17 Oceania Regatta Europe - Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Reviews

Having just completed an 10 port cruise from Athens, around the Black Sea to Istanbul on Oceania Cruises "Regatta," I was tremendously impressed with the seamanship demonstrated by its master, Vitaliy Silvachynsky, and his crew. ... Read More
Having just completed an 10 port cruise from Athens, around the Black Sea to Istanbul on Oceania Cruises "Regatta," I was tremendously impressed with the seamanship demonstrated by its master, Vitaliy Silvachynsky, and his crew. He made an unassisted docking at Sochi in Russian so perfectly that an egg suspended between the dock and the ship would not have even been cracked. And it had to have given our master, a native Ukranian, a special thrill to do this with his family on board while two Russian tugs hung around uselessly, who could only watch in admiration. And watching our master battle his way into our final port Istanbul, when his docking space was being hogged by a competitor who had overstayed his berthing schedule, ESTour's creaky rehabbed Carnival liner redubbed "Aegean Paradise," and fight with the harbor master for being allowed tender service to keep faith with his passengers' tour schedules was enlightening. Enroute, the meal service, quality, and attentiveness of the crew on every level were absolutely superb. The staterooms delivered clean, useful, and well-maintained space at a competitive price. And the entertainment was adequate with a good comedian and an extraordinary Polish Tatra quartet who could play anything from Jerome Kern to an obscure movement of a Dvorak quartet. And like most cruises, the drinks were overpriced and the sluggish internet service was an invitation to bankruptcy with every use plan optimized to trade your expense and inconvenience in favor of Oceania. Several scholars on board gave some excellent background on our ports of call at no cost to Oceania. But the real surprise was how poor the over 50 land tours arranged enroute by Oceania's "Destination Services" department were. They sure weren't cheap. Some gave the passenger 5 hours crowded into a bus with a guide who knew little more about where they were going than a paragraph in any guidebook-- for the price of a weekend in NYC with a Broadway show. One I took gave me a four hour trip to construction sites in what is left of the Russian Riviera in Sochi, Russia, a trip to a dried up stream bed smelling like rotten eggs which supplied a "famous spa" (which we weren't allowed in) and a trip to a Botanical Gardens in which our Oceania guide could barely distinguish between the grass and the trees, and while any other visitor got an illustrated guide to the collection, none of us on the tour did... and all for a mere $338. My complaints about this particular tour were complimented by John Mortensen, the Regatta's "Destination Services Manager" as "positive and constructive feedback" and I (and others who had complained) were given the same unctuous assurance that "we stand by the quality of our staff and shore excursion program" common to morticians and bureaucrats the world over.... But not enough to refund the fee having admitted lousy service. Some tours went well, but 2/3 of mine were a total waste of money. I learned that when the ship docked far better tour guides showed up at a lot lower cost, some on foot only, others with cabs. And if they didn't, there was still plenty of time to book an Oceania tour and take a chance. And the internet today gives a lot of flexibility in finding tour guides abroad in advance. As Cruise Critic readers know. It can't be as easy to arrange top guides in 10 ports as it is to arrange top prices, but it would be nice if one felt Oceania was making an effort to do so. Seemed to me like the Destinations Services crew was so busy servicing destinations that they were allowed no time to properly research its guides on site. If the cruise prices make sense to you, expect any site excursions will be up to you. Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
We took the Oceania Regatta July 5-17 Athens to Istanbul Black Sea cruise primarily for the interesting itinerary. It is one of the few cruises visiting 10 Black Sea ports. Oceania is rated as a deluxe cruise line, but we were ... Read More
We took the Oceania Regatta July 5-17 Athens to Istanbul Black Sea cruise primarily for the interesting itinerary. It is one of the few cruises visiting 10 Black Sea ports. Oceania is rated as a deluxe cruise line, but we were disappointed in almost all services the ship provided except the food which was usually very good. As it turned out the most deluxe part of the cruise was the price. We had assumed that because of the historical significance of the area, and the fact that most people on board were experienced travelers, live port talks or lectures related to the area would be a highlight. However, the cruise director apologized for his lack of knowledge regarding the Black Sea ports and not one lecture or port talk was provided. Fortunately, with the help of a fellow passenger we had arranged for private tours in three ports including Sochi, Russia. Oceania tours are outrageously expensive, around $169 for a partial day tour and sometimes $200 or $300 for a day tour. Oceania told passengers that they would be unable to get off the ship in Sochi, Russia unless they had previously arranged for a Russian visa or were on an Oceania tour and none of that was true. Arranging for a tour with a licensed guide is all that is required for a short stay in Russia. Oceania's only interest is selling their own tours. Very little assistance was provided for those wishing to tour on their own. In most ports a single local representative came o board with area maps, and dozens of passengers would line up for individual help. This was a huge waste of passenger's time! The Regatta has a beautiful library with nothing to read. The books remind me of the discarded free book section in my home library. No new books or magazines were available. When I complained the cruise director agreed, and said they hoped to get a new shipment of books soon. Our cabin was extremely small, 144 sq ft with a partially blocked window. The steward service was extremely poor as we often had to ask to get the room made up. Entertainment on the ship was minimal. we understood that because Regatta is a comparatively small ship, entertainment would not be the same as a large ship, however, it could have been much better. Internet connectivity was very slow and outrageously expensive at .95 per minute. Topping it off when we arrived in Istanbul, Turkey, our final destination we discovered that Oceania had charged $49 each for the $20 Turkish visa. When we questioned the price we were told that the additional money was an administrative charge! How cheap is that! Needless to say we will not be cruising with Oceania-no matter how many expensive flyers and catalogs they send. Oceania might consider spending some of that catalog money for passengers benefit. One idea might be buying more washing machines. They have one laundry room with 4 washing machines for 700 passengers and one broke while we were there. Needless to say, on a 12 day cruise in mid summer the laundry room was an extremely popular spot with a lot of tension over who would be next in line for a washing machine. Of course, that would mean giving up another tiny cabin for an additional laundry room. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Regatta is a beautiful ship. We were on a 12 day Italian Interludes out of Rome ending in Venice. We stopped in Monaco, Capri, Sorrento, Sicily, Greece, Dubrovnik, and Venice. We were a group of 8 people flew in from the US 2 days before ... Read More
Regatta is a beautiful ship. We were on a 12 day Italian Interludes out of Rome ending in Venice. We stopped in Monaco, Capri, Sorrento, Sicily, Greece, Dubrovnik, and Venice. We were a group of 8 people flew in from the US 2 days before the cruise. Very easy embarking- we waited maybe 30 minutes and got straight aboard. The service was excellent. It was nice seeing the same staff members every day. I have previously cruised with RCI, Princess, and Celebrity. Celebrity being my favorite line. Oceania had maybe 700 people, which was great with dining- but nightlife was terrible. The "night club" was an on air jukebox where you could pick songs you wanted to play. The entertainment was in a small ballroom where chairs are set out for guests to sit. This is not by any means an auditorium. The Entertainment staff was very talented, however, the shows were lacking in appeal as I would see many people leave halfway through them. Oceania truly targets an older audience. Even on board activities were limited to wine/ liquor tastings (hey- didn't have much else to do)or late night bingo (8pm) and the pool was always crowded. Food was outstanding. The visit to the Steakhouse was one on my best experiences I have ever had. The ports were incredible. Being that she was such a small ship, we were able to tender to smaller ports like Capri. ( Previously sailed Solstice for Greek Isles cruise and we had to go through Naples to get to Amalfi- so from a convenience standpoint it was great) We did have one issue. In Dubrovnik, Oceania literally reserves 1 bus for 700 people to ferry them into Old town. We found that people were pushing and shoving to get on the bus. We waited 45 minutes in a puddle of people ( no line/ tickets etc for those who came first) and were ultimately shoved off the coach. Thus, we never made into our port. It was most disappointing and frustrating considering this was one of the highlight ports. The buses only came back every hour and we were only in port for 6. Also, there were several other cruise ships in port so traffic was insane as for what I understand. Other than that mishap and lack of appeal for a younger crowd- Oceania is a great deal. Airfare was included in our cruise price as well as all beverages minus alcohol. If you are a younger demographic- I would bring a big group along as to enjoy yourself. Go for the itinerary and the price- do not go for the nightlife or activities available on board. Would I sail Regatta again? With the right people and the right itinerary- absolutely- Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We have travelled both on Oceania Marina ( +1,200 passengers) last year and this year on Regatta (+600 passengers). On both Cruise the standard of the Cabins , cabin staff, and restaurant staff was excellent, very difficult to improve on ... Read More
