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11 Oceania Middle East Cruise Reviews

I chose this cruise line due its reputation for providing the finest cuisine at sea, and its reputed service provided by the high crew to staff ratio. We sailed from Piraeus Greece to Dubai on a 20 day cruise and were really looking ... Read More
I chose this cruise line due its reputation for providing the finest cuisine at sea, and its reputed service provided by the high crew to staff ratio. We sailed from Piraeus Greece to Dubai on a 20 day cruise and were really looking forward to our concierge balcony stateroom which was our first disappointment. The cabin furniture had seen better days and was covered in a dark varnish which gave the room a gloomy feel. The carpet badly needed a shampoo as it had a stained and dirty appearance. The bathroom was very small and god help you if you dropped the soap whilst in the shower cubicle. We have had better cabins on other cruise lines and wonder how Oceania can label it concierge and price it as such. On the plus side, were the efficient and friendly cabin staff. The two speciality dining venues whilst imposing no surcharge failed to impress. The steaks in the Pole Grill were overcooked (my medium rare steak came well done) and was as tough as old boots The grand dining room was probably the best choice for evening meals as It provided adequate fare on a consistent basis and occasionally provided excellent meals. The terrace cafe was simply a disgrace. Food that should have been served hot was barely warm. Food hygiene was poor. Whilst in some ports, the food was left uncovered and much enjoyed by the large number of flies that chose to settle on it.. When asked why the food was not covered, I was told that it should be!! I then asked why it wasn't, I was given a shrug. Little things like warm milk being served with breakfast cereals or pots of tea filled with water that clearly wasn't hot enough to make a proper cup of tea are examples of the lack of detail one wouldn't expect on a ship of this class. Food overall fell short of the boast that Oceania provides the best cuisine at sea. The coffee shop was serviced by the most surly of staff who clearly didn't want to be there Entertainment and guest speakers were second rate at best Excursion were overpriced as were the drinks on board. I have enjoyed cruising on many different lines and can say in all honesty that Oceania Nautica's cuisine, entertainment and service fell short of all of them. In short Nautica was overpriced and overrated. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
Other than being disappointed by Oceania once again taking two ports off the cruise as we were cruising the trip was amazing! We were supposed to stop in Cyprus and one additional stop in Egypt. VERY disappointed that we didn't. The ... Read More
Other than being disappointed by Oceania once again taking two ports off the cruise as we were cruising the trip was amazing! We were supposed to stop in Cyprus and one additional stop in Egypt. VERY disappointed that we didn't. The cruise line told us it was due to weather but we know that over 30 guests missed flights and so the ship stayed another night in Istanbul to save themselves money. I'm certain that guests would have understood had they told the truth. Had I been one of the people who had our flight delayed I would have appreciated the cruise line waiting. Knowing that we were lied to put a damper on the beginning of the cruise then later when we were again told that we wouldn't stop at a port in Egypt we wondered what the real reason was. This isn't the first time Oceania has done this. Every cruise we have been on with them they have eliminated at least one port....to save money?? When you sign up with a cruise line you expect to stop at all the ports you pay for. Read Less
Sail Date November 2014
This is our first time on Oceania. The Insignia has been refurbished and this was her maiden cruise. The rooms are adequate. No frills, standard. The bathroom is very small and they have cleverly used a shower curtain vs a glass shower ... Read More
This is our first time on Oceania. The Insignia has been refurbished and this was her maiden cruise. The rooms are adequate. No frills, standard. The bathroom is very small and they have cleverly used a shower curtain vs a glass shower door to allow a little more space to maneuver in the shower. Ask for softer pillows. Housekeeping will bring them almost immediately The ship is very clean. The crew is courteous and does everything they can to make your trip a pleasant experience. The dining room staff in both the Grand Dining room and the more casual buffet restaurant are so efficient that as soon as your fork hits the plate…it's promptly removed. We didn't take the Oceania excursion package and opted to arrange for private tours. I think it might have been better to take the package because you are ensured that you will be with a "group" and not have to be concerned if you are late getting back. The other really big thing for us, is that using the tools of CC and the message boards I connected with some fellow passengers who were looking for an additional couple to join their private tour. I can't stress enough that if you intend to do this, make sure you engage with the other travelers PRIOR to committing to join up with them to make sure you feel a synergy. Although I attempted many times to contact them on CC, they ignored me and even when I posted to them that I had joined their tour, they did not acknowledge me. I should have realized this could be a potential issue. It was and turned out to be two very uncomfortable travel days. They were not friendly or engaging and the rides in the mini van was almost unbearable as the tours are 11-12 hours each day. Get to know who you are joining way ahead of time of alleviate and/or identify any red flags. We thought the ports were good and again the Cruise Director, Leslie kept us informed on the various activities on and off the ship. The evening entertainment was good In summary, this itinerary is very hectic...make sure you understand all the walking and climbing involved I should mention that as this was a "Rechristening Cruise for the Insignia, the founder and his wife were on board the ship. As new passengers to the Oceania line, I think it would have been good if he and his wife sought out the "new" passengers…although we saw them dining with us..they mostly kept to themselves. I would say this was an overall good experience. However, this will be our last Oceania Cruise. It is very expensive and I expected a bit more...   Read Less
Sail Date June 2014
I can't believe I am the first to review this fabulous cruise! Been home four days, and am still glowing. Background information: I am a mobility challenged traveler, but very adventurous. Being dissatisfied with Oceania shore ... Read More
I can't believe I am the first to review this fabulous cruise! Been home four days, and am still glowing. Background information: I am a mobility challenged traveler, but very adventurous. Being dissatisfied with Oceania shore tours on two previous cruises, I arranged private tours for us in most ports, but my husband did take 2 Oceania tours that I did not. Getting to the port of embarkation, Barcelona from our lovely quiet Hotel Gaudi was a snap of a short taxi ride. Embarkation was handled smoothly, including getting our luggage to our room in good shape promptly. No fuss; no hassle, great lunch awaiting us 12 ish. Our Stateroom, 8125 was not far from the rear elevator, which turned out to be a big plus for me: most dining spots, the bridge/card room were located in that end of the ship. This was the largest, nicest stateroom of our three Oceania tours, and we didn't even use all the storage space for a change.Dining? As close to perfection as you can get, including the Terrace Cafe, all four specialty dining rooms, and the Grand Dining Room.For a foodie to make that statement is saying a lot. Tasty, varied menus, consistency, hot food hot, cold food cold; from soup to dessert the food was top notch. We enjoyed eating alone sometimes, but whenever we wanted a table for 4 or 6, we met interesting fellow travelers. Service was outstanding in all respects. The ports on this cruise were much to our liking: Malta, Rhodes, Barcelona, Israel, Crete, Cyprus, and the crown jewel: Istanbul, where we spent 4 days on our own, post cruise. I'm going to mention the private guides we had in most of those ports before I get to the criticism of the Oceania shore tours. Ram_dreng@yahoo.com made Istanbul come alive for us; can't recommend him highly enough. (Ramazan Guloglu)We took taxis everywhere in Istanbul, and they were comfortable, very inexpensive and fun. In Malta: Rita Fsadni: ritafsadni@gmail.com; in Rhodes: Nicholas of Rhodes (taxi) nick-ax@rho.forthnet; in Israel: Mickey of info@guidedtoursisrael.com all did a super job of catering to my mobility limitations while giving grand tours for our small groups we put together, using cruise critic to get other passengers to join us. A quick word about our one complaint: my husband's Oceania tours in Emphasis