspreads are gone and have been replaced with goose down pillows covered in very high quality sheets that feel like silk - they are a cream color with a self satin striping. The duvet has a cover that is the same sheeting but is in a pale blue self striping. What I am especially impressed with is that these duvet covers can be washed between passengers, making it a lot more sanitary. I always hated putting things on a bedspread that hadn't been cleaned between cruisers. Here Oceania has earned great big points with me! There is French milled soap that smells like oranges - love it. They also have the small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel for us. There are new bath towels and they are nice and thick - they are decent size but aren't bath sheets. I check out the room service menu and it has been expanded greatly from the old Renaissance days. They have a shrimp/prawn cocktail, smoked salmon, soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts and even hot entrees. Room service is available 24 hours a day. There was a lot of discussion about the hairdryers on the boards before the cruise. I have thick hair but it is short and the dryer works just fine for me. I know that Candice brought her own (she has thick long hair) and is glad that she did.   There is no refrigerator in the standard balcony room but they do keep the ice bucket filled for you.   There is dry cleaning and laundry service on board - if you have it out by 9am you will get it back the same day. There are also washers and dryers but not many are working. Where is that Maytag man when you need him?   We walk up on deck and the new teak furniture is just beautiful - so much richer looking. - adds a real elegance to the ship.   Find that we were given the wrong contact number for the ship before leaving. This could be a major problem if anyone had an emergency at home - this is one thing that Oceania needs to address ASAP.   It takes about two hours for the luggage to arrive. This is no problem for me since I always pack a few things in my carry on bag so that I can clean up when we arrive.   Once we are settled Jim decides to take a nap. I shower and change before heading to the terminal where the shops have opened. On my way, I meet Lee and Bill and they have a handicap room - she tells me that there is a tub in it which is hard for a handicapped person to get in and out of.   The terminal has very few shops; one has Majorica pearls, one has leather and one has Lladros. I purchase a couple of Majorica pearl rings as gifts. I'm not impressed by the leather shop and am not in the market for Lladros, although the shop seems to have a decent selection of the figurines. I meet Laura and John who are also browsing the shops -- Laura has a very pretty new outfit on, so I assume that she has also taken the time to freshen up.   I return to the room -- the bags have arrived, so it is time to unpack. A friend suggested packing clothing on hangars -- I tried it and it saves so much time unpacking. Thanks for the idea, Gundy, it was a good one. (After returning home, Candice gives me a further good idea for packing - she keeps the plastic bags on the garments and they don't wrinkle - so many smart friends!) Now that all the work is done it is time to relax on the balcony. By this time Jim is up and goes to the bar to get me a few cans of diet coke and a pina colada. Jim planned to bring the drink back to me himself, but the bar manager insists on having it delivered for him - a crew member walks back to the room with him carrying our drinks on a tray. This is our first indication that the service will be excellent. We order a cheese platter from room service which offers a very nice selection of cheeses. Now this is living - sitting on the balcony with a good book and a drink!   Where has the day gone? It is already time to get dressed for the evening - we are scheduled to meet the Yahoo group in the Martini bar at 6:00 (the group is expanding to include people who weren't on the boards). We meet Laura and John (today is their 17th wedding anniversary), Charles and Ann Bubeck (Charles is a moderator of the Yahoo board with Laura), Bob (Joyce didn't make it), Kathy and Bill, Jan and Jim, Carol and Earl, Jan and Stu. I order my first Cosmopolitan. Interestingly, we notice that different glasses are used to serve the Martinis than are used for the Cosmos.   From here we head for dinner. The service is slow but my filet mignon melts like butter in your mouth and it is a huge piece of meat. I order a dessert that is a chocolate filled cookie shell - delicious! The dinner is excellent. The service is extremely slow but at least we can't say that they are rushing us. It makes dinner an event! There is a string quartet that plays in the dining room -absolutely wonderful - this really adds a nice touch to dining. At one point they play "Flight of the Bumblebee" and I find myself eating fast - in time to the music!   After dinner we return to the room and by now I am exhausted and immediately fall asleep. Jim is still hanging in there and goes off the ship for an after dinner cigar. When he returns to the room, he wakes me up -- as he is hanging up his clothing the bar in the closet snaps and everything comes crashing down. He picks it all up and has it precariously perched hanging on the top shelf - with this arrangement the closet won't close. We now have a real bottleneck - it is necessary to close the closet in order to easily get out the door of the cabin and to get into the bathroom - maneuvering now is awkward to say the least!   July 6 Sunday Barcelona - Sail 5pm   I am up at 6am sitting on the balcony (you'll soon catch on that this is my favorite spot on the ship) - it's a beautiful day, nice breeze and not yet too hot. I slept some of last night but kept waking up at regular intervals - at around 2am, I was sitting on the balcony reading. The beds are just as comfy as they look. Love the pillows - they mold right to you. The mattress is extremely comfortable and the duvet is light and cuddly but not too terribly warm, like some can be. Oceania has a winner with these beds! They are the best! I tend to get warm very easily, so we have the air conditioning set as low as it can go - then have the sliding glass door open to hear the lapping of the water and feel the cool breeze coming in.   Breakfast is served at the Terrace Cafe, buffet style and also in the Grand Dining Room from 7:30 to 9:30 (10am on sea days) Jim and I eat in the dining room -- I order the French toast which is very good. I notice that they even have lamb chops on the menu.   We run into Jan and Jim who tell us that last night they had dinner at the Tapas Restaurant and it was wonderful.   Also spoke to people who took the Flamenco Tour last night and the opinion seems to be that it was okay but nothing special.   Before leaving for the day we tell Isabelle about our closet mishap last night -- she says that she will have it taken care of. Tell her that they can just leave our clothing on the bed and that I will hang it when we return.   We had hoped to take the ship's tour to Sitges (beach resort) this morning -- however, last night it was cancelled due to the fact that there weren't enough signed up. As an alternative they offer to put us on the Highlights of Barcelona tour or the Montserrat tour, but we have done both in the past - so make the decision to just go off on our own for a few hours. This is our third time in Barcelona so we have seen most of the tourist sights. Last night, inquired about taking a private van to Sitges with Barrie and Arnie (from CA) but when we were quoted $800, all agreed that nothing is worth that kind of money. Instead we join Barrie and Arnie on the shuttle to the Columbus Monument - the bus comes right to the port and it is $2 pp round trip. At the Columbus Monument we are able to catch the hop on hop off Barcelona bus tour -- believe it is $15 pp for one day and $19 pp for two days. Barrie and Arnie are a great couple and we have such a nice day with them. We actually discover that our two children and their two live very close to each other in CA - our two and one of theirs are in the entertainment industry - so we have lots in common. The top section of the tour bus is our choice of seating but by now it is getting hot and sunny.   The Columbus Monument, which was erected on the harbor-front of Barcelona on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1888 is divided into three parts; the first being a circular structure, raised by four stairways (19 1/2 feet wide) and eight iron heraldic lions -- on the plinth are eight bronze bas-reliefs depicting the principal feats of Columbus (the originals were destroyed; the present ones are copies); the second part is the base of the column, consisting of an eight-sided polygon, four sides of which act as buttresses -- each side contains sculptures; the third part is formed by the column itself, Corinthian in style and rising 167 feet -- the capital boasts representations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America -- all linked together; finally, over a princely crown and a hemisphere recalling the newly discovered part of the globe is a 25-foot-high bronze statue of Columbus himself by Rafael AttachE.   Blessed with rich and fertile soil, an excellent harbor, and a hardworking population, Barcelona has always prospered. At a time when Madrid was still a dusty and unknown Castilian backwater, Barcelona was a powerful, diverse capital; one influenced more by the Mediterranean empires that conquered it than by the cultures of the arid Iberian plains to the west. Carthage, Rome, and Charlemagne-era France each overran Catalonia, and each left an indelible mark on the region's nascent identity. The region of Catalonia is a nation within a nation. While part of Spain, it has its own semi-autonomous government. Catalan -- a Romance language akin to the Provencal of France -- is spoken everywhere, supplanting Castilian Spanish as the main language even on street signs. Catalonians are proud of their distinct culture and heritage; with their long seafaring tradition and centuries of trade, there is a strong connection between it and southern France. They have clung fiercely to their culture and language--both of which, earlier in this century, Franco systematically tried to eradicate. And Barcelona, the region's lodestar, has truly come into its own. In Barcelona itself, this regionalism is complemented by a strong socialist tradition - the city was a bastion of the Republican cause during the Civil War, holding out against Franco until January 1939, and remained the scene of protests and demonstrations throughout the dictatorship. It's a confident, progressive city, looking towards the rest of Europe for its inspiration and its innovations - the classic tourist images of Spain seem firmly out of place in Barcelona's bustling central boulevards and stylish modern streets. And style is what brings many visitors here, attracted by enthusiastic newspaper and magazine articles which make much of the outrageous architecture and user-friendly city design   Despite its allure, Barcelona grapples with problems common to many major cities: the increasing polarization of rich and poor, a rising tide of drug abuse, and an escalating crime rate, mostly in theft. But in reaction to a rash of negative publicity, city authorities have, with some degree of success, brought crime under control, at least within the tourist zones (things are much improved in this area - I saw no signs of a major problem on this visit as we have witnessed in the past).   A revitalized Barcelona eagerly prepared for and welcomed thousands of visitors as part of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. When the Games had finished, the city was left with an entirely new harbor development containing the futuristic Olympic Village. And along with a construction program that touched every corner of the city, went the indisputable knowledge that these had been Barcelona's Olympics, and not Spain's - an important distinction to the Catalan people, who, bolstered by the gradual integration of immigrants from other parts of Spain, endow the city with a character distinct from Spain's other regional capitals. The action didn't end when the last medal was handed out. Barcelona turned its multimillion-dollar building projects into permanently expanded facilities for sports and tourism.   Much of Spain's more modern architecture feels like a rehash of its past. But Barcelona is a lively exception. As Europe leapt from the 19th century into the 20th, it celebrated a rising standard of living and nearly a century without a major war. Future revolutions were in their early, starry-eyed-dreamer stages. Impressionists came out of their studios to paint in the gardens, and Art Nouveau architects forced hard steel and concrete into softer organic shapes. Barcelona's answer to art nouveau was modernisme, and its genius was Antoni Gaudí. There's a pride in the city which is expressed in a remarkable cultural energy, seen most perfectly in the glorious modernista (Art Nouveau) architecture that studs the city's streets and avenues. Antoni Gaudí is the most famous of those who have left their mark on Barcelona in this way: his Sagrada Família church is rightly revered, but just as fascinating are the (literally) fantastic houses and apartment buildings that he and his contemporaries designed. In art, too, the city boasts a stupendous legacy, from important Romanesque and Gothic works to major galleries containing the life's work of the Catalan artists Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpies, and - perhaps the greatest draw of all - a representative collection of the work of Pablo Picasso.   Today is Sunday so many of the shops are closed. We drive past Port Vell, Montjuic, The Olympic Village, Poble Espangnol.   At St. Jaume Square there is the City Town Hall and across the Square, the Catalonian Seat of Government. Also in the old city stands Barcelona's cathedral as a celebrated example of Catalonian Gothic architecture. Except for the 19th-century west facade, the basilica was begun at the end of the 13th century and completed in the mid-15th century. The three naves, cleaned and illuminated, have splendid Gothic details. With its large bell towers, blending of medieval and Renaissance styles, beautiful cloister, high altar, side chapels, sculptured choir, and Gothic arches, it ranks as one of the most impressive cathedrals in Spain. Vaulted galleries in the cloister surround a garden of magnolias, medlars, and palm trees; the galleries are further enhanced by forged iron grilles. The historian Cirici called this the loveliest oasis in Barcelona. The cloister, illuminated on Saturdays and fiesta days, also contains a museum of medieval art. The most notable work displayed is the 15th-century La Pietat of BartolomE Bermejo.   The Bridge of Bishops joins the Cathedral with the Royal Palace -- the former palace of the counts of Barcelona. It later became the residence of the kings of Aragón -- hence, the name of its plaza (King's Square). It's believed that Columbus was received here by Isabella and Ferdinand when he returned from his first voyage to the New World. Here, some believe, the monarchs got their first look at a Native American. The Saló del Tinell, a banqueting hall with a wood-paneled ceiling held up by half a dozen arches, dates from the 14th century. Rising five stories above the hall is the Torre del Rei Martí, a series of porticoed galleries.   We get off the bus at the appointed place to change from the blue route to the red route. At this spot is a Corte de Ingles (large department store) where Barrie and I go in to check it out. My only purchase is some Clinique sun block to put on us while sitting on the top of the bus. We drive along Paseo de Gracia and pass Casa Battlo and Casa Mila both by Antoni Gaudi; we don't get off since we have limited time and have to make choices -- I have already visited these sites. Casa Batlló was designed by Gaudí in 1905. Using sensuous curves in iron and stone, the architect gave the facade a lavish baroque exuberance. The balconies have been compared to "sculpted waves." The upper part of the facade evokes animal forms, and delicate tiles are spread across the design--a polychromatic exterior extraordinaire.   Commonly called La Pedrera, Casa Milà is the most famous apartment-house complex in Spain. Antoni Gaudí's imagination went wild when planning its construction; he even included vegetable and fruit shapes in his sculptural designs. Controversial and much criticized upon its completion, today it stands as a classic example of modernista architecture. The entire building was restored in 1996. The ironwork around the balconies forms an intricate maze, and the main gate has windowpanes shaped like turtle shells. The rooftop, filled with phantasmagorical chimneys known in Spanish as espantabrujas (witch-scarers), affords a view of Gaudí's unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Família. The Espai Gaudí (Gaudí Space) in the attic has an intriguing multimedia display of the works of this controversial artist.   We get off the bus at La Sagrada Família. Gaudí's incomplete masterpiece is one of the more idiosyncratic creations of Spain. Begun in 1882 and still incomplete at Gaudí's death in 1926, this incredible church--the Church of the Holy Family--is a bizarre wonder. The languid, amorphous structure embodies the essence of Gaudí's style, which some have described as art nouveau run rampant. Work continues on the structure, but without any sure idea of what Gaudí intended. Some say that the church will be completed by the mid-21st century. The crypt of the cathedral features a small museum of the architect's scale models. Photographs show the progress (or lack thereof) of construction on the building; there are even photos of Gaudí's funeral. This is the first time for Barrie to visit this site and she absolutely loves it.   In 1883 after a year of work had begun on a Neo-Gothic Church on the site - the task of completing it was given to Gaudi, who changed everything extemporizing as he went along. It became his life's work and he lived as a recluse on the site for 16 years - he is buried in the church's crypt. At his death only one tower of the Nativity façade had been completed.   Work resumed after the Spanish Civil War and several more have since been finished. Work continues today, financed by public subscription, without any sure idea of what Gaudí intended. Gaudi's original plans for the Church have been lost and only a few writings of his ideas remain. Computers are being used to try to recreate what Gaudi would have done. However, even Gaudi wasn't exactly sure of his plan -- he kept making changes as he went along.   The size alone is startling, with eight spires rising to over 100m. For Gaudí, these were metaphors for the Twelve Apostles. Each of the completed towers, representing the apostles, has Venetian Mosaics topping them -- there are spiral staircases in each with 400 steps, which allow access to the towers and upper galleries.   On the east wall of the structure is the Nativity façade designed by Gaudi -- the Western façade (Passion Façade) is also completed. A third southern façade is planned, which will be the Glory of Christ.   The Nativity façade, completed in 1904, has doorways that represent faith, hope and charity. Scenes from the Nativity and Christ's childhood are embellished with symbolism: The cypress tree at the pinnacle of the arch, symbolizes the Church or everlasting life and on it the white doves symbolize the congregation or the angels. It is finely detailed -- its surface is highly textured with curls and ripples so that it looks a bit like it has melted in places. There are also splashes of color used here and there, such as fruits that are colored. There are giant turtles that look as though they are carrying the church on their backs (just as they carry their own homes on their backs). Gaudi did most of the Nativity façade but after Gaudi's death a few of the center figures were done by a Japanese sculptor - they are whiter in color and flat -- they don't have the depth of expression of Gaudi's work.   In contrast, the Passion Façade is a bleak and controversial work with angular and often sinister figures. This façade was created by Barcelona born, Josep Maria Subirachs. Rather than follow Gaudi's plans he created an entirely new design. The Passion facade contrasts markedly with the Nativity façade --it is very simple, dominated by a crucified Christ. As a tribute to Gaudi, Subirachs placed a figure of Gaudi next to the two Roman Guards.   From a distance I find the Nativity façade the much more interesting and eye catching work. However, up close, one can't help but be mesmerized by the Passion façade - I could stand and look at it for hours - bizarre but so very mesmerizing. The two completed facades are so different that it is hard to believe that they are part of the same building. I personally love the Art Nouveau Architecture of Barcelona - each time you look at it there is something new to see.   The Glory Façade, currently under construction, is planned as the main entrance. The decoration will represent humankind gaining glory through redemption -- the virtues, sins, purgatory, sacraments, Last Judgment and Holy Trinity will be symbolized in stone.   The inside of the Temple is designed to look like a petrified forest of sycamore trees. The many columns represent the tree trunks. The nave side aisles, which are now completed, are sheltered by 98 foot high vaults supported on leaning columns. The windows are topped with sculptured baskets of fruit decorated with Venetian glass. The stained glass windows are at this time the only color in the interior of the church. However, in looking at the plans for the interior, it should be very colorful when completed.   The crypt where Gaudi is buried was built by the original architect Francese de Paula Villar I Lozano, in 1882 and is where services are held. At the apex of the central vault is a lovely sculpture of the Annunciation. The lower floor contains a small museum tracing the careers of the architects and the church's history.   Gaudi's original ambitions have been scaled down over the years but the design for the completion of the building remains impressive. Still to come is the central tower symbolizing Jesus, which will be circled by four large towers representing the Evangelists. Four towers (representing the four remaining apostles) on the Glory façade will match the four on the passion façade and Nativity façade. Next to the central tower will be one representing the Virgin Mary. An ambulatory, like an inside-out cloister will run round the outside of the building.   Jim and I have previously been to the Familia Sagrada -- on our last visit the tour was extremely in depth which definitely added to my appreciation of it on this visit.   Not to disappoint you, I do stop at the gift shop and find a couple of ceramic candle holders (with Gaudi designs), some Art Nouveau jewelry and some metal bookmarks with the designs of Gaudi -- all are for Christmas gifts.   We hop back onto the bus and our next stop is at Parc Guell. The bus drops us off at the bottom of the hill and it is quite a climb to get to the park. This is a wonderful urban park designed by Antoni Gaudi - it features peaceful greens, winding paths and lots of sculptures and mosaics designed by Gaudi himself. Antoni Gaudí designed Barcelona's Parc Guell as a playful "planned community" (before the people were ready). His colorful, curvy Parc Guell overlooking Barcelona was never intended as the park it is today -- Gaudí originally intended this garden to be a sixty-residence housing project-a kind of gated community. As a high-income housing development, it failed. A hundred years ago, Gaudí's shiny new Parc Guell was out in the sticks-too far from Barcelona's cultural scene -- it failed after just two homes were constructed. Considering that the city's wealthiest neighborhoods surround the park today, it seems Gaudí's gated community brainstorm was just a century ahead of its time. As the park that it has become, it is a true delight to visit. And like the Sagrada Família church in the distance, it offers us a fascinating peek into the eccentric personality of the architect and his times.   It is fun to imagine what might have been -- this gated community being filled with Barcelona's wealthy, stepping past fancy gatehouses, they'd walk by Gaudí's wrought iron gas lamps (his father was a blacksmith and he always enjoyed this medium). We climb the grand stairway past the ceramic dragon fountain (this is made of colorful mosaics and one of my favorite things here). At the top is the Hall of 100 Columns -- originally slated to be a produce market for the neighborhood's sixty mansions. These columns, each different (made from concrete and rebar, topped with colorful ceramic and studded with broken bottles and bric-a-brac), would have added to the market's vitality. We continue up, looking down along the playful "pathway of columns" that support a long arcade. At the top of the terrace, one can relax on a colorful bench (designed to fit the body ergonomically) to enjoy one of Barcelona's best views.   Not one to miss a shopping opportunity, I stop into the gift shop at the park - get a mouse pad for myself with a Gaudi design, pens with the Gaudi design as stocking stuffers and some postcards. At this point Jim and I have had it so grab a cab and head back to Las Ramblas for a stroll -- Barrie and Arnie stay to see more of the park. The cab drops us off at the one end of the long pedestrian boulevard and as always it is fun walk the length of it and people watch. Love the mimes that perform along the street - they appear like statues until they receive a few coins and then they come to life acting like robots - their makeup is wonderful and you can usually count on bright costuming. As I mentioned, it is Sunday and most of the shops are closed - does this stop me from finding one? Not a chance - find a shop called Paramita - this is a young person's shop with adorable little tee shirts and purses from a Granada designer. Find some wonderful things for my daughter here - colorful and unique and the prices are reasonable -- the designs are things of Spain done in an abstract colorful way. I also find a couple of the Toledo style pill boxes for friends.   We have a 20 minutes wait for the bus to take us back to the ship - we are hot and tired and can't wait to get back to cool off and relax. Our first stop is at the pool bar for a nice cold drink - for me it is a pina colada. Jim walks to the other side of the pool to get us some of the wonderful cheeseburgers at the grill. He is told that he can't get one unless sitting at a certain section of tables - we can't eat them at the table we are at, which is only a few feet further. There are no free tables in the designated section and when he asked where we were supposed to sit, there was no answer. We aren't even allowed to take them into the Terrace Cafe. The idea of table service is lovely but it doesn't work -- there aren't enough tables or waiters. There are two older ladies having a fit about this - they are very upset that they can't get a simple hot dog because there is no place to sit. This policy needs to be changed.   