We have travelled both on Oceania Marina ( +1,200 passengers) last year and this year on Regatta (+600 passengers). On both Cruise the standard of the Cabins , cabin staff, and restaurant staff was excellent, very difficult to improve on this. The food in our view was slightly better on Marina, a wider choice. We preferred Regatta as it was a smaller ship and felt it was less jazzy than Marina, of choice would not go on the larger ship again. As noted the standard well deserves the 5 1/2* as rated. BUT however then Oceania are determined to take as much money as possible from you when on board. Excursions are very expensive for example a 3 hour trip from port could cost at least $149 EACH. We adapted our own method of having a taxi, then going for a similar run around on a personal basis ( usu-ally with driver speaking English ) at a total cost of up to 70 Euro. We did this a number of times on this years trip. Last year we tended to hire a car when required around a total cost of £75 each day. If one asked the Destination services to book a taxi, they showed no interest at all. Internet charges are extreme requiring from 99c per minute of for the whole voyage $1,500, this for a slow service of about 1.5mbps. The opening day of the Olympics was the first day on board. Oceania did not nothing to ensure we could see this, in spite of precruise requests. The final annoyance was the cost of transfer from Venice Cruise terminal to Airport, Oceania offered this by coach for $139 EACH. We arranged for a booked taxi at a cost of 40 Euro total. We feel it is a pity that Oceania take this method of extracting money from passengers. WE would ra-ther pay a bit more on the fare and not have the above aggravation. It spoils an otherwise excellent cruise. Derek Grossmark Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We chose the Regatta's Istanbul to Rome cruise because of the ports visited, smaller ship and the month we were available to travel. Embarkation: This could not have been easier. We were dropped off at the dock and within 15 ... Read More
We chose the Regatta's Istanbul to Rome cruise because of the ports visited, smaller ship and the month we were available to travel. Embarkation: This could not have been easier. We were dropped off at the dock and within 15 minutes had handed over our luggage, gone through security, filled out a two question form (basically stating that we arrived in Turkey healthy), got in line to provide a credit card number and have our pictures taken, passed through passport control and onto the ship and in the Terrace cafe. Our room: Because this was our 25th anniversary cruise we splurged on a PH suite. We were in room 8058 -- port side -- I believe 3 rooms from the back. The room was very spacious -- lots of storage and tastefully decorated -- all blues, whites and dark wood. Another reason I chose a PH was, I admit, I wanted the bigger bathroom -- with an actual tub/shower. And I am happy to say, that for me, it was well worth it. I enjoyed the space to shower and even take a couple baths with the lovely Bvalgari bath salts left every day. All the Bvalgari products were wonderful and smelled so good. We were able to get into our room right away after boarding the ship (at 1:00) and our bags were waiting for us as was our butler. He was very nice and I'm sure would have done anything we asked but we really had no need for his services. The only thing we asked him to do was swap out our welcome bottle of champagne for a bottle of red wine (which was kept with the wine -- somewhere behind the scenes) and get us a deck of cards. We also had breakfast in our cabin a few times and afternoon canapes a couple of times. Our housekeeper was extremely cheerful. Dining: Food is rather subjective so I will just mention some things that we especially liked. The eggs benedict were very good (and a little surprisingly) we thought they were better prepared in the Terrace Cafe as opposed to the Grand Dining room. I also loved my beef Carpaccio in Toscana. My husband had a delicious sandwich of the day on our sea day from Waves Grill. It was a roasted pork on a great baguette. One of the main dishes in the dining room one night was spinach and ricotta gnocchi, which I had as an appetizer and it just melted in your mouth. Steaks on the whole were always well prepared. Also the Osso Bucco in Toscana was delicious. Our first meal in Toscana was good though we had a little problem with the light above our table. We were seated along the back window in one corner and we did not notice that the light above didn't work until the sun set. At that point it was quite dark on our table, especially compared to the tables all around us. We asked about the light and more than one person came over to fiddle with it, but to no avail. What surprised us was that not one person said they were sorry. When I filled out the mid cruise questionnaire I commented on just that and lo and behold someone from Toscana called our cabin to apologize -- so they do read the comments. And then later in the