and Knossis in Crete were sadly lacking. Other passengers complained bitterly about the ship's tours in other ports. One Canadian friend we met muttered "never again!" after an extensive tour of Istanbul at the end of the cruise. There were so many complaints about the quality of the tours that the expensive side of them didn't get as much mention as the poor quality. Back to the positives:a new feature on this cruise were the Culinary Center programs. I took two, and enjoyed the chef/intructor, the recipes, the facility, the reasonable cost of 69/small group hands-on instruction. Other passengers were very pleased with the entertainment; we were just too tired by the end of dinner to partake. String quartet aboard was excellent; we enjoyed the tea most afternoons. Tiny complaint: the chairs in the Marina Lounge were too low and could use replacement. Service on this ship was outstanding in all respects: friendly, helpful, cheerful. We had a prepaid gratuity credit from our travel agent, but we did tip in addition due to total satisfaction with our cabin attendants. Disembarkation handled smoothly on the ship, but it was a madhouse waiting for taxis that we were not involved with, as our Istanbul arranged for a private pickup for us. A caution re Israel: Jerusalem is quite far from Ashdod port; private tours with small vans can get into places the large buses cannot. The Egyptian ports were cancelled due to caution on Oceania's part, but Cairo is VERY far from Port Said, and imho only Oceania tours would be a good idea for future Lands of Time sailings. We've done about 15 cruises previously, but for us, this was the best overall. The ports were wonderful without exception, and no tender service was required. Oceania's Marina crew had its act together, and that added to the experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Embarkation and disembarkation procedures are rigidly adhered to at the start and end of the trip and are handled well. Though we arrived earlier than suggested, the ship's crew accommodated all arrivals well. The best thing is ... Read More
Embarkation and disembarkation procedures are rigidly adhered to at the start and end of the trip and are handled well. Though we arrived earlier than suggested, the ship's crew accommodated all arrivals well. The best thing is that the ship's decor is most impressive. The restaurant facilities and food do not disappoint, though Oceania's food offering is not overly more or less than what is provided on any other good shipping line. The speciality restaurants, as an inclusion in the cruise price are definitely perceived as an advantage as the choice available is interesting and most comprehensive. Not a bad drop was discovered on the wine list and the Wine Package was generous. Cabins do not feel cramped and are well arranged. Being such a new vessel, I was surprised that the stateroom TV sets were not interactive. A person had to visit the Destination Services desk or Reception to book a tour or check one's account at any stage. Having a web site that is so interactive, allowing pre-booking of excursions etc, it would have been nice had the level of technology been extended as a facility to the staterooms. We resided in a B4 non-concierge veranda stateroom. On Oceania, at this level, service is definitely not akin to some other companies offerings. Friends we travelled with, were in a Penthouse and had a butler and therefore had a level of service that was commensurate with that level of accommodation. On other cruises lines, either at Suite level, Concierge level or simple Veranda Stateroom, we have enjoyed a more comprehensive level of personal service throughout all levels without a noticeable fall off in service provision. With Oceania we did not find this to be the case. To me it seemed that if you did not take the level of Concierge or above, the service offered by stateroom stewards was noticeably less and delayed. We have not found this on either Celebrity, nor Princess. Norwegian or Costa Cruises also. Service on these lines was excellent at whichever level we chose to participate in at the time. It was a surprise that with Oceania, at Veranda Stateroom level, follow up was lacking in attention to detail. All crew and staff on board were warm, friendly individuals. they also seemed happy to be working with/for Oceania as an employer. Two problems arose for us during our time on board. Our room stewards constantly failed to replenish the 'price inclusive drinks' in our mini bar fridge. Often they had to be reminded. We had a daily shortage of what we requested and a fridge full of ginger ale. The same situation occurred daily. It did not change. In addition, used towelling face cloths were removed but not replaced. Constantly I had to go on the hunt for replacement face cloths for our cabin. The excursions on Oceania ships seem to be more expensive than other lines we have travelled with. During the early phases of the voyage, assembly and dispersal of excursion participants was handled very badly, but this did improve with time and subsequent organisation of disembarkation for excursion participants was running quite well towards the end and for final disembarkation. The standard of entertainment on board was from Fair to very good. The air-conditioning in the public areas was often fierce. Any negatives mentioned here have not deterred us from making further bookings with Oceania, though we would not use them solely for our cruise holiday requirements as many seem to do. The ship itself when docking at ports, seemed to make very loud and groaning mechanical noises. The ship was fine but it did not sound normal. It is very nice to have most beverages included in the price of the cruise, unlike many other cruise lines. The Barista facility is a nice experience and not having to worry about acquiring a supply of drinking water each day is an asset to one's peace of mind. The $49.95 per cruise day alcoholic beverage package was a good offering. Being partial to a glass of champagne, the offering was Perrier Jouet NV, the wines, beers and spirits listed for consumption within the package were all very good, through to excellent in style, choice and quality. The Country Club Casual approach is very comforting. There are no 'gala' nights during the various sailings, which a lot of people seemed to like. Many did dress more elaborately but it was not necessary if so desired. The beds, pillows and quality of the linens used and towelling in the bathrooms were fabulous. Highly recommended. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
This was our first Oceania trip, after having sailed with Carnival, NCL and Azamara before. We chose this cruise mostly due to the itinerary, and after checking Oceania's reputation we expected Oceania to be similar to Azamara, which ... Read More
This was our first Oceania trip, after having sailed with Carnival, NCL and Azamara before. We chose this cruise mostly due to the itinerary, and after checking Oceania's reputation we expected Oceania to be similar to Azamara, which we had liked a lot. Oceania delivered in most cases, failed in others. Check-in and embarkation: We showed up relatively late for check-in (4 pm), later than most other passengers, so check-in and embarkation were a breeze. Riviera was the only ship in port in Barcelona that day, and we were the only passengers checking in at that time, so we got all the personal attention and expedited service we could ask for. A porter met us at the car to take our luggage, we breezed through security, and check-in was fast and simple. The ship: From the outside, the shipped looked a lot larger than we expected. We thought this might be a problem for getting into some smaller ports, but fortunately there would not be any small ports on our itinerary. Well, maybe Ibiza. I think if the ship was smaller it might have been able to dock at the old port in Ibiza, which is downtown, instead of at the new port which is out in the middle of industrial construction mayhem. Once inside, the ship felt just the right size. Not too long to walk from anywhere to anywhere on the ship. Elevators were plentiful and always worked well. We really liked the common area decoration, especially the very tasteful art collection throughout the ship. Very nice. Space in common areas was always available. We always found pool chairs available, or tables in Terrace Cafe or Waves Grill, or sitting at the piano bar, computers in the computer room, anything common was no problem. The ship was full but did not feel crowded. One very bad thing about this ship: it rocks a lot. Way more motion on this ship than any of our previous cruises, and other passengers we talked to felt the same way. The sea was not to blame, as we always sailed in calm Mediterranean waters. I am pretty sure there is something wrong with the stabilization on this ship. Our cabin: We were in a veranda class cabin on deck 8, non-concierge. The cabin was well appointed and everything worked. Bedding was very comfortable. Cabin included a king bed, two night stands, desk with drawers and a chair, both US and Euro electrical outlets (both 110 and 220 