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225 Oceania Barcelona Cruise Reviews

This was our second cruise on O and we had a great time. The high quality of the food (especially when you think about how many meals they serve every day) and attitude that guests are responsible adults (especially with wine/alcohol ... Read More
This was our second cruise on O and we had a great time. The high quality of the food (especially when you think about how many meals they serve every day) and attitude that guests are responsible adults (especially with wine/alcohol policies) are our favorite things about O. And very well-trained staff! We did bring on wine and gladly paid corkage when we brought a bottle to the dining rooms. Also had some O wine, mostly by the bottle. We had a few O wines by the glass, they were well selected in our opinion. Did happily use the 'follow me' policy a couple times (if bottle not finished, O stores for your later enjoyment). Embarkation easy - apparently each port handles the actual check-in (not O), and Barcelona was very smooth. Our cruise started with an overnight in Barcelona, but an O person told us that the port shuts down the check-in desk at some point in the evening, so if you are embarking at Barcelona and want to check in late at night you might want to check with your TA or with O ahead of time (re-boarding wasn't a problem at any hour, just initial check-in). Handy tip we learned: you can't check any "open" bags with the port (it's more like airline check-in and less like a hotel bell desk) - this does make sense of course. Onboard - Lovely lunch at Terraces, some pre-purchasing of wine by the bottle (there was a table outside Terraces, with discounts), bit of sun time by the pool, visit to Baristas (on of my spouse's favorite spots onboard) and before we knew it our cabin category was cleared. Our friends wanted to board as soon as possible, or we might have waited until 3pm or so to board (meaning cabin would be available immediately). We were in a Veranda cabin, very well laid out imo. Our steward was great, always a smile and very accommodating. Very comfy bed. Plenty of storage for us, others may disagree - we pack pretty light (but we have an entire extra bedroom at home dedicated for clothes, so this is not a value judgment that less stuff is better!). Bathroom well-designed; separate shower is compact, DH preferred shower in tub for more elbow room. We had a day and a half of stormy-ish weather, nothing that kept the dining rooms from filling up but it was noticeably different vs. the calm days - we discovered that locking the safe shut eliminated the thumping that seemed to be the main in-room impact of the motion (the open safe door had been occasionally swinging to hit the cabinet door). Spouse loves the veranda--I suggested ocean view for next cruise to stretch $ and he gave me a look of horror :) DINING - we are foodies, and once again very pleased with O's food. Chef Kelly told us O's per staff daily meal budget is higher than some other lines' per guest daily food budget! Ingredients do make a difference. There were designated locations on embarkation day for additional (or changed) specialty dining reservations depending on cabin class - this worked well for us. We especially enjoyed Polo's excellent steaks, the french flavors in Jacques, and the variety at Terraces. We ate in the GDR 3 nights and enjoyed it more than our first O cruise last year - not sure if anything changed, or we just were more open minded? We liked the GDR's nightly changing menu (vs. set menus in the specialty restos) and the table service (vs buffet in Terraces, which we also like - just a different experience). Quality of preparation imo up to that of the specialty restaurants. There *could* be a few more sommeliers in the GDR, there is occasionally a bit of a wait - but wine service seemed more consistent (that is, better) than last year. We weren't ever in the center of the room - the center was relatively brightly lit thanks to the beautiful chandelier overhead - if you prefer (or dislike) bright lighting, let the desk know either way before they assign your table. We had a chance to eat in Privee as part of a party of 8 and loved it - wonderful service, fun to mix & match menus, we all brought some special wine and had lovely views of Ibiza as the sun set and we eventually set sail. Ymmv - friends ate there a different night and weren't as enthusiastic (they thought it felt too much like a boardroom). We also like Toscana, especially the carpaccio choices and the risotto and pasta selections (there was a daily special of these). We didn't get to La Reserve or Red Ginger this trip. Heard many very positive comments re:La Reserve especially on the wonderful pairings of wine & food. Our taste in wine is not 100% correlated to Wine Spectator (just a quirk on our part), so the La Reserve wine selections to us weren't super compelling - but I know we're in the minority there! Breakfast, we found that Terraces (while delicious) could get a bit crowded at certain times as folks prepared for shore tours. Although grabbing a hard boiled egg or two to go from Terraces may be the quickest breakfast aboard! We did have 2 cooler days, wear a sweater and sit under the overhang outside with other hardy souls and have an uncrowded breakfast view :) GDR was much calmer for breakfast and does have an "express" menu - some mornings it didn't open quite as early. Waves breakfast potentially rather handy, popularity seemed to vary widely one day to next. SHORE TOURS, we did our own except an O culinary tour in Casablanca, which was a bit spendy but well worth it at least once. Two food market visits (plus a city tour and an optional ceramics store stop), lots of insight to Moroccan cuisine, and a little bit of hands-on prep back on ship. We had so much fun in town that as a group we got back *just* in time to grab lunch at Terraces before it closed. Class re-convened at 4pm iirc. Class was very well designed, one dish we made almost from scratch, one we basically assembled, several others Chef Noelle demonstrated for us. Then we ate everything :) Other ports we often just took the shuttle and wandered about on our own. In Cartagena the destination notes said most attractions were closed Mondays (the day we were there), but many were open - so you can always hope that 'ship at dock' may change the "usual" schedules. EVENTS/ENTERTAINMENT Keep your eye on the daily "Currents" for special events, there was a pool side disco night that was a ton of fun according to those who attended & judging by the photos! Also, the alcohol packages were available up through day 4 or 5 (then the ads for them disappeared). We only made it to one lecture, but enjoyed watching replays of the ones we missed on the tv. There was an art auction onboard but it was easy to avoid entirely (just close your eyes in part of the corridor between aft elevator and Jacques). otoh if you wanted no-incremental-cost drinks, there were a couple of art auction open houses you could take advantage of (we didn't). We didn't attend any of the evening shows (too busy eating & drinking). SPA We did a 'spa' day in Malaga (we'd gone to the Alhambra the prior year), it was lovely. Spouse got a massage, I simply got a day pass. As last year, very quiet most of the day on the spa deck. We did enjoy the steam/sauna rooms several other times for quick visits. Spouse enjoyed massage, yes it costs more than onshore but it does come with spa terrace access :) SEA DAY there were plenty of activities to occupy everyone. Our sea day was the day before disembarketion, and there was a bit of rush in the laundry room from 8:30 to noon or so, after that (or before) it was much calmer. Otherwise it was never crowded (we were conveniently nearby and I got in the habit of touch-up ironing). CHECK OUT was well managed. Two chances to review your bill prior to leaving, and no need to do anything if all is in order (it was, at least with us). Sad to leave, though! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
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
Well! Well! Where to begin? Flight problems: After receiving our flight information, I called the airlines to see if we could upgrade to first class. We were told that since our tickets were "bulk" purchase (more on this ... Read More