day the manager of Toscana called and wanted to know if we would like to eat there another night (in addition to our current 2 reservations) and was very sorry and appreciated our filling out the comment card. We declined though said we were looking forward to our next meal there and appreciated his calling. Spa: After three days of walking in Ephesus, down all those steps in Santorini and then up and down to see the Acropolis in Athens I was ready for some type of spa treatment on our sea day. I waited to make an appointment until the afternoon of the day before and things certainly fill up quickly. My only time choices were 8 am for the Ohana Circulation Polish (50 minutes at $159) and 5:00 pm for the Canyon Stone Pedicure (80 minutes at $135). Yes, the polish was overpriced but it felt wonderful and I enjoyed it, so I considered it money well spent. High Tea: Every day in the Horizons lounge from 4 -- 5. Just pick any table and someone will come over with a large box of different teas to choose from. Then there is also a dessert cart where you can choose some treats and someone else walking around with a variety of little "tea" sandwiches, all while the string quartet plays. It was very nice and very popular. Entertainment on board: We went to the first cast show called "Maestro" on the day we left Istanbul. The four members of the Regatta cast were quite impressive. We both thought they all got better the more they sang and harmonized quite well together. We did not go to the evening of comedy/song with our cruise director Nolan Dean but we heard many people say it was a fun evening and he was very entertaining. We also went to the cast's second and final shows -- "Hot Vegas Nights" and show tunes (can't remember the exact title). They were both fun. We attended a wine tasting on our second day and thought it was a very good value - $15 a person. There were about 40 or so people that participated and we were each given 4 wines (two red, two white) and one taste of champagne. There was also a plate of crackers and cheese for every two people. The head sommelier was very knowledge though his assistant, though pleasant was not quite as assured of herself. They were very generous with their pours and would have gladly given anymore more of anything they wanted. We also attended two lectures from guest lecturer Terry Bishop. These were very well attended and he was an engaging speaker in every way. Ports: Istanbul: We spent 2 nights in Istanbul before boarding the ship. On the day of our arrival we went to the Underground Cistern, walked through a huge park and to the Spice Market on our own. We then had a full day tour and 1/2 day tour with EKOL tours. The sites are actually very easy to see on your own and part of me thinks we should have done that, but it was nice to have someone directing us where to go, handing us our tickets and explaining things being a bit jet lagged. We saw the Hippodrome, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, a Bosphorus river cruise, Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, and Chora Church. Hagia Sophia and the Chora Church were our favorites Kusadasi: We again booked a tour with EKOL and went straight to Ephesus. It was about 110 degrees and we started touring around 1:00. We loved Ephesus, though please be sure to stay hydrated while touring during the summer months. I was obviously not doing a good job and actually fainted while touring the Terrace Houses - and we live in Dallas and have been to hot places like Phuket and Bali. We then went to the House of the Virgin Mary. This a a very peaceful site and we are glad we stopped there. We also went to the Basilica of St. John. There is actually not much to see, though the site is quite large and there were not many people there. When our guide dropped us off she recommended a local restaurant for these "pancake" type dishes that we really liked. We stopped in and had a delicious snack before getting back on the ship. Also, the shops at the dock had all their prices listed in Euros instead of Turkish Lira - the only place we saw this. Santorini: As everyone knows there are 3 ways to get to the top - cable car, donkeys or walking the 500+ steps. We choose donkeys. We waited in line for about 5 minutes and for 5 euros enjoyed our ride to the top. It was not scary and a fun thing to do. We walked through Fira and straight to the bus stop. Tickets were bought on the bus (1.60 euro each) and the busses are well marked. They arrive every 20 - 30 minutes and they were always packed to the gills. We took the bus to Oia, walked around, took lots and lots of pictures and had a lovely lunch with wonderful views. Athens: We took a food walking tour in the morning, which we enjoyed. The owner of the company was our guide (Despina) and she was very knowledgable, kind and entertaining. We made 6 stops and there were 6 adults on the tour (along with one toddler and one child). The other couples then went on their way and Depsina and the two of us went on to the Acropolis. It's another long walk up and after seeing Ephesus was a bit of a letdown. But, we are very glad to have seen it as well as the huge "rock" from which Paul preached to the Athenians. Malta: I