volts), LCD TV (non-interactive), sofa for 2, coffee table, safe, mini fridge, closet with about 1.2 meters of hanging space, and about 10 drawers if you count closet, nightstands and desk. Room amenities included slippers, bath robes, hair dryer, drinks in fridge (alcoholic $, non-alcoholic free). There were not enough hangers in the closet, but our cabin attendant got us extras by the second day. The bathroom was large but a lot of the room was taken up by the bathtub, which we never really used for bathing (we used it to hang swimsuits, wash shoes, and such). Perhaps a more clever layout with a generous shower stall and more overall room would work out better. Toiletries were okay, towels were very good. Veranda was large, with two chairs and a small table. Table in veranda was a bit too small for meals. I like to take meals from room service in the balcony, and the table is just a bit too small for that. Small even for one person's meal, and impossibly small for two. On Azamara's smaller ships the table was much larger, allowing for meals on the balcony. Not so on Oceania. Perhaps this is their way of getting people to upgrade to penthouse level, or to dine in the restaurants. TV channels selection was small. That is normally not a problem because we don't watch much TV during a cruise. But this was Olympics time. There was a total lack of Olympics coverage, except for news clips in news channels. Apparently people complained, and by day 3 of the Olympics they proudly announced they had gotten Olympics coverage, but alas it would be in German. This is not Aida, this is Oceania, you cater to an English language population and the Olympics had been scheduled a long time ago. Oceania should have anticipated this and arranged for TV coverage. Also, TV had no interactive features as I have seen on other ships, lacking features such as checking your bill, or making excursion or restaurant reservations. I would expect these features to be standard on a modern ship, as I have seen it on older ships. Dining: There was much anticipation for the very highest quality food and dining experience. In that respect, Oceania did disappoint a bit. Don't get me wrong, the food and service were very good. But occasionally the food would be bland, as you would get in any other cruise line or mainstream restaurant, and not superb to live up to the expectations that Oceania sets. We had no trouble eating where we wanted. We had booked our four specialty restaurants for early in the cruise. After experiencing all specialty restaurants we decided two more times to dine at Red Ginger and one more time at Polo Grill. We were always able to get both Red Ginger and Polo reservations for the dates we wanted, on short notice. Never a problem there. Other passengers we met complained of difficulty getting reservations, but that was not our experience at all. We did have some trouble eating when we wanted. There is a gap in food service from 4-6:30 when it is very hard to get any food whatsoever (well, you can get tea from 4-5) because everything is closed. I had never been on a ship where it was just about impossible to get any food at the typical times of returning from shore. If you arrive on board at 4:30 you have to rush to shower and dress for tea before they close at 5. If you arrive at 4:45-6, forget it, there is no food anywhere, as you do not have time to dress for tea and everything else is closed. Similarly after 9:30 pm. No food anywhere, except room service. Longer hours for Waves Grill would solve some of this. Best dining experiences: Red Ginger and the Tea hour, both excelling in food quality, presentation and service. Staff: Staff were generally very well trained and very proficient at what they were supposed to do. This was amazing, considering it's such a new ship, where one would expect a learning curve. But it seems they have topped the learning curve already and are functioning very well. Our cabin attendants, all wait staff, reception, excursions, everyone seemed to be working very well. Having said that, I believe they are working very well as trained, but there are some weaknesses. First and foremost, I think they are trained to do their job well, not necessarily to please the customer. If what the guest needs is something they were trained to do, they will do it exceptionally well. If it falls even a little bit outside their duties, they fail. I'll give some examples. When ordering from Waves Grill, the order taker writes down your order and table number, for a waiter to later deliver the food. "What 's your table number, sir?" "I don't know, but it's that table over there in the far back by the window." "I don't know which one you refer to sir, do you know the number?" "No, I'm afraid I don't". At this point he should just go there or have someone go there to get the number, if he really needs it. Instead, he asks the customer to go there (all the way to the far back) and come back with the table number. Other example: "Where can I find band-aids?" "I don't know sir, perhaps the boutique or the medical center, but I'm not sure". We had asked this very same question on Azamara, where the answer was "How many do you need?" and they were soon brought up on a silver tray. These are just some of the many examples. It seems that Oceania trains its crew very well to do their jobs exceptionally well, but gives them no training or flexibility to think outside the box to please the customer when a request falls outside the normal duties. Another area of weakness is the English language skills. Many crew members seem to have only the minimal English language skills to do their job and no more. One time I called for room service, ordering tea among other items. When asked what tea I wanted, he could not understand, probably because my requested tea was not on his menu. Another day, we asked our cabin attendant if he had, or where could we get, toothpaste. The work "toothpaste" was not in his vocabulary, probably because the item is not in his cart so he doesn't need to know. No amount of gesturing and explaining got him to understand what toothpaste was. He eventually said "sorry sir, we do not have on this ship". I am sure he never understood what I really wanted. BTW, the boutique does sell toothpaste. Similar language problems with wait staff, even in specialty restaurants, when making any special meal request. Overall worst English skills of any crew on any of our cruises. No language problems at all at reception, so I learned to go to reception for any requests out of the ordinary. And finally, a word about the officers. I am sure we had officers, but I never saw any. They place themselves in a different class and never interact with passengers. When you see one on the ship, you're never sure if it's a real officer or a robot in an officer uniform. They don't speak to passengers, they don't greet, they don't smile. I didn't even see the captain at all, not even at the "captain's reception". The captain announcements on the days at sea were at exactly 12 noon every day (you could set your watch), and with exactly the same sentence structure every day, only changing the variables of the current temperature, etc. Something like this: "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. We are currently sailing in the ______ sea, at latitude __ degrees __ minutes north, longitude __ degrees __ minutes east. We are maintaining a course of __ degrees at a speed of __ point __ knots. The air temperature is __ degrees and the sea temperature is __ degrees. Have a nice day." An automaton would do just as a good a job. Entertainment: I did not expect much from the entertainment, and with those low expectations the entertainment actually turned out pretty good. There was a different show nightly in the Riviera lounge at 9:30, and the few we attended were quite entertaining. The shows were not amazing Broadway productions, but entertaining shows put on by very versatile and dedicated performers. My favorite was Mio the magician, he was absolutely amazing. A special mention also to the string quartet, who delighted us in the lounges and at tea time. Excellent string quartet from Poland. Excursions: Oceania's excursions were very expensive, and so we only took one and did every other port independently. Yet, credit should go to the excursions desk, for they provide good information for passengers wanting to go ashore independently. They are aptly named "Destination Services". Their talks describing the excursions (available on TV in your room) were actually informative, always starting with local orientation and basics, helping people go independently, rather than withholding information to get people to fear independent travel and sign up for ship excursions. Big kudos for this. The only ship excursion we took was out of Port Said, to visit the Pyramids in Giza, Memphis and Saqqara. Typical excursion by bus with tour guide. The bus was only about 2/3 full, making the ride more comfortable. And again I give credit to Oceania for this. They had dozens of buses going, and could have chosen to run fewer buses, filling every bus and cramming every seat. They chose to have