Since we can't eat we return to the room to order room service - we are less than happy. The minute we walk into the room we find that Isabelle has had our closet problem taken care of - not only is the rod fixed but all of our clothing is hanging on it - this was above and beyond what I expected. We call for room service only to be told that they have to personally come to the room to take our order by filling out a form. This seems like a total waste of the crew's time - much easier and faster to take it by phone. This is a policy that Oceania may want to think of revising - why is it necessary to have someone come physically to your cabin twice when once would suffice?   We don't get our lunch for several hours. This is because with the extra trip to the room we are now conflicting with the lifeboat drill. We accept this and understand that the crew has priorities. For the lifeboat drill we are taken to the Grand Dining room as a meeting spot. Sitting at our table we meet a very nice couple from Point Pleasant, NJ (not far from where we live). We talk to them through the whole cruise and I never get their names. At the table next to us are Randy and Luanne - they actually make the drill fun! The first thing we are asked to do is to form a line and proceed to the life boats by holding onto the tab of the life vest of the person in front of us. Big mistake - they don't know my Jim! He starts pulling on my tab and as I result I'm pulling on the tab of the Point Pleasant lady in front of me - so not only am I being choked in return I am choking her. Randy, Luanne, Laura and John find this extremely funny and this encouragement from the four of them just eggs Jim on further! Don't think that this is what Oceania had in mind for the drill!   After the lifeboat drill we receive a call from room service asking for our order - we had already ordered when they came to our room and took the order. A while later we receive another call to say they are preparing it. We do finally get our food but it is not what we ordered - there is a prawn cocktail and nothing more. Jim doesn't eat fish so it is mine and it is delicious. I'm now satisfied but Jim isn't! Guess that he will have to wait for dinner!   Yesterday I sent an outfit out to be pressed and it is returned today - very easy for me.   I find a note on our stateroom door from Faye and Gary from CA - these are people that I have been e-mailing with pre cruise. We have a mutual friend who electronically introduced us to each other before we left home. I'm looking forward to meeting them at the cocktail party that Oceania is giving for the members of the Yahoo board.   We sail at 5pm and Jim and I sit on the balcony to watch.   On the way to the party we meet a couple at the elevators - upon introducing ourselves we find that this is Faye and Gary - they are wonderful people and we go up to the party together.   The cocktail party is held in the Horizon Lounge. Hors d'oeuvres are being passed around butler style -- trays of wine and champagne are being passed -- there is an open bar making for a very nice party. However, the best part is meeting the rest of the people from the message boards. Those we meet are: Claudia and Al from CA Rose and Jim from Hawaii Nancy, Ed, David and Trudy Beatty from Iowa (I have met Nancy electronically - we were introduced by Shirley Binder pre cruise. Cami and Andy Doug and Sherry from Albany Rees and Chuck from NYC Candice and Tony from NYC Harvey and Deb from FL Marvin and Ruth Charles and Ann from FL Charles and Miep Marilyn and Tom Kathy and John from CA   Besides the above, the people that we met on the flight are also here and I'm probably forgetting many names. What a great group of people. Mandy, the photographer is taking many photos of the party and even a large group shot. Now the scoop on some of our new friends - Rose and Jim were recently married, Al is her father and Claudia her step-mother. Tomorrow they are having a wedding reception on board to celebrate their marriage. The Beattys are just great and we wind up spending a lot of time with them. Rees and Chuck are in a cabin two doors down from us and we see them in the hallways often - these guys are the best. Candice is wonderful and she makes me laugh - what a bundle of fun and energy. Tony is the quieter of the two but very enjoyable to be with. Harvey and Deb we don't actually get to know very well until later in the cruise. Cami and Andy are another really sweet couple - always a big smile and big hello. Marvin and Ruth seem very nice but we don't have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with them. Charles and Ann are terrific - Ann has quite a sense of humor and gives Jim a run for his money and Charles is a real gentleman. The other Charles is very nice as is Miep. On the boards Charles told us about how they lost his wife - he was talking about her paper work for the cruise. I told Faye about how he lost his wife and she took it literally thinking that his wife had passed away and that he had quickly replaced her. We finally got that one straightened out. Miep is very much alive and kicking! Kathy and Tom are brother and sister, and they are sure to let us know that she is the much younger sibling! Both are traveling with their spouses, John and Marilyn. This foursome is such fun to be around. I can see that Tom is going to be trouble! When Jim and I were in Spain several years ago, I bought castanets for my daughter (she was a dancer) - while buying them an old woman in the shop decided to show me how to use them while dancing the Flamenco - she was fantastic - she then told me to try it - well, my performance was less than polished and rather klutzy. As luck would have it a friend was right there to video my moment of shame. I mentioned this on the boards and it became a running joke that I would be performing the Flamenco at the cocktail party this evening. The only one who seems to have remembered is my good buddy, Tom! Only Tom has somehow embellished the story a slight bit - my klutzy performance has turned into my X rated video! I make it very clear to him, that NO, I will not be performing this evening - nor any other!   After the party we join the Beatty's for dinner. Ed is a retired attorney and Nancy is full of personality, they live in Iowa. David is an attorney and victims advocate and appeared on the Sally Jesse, Oprah, and Geraldo shows - do I need to say more - the conversation is fascinating. David testifies before Congress on victim's rights and lobbies in Washington. Trudy is an activist in related fields. Trudy and David were recently married and are traveling with David's parents - this is a honeymoon for them. They live in the Washington D.C. area. Between Trudy and David, the stories just flowed! As it turns out Trudy and I have a mutual friend and have lots to talk about. It is wonderful to see the parents and children get along and have as much fun as these four do together. Our conversation ranges from crime to films to books. David is on the Atkins diet and they cater to him very well - bringing him two huge steaks. The waiters are also wonderful to Nancy - she can not eat gluten and every night someone comes over and tells her what she can eat from the menu. Once again the service is very slow but we do find out that each person's dinner is cooked to order - and it shows in the quality of the food. My dinner for tonight is escargot, duck (not at all fatty), and a chocolate soufflE - all fabulous! We are still having dinner at 10pm, so miss tonight's show - a concert performed by Tian Jiang, an international piano virtuoso. I later hear that the show was wonderful. I quickly stop in to check out the shops on board - there are two boutiques; one is mainly jewelry and the other has logo items, some clothing, books and things like that. I think that the selection is a bit limited. However, I do see a couple of very pretty pieces of jewelry that I point out to Jim. I show Jim what I like and he sometimes buys them to put away for a future occasion.   Tonight, by mistake, we left the privacy sign on the door of our room so it isn't made up when we return. Won't make this mistake again since it is so nice to walk in and have the bed turned down for you.   Before bed, I spend some time sitting on the balcony enjoying the great breeze and reading - oh, how I love this.   July 7 Monday Palma de Mallorca, Spain 8am - 12am   We wake up to another beautiful sunny day. Sleeping was once again perfect with the door open, the sea breeze coming in and the water lapping - such relaxation!   Arriving in Palma by ship is an impressive sight, with the grand bulk of the cathedral towering above the old town and the remnants of the medieval walls. From the ship the whole town can be taken in with one glance.   I'm thrilled to find that we will be in port until midnight - it seems to me that we were originally scheduled for only a half day. Jim is less than thrilled that I am on my way down to the shore excursion desk to see if we can still get onto the Highlights of Palma tour this morning - he'd be just as happy to sleep in. I hate being in the ports and not seeing all that we can. He graciously does go along with my plan. I would have liked to do the Caves of Drach but there is a waiting list for this one. We have been to Palma before but haven't done the Highlights tour so this will be something new for us.   We leave at 8:15 for our tour and Maria is our guide. We start out with Laura, John, Ann and Charles. Somehow, Laura and John wind up on a different tour bus - we try to get onto their bus but are told there is no more room. - so the remaining four of us are together on another bus. There is also a very sweet little girl, Caroline, on the tour with her Mom - she is about 10 years old and from Istanbul. The mother speaks English but Caroline speaks very little. The bus is air conditioned but it doesn't seem to be working very well.   Floating in the blue waters of the Mediterranean off the eastern coast of Spain, the Balearic Islands have managed to maintain their integrity, identity and strong links with the past. Beyond the clubs and beaches are Gothic cathedrals, Stone Age ruins, small fishing villages, and endless olive groves and orange orchards. There are four islands: the biggest is Mallorca (Mallorca means largest - also spelled Majorca), followed by Menorca, Ibiza and tiny Formentera.   The island of Mallorca is the result of a convulsion in which Africa came near to Europe; the consequences were a series of folds in the Iberian Peninsula. The folds fell one on top of the other and created the Balearic Islands. Scientists trace Mallorca's human history to 4,000BC. The Mallorcan soldiers of the time were reported to be aggressive, and the island gained a reputation for harboring pirates who attacked Roman ships in the Mediterranean. In retaliation, Romans seized control of the island in 123 BC. Then, during the decline of the Roman Empire, Mallorca was attacked by Vandals and Byzantines. Over the years, the island was influenced by variety of civilizations, including the Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Arabs. At one point it was even an independent state and later, in 1343, became the Crown of Aragon.   In the architecture of the island, we see a variety of influences. The Romans, recognizing the strategic location of Mallorca, established a military post here. Later, the Moors put their stamp on the island and Palma grew into a major seaport. In 1229, Spain conquered the Moorish stronghold. Until the 16th century, when Spain began concentrating on the New World, Mallorca functioned as a major port of call between Europe and North Africa. More recently, in the 1960's, a boom in tourism and development shaped the island, as towers of steel and concrete sprung up along the coast. Despite the development, much of the island maintains its picturesque beauty. There are cozy villages tucked away in valleys all along Mallorca's coastlines, where visitors spend enchanted hours strolling along narrow, winding streets.   Although people who live in Mallorca usually speak Castilian Spanish (and those who cater to tourists speak a dizzying array of languages), the native tongue of the Balearic islands is Catalan, and the local dialect is Mallorqumn. This language, which the Balearic people made official after the death of Franco and the federalization of Spain, looks and sounds something like a mixture of Spanish and French.   In 1983 Palma became the capital of one of Spain's newly established autonomous regions, the Balearic Islands, and since then it's shed the dusty provincialism of yesteryear, developing into a go-ahead and cosmopolitan commercial hub of 325,000 people. Palma forms an important holiday resort and commercial port. Despite having become a modern, vibrant city, Palma has managed to retain its old town and its ancient culture and charm. Palma's airport handles millions of visitors each year and plays a major role in the Balearic's tourism industry.   Around half of Mallorca's population lives in the capital, Palma, and it's a buzzing, vibrant place. By day, you can explore the attractive old quarter crammed with cobbled lanes, tree-lined boulevards, Gothic churches and designer boutiques. Wandering through the expansive maze of twisting lanes in the old quarter, you seem to forget that you are on an island. With all the activity of the city it can be difficult to imagine that the city was once a devotional retreat for Fernando and Isabel. What remain of the old city walls add to the feeling that there's always something delightful and surprising to discover around the next corner. Once known as Medina Mayurka under the rule of the Umayyad in 903, Palma was one of the most important cities in Muslim Spain - although evidence of those times is scarce, with the Arab baths one of the few remaining examples of Moorish architecture.   Lack of water is a problem for Mallorca - today they convert sea water to supply the island. It is actually cheaper for inhabitants of the island to drink wine than to drink water.   Palma has a beautiful marina with some fabulous yachts docked there. One of the yachts belongs to the king of Norway (30 million euros) and another to the Arab Emirate. Sailing is one of the most important sports here -- children begin to sail at the age of seven or eight. There is a sailing Regatta held here that attracts more than 1000 participants.   The Jewish population remained in Mallorca and was not expelled like in the rest of Spain. This was not done for any altruistic reasons - the aristocracy needed the Jews in the community - so protected the Jews, by changing the Jewish names and giving them their own names. In order to be saved the Jews had to renounce their religion and had to eat bacon as a sign of this renunciation - they were actually called bacon (in Spanish). These Jews became Christians and assimilated into the community. But now after centuries they are beginning to return to Judaism.   We drive along the Main Boulevard which is very shady with a canopy of trees. Maria points out the statue of Ramon Llull, who is considered the Father of the Mallorcan Language. She also tells us that shoes are the best buy in Palma.   We tour Bellver Castle, built in 1309, the only castle in Spain that is totally circular in design. Bellver Castle, a strong symbol of the island, dominates everything. It is one of the finest examples of military architecture of the 14th and 15th centuries, although its circular golden stone structure gives it a strangely modern appearance.   The castle is surrounded by a forest containing palm trees, evergreens and bougainvillea. It sits on a hill and is surrounded by a moat which is totally dry - the castle is built of the local sandstone which is porous and absorbs the water. Bellver houses the principle museum and is often used for concerts.   Construction started in 1300 by the orders of James II, King of Mallorca. Stone for the castle came from the nearby mountains - the transportation of the stone was easier because of the experience gained in building the Cathedral previously. It took nine years to build the basic structure -- the ornamentation was finished more slowly. The work force consisted of seventy permanent artisans and a large number of the king's slaves as well as local women.   The building is circular in layout with three semicircular buttressed towers, and a single tower some seven meters from the body of the castle. The construction is arranged around a central courtyard. The first level is constructed using semicircular arches surmounted with flat roofs and the second, upper level has Gothic arches and ribbed gothic vaults.   The original doors of Bellver are still present. There is one large door which was used for a rider and his horse to enter - this was only used when the person entering was known. When the visitor was unknown a smaller door was used and the horse was left outside for security purposes.   The castle was built as a royal residence. In the late 14th century, John I and Violet of Aragon stayed there with their court for three months. The castle has also entertained other European royalty, such as Charles I of England, the Prince of Saboya, John of Austria, the Duke of Monpensier and the present British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, as well as members of the Spanish Royal family including the present monarchs King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.   In 1717, the castle became a military prison. Between 1802 and 1808, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Minister of the Treasury, Patronage and Justice in the reign of Carlos IV, was imprisoned in one of the rooms on the first floor. The castle also acted as a prison for numerous French officers and soldiers defeated in the Battle of Bailen -- there is graffiti on the walls, carved by French prisoners of war. The castle was also used to store powder of the Franco Army and was used for executions during the regime of Franco. Maria tells us that her grandfather and his generation want no part of the castle because of its history during Franco's rule. It is the younger generation that has a renewed interest in the castle.   In 1931, the Government gave the building and the woods to the Palma City Council. It has now been turned into the Palma History museum and houses the Desuig Collection of Classical Sculpture. One especially interesting piece of sculpture is of a lady reclining - however, it isn't a lady but a castrated man. The Vatican allowed this procedure, so that men could vocally hit the high musical notes. The Museum is an exploration of the history of Palma -- it contains Palma's museum of municipal history which traces the development of the city through its artifacts, with pottery from Talaiotic, Roman, Arab and Spanish periods.   Our next stop is to Palma's Cathedral, built on top of the island's main mosque by the King of Aragon, Jaume I, the Conqueror -- it took 500 years to complete. This gothic sandstone building dominates the city's waterfront.   The foundation of the Cathedral was closely liked to the conquest of the island by Jaume I, in 1229. Control of the Balearic Islands was essential to the interests of a kingdom by then intent on expansion into the Mediterranean area, not only because of the obvious importance of its ports of call on the maritime route to the East, but also because of the need to eliminate the danger of the Muslim pirates who used the archipelago as a base for their frequent attacks on the courts of Catalonia. From the very beginning it was Jaume's wish to raise a Cathedral in the islands capital and this is mentioned in the chronicles of the conquest. According to legend, Jaume's decision was due to a vow made to God during a violent storm which threatened to sink the Aragonese fleet. At the beginning, however, it seems that the only initiative in this respect was to consecrate the city's main mosque for Christian worship and to make a number of alterations and possibly certain additions to the building. The actual scope of these changes is unknown as no part of the present Cathedral is previous to the 14th century, except for the tower built on the site of the old minaret (which explains its different orientation vis-à-vis the Cathedral.) The origin of the present structure lies in the brief but brilliant period when Mallorca became an independent kingdom, after the death of Jaume I, who in his will ordered his dominions shared among his children bequeathing the Balearic archipelago and the Crown's Trans-Pyrenean territories to his youngest son, Jaume. Constantly under threat by the Aragonese sovereigns in their successive attempts at unification, the kingdom of Mallorca survived from 1276 until 1343, when Peter IV, the Ceremonious, annexed it definitively to his realm. By that time the old mosque converted into a church was being replaced by an airy Gothic structure, which though only just begun promised to be the beautiful building we know today.   The Cathedral, as it stands today, is the equal of almost any on the mainland - and a surprising one, too, with modernista interior features designed by Antoni Gaudí. The original foundation came with the Christian Reconquest of the city, and the site taken, in fulfillment of the vow by Jaume I. Essentially Gothic, wit Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
We have been sailing for 10 years on HAL, RCCL, Seabourn, Crystal etc. This was the absolute worst cruise experience we have had. I list here in no particular order my thoughts concerning our Regatta sailing of 24 days. Nickel and ... Read More
We have been sailing for 10 years on HAL, RCCL, Seabourn, Crystal etc. This was the absolute worst cruise experience we have had. I list here in no particular order my thoughts concerning our Regatta sailing of 24 days. Nickel and Diming: $2 for both incoming and outgoing emails, replies are not delivered to one's cabin $39 for round trip "shuttle" in to Cork, local train located behind dock 4.6 euros $39 for round trip into Dublin, taxi 8 euros (the Irish tourist office called for taxis until the ship's management made them quit evoking fury from experienced LOL travelers so the ship relented) $3 for bottled water $14 corkage fee $28-68 for California supermarket wines $4.95 DAILY for newspaper of choice No daily news sheets $12 DAILY to receive and send emails from cabin $.95 a minute computer expenses for internet access. Cabin amenities: plastic bathrooms No Marble to be seen Great duvet, pillows and bed linens. Actual bed nothing special. Towels so rough and nonabsorbent they can be used as exfoliaters. No VCR without great fuss from truculent GM. One sink in premium cabin Many days of no water in the toilet Terrible smell from bilge (other?) wafting through the drain in the WC. Turning off the AC during the night, voiding use of down duvet. Returning to hot cabin after a day in port because once again they turned off the AC. In suite toiletries drying to both skin and hair. Butlers who DO NOT either pack or unpack, and very little else. Only Continental breakfast available Iin suite in the AM. Shower/Bath leaks all over the floor. Bar Services: Candied cherries rather that maraschino cherries in the drinks that require them. Nothing to make a Chocolate Martini. Extra charge for mixers i.e. soda, tonic, other. Bar appetizers laughable: scrapes of butter or mayo on see through bread with unidentifiable filling or topping. Never a server in sight when one is needed Ship's Management: Generally and politely trained to say "No" a dozen different ways Ships's Entertainment Staff: Helpful and always fun Ship's wait staff: Mostly friendly and helpful the further they were from Management Food and Dining Experience: Main Dining Room - So much for Jacques Pepin. Too much fat and salt 21/2 hours for dinner 45 minute wait if arrived at 8 pm (unless you tipped the maitre D') if arrived at 9 pm out in 45 min (all three courses) Terrace for lunch - Tear down begins 15 minutes prior to actual close Tapas Generally the best place for a meal because you can sit outside and still make it to the show Waves, the best burgers, salads and fish without the hassle of the Terrace Polo Room Best dish Rack of Lamb NOT the beef Had to send back meal 3 times and still not correctly done with wrong cut of beef Toscan Hands down the best atmosphere,service and food Head waiter Angellino and Sommlier Tanja the BEST Problems: Surly officers and other staff Smoking policy No smoking on Verandahs (violently enforced) No Cigar Room except for on deck in the wind and rain Horrid perfume in the area of the Horizon lounge where smoking was allowed (gagged as I walked by) No VCRs or video library NO TAILOR No consumption of libations brought on board in public areas (humph!) country Club Casual dismal failure, many unshaven men on board Passengers have no idea what "country Club" attire is. It short one can have "Your world, Your way" only when the management of this ship will allow. The ONLY thing management has down flat is disembarking their passengers smoothly and efficiently. What a relief to get off the Regatta! I hope future cruisers will find this "Laundry List" helpful. Dr. K.T. Elliott Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Just as background, I'm 53, and this was our third cruise. Last year we did a Viking River cruise in the Netherlands (loved it!) and the year before that cruised to New England and Canada on a now-defunct cruise line. We loved ... Read More