Well! Well! Where to begin? Flight problems: After receiving our flight information, I called the airlines to see if we could upgrade to first class. We were told that since our tickets were "bulk" purchase (more on this later), we could not upgrade. While I was talking to Delta, the man mentioned that we had no tickets for the flight home. I called Florida, and was told that there was no problem, of course we had tickets to fly home. Since we have never used a cruise line's air before, I assumed that the woman from Oceania knew what she was talking about, NOT! The night before our flight, we tried checking in on line and was refused, so we called the 800 number that Oceania gave us to use if something goes wrong while traveling. The phone rang for 35 minutes, so we gave up on Oceania. We decided to go to the airport right then, the night before, in order to find out what was wrong. The woman we talked to there said a) our flight segments weren't done correctly, and b) we didn't have tickets to get home. Surprise! She said she had everything fixed and everything should be fine. And she said that because they were "bulk" tickets, we can't do things on line or get email notifications. The next morning Delta wasn't flying, but Delta got us on a United flight. At the end of the cruise - guess what - we got to Nice and was told that we didn't have tickets to get home. Air France at Nice managed to get us on fully booked flights when, fortunately, some travelers didn't show up. Excursions: 4 of the 7 excursions that we booked through Oceania did not go as planned. They were cancelled, partially cancelled, moved to another time, or modified. The partially cancelled one was due to a forest fire, so I can excuse that, but people on other tours said that their guides just flexed and did other things, while we were offered to walk the city streets of Marseilles, and we were not interested in doing that. Next, we were repeated told by other cruises that they NEVER use Oceania's excursions because they cost 3 to 4 times what you can get by booking your own tours. There are too many people on the excursions. Most tours have 30 people. They do not use the Whisper systems, so you can't hear unless you are very close to the guide. many of the streets are narrow, so the participants have to line up to get through some areas. Europeans don't use lines like Americans do. If there is a line of 15 pairs of Americans waiting to enter a street, 50 Europeans will merely walk to the front of the line and butt in. So, a couple of times, we were so far back that the guide had already turned a corner and we lost sight of the flag, but managed to recognize another of the ship's passengers and follow that person until we caught sight of the flag again. Most of the excursions are described as giving you free time. It is unnerving to be in a city where you don't speak the native language where you haven't been given a map or the guide's cell number and be told to meet back at a particular spot in 3 hours. We've never felt so abandoned when taking other cruise line's excursions. Meals on excursions: We only took one excursion that included a meal and we considered ourselves fortunate. The one that included a meal gave us a salad and a bowl with a cup of soupy rice in it. That's not a meal in my mind. The cabin: It's not laid out as well as a Disney ship, it has very little shelving to hold the dozens of pieces of paper that are left in your room. By the third day, we just started putting all the papers in the trash. Service: We were really surprised with the lack of service. On all our other cruises, someone came to our room the first day to show how to operate the lights, and how to get hot water in the shower and to welcome us on board. That doesn't happen on Oceania. Service is mixed in the dining area, I'll explain next. Dining: Unless you have a penthouse suite, you will eat once in each of the four specialty restaurants and the other four nights you can choose the grand dining room or the buffet. The buffet is a standard cruise buffet, and it opens at 6:00. Enough said about that. Specialty dining: Unfortunately, you have to reserve your time and penthouse suites go first, we were Concierge, so we reserved after penthouse, and the early times, 6:30 and 7:00 were often all taken. So the earliest you can get may be 7:30 and these are 3 hour meals. After getting up at 7 to make the 8:00 calls for the excursions, we were exhausted after dessert and just crashed into bed. So you will have to make a lot of sacrifices, either don't eat in the specialty restaurants, or don't take excursions, or do what we did, take both, and have a miserable night's sleep because you went directly from dining to bed. Polo was great, but slow. Tuscana was great, but slow. Red Ginger, the ceviche was not what Americans call ceviche and the avocado lobster salad was not what Americans call avocado lobster salad. Also, service was slow. Jacques was the worst. We had been forewarned about the French onion soup, so we knew to avoid that, and we both ordered the pumpkin soup, which was the best thing we ate there. The cauliflower au gratin was the blandest thing I have ever put in my mouth, horrible! Hubby had the pork rack and said it wasn't very good either. We were there 3 hours and they hadn't taken our dessert order yet, so we just left without it. Grand dining room: The menus are very limited. Each night there will be only ONE appetizer that has any protein in it. Tip - avoid the beef dishes like the plague! I ordered a sirloin and it was simply inedible. I had something that was called macaroni gratin and it was 2 pieces of macaroni with grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on it. When someone asked how it was, I pointed to it and said, "that's nasty". Enough said. Another diner ordered the Jacques Pepin signature New York strip, and it, too, was inedible. My husband ordered the wiener schnitzel and it was about a pound of deep fried batter and an ounce of veal, so I would suggest you avoid that dish, too. Potatoes: All the menus had multiple potato dishes, and very few green vegetables, only what you get in mixed steamed vegetables. The side dishes were very uninspiring. Entertainment and activites: we didn't participate because we took all day tours to see Europe and it took 3 hours for dinner. Pool: this was A Plus. The pool was great. Ports: This cruise went to wonderful places. Embarkation: We found it very easy to get on and off the ship. Children: This is not a cruise for kids, just don't even try. They will be miserable. Other passengers: I've read in many reviews that this line attracts rude people, but we didn't see that. Everyone was pretty nice except a German family traveling with 3 teenaged daughters. One thing that Mike and I noticed is that many people signed up for excursions labeled "strenuous" who should not have. Ladies, if you can barely walk, don't sign up for an excursion that says you will have 170 (or however many), steps to climb. Don't sign up for a 10 hour excursion labeled strenuous if you aren't in good shape. The ultimate question is would we use this cruise line again. The answer is maybe. But we would arrange our own excursions and flights. We would also just accept that we're going to be eating at a buffet every night. We can't go to sleep at 11:00 when dinner doesn't finish until 10:30 and then get up at 7 for an 8:00 excursion that is going to have us power walk for 6 hours. Read Less
Sail Date August 2016
We chose this cruise because we heard Oceania gave you great service and catered to passengers. We paid top price for a second hand ship they purchased fromPrincess and tried to refurbish it for this cruise and did not have enough time so ... Read More
We chose this cruise because we heard Oceania gave you great service and catered to passengers. We paid top price for a second hand ship they purchased fromPrincess and tried to refurbish it for this cruise and did not have enough time so it was not in a great shape. Most of staff was not experienced Including dining room, shows for very little they had and all went wrong. Electrical issues, fired in the engine room, plumbing not working correctly, long waits for diners , bars etc.... lots of passengers were Platinum members and other members and said this was the worst cruises hip they had ever been . I have been on 15 cruises and this was the second worst on my list. We paid $ 20,000.00 and got robbed. Everyone felt his way and it's a shame how they get away with this. They offered us $ 300.00 compensation, what a slap in the face. Apparently the other ships are totally different with everything as we were told by other passengers. So don't get robbed on The Beautiful Serena, because it was a disappointment and we could have had a great cruise on a much higher end ship for the price. Will never go on Oceania again and would not recommend them for how we were all treated on this ship. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Heard great things about Oceania. This cruise was the inaugural cruise on Sirena. We were extremely disappointed in this ship. The renovations they claim to make we're not always evident. From problems with rooms, service and ... Read More