the buses only partially full, making for a more comfortable ride and smaller groups per tour guide. The excursion was, well, a large group excursion, with stop times and limited time for each site. If you got done early with any site you would have to wait for others, if you wanted to stay longer you couldn't. But that comes with any group tour. What was disappointing about the tour was a visit to a local bazaar, presumably so that the tour guide or Oceania could get commission from sales. This visit was not in the tour description when we bought it, and they actually allowed us more time at the bazaar than at the Pyramids or any other site. I resent them using my time for their shameless profit attempt. If I really wanted to go shopping I would have signed up for a shopping tour. Instead, I had my time at the pyramids shortened so they could profit from my shopping at the bazaar. Wrong move. Port shuttles: Port shuttles were provided, free, wherever the docking location was not within easy walking distance of the city center. This was well organized and worked well at every port where it was needed and offered, except in Ibiza where the bus lines were horribly long (not enough buses?). But overall, good job with port shuttles. Laundry: We used the self-service laundry once. Ship has one laundry room per floor. Each laundry room has three washers, three dryers, two ironing boards, a couch, refrigerator with free drinks and TV. Washer/dryer sizes were quite large. Detergent is free, but did no seem to be good because it did not wash my clothes all that well. Each load of washer/dryer needs a token, available from reception for $2. This is a nuisance, having to go to reception for tokens. Can't they make it free, or allow the machines to work with a card swipe? Internet: I did not use their internet, but noted that is cost $0.95/minute, or $27.99 for 24 hours, or $21.99/day for the entire cruise. There was WiFi with strong signal in my room. But like I said, I never used their internet service, so can't comment on the quality of the service. Billing: On board charges were promptly placed on our account, but the only way to check the account was to get a statement from reception. They erroneously charged me $98 for Turkish visas, when I had already provided my own Turkish visas. They charged for a service they did not even provide. In order to reverse the charge, they made me take the passports down to reception, where they determined that indeed they had not obtained those visas. Still, they would not reverse the charge until they made sure that my visas were valid. I told them in no uncertain terms that the visas were valid, and if there was a problem I would deal with the Turkish authorities myself, and in any case since they had not gotten the visas they should just reverse the charge. Still, they refused to reverse the charge and return the passports to me. We were at sea, where they are the law, so I had to comply. About 30 minutes before docking they called, finally apologizing and agreeing to return the passports and reverse the charge. What was missing: A lot was missing from what other cruise lines offer, and in my opinion that was a good thing. There are no formal nights, it's all country club casual all the time. There were no screaming kids. There were no chair hogs at the pool. There were no lines anywhere (except the Ibiza shuttle). There was no photographer (yeay!). There were no art sales. There was no pressure to buy anything else during the cruise (no spa specials, no pushing drinks poolside, nothing like that). No rude passengers. Just an all around classy environment. Very good job, keep up the good environment and keep the annoyances away. In summary: Oceania delivered a quality product, and value for the money. But they put too much emphasis on delivering their product and too little attention and flexibility to meet customer needs. When I buy a cruise I don't just buy a cruise, I buy it as a place to have my vacation. On vacation I expect to let go of rules (within reason), not have to comply to someone else's strict rules. Oceania makes me comply to their rules a bit too much. I wish they made a stronger effort to accommodate my individual wishes rather than make me fit their mold. Bottom line: would I sail with Oceania again? Yes, absolutely, if the itinerary was right. But if other cruise lines were offering similar itinerary for similar value propositions, would I choose Oceania? Probably not. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Fans of Oceania Cruises won't like this review, of our first with this line after more than 30 cruises with other companies. My opinion: Oceania is for people who want to pay a significant premium for a pretty standard product in ... Read More
Fans of Oceania Cruises won't like this review, of our first with this line after more than 30 cruises with other companies. My opinion: Oceania is for people who want to pay a significant premium for a pretty standard product in exchange for the ability to say they cruised with a higher class of company. For them, it's worth it. This itinerary, close to perfect, took us to a number of places on our bucket list: Israel, Suez Canal, Upper Egypt, Jordan, Oman and Dubai. When the price was reduced from astronomical to merely very expensive, we signed up. Since we don't expect to come to these places again and wanted a quality experience, we also signed up for overnight ship's tours in Israel and Egypt and a two-night package in Dubai at an added cost of $3,994 for two. So we paid a whole lot and expected a whole lot. Some Oceania devotees we met swear up and down that they hate big-ship cruising. Well and good, but they also ruefully acknowledge that the Nautica's small size (we had 637 passengers in all) means there is much less variety of things to do and places to be than on a larger ship. Lineups aren't common but we had a number of them. Nautica has small cabins and the tiniest shower compartment I've seen on a cruise ship. Public spaces are poorly planned and even more poorly used: the pre-dinner bar has but 50 seats; the only lounge with a panoramic view is tied up daily for bingo and afternoon tea; the show lounge has terrible sight lines; there are very few good places to sit and read; as someone on CC commented, a balcony is almost a necessity on this ship. Nautica is very nicely decorated, however: it really does feel like the English country-house the line aspires to emulate. The beds were very comfortable, the bedside reading lights excellent, the in-cabin hair dryer ditto, and the presence of hand-sanitizer stations all over the ship most welcome. However, activities seemed limited in scope and badly scheduled, entertainment was summer-stock-style enthusiastic but not compelling; as we'd read here on CC, the ship pretty much goes to sleep after nine p.m., no real surprise when Happy Hour stops at 6 p.m. and video rentals are free. The crew ratio (1.7) is high; sometimes so high that they bumped into each other. Friendliest crew we've sailed with, though. Unfortunately, the service itself failed to match: we avoided the whole central section of the dining room because the service there was so slow. Our stateroom attendant was willing enough but never seemed to comprehend our daily routine; she kept interrupting us doing one thing or another. Front-desk staff were intelligent and helpful. Bar and wine service was uneven, but always provided with a smile. The food, we were told, would be outstanding. It wasn't. Overall, fairly standard. The no-extra-cost alternative restaurants were good, but not good enough to rave about them. Open-sitting dining meant a larger dining room than the ship needs plus the requirement to introduce yourself to new people meal after meal. And the prices! Bottles of wine ran about 30 per cent higher than we've paid recently on other cruise lines, laundry service was of good quality but outrageously expensive; likewise virtually everything else you could buy on board. The automatic daily gratuity was $13.50 and the bar tab added 18 per cent. Surprisingly, we met a number of people on board who either thought this kind of thing was normal or hadn't thought about it at all. Either they were rich enough not to be concerned about value or not quite as sophisticated as some might imagine. Most egregious prices of all: shore excursions. Not physically comfortable going to Petra with its miles of walking, I reserved an Aqaba city tour, thinking that at $115 for a half-day, it must be pretty special. Not so: just a standard tour available from local operators for less than $50. A ripoff, basically. The Petra-plus-Wadi Rum tour offered by the ship cost a staggering $415 per person; my wife went with a group organized on CC and paid $199, though the dinner in a Bedouin camp provided on the ship's version wasn't included. The excursion manager seemed to have a script from which she never deviated. Information about tours was sketchy and not very helpful. Warnings about uneven ground or steps were enough to scare you off but not detailed enough to give real guidance. Our overland tour in Israel, for which we paid $699 each, was outstanding -â€" great guide, nice bus, fascinating places, opportunity to gain insight -â€" until we checked in at the Crowne Plaza in Jerusalem. Our room, like those of others in the group, was a complete disaster. When I book an overland tour with a cruise line I expect to pay more than I would doing it on my own; for that I want to have a thoroughly positive experience. I expect good quality in the hotels where we stay. On this count, Oceania failed miserably; reason enough by itself to avoid trusting this company in future. My outraged letter of complaint, demanding a rebate, has so far yielded nothing beyond some pretty words from the onboard manager. I have to say, though, that our overnight tours in Egypt and Dubai were excellent, just what I expected. The itinerary attracted us and it was just great. So, overall, wonderful places but a cruise line which failed to live up to its reputation. I doubt very much we'll be back. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Oceania Cruises M/S Nautica Athens to Dubai Review How many ways can one cruise go wrong? Theoretically, an infinite number, but ours fell just slightly short. To coin a word, the "lowlights" consisted of the following: A ... Read More