Just as background, I'm 53, and this was our third cruise. Last year we did a Viking River cruise in the Netherlands (loved it!) and the year before that cruised to New England and Canada on a now-defunct cruise line. We loved Oceania. We booked it because we were attracted to the port-intensive itinerary and the fact that the ship only held 684 passengers. We thought the food and service were excellent, and liked the variety in dining venues. We liked open seating, never had to wait to be seated, and found the service and food consistently great. Toscanna was a feast (and beautiful decor) and Polo could be depended upon to have great steaks and good seafood. Tapas was nice for a more casual meal, although I'm not crazy about buffet. While the food was pretty good, it still was a little less appealing because it was buffet. However, I did learn to seek out the made-to-order pasta. We only did the tea once, but it was fun. We ordered room service once and it came promptly. We ordered box lunches once -pretty good. Most of the time we just ate the breakfast buffet, but had eggs benedict once in the Grand Dining Room. Lunch we were out in port most days, but when we were on the ship, we went for casual (grill by the pool, or buffet, seated on the terrace). Our cabin was the smallest available (180 sq. feet), and inside, but it was attractive and functional. Bathrooms on the Regatta are small but we didn't spend much time in there, so it didn't matter much! Our stewardess (Katarzyna) was fabulous - very personable, always around, always willing to help out if we wanted her to. The cabin was kept spotless. Yes, the beds were quite comfy, although to really enjoy that quilt you had to crank up the A/C, which I'm not crazy about. We didn't take a single shore excursion, since we were trying to save money, and because we're pretty independent to begin with. In Europe, trains are everywhere, so we mostly sought out the train station and did our own thing. I had researched what we'd do in advance. While we missed having some commentary and hearing about what we were seeing, we DID save a lot of money by not taking the ship's excursions. We thought the port briefings were very good, and liked the fact that you could watch them on the TV in your cabin at your leisure. I also liked the web cam, since we were in an inside cabin with no window to the world! We seldom felt the ship move, and certainly didn't have any problem with seasickness. The weather was great, which helped. The nightly shows were modest but of good quality. I only made about half of them (often too tired from a full day in port!) but I enjoyed the ones I did go to. I didn't attend the "enrichment lectures" or art auctions, didn't shop much in the store, and didn't go to the spa or fitness center, so I can't comment on those. Can't comment on the internet cafe (only used a PC in the library once) or the casino, although my husband spent a bit of time there and obviously had a good time..... The ship is beautiful and my fellow passengers were just right for my husband and I (in terms of age mix, background,and all that stuff). With less than 700 people on board, you saw some people more than once, but didn't always run into the same people, which was nice. You didn't feel you were on a megaliner, looking for a quiet space. I really liked that. Embarkation and disembarkation were really fast and easy. The tendering in Portofino was painless. Getting off the ship quickly in port was important to us, and that turned out to never be a problem. The free (or two for one) air flights from Oceania are not the best - (i.e., translate lengthy!!) but I guess you get what you pay for. Service from everyone we encountered without exception was fabulous, although we're probably a little less picky about that than some other folks who've cruised more and/or expect more. Entertainment was a little limited (certainly no climbing wall!), but with the port intensive itinerary and the few "at sea" days, it really didn't matter to me. All of the ports that we visited were fabulous - including under-rated Cadiz and Malaga. I liked the fact that the ship had an overnight stop (in Cadiz). We had originally planned to spend the night in Seville but ended up not doing that. It would have been nice, however, to take in some late night flamenco and soak up that Spanish atmosphere... I heard very few complaints from any fellow passengers on this cruise. The only ones I heard had to do with Destination Services not giving out enough information for independent travelers, but my personal opinion was that perhaps people were expecting just a little bit too much for a new cruise line going to new destinations....(Would they really know where the closest ATM in Marseille is??)Destination Services, did, however, have maps and train schedules for many ports, which seemed adequate to me. We have already booked our next cruise with them - so obviously my husband and I were pretty impressed with them! Overall a wonderful line, with great food, Med itinerary, and service. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Well, here I sit at 3:00 in the morning after returning from the above cruise. This is what I usually do after a trip abroad - either write a few thoughts or manage digital pictures AND try to shake off the jet lag in the process. ... Read More
Well, here I sit at 3:00 in the morning after returning from the above cruise. This is what I usually do after a trip abroad - either write a few thoughts or manage digital pictures AND try to shake off the jet lag in the process. Usually I write a full review but I think I'll just go through a few subjects about Oceania and the cruise. First of all this was a very enjoyable cruise - how can most of them not be? EMBARKATION Embarkation can either be smooth or not. We were literally the first passengers to arrive at the terminal in Barcelona at around 9:30a.m. We had 2 days in Barcelona and were able to see as much as we wanted there and then were anxious to begin our experience aboard Regatta so we checked out of our hotel and arrived early. Speaking of the Barcelona hotel, make your own reservations as opposed to booking something through the cruise line. We spoke to many passengers who had paid DEARLY for the precruise package and their accommodations weren't much better than ours. Speaking of ours, when we finally arrived at our 3-star booked hotel, the Europark, they were overbooked. This initially sounded horrible after having just arrived from a 24-hour ordeal from the west coast, but since they were overbooked, the hotel clerk informed us that there was a 4-star hotel just up the street they would book us into at no extra charge and they'd also throw in comped breakfast for everyone and also the extra cab ride to get us over to our new hotel, the Nunez Urgell. By European standards, they were nice accommodations and the comped breakfast was fantastic. If you can't deal with your own taxi transportation to the pier, then book your hotel with Oceania, but I highly recommend doing what we did!!! Back to embarkation, once we arrived at the terminal, obviously the ship wasn't ready for us yet, and if you had a "concierge level" booking you were free to board from 11:00 a.m. on. All others had to wait till 1:00 p.m. This really was annoying for the bulk of the passengers as everyone seems to be getting on from 11:00 but they had to wait till 1:00. Not a great way to start a vacation. This seems to be the running comment in these reviews. I think they should just let you board if you're there ready to board. They can make up the extra frills for those paying for them once they're starting the cruise. I mean there were a few people literally yelling at Bruno, the concierge, who was also doubling as the 'greeter' in the terminal. Also one VERY ANNOYING thing was if you weren't concierge level or an Owner's suite occupant, you got a letter presented to you at embarkation that told you you could ONLY have one sitting at Polo Grill and one sitting at Toscana for the duration of the cruise. The letter the 'concierge level' got was TWO sittings at each, and the letter that the suite residents got was UNLIMITED sittings at the specialty restaurants. If I'm not mistaken, when perusing the brochure before I booked the cruise, I could have sworn that two sittings were standard for EVERYONE so that everyone could have an opportunity to eat there. Well, at 1:00 p.m., naturally you have to make the dash up to the restaurants to secure your sitting in the 2 specialty restaurants since everyone who got on starting at 11 was able to make theirs. So I made one reservation in each for our party of four and midway through the cruise, I demanded another sitting in Toscana. It was like pulling teeth, but I was successful. You just have to know what you want and you have to ask for it. We didn't bother dining again in Polo Grill as it wasn't that much better than the Dining Room, but Toscana had OUTSTANDING food. THE CREW Generally, the crew is outstanding. A few names and positions are worth mentioning here. Bruno Haag, the concierge, is outstandingly attentive. He is very patient - especially at embarkation (see above) - and will get you anything you need. We needed a cab called to the ship to take us to the Vaporetto station in Venice for a sunset cruise up the Grand Canal and he came through wonderfully. There were a few other things we required throughout the cruise and he was always very friendly and efficient and you can get whatever you want done and done right. The dining management is fantastic. Actually most of the dining staff and some other crew are frighteningly psychic, too. It's almost as if there are microphones/cameras in the staterooms and public areas. They seem to know exactly what you need when you need it. Names worth mentioning: Anatoly, Terrace Cafe manager; Andreas, Grand Dining Room maitre d' (On the morning we docked in Civittavechia (Rome), obviously there were hundreds of passengers on excursions and we failed to receive our preordered continental breakfast in our stateroom before heading out on our own tour; Upon our return to the ship that day, Andreas had realized the oversight and provided a bottle of Chianti for us to enjoy with our dinner - very nice touch!!!); Florin, Grand Dining Room waiter (why this gentleman isn't a maitre d' is beyond me. I've never come across a waiter so attentive and pleasant on any cruise in my life, and I've cruised about 12 times or so.) Florin serves table no. 27 (a well-placed table for 4 not too far from the windows; highly suggested) in the GDR and we always requested his table and only once did we not get seated in his area. The service that one night - while good - was not as good as at his table - once again, worth mentioning. I've read reviews from others complaining about having to wait for a table for the GDR. Only once did we have to wait and that was because we wanted a certain table. Other than that, we never waited more than a minute to be seated in the GDR. THE FOOD This is a little difficult to review. Having not sailed with Oceania but with Princess several times, Norwegian a couple times, RC a few times, and a couple of defunct lines many years ago, I wasn't sure what to expect. The food is good - don't get me wrong - and one of the nice things about Oceania is that they don't 'overfeed' you in the dining room like Princess used to do. The food portions are adequate and there's a big 'fancy' variety on the plates, but, some nights in the Dining Room just seemed boring is the best way to describe it, while other nights were outstanding. Also, a nice place to eat is the Tapas on the Terrace if you don't want to go through a complete 4- or 5-course meal and want to be a bit more casual. Lots of tasty seafood and neat stuff up there. The Polo Grill was so-so and Toscana had an excellent menu and great food. The service was GREAT in Toscana on the first night we dined there but was noticeably not as good the second night in there. Continental Breakfast in-cabin was typical and always served promptly - other than the Rome hiccup. Room service had an extensive menu and came in handy one night while in Sorrento late. We hadn't eaten since a lunch we had out on a tour and wanted to see Sorrento at night so we came back at around 10pm and had a great couple of dishes delivered to our stateroom. It's kind of nice not to see the waste of those silly midnight buffets anymore. Needless to say, after 14 days of eating like this, it's time to give the body a break!! One more thing about food/drink. The $20.00 corkage fee for bringing in your own wine is absolutely CRIMINAL. I think $10.00 should be tops ($5.00 for that matter) to open a bottle of wine. The wine steward Nikolay, while a nice man, will try to snooker you into higher priced wines. Be wary of this and shut him down early in the cruise or you will have to take out a second mortgage to pay your bar bill. And he pours the wine briskly throughout dinner so before you know it, you've gone through 2 or 3 bottles real quickly. When we want our own wine, we pour it in our room in a glass and bring it to dinner. Call it cheap or whatever you want, but this stuff adds up in a 14-day cruise. We went to both wine tastings throughout the cruise and got to taste some fine wines at a reasonable price. Some people had final bills stuck in their doors that looked like thick novels on the last day of the cruise. THE ITINERARY My wife and I traveled with her parents on this cruise mainly to see Italy where my mother-in-law's family is from originally and her dad's family is also from Slovenia so the Dubrovnik port was also a highlight. We pretty much saw most of what there is to see in Italy on this cruise and had a few nice private shore excursions with Claudio Caponera (http://www.limoinrome.com) in both Florence and Rome and also Salvatore Lucibello (driveamalfi@hotmail.com). Excellent tours!! Since Claudio was already booked by another family for Rome, he provided Carlo, his associate - just as good if not better qualified (and easier to understand; sorry Claudio) as Claudio to show us Roma. Excellent tours and I highly recommend them in these bigger and more popular cities. It's the ONLY way to see everything. People say you can't see Rome in a day; we saw everything we wanted to see in Rome in one day - and more. I also highly recommend adding the Vatican Museum to your Rome tour. We talked to some people who had booked the Florence/Pisa tour off the ship and all they saw of Pisa was the tower as it went by the window. They couldn't even get out of the bus!!! Claudio dropped us off in Pisa and we could walk around for a half hour (all you need) and take that classic fixing-the-tower's-lean picture that is so overdone. Salvatore took us not only to Pompeii, Naples and along the Amalfi Drive, but he also took us to my mother-in-law's fathers birthplace of Caserta just outside of Naples and was the perfect gentleman and waited for us to have lunch at a family-run restaurant frequented by the locals. It was great not to have any other tourists in town for this excursion and some great homemade pasta for lunch. Amalfi was a big disappointment to some passengers who were planning on this port in the itinerary. The captain decided to go to Naples instead of tendering in Amalfi the day after Sorrento. Naples isn't the jewel city of Italy, believe me, but it turned out great for us because we could just walk right over to the ticket office in Naples and we picked up ferry tickets to the island of Capri. We wouldn't have been able to do this had we tendered in Amalfi as we used up the entire day in Sorrento on a private tour. However, this changing of itineraries promotes absolutely ZERO goodwill on the part of Oceania. Many people planned this cruise BECAUSE of some of these ports and many were disappointed. The reason given was because of wind over at Amalfi and tender safety. However, friends of ours who went on Salvatore's tour the next day from Naples confirmed the fact that there was absolutely NO wind over there that day, but another cruise ship tendering instead. This concerns me for my future cruise plans with Oceania. I mean can they really be trusted with not changing future itineraries on the fly like that? Anyway, we can't complain too much about the weather, though. Our cruise experienced almost 100% perfect weather and the only time it rained was in the morning in Corfu. Other than that, there was absolutely no weather except great weather. SHORE EXCURSIONS Not much to say here. Like mentioned previously, we had 3 private tours and 5 off-ship tours. The off-ship tours were adequate as we didn't do most of the full-day ones. I don't like sitting in a bus for most of the day and we like to use half the port stay for an excursion and the other half to explore on our own. I would have liked to have more knowledgeable information for some of the ports. The so-called expert information guides that board the ship in the ports in the morning were mostly clueless when you asked them a question. In Venice for example, a little more explanation would have been nice on how to best use the Vaporettos for getting around the city. I mean once you figure them out, it's a snap, but it would have saved some time. Also in Venice they didn't dock where they promised they would dock so it cost more to get to Piazza San Marco than it normally would have. They claimed that the dock was damaged, but it looked like a vessel was docked alongside San Basilio anyway as we passed it to head to the Stazione Maritima. Anyway, time to get back to bed to bank that long-lost sleep from yesterday. Enjoy your cruises…… And Catherine, Elaine, Tatyana, Bob, Nancy, and Bill and others I've forgotten to mention, it was a fun coupla weeks!!! Read Less
Sail Date April 2005
Ours was the (in)famous "Libya-less" cruise but, in my opinion, Oceania delivered an end product that was even better. The two ports in Libya were removed, but were replaced by Mallorca, Alicante and Tanger. Gibraltar & ... Read More
Ours was the (in)famous "Libya-less" cruise but, in my opinion, Oceania delivered an end product that was even better. The two ports in Libya were removed, but were replaced by Mallorca, Alicante and Tanger. Gibraltar & Malta, which were previously removed, were also put back on. I'm not a "ticket-puncher" so, having visited the Parthenon, not being able to visit a secondary Greek ruin did not bother me. Besides, if they don't want us there, why would one want to visit (other than to "punch")? We had only done one cruise prior to Oceania, which was Athens/Turkey/Black Sea (lots of Greek ruins). The objective of that cruise was to view a solar eclipse at some lat/lon in the Black Sea ... it was memorable to say the least. The eclipse, that is, not the cruise experience which was just o.k. The ports were good, the shore excursions so-so. We were totally unprepared for what a quality cruise is really like. The shipboard appointments were elegant and appreciated from the moment we boarded through disembarkation. I can honestly say that the cuisine and service was absolutely first class. We recently visited Bordeaux and dined in the highly recommended restaurants there. The meals on board the Regatta were as good or better...but the wine in Bordeaux was better, at significantly lower cost :-) On the subject of the "iron", the ship is a good size and very well constructed and maintained. I have spent time at sea on Navy ships and knew it would be better, but was still surprised. Forty people (on Oceania air) got hung-up in SFO and they announced that the ship would not depart until they were boarded after midnight. I had expected to awaken when the ship fired-up and cast-off...that familiar engine vibration. I was surprised to wake-up off Mallorca, still hearing no engine noise. The other familiar thing missing is that characteristic diesel/lubricant/cigartte smell present on Navy ships (maybe the cigarette portion is now gone :-) Oh, the food is much better on Oceania. I won't do a port-by-port commentary, which have most likely been done by others. I will instead, describe a few unusual happenings or observations. Because of our previous experience with less than superior ship tours, we decided to explore things in port on our own. We found that quite a few shipmates did this, and exchanged ideas and experiences when running into the others on shore. The downside is, in N. Africa, that you have to run "the gauntlet" of touts and taxi drivers just ashore. We only gave in once when we couldn't find the train station in Tunis when a driver offered to take us to the Bardo Museum for 5 Euros. We, and another couple, ended up hiring him for the day. We got to see the Bardo, the Medina, Carthage, and Sidi Bou Said for 40 Euros... which seemed quite reasonable. We didn't know how lucky we were until dinner asea when others related confrontations they had with their drivers for fees upwards of $175 for less than we saw. Just the luck of the draw! Casablanca: Those on the "O-tour" did not get to visit the inside of the Hassan II mosque, which the "hoofers" do. The downside is that one has to hoof-it through the local residential areas, which can be a little unnerving if one regularly watches CNN broadcasts of Iraq. Gibraltar: The view from the top is spectacular! They obviously don't have the litigation problems that we do here in the U.S. You are welcome to walk to the edge of the cliff and take pictures without having any ugly safety railing in the way. We took the cable car up and walked down in time for tea back on board...with sore feet. Others describe Oceania cruises as "port-intensive". This is true, but was to our liking. Others comment that the entertainment is less than spectacular, which is also true. The last truism is that, having hoofed-it for a day in port, getting under that duvet after a gourmet meal is wonderful. Of the two days we had at sea, the highlights were the wine events. The first was the standard tasting, which involved five different wines. The really good one, however, was the wine pairings event. The sommelier was excellent and demonstrated bad as well as good pairings. It was quite enlightening. After 12 wonderful days, disembarkation, the only less than wonderful experience. Oceania is very polite about it but, in no uncertain terms, "Sie mussen weg jetzt erhalten" (you must get off ... NOW)!!! There are less than 700 people on board, but when they are all in the lobby and hallways simultaneously ...... That's o.k., we are hooked and booked another Oceania cruise. Read Less
Sail Date November 2005
We just returned from our 28th cruise, on the Oceania Nautica, and my wife says it is her best ever. I had booked several customers on Oceania who raved about the service and we wanted to find out for ourselves. We flew to Barcelona a ... Read More
We just returned from our 28th cruise, on the Oceania Nautica, and my wife says it is her best ever. I had booked several customers on Oceania who raved about the service and we wanted to find out for ourselves. We flew to Barcelona a day early to enjoy the city, staying on the Ramblas in Hotel Royal. $159 plus tax and we had a room overlooking the Ramblas on the 4th floor. No noise. And it is a short ride to the pier. We stayed in a category B2 balcony cabin 6077. The next cabin forward was a B1, and more expensive. All the balconies on the B2, B1, and A1,2,3 (concierge) are the same size. Only suites on deck 8 are larger. Balconies are very private. The cabin is typical of balcony cabins, but no refrigerator. The shower is very small. Service is exceptional, with 400 staff for 684 guests, and they really appear to enjoy their work and provide exceptional service. Dining is open seating in the Dining Room, and Tapas on the Terrace (the high end buffet style dining), and by reservation in the two specialty restaurants Toscano and Polo. There is no service charge for the specialty restaurants. There are plenty of tables for two, and only twice did we have a short (5 minute) wait for a table, in the Dining Room. Dinner menus seemed to have a lot of steak and beef, but there was an ample choice of fish, which included sea bass, grilled tune, corvina, swordfish, salmon, and a wok seafood dish of shrimp, scallops and salmon. Desserts were excellent, including creme brulee in the dining room and specialty restaurants. Tables for two are arranged close enough to others to talk, but separated enough to be "separate". The single pool was never crowded and there are plenty of loungers, including double seating lounges, all with cushions and terry cloth covers. The casino is small but adequate. We had not expected much entertainment, but during the 10 days we had three shows by a staff of 4 singers, and we also had a terrific illusionist, and two musical/singing performances by a husband wife team...the husband is the orchestra director. There is also a pianist in the piano bar nightly. Dancing was available nightly in a variety of locations, usually the Horizon Lounge on Deck 10 forward where a sextet from the orchestra played until 11 or 12 at night. There are no live "port talks", just a repeating short TV talk by the cruise director, and it had no port map with the daily newsletter. It wasn't until the 4th port that we discovered that for a few hours each port morning there was someone near the purser's desk who distributed local maps and provided directions and port information. These passengers are, for the most part, 55+ and well travelled. We heard no "griping" all cruise! While advertised as country club casual and the brochures show men in jackets, there were very few jackets, no ties, and women did wear nice dresses in the evening, including some cocktail dresses. The day wear was like any other ship. Internet service is VERY slow but they do have wireless hotspots all over the ship. The internet lab had about 24 stations, and there were 2 more in the library for use if computer classes were in session. They had good TV with CCN, Fox News, BBC, and a number of movie channels. There were no lines onboard, for anything, even tenders, except for embarkation check-in, which was done onboard in a lounge. There was absolutely no "pushing tropical drinks" and no onboard photographers, at all. Fine! In Barcelona they allowed me to go back on the pier, purchase wine, sangria, and gin and bring it back to my cabin. Our itinerary was termed Art Reigns Supreme and the ports reflected that. Sailing from Barcelona, we visited Marsaille, Monte Carlo, Civitavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Florence/Pisa, Amalfi, Taormina, Valetta Malta, one day at sea, and an overnight in Athens before debarking. A smaller ship, we often were in choice berths, with the larger ships further from the port. Lots of walking! And I think I have now seen all the churches and museums I could stand for a while, but the art was superb, including Gaudi in Barcelona, the Vatican Museum, the Accademi in Florence, St John's in Valetta, and of course the Acropolis, Agora, and Plaka in Athens. Without doing a travelogue, I will add that I did use Bob's Limos and Tours http://romelimousines.com/ in Civitavecchia and Livorno, and we were very pleased with experience, especially with the driver in Livorno/Florence/Pisa, who even took us via the Tuscan countryside at our request. In Athens we did use George Taxi and Limo http://www.greecetravel.com/taxi/, where George's son Dennis picked us up in a limo instead of taxi, as his father, the taxi driver, was on vacation in the islands. He took the time to help me find the house I lived in there from 1972-75, and at our request took us to local, non tourist, restaurant for lunch were we enjoyed salata horiatiki with a giant slab of feta and kalamata olives, tzetziki, moussaka, lamb fricasse, and swordfish kabobs. The "free air" included was Lufthansa from Dulles to Barcelona via Frankfort, and Air France from Athens via Paris to Dulles. Lufthansa was superb, and both offered multiple meals, and complimentary wine and cordials. All our baggage made it, leaving a day early, but some passengers whose flights were through London, never got their luggage until we arrived in Athens, due to the security scares in London. On the way back, at our connection in Paris, at gate check-in they researched all carry-ons and body searched every passenger. Having watched the news on Fox and CNN we had no problem, but it meant we didn't try to bring back bottles of olive oil or liquor, as we had planned. Oceania is a bit pricier than the premium lines (HAL, Princess, Celebrity), but the service and ambiance is wonderful. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