Heard great things about Oceania. This cruise was the inaugural cruise on Sirena. We were extremely disappointed in this ship. The renovations they claim to make we're not always evident. From problems with rooms, service and entertainment this was a horrible experience. Rooms were small even though we had a room on the concierge floor. Service was slow. We saw limited servers in the bar area and it took forever to get a drink. In main dining room, service took forever most nights. Red Ginger was very good. Stage allowed only people on the front row to see the acts. The main entertainers were amateurish. The magician and sax player were pretty good. Public restrooms in some cases had soap dispensers not working and no towels. Hot tubs did not work ( no jets) the entire cruise. The excursions were not accurately described at time of booking, and by the time you got a more detailed description it was to late to change your selection. Recommend you stay away from this ship. Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Very disappointed in this cruise. The ship is wonderful, the crew was very effective - if not the best I have ever seen, but I was very disappointed in being turned away from Bemuda due to a "norovirus" outbreak. No ... Read More
Very disappointed in this cruise. The ship is wonderful, the crew was very effective - if not the best I have ever seen, but I was very disappointed in being turned away from Bemuda due to a "norovirus" outbreak. No compensation was ever offered for the extra time at sea, even upon request. It turns out that 70 passengers and 10 crew were sick....but does that mean they had norovirus, or were just seasick or had weak systems? (Age may be a factor here). At any rate, this issue caused us to negotiate the ship carefully due to the cleaning slime that was swabbed everywhere; tables, doorknobs, walls, rails, etc. The food, or course, had to be well cooked - which put a new twist on fine dining. Also disappointed in the array of clothing worn by gentlemen to the dining room - crocs, zip-off pants, shoddy shirts; I think the return to the "jacket required" rule would solve the issue. In spite of this preventable disaster, we enjoyed the entertainment, but will likely return to other cruise lines with a younger demographic in the future. In spite of the bad experiences as noted, the ship is very nice. There are some amenities missing, it seems to be built for a crowd that goes to bed a 10 pm. The Horizons lounge did have dancing every night, and was well attended - probably 50 people each night. The shows were excellent, and the "house" entertainers were very good. NCL trains them well at their boot camp for the whole NCL group, including Oceania. The fitness facility was the smallest I have seen on a cruise ship, and the most crowded. I think they need to re-think the use of the facility and make it bigger. Sometimes it seemed more like a physio clinic than a gym, but it was well used. Embarkation and disembarkation were very efficient, which is probably typical for a small ship. To summarize, Beautiful ship, awesome crew, great entertainment, but a really bad experience with a very elderly crowd and a virus. This will likely be my first and last cruise on Oceania, so: My advice - save your money and go to an all-inclusive. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
My husband and I have sailed many times with Windstar, Seabourn, Azamara, Cunard, Celebrity, and Holland America. This was the worst cruise we have ever experienced. From the moment of embarkation, seemingly simple requests were met with ... Read More
My husband and I have sailed many times with Windstar, Seabourn, Azamara, Cunard, Celebrity, and Holland America. This was the worst cruise we have ever experienced. From the moment of embarkation, seemingly simple requests were met with indignation by the staff (a request for a map of the ship, the ship's itinerary, a printout of a boarding pass, etc.). This was a bad sign for us as we had paid extra to sail concierge class which was to place us in a higher category of service. Then, up in the buffet, by the numbers, there were supposed to be more service crew. No one was ever available to help take food to the table and there were no trays, find a table, help elderly passengers avoid falls, etc. The management seemed to take a hard line *against* the passengers and *prevent* the crew from fulfilling simple requests made by the passengers. Then, when norovirus broke out on the ship (it seems that it has been a problem on this ship for a long time), the crew were deployed to wipe down every surface of the ship at every moment. This meant that at mealtimes, the crew made the surfaces slippery where passengers needed to walk. More than one passenger was injured as a result of this. Because of the outbreak, we were prevented from docking in one of the ports. Fine. The laundry rooms were shut down and made unavailable for passenger use. Fine. The internet was not satisfactory. Fine. But then, after all of these things, the bursar would intervene to prevent a crew member from printing my boarding pass, I was astounded. Other things: the cabin was not clean. Dust was visable and had to be pointed out to steward. Even when dust was pointed out in one place, it did not cause the steward from looking elsewhere in the cabin for dust. Although we were concierge class, our minibar was never filled. Food was mediocre and unremarkable. Service was spotty. No trays at the buffet and no help either. All-in-all, this cruise was a HUGE disappointment. We will not sail again with Oceania again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
I sailed on the Oceania Marina on November 10, 2013. The first 5 days went very well. All of the ships employees met expectations. The food was very good and gourmet. The accommodations in a balcony room were spacious, luxurious and ... Read More
I sailed on the Oceania Marina on November 10, 2013. The first 5 days went very well. All of the ships employees met expectations. The food was very good and gourmet. The accommodations in a balcony room were spacious, luxurious and comfortable...... Then the bombshell. I became ill and had to see the M.D...or what passes for an M.D. I was in sick-bay for approx. 3 hours and had to receive I.V. fluids. At one point when I questioned the treatment because my hearing is not superb the M.D. said "If you don't like the treatment here you can go to a hospital in Palermo where the doctors do not speak any English." Was this a threat I ask you. At the end of the 3 hours the price was a mere $1,792.00 for which I have yet to get paid. I have not gotten paid from my insurance company because the M.D or so-called M.D. did not use the proper coding. This experience has so soured me against cruises that I do not think that I will every cruise again even though this was my 7th. (first on Oceania). I wrote to Oceania and they refused to accept any responsibility. Read Less
Sail Date November 2013
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
In summary: - mainly cold og luke warm food in most restaurants - totally un-usable internet, and only one user at the time per stateroom - not acceptable in 2019 - Insulting missing invitation to captains coctail . although I ... Read More
In summary: - mainly cold og luke warm food in most restaurants - totally un-usable internet, and only one user at the time per stateroom - not acceptable in 2019 - Insulting missing invitation to captains coctail . although I have sailed with this ship twice before -they have no clue about former guests . a lot of errors in pour group booking, ended up in costing us over 600 USD extra - no will to sort this either from the ship og from the cruise line - arrogant reception crew - totally unsocial captain - Furniture too big for dining room - lest no room for walking in between Ship came from dock, and the cleanliness in the cabins was way below par - also a lot of noncense with the extra drink package that our group were promised - this cruise line are not keeping to their word. We were 44 people in our group - we will not travel with this cruise line again! Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
My partner and I are frequent cruisers - 6 in 12 months including Regent (1), Celebrity (2), Viking River (2) and Oceania (1 and done!) We specifically chose the Barcelona to Miami transatlantic crossing for its more numerous stops (6) ... Read More