had bought tickets to the Hypogeum months ago, which was a good thing because the sign inside said tours were booked through August 25th. It is an underground burial site from 6000 years ago. They only allow 11 people per hour to tour the site. That, along with the nearby Tarxien temples (the first known mad made structures - also 6000 years old) were quite fascinating. We then went to Mdina - charming medieval city. I also love taking pictures of all the colorful doors. To get to the Hypogeum we just got a taxi right at the port. We asked if he would come back to pick us up after our Hypogeum tour and he was more than happy to do so. He then brought us where we wanted to go for 2 hours for the cost of 50 euros. We also walked around Valleta - touring St. John's Co-Cathedral and the armory. The walk back to the ship was not exactly clear cut but we eventually found our way. Trapani, Sicily: We had rented a car but at the last minute decided to cancel and just take a taxi to the cable car and the cable car to Erice. The destinations services person on board made it sound like the bus/taxi stand was right when you got off the ship. We must have missed something because we never saw it. We did eventually find another taxi "stand" and got a taxi to the cable car. The cost was 11.60 euros but when we were searching for coins for the 1.60 our driver just told us that 10 was enough. He then gave us his business card and said to call him when we came back down. The cable car costs 6 or 7 euros (for both ways). The town of Erice is also very charming and SO much cooler being 2000+ feet above sea level. Unfortunately is was a bit of a rainy, overcast day but we still really enjoyed our time there. We called the taxi guy as we made our way back down by cable car and within 15 minutes he had arrived to take us back to the port. Sorrento: We had been to Sorrento before as well as Pompeii and Capri so we decided to book a driver (in advance) to take us back to Positano (my husbands favorite place in the whole world) for the day. Tendering on the Regatta is so easy. We got our tender ticket at 9:00 from the lounge and within minutes were on a tender. We first stopped at a ceramics factory in Positano because we love the pottery from that area. We bought a small round table, picking out the pattern, one platter and one bowl - which will arrive in October. Our driver than dropped us off so we could wander around Positano for a little over an hour. We then went to La Tagliata - back up the mountain for lunch. It is a wonderful restaurant with outstanding views. We had about 7 different appetizers, a bottle of wine, a bottle of water, a plate with 4 different types of pasta for our main dish, a plate of fruit and a plate of desserts (all enough for two to share) for 25 euros a person. It was a wonderful day. Sardinia: We decided to stay on the ship this day. From what we heard (and from my research) it seemed the only thing to do was to go to a beach, which are supposed to be beautiful. We talked to some people who took the free shuttle into town and they said there really wasn't anything to see and do there. Rome: We were in Rome ten years ago and saw all the main sites then but still spent two nights here after our cruise. We shared a ride into Rome with two other couples from our roll call board, which worked out great. I had booked a catacombs and crypts tour for that afternoon and it was very interesting. We went to three sites and the tour lasted about 3 hours. There were about 25 people on the tour with two guides. In the day and a half we were there we walked to the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, just strolled around the city in general, had lots of gelato and some delicious meals. Overall, we loved the cruise and would be more than happy to sail with Oceania again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
Just returned from Oceania's Med Legends and Myths, Oct. 12-24. We weren't assigned a stateroom until we arrived at the port. We had opted for a B2 Stateroom category but were upgraded to an A3. I'm not looking a gift ... Read More
Just returned from Oceania's Med Legends and Myths, Oct. 12-24. We weren't assigned a stateroom until we arrived at the port. We had opted for a B2 Stateroom category but were upgraded to an A3. I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth but I wouldn't pay for this upgrade. Though it was just fine. The only differences are that you get 4 options for dining in Toscana and the Polo Grill, a canvas bag, and some free clothes pressing. Oh yes, free soft drinks from the minibar. All very nice, but not worth spending another $200 per person. I really can't fault Oceania. The Service from the time you arrive at the airport until you depart is superb. Someone is always there to give special assistance or answer a question. The stateroom was small, but comfortable and well fitted. The food is every venue is excellent. Service lagged occasionally in the Terrace Cafe, but the food there was far better than the equivalent on Holland American. (The only other line we've been on) the abundance of fresh fruit, berries in particular, makes one wonder how they do it. We had decided not to partake of