EXCELLENT/PHENOMENAL/OUTSTANDING !! Having read so many reviews of this and other Oceania ships prior to our sailing and the nit-picky things pointed out by so many; I guess I felt our overall experience on this particular cruise and the ... Read More
EXCELLENT/PHENOMENAL/OUTSTANDING !! Having read so many reviews of this and other Oceania ships prior to our sailing and the nit-picky things pointed out by so many; I guess I felt our overall experience on this particular cruise and the weather and calm seas made this first voyage with Oceania seem to be all of the above and much, much more! Our room was very nice and very accommodating for the amount of time we spent IN the room itself. I could have wished for a slightly larger verandah/balcony and a bit more privacy on the balcony; but it was adequate. The teakwood definitely adds to the quality of the ship on both the balcony and the main outside deck. The ship personnel were very nice and helpful and very present onboard the ship in almost everything that was going on. Our dinner reservations were late almost every evening, so we did not have a chance to avail ourselves of the ship evening shows. so we cannot comment upon those events or the quality of the performances. We found the room was cleaned and well serviced by cabin stewards throughout our entire cruise and have nothing but positives about ice buckets being full/clean towels/linens, etc. when we left the room to go about our activities. I would rate us as "experienced" large-ship cruisers with many other lines other than Oceania. I would have to say in our travels, both on land and sea, that we have had the opportunity to experience some very expensive dining meals in many venues across the world and the shipboard dining experiences we had on the Regatta were simply superb given the fact this was a mid-size ship. Attention to details was impeccable in almost every aspect of the dining experience. Could they have slowed down the services of food delivery in both Toscana and Polo.. yes, perhaps it was a bit too fast, but the presentation, the quality of food and the overall upscale dining experience was very good indeed. I would also advise you that dining restaurants close PROMPTLY, so if you have a late seating; be strongly advised they will close down service before you get finished with your dinner; esp. in the Tapas and Grand Dining Room !! Initially, there was some miscommunication among the Concierge staff and the restaurants about when the dining closed and caused us some grief; esp. on the very first night of our trip...which we resorted to Room Service on our first evening on the ship. As it turns out, it was a a good late food experience and we ended up with a bottle of wine and cheese assortment on our deck following departure from Barcelona. I also have to report a miscommunication with staff since our two bedside table lamps had NO light bulbs upon our arrival to our stateroom. While I called several times to get TWO light bulbs, I got no response from staff about the bulbs. About 11:30PM while waiting on our Room Service to arrive a ship "technician" all armed with his "electrical" toolkit arrived at the door with his trouble-sheet stating I reported both lights to have "electrical trouble" when all I said was they needed just TWO LIGHT BULBS!! He laughed and brought them to us and that was that.....just a communication/language issue. This trip for my wife and I was something that we planned for a long time and did not wish to join "large" ship tour groups to traipse around the various ports; so we did not experience those shipboard Destination Services; but we ran into several Oceania groups as we preferred to do it by ourselves and spend the time alone on shore; but that's nothing against the folks that did so! There are no children on Oceania by and large. I do think there was one 8-10 age girl with her mom and grandfather onboard the ship and the only time we saw them was at the pool deck. Oceania does pay close attention to details that other ship lines go unnoticed. The passengers and crew are/were all extremely friendly and seemed to care about your experiences onboard the ship. The computer room for e-mails and photo downloading is a definite plus for everyone and was well utilized by most during our trip. OTHER FINER POINTS OF DIFFERENCES: 1) Double-seat deck chairs for couples.. makes everything very nice to sit close 2) Walking track-deck for those early morning jaunts around the deck to get warmed up 3) Cozy Bath Robes and Lap blankets for sitting on the verandah/balcony in the morning with coffee 4) Good quality shower gel and soap amenities 5) Tenders are easy since the ship is small enough to not create problems in getting to and from shore ports if ship is not docked 6) Prices for wine/beer and liquor are reasonable prices with gratuities added on each purchase. 7) The "Brunch" in the Grand Dining Room is a wonderful experience complete with Ice Sculptures and great food selections. We will definitely book Oceania again.... - Charlie & Anne Read Less
Sail Date April 2007
Travelled in a group of 10, only 2 of whom had cruised before. We had an extraordinary experience onboard Oceania. The food in all dining areas was exceptional. Ate twice in Toscana and had the lobster. The Polo Grill has a great ... Read More
Travelled in a group of 10, only 2 of whom had cruised before. We had an extraordinary experience onboard Oceania. The food in all dining areas was exceptional. Ate twice in Toscana and had the lobster. The Polo Grill has a great Porterhouse steak. We mostly ate in the Grand Dining Room for breakfast and dinner. (no reservations required). Highly suggest the creme brulee for dessert. Ate a couple of breakfast in the buffet which were also nice, with a view, but we preferred the catering of the sit down meal. Only 1 day at sea, so we were busy. In Marseilles, we walked to town (about 10 min) and took "Hop on/off Bus" around town. 17 Euros each. Great view atop the Notre Dame de la Guard, but be prepared for lots of walking up the stairs. Then on to Monaco, again we walked to Castle area & took open tram around the town. 7 Euros each. Then we took a local bus (#100) to Nice, France. 1.30 Euro each way. Scenery of the French Riviera was spectacular. Took about 45 min each way. Destination Services were very helpful in handing out maps & highlighting routes. Next day, we pre-arranged a driver with "Driver in Rome" and toured Rome. Tour Guide was very knowledgeable took us to all the major sites, including the Catacombs, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was nice to be a small van with only 10 people getting on & off, as compared with a larger group of people. For Florence, we booked "Bob's Limo Service" & highly recommend as well. For the Amalfi Coast, most of group went with "DriveAmalfi" and went to Pompeii and found it to be a great experience. The rest of us took the ferry to Positano (right next to where our tender docked). It was 12 Euros return and well worth it. Scenery from the boat along the coast is breathtaking. Great shopping in Positano, including a shoemaker who made me a pair of sandals while I waited. You could also find lots to do in Amalfi, just by walking around and visiting the unique shops with plenty of ceramics. We didn't do much in Sicily, other than to walk to main square and shop. Some on the ship went on an excursion to Taormina and raved about it. Then it was off to Malta, one of my favorite stops. Took a bus from beside dock (1 Euro) to centre of town. Big fountain there. Toured St.John's Co-Cathedral, which is a must see! Then strolled Republic Street (pedestrian street). Again lots of unique stores & a few internet cafes. There were also stores on the pier itself, including duty-free & Hard Rock Cafe. Finally a day at sea to enjoy the ship. The pool was always crowded so we didn't spend much time there. There were usually ample lounge chairs to be found. We tried to make it for "High Tea" each day. I would highly recommend that as well. We also did the team trivia most days and met lots of great people there. The library is probably the most beautiful room on the ship. The casinos were always full at night. A few of our group would 'donate' nightly. The computer room had about 20 computers. I did take a few complimentary classes on photo downloading. Our final stop was in Santorini. We were tendered to shore and some took donkey to top (you end up walking 1/4 of the way); we rode the cable car (4 Euro each way). Lots to see just in Fira, but we took local bus to Oia (1.20 Euro each way) and had great view from higher up. About a 30 min ride. Would highly recommend the trip to Oia. Found a great bakery in Fira for baklava (ZOTOE). Next day we embarked in Athens. Very organized! Room service provided prior to leaving. In conclusion, this was a wonderful experience. We found the other passengers to be friendly and well dressed for dinner (some men in jackets). The median age seemed to be 45-60's. Ship was easy to navigate and all the staff went out of their way to acknowledge you. p.s. forget to mention the laundry; there were 4 washers & dryers and a very busy spot. Read Less
Sail Date August 2007
Cruised TA from Barcelona. This was my 7th cruise but first on oceania. After a dreadful cruise on Norwegian Spirit in February I told my TA "No more cruising'. She persuaded me to try Regatta, Im so glad she did. Ship was of a ... Read More
Cruised TA from Barcelona. This was my 7th cruise but first on oceania. After a dreadful cruise on Norwegian Spirit in February I told my TA "No more cruising'. She persuaded me to try Regatta, Im so glad she did. Ship was of a good size for socializing and events. About 700 passengers. Decor was 'classy' but not 'over the top'. CAbins were adequate and comfortable. The food was exceptional, not a bad meal. My DW did not like the scrambled eggs on the terrace, but thats being picky. Toscana was wonderful, you have to try the Chocolate Lasagna, simply decadent Polo had melt in the mouth steaks, restaurant small and personal. Neither Polo or Toscana charged extra unlike lines 'lower down the ladder' Grand Dining room was 'Grand' with good service from polite and efficient wait staff. We ate Breakfast often on the open Terrace at the Terraces Buffet, although a buffet it had great serving staff who, if asked brought tea, juice or anything else. Always cheerful and polite. Cabin Staff were unobtrusive and efficient. The Casino I never used but was of an appropriate size. One plus was the lack of smoking areas and I never smelt smoke the way one does on Norwegian. They had an outside corner and an inside corner. No smoking any where else, on pain of being set ashore. The disappointments were few: The Afternoon Tea with string quartet and white gloved waiters was abandoned after some miserable SOB complained it was 'too crowded' so they spoilt it by moving it to the Terraces Buffet- not the same. The entertainment was great with the Singers Ethan, Brett,Emily and Lindsey with a great CD Rob Wheatley. This team not only entertained but ran Trivia, PAssenger/Crew 'Olympics' Bingo etc but there were a couple of 'old time entertainers A 'Catskills type' comedian called Al and his wife Holly, both IMHO should have retired years ago and a singer called Paul. Not very good. Lectures were great if you liked Baseball (I didn't) or MArine Science. We hit a major storm, Force 10 winds, 30 foot waves which caused us to miss Bermuda. We got $100 cabin credit, which we used on MArtini TAsting and Happy Hour! Travel was good and well organized, British Airways out to Barcelona (via the cesspit that is Heathrow- but thats not Oceania's fault) transfers efficient . Air Canada back on thanksgiving weekend (ugh). I definitely will go back to Oceania for the class,food,civility and great companions and fellow travellers and above all 'value for money' Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
This morning my Sister and her partner are somewhere in Barcelona excitedly awaiting their first ever cruise and they have chosen to join us on Regatta...they will not be disappointed! Barcelona: We were up at 6.00am, ship docks at ... Read More
This morning my Sister and her partner are somewhere in Barcelona excitedly awaiting their first ever cruise and they have chosen to join us on Regatta...they will not be disappointed! Barcelona: We were up at 6.00am, ship docks at 7.00am. Breakfast on the Terrace, great as usual, we appreciate the lack of lines and the smooth efficiency. We get a taxi(10E) to Praca de Espana FCG Station, we wanted to catch the 8.16 train (E20.90 for the Transmontserrat ticket) to Montserrat Aeri (cablecar) We arrive at the base at 9.20 first cable car is at 9.40, only five passengers. The cable car did not accept the train ticket pass therefore we had to pay an additional E5.00 each. The next station (monistrol de Montserrat is where the included funicular departs for the Monastery. Very pleasant visit - no crowds until we were ready to leave, when loads of school children start arriving. We are back in Barcelona by 1.00pm. Shopping and wandering along Ramblas. We meet up with my sister on the ship. They had just arrive and thought that our knock on their cabin door was someone bringing their luggage! Palma de Majorca: There is a shuttle bus from the dock, however, unlike on a previous cruise we are not dropped off near the Cathedral, but just outside the dock gates at a city bus stop. We stopped the first bus (#3) and asked if he went to the city centre, he did, it was about one euro each and we were downtown in 15 minutes. Walked around, saw the cathedral & cloisters, side walk cafe, people watched etc... then a taxi back to the ship (E12.00) Very pleasant early afternoon sailaway sitting on the terrace. Back to our room to discover that our tour to Arles from Marseilles tomorrow has been cancelled, a minor disappointment. The Tour desk was able to get us on to a similar trip to Avignon. Marseilles: We went on a ship's tour to Avignon. It was well organized we left at 8.30 from the Regatta Lounge and the bus parked in Avignon at 9.55. We toured the Pope's palace and were then free to walk around town and buy lunch. We purchased a picnic from a Fruiterer (cheeses, game pie, ratatouille(sp?)wine) and sat on the grass near the bus overlooking the pont at Avignon. We then drove to Le Beaux de Provence a great little, medieval hill town, busy but not overcrowded. We arrive back at the ship at 5.00pm. We had a lovely dinner in Toscana, Ruis the waiter was very friendly and attentive. Saint Tropez: This was a tender port, the tendering was quick and with hardly any line-ups and went very smoothly. We got off at a dock in the centre of the Marina. We walked up to the Citadel and were rewarded with fantastic views of the town and Regatta at anchor in the bay. We were back on board by 2.30 and we spent the afternoon on the pool deck sunbathing and taking a dip in the pool. We had dinner at Tapas with a backdrop of Saint Tropez harbour. The evenings entertainment was a medley of the entertainers singing...it was ok but not good. In fact we wandered up to Horizons after the show and came across a Karaoke event. This was funny to watch especially the slightly inebriated gentleman who gave a rendition of "Macho Man" The cruise entertainment staff ran this very well. There are definitely more people staying up later on this cruise than on our Transatlantic leg. Monte Carlo: Docked at the new jetty, there was a TI on the Dock. We had got off early and the cross harbour ferry boats were not yet running so we walked around the promenade and saw the preparations for the Grand Prix. We caught a bus to Eze along the middle corniche (E1.00). The Bus stops at Cremallaire, Find the TI above the Casino then go directly across the road and up a narrow steep street with steps and the bus stop is in front of you over the road at the top. Eze was fantastic. We left Eze and caught the same bus on to Nice. A great city and the antiques market down near the sea front was really interesting. We caught the train back to Monaco wandered around the Prince's Palace area, saw the cathedral and Maritime Museum and this left us on the clifftop above our ship. There are a series of paths and steps leading down to the dock. We had another great dinner on the Terrace overlooking the lights and harbour of Monte Carlo. I'm ready for a sea day!!! unfortunately there isn't one so we'll have to create a relaxed day in Portofino Portofino: Another Tender port...we took the local bus to Santa Margerita; one euro each way.Nice relaxing day, Portofino was relaxed and we had coffee under canopies on the harbour front while we waited for a heavy rain shower to ease. We got back to Regatta in time to enjoy afternoon tea in horizons. very calm and the waiters are very pleasant and efficient. We went for dinner at Polo. They were busy and service was a little slow, but it didn't spoil the wonderful food or the ambience of the room...elegant and relaxed. Livorno / Sienna and San Gimingano This was a busy, busy day with our first visit to Sienna...wow what a fantastic city. Lots of school children. Our tour guide explained that this time of year is when Italian children (approx 15yrs old) go on cultural trips to their main tourist sites ,this explained why we were seeing all these coaches full of children. We ate a sandwich sitting in the middle of the Campo. So much to see we will be going back. San Gimingano was great, well worth a visit. The tour was well run and the guide was friendly and helpful. We arrive back at the ship to find that our Butler (Mihai) had left us 2 pots of tea and some nibbles. Now that is great service and very thoughtful. We had been away from "home" for 11 hours and this was really welcoming. We wandered up to Tapas for a relaxed dinner. Olbia Sardinia A welcome relaxed day. The shuttle bus into town was easy, if a little crowded. The town was easy to navigate, prices are reasonable. Back on board at 12.30. Headed for the pool. It was very windy and big black clouds were racing across the sky. We sunbathed and cloudbathed by the pool developed goose bumps and to quote my sister "we're British and on holiday therefore we will suffer through this" at least we had no problem getting a sunbed!! (incidentally, we never had a problem getting a convenient sunbed in all the 22 days) We had a message from our son, there was 18" of snow in Calgary yesterday, this goes to prove bad weather is relative. Sorrento /Capri A lovely day. Jet foil to Capri. Bus to Anacapri. Chairlift to the summit. Ch San Michelle for the tiled floor. villa San Michelle. Eggplant pie and beer for lunch. Bus back to Capri Town, wandered around the narrow streets, soaked up the obvious affluence, window shopped along "rodeo drive", funicular back to Marina Grande and a Jetfoil back to Sorrento. Had another outdoor dinner on the terrace and then went back for an after dark stroll around Sorrento along the Via San Cesareo. The ship was scheduled to stay at anchor in Sorrento until 5.00 am the next morning but the Captain had made us very aware of the fact, before anyone tendered off the ship, that he was leaving at midnight. Amalfi / Positano Our last full day, we are fairly relaxed and go to the Grand Dining Room for a full breakfast, it was excellent. Tender ashore at 10.00am tender back at 10.15! a really heavy rain had swept in, umbrellas were turning inside out, we got our raincoats and went back to wander around town, saw the cathedral of St Andrew. Saw a few Oceania umbrellas in the garbage cans on the dock when we returned to the tender. Packing in our room during the afternoon then we had wine on our balcony as the Captain steered the Regatta close to shore for a fantastic sail-by of Positano. Another example of the ship and it's staff and crew taking care of their passengers. We had dinner in the GDR that evening...I don't know what caused the poor, rushed service. Maybe it was last night workload, but after 21 excellent dinners on board, we were left with a poor final impression. But...having said that we have booked two more cruises with Oceania. Disembarkation in Rome This whole event was flawless, the Captain and General Manager were on the dock shaking hands and saying farewell to all departing passengers. Just think there were some fortunate people staying on for a back-to-back. We took Oceania's bus to the airport it arrive at 8.30 a very comfortable time to make our scheduled flight time of 12.30 back to Calgary via Toronto. Summary We are going back to Oceania...the Cabin was quiet, service was excellent, amenities were good, the ship size was perfect the band played good dance music, the ship's condition was excellent, it was clean and well maintained. We really enjoyed this port intensive half of our back-to-back from Miami to Rome. The Transatlantic leg, however, was one long relax...I guess we've turned into sea-day cruisers. By the way, my Sister and partner were so pleased that they had chosen the Regatta to start cruising. My only warning to them was that they have to be careful going on other lines now that they have experienced the relaxed elegance of Oceania. Read Less
Sail Date April 2008
My husband and I were on the Regatta in May 2008 for the Barcelona to Rome cruise. We flew into Barcelona one day ahead of time and stayed at the Olivia Plaza Hotel in a suite on the 5th floor. This hotel is a small boutique hotel and has ... Read More
My husband and I were on the Regatta in May 2008 for the Barcelona to Rome cruise. We flew into Barcelona one day ahead of time and stayed at the Olivia Plaza Hotel in a suite on the 5th floor. This hotel is a small boutique hotel and has an excellent location close to everything. They let us check in at 9:30 a.m. The rooms are very modern but we really liked the layout and the price for a suite was very reasonable compared to other hotels. It was very quiet and we would highly recommend it. They recommended a great restaurant for dinner called 4 Cats. We would recommend making reservations and asking for the back room where there is live music during dinner. BOARDING: We boarded the ship around 12:30 p.m. It all went smoothly except they misprinted our welcoming letter to say we only had 2 guaranteed nights at the private restaurants when we actually had 4 because we were on the concierge level. After waiting an hour in line to make our reservations, (This was one area where service was terrible. This process shouldn't take this long and is not a great way to start your vacation. The man that took the reservations had a definite attitude.) the maitre de realized it was a mistake and made 4 reservations for us. Did not have a lot of choice in days and times so I would recommend the earlier you board the ship the better in regards to getting reservations. We then went to the buffet lunch in the Terrace Cafe which was good and then went to our room to find our luggage waiting. The room was great it looked exactly as it appears online. The bathrooms and shower are small but to be expected on a cruise ship. The room was never too small for us and would never not have a balcony because we utilized it often. We ate in the main dining room the first night. It was stormy the first two nights and the ship definitely feels the motion. In fact you rarely didn't feel the motion of the ship when at sea. We had the patch you put behind your ear for sea sickness and I would highly recommend this. We were never sea sick but many others were. FOOD: In regards to dining we ate twice each in Polo and Toscana, once at Tappas on the Terrace, once on our balcony with room service and the rest in the main dining room. In summary most of the food on the ship is good, sometimes great but never 5 star. Polo has great steaks and my husband had fish one night which he said was good. Toscana overcooked my pasta the first visit but did an excellent job on our second visit which was the last night of the cruise. Both specialty restaurants are preferable for dinner and the most consistent in quality. The main dining room is inconsistent and the service is extremely rushed. The seating for two is unpleasant. We were most often put in the section that had three tables all right next to each other. So you had no privacy. We started to go to dinner really late and request not to have those tables. In the restaurants you can order as many courses as you like. Some people ordered all five we usually picked an appetizer, main course and dessert which was plenty of food. We either had breakfast in the Terrace Cafe or had room service. Lunch we had in the Terrace Cafe, Waves Grill or where ever we were touring. Terrace Cafe is great for breakfast and lunch with alot of selection. The Waves Grill has great hamburgers and I am not a person who usually eats hamburger but they were excellent. Also the fish sandwich and lemonade was good but skip the milkshakes at Waves. In the main dining room it is hit or miss, sometimes I couldn't find anything that sounded good to me so I would order a standard chicken dish they had on the menu. I ordered pasta once and it was inedible. I had a stir fry one night that was excellent. Salads were good and soups were hit and miss. My husband did like their french onion. I love dessert but I have to say the desserts were average and not memorable. My husband had one called chocolate silk that was very good one night. I would save the calories for a gelato on shore. By far the best ice cream we have ever had was the gelato in Europe. In Lucca we bought some biscotti which were also the best ever! We went to Tappas on the Terrace once because we weren't that hungry and it was a good thing because it was terrible. One fun night we has was when we put our table from the room on the balcony and ordered up room service for dinner. We were in Sorrento that night and our side of the boat faced the city. We had bought a bottle of wine in town that day and had a lovely dinner on our deck. We did high tea once and were a bit disappointed in the food. The service was excellent. DRINK: We thought the drinks were fairly priced. We usually have a bottle of wine with dinner and maybe one or two after dinner drinks and we found prices comparable to any major city. We bought our own wine as we started to tour and just paid the corkage fee. The ships selections were fine but we wanted to try different wines from the region. If you don't finish the bottle, they will cork it for you and store it for the next night no matter what restaurant you are in. We bought water when we stopped at the different ports. We are not big soda drinkers so that wasn't an issue for us but it is $2.50 for a can of diet coke. What we missed most was a decent cup of coffee. Their coffee is terrible and their cappuccinos are tiny so we switched over to tea and would get a cup of coffee once we got in port. Good coffee is not a hard thing to do. It doesn't have to be Starbucks quality but it shouldn't be mud either especially for what this cruise cost. TOURS/PORTS: We did the following tours: Hilltop Villages of Provence, Villages Tour in St. Tropez, Eze