My partner and I are frequent cruisers - 6 in 12 months including Regent (1), Celebrity (2), Viking River (2) and Oceania (1 and done!) We specifically chose the Barcelona to Miami transatlantic crossing for its more numerous stops (6) and especially those in Canary Islands. The second night on board, we were informed by captain that due to weather system they had been monitoring for days /weeks ahead expected to hit Tenerife we would divert to Gibraltar post Malaga, Spain...implying we would stop in Gibraltar which we are NOT doing. (We were not given any advance notice of weather before embarkation although Florida head office had been monitoring with Captain for days/ weeks out...). We are now stuck on board this ship for 8 days straight and have been told there will be no accommodation financially for TWO missed ports although the cruise line is saving significantly in not making these stops! We were also told by several frequent Oceania cruisers that they have been previously accomodated for missed ports in Bermuda (for example). Why not this cruise?..... The excursions we are now out are being credited back at 2/3 value with Oceania keeping the 1/3. Because this apparently happens often, we are told this is the “policy and there is nothing anyone on board can do about it. It’s the way it is”. I suggest any future cruisers either avoid taking the “OLife 8 free excursions or go for a $400 pp shipboard credit instead. This will give most maximum hard value should “Florida” head office decide to change cruise course and not accomodate passengers. We were asked to surrender our passports last night for stamping by Spanish Officials today. When we went to retreive them this evening, we were first told after sailing we could pick up. Tonight, reception employees said they needed to keep them due to immigration law. Couldn’t tell us which country’s law required this and neither could a level up in chain of command.....Florida (head office) told them to do it. A further tip from our first Oceania experience — book your own air fare. We paid premium for business class to Barcelona and were given a three flight routing despite there being direct and single stop options out of our Charlotte, NC home city. No option to confirm or reject- this is it and there is nothing that can be s is sooo different than previous experiences with true luxury cruise lines that seek your feedback, agreement on flight selection. Lastly, when we embarked, our safe did not work - it needed new batteries. On evening two, our veranda stateroom bathroom flooded and the TV remote works if turned upside down, depressed and held for quite some time. Also needed toilet maintenance mid cruise. In terms of excursions, there have been two. The first was a half day. We arrived to Guadeleste too early before museum opening and there were no public facilities on board or in the town. The entire bus (35 persons) got to use a single toilet in a bar! We went to Ronda today. No facilities on board and we stopped at a bar after 1.5 hrs. No lunch included in full day tour from 8:30-4:30. Great guide, driver. The tour cost was $149 pp for two hours there, back and 2 hr walking tour with free time / lunch on our own. Hopefully San Juan and Nassau will go as planned. There are a number of excursion cancellations / updates made once we were on board. Some excursions cancelled or changed. There is a broad range of dining options- Terrace Cafe buffet and grill is best. Service, temperature, variety. We have not been to Grand Dining Room b/c we could not get reasonable dining time - wanted 6:30...only 8:30 available. (Shows start at 9:30; they don’t do two.) Went to specialty restaurant Red Ginger. Everything was very good, but not spicy at all. All staffers were OVERLY concerned we might find something too spicy. We had to ask for chili sauce to spice it up. Toscana, Italian themed specialty restaurant, was not up to par. Our table of six had very little positive to say - food not hot, risotto overcooked, lobster chewy, pasta warm, not hot. Polo Grill (think steakhouse) and Jacques (french) next. One thing to note on specialty restaurants - it is nearly impossible to get a table for two. You get stuck with 2-4 other guests you may or may not have anything in common with. Politics came up at our table last night....We went to reservations desk today to ask for table for two going forward. Standard response received - you can have it if you want to eat at 9 pm....see above comments on times for Grand Dining Room.... Happy hour from 5-6 pm in main lounges with BOGO drinks. We took advantage on several nights. Happy hour often seranaded by piano player with niblles served ranging from nuts, chips, pretzels to cheese cubes, sausage puffs, olives. Enrichment activities vary greatly. There is a big emphasis on bridge plus trivia, mensa, two lecturers - a “dna expert” and naval historian. There are PAID enrichment activities as well - two hour culinary institute cooking classes at $69 per class and also paid (fee unknown) art classes with resident artist ...ie painting Mediterranean landscapes, apple studies, etc.... Fitness center is large with plenty of cardio machine variety, free weights, weight machines. While a range of FREE exercise classes taught by an inflexible instructor. Specifically, he did not want to modify classes to accomodate rough seas prefering to cancel them instead. We did finally convince him and he did modify begrudgingly. Nice outdoor walking tracks...I walked thirty miles so far. The staff on board....results are mixed. Our cabin attendant and Terrace Cafe grill team, wait staff are really fantastic. The reception, excursion, concierge, reservation desks and officers are the most non customer focused lot I have ever come across. The cruise line does not empower their employees to make anything right at the time of the occurence which is really a basic customer service principle and particularly found with real luxury brands. Oceania has a long way to go to realize their aspirations to become a REAL luxury cruise line. Scotty, beam us up, please. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
We were excited to travel on Oceania with our family of 5 and booked 2 staterooms for my husband, myself and our three sons in a separate stateroom. We were told by our Oceania travel representative and also confirmed with Oceania's ... Read More
We were excited to travel on Oceania with our family of 5 and booked 2 staterooms for my husband, myself and our three sons in a separate stateroom. We were told by our Oceania travel representative and also confirmed with Oceania's website that there would be a Teen Club on board, a game room and a basketball / sports court on the top of the ship of which there was none of the above mentioned things for our teenage sons. There was NOTHING for my boys to do on this ship. The only game room is a casino and you must be 21 to enter. The sports court was in fact, miniature tennis (elderly sport) or shuffleboard. The food was okay at best. Red Ginger and Jacques were both very good and Toscana was above average. Polo Grill was terrible, truly terrible. The Grand Dining room was sub par as well and the Terrace Restaurant was a slightly upscale version of a Luby's cafeteria. The shore excursions were okay but one at Alicante, Spain to a beach at El Campello was terrible. We were literally dropped off a bus (after circling the block a few times) and pointed to the beach and then the bus drove away. It was supposed to be a resort beach but it was just a beach, no chairs, no umbrellas, no water sports, no bars, no nothing. We called to be picked back up and two hours later, we finally made it to a real beach to explore on our own. When we asked for a refund, we were offered 50% back only and told it was an outside company that does the excursions separate from Oceania and that is all they would refund. Unacceptable! The entertainment was all targeted to the over 75 crowd and was frankly bad. During the cruise one night, our stateroom toilet began to flush on its own and water began to pour over the top. I didn't see the drain in the floor so I was very concerned that water would begin to flow on to the carpet in our stateroom. I called the front desk and was told someone would come and take a look. After three minutes and no one coming, I called back as I was worried about the water and the receptionist literally scolded me and said "YOU CALLED ME 3 MINUTES AGO!". She was very rude. After the amount of money we spent, it was a sorely disappointing experience. I would not recommend Oceania nor will I ever travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