any excursions, rather, to hire a guide or driver when we felt it was needed and on three or four of the stops we planned to use the Ipod Discovery Series offered by Oceania. However, we were notified on arrival that the Discovery Series had been cancelled. We couldn't imagine why and when we questioned that weren't given a very satisfactory answer. So, we were left to our own devices which was fine except for Itea/Delhi. Actually it may not have mattered as there were only six cabs in town and if you weren't there early then you were out of luck. I would strongly suggest signing up for your ship's excursion for Delphi if for no other. For Crete, we contacted Lefteris Nikiforakis, who we found on a posting on Cruise Critic. His website is: www.taxiservices-crete.gr or email elinkigr@yahoo.com. He is charming, genuine, philosophical and very knowledgeable. He knew his history and loved his job. He was very proud to be a Cretan. I recommend him without reservation. He is not a tour guide, so will not be allowed to take you into the Palace of Knossos, but he prepares you very well for your visit. Oh yes, Lefteris charged us 40 USD an hour, which was less than we would have paid on the ship's excursion. The other guide we hired was for Ephesus, also found on Cruise Critic. We went through Ekol and requested Ali, since we had read about him. They couldn't guarantee it, but we did get him and were delighted. He is extremely bright, serious with a quiet sense of humor. We strongly recommend him. We did Ephesus, which included the Terrace Houses, which aren't to be missed. The price was competitive. www.ekoltravel.com Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Sadly, I need to report it was very difficult to deal with the home office of Oceania because we had booked this cruise through an internet agency. Once they were aware of that, they did not want to provide requested information, and we ... Read More
Sadly, I need to report it was very difficult to deal with the home office of Oceania because we had booked this cruise through an internet agency. Once they were aware of that, they did not want to provide requested information, and we essentially felt like second class citizens. WE boarded a plane out of DC for Munich. That was nice. We like Lufthansa. Then it was Munich to Vienna. Nice flights. However only my baggage arrived, my husband's did not. We made our way to the ship via bus, not a bad connection. Then a short water bus ride to the ship. We had, of course filed a report of missing baggage with Lufthansa, and were told it would arrive. However, the plane leaving Munich was too small to carry the "lost" luggage (more than l) and regular passenger luggage to Vienna. His luggage instead had to go to Frankfurt where they have bigger planes. Oh, the joys of air travel! It was with some trepidation we boarded the Regatta in Venice. If not for other cruise critic members, we may have given it up ahead of time. (thank you cruise critic) It was Saturday when we arrived on the ship; no luggage Saturday. No luggage Sunday, we EMBARK AT 3:00 pm. The Oceania staff was made aware of our dilemma. As we understand it, the "manager" of such things went to Vienna airport himself and we received the luggage at 2:00PM. Yeah Oceania! We had previously cruised to Venice. We hated it! Never wanted to go back; however, this cruise offered wonderful ports, etc. Now we realize why we hated it; it was July, it was 95 degrees, it was crowded in St. Marks square and walking through the shopping area. Not so in October, less people and we made full use of the water taxis, that in itself is a wonderful experience viewing the grand buildings from the canals on Sunday, watching the pilots of the gondolas, have team races down the canal. Prior to our arrival in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the cruise critic group met sharing ideas and gathering information. Our balcony room was lovely and we made use of it throughout the trip even tho there was a cloud that formed when we left Vienna and followed us the entire trip, sometimes dumping rain, sometimes, wind. However, I can understand getting a lesser cabin on this most intesive port venue. Remember, our luggage was late; well our darling room attendant said we could get free laundry any time. OK a few days later we compiled our laundry. And sent it on. Lovely returned all on hangers, etc. Then a few days later we received a preliminary bill for charges on the cruise thus far. $58 for laundry. We were perplexed. The laundry ticket clearly said, no charge. However, calls to the laundry billing resulted in no return phone calls to clarify this matter. What to do???? By chance my husband ran into the General Manager of the ship at breakfast buffet. He asked how things were going. My husband related the laundry story. He said, "I'll check into it". Within an hour we received a call from Dennis in charge of laundry who did not call us back previously. He said, there was a mistake, there will be no charge. Yeah Oceania! Speaking of breakfast, it was delicious as were all the meals on board. The specialty restaurants were especially delightful, but grand dining room great too. It was the best food we have enjoyed on a cruise. Yeah Oceania! We did not go to much of the entertainment. It is not a Princess ship with extravaganzas. However, a wonderful group from Russia playing classical music, just lovely. Summary: wE'RE REALLY GLAD WE ATTENDED WHISPERS OF ANTIQUITY Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