and Monaco Tour; Pucci, Lucca and Pisa Tour; Pompei and Amalfi/Positano Tour(cancelled). None of the tours were bad. Most of these ports were absolutely spectacular. We have traveled to alot of parts of the world but I found these ports and outlying towns just beautiful. Don't book too many long days it definitely burns you out. One thing you should know is that on a tour if they give you an hour for lunch it is not enough. They believe in leisurely lunches in France and Italy and you won't have time. Service is very slow. We ended up grabbing a gelato most of the time or broke away from the tour early. This also applies to shopping. Most of the tours gave you free time just when the shops were beginning to close. Most shops close from 12:30 or 1:00 p.m. and re-open around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. So we would often break away from the tour if we wanted to shop or have a sit down lunch. MALLORCA: We didn't take any tours. We just walked around the town where the ship was docked. It was unremarkable. MARSEILLES/PROVENCE: Well worth doing were the Hilltop Villages of Provence (beautiful scenery). Cannot wait to go back here some day. We heard MARSEILLES was horrible. Definitely get out of town here. ST. TROPEZ: After doing the Provence tour the ones in St. Tropez were disappointing. Lots of shopping here. We wished we had spent more time just walking around St. Tropez and maybe taking a taxi over to see Cannes. MONTE CARLO/MONACO: Eze was not that spectacular if you are doing Provence. We wished that we just did Monaco on our own. The guide takes you to the church where the graves are but fails to point out that you can tour the palace. We stumbled upon it and really enjoyed the self tour. The tour cancelled the casino tour because of the Gran Prix but failed to tell people they could take a boat over from where we docked in the afternoon. Some people opted to walk over to it but I guess it was quite a walk. PORTAFINO: Our favorite stop! We took the ferry over to St. Margarita and had lunch. It was a pretty town also but Portofino was nicer. You don't need a tour for these towns. LIVORNO: Puccini/Lucca/Pisa: If you are really into Puccini you will love the tour of his house. We weren't huge fans but found it very interesting. Lucca was a great little medieval walled village that was worth seeing. My husband really wanted to see and climb Pisa. The tour part of Pisa was great but they neglected to tell us we were on our own for getting tickets to walk to the top so by the time my husband went to get tickets they were sold out. Very disappointing. Get your tickets when you first get to Pisa if you want to walk to the top. We talked to another couple on our ship and they took a taxi over first thing in the morning and there was hardly anyone there. I think that would be the way to go. By the time we got there in the afternoon it was extremely crowded (beware of pickpockets) with all of these stalls set up selling souvenir stuff very aggressively. If you are interested in Pisa it was well worth seeing and is not that far from where the ship docks so you could definitely hire a cab for much less than the tour and definitely go in the morning. If you want to see Tuscany our trip didn't go through that area. SARDINIA: We didn't do a tour here. The main town was boring we should have stayed on the ship. POMPEI: We really enjoyed this tour. The drive was pretty and two hours was enough for us at the site. We had the rest of the afternoon in Sorrento which was lovely. AMALFI/POSITANO: We were signed up for a tour that takes you by boat to both towns. When we went to check in in the morning they informed us it was cancelled because of rough weather. The land tour was also cancelled due to lack of participation. I understand that if the weather is rough it isn't safe to go but we should have been notified before we arrived to get on the tender that it was cancelled. No apologies from the staff. Their response was an announcement was made but if you didn't have your tv turned on to the proper channel you didn't hear it. Most people didn't hear it. I thought this was rude and unacceptable. There is not that many people on these tours. They could have slid a note under everyone's door giving them the option to sleep in or at least go have a relaxing breakfast. We ended up getting on the tender to Amalfi and spending the morning there. Amalfi is a beautiful town with a beautiful church in the main square. My husband and I are Catholic and it was Sunday so we went to mass in this beautiful church which was great. There are some nice shops off the main square which was good for gift buying (Pottery, Limecello). We went back to the ship to pack and my husband actually had time to lay by the pool! After talking to some other passengers it seems that Positano often gets cancelled due to weather. If I had to do it again, I would have planned a trip from Sorrento because this was one of the two ports I had specifically come to see. Disappointing but we so loved Italy we are already planning a trip back on our own. ENTERTAINMENT: The shows were average. We caught part of most of them. It was something to do after dinner. The casino was popular. I played blackjack once and a few slots. The nightlife is very minimal as expected when everyone is touring so much during the day. Most of the entertainment is geared towards an older crowd. COMPUTER ROOM: Only used it once to print boarding passes for our flights. The staff was very helpful. I was on about 20 minutes and it cost $20. Also, phone calls are very expensive make sure you have a phone card to use at pay phones on shore or an international phone. LIBRARY: Good selection of books and bad selection of newspapers. My husband bought newspapers every time we went to port. DISEMBARKATION: Very smooth and well organized. One person's luggage that I knew of was lost and didn't make it from ship to airport but it also wasn't locked. SUMMARY: The ship was very nice and the quality was what we expected. The staff was outstanding. The overall service level was very good with a special mention for our room stewardess Ruby, Mike the manager of the Terrace Cafe, the Managers in both Polo and Toscana and the waiters were all good but the ones in Toscano were found especially warm and friendly. Also, the security staff did an excellent job of getting people on and off the tenders on those rough water days. They may it very safe and were always cordial. The ports exceeded our expectations and we look forward to going back to some of the areas in the future. As far as the cruise itself, we probably won't cruise Oceania again. I don't know if it was the large wine tour that was on board and other large groups but we found the passengers unfriendly. You could literally pass someone in the hallway and say hello and they wouldn't respond. At dinner it was the same. Tables were very close together in the main dining room but no one would talk to each other. It was odd. On the tours people didn't interact much and you would see someone the next day on the ship and they wouldn't even acknowledge you. Someone told me I would meet the most interesting people on this ship and it was quite the opposite. Some of the people we did meet that were friendly said they had the same experience. Most people are over 55/60 years old on these ships and we were much younger so maybe that was the disconnect. Some people were just snobs. We weren't looking for new best friends but it would have been nice to have more people to socialize with. As far as ports and tours they were all great but we did miss traveling on our own, having a variety of restaurants to go to and really experiencing the culture more. So we have decided cruising probably isn't for us at the point in our lives. If you are over 60 and you have a group of people you are traveling with this would be a good cruise line for you. Everything is geared for that demographic. The overall quality is good but the food is more 3.5 to 4 star. Read Less
Sail Date May 2008
This cruise review should be read with the understanding that it was our FIRST Oceania cruise of the 18 cruises we had done to this point. The standard for comparison was Holland America Line, with which we have done 11 cruises to date, ... Read More
This cruise review should be read with the understanding that it was our FIRST Oceania cruise of the 18 cruises we had done to this point. The standard for comparison was Holland America Line, with which we have done 11 cruises to date, and whose service and ambience we have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. We chose this particular cruise partly because it gave us a chance to cruise on Oceania's Regatta, a ship (and cruise line) about which we had heard so many positive comments, and partly because the attractive fares offered for the transatlantic route gave us a chance to try it at a moderate price. The booking went well. Our only disappointment was the air routing selected for our return trip from Miami to Toronto. Surprisingly, with so many nonstop direct flights to Toronto out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Oceania's air department gave us a flight on Northwest Airlines, with a stop and change of planes in Detroit. Although other Canadian cruisers had been able to get this changed, Oceania told my TA that we would have to pay $400, and still no guarantee of a nonstop flight. Needless to say, we declined. Our flight to the ship (overnight Toronto to Frankfurt and then Frankfurt to Barcelona) went fine (but why, oh why does Frankfurt make connecting passengers go through security again??!!), and the transfer to the ship was smooth and well-organized. Check-in was a breeze, the best ever in 18 cruises. What a treat after a long travel day. Unfortunately, we had to wait a couple of hours for the cabins to be ready... understandable, but a bit disappointing. Our cabin was a verandah cabin, very far forward on deck 6. Although noticeably smaller than the HAL cabins were are accustomed to, it was adequate and nice & bright and comfortable. The bed was VERY comfortable. A tip, though: If you prefer sheets and blankets to a duvet, ask your cabin attendant to use them at your first opportunity, because the default treatment is duvets. The sliding doors to the verandahs are a nice innovation. We have found that at least half of our neighbors on HAL ships let their (swing-open) verandah doors SLAM shut. The bathroom was another story... "tiny" is inadequate to describe the shower stall, although it's probably a fair description of the bathroom overall. Just be prepared to bang elbows and knees in the shower, and to get very familiar with the clinging shower curtain. One surprise in the cabin was the lack of a privacy curtain between the main part of the cabin and the door to the corridor. Flashing, anyone? The other big surprise was the loud banging every time we crossed a wave at right angles. The seas were fairly rough, and we expected the motion, but not the banging that went on all night long as we crashed across each wave for 2 consecutive nights. We did a "cabin crawl" on this cruise and we were, as usual, impressed with the suites. We thought the Penthouse suite (actually a really large cabin & large verandah, not really a suite) was very nice, without the excessive grandeur of the Vista and Owners' suites. The Staff: Superb in every way. The dining room staff, the staff in all of the other dining venues, the cabin attendants, the bar staff, the activities staff, and the ship's officers and crew were all friendly, cooperative, smiling and helpful. It was definitely the highest service level we have experienced (yet without being "fawning" or obsequious). The Food: In a word: "Wonderful." Oh, there may have been a very few things that we thought were better done on HAL ships (the bread pudding & cobblers, the ice cream with liqueurs, the french toast come to mind) but the preparation of the food on the Regatta, the presentation, and the incredible variety were all first-class. Their breads and pasties were exceptionally good. And the fresh fruit!! The 2 'Optional" restaurants were very nice, and there was no extra fee to use them. If you were booked in a category B thru G cabin C thru G?), you were allowed one reservation in each, and the suites got 2 each. (You could also try for additional bookings if there were vacancies.) We found the Polo restaurant to be of little advantage over the main dining room; in fact, our friends with a suite gave up their 2nd Polo reservation. The Toscana restaurant, on the other hand, was a superb dining experience. One suggestion I would make is to book your specialty restaurants early.... the choice becomes very limited very quickly. (We found it unsatisfactory to have to book our visits to the specialty restaurants without knowing what the scheduled entertainment might be for the selected night.) We also tried the "Tapas on the Terrace" one night. Although we were (again) most impressed by the variety and quality of the food, evening buffet dining was not our preference, so we did not return to that venue. And, by the way, dress is always "Country Club Casual," and all dining venues except the alternative Polo and Toscana restaurants (which require reservations) are open-seating. The Activities: There were enough activities, I think, but certainly not too many, as we expected on a small ship with fewer than 700 passengers. We did fall into a somewhat monotonous routine, with the same events scheduled every day, and always at the same time. Overall, though, we were satisfied. The Activities staff was incredible, with the Cruise Director, David, and his staff of Chris, Emily, Kami & Christopher, all of whom were talented singers to say the least. The remainder of the entertainment (contract entertainers) was adequate for a small ship, but we've seen better. The exception was Mark Worgan, a hilarious magician/comedian. The ship itself was lovely.... a tad old-fashioned, having been built over 20 years ago and then refurbished, but very beautifully furnished and decorated. The layout was relatively straightforward, and it took very little time to feel at home. The public rooms and lounges were warm and welcoming. The main show lounge appeared small but was never overcrowded. There was no movie theatre, but they did show one or two movies in the main show lounge. The orchestra was the best... by far!... of any cruise we have been on. And there was also good entertainment in the Piano Bar (Martini Bar) and by the strings trio. We really missed having a full walk-around promenade deck... something HAL has retained on its ships. The shops on board were adequate (barely) and staffed with charming people. There were VERY few items available such as you'd find in a "tuck" shop on a larger ship, so you are more likely to be shopping for odds & ends at your first port of call. There was also NO shop selling bottles of alcoholic drinks to take to your rooms. I assume for that reason, Oceania is among the very few Cruise Lines that don't mind if you bring bottles of booze onboard (as long as it's for use in your cabin). We did find the bar and wine prices a little higher than HAL, but Oceania IS a step above, and their bar prices (and gratuities schedule) show it. Ports of Call: Tangier Morocco was interesting. We took a ship's excursion that visited the Casbah, the Medina, and some of the nearby coastline. It was very good, but I could have spent a lot more time in the Medina. Would I go back.... it's unlikely. Funchal, Madeira: Beautiful, safe, lively.... we just walked around, went to a craft flea market and to the fish market and others. Never got to see the island. Would we go back? Yes, without a doubt! Hamilton, Bermuda: This was our second time in Bermuda and we enjoyed it as much as the first. Safe, clean and civilized and drop-dead gorgeous. Would we go back? Absolutely!! We were amazed at the number of repeat Oceania cruisers. There were about 500 repeaters on board, or 70%+ of the passengers. Quite an accomplishment for such a new cruise line. The reasons why became clear throughout the cruise. Oceania has definitely raised the bar. (I wonder if that's a reason why we found the always great service on the HAL Zaandam in September to be even better than ever.) We tried once again before the end of the cruise to have our return air arrangements improved, but to no avail. All they could offer us was a later nonstop, at $350 extra and getting us into Toronto at the same time as what we had. We were very annoyed about this, especially when we determined that every other Canadian on board who was returning to Toronto on disembarkation day had been booked on Air Canada nonstop flights at convenient times. We felt badly treated about this issue. Will we repeat on Oceania? Without a doubt. But we'll almost certainly arrange our own air! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
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
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
I will try to be as complete, candid and unbiased as possible.  I will not tell you everything is perfect or that everything is terrible. All cruises have good points and bad points. Hopefully, the good far outweighs the bad.Pre-cruise, ... Read More
I will try to be as complete, candid and unbiased as possible.  I will not tell you everything is perfect or that everything is terrible. All cruises have good points and bad points. Hopefully, the good far outweighs the bad.Pre-cruise, Barcelona: We arrived after a relatively simple two flight legsLAX to Heathrow, Heathrow to Barcelona around 7:45 pm and took the VERY EASY "Aerobus" from the airport to Placa Catalunyasteps from our hotel, the Hotel Continental. A taxi could not have been much simpler or easier and the cost was minimal.The Hotel Continental is both incredible AND disappointing. The incredible: The location. There could not be a better location in all of Barcelona. We had a Las Ramblas View Balcony Room on the "Third Floor" literally looking straight down on all of the action on Las Ramblas. Right out the front door was a choice of restaurants, shops, bars and more. It was NOT noisy when the doors were shut and the drapes drawn. There were electric shades, operated by a switch near the door, which closed the room off from the outside light. The disappointing: My wife hated the bedthought the mattress was too hard. The room was rather small and the reports were correct about the "plastic furniture". I was fine with it.  It's not like we had to live there for more than three nights and, to me, the location was unbeatable. To my wife, she would have preferred a more upscale five-star hotel with a big soft bed.There was free internet and a public computer down in the main lobby area. The 24 hour buffet was well stocked including free 24 hour beer and wine.  Of course, it wasn't exactly Napa Valley Cabernet they were servingbut free is free.Embarkation: We checked out of the hotel around 11 am and took a taxi right to the ship. Embarkation was well run and easy and we were on the ship in minutes enjoying a nice lunch at the buffet. First, of course, we stopped by Polo and made our reservations for our nights in Polo and Toscana.The Nautica: This was our second cruise on the Nautica. We were on it in 2006, just after Oceania acquired it and refurbished it. Three years later I can tell you the ship is in great conditionlooks brand new. Hard to believe it is a 10 year old ship. There is not a single instance where I noticed any material wear. Our cabin (#7051midship deck 7, category A1 Concierge level) was exactly as I remembered from last timespacious, well appointed.  King sized bed, small love seat type sofa, desk, small table, balcony with two deck chairs. Public areas are limited, but appropriate for this size shipnever felt crowded, always able to find a seat in any venueincluding deck chairs on at-sea days and reasonably located seating for the shows even when arriving barely on time.Dining: This cruise confirmed for me that this is one of the really strong points for Oceania. The food was consistently excellent, menus were varied and offered many choices. Service was good (We'll get to the few issues later on). We generally ate in the Main Dining Room for all meals except our two nights in Polo and two in Toscana and the two occasions we had room service breakfasts delivered to our cabin. Toscana, in particular, was excellent. Some of our friends found Polo a little disappointingmostly in the quality of the steak.  Of course, I ordered lobster both nights so I wouldn't know.Entertainment: As much as Dining is a strong point, entertainment is Oceania's weak link. Of course, if entertainment doesn't matter much to you, it is no big deal. As there is never more than one show per night (at 9:45) and there could not be more than half the ship there, obviously, over half the passengers really didn't care. There were basically only three "headline" performers on the ship: Comedian Tom Drake, Guitarist Vincenzo Martinelli and Magician Harry Maurer. Being a small ship, I actually had the opportunity to meet, socialize with and have drinks with both Tom and Vincenzo as well as Piano Bar pianist and part-time headliner Jerry Blaineand these are all great guys and wonderful performers. Tom is quite funnyand a perfect match for a cruise shiprelates well to the audience and really seems to love this job. Vincenzo is an amazing guitarist. We have had the opportunity twice now to enjoy Jerry's work and he almost seems like family. So, when I question Oceania's entertainment, it really isn't an aspersion aimed at these guys. They are all quite good. What Oceania lacks is in quantity and variety. On a 14 night cruise, with only three individual headliners to draw from, you end up overexposing all of them. as good as Vincenzo is, hearing flamenco and classical guitar for four shows gets to be a bit much. Some nights, there was no real main showthe time slot was replaced with "Movie Night".  Three nights, the show was staged as a singing show spotlighting one of the female assistant cruise directors, Joanne and Lucy and one night by Jerry moving his act to the "big room". If one is accustomed to the entertainment one finds on the big ship cruise lines, this line-up can be quite disappointing. That said, we still enjoyed the showsthough we always felt a little let down to find only "movie night" on the program.Activities, night life and at-sea days: More noticeable to us than the entertainment deficiencies is the relative lack of activitiesas much a result of ship size and passenger demographic as it is any fault of Oceania's. With a small ship, you simply have limited venues and limited staff. And a majority of passengers seemed to be in bed by 9, so even where activities were scheduled, they were sparsely attended. I am a night person and, I guess, relatively young compared to the overall ship demographics. At night, after the aforementioned show, there was typically only one activity on the agendathe "disco". On a typical night, there were more crew members than passengers in the disco.  I guess that's one reason I found myself socializing with as much of the crew and entertainers as I did. There was Karaoke only two nights and very few volunteer performers.  I actually found myself singing four times (CCR's "Lodi" and "Looking Out My Back Door", the Beatles' "Back in the USSR" and the Boxtops' "the Letter") and those who know me well know well that I can't carry a tune.  Of course, that's what usually makes Karaoke fun.  But, on the Nautica, there was hardly anyone there to enjoy it.  Again, the passengers' fault, not Oceania's. What was Oceania's fault was the dreadful selection of Karaoke choices.  I wanted to do the Kinks' "Lola"and it was on the list, but wouldn't work.  Past that, NOTHING by Jimmy Buffett (and this is supposed to be a cruise ship??).  They had a few Rod Stewart tunes, but NO "Maggie May"!!!Trivia: Okay, for me, this is a BIG item. I love triviaand never miss a session on an at-sea day or when returning from port on time. We had a team comprised of members of our CruiseCritic.com Roll Call and won virtually every trivia session, even trouncing the competition, including a team made up of Cruise Director Dottie and the Crew the one day she turned the quiz over to one of our members to host (thus taking a valuable member off of our team). All lots of fun. But, here is the "downer": All cruise long, they were hyping the "Collect 'Big O' points".  On other cruise lines, there is "instant gratification" for winning a trivia sessiona key chain, a t-shirt, a water wallet, a hat, a luggage tag, a ball point pen or some other meaningless logo trinket.  I do have a drawer at home filled with these itemssouvenirs of a sort from many wonderful cruises.  Most sort of worthless, but occasionally a really nice prize like a t-shirt or a tote bag. Now, last time on Nautica, we had this "points" thing and, at the end of the cruise, they put out a table with a variety of items. We were sort of expecting the same this time.  I figured I'd walk away with maybe a hat and a t-shirt or something of the sort based on how many Big O points I had collected. Imagine our surprise at the end of the cruise when the ONLY items offered in exchange for all those Big O points (in my case, over a hundred) were Oceania Mouse Pads or plastic screwdriver/penlight combos.  Who even uses a mouse pad nowadays?Here's the thing, Oceania: DROP THE "BIG O" POINT THING.  It only infuriates people. If you are not going to give out some sort of meaningful prize, don't tell people to collect "points" for 14 nights. Other cruise lines give out better "prizes" for winning a single trivia game or other activity.  You look really cheap giving a mouse pad to someone who's won every activity for 14 nights. Rather than do what you are doing, it would be better to tell everyone in advance that the activities are for the fun of it only and no prizes will be awarded.  For me, I'd likely play anyway.  I enjoy the "sport" of trivia and other contests and no reward is necessary to gain my participation.  The "Big O" points would be fun if they meant somethingbut, in this case, it was more insulting than anything. So, don't publish "Big O Points" multiple times in each day's "Currents" and stop announcing it on the ship.The funniest part was the night AFTER they had the Big O point redemption, they had the "Game Show" titled "Brain of the Nautica"sort of a 15 person trivia challenge where contestants were knocked out of the running after missing their third random question.  I won.  My prize??? Three more "Big O points"!!!The ports: Actually, the biggest attraction on this cruise was the itinerary. The ports were sensational.  Of course, some better than others.  