1-We dined at the main dining room the 2nd night and had a terrible caesar salad and tough duck. The next day I went to the services desk on the 5th deck and told them. They said that they would have someone call me. I never received one. ... Read More
1-We dined at the main dining room the 2nd night and had a terrible caesar salad and tough duck. The next day I went to the services desk on the 5th deck and told them. They said that they would have someone call me. I never received one. 2- Cigar smoke was blowing onto the chairs along side the pool from the smoking area. I moved as did several others one of whom said that they had been on the Marina before and had complained. 3-The meals in the specialty restaurants and main dining room were no more than average. The best meals I had were in the Terrace Cafe except that many times there were no tomatoes in the salad area. 4-A few weeks before the cruise I received a call from Keith in what I think they call their Special or Concierge Services in their Miami office. In the next few weeks I called him 2X about a problem,left him a voice mail but never received a return call. There were a few other problems that should not have happened on a ship of this caliber that charges more per day than most ships.A few days before departure my wife and I wrote comments and placed them in the comment box. A few times we were reminded to fill the comment slips out;this was a waste of time as we still have not heard back from them. I wil now sail on other lines that are less expensive and probably have all around better services and food. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
We selected the Oceania Riviera Sept 18 - 30, 2017 Barcelona to Venice because of the itinerary and the desire to try another cruise line. We have cruised with Holland America, Celebrity and Viking previously. The draw to Oceania was the ... Read More
We selected the Oceania Riviera Sept 18 - 30, 2017 Barcelona to Venice because of the itinerary and the desire to try another cruise line. We have cruised with Holland America, Celebrity and Viking previously. The draw to Oceania was the supposedly upscale travel and food raves by previous cruisers. It barely lived up to either. The Oceania excursions are expensive and the poorest quality we have ever experienced. Typical excursion was a drive to a location, a very brief, inadequate description of the location, little background/history, followed by - "I'll meet you here in an hour." We had a wonderful guide in Rome and that was it. We had purchased an excursion from Oceania in every port. The folks who did Hop on Hop Off buses or hired taxis in ports had much better tours than we had for half the cost or less. The food was off and on even in the fine dining restaurants. I was looking forward to the Polo Grill because others said how wonderful it was. My filet was suppose to be medium rare, it was served closer to medium. Called the waiter over, next try closer to medium rare but still over cooked. I gave up and ate it. Others found better meals in the Terrace Cafe than the main dining room. Usually main dining room was pretty good for us. I didn't find the rest of the amenities above any other cruise line we had previously cruised with. We booked air through the cruise line. We found Air Canada Rouge level unacceptable for food, service, etc. The return had an unnecessary leg from Montreal to Toronto. If we hadn't requested wheelchairs which we always had to ask for in each airport, we would have never made the connection from Montreal to Toronto. Wheelchairs are whisked through customs and passport control. We flew out of Indianapolis so should have been routed through a US international airport, but I guess they get a deal with Air Canada. Lesson learned Never again will we travel Oceania/Air Canada. Now if I could get them to stop mailing 2 brochures a week. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Just 7 months ago I was on the Riviera and had noticed Oceania had slipped in almost every area since the 4 cruises I had previously with them. But now the Riviera has slipped out of "luxury cruises" into the mainstream. For ... Read More
Just 7 months ago I was on the Riviera and had noticed Oceania had slipped in almost every area since the 4 cruises I had previously with them. But now the Riviera has slipped out of "luxury cruises" into the mainstream. For the same money, I have been far happier in a full suite on Princess. We embarked in Barcelona easily and our concierge level room on deck # 10 was clean all week because of an excellent room steward. However the extra square footage seems wasted. It didn't seem any larger than a regular room on another line. Dining has suffered in the last year. Three specialty restaurants were excellent (Toscana the best) accounting for 4 of our meals but the wife was sick from something she had at Red Ginger during our last day in Santorini. The MDR was pathetic. Poor service and a ordinary selection of firsts, entrees and desserts continue to defy the talk of this being a "foodie cruise" The buffet has the same breakfast for 10 days straight. The breakfast in your cabin for Concierge people was actually quite good. Lunch and dinner up there was OK but the Terrace Cafe has the world's worst coffee. Even the lattes were cold or weak. The only alternative was to hike up to the barista on the 14th floor. Entertainment? Activities? While I did enjoy the $69 cooking course on last cruise, this had only 1 sea day. There was no activities. The casino was empty all the time. The entertainment is truly awful. The comedian was so bad the 1st night, I didn't meet a single person who saw him the 2nd. A small troupe of singers and dancers tried but its clear this is not an Oceania priority. Shore excursions are always a thorn in the side of an Oceania guest. Wanting to spend the OBC I thought I had, I signed up for a visit to 3 medieval villages and a tour in Santorini labelled Windmills and Akritori. The 1st did 2 villages then we were left in a run down area of some city to look at cheap ceramics for way too long. The 2nd was a nice tour of an ancient Minoan town but as to the windmills, the guide pointed to 1 about 800 yards away and that was it. They dumped us of at the bottom of a very steep hill, gave us a ticket to get down on a gondola and said goodbye. After a very steep climb we were confronted with a 2 hour wait to get off the cliff. I should mention that Oceania charges 50% than other lines for the same excursions. Most passengers I talked too were not happy with their excursions either. More hidden funnies. All items in the shops had a 20% tax added on. Similarly so did drinks and wine. Example. A $10 bottle at home would be about $50 on board. The and 18% for tip and 20% for Spain--for the entire cruise! There was no warning about this at all. That is an extra $19 a bottle! My suggestion is that when you go to France or Italy, buy a great bottle on shore and pay the $25 corkage at dinner or just savor the wine in the room and take a glass with you without the charge. More funnies. I bought the cruise with the O-Life option which included $600 of OBC and free internet, a $279 value. After coming back from my 1st shore excursion and trying to get online, I was told I had neither. After producing the papers to prove otherwise over and over. I was told they had to e-mail Miami head office. 4 times I tried, 4 times the head office denied the obvious. The purser is not allowed to phone head office. (or think for herself). With only 48 hours left in the cruise, I found a small card on my bed after dinner that I had $600. No call, no explanation. And little to spend it on. Champagne for the house? Back down to see the nodding fools and I was told still no internet and a credit of any sort is out of the question. I cannot tell if the takeover by NCL has anything to do with this but the bean counters have been busy and it is not good. Sadly, this was my 6th and probably last cruise with Oceania. Read Less
Sail Date August 2017
We were very curious about Oceania, and all the brochures that were piling up from the mail piqued our interest as well. We actually thought we were their targeted demographic; our WSJ had brochures enclosed weekly. Also, a few years ago, ... Read More