Oceania Cruises M/S Nautica Athens to Dubai Review How many ways can one cruise go wrong? Theoretically, an infinite number, but ours fell just slightly short. To coin a word, the "lowlights" consisted of the following: A cruise director who never did much more than read from "Currents" - the daily ship's information paper. His bearing, manner, monotone delivery and overall personality were dull, uninspiring and impersonal to the point of detachment. If it is his job to set the tone, he was successful in that every day we heard it- the kind of dull thud that could only be a bell without a clapper being struck by a toy doll's head wrapped in a towel. To avoid him, one would have to turn off the TV- because he appeared at too many times, just after a far too loud NBC-type chime. But that was not much of a sacrifice- the TV offerings- including the DVD library were years out of date, and all 6 news shows were about as good as each other- which was not very. One could try to seek refuge in the library, if one could find one recent novel from hundreds of ancient ones and cast-offs from departed guests. The room staff was good, but the wait-staff seemed poorly organized. Often, I had to have my order brought to me by a second waiter. I have the feeling that the seasoned staff was transferred to Oceania's new ship, the The Marina, leaving Nautica with a bunch of newbies. So many different people asked me if I wanted fresh-ground pepper at the same meals, that I considered getting it as an entre'! In any event, all the food (which was good) could be washed down with beer and wine offered ala carte. (Azamara Cruises gives all the ber and wine you want free). The onboard "entertainment" which was all the ship offered during the extremely lengthy stretches at sea, consisted of not much more than the old standbys of shuffleboard, bingo, pingpong, putting contests,needlepoint and flower making and a few other less-than stellar offerings. Nighttime entertainment fared little better- the ships band didn't make it to high-school quality, and the "shows" were all amateurish to a high degree. A magician performed, but all his tricks were off-the-rack old standbys. (The cut-and-restored idiot could have been used, but I don't believe the Cruise Director had the intelligence to participate). Thankfully, there was no art auction with dr's office junk. The casino was small but probably adequate for the few who used it. There was one lecturer on world history whio was quite good - for those who enjoy this sort of thing. The pianist played nightly, and was fine if you enjoy upgraded elevator music. All drinks and wine when purchased, had an 18% gratuity was added to their already inflated costs. An flat $20 corkage fee applied to any alcohol brought aboard for personal consumption in public areas. The daily "gratuity" for the staff was an automatic $27 per day per couple Upon questioning the staff, I was told that it was not a gratuity, but in fact was their actual salary! I had independent corroboration of this from 3 different staffers. Of course, the Concierge claimed everyone had a base salary. I believe he was talking about room and board. But then, given his demeanor, I think the Israelis missed him when they captured Eichmann. Excursions deserve a special treatment here. The ideal epithet-given the penny-pinching attitude of this cruiseline toward it's guests, would be "sewage disposal" . In all our years of travel, we have never seen such poor planning or treatment of guests. After touring the Holocaust Museum and having a buffet-style lunch, we were bussed to a commercial diamond store with probable kick-back ties to Oceania, where we were forced to spend upwards of an hour of our precious time. We were then taken to the old section where we made about a 100 yard loop, while our self-absorbed guide wasted our time with historical minutiae of no interest. We could have shopped and seen much more during this utter waste. Other excursions (some of which exceeded $800 for one day for 2) included Petra (a high-point); Dubai by bus with high tea at a 5 star hotel and a trip in Israel to Masada and the Dead Sea where we could float away some of our general dissatisfaction with this over-priced (total with excursions, base costs and "gratuities was near $1000/day for 2) rip-off. Final word: AVOID Oceania at all costs and use Azamara instead if you like smaller ships. Or at least, use any other line (except Carnival). You will at least get most of your money's worth. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
Booked with Oceania after our already paid cruise on a different line dropped all Middle East ports(Arab spring concerns). This itinerary was similar to our original booking but 2 days longer with more ports. We like booking way in ... Read More
Booked with Oceania after our already paid cruise on a different line dropped all Middle East ports(Arab spring concerns). This itinerary was similar to our original booking but 2 days longer with more ports. We like booking way in advance, so a new search with only a few months to travel date was not what we wanted. The fact we had already purchased airfare, further complicated matters. One day I received an e-mail from our TA about a sale on Oceania. The time frame was right and required only one additional flight(much cheaper than making changes to our existing ones). We are 3 adults and were able to obtain an inside cabin that would accommodate us. The sq ft. was the smallest we had ever been in, but surprisingly the layout was great and had workable room to move about. Room stewards friendly, efficient and responsive. From the moment we checked in, the service was outstanding. No long lines for embarking, obtaining and returning passports, disembarking, pursers desk etc. We always found available deck chairs, seats during the shows, tables for lunch and breakfast. What a great relaxing atmosphere! The ship was not glitzy but comfortable. Great library. Pool was small but acceptable. Casino also small, but sufficient considering only 650 passengers on board. Specialty restaurants were very nice with lovely china,crystal,and real silverware,and the food was good(not phenomenal). The quality and abundance of fresh fruits and ice cream was outstanding(best raspberries!) and served stylishly (no plastic forks, spoons, glasses anywhere). The wait staff kept asking if we liked the food, how they could better serve us, and overall pampered us to no end. Texas burgers and Cuban sandwiches were awesome. When returning from an overnight tour the red carpet was out and room stewards greeted us at the gangway with "Welcome Home"! Ship excursions were pricey so we connected with fellow cruise critic members for nice private tours. Love kids but glad there weren't any on-board. The gym was very nice and the most utilized ever. There was a never-ending supply of FREE cold bottled water in the room and upon exiting and entering the ship. Everything was immaculate and staff super attentive. Country club casual dress code is great, and though we enjoy dressing up, lugging all the extra clothes on long overseas trips is a hassle. This was by far the most relaxing ship experience we've ever had. Oceania's rates are higher than mid range lines (Xbrity, Holland etc.)so we'll keep looking for their special sales as we would love to cruise with them again. Thanks Oceania, have more sales! Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
I would like to break the cruise down in to various categories as it is important that I recognise the good and bad with Nautica/Oceania Cruise. It is also based on our experiences on other cruise lines and is my personal perspective from ... Read More