If I were to tweak this itinerary, I'd actually do it by removing two portsCrete and Cyprusand trading them for more time in Egypt and Israel. In Crete, we visited the Palace at Knossos on a ship's shore excursionand, though an interesting archaeological site, it pales compared to what one finds in Egypt and Israel. My assumption is that by cutting out Crete, you could get into Alexandria sooner than noon, maybe even the night or afternoon before, allowing passengers to do a more complete two days in Cairo and Giza if they so wanted. Cyprus was pleasant, but really little worth seeing compared to the other ports. It would be great to replace it with a second day in Ashdod. Jerusalem was easily a full day's worth of touring and it would have been nice to also visit Masada and the Dead Seabut, not enough timeand we wouldn't have wanted to have given up our day in Northern Israel out of Haifa eitherwe hired a private guide and went to the incredible archaeological sites at Megiddo and Caesaria.We also really enjoyed Tunisia and Malta and Ephesus is always enchanting. This was our first opportunity to visit the Terrace Houses and I highly recommend them.   Ports:Barcelona: We have been here several times, so we didn't really need to see anything but we did tour some of our favorite placespretty much on our own. We visited the Picasso Museum, took the interior tour of the Sagrada Familia, then took the rear elevator up and walked down [Note: For those visiting the Sagrada Familia, there are two elevators. 2.5 euro per person. The one near the front usually has a line with waits up to half an hour or more. The one in the back typically has no line. The front elevator allows for a ride both up and down, the one in the rear, for some odd reason, up onlybut the walk down is pretty cool with great photo ops along the way.], Park Guellwhere we went inside Gaudi's house.  We also took in a tapas dinner and Flamenco show at Tablao de Carmen in El Poble Espanyol on Montjuic-pretty good dinner and show.Tunisia: Arranged for a tour for sixwith fellow CruiseCritic Roll Call membersthrough Chris Sheridan at TouringMalta.com http://www.tourinmed.com/index.htm. Excellent tourcovered several sites including Ancient Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and the Medina.Malta: Same thing as for Tunesiaa private tour for six arranged with Chris Sheridan. We went to Valletta, Mdina, Hagar Qim and Marasxlokk. Hagar Qim was really incredible.  Sort of a several thousand year old Maltese Stonehenge. Best guide of the tripChristine Muscat kristinmuscat@hotmail.com She is the President of the Maltese Tour Guide Unionan Anthropologist by education.  Excellent.Crete: We took an Oceania Shorex to the Palace at Knossosnot our favoriteokay archaeological site.  But it's a short day in Crete and not much else to see there.Alexandria: We took the Oceania Shorex entitled "Roman Influence on Alexandria". It hits the basic three ancient sites really left in this townPompey's Pillar, the Catacombs and the Roman Theater. Another short day as we arrived only at noon. some from the cruise chose to do an overnight in Cairo, but we figured the first days was sort of a waste anyway as we wouldn't have much time to see Cairo that day.  The Shorex was fine.Port Said: We joined a group of six for the private van tour booked through Oceania. Went to Sakkara, Memphis and the Pyramid/Sphinx.  Yes, it is a long drive back and forth.  But the tour was pretty goodbetter than doing it with 30-40 people in a big bus. When you add the entrance fees and cost of lunch, it doesn't really come out to any more $ than the shorex.  Lunch was at Felfelavery good.Ashdod: We booked a private tour with Joel Berman of jtours.com. Very knowledgable. Retired Israeli army officer born in South Africa. Went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) in the morning, then a pretty exhausting tour of Jerusalem the rest of the day.Haifa: Joel met us again at the ship in Haifa and took us on a full day tour to Megiddo, Ein Shemer Kibbutz and Caesaria.  Megiddo and Caesaria are two incredible archaeological sites.  This was a pretty good choice of tours IMHO.Cyprus: We did another shorex to Paphos and Kourion. Paphos is pretty dull. Not really much there but some old mosaic floors. More of the same at Kourion.Kusadasi: We did a private tour for four of Ephesus including the Terrace Houses through Ekol Travel. Really good tour with a guide who stayed with us throughout. Terrace Houses should not be missed.Istanbul: We did a full day tour for four to the Cisterns, Spice Market and other sites along with another couple with Nejat Incedogan. [Note: Nejat does have some physical limitations, so if you want a fast paced tour, he may not be your guy.]. All four of us had been to Istanbul before, so this was really just to see some of the unusual sites we hadn't seen. Went to the Orient House at night for the Dinner/Showalways intriguing.Another day, we did a tour of the Dolambache Palace and visited the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaarthen vegged out the rest of the timewe were there four nights total including the overnight on the ship.  On the day of the overnight, we just hung out onboardnever left the shippretty quiet though. Post-cruise: By the end of the cruise, we were really exhausted.  So many full days of touringin hot weatherlots of walking and steps and dust and dirt. We were ready to just relax and wind down. Last time on Nautica, we stayed pre-cruise at the modern 5-star Conrad, so, this time, we wanted something completely different. We checked into the small 17-room Sari Konak. Room was very small, but nice. I walked out onto our balcony and realized we had the most incredible, completely unobstructed close-up view of the Blue Mosque. we stayed three additional nights post cruise and toured the Dolambache Palace, the Cisterns, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar and other sites at a very leisurely pacea really nice wind-down from the cruise.  Ate at the Orient House for the Dinner show one night, ate a lunch at the "Pudding Shop"as we had done three years ago (I like the place).  Otherwise, ate in small restaurants in the Sultanhamet.  One night, we ate with some of our cruisemates at the "Family Restaurant"Great misprint on their business cards says "She does the cook" (sic)!!Assorted comments re dining:1) Whenever we asked to sit with other people (We're sort of "social" and like to meet and talk to people), the Maitre d' would tell us it was "slow" and they'd seat us at a table for twoeven when it clearly wasn't "slow".  This was a big deal to my wife and at one point she suggested it might keep her from wanting to go back to Oceania in the future.2) They never ask if you might want some Iced Tea and even when you ask for it, it tends to take a LONG time to get it, then they rarely refill it.  I drink LOTS of Iced Tea and this one is a big deal with me.3) I am "Type 2" Diabetic and should not be eating sugar. So, I go out of my way to order "SUGAR FREE" jam for my toast and "SUGAR FREE" syrup for my pancakes. Somehow, Oceania doesn't quite catch onto the idea.  Yes, they stock and deliver the sugar free jams and syrup.  BUT, they deliver the pancakes with heaps of POWDERED SUGAR on them.  You'd think if someone had ordered "sugar free" pancake syrup that maybe they wouldn't want the sugar loaded right onto the pancake??? One time, my wife made it a point to specifically tell the waiter that the pancakes should NOT come with sugarliterally, pulling him aside and going on about it for 3 or 4 minutes.  You guessed it, they were delivered with sugar anyway.Crew: I used to think that Oceania's top assets were 1) Food, 2) Itinerariesbut, from this cruise, I am thinking maybe the best asset they have is the people.  We really had a great opportunity to spend a lot of time with a number of the crew membersspecifically Joanne, Lucy, Terese and Ian from the Cruise Director's staff, entertainers Tom, Vincenzo and Jerry, as I had mentioned before, Rocky from the jewelry shop and others and found them ALL to be genuine, friendly, good peoplemore fun and sociable than some of the passengers.  For 14 nights, I felt like part of the familyand that is a tribute to nothing but these individuals.  Tom (who, as we all learned, is married to Dottie, the Cruise Director), is much more than an entertainerhe is a "true believer"Oceania should put him to work selling the cruises.   And Oceania should consider themselves lucky to have Jerrythe guy puts in first class job night in and night out. Ian and the girls really go out of there way to get to know the passengersat least the ones who take part in games and activities.  After two weeks I feel like I've known these kids for years.  If there is one thing that will bring me back to Oceania, it's these guys (okay, and maybe the food and itineraries).Sickness: Though I never got sick on this cruise, we kept hearing from a lot of our fellow passengers that something was going around. There seemed to be a much higher incidence of this on this cruise than any other I've been on. We had tourmates who had to miss multiple ports. I can't really blame Oceania. I know that when so many people are confined to a limited area and there is a lot of personal interaction that, if someone catches something, it tends to spread.  And, I am not a medical doctor, so I really know little about the causes of this particular epidemic. I do know that Oceania had a number of disinfectant hand cleaner dispensers around the ship, though I didn't see enough people using them. I don't know what more Oceania could have done, so I will leave that to others to comment on.Overall: Despite my nitpicks (Don't get the wrong ideaI am not bringing up those negatives to put down the cruise line or the experienceonly to be thorough and honest), the cruise was and overall very positive experience. Oceania is a heck of a good product. There are some things that can be improved upon (as with everything) and there are some things that are merely beyond their reasonable control.  But, for the most part, it's pretty goodWell run, clean, high quality, luxurious, elegant. The ship is extremely pleasant, uncrowded, nicely and tastefully decorated and well-maintained.  The food is excellent, the itinerary sensational. We really enjoyed our 14 nights onboard and really hated to see them come to an end. We will very likely be back, especially with these tempting itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date June 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
Background DH and I discovered cruising nearly 20 years ago. We've sailed HAL almost exclusively & are most familiar with their S and R class ships (1200-1400 pax) as well as the unique Prinsendam (793 pax). Oceania has been ... Read More
Background DH and I discovered cruising nearly 20 years ago. We've sailed HAL almost exclusively & are most familiar with their S and R class ships (1200-1400 pax) as well as the unique Prinsendam (793 pax). Oceania has been on our radar for a while, thanks to many positive reviews here on CC. So we decided to do a "test" cruise. Despite our preference for longer, port-intensive cruises, we chose a 14-nite westbound transAtlantic Barcelona to Miami. Even though this was a most unlikely choice for us, we figured we'd get an excellent impression of the Oceania product with so many days at sea. We booked the cruise thru our TA without the included Oceania "free" air. We took the air credit instead & made our own air arrangements. We used FF miles & flew Executive Class into Barcelona where we stayed at Hotel Jazz for 1-nite pre-cruise. Hotel Jazz is a modern boutique hotel at the top of La Rambla, between Placa Catalunya & Placa Universitat. An ideal location for exploring fabulous Barcelona. Embarkation We took a taxi to the cruise port about 1:00 pm & were processed very efficiently by shoreside staff. We didn't need any of the Oceania documents we received pre-cruise - only our passports, which were kept by the Purser for the duration of the voyage. We boarded onto the 4th floor lobby of the ship. First impressions count & Regatta scored. The lobby is beautifully appointed & inviting. We had the feeling of entering a boutique hotel rather than a cruise ship! We noticed a calm & unhurried atmosphere almost immediately & it continued throughout the entire voyage. Stateroom Our A3 Concierge room was conveniently located on the 7th floor slightly forward of the stairs & elevators. The room was bright & airy with every bit of its 165 sq ft interior well planned. There was ample closet space & drawer storage and a large floor-to-ceiling mirror reflected light & added brightness. The bed occupied most of the width of the room, so we learned to orchestrate our movements to avoid collision. The 50 sq ft verandah was large enough for only 2 deck chairs and a small table. The privacy barrier between balconies was sufficient & we really liked the metal railings rather than plexiglass for maximum sea viewing. The bathroom was tiny, but functional & spotless. The shower stall was very small but we managed fine & neither of us was attacked by the shower curtain. Fresh towels were provided twice daily (no opportunity to reuse) and soap/toiletries were replenished as we used them. Towel animals haven't found their way onto Regatta. Oceania has fabulous beds with pillow-top mattresses, 700 thread-count Egyptian cotton bedding & Italian silk-cut duvets. Without a doubt, they are the most comfortable beds we've had at sea. Dining Food is an important aspect of our overall cruise experience. Since Oceania bills itself as having the "finest cuisine at sea" we came on board with high expectations. And for the most part, Oceania delivered. We had some excellent meals and many very good meals in each dining venue. The food was indeed the best we've had at sea but we never had a "wow" moment. Terrace Cafe We ate most breakfasts in the Terrace Cafe. The fresh fruits & berries were wonderful: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mango, papaya, kiwis & pineapple. There were yoghurts & cheese, hot & cold cereals, muesli and a wide selection of meats, smoked salmon & herring. Made-to-order omelettes & eggs took a while but were worth the wait. Eggs benedict were poached just right & dressed with awesome hollandaise. There was an incredible selection of baked goods made fresh several times daily. Oceania employs French bakers & uses special flour that can withstand the climate & humidity changes found at sea. The results are sensational. Even though the Terrace Cafe is buffet, it's not self-serve. Most food along the line is served. Wait staff bring hot & cold beverages. Good variety of juices but we missed the fresh-squeezed OJ that HAL provides. My DH declared that the coffee was undrinkable while I discovered that hot chocolate made with milk was divine. We ate most lunches in the Terrace Cafe. There was always a wide selection of hot & cold appetizers, salads, soup, fresh-made pasta cooked to order, a carvery station, pizza and several entrees. Interesting cheese selections and tempting desserts. Oceania also has delectable, oh-so-creamy ice cream & refreshing sorbets that are made right on board. Simply the best we've experienced on any ship. We sometimes ate at Waves, the casual grill outside Terrace Cafe. DH loved the Texan Burger while I opted for the Mahi Mahi Burger with bacon and smothered onions. Waves is also the spot for hand-dipped milkshakes, malteds & smoothies. Always a treat. Grand Dining Room The atmosphere in the GDR was elegant, calm & unhurried. It was well staffed by friendly & attentive servers. Knowledgeable sommeliers offered wines & seemed just as happy to bring a house pour as the most expensive listed vintage. We are die-hard late-seating traditional diners on HAL so this was our first experience with open seating. And it worked. We usually arrived at the GDR about 7:30 pm & even though this was peak time, we never had to wait for a table. The Maitre d' quickly learned our preference for a deuce & always seated us at a private table. Sometimes we were seated close to others & could share conversation if we wanted. Food was very good. Creative menus, wide-ranging choices, quality ingredients, distinct flavors, artful presentation, delivered at the correct temperature. The bread baskets offered at the beginning of each meal were superb. We were usually pleased with our appetizers, soups & salads but sometimes we hit a miss on the entrees. Pastas were always excellent, so much so that they rivaled those prepared in Toscana, the Italian specialty restaurant. And the "always available" Jacques Pepin Signature Dishes were outstanding. The crispy, salty skin on his perfectly roasted Rotisserie Chicken was yummy. In addition to dinners, we occasionally ate breakfast & lunch in the GDR. I tried the Baby Lamb Chops for breakfast, but I must say that I don't understand what the fuss is all about. We also went to a superb Gala Brunch. I had chilled strawberry soup & fresh-made waffles while DH stuck to his stand-by of eggs benedict. Oh that hollandaise! Oceania does a great job on sauces of any kind. Gotta love those French chefs who aren't afraid of butter, butter, butter! Specialty Restaurants Our A3 room entitled us to 2 reservations at each of the 2 specialty restaurants, Polo Grill and Toscana. We made reservations on-line several weeks before we left. We booked dates early in the cruise to allow us the opportunity to try for additional reservations if possible. When we arrived on board, there was a card in our room which summarized all 4 reservations we had made on-line. Nothing lost in translation from shore to ship. Well done Oceania. Both restaurants are gorgeous. Polo Grill has a very clubby feel with dark wood-paneling, overstuffed furniture & subdued lighting. It has a predictable steak house menu with the usual cuts, sauces & sides. Unfortunately, we felt that our entrees weren't up to par on either occasion. My rack of lamb was overcooked & underseasoned while my NY strip was saved only by a huge dollop of bEarnaise. My DH struggled with an overwrought piece of grilled lobster & overcooked filet mignon. Sides were tasty but arrived lukewarm. Crème brulee and key lime pie were both winners. On balance, we were disappointed with Polo Grill. And truth be told, we think the Pinnacle Grill on HAL is every bit as good in some areas & better in others. Toscana is bright & airy, full of Tuscan colors, light woods & a charming bar specializing in Grappa & Limoncello drinks. It's a culinary adventure just reading the extensive menu! We almost hit a home run at Toscana with everything we ordered. The olive oil & balsamic tasting menu was superb (especially the spicy Holy Oil). Spinach & ricotta ravioli in sage butter was perfectly al dente and full of flavor. Veal scaloppini limon was simple but satisfying. The only notable exception was osso bucco with saffron risotto which was heavy, salty & gummy. We both loved the ricotta cream canolli dessert, so much so that we ordered it twice. We enjoyed Toscana very much, but we didn't think that either specialty restaurant was so much better than the GDR to request additional reservations. We really liked the elegant casual dress code on Oceania & didn't miss formal nites at all. We found that folks dressed very nicely for dinner in the GDR & the atmosphere was every bit as elegant as a formal nite on HAL. Very classy! Many men wore jackets (mostly without ties) in Polo Grill and Toscana. Activities This crossing had 9 sea days out of 14 days & Regatta offered the expected line-up of games & activities. Golf putting, shuffleboard, ping pong, bridge, bingo & trivia were regularly scheduled & well attended. In addition to the ever-popular games, there were watercolor classes, Spanish lessons, dance classes & enrichment lectures, cooking demos, wine bazaars, wine tasting ($), afternoon tea, coffee chats, photo workshops ($) and fitness classes. Mercifully there were no art auctions although the Park West guy did give a few presentations & was available by appointment. There were also a few "big" events. A lovely Tea Dansant was presented mid-way thru the cruise in the Regatta Lounge. This was an amped-up version of afternoon tea with impressive displays of savory & sweet temptations. It reminded us of Royal Dutch Tea on HAL. There was also a Regatta transAtlantic Upper Hall Event, billed as the social event of the season. It turned out to be a nothing but sales pitch in poor disguise. A bust. But the Country Fair was a hoot. This was originally to be staged outside but the weather was overcast & windy. So the entire 5th floor was transformed into "booths" where pax could try their luck at various games in the tradition of an old-time country fair. Dress-a-mannequin, stuff-a-pillowcase, knock-down cans & similar goofy stuff. Many events were timed & Regatta dollars were awarded depending on your speed. It was a blast. Entertainment Each evening in the Regatta Lounge there was an after-dinner show & we went to most of them. We liked the small, cozy, cabaret-styled theatre & enjoyed performances by a pianist, clarinetist, vocalists & a magician. We were very impressed that some of the Regatta entertainment staff were also polished performers who took to the stage & delivered excellent shows. As a preamble to the evening shows, there were game/trivia contests along the lines of Liars Club, Newlywed Game, Who Wants to Be an O Millionaire, Deal or No Deal. These were well attended & a ton of fun, thanks in no small measure to outstanding hosting by the Assistant CD. In various venues throughout the ship, music was provided by a string quartet, an 8-piece orchestra (expanded to 12-piece to accompany Tea Dansant) and a pianist. There was also an after-hours disco in Horizons that reportedly was poorly attended. Port Excursions There were only 3 ports on this crossing: Tangier, Morocco; Funchal, Madeira; and Hamilton, Bermuda. Thanks to CC and TripAdvisor, we researched them & made our own independent plans in advance. Shore excursions offered by the ship seemed to cover the basics but were priced quite high. We did consult Destination Services about a tour but unfortunately they gave us info that we later learned was incorrect. The shorex staff didn't seem to have good knowledge of their excursions, perhaps because they visit these ports only twice a year during repositioning. Crew & Fellow Passengers Our sailing had only 520 pax (75% capacity) with a complement of 397 crew. Quite an impressive ratio. Service was consistently excellent throughout the ship. There seemed to be a genuine team-concept on board & everybody, no matter rank or station, was there in service to the pax. We are used to HAL ships where crew are primarily from Indonesia & Philippines and officers typically from the Netherlands. It was delightful to engage with the international crew of Regatta, who hailed from places such as Greece, Austria, Thailand, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, India, Columbia, Honduras & Jamaica. We are also used to mostly male crew on board HAL. It was wonderful to see the smiling faces of young women working about the ship in many capacities. Many crew were scheduled to leave Regatta when we arrived in Miami. Some were at the end of long contracts & were understandably keen to get home again. Yet they delivered outstanding service right up to our final moment on board. Our fellow pax were a delight. Well-traveled, unpretentious, interesting & friendly. People were comfortable with themselves & it showed. Some pax were in our age group of early 50s but a majority were in their 60s, 70s & beyond. But age didn't matter. We found easy conversation & common ground with many folks. Other Observations Regatta is gorgeous. Beautiful public rooms, elegantly appointed, spotlessly clean. There is absolutely no sign of visible wear anywhere on furnishings, carpets or draperies. It's clear that somebody is paying attention to the details. While the interiors are very nice, we prefer the look of the blue-hulled exteriors of HAL ships with their more traditional sleek lines. We missed the teak wrap-around promenade deck & extensive outside public spaces. On HAL, pax can also access the bow for scenic cruising. On Regatta, there are very few front vistas available for public use. Private cabanas occupy the best forward vantage points & access is restricted. On our sailing, every cabana was marked "reserved" yet none were ever in use, even during scenic sailaways. Disembarkation Regatta was clearly in turn-around mode on disembarkation morning. Breakfast hours in all venues were shorter. Menus, including room service, were limited. We were instructed to vacate our room by 8:00 am and wait in a public lounge for our disembarkation number to be called. This was in marked contrast to HAL where all pax can remain in their rooms until they disembark & breakfast service is as usual. We arrived in Miami at 6:00 am but disembarkation was delayed until 8:30 am. There were a few announcements asking certain crew members & pax to make themselves available to US immigration, but on the whole, the process was smooth & well organized. As independent travelers, we were among the first to leave the ship. We retrieved our luggage inside the terminal & grabbed a taxi to the Miami airport. And sadly, thus ended our first Big O adventure. We are very glad we did this "test" cruise on Oceania. It was fabulous & we look forward to sailing Oceania again in the future. Read Less
Sail Date November 2009
14 Night Transatlantic Cruise on Regatta Nov 2010 Perspective: We are both 50ish ;). We have cruised 25 or so times mainly on main stream cruises, and did cruise once on Crystal. We favor value for the buck and cruising off season away ... Read More