We were very curious about Oceania, and all the brochures that were piling up from the mail piqued our interest as well. We actually thought we were their targeted demographic; our WSJ had brochures enclosed weekly. Also, a few years ago, while at an awards ceremony on another line, the well-traveled couple next to us suggested we'd love Oceania. So on May 21, there we were, efficiently boarding in the port of Barcelona, but without our typical embarkation photo! There is no photographer on board. Hmmm .....no champagne or crew delighted to welcome us either! We'd booked a concierge level cabin, and after a disappointing embarkation lunch of fish cooked to cardboard in the outdoor cafe, made our way to our floor. Suitcases lined the hallways and landings. Passengers were locating and lugging their unwieldy bags down the corridor in both directions to their cabins. Being newbies, we followed suit. Is this the way it's done? Still not sure. We have been sailing in suites for the last 20 years. This was the smallest piece of real estate we've had so far (exception river boats), smallest balcony, and more limited storage space than typical. We were still getting sorted, and I decided to visit the lounge on our floor. Quiet....but I found the teabags and hot water, but, alas, only miniature takeout cups with cute mini lids! The novelty of this find only distracted me briefly, before I realized my cup of tea would be about 3 swallows! Oh well, day one, always a few glitches..... Dinner in the Asian restaurant was good; black cod is a favorite of mine, but again a few glitches...... The next many days were filled with ship shore excursions in Spain, Portugal and France. We'd been to several of the ports before, added Bordeaux, Oporto, Bilbao, Cartagena this trip. Some background might be helpful. Oceania mails a lovely personalized book of your itinerary, and a complete list and description of all shore excursions. However, the pricing for ordering multiple shore excursions was complicated, and customer service reps warned me twice to call back before I finalized my selection to make sure of pricing. At the time I thought this was much too complicated and too much phone time compared to other lines, where I can easily choose online. But, if this is how an experience is personalized, so be it. We did basic city excursions daily. Some were more successful than others, but all participating passengers were directed off to their tours efficiently. Returning was another story on at least a couple of days. The full buffet closed at 2:00pm. We found this time rather arbitrary when most of the passengers were touring and returning close to 2 pm. The outside grill remains open longer, the concierge lounge has mini sandwiches and cookies, and afternoon tea is served for an hour late afternoon. Again, food is fine, specialty restaurants are good, and if you obsess over unlimited shellfish, this is the line for you. However, our expectation was that the service level would be impeccable. That was not our experience. All food is served from the buffet. That goes for coffee and water too....repeatedly, we were ignored at table of one or two. On the other hand, plates were removed as soon as a fork was placed down. And those teeny cups? The only ones available all cruise long. My experience in the outdoor grill day 2 was so disagreeable, I would not return. Those lunch crowds after the tours returned filled the outdoor grill to overflowing. I did not know the protocol. I went up to the order window, got yelled at to go get a table....I said there are none now, but may I order, and got ignored totally, totally dismissed, while next person in line placed order. Never. Never. Have I been the target of rudeness like this onboard a ship. ((Aside: I have seen crew members so well trained that they keep smiling even as passengers become impossible!) By Day 3 I was pretty convinced no one cared if I was on board, except our cabin stewards, who were very good at their jobs, and did smile and greet us like they were happy to see us! I did laundry on board, (first time since 1995), as did many others. I did not take a cooking class, nor a watercolor class. I did attend lectures and some of the entertainment. The big ships win the entertainment category easily, with multiple venues, and some exciting options. There's more to the story; I kept my usual log. Oceania is called the "foodie" line for all the lobster and no charge specialty restaurants. The library is great, paneled, many good titles available. Always lots of pool lounges open. Always room in the gym. Many well-traveled passengers on board; average age skews older..... It certainly isn't the fun ship. There certainly isn't a sense of festivity at any time or place. The free internet was so bogged down, we timed out before accessing sites. The gracious hospitality we've experienced from other ships' crew and officers wasn't demonstrated to me as a newbie. There were no washcloths or water coolers when returning to ship. There were no wow moments for us- and we have had many onboard surprises over the years.....the whole voyage was very laid back...... We are pretty low key, but we do leave home for a break from the ordinary, and to enjoy some special memories and interesting places. But indifference? That was our takeaway. We did not book a new cruise onboard. Read Less
Sail Date May 2017
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. I have been to Spain and Portugal but always wanted to visit Morocco. We booked late and couldn't get the cabin we wanted so only had a window rather than veranda; our travel agent ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. I have been to Spain and Portugal but always wanted to visit Morocco. We booked late and couldn't get the cabin we wanted so only had a window rather than veranda; our travel agent convinced us that we would be in port enough that the room wouldn't be an issue. She also lauded this cruise line and talked up the food. Well........wrong! The room was livable but the bathroom was a joke. It had one sink and absolutely no place to put one's make-up. I had to lay a towel over the sink for that. Also, since this attracts an older crowd, a magnifying mirror would have been nice but with limited space, I suppose that wasn't feasible. Shower was so small that I don't know how some of the larger travelers would be able to fit. Another small gripe was that cotton balls and swabs came in tiny boxes of about 3-4 and I had to ask for more. Stingy! On to the food. It was only fair and the plating was totally blah. One night I had a piece of salmon and about 5 green beans on a huge white dinner plate. No sauce, no garnish, nothing until a waiter came and offered something to sauce the fish. We were expecting gourmet at least in the Grand Dining Room with Jacque Pepin as the consultant. He would have been mortified. Even the Tuscan Room was nothing special. My S.O. had a shrimp cocktail appetizer which he couldn't eat since the giant shrimp were mushy. In the buffet things were ok and S.O. was happy with eating sushi. The ports of call were mostly good with the exception of Arrecife, Spain. We went into the "town" for about 1/2 hour and went right back to the ship. Most servers were professional but didn't show much personality. One was downright snobby, the maitre d' at dinner in the dining room. Maybe it was because we had a cabin in the basement? The 2 nights we went to dinner with friends from the 8th floor, they were greeted by name but we never were. Just saying...... Read Less
Sail Date September 2016
Our first Oceania cruise and sadly our last. For the following reasons: The Nautica did have good food, some of the best we've had on a cruise ship. The service was OK but it was very slow at several of our meals in the main dining ... Read More
Our first Oceania cruise and sadly our last. For the following reasons: The Nautica did have good food, some of the best we've had on a cruise ship. The service was OK but it was very slow at several of our meals in the main dining room. I think they have trouble dealing with the surge that can occur when there are no set dining times. The ship is very old and it didn't do well in slightly rough seas. On a couple of days the crew placed seasickness bags near all the elevators. Also due to the age of the ship the decor is very dated. The woods are very dark with dark colors throughout. It's a bit drab but well maintained. It's a small ship with not a lot to do: - the shows put on by the 4 member ship's cast were pretty good - the shows by the entertainers they brought on board (e.g. comedian & flute player) were cheesy and 2nd rate. - the pool area was acceptable - beyond that not a lot of worthwhile things to do People we met on board were nice, but this is definitely an older crowd. The ship eliminated one of our ports of call without advising us. We had scheduled a tour on our own at this port but because ship did not give notice of the change we lost our fee for the tour. When we complained, Oceania said "too bad we can change itinerary whenever we want, you should get trip insurance to protect yourself" (trip insurance would have cost more than the money we lost on the tour). Not the great experience we were expecting from a high end cruise line, we'll try others in the future. Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