We have traveled by one other cruise when we book our recent trip with Oceania Cruise line for an October 16th to October 31st 2009 cruise to the Greek Isles, Italy and Turkey. Previously we had sailed with Cunard on the Queen Mary and ... Read More
We have traveled by one other cruise when we book our recent trip with Oceania Cruise line for an October 16th to October 31st 2009 cruise to the Greek Isles, Italy and Turkey. Previously we had sailed with Cunard on the Queen Mary and Queen Victoria to the Western Mediterrian and Christmas Market in the Baltic Sea area. I was alittle concerned about booking with a smaller cruise line but was delighted with the ship size, ports of call, and on-shore excursions, and food. We began our trip in Venice, Italy on October 16th having flown from Charlotte, NC to Atlanta, to Rome, to Venice. The Rome airport is a zoo but Delta got us there and we had to deal with "pushy" people who bust lines. Our trip into Venice was uneventful except for the first of 13 days of rain ! Venice is everything it is cracked up to be. It is beautiful and crowded. Considering that it was an October trip the Doge was still crammed with people. Our guide kept us away from the crowds and was very helpful in helping us purchase Venetian Masks from a shop on Ca' Del Sol. We spent the next day just walking in Venice. If I were Marco Polo I would never have left Venice - silk road or not. We left on our cruise that night and began to see the merits or Oceania and it's small ship concept. The room we had was small - 214 sq ft with a smaller bathroom but it was well kept and stocked with appropriate beverages. When you cruise with Oceania you have choices of eating areas. The main dinning room is large and noisy but well run with a staff of waiters and waitresses. The only drawback to the dinning room is being in the back of the ship it "rocks" and "rolls" when the sea is rough. The two other dining facilities - Polo and Toscana are good places to eat, but nothing exceptional. The outdoor area called Waves makes the best cheeseburgers and fries you could want. The Terrace Cafe is where we spent many nights. This service is where you can help yourselves to the same food as you would receive in the main dining room. The staff is very efficient. At night you sleep on the best mattresses ever designed. If I could have stuffed one into my luggage upon retuning home I would have.Kotor. An absolutey amazing port. We were taken to a church built and dedicated to the sailors who had returned from a trip each bringing a rock to help build this island. You can't believe its beauty. The onlt reason we got to see Kotor is because of the ships - Regatta - size. Large ships cannot dock in this area, I assume. Don't miss seeing this city. Still raining ! Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
My wife and I are in our 60's and we planned this cruise with another couple about a year in advance. We wanted to celebrate my wife's 65th birthday and were not disappointed. We do try to travel 2-3 times a year but this is the ... Read More
My wife and I are in our 60's and we planned this cruise with another couple about a year in advance. We wanted to celebrate my wife's 65th birthday and were not disappointed. We do try to travel 2-3 times a year but this is the first extended cruise we have taken. When planning we looked at the number of ports which were included and decided we would not be able to see all of the countries we covered for the cost involved and the time spent in each area. We started with a 2 day stay in London to avoid being exhausted upon arrival at the ship. Stayed at the Hilton Hyde Park for two nights and it was very acceptable. The package included dinner the first night which really worked out since we did not have to chose a restaurant in an unfamiliar town. The meal was very good. Also included breakfast each morning and that was also very good. Complete with most everything you would want. We had prearranged transportation from the airport to hotel and then to the ship. While expensive, it was the best way to go for the four of us and would do this again as opposed to arranging this thru the ship. It ended up costing less and we were more comfortable. The drive from London to Dover is a little over two hours and being in a comfortable van as opposed to a bus was better. Checking in on arrival was very smooth as there were no others passengers checking in at the time. We had a concierge level room which gave us a dedicated line for check in but was not needed. We arrived about 1:00 pm and our room was ready which was an advantage of the concierge level. Others were not able to get their room until about 3:00 pm (Deck 6 and below) Lunch was available and was in the Terrace Cafe buffet. I would recommend making your dining reservations for the Polo Grill and Toscana as soon as you arrive on the ship. They fill up fast and