I would like to break the cruise down in to various categories as it is important that I recognise the good and bad with Nautica/Oceania Cruise. It is also based on our experiences on other cruise lines and is my personal perspective from a non-American perspective.Embarkation : Being Concierge certainly helped with an early and speedy check in in Hong Kong. Well organised. Disembarkation : In Dubai and the most organised we have have seen on any cruise vessel and they even had porters organised for us and which were paid for. Went as smooth as silk.Food : Firstly, a vessel who has pastry chefs who know how to make nice and fresh desserts and pastries. Apart from Croissants(however no-one on vessels seems to be able to do them correctly.Terrace/Tapas - was our main eating area. Great food and the evening meals were great. However, calling it Tapas is a mis-naming for the evening.Polo Grill was great and the meat was cooked exactly how I like it(french Blue). First Prime Rib I have had in some 15 years that had no fat in it.Toscanas - most meals were great except for the prosciutto(Not good and very unitalian).Grand Dining Room - only ate there a couple of times for dinner - Food was average and was just like any large restaurant in the USA. Get the order, serve it fast. Do not blame the chefs or waiters as it is the biggest restaurant on the boat and it is always full. Never ate b/fast or lunch there.Waves - Food was just OK - hamburgers were very bland - smoothies were greatService - generally extremely good - from cabin stewards to waiting staff to front desk and hospitality desks. They were absolutely brilliantThe mixture of nationalities of the crew is amazing and we found that talking to a lot of them was a most interesting experience especially regarding the ports were visiting.One very annoying thing was the speed at which plates were removed from your table with cutlery. Take the last morsel and a hand was there to take the plate away. When are people going to learn that we non-Americans(there a were a lot of non-Americans on this cruise) do not put everything on one plate we have a different plate for each course.One other thing is the coke tasted like diet coke. Found out why. It is served as a type of coke that is produced for maritime and air travel purposes only so a lot less caffeine.Also took a while for the staff to work out what an espresso coffee is.Alcohol - This is a rip off - $USD20 bottles of wine in Australia being S50 - $60 per bottle plus 18%. Not good. However, had some great wines from South America and Europe on the list which we did sample.Tours - we booked our own as most were only 50% - 60% of the cost of the boat tours and we had a private driver and guide with a vehicle. We did 2 small tours with Oceania(one on a large coach and one was for only 10 - 16 people). Take the 10 - 16 people one as it has more freedom. But if you can try and do your own thing.Passengers : Met some great people from USA, Canada, Europe and England who have travelled a lot also and this also made it an interesting trip. I mention this as most people we have met on RSSC are there for the looks and name and not interested in most places being visited. The international passengers(Non-Australian) on Nautica were great and very pleasant.I will apologise for some of the Australians who's behaviour I thought left me a little embarrassed.Also to the couple of Americans who say Australians do not tip. Our gratuities are included in our fare we pay for the cruise and also some Australians did pay tips to tours guides and drivers(EG we did)Cabaret- Did not go there as we go on these trips to visit places and we also tend to eat late.Entertainment - saw one act and that was not that good. One thing missing is a piano bar where we can listen to some music and have after dinner drinks in a quiet area and not near poker machines.Ports of Call - Most were very good and those that were not we were aware of anyway before we embarked onto Nautica(checked on the internet and with a local travel agent in each place we went to(used the net again). Yes, some ports were a bit out of the way or just industrial wharfs but this will happen as cruising into some of these ports is only just beginning on a regular basis.EG Chang May(Vietnam and backup for DaNang) is an industrial port with no facilities at all, no shops or townn there, roads are extremely bad but it is still easy to get to DaNang/Hoi An or Hue from there. Saigon(HCMC) cruise terminal is near city centre - great location - however for other very large cruise vessels they may berth at the new port some 90 minutes out of HCMC centre, Phuket again is out of the main town centre but taxis and tuk tuks(4 wheel variety) are cheap and get you there in 25 - 30 minutes, Yangon(Myanmar/Burma) wharf we berthed at is Thilawa some 60 minutes from Yangon Centre. Again no facilities there as an industrail/commercial wharf area but again you are not there for that. Muscat(Oman) was again a difficult port to get out of but we had shuttle buses for the 5 minute drive into the city area and from there do what you want in total safetyCabin. Yes it is a lot smaller than RSSC and we were concerned about it. However, after a few days we were OK with it and all went well. It was clean, the room stewards were brilliant. bathroom is a little small(especially the shower). Plenty of storage areas for things.Other nice features not on other vessels we have sailed on. Shuttle buses provide at many of the ports. Having a local tourist board person come on board in a number of portswas great. Having the local bank come on board to exchange USD to a local currencyand then take local currency back(incl. coins) and giving us USD back was a brilliant idea. Exchange rate was also very reasonable. Having organised and paid for porters at port of disembarkation made this process so much easier For a coffee drinker we had access to coffee on a 24/7 basis Using the Ships Laundry was so reasonable compared to other cruise linesAnnoyances Paying for the use of the laundrette on deck 7 There is the only one laundrette and it is small so very crowded If a presentation by the Oceania Ambassador is being made some idea of the make up of the passengers helps so that we can be told what the cost is w/o airfares as they are no use to non-Americans flying to say Hong Kong or Capetown or Buenos Aires or Rio De Janeiro I also think that Head Office and the vessel management need to know what each other is doing as once on board they knew what was being done(EG shuttle buses). Blame this on Floridian office of Oceania. A few more external power points in various lounges would be good so one can do trip reports, download photos etc. with a cup of coffee and pastry. Only found one in card room.Overall, the vessel was great, generally food was good, cruise was brilliant, staff/crew were great, well organised and yes we have booked another cruise with Oceania in 2012 as it meets our requirements and goes to those places we have on our bucket list to see whilst we still can. Very few other cruise boats do a lot of the cruises Oceania do and I suspect that is why we met a lot of very interesting people who had travelled a lot.Oceania, apart from some minor irritations, was great and provides a better value for the dollar than RSSC. Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
I will try to be as complete, candid and unbiased as possible.  I will not tell you everything is perfect or that everything is terrible. All cruises have good points and bad points. Hopefully, the good far outweighs the bad.Pre-cruise, ... Read More
I will try to be as complete, candid and unbiased as possible.  I will not tell you everything is perfect or that everything is terrible. All cruises have good points and bad points. Hopefully, the good far outweighs the bad.Pre-cruise, Barcelona: We arrived after a relatively simple two flight legsLAX to Heathrow, Heathrow to Barcelona around 7:45 pm and took the VERY EASY "Aerobus" from the airport to Placa Catalunyasteps from our hotel, the Hotel Continental. A taxi could not have been much simpler or easier and the cost was minimal.The Hotel Continental is both incredible AND disappointing. The incredible: The location. There could not be a better location in all of Barcelona. We had a Las Ramblas View Balcony Room on the "Third Floor" literally looking straight down on all of the action on Las Ramblas. Right out the front door was a choice of restaurants, shops, bars and more. It was NOT noisy when the doors were shut and the drapes drawn. There were electric shades, operated by a switch near the door, which closed the room off from the outside light. The disappointing: My wife hated the bedthought the mattress was too hard. The room was rather small and the reports were correct about the "plastic furniture". I was fine with it.  It's not like we had to live there for more than three nights and, to me, the location was unbeatable. To my wife, she would have preferred a more upscale five-star hotel with a big soft bed.There was free internet and a public computer down in the main lobby area. The 24 hour buffet was well stocked including free 24 hour beer and wine.  