food was fabulous but felt more like a floating nursing home than a cruise ship - walkers, wheelchairs, canes, braces etc. - excursions a nightmare cause all we did was wait for folks who were unable to walk at a normal pace or had to go ... Read More
food was fabulous but felt more like a floating nursing home than a cruise ship - walkers, wheelchairs, canes, braces etc. - excursions a nightmare cause all we did was wait for folks who were unable to walk at a normal pace or had to go to the bathroom every hour - had been on the riviera previously and loved it but this cruise was disaster - worst part was having crew members on their hands and knees cleaning the bottom of the railings on the stairs during the dinner hour - felt terrible walking past them in our dinner attire - will never go on this ship again - very limited times for meals - if you wanted to sleep in you missed breakfast cause they all closed by 10 am - suite smaller than expected and room service a disaster - no one could find any room service menus Read Less
Sail Date April 2016
Having cruised many lines previously but not Oceania, we eagerly looked forward to our first, which was the transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to Miami. While it was probably the worst cruise I've ever been on, I will endeavor to ... Read More
Having cruised many lines previously but not Oceania, we eagerly looked forward to our first, which was the transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to Miami. While it was probably the worst cruise I've ever been on, I will endeavor to state the facts fairly. Due to the outbreak of Norovirus and the dismal way it was handled by Oceania, I do have to admit writing a positive review has its challenges. Embarkation went smoothly with no glitches. We got on the ship quickly and waited in one of the bars. There was very little direction from the staff and no beverages but as experienced cruisers, we were fine with just chilling out with some other guests until getting to our room. Cabin: Found it to be nicely appointed with lovely furnishings and the most comfortable beds/bedding. The bathroom is spacious and of course, the bathtub was a big attraction for me. Dining Room: We mainly enjoy having our meals in the main dining room as opposed to the more laid back venues and only ate in the Terrace once....due to the Norovirus outbreak on the ship, I was very hesitant to do the buffet again. We found the breakfast service to be very very slow. Many days it took 15 to 20 minutes after being seated to get a cup of coffee. I solved that by ordering a pot of coffee in my cabin each morning. As for the evening meal, all in all, I would say the food was very good, perhaps a bit bland and most of the time lukewarm. I did find that whenever a deviation from the menu was requested, it seemed to be a huge event for our waiter. For instance, one evening, I asked for mashed potatoes rather than rice. Since mashed potatoes are always on the menu, didn't think that would be such a challenge. As far as the special restaurants, we just loved Red Ginger. A++++ with delicious food, presentation and excellent service. I did not enjoy Toscana's but think I neglected to order well. Activities: Due to the outbreak of Norovirus, we didn't do many of the activities. We had planned on Bridge but nixed the idea of handling playing cards. One day, I took the art class but since my fish painting was so dismal, I decided my artistic abilities left a lot to be desired. Most of the time, we were happy to just chill out by the pool and catch up on our books. Gym: Nicely furnished and never seemed crowded. It horrified me to see people coming and going with little attention to disinfecting. In particular, the lack of staff in the gym to enforce sanitation seemed ridiculous. There should have been someone assigned to the gym to maintain sanitary conditions. I went everday and was fastidious about wiping the equipment before and after use. Wish I could say the same for some of the other guests. Next to the gym is a separate room that is a pleasant place to practice yoga or pilates. Entertainment: We enjoyed some of the evening presentations but most of the time missed them because the service in the dining room was so slow. I'm not sure what goes on with Oceania as far as staffing but it sure didn't work well on this cruise. Perhaps they were also sick or derailed to other shipboard tasks. Did not seem like a well-oiled machine. Excursions: We generally don't do the cruise line excursions...prefer to book our own. Due to the fact that we were denied entry to Bermuda because of the Norovirus issue, the one excursion I had planned on was a moot point. Service: Dismal! I nearly always felt that the crew just wished they didn't have to deal with the guests. Perhaps they were exhausted. I did not see the cheerful happy attitude that I've seen on other ships except for a few people. Never once at the pool was I offered a drink. Disembarkation: Could you even call it that? There was no organization...lines and lines of people pushing and displaying poor etiquette. When we got off the elevator to disembark, there were people everywhere and one didn't know where to go. Added to that was no staff present for direction. Then the long long line to get through customs.....not fun. I'd have to say it was the most disorganized, hectic disembarkation. Of course, I've never seen anything like that previously, even on larger ships. Service: Ah, SERVICE! Shame on you Oceania. I purposely waited a week to write this review because I needed to cool down but I'm still shocked at the complete and utter arrogance of management. For instance, after enduring days and days of not having our room stocked/cared for, I finally went to the front desk with a list of 7 items that we needed assistance with. I discussed everything with the girl and she promised to get it resolved and also to bring it to the manager's attention so he could contact me. To this day I'm still waiting. There was no rhyme or reason to how our room was maintained. I consistently had to leave a written note for our room steward to leave the most basic supplies such as shampoo, water, ice, towels, robes. I might expect this on a no frills cut rate cruise but we all know Oceania is not cheap. Summary: Oceania had been highly recommended by our travel agent as well as our friends. What happened on this ship and how it was handled by management is inexcusable. I lay this issue squarely on management from the Ship Captain to Hotel Captain (neither of which did I ever see.) Plus, the cruise director wasn't much better. I do hope Oceania can learn some lessons about how to handle Norovirus because as of this writing, it is still present on the Riviera. If they had stepped up to the plate and been more active with addressing it from the beginning, perhaps this wouldn't have been the cruise from Hell for so many. The dripping gels got to be annoying. Fortunate for us, we did not catch the virus but still, the shortcomings of management really impacted enjoyment of the cruise. I feel like they buried their head in the sand and just marked the hours until the passengers got off the ship. We will NOT cruise Oceania again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
We were aboard the Riviera for the Transatlantic crossing Barcelona to Miami. We have done 10 previous cruises but this was our first cruise with Oceania and we were expecting a special experience as we were celebrating my husbands ... Read More