14 Night Transatlantic Cruise on Regatta Nov 2010 Perspective: We are both 50ish ;). We have cruised 25 or so times mainly on main stream cruises, and did cruise once on Crystal. We favor value for the buck and cruising off season away from school holidays. We did a 12 night transatlantic cruise on Regatta in 2008 so many of the following observations where also made in the review for that cruise. Pre-Cruise: We used FF miles to get AA ticket that had a stop in London Heathrow. Flight delayed because of radio problem and missed connection. Two hours delay plus 6 hours in Heathrow for connection. AA/BA provided £10 each for light meal. We missed one afternoon of sightseeing in Barcelona but still had two full days. Embarkation: Our hotel had an 11:00 am checkout time. Checked out then and pulled luggage to taxi stand. Taxi was quick and easy to port. Porter met us at taxi for checked bag. We went straight in to port security which was a breeze, no mention of the bottles of wine that we had in our checked luggage. No lines anywhere. We were able to board immediately. Oceania check in was done on ship in the Regatta Lounge. Then on to the Terrace Cafe where we joined a couple in the back deck area for a sunny mellow lunch. Priority cabins were ready at 1:00 and others like ours were ready at 3:00. Cabin: We had an inside cabin. We booked a guarantee inside about 1 and half year from cruise date and were assigned an inside on deck 8. We loved deck 8 for the convenience during the morning. Easy access to the terrace cafe and the pool deck area for exercise. Very nice mattress style bed with comforter/duvet. Heard a comment or two that the mattress pad was too soft for some and the duvet a bit warm. Cabin was larger than average for an inside; bathroom (particularly the shower) is small. Cabin had loveseat, one stool, and one small table as furniture. The closet, storage area and vanity/desk were typical. Safe worked fine. Our AC dial seemed to control air flow more than temperature. We tended to need to adjust it daily to keep the room a near constant temperature. Cabin was serviced twice daily. It was very clean with very little wear noticeable. No towel animals. Our attendants were very efficient, communicated well, and friendly. Overall Service: The cruise had around 670 passengers, i.e. fairly full. There was lots of friendly staff . Lots of staff were new to the ship and were getting some training. This was not an issue anywhere except in the Main dining room, which will be detailed in the food section. Loved the small ship with no lines. The reception desk had no lines. No lines at port visits or buffet. Very nice. Food: Oceania has added "included" beverages since our previous cruise with them. We asked for sparkling water with every meal which delayed things a bit. Occasionally we would have water from the pitcher poured in our sparkling water which was always promptly and cheerily replaced. We drank mainly bottled water, Indian Tonic, and club soda in the cabin and in the lounges. No issue with getting served the included beverages. A very nice added feature. The Terrace Cafe is the buffet style restaurant. It is set up with two mirror image sides so that there are two duplicate service lines. All food is served for you. Beverages are served at the table. There is a self service beverage center that is always clean and available. It provides coffee, cappuccino, espresso, tea, water, lemonade. For Breakfast, there are omelet stations; area for hot breakfast foods, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, breakfast meats, breakfast potatoes, and hot cereal; fresh fruits; canned fruits; cold cereals; and baked goods. The fresh fruit was the best variety I have seen in many cruises - usually raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, papaya, mango, kiwi, orange, pineapple, and melon. Also the baked goods are wonderful with about 10 different ones offered. The variety and freshness of the fruit and baked goods were EXCEPTIONAL! Lunch at the Terrace Cafe was fairly typical buffet style. Salad bar, prepared salads, hot food, and desserts are available. There is a wonderful ice cream cart with about 4 kinds of home made ice cream and a sorbet available. One is sugar free. Lots of unique favors. My favorite was Cocoa Sorbet. Very rich dark chocolate sorbet. Exceptional! Tapas on the Terrace is the buffet setup for the evening. The seating area is dressed up and tables are setup nicely for dining outside under the stars. Most items from the Grand Dining Room are offered plus sushi and a few extra tapa type items that change each evening. Indoor and Outdoor seating is available at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Very nice. Did notice that with an almost full ship the buffet area did get fairly crowded at prime meal times. We did opt for the dining room vs. the busy buffet a couple of times for lunch. We did order room service for one dinner. The order was taken accurately and was delivered accurately. We order soup, salad, and steak which were all perfectly prepared, plated, and served at proper temps. We called at a busy time and the delivery time was about 1 hour. The tray pick up was very prompt. No compliant at all with our experience. The Waves grill is just outside the Terrace Cafe and near the pool area. The grilled sandwiches are excellent. We had the grilled mahi-mahi and the hamburgers several times. We had the salads from the buffet , the grilled sandwich, and then the excellent ice cream for dessert. On this cruise, we rated the Waves Grill as the best tasting option for lunch, just a bit heavy for everyday. The Grand Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast portions were a bit large. Lunch had a very nice variety, several sandwiches, salads, and hot entrees to choose from. Tables for two were fairly easy to obtain at lunch. Dinner in the GDR is the usual wonderful multi course cruise dining experience. O is still a very wine-friendly line. The crystal stemware was beautiful. Nice wine list with reasonable prices, especially on the medium to higher priced wines. Or pay $20 corkage for wine brought on board. There is a wine package that provides a nice discount when you purchase 3 (mix & match) bottles from the package list, and a wine bazaar held on a couple days midway through the cruise which seemed to offer the same wines as in the package plus a few extra. Unlike many mass cruise lines, O. still has a dedicated wine staff, so your waiter doesn't double as your sommelier. The menu offers about 2 cold appetizers, 2 hot appetizers, 1 hot soup, 1 cold soup. 2 salads, entrees that always included seafood, poultry, beef, other meat than beef, vegetarian, and several always available items such as salmon, chicken, and steak. Lobster was served a couple of times and the beef served, including the always available New York strip, was of exceptional quality; in general the quality provided was very good. There is no dancing or singing by staff during the dining service. So now the negative part of the Grand Dining Room experience on this sailing. Tables in the middle section were extremely noisy and the service was slow. For anyone to be heard at the larger tables, they had to nearly shout and when the room is full of people shouting it gets very loud. Tables on the edges of the dining room were better; but were all taken at 6:30 (anyone eating at 7 or later had to sit in the middle or wait until around 8). The service was much slower at almost all diners except one where we did go at 6:30 and sat next to the window. One night we had our appetizer served fairly promptly but then it was 2 hours until the salads were served. Often condiments were never offered, even one night never got salad dressing. The wait staff appeared very busy at all times. Really could not see what the issue was probably the newness of some of the staff. Did not want to complain because without assigned seating you probably won't get the same waiter again so why get him in trouble when you don't really know what the problem is. Noted dining room service problems on the comment card. The specialty restaurants is where O shines in our opinion. There is Polo Grill, a steak house, and Toscana, Italian style restaurant. On our 14 night cruise we ate in them 6 nights (officially we were guaranteed two reservations but we waitlisted for several more). The menus are excellent with many great choices. Our favorites at Polo were the fois gras, crab cake, clam chowder, onion soup, lobster, and filet mignon. Our favorites at Toscana were the bread and olive oil to start (great selection different breads, oils, and balsamic vinegars), minestrone, pastas, and lobster. The service and menu really where Special. Entertainment: As far as the bars and lounges, we visited them several times at happy hour from 5 to 6 most evenings in Horizons and Martinis. Martinis had a piano soloist most nights. And Horizons had a dance combo most nights. This cruise had three lecturers on board. On sea days two enrichment lectures were provided. Highlight was the one lecture given by John McDaniel, famous music arranger. We attended the daily beginner's bridge lesson which was excellent and even played a few afternoons. The transatlantic was a great way to get involved with bridge. We joined a trivia team the first sea day and had such fun that we attended daily. The nightly show started at 9:30 each evening. The nightly show on this transatlantic cruise was not always polished, plus it meant eating very early since the dining room service was slow. We are very easy to please as far as entertainment goes and give O's entertainers a C this trip. We used the walking area above the pool and the gym. Nice locker room with two showers plus steam room (no charge to use). Very nice and not crowded. Did not use the spa or the spa deck area. There is one main pool with two hot tubs outside. The area is teakwood and lined with loungers. Loungers are available in the sun and shaded. Double loungers are also available. Each lounger had a pad and terry cloth cover. Did not use internet service this trip ( yeah!!!). The internet manager did help me get a boarding pass for my flight home which was greatly appreciated. The library is wonderful. Good selection of reading material including recent magazines. Comfortable seating. The Casino is next to Martinis in a walk through type arrangement. It was not very busy during our cruise. Usually about 2 tables open and maybe about 5 slot players. Nice blackjack game for a cruise ship. Six deck shoe; dealer stands on soft 17; $10 min, $5 on some afternoons. I seem to have trained myself to avoid the smoke in these areas, of course on O this area like most is non-smoking; very nice. Ports of Call: Tangier, Morocco We did not do a ship's tour. Our goal was to just walk about it a bit to have the boast of having stepped on the soil of Africa. Well, the local tour vendors are aggressive. They take forever to take No for an answer, all the while warning you how dangerous a place the Medina is and how you have no chance to walk to the Casbah without being surrounded by vendors. One followed us for about 20 minutes before accepting "No Tour" as the final word. We did link up with 4 others and were able to walk as in a convoy. However the entire experience was pretty miserable. If you must see a particular attraction, it probably is better do a tour, even though you will waste a lot of time at the required vendor stops. If you are used to the aggressive environment, more power to you and enjoy. Tangier tour vendors made the vendors in Mexico and the Caribbean seem very tame. Madeira, Portugal No ship's excursion here either. We did get good advice from the local tourist advisor that came onboard to use a taxi to get to the Museum that we wanted to see and then walk back - DOWNHILL. We enjoyed the Museu Quinta des Cruzes and two lovely parks. The tiled sidewalks are lovely but are rough on the feet. We walked back to ship and enjoyed views from the walls along the port. Hamilton, Bermuda We had an overnight call here. The weather was rainy the first day. We got the O provided umbrella out and walked up to Fort Hamilton and then browsed our way back through Hamilton to the ship. The second day was overcast with bits of sun. We took the bus to St. George. We did a guided tour which lasted one hour and was too short because the guide was excellent and the price was right - free. There was a brief play to follow but the rain convinced us to return to the ship. Weather and Seas: Weather in Barcelona pretrip was very mild, wonderful for sightseeing. We had cool temps most days at sea and in the ports of call. We had two days of rough seas, not horrible but enough that maybe half of the cruisers were affected. We had a couple of days nice enough to sunbath. Disembarkation: Oceania gets a low rating here. Not well organized with little information available besides your departure time. Everyone was waiting on deck 4 to depart which was where all previous port departures happened. The gangway was open and manned with crew. That crew and ourselves were surprised to learn that passengers would depart on deck 5. So about 100 passengers lugged their possessions up the stairs or waited for elevators to disembark on deck 5. Summary: Loved our fellow cruisers. Most cruisers were very friendly and outgoing. They usually introduced themselves and greeted you on following days. The bridge lessons and the trivia contests provided us with many friends to dine and recreate with. The fellowship was the highlight of the cruise. On this sailing the Grand Dining Room had some issues. In general O shines with the no extra charge specialty restaurants, few children, practically smoke free environment and small ship advantages such as no lines and onboard convenience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2010
It's been a while since I have taken a cruise and so decided to do it in style on a new ship for a well respected cruise line notable for their level of fine dining and overall service. The cruise we (my wife and I) booked and ... Read More
It's been a while since I have taken a cruise and so decided to do it in style on a new ship for a well respected cruise line notable for their level of fine dining and overall service. The cruise we (my wife and I) booked and took was the Oceania Marina inaugural voyage from Jan 22 to Feb. 4 from Barcelona to Miami. The embarkation went incredibly smoothly with minimal congestion and dining available the minute we stepped on the ship. We boarded at about 1:30 PM and immediately had lunch at Tapas on the Terrace. Rooms were available earlier than expected so as soon as we finished our lunch. We had very high expectations for the food on an Oceania cruise and so were a little disappointed at the quality of some of the items at this first buffet luncheon. The mahi-mahi was dry and some other selections were good but nothing special. On the other hand the food was immediately available with a nice variety, and so very appropriate for making a transition from either staying in Barcelona or transferring from an airport. Walking to our cabin, we were impressed by the beauty and elegance of this ship. When we got into our room, we found a complimentary bottle of Brut champagne and found the cabin (Veranda) to be well laid out, accessible, functional and aesthetically pleasing. The only oddity was the bathroom, which has a very large bathtub but a very small shower. Talking later to other guests, it seems many of us passengers would have sacrificed the bathtub for a bigger shower. One guest noted that if they dropped the soap the shower was too small for them to bend down to pick it up. Perhaps, if the architect had simply made the bathtub space into a combination bathtub shower, the bathroom would not only have been perfect for us but would have worked from the vast majority of guests. I left the room to get a glass of water at the bar, and found out that for this trip that all but the more expensive wine and drinks were complimentary. Neither my wife nor I are big drinkers (generally only having wine on family get-togethers or special occasions) but because of this unexpected bonus we ended up having quite a bit of alcohol: a glass or two of wine for lunch and dinner each and every day and a few beers or cocktails here and there over the course of the two weeks. That first day at about 6:30, we went to dinner. It was quite good but not at the level we had mentally prepared ourselves. Fortunately, after the first couple of days, the dining room quality improved considerably so that every single lunch and dinner was a special dining experience. Of special note were the fish entrees, which were cooked to perfection: moist, tender, fresh, succulent and full of flavor. One could always order asparagus and mushrooms on the side as well as mashed potatoes which were cooked perfectly with nutmeg and liberal amounts of cream and butter. Tapas at the Terrace was also much better after the first day and the dinner buffets at Tapas at the Terrace were generally quite good. We didn't visit Tapas for breakfast until later in the cruise, and found the Norwegian gravlax (Gravad laks - similar to lox) to be exceptional and loved the abundance of tropical fruits (papaya, mango) and berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries.) The sushi and sashimi at night was quite good. Often there was a correspondence between some of the items offered in the main dining room and at Tapas, and on those occasions when we visited Tapas before or after a visit to the main dining room, we found the quality of the main dining room considerably better for those items we sampled that we available at both. A visit to Tapas could be a short or as long as you wished - one could get in and out of Tapas in 15 minutes. The dining room was generally at 1 ½ to 2 hour experience. Service was amazingly prompt, with just the right amount of time between courses and a staff to guest ratio that left the illusion that one had their own private service. It seemed that either the waiter or their assistant was always there exactly at the right time. During the entire 2 weeks, there was only one instance of a delay during our set of visits to the main dining room. The delay was very minor, and one which was the waiter apologized profusely for even though it was very inconsequential to us. The specialty restaurants were superb. We started with Jacques on the third night of the cruise and were very pleased. I ordered the roasted chicken, which was for me tasty but a bit dried out. Fortunately, everything else was excellent. The escargot was a special treat. Our second specialty restaurant was Polo Grill. My wife had the grilled lamb and I had the Prime Rib. Both were top quality. The appetizers and dessert were also especially good. We both loved the crabmeat cake. Toscana was great and we were wowed by the choice of one of several olive oils (with balsamic vinegar) for our bread. The bread was delicious and it was easy to fill up on just bread. For appetizers, all we tried were good and the fried calamari was particularly good. Both our entrees were great. My sea bass was fresh and cooked perfectly. Red Ginger was also a real treat. I generally prefer real Asian cooking over fusion Asian cooking, but was very happy with the choices and quality offered even though it was more European and less Asian then what aligns with my personal preferences. The specialty restaurants are at no additional charge and one is able to visit each one at least once and possibly more if you wish to try to follow-up with the reservation desk for any openings that occur on a given night. These restaurants were all at a couple of levels above the regular dining room and along with the exceptional service of the staff onboard the Marina, were a highlight of the trip. Wherever one went, the chocolate mousse was irresistible. I have not been a fan of mousse in the past, but that changed completely with Marina's offerings. The bread offered in the main dining room was quite good, but the only non-white bread was a somewhat boring whole wheat roll. I suggested they add multi-grain or rye and a few days later I was exclusively offered a really good dark bread roll - very fresh and still warm. This was the best bread on the ship and it was a shame that it was not available to all the other guests. Tea was a special treat with the Marina String Quartet (very high level of musicianship.) It was too challenging for us to have that much rich, sweet food every day, so we skipped several tea times, making those we attended even more special. Important to emphasize that the service was excellent all around the ship: dining, housekeeping, tea, cocktails, etc. The staff come from all over the globe, with pretty good representation from Ukraine, Russia, Indonesia, Philippines, South Africa, Honduras and Portugal. We particularly were impressed with Diana and Alex in dining and the many sommeliers particularly Florentina. To our delight, a large portion of the staff treated you as if they were your friends, being attentive to service requirements, of course, but avoiding the extremes of being either subservient or aloof. Our gratuities were pre-paid, but we felt only fair to add to the normal amount. This was easy to do: we just transferred money from our room account to gratuities at the end of the trip. We were scheduled to stop in 3 ports, but couldn't make one of them (Malaga) because of weather. We went on our own to Loro Parc (Parrot Park with other animals) in Tenerife and explored Casablanca on our own. In both cases there was a free shuttle to take out of the port area. For Loro Parc we took a convenient local bus, which was fun. The Park had well over a hundred different varieties of parrots and was very much worth the visit for that alone. Because of all the great dining I spent my share of time in their Fitness area. They had top quality treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, etc and I was able to pretty painlessly justify adding at least 1200 extra calories per day to what I ate. Overall, this was a great experience, with food matching our high expectations. Dining was a little off at first, but soon came up to a level matching our expectation. It's appropriate to call this a "shake-out" cruise, but management was particularly quick to fix problems. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
The Maiden Voyage of Marina is now behind us. That's hard to believe, after a year of planning and heightening excitement. We had high hopes and expectations of Marina (this was our second O cruise), and overall she not only met, but ... Read More
The Maiden Voyage of Marina is now behind us. That's hard to believe, after a year of planning and heightening excitement. We had high hopes and expectations of Marina (this was our second O cruise), and overall she not only met, but exceeded, all our expectations. First, let me say, since this was a maiden voyage, we understood we would be responsible for the "shake out" of the ship. We expected to experience a work in progress, as over 800 staff and crew (25-50% of those new to Oceania) began entertaining and caring for over 1,200 passengers, ten new restaurants, expanded bars, lounges, etc. We tried to keep our expectations reasonable - if the plumbing and heat worked and we had enough to eat, everything else would be a bonus. And what a bonus Marina delivered! I will not review the ports (Barcelona, Casablanca, Santa Cruz/Tenerife and Miami) because this cruise was really about the Marina, and I know that is what CC members want to hear. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier at 11:00, our designated embarkation time, to find the line of people to the street. We were booked in a PH suite, so I was a little dismayed by this line, but it was primarily to pass through security, a fairly quick and seamless passage. After we were inside the terminal, we only had three couples in line ahead of us to check in. Our check-in only took about two minutes, with a swipe of our credit card, a photo for ship security, and issue of our Marina card/key. Some new friends we met the day before were not as lucky. The electricity in the terminal went out just about the time we finished, and others had to wait some time before Marina staff could re-boot the computers and resume check-in. Numerous Marina staff were stationed along the gangway to greet and guide passengers. We were told our room was not yet available, to keep our carry-on luggage and to proceed to lunch. Lunch in Terrace Cafe was fresh and certainly adequate, although it was only a glimpse of what we would encounter in the coming days. Exploring Marina: We walked around the ship, drinking in all the areas we'd been so excited to finally experience. Staff were available in all the venues to welcome exploration and to answer questions. Even the Spa, La Reserve and Privee were open to inspection. La Reserve is like a large, private dining room from a home, with dark wood tones, but light available from the outside as well. Privee is very special-stark whites and reds, with a lush white carpet, white alligator seat coverings for the chairs and crisp reflective white and red oval table. Privee is another, but very different, private dining room which offers wonderful trailing views of the ship's wake. The ship is more beautiful than we expected, with restful and muted colors accented by vivid art and fabrics. The varied textures and high quality of the materials throughout the ship was obvious at just a glance. Almost no plastic or chrome visible anywhere. Rich wood tones, plush custom designed carpets, varied and high end fabric and furniture, Murano and Lalique glass accents were set throughout the ship. I was impressed by the amount of light Marina allows in most public areas. I find her to be a lighter and brighter ship than her fellow R-class ships (we've sailed Nautica), which makes her more modern in my mind. Interestingly enough, the ship definitely feels larger than the R ships, but it is also familiar, since the layout of the ship is similar to her older sisters. It is also generally more luxurious, in my opinion. The two new specialty restaurant venues, Red Ginger and Jacques, are luxurious theme restaurants very different from one another. Both have a curtained window to the kitchen which can be opened at appropriate times to reveal the final flourishes of meal preparation. Pollo and Toscana are updated and modern, but they have a very similar feel to their R sisters. The Grand Dining Room feels lighter and brighter (the chandelier in the raised ceiling is even more beautiful in person than in the advertising photos)and more open feeling than her R sisters because it is a single level dining room with higher ceilings which steps down fairly quickly from the entrances on both sides. However, I did find the tables a bit crowded together for comfort when the room was full. Terrace Cafe feels very similar to the R ships, but gone are the pizza and stir-fry stations, and added is a large "a la minute" cooking station - a wonderful addition, especially at breakfast and lunch. I was least enchanted by the decoration in Terrace Cafe, as the colors were a bit to garish compared to the rest of the ship for my taste, and tables also feel crowded together, especially during busy times. Waves Grill is much larger than on the R ships, and it offers a self-service salad bar as well as a sandwich menu. Gone is the ice cream cart, rather there is a fully stocked station where one can order milkshakes, smoothies and other decadent frozen goodies. Waves Bar has been moved to the far side of the pool area from Waves Grill, but staff is happy to bring drinks from there if you wish and service is fairly quick. Baristas, the computer room and the library are just up the stairs from Waves Grill. The deck surfaces around Baristas were not yet finished when we sailed, so one side, then the other, was closed off for about 2 days as shipbuilder workmen transformed the bright blue rubberized surfaces to the teak colored surface visible around the pool. The exterior deck is not wood, rather a rubberized material which should require much less maintenance in Marina's harsh salt sea climate and was not as slippery as wood in the frequent showers we encountered on the maiden voyage; but you will have to get on your hands and knees to tell the difference visually. Baristas became one of my favorite places because of the wonderful views available from the encircling windows and the rich, the coffee colored decoration, and Giovanni, the expert, friendly and outgoing barista. I'm a tea drinker, and O doesn't offer chai, my favored morning drink, but Giovanni's cappucino could convert me to a coffee drinker! Marina now uses Illy coffee from Italy, and although there are several cappucino machines around the ship, none are as