Of course, it wasn't exactly Napa Valley Cabernet they were servingbut free is free.Embarkation: We checked out of the hotel around 11 am and took a taxi right to the ship. Embarkation was well run and easy and we were on the ship in minutes enjoying a nice lunch at the buffet. First, of course, we stopped by Polo and made our reservations for our nights in Polo and Toscana.The Nautica: This was our second cruise on the Nautica. We were on it in 2006, just after Oceania acquired it and refurbished it. Three years later I can tell you the ship is in great conditionlooks brand new. Hard to believe it is a 10 year old ship. There is not a single instance where I noticed any material wear. Our cabin (#7051midship deck 7, category A1 Concierge level) was exactly as I remembered from last timespacious, well appointed.  King sized bed, small love seat type sofa, desk, small table, balcony with two deck chairs. Public areas are limited, but appropriate for this size shipnever felt crowded, always able to find a seat in any venueincluding deck chairs on at-sea days and reasonably located seating for the shows even when arriving barely on time.Dining: This cruise confirmed for me that this is one of the really strong points for Oceania. The food was consistently excellent, menus were varied and offered many choices. Service was good (We'll get to the few issues later on). We generally ate in the Main Dining Room for all meals except our two nights in Polo and two in Toscana and the two occasions we had room service breakfasts delivered to our cabin. Toscana, in particular, was excellent. Some of our friends found Polo a little disappointingmostly in the quality of the steak.  Of course, I ordered lobster both nights so I wouldn't know.Entertainment: As much as Dining is a strong point, entertainment is Oceania's weak link. Of course, if entertainment doesn't matter much to you, it is no big deal. As there is never more than one show per night (at 9:45) and there could not be more than half the ship there, obviously, over half the passengers really didn't care. There were basically only three "headline" performers on the ship: Comedian Tom Drake, Guitarist Vincenzo Martinelli and Magician Harry Maurer. Being a small ship, I actually had the opportunity to meet, socialize with and have drinks with both Tom and Vincenzo as well as Piano Bar pianist and part-time headliner Jerry Blaineand these are all great guys and wonderful performers. Tom is quite funnyand a perfect match for a cruise shiprelates well to the audience and really seems to love this job. Vincenzo is an amazing guitarist. We have had the opportunity twice now to enjoy Jerry's work and he almost seems like family. So, when I question Oceania's entertainment, it really isn't an aspersion aimed at these guys. They are all quite good. What Oceania lacks is in quantity and variety. On a 14 night cruise, with only three individual headliners to draw from, you end up overexposing all of them. as good as Vincenzo is, hearing flamenco and classical guitar for four shows gets to be a bit much. Some nights, there was no real main showthe time slot was replaced with "Movie Night".  Three nights, the show was staged as a singing show spotlighting one of the female assistant cruise directors, Joanne and Lucy and one night by Jerry moving his act to the "big room". If one is accustomed to the entertainment one finds on the big ship cruise lines, this line-up can be quite disappointing. That said, we still enjoyed the showsthough we always felt a little let down to find only "movie night" on the program.Activities, night life and at-sea days: More noticeable to us than the entertainment deficiencies is the relative lack of activitiesas much a result of ship size and passenger demographic as it is any fault of Oceania's. With a small ship, you simply have limited venues and limited staff. And a majority of passengers seemed to be in bed by 9, so even where activities were scheduled, they were sparsely attended. I am a night person and, I guess, relatively young compared to the overall ship demographics. At night, after the aforementioned show, there was typically only one activity on the agendathe "disco". On a typical night, there were more crew members than passengers in the disco.  I guess that's one reason I found myself socializing with as much of the crew and entertainers as I did. There was Karaoke only two nights and very few volunteer performers.  I actually found myself singing four times (CCR's "Lodi" and "Looking Out My Back Door", the Beatles' "Back in the USSR" and the Boxtops' "the Letter") and those who know me well know well that I can't carry a tune.  Of course, that's what usually makes Karaoke fun.  But, on the Nautica, there was hardly anyone there to enjoy it.  Again, the passengers' fault, not Oceania's. What was Oceania's fault was the dreadful selection of Karaoke choices.  I wanted to do the Kinks' "Lola"and it was on the list, but wouldn't work.  Past that, NOTHING by Jimmy Buffett (and this is supposed to be a cruise ship??).  They had a few Rod Stewart tunes, but NO "Maggie May"!!!Trivia: Okay, for me, this is a BIG item. I love triviaand never miss a session on an at-sea day or when returning from port on time. We had a team comprised of members of our CruiseCritic.com Roll Call and won virtually every trivia session, even trouncing the competition, including a team made up of Cruise Director Dottie and the Crew the one day she turned the quiz over to one of our members to host (thus taking a valuable member off of our team). All lots of fun. But, here is the "downer": All cruise long, they were hyping the "Collect 'Big O' points".  On other cruise lines, there is "instant gratification" for winning a trivia sessiona key chain, a t-shirt, a water wallet, a hat, a luggage tag, a ball point pen or some other meaningless logo trinket.  I do have a drawer at home filled with these itemssouvenirs of a sort from many wonderful cruises.  Most sort of worthless, but occasionally a really nice prize like a t-shirt or a tote bag. Now, last time on Nautica, we had this "points" thing and, at the end of the cruise, they put out a table with a variety of items. We were sort of expecting the same this time.  I figured I'd walk away with maybe a hat and a t-shirt or something of the sort based on how many Big O points I had collected. Imagine our surprise at the end of the cruise when the ONLY items offered in exchange for all those Big O points (in my case, over a hundred) were Oceania Mouse Pads or plastic screwdriver/penlight combos.  Who even uses a mouse pad nowadays?Here's the thing, Oceania: DROP THE "BIG O" POINT THING.  It only infuriates people. If you are not going to give out some sort of meaningful prize, don't tell people to collect "points" for 14 nights. Other cruise lines give out better "prizes" for winning a single trivia game or other activity.  You look really cheap giving a mouse pad to someone who's won every activity for 14 nights. Rather than do what you are doing, it would be better to tell everyone in advance that the activities are for the fun of it only and no prizes will be awarded.  For me, I'd likely play anyway.  I enjoy the "sport" of trivia and other contests and no reward is necessary to gain my participation.  The "Big O" points would be fun if they meant somethingbut, in this case, it was more insulting than anything. So, don't publish "Big O Points" multiple times in each day's "Currents" and stop announcing it on the ship.The funniest part was the night AFTER they had the Big O point redemption, they had the "Game Show" titled "Brain of the Nautica"sort of a 15 person trivia challenge where contestants were knocked out of the running after missing their third random question.  I won.  My prize??? Three more "Big O points"!!!The ports: Actually, the biggest attraction on this cruise was the itinerary. The ports were sensational.  Of course, some better than others.  If I were to tweak this itinerary, I'd actually do it by removing two portsCrete and Cyprusand trading them for more time in Egypt and Israel. In Crete, we visited the Palace at Knossos on a ship's shore excursionand, though an interesting archaeological site, it pales compared to what one finds in Egypt and Israel. My assumption is that by cutting out Crete, you could get into Alexandria sooner than noon, maybe even the night or afternoon before, allowing passengers to do a more complete two days in Cairo and Giza if they so wanted. Cyprus was pleasant, but really little worth seeing compared to the other ports. It would be great to replace it with a second day in Ashdod. Jerusalem was easily a full day's worth of touring and it would have been nice to also visit Masada and the Dead Seabut, not enough timeand we wouldn't have wanted to have given up our day in Northern Israel out of Haifa eitherwe hired a private guide and went to the incredible archaeological sites at Megiddo and Caesaria.We also really enjoyed Tunisia and Malta and Ephesus is always enchanting. This was our first opportunity to visit the Terrace Houses and I highly recommend them.   Ports:Barcelona: We have been here several times, so we didn't really need to see anything but we did tour some of our favorite placespretty much on our own. We visited the Picasso Museum, took the interior tour of the Sagrada Familia, then took the rear elevator up and walked down [Note: For those visiting the Sagrada Familia, there are two elevators. 