We were aboard the Riviera for the Transatlantic crossing Barcelona to Miami. We have done 10 previous cruises but this was our first cruise with Oceania and we were expecting a special experience as we were celebrating my husbands 65th. We really enjoy the relaxing aspect of transatlantic trips. In April we took a Princess's transatlantic and despite not being able to dock in Bermuda due to bad weather it was a wonderful experience. Prior to departing we discovered that we had been upgraded from an inside cabin to a veranda. The room was ready shortly after we arrived and the cabin staff were wonderful through out the trip. Our booking came with ship credits as well as one from our travel agent which was missing from our room. When we inquired I was asked for proof and luckily I had all my emails with me. It still took several days for it to appear. The cruise had a number of features we appreciate. We enjoyed the fact that no photography staff were hounding us for photos that we seldom buy. The Library was well stocked and the specialty coffee bar was one of our favorite stops. Part of package was free internet. The connection was slow but Robert the computer room attendant was patient and helpful to everyone who asked for help. One of the first people we met was the cruise director Ray Michaels and despite other comments we found him to be friendly and helpful. The gym facilities were nice and the staff friendly but I found most of the quests had no idea how to use the facilities. Very few of my fellow guest bothered to wipe down equipment after using it. I was one of the guest who became ill during the crossing. At the beginning I thought it was something I ate and stayed in my cabin. On day 2 of the illness I went to the medical center and then realized we had a outbreak. The medical staff provided Imodium and asked me to stay in my cabin for 24 hours. The Doctor was not exactly warm or friendly. I was asked to list everything I had done for the previous 4 days along with where and what I ate. I was given a limited list of food I could eat from room service. Room service trays arrived at the room covered in plastic with a bio-hazard bag to place it in when finished. The first night I ordered grilled chicken and rice. After waiting 45 minutes the food arrived with the chicken not completely cooked and the raw juice running into the rice. After 24 hours I received 2 calls from staff and received very different information as to when I was cleared to leave the room. Turns out someone other than medical staff had made the first call and I was basically confined to my room for another day and the nurse had no idea who would have called. Definitely seemed to be a lack of coordination. During my confinement we had to cancel a dinner reservation for Red Ginger. We were given an alternate day. When no card arrived confirming our time, we went to the desk and were told we did not have a reservation. That was the one place we had looked forward eating at. After being released we stopped going to the buffet and used mainly the main dining room. Service for breakfast and lunch was hit or miss. Some were quick and attentive while others seemed lost and over whelmed. On disembarking I can say that those who were ill were not given any special treatment. We were in the same long, unorganized lines. No ofer of compensation were given to those who were ill during the trip. One of my other complaints was our airfare was included. We were forced to pay for our luggage despite the fact that we checked them in directly back to Canada. The flight they booked for us had a 4 hour stop in Philadelphia when others from our city were put on direct flights. Not sure that I would recommend Oceania to a friend. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
Having cruised on NCL, Celebrity, Princess, Disney and Holland America LIne (cruise line of choice of late), we were looking forward to our experience on Riviera and our "step up" from mass market lines to Premier cruising on O. ... Read More
Having cruised on NCL, Celebrity, Princess, Disney and Holland America LIne (cruise line of choice of late), we were looking forward to our experience on Riviera and our "step up" from mass market lines to Premier cruising on O. We researched so that we would be familiar with Oceania and planned what we thought would be nice change from what we were used to on other cruise lines. Our embarkation was very smooth and rooms were ready at 1:00 p.m. Our room was very, very nice (PH), well laid out, tons of outlets, beautiful bathroom, huge walk in closet, etc. Everything you could ask for. The ship is very pretty as well. What we were to discover is that although the cabins and ship are lovely, it was all looks and no substance. Service was very inconsistent on the ship. While there were some good waiters and crew, the poor, uncaring ones outnumbered them. It could be difficult to find a table in the Terrace Grill as tables were not cleared off and left with dirty dishes. Service in the specialty restaurants was the same. The only waiter who asked if we were enjoying our meal was in Jacques (along with one waiter in the GDR). In the rest of the restaurants, we were ignored, left to sit with dirty plates for over 45 minutes on several occasions. (This included Polo where one of our table mates could not eat any of his meal and it sat there on his plate staring at him). Speaking to the restaurant managers did little to improve the situation. While we did not enjoy our meal in Red Ginger, our friends who had a different waiter did. Our food had most likely sat under a heat lamp far too long and suffered accordingly. Their service was far better than ours. So, you could be in the same restaurant at the same time and have a totally different experience because of the inconsistency in the service. Jacques was fabulous as was the service there. Highly recommend. We also did La Reserve and Privee and these were very good. Fabulous service and food. Both of these come at a cost, but the service and experience were certainly worth it. Overall, the ship does not deliver the gastronomy experience and service that it promotes. Other than the few exceptions mentioned, we have had better service on mass market lines. Sadly, Noro raised it ugly head on this cruise. Now, we have been on Noro ships before and it doesn't have to be the end of the world. It can put a bit of a damper on things but normally these outbreaks are handled well. This was not the case on our cruise. Management was non - existent. No communication other than to say we were over 2%. While the ship closed the self serve laundries, other than applying goop on surfaces, little else was done. Pool, hot tub, casino, computer room, library all remained open for everyone to touch. Worse, the silverware, cutlery, glasses were all out in the open at both Waves and the Terrace Grill. Food was placed out prior to 5:00 a.m. (Pastries, fruits, etc.) in Waves and the Terrace Grill uncovered and unprotected. Salt and pepper remained on the tables along with the sugar cubes in the GDR, etc. Tea cups in Horizons are out long before tea time for anyone to touch or handle. No wonder the ship couldn't defeat Noro. Looking back, I am not surprised at the Noro outbreak since the Culinary Class chef was allowing people who were coughing to take the class despite the health stipulation you must sign to take the class. Service continued to deteriorate to the point that when we received our mid cruise survey, a letter requesting a meeting with the GM was sent to discuss issues. We received a form letter back and were unsuccessful at a meeting. O's management stuck their heads in the sand and left the passengers in the dark. Had they communicated it would have improved things somewhat. A lot of new crew boarded in Barcelona and while the tendency is to blame the new crew, the ones we met were the ones giving the good service. Many of us were disappointed with the last minute announcement (at dinner time the night before we were to dock) that Bermuda's Ministry of Health had refused the Riviera permission to dock. (We were supposed to have a two day stay here.) That was more revealing than any information the ship had provided to us. This added two sea days to our Transatlantic crossing so instead of 5 days at sea, we were 7 days. There were no special events or additional activities planned for these two days. Same old, same old. There was no token apology as you see on other cruise lines. No opening of bars, not even a cheap glass of sparkling wine. It just appeared that no one in management cared, so why should the rest of the staff? In fact, passengers nearly got treated as nuisances as our cruise was drawing to a close. Disembarkation was horrific. I have never seen such a bad one. People came from every crevice on the ship trying to get in the line. There was little staff there to keep things organized so it took far longer than it should have. Inconsistency is a huge issue on this ship. If you luck into the right waiters, you can have a great experience on this ship. If you don't......beware - like us, you may feel you didn't get what you paid for. Read Less
Sail Date November 2015
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