good as Giovanni's with his magic "pouring cream" froth added liberally at the appropriate time. The computer room is open, so you can just stroll by and any slip into any open computer station. Computer service was not yet fully functional during the maiden voyage. It seems the company who installed the equipment somehow messed up and only made available a router with 250 IP addresses for the entire ship, so as a result the computers were not installed in the suites and internet service was pretty poor for the maiden voyage. Because of this inconvenience, Marina gave all passengers complimentary internet for the entire cruise, certainly a fair compensation in my estimation. We found wi-fi to be intermittent at best; I was only able to log on, and stay online with my I-pad a couple times during the week in our PH suite. The new router with over 3,000 IP addresses is to be installed in Miami, so I hope the internet service will improve for future cruises. The library was controversial, with two distinct thoughts by passengers. Some hated the space; the computer room is a series of alcoves with chairs you stroll past which could certainly distract someone reading in one of the chairs in the alcoves. Also there is music piped into the library, providing further distraction for a serious reader, and soft lighting makes reading in areas other than the chairs and benches somewhat difficult. Books are arranged on a series of glassed shelves which snake through the alcoves, organized by topic and category, with seating areas in each alcove and two fireplaces in the space. Dedicated O passengers who loved the R-ship libraries were disdainful of this new library. However others who simply went to the library, browsed for a book and took it away were enchanted. I happen to fall into the latter category, myself, but respect the complaints of the serious readers. Maybe if O could kill the music, close off both ends by doorways so people became aware quiet was needed in a library and added some additional lighting, the objections could be overcome. Horizons is also much larger than on the R-ships. The colors are a soft teal blue with high and low-backed chairs and soft green sofas. The effect is beautiful, but I found the high-backed chairs and sofas to have been built for much taller people and they were not really comfortable for shorter folks. This was also true in the Grand Bar spaces as well. The bandstand has been moved so the area is much more open and accessible, a very smart move, and the smoking area on the port side is enclosed except for the entry; if you simply timed your breathing correctly you never even noticed it was there walking by (the same is true of the outside smoking area on the starboard side of the pool. The culinary center was busy all week, and Chef Kelly indicated it was booked up for three months. Therefore, if you want to take a class, you should definitely book on line as soon as possible (after you make your final payment). The classes were interesting and fun. I was kind of surprised since you worked in teams of two, but it actually worked out fine. Kelly is very knowledgeable and professional, and the pasta classes I took were definitely worth their cost. The art loft is a large space, and the classes were interesting, but I won't comment on the artist in residence, since he will only be on board a couple months, and then someone else will take the reins. The space is somewhat dark for an art loft, with shutters over the windows to the ocean, and the space is still a bit sterile, but since not all the equipment arrived in time for this cruise, I'm sure that will change as the space develops it's own character. We were in a PH3 cabin and loved it! The cabin offers excellent storage, the chairs and table at the end of the bed ended up being where we spent most of our time rather than the love seat, and the bath was very functional, attractive and had plenty of enclosed storage. Interestingly, the rain shower is directly overhead, and because we also had a light there we were able to step out from under to shampoo our hair, but passengers in verandah category cabins indicated their showers were smaller and that was not possible. There is a handheld wand too, so that is not really a problem, but the passengers said it did take some time to learn how to most efficiently shower. My only complaint about the bath is the handheld hair dryer socket does not fit into the one outlet in the bath, so you have to go into the bedroom area to dry your hair. I understand that is for safety sake, but it's not convenient if one or the other likes to sleep in. There was no wall-mounted hairdryer in our cabin. The bed is comfortable, although it took us a few days to regulate the heat so we were comfortable at night under the duvet and those luscious sheets, and even then I woke up very hot during the night several times (don't know if that was Marina or me). We saw the verandah cabins and they were also lovely, but maybe not quite as well-organized as the R-ship cabins for two passengers; the closet is alongside the bed without enough room for two people to pass and get clothes at the same time, and the shower issue noted above. We enjoyed all the food onboard, which ranged from good to excellent. Our favorite was the sea bass in Red Ginger, the frogs legs in Jacques, and a wonderful truffle ravioli special in Toscana. Pollo was also good, but we both ordered the same steak, prepared the same way, and my husbands' was properly cooked while mine was overcooked; even so it was very tender and good. The crew onboard Marina is very well-trained, as one would expect. Some of the new crew were a bit nervous the first couple of days, which manifested as stiffness, but as time went along they relaxed and the service improved. Service for some meals early in the cruise was slow, but later in the cruise the timing of the meals was normal and comfortable as the start-up jitters calmed. Our butler was newly promoted, but he was friendly and helpful, and we appreciated his efforts. I do think he may have too many cabins to care for, because two mornings we called for coffee he was unable to respond until the afternoon. I only attended one evening entertainment venue, but while the Marina Lounge is small the space feels intimate. The four singers and four dancers and eight-person orchestra made the "Groovin" production show a joy. They are talented young people, the production was of good quality, if not Vegas glitzy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My husband saw several of the evening programs and enjoyed nearly all of them. The quality of entertainment has definitely risen several notches. Marina did exceptionally well on the maiden voyage, braving up to 25' waves and 60 mph winds one day with substantially less rocking and rolling than most similar-sized ships, according to more seasoned cruisers than us (this was the highest we've ever seen the seas). By about day 10 the seas were quite calm, and you'd find yourself reading, or visiting with friends and suddenly remember you were at sea. That's how calm the ship was in calm seas. Well, this is getting very long, and you're probably getting bored reading my drivel. But I wanted to let you know my thoughts. While not 100%, the Marina is a gem in the making, we enjoyed our crossing, and I urge anyone looking at a transatlantic crossing on Marina, to take the plunge. You will be pleased. We certainly were! Thank you FDR and Bob Binder for giving us this memorable experience on your baby, the lovely lady Marina. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
We arrived in Barcelona two days early. Took taxi to DuQuesa De Cardona, our hotel (5*) The night before the cruise there was a pre-cruise dinner for forty of us (CC roll call members). off to a great start with new friends. Embarkation ... Read More
We arrived in Barcelona two days early. Took taxi to DuQuesa De Cardona, our hotel (5*) The night before the cruise there was a pre-cruise dinner for forty of us (CC roll call members). off to a great start with new friends. Embarkation was like living a dream, we had seen so many photos but here it was, live. No waiting, no lines, plenty of happy people. We were in cabin 8062, taken good care of by our two attendants. There were a few times we found the cabin quite warm and noted that on our review. The comforter was too warm and we were told there were no light blankets. The ship was one delight after another: look at the lamps, look at the painting, look at the chairs, look at the new restaurants and look at the GDR, what a spectacle of beauty. The library became on of our most visited public spots with many comfortable chairs and reading "coves" and the books were plentiful and brand new, latest editions of travel books, novels, non-fiction, etc. There are more than enough public spaces to sit and relax, read or visit with friends. The upholstery, the wall coverings, the draperies, the art, sculptures, carpeting, wood paneling, and of course the Lalique crystal. Very different from the other O ships and yet did not feel the presence of the larger number of passengers at any time or venue. The new restaurants were delicious for us although we did hear a few complaints the first few days. We still like Toscana best but will miss Jacques and Red Ginger on our next Regatta cruise. One highlight was La Reserve, a wonderful experience, well paced, beautifully presented food and wine pairings. A group of 12 at tables for two resulted in a quiet and friendly atmosphere for a three + hour meal. We did not experience much entertainment, only one evening (we retire early, sitting on our balcony, weather permitting, with a cocktail). The new entertainment was colorful and the orchestra that played for them very good. The seats in the lounge have a school type tray that rises from under one arm of the chair and was not comfortable for using when the person had a large waist (yes, overweight) so fine for a thin person. The days began a bit cool and there were a couple of rough sea days and as we traveled to Miami the weather was fine for swimming and sunning. Mid cruise the staff opened the doors to the verandas and washed all the furniture, railings, glass door windows and the deck itself, which had been salted quite well by that time. Embarkation day we enjoyed the welcome from all the Miami cheers and celebrations, sat on our deck for a couple of hours and then went to the pool area to sit and wait for our turn to leave (done by color coding luggage tickets and according to flight times). That is a strange time, no water, no iced tea, no snacks, just waiting (although not hard to do in that setting with a blue sky and sun shining). The disembarkation area was chaos and people were waiting for transport in just about any form, taxi's being very limited. We had planned a taxi but ended up taking a shuttle after waiting for a good half hour. It seemed everyone wanted to get on the same shuttle and there were some rude behaviors from some people. We had plenty of time for our flight and were able to relax again in the airport. Although I remember all of our cruises, this one will always THE Maiden Voyage on Oceania's Marina. We have a reservation Jan. 2012 on Marina and will have the same cabin, will there be changes, wear and tear, lightweight blankets? Thanks Oceania Marina (ship, staff, friends) for giving us more than we'd hoped for. BTW, the one time only, complimentary alcohol and Internet spoiled us big time. Way more than we'd hoped for :-} Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Forget "Upper Premium"...this is Exceptional Cruising We took the opportunity last Winter to dive head first into the Oceania waters by grabbing a couple of rooms. A balcony and a penthouse. We traveled to Barcelona in ... Read More
Forget "Upper Premium"...this is Exceptional Cruising We took the opportunity last Winter to dive head first into the Oceania waters by grabbing a couple of rooms. A balcony and a penthouse. We traveled to Barcelona in style via Continental Airline's BusinessFirst product via IAH to FRA and then connecting onward via Lufthansa. I had booked the Eurostars Grand Marina in hopes that the ship would be docked out of the back door, but alas, Marina would be elsewhere close by. We were upgraded at the hotel and had nice rooms with comfortable showers, bedding, and niceties. The Continental breakfast was HUGE. I would order just one if you do this anytime soon. Transfer to the ship was 5 minutes from the Eurostars. Marina was very proud in her stately, but temporary residence, at the port in Barcelona. As this was the Maiden Voyage, there were some balloons and festivities going on at the check in hall. It took all of 2 minutes to complete check in before being directed onto the ship. This ship is understated elegance throughout. Where gimmicks abound on other ships, Marina's designers prefer to make exceptional choices in fabrics and furnishings. Gaudy is replaced by grand. Chrome is relegated to the backseat while crystal takes the driver's seat. Even the carpet says upscale home underneath your feet. More than once, I wanted to walk through the Grand Bar area barefooted. As this ship is essentially non-smoking, the air is clean and the upholstery will undoubtedly stay fresh for a very long time. Areas typically associated with smoke on a ship (bars and casinos) were equally bright and fresh and should stay that way for a long time. Attention to detail is everywhere. Instead of rolling off a litany of those experiences, I'd point you to a cruise critic thread where this was discussed in detail: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1339111 Service was fantastic throughout the voyage whether in the "buffet" area or the Grand Dining Room or the specialty dining spots. Service was always with a smile from a dedicated crew of hard working people from all parts of the world. There was very little out of sync with the service even though this was the maiden voyage. Compared to other cruises, the service was exceptional. Rooms were quite nice. I love the size and general layout of the R and S class Holland ship balcony rooms. Our balcony cabin did have a bit of a noise issue at times in rougher water as well as coming and going out of a crew cabin area just down the hall, but overall the room was nicely furnished and the bathroom was the definition of elegant. Very little plastic can be found in an Oceania Marina cabin. The penthouse cabin had an even larger bathroom space and a well appreciated walk in closet. In both rooms, the bedding and mattress were exceptional. Great food was a signature of this line and significant reason we chose to take this cruise. Each dining spot had fantastic dishes and service. I know some people think gathering up specialty dining reservations is as precious as panning for gold in California, but I will say that the Grand Dining Room did a great job each and every night. Additionally, the menu changes there and can offer some real surprises. The menu descriptions are understated for what comes out on the plate. Also, the nighttime Terrace Cafe is a treasure that should really be tried for variety and beauty. All in all, the dining experience on Marina met or exceeded anything we have experienced at the upper end/luxury hotels in Vegas. Again, exceptional dining is the standard onboard. No matter where you go, you would have a hard time having a bad meal. Unfortunately, you may suffer from the same malady many of us cruisers on Marina had...... 'O'mania. We felt that when we knew our cruise was about to end. Very few vacations meet the expectations of the persons making the journey. Marina exceeded our expectations. For that reason, I rate the Marina 'exceptional'. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
On our recent voyage on the Marina my wife and I were very pleased with the general layout of the ship as well as the dining choices. We found the steak house and the Italian specialty restaurants to be excellent. Two design flaws ... Read More
On our recent voyage on the Marina my wife and I were very pleased with the general layout of the ship as well as the dining choices. We found the steak house and the Italian specialty restaurants to be excellent. Two design flaws detracted from the experience. First, each cabin has a tub and a separate shower. That sounds like a benefit, except that making room for the tub necessitated making the triangular shower infinitesimal. Not one fellow passenger that I spoke with even considered using the tub. The designers should have omitted the tub and fashioned a decent size shower. Second, the wifi system (when used in the cabins) is very weak. Even the ship's computer guru admitted that guests needed to come to the computer center to get a good signal. For a brand new ship, such performance is very disappointing. Again, the designers should have done better.A last word about tours; Although not unique to Oceania, the prices of their tours are very high. For example, a tour of Florence and Pisa (admittedly a long, 8 hour day) that included NO admissions at all was over $200 per person. We had to pay our own admission fees to the church and baptistery in Pisa, as well as the one church in Florence that we had time (during lunch "on our own") to visit. Paying a premium price for a premium excursion is fine. Paying a premium price for a less-than-ordinary excursion is unacceptable. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
I am home only two days but want to share what a wonderful experience we had on the Pearls of the Riviera cruise mainly because of the perfection of our experience on the ship itself. The ship is absolutely beautiful. It is a larger more ... Read More
I am home only two days but want to share what a wonderful experience we had on the Pearls of the Riviera cruise mainly because of the perfection of our experience on the ship itself. The ship is absolutely beautiful. It is a larger more sophisticated model of the smaller Oceania ships. Our cabin was about the same size as on the smaller ones with the exception of the bathroom which was bigger mainly due to bathtub. My husband loves the veranda and used it daily whereas I like the open outdoor spaces where others gather. My strongest kudos are for the quality of the food throughout the ship. I was able to find fabulous choices in all eating venues. I am one of those picky eaters who likes meat, chicken, pasta and vegetables. I was able to find divine choices everywhere. Having eaten in Polo and Toscana many times, I knew we would have wonderful meals there. As usual, I was correct!!!! I also ate at Jacques and Red Ginger. At the former I had a divine veal stew and the latter a sliced steak. I am not a lover of French or Asian Fusion but the choices were great!!! The biggest surprise was dinner at the Terrace Cafe while we were anchored at Amalfi. We ate dinner as the sun set. Insignia was in the area and came to view the Marina with those of us on each ship waving to each other. This was a unique experience. But, my real shock, since in all the sailings I had never had dinner in the Terrace Cafe was the absolutely outstanding food, cooked to my specifications. I had choices of three steaks - fillet mignon, rib-eye or sirloin at the grilling station. My husband had gigantic shrimp and lobster tails cooked to perfection. I had soup, salad, carved meat, and cannelloni before I started on the desserts, which are divine everyday in every venue. I am now sorry that in the past I did not take advantage of the Terrace for dining. It is extremely casual and we sat there for over 3 hours both dining and chatting with some of the other cruisers we had become friendly with because of cruise critic. We also had the pleasure of speaking to Frank Del Rio for about a half hour as his family was also dining in the Terrace Cafe. What a nice, down to earth person who is really hands on in running Oceania. He is extremely personable and approachable. As you can tell, I give the cruise on Marina a very, very high score. A 9 out of 10. My only corrective criticism was I thought we had a full line of drawers and shelved alongside the closet. I told my husband he could have the drawers on top and I would use the shelves in what I thought was a cabinet. Wrong, it is the side of the hidden refrigerator. So we had to share 4 drawers. In addition for some reason the drawers in the desk are very small although the desk is standard size. The drawers are only about 6 inches in length so it's only good for underwear or t-shirts you need to fold in quarters. My suggestion to Oceania for this is put the refrigerator backunder the desk and give us girls some really usable shelves!!!! The same with the two outlets. With all the new plug shapes for phones, Ipads, cameras, etc. We need Oceania to leave an extension cord in the room or to place another outlet somewhere. Perhaps near the couch so we can charge the electrical equipment on the coffee table. My final suggestion is with tendering. The color coded system can really be improved with a few tweaks. First, all passengers should have the opportunity to leave the ship at the same time as Oceania's shore excursions. So, some seats on all early tenders should be saved for those traveling with private tour guides. Second, the color coded cards should be used in a very specific order so all those working the disembarking procedure know exactly what comes next and colors like green and cream should not be one after the other. Additionally, the tickets should be numbered so that when a tender is not full, the staff at tender level can call up to those in the Lounge to say, for example, that "Blue #s one to ten can report to the tender." With about two hundred people sitting in the Lounge where we had waited about 50 minutes we were finally called and our tender left with at least 15 empty seats. Comfortable for us, but useless for getting cruisers off the ship in an expedient manner. Finally, one last suggestion, for finicky eaters like me. I would love to have the opportunity to select which of the four restaurants I want to select with my 4 pre-boarding choices. It would really be nice if I could pick to dine in the restaurants I want to eat in rather than being told I am entitled to one reservation in each. Or perhaps there should be a way to barter the choices on the Oceania website as I know people who, for example would have loved to have switched my Red Ginger reservation for their Toscana reservation. So now you can see why I can't stop raving about my experience on Marina. It is a perfect fit for cruisers who as Oceania says, "Your world, your way!!!!"Kudos to Oceania. We are already booked on Riviera for next June!!!!! We can't wait!!!!! Thanks Oceania for a great vacation. And thanks Cruise Critic for the wonderful new friends we have made as a result of the Roll Calls. We continue to meet some of the greatest people because of the opportunity to communicate with fellow travelrs through the website. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
We've sailed Oceania before on their R-Class ships, but this is the first time on the Marina. We have been in Barcelona before, so we just came in the day of the cruise. The ship's connection via bus was a little clunky; ... Read More
We've sailed Oceania before on their R-Class ships, but this is the first time on the Marina. We have been in Barcelona before, so we just came in the day of the cruise. The ship's connection via bus was a little clunky; we'll just hire a car if we return there in the future (cheaper, faster and more comfortable). Boarding was smooth; Oceania registers folks in three classes (Penthouse & up, Concierge and all others), but the process was smooth (except for some language barriers with our person) for all, and everyone was boarding by about 1200-1230. The ship is beautiful; its feel will be comfortable to previous Oceania cruisers (doesn't repeat, but does rhyme, and getting around is quickly learned). High-end English Country Manor feel, excellent artwork, very good touches throughout the ship that are low-key but elegant. The Concierge and Exec Lounges were more useful than we might have thought; great place to get a snack, a map or to get info without trudging down to reception. Service staff was top notch and responsive to our needs. We did mostly private excursions, but when we did the ship tours, they were well-organized. The wait for tours in the show lounge, though, was hot, humid and less comfortable than we would want. Oceania may want to consider assigning a few other locales for groups to meet and wait, thus avoiding the stampede when a tour number is called. Food is rightfully one of the reasons to sail Oceania. The four specialty restaurants were very good; our favorite was Red Ginger. The Terrace Cafe, especially with the addition of the grill, is a good option any night you didn't feel like waiting or dressing up. For breakfast, though, it got pretty hectic, and seems as though they should consider removing some of the tables to create a better flow. The wait staff also seemed to get overwhelmed at times (not being timely with requested items) due to the crush. The Waves Grill is one of the best locales at which to eat an excellent casual lunch; their array of foods and options would be hard to beat. The Baristas is also a hit, although a redesign of the library would allow us to take our coffee into a nice quiet area without the passing throngs meandering by. Of course, we would also have wanted 2-3 more nights in one of the specialty restaurants... We also ate in La Reserve one night. The wines were quite good, although the food wasn't significantly different than elsewhere on the ship, so we're not sure if we would do it again. Not so much that it was not good, but the meals throughout the ship are excellent, so it is tough to move another notch up for the locale. Entertainment was acceptable, better than on the R ships, but not that much better IMHO. The show lounge also has a "low roof" feel and fixed row seats, which makes it difficult to sit if you're late. We would advocate they move to a small table/bankette configuration to make it more like a Vegas lounge. Another issue is the fixed show times around 9:45. With about a dozen ports, we were out most days, and didn't want to rush dinner, so we did not attend many of the shows. Perhaps they might, especially on sea days, consider an early show time, or two shows, so people could either eat early and see a show or vice versa. The string quartet played each evening, and we usually sat in on their mini-concerts. The location wasn't the greatest (in the big hallway leading to the main dining room), but people were respectful of those listening as they trundled by. Disembarkation was smooth, and the transit to the airport went without a hitch. Oceania also provided port shuttles at 3 stops, and we tendered into the small Biscay ports (tendering is more efficient than on the R ships, but the wait in the lounge, once again, made for a mad dash for the tender line more than once). Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
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