2.5 euro per person. The one near the front usually has a line with waits up to half an hour or more. The one in the back typically has no line. The front elevator allows for a ride both up and down, the one in the rear, for some odd reason, up onlybut the walk down is pretty cool with great photo ops along the way.], Park Guellwhere we went inside Gaudi's house.  We also took in a tapas dinner and Flamenco show at Tablao de Carmen in El Poble Espanyol on Montjuic-pretty good dinner and show.Tunisia: Arranged for a tour for sixwith fellow CruiseCritic Roll Call membersthrough Chris Sheridan at TouringMalta.com http://www.tourinmed.com/index.htm. Excellent tourcovered several sites including Ancient Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and the Medina.Malta: Same thing as for Tunesiaa private tour for six arranged with Chris Sheridan. We went to Valletta, Mdina, Hagar Qim and Marasxlokk. Hagar Qim was really incredible.  Sort of a several thousand year old Maltese Stonehenge. Best guide of the tripChristine Muscat kristinmuscat@hotmail.com She is the President of the Maltese Tour Guide Unionan Anthropologist by education.  Excellent.Crete: We took an Oceania Shorex to the Palace at Knossosnot our favoriteokay archaeological site.  But it's a short day in Crete and not much else to see there.Alexandria: We took the Oceania Shorex entitled "Roman Influence on Alexandria". It hits the basic three ancient sites really left in this townPompey's Pillar, the Catacombs and the Roman Theater. Another short day as we arrived only at noon. some from the cruise chose to do an overnight in Cairo, but we figured the first days was sort of a waste anyway as we wouldn't have much time to see Cairo that day.  The Shorex was fine.Port Said: We joined a group of six for the private van tour booked through Oceania. Went to Sakkara, Memphis and the Pyramid/Sphinx.  Yes, it is a long drive back and forth.  But the tour was pretty goodbetter than doing it with 30-40 people in a big bus. When you add the entrance fees and cost of lunch, it doesn't really come out to any more $ than the shorex.  Lunch was at Felfelavery good.Ashdod: We booked a private tour with Joel Berman of jtours.com. Very knowledgable. Retired Israeli army officer born in South Africa. Went to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) in the morning, then a pretty exhausting tour of Jerusalem the rest of the day.Haifa: Joel met us again at the ship in Haifa and took us on a full day tour to Megiddo, Ein Shemer Kibbutz and Caesaria.  Megiddo and Caesaria are two incredible archaeological sites.  This was a pretty good choice of tours IMHO.Cyprus: We did another shorex to Paphos and Kourion. Paphos is pretty dull. Not really much there but some old mosaic floors. More of the same at Kourion.Kusadasi: We did a private tour for four of Ephesus including the Terrace Houses through Ekol Travel. Really good tour with a guide who stayed with us throughout. Terrace Houses should not be missed.Istanbul: We did a full day tour for four to the Cisterns, Spice Market and other sites along with another couple with Nejat Incedogan. [Note: Nejat does have some physical limitations, so if you want a fast paced tour, he may not be your guy.]. All four of us had been to Istanbul before, so this was really just to see some of the unusual sites we hadn't seen. Went to the Orient House at night for the Dinner/Showalways intriguing.Another day, we did a tour of the Dolambache Palace and visited the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaarthen vegged out the rest of the timewe were there four nights total including the overnight on the ship.  On the day of the overnight, we just hung out onboardnever left the shippretty quiet though. Post-cruise: By the end of the cruise, we were really exhausted.  So many full days of touringin hot weatherlots of walking and steps and dust and dirt. We were ready to just relax and wind down. Last time on Nautica, we stayed pre-cruise at the modern 5-star Conrad, so, this time, we wanted something completely different. We checked into the small 17-room Sari Konak. Room was very small, but nice. I walked out onto our balcony and realized we had the most incredible, completely unobstructed close-up view of the Blue Mosque. we stayed three additional nights post cruise and toured the Dolambache Palace, the Cisterns, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar and other sites at a very leisurely pacea really nice wind-down from the cruise.  Ate at the Orient House for the Dinner show one night, ate a lunch at the "Pudding Shop"as we had done three years ago (I like the place).  Otherwise, ate in small restaurants in the Sultanhamet.  One night, we ate with some of our cruisemates at the "Family Restaurant"Great misprint on their business cards says "She does the cook" (sic)!!Assorted comments re dining:1) Whenever we asked to sit with other people (We're sort of "social" and like to meet and talk to people), the Maitre d' would tell us it was "slow" and they'd seat us at a table for twoeven when it clearly wasn't "slow".  This was a big deal to my wife and at one point she suggested it might keep her from wanting to go back to Oceania in the future.2) They never ask if you might want some Iced Tea and even when you ask for it, it tends to take a LONG time to get it, then they rarely refill it.  I drink LOTS of Iced Tea and this one is a big deal with me.3) I am "Type 2" Diabetic and should not be eating sugar. So, I go out of my way to order "SUGAR FREE" jam for my toast and "SUGAR FREE" syrup for my pancakes. Somehow, Oceania doesn't quite catch onto the idea.  Yes, they stock and deliver the sugar free jams and syrup.  BUT, they deliver the pancakes with heaps of POWDERED SUGAR on them.  You'd think if someone had ordered "sugar free" pancake syrup that maybe they wouldn't want the sugar loaded right onto the pancake??? One time, my wife made it a point to specifically tell the waiter that the pancakes should NOT come with sugarliterally, pulling him aside and going on about it for 3 or 4 minutes.  You guessed it, they were delivered with sugar anyway.Crew: I used to think that Oceania's top assets were 1) Food, 2) Itinerariesbut, from this cruise, I am thinking maybe the best asset they have is the people.  We really had a great opportunity to spend a lot of time with a number of the crew membersspecifically Joanne, Lucy, Terese and Ian from the Cruise Director's staff, entertainers Tom, Vincenzo and Jerry, as I had mentioned before, Rocky from the jewelry shop and others and found them ALL to be genuine, friendly, good peoplemore fun and sociable than some of the passengers.  For 14 nights, I felt like part of the familyand that is a tribute to nothing but these individuals.  Tom (who, as we all learned, is married to Dottie, the Cruise Director), is much more than an entertainerhe is a "true believer"Oceania should put him to work selling the cruises.   And Oceania should consider themselves lucky to have Jerrythe guy puts in first class job night in and night out. Ian and the girls really go out of there way to get to know the passengersat least the ones who take part in games and activities.  After two weeks I feel like I've known these kids for years.  If there is one thing that will bring me back to Oceania, it's these guys (okay, and maybe the food and itineraries).Sickness: Though I never got sick on this cruise, we kept hearing from a lot of our fellow passengers that something was going around. There seemed to be a much higher incidence of this on this cruise than any other I've been on. We had tourmates who had to miss multiple ports. I can't really blame Oceania. I know that when so many people are confined to a limited area and there is a lot of personal interaction that, if someone catches something, it tends to spread.  And, I am not a medical doctor, so I really know little about the causes of this particular epidemic. I do know that Oceania had a number of disinfectant hand cleaner dispensers around the ship, though I didn't see enough people using them. I don't know what more Oceania could have done, so I will leave that to others to comment on.Overall: Despite my nitpicks (Don't get the wrong ideaI am not bringing up those negatives to put down the cruise line or the experienceonly to be thorough and honest), the cruise was and overall very positive experience. Oceania is a heck of a good product. There are some things that can be improved upon (as with everything) and there are some things that are merely beyond their reasonable control.  But, for the most part, it's pretty goodWell run, clean, high quality, luxurious, elegant. The ship is extremely pleasant, uncrowded, nicely and tastefully decorated and well-maintained.  The food is excellent, the itinerary sensational. We really enjoyed our 14 nights onboard and really hated to see them come to an end. We will very likely be back, especially with these tempting itineraries. Read Less
Sail Date June 2009
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