to get time days and times you want, do it ASAP. Our stateroom was as expected with plenty of closet space and storage. Included with this room was a small refrigerator with drinks of all types. Be aware there is a charge for all that you use but the cost is the same as anywhere on the ship. We also had a DVD player which was used sparingly. Having a balcony was a definite advantage both for relaxation and arriving at the different ports. It was nice to be able to relax and see the sights on arrival. We were fortunate to have Olena and her assistant John as our cabin steward. They did a fantastic job. If you do not like the duvee you can ask for a blanket instead which suited us better. The only complaint about the room is the size of the shower but on a ship you do not expect large areas. The Penthouse suites and above included a tub and more living space. You have to decide whether the extra cost is worth it. We tried to find anything bad about the food and the dining areas and could not. The food was excellent in all of the dining rooms and the service was always first class. Our favorite server in the dining room as Shiaiane who was a wine and cocktail server. From the first night she never forgot what we wanted for cocktails and even when she was not our server, always check to make sure all was OK. A very special person if you get to meet her. Toscana and Polo Grill were top notch with the food being above and beyond what we expected. On my wifes birthday they sang Happy Birthday and brought a special personalized cake which was the best dessert I have ever had, truly special. For the men, a sport coat is not required for country club casual. I had planned to take two and changed to one and was very pleased to have done so. I wore it 5 times for the whole cruise. Nice dress slacks and a sport shirt are very acceptable in all areas. I wore the sport coat in the Polo Grill and Toscana and one night in the Grand dining room. The size of the ship is perfect. The average age of the passengers is 55 and above. We saw a few younger kids but not many and this cruise is not designed for children. We only took one ship excursion and that was in Helsinki and it worked out fine. We had pre-arranged tours in Germany and St Petersburg with Viktoria of spb-tours.com. We can truly recommend this company as the best. We did not want to be on a bus so arranged for the four of us only and it was worth the small additional cost. You could do what you wanted when you wanted to deviate from our original plans if necessary. We did and saw many things that the ships tours did not do including going to special local restaurants in St Petersburg. The 3 days there were the highlight of the cruise. I had also prearranged a stop at the Absolute Ice Bar in Stockholm which happened to be the last night of the cruise and was really lots of fun and quite and experience and would recommend it for a fun thing to do. All other port we would take a cab into town or take local transportation which included the hop on and off buses and canal boats. Do not miss the Van Gogh museum and get tickets before you get to the museum. There is a place about 1/2 a block away which you can do this an avoid the long lines for tickets. At each port the ship had a representative from that town on board to help and I would take advantage of that resource. We did not get involved in many of the ships activities as we were touring much of the time. Did participate in the putting and ping pong which was fun and got to meet many of your shipmates. Entertainment was available each evening but did not attend to many as long days of touring do run you down. The service on the ship was outstanding. Everytime you passed a crew member, they always said hello and greeted you with a smile. The only negative feature you have to deal with is the lack of do it yourself laundry facilities. There is one room with four washers and dryers so you need to plan ahead. We ended up using the room service facilities and the extra cost was not that great and much more convenient. We took advantage of the ships buses to the airport in Stockholm and would recommend doing this. You need to be of the ship by 9:00am and they have your luggage ready and by the bus when you disembark. Very smooth and easy. Overall, this was the Cruise of a Lifetime. It is well worth the cost as you get what you pay for. The size of the ship was perfect with 600 passengers. It never seemed crowded at any time. Having the ship as your hotel in each port was the only way to go. Never had to pack or unpack. I would highly recommend Oceania Regatta or any of their ships. You get what you pay for and this being an upscale cruise was well worth the cost to us. We are still talking about the trip and will continue to do so for some time to come. Putting your pictures together after the trip will take a good period of time but will keep the memories alive. Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
EXCELLENT/PHENOMENAL/OUTSTANDING !! Having read so many reviews of this and other Oceania ships prior to our sailing and the nit-picky things pointed out by so many; I guess I felt our overall experience on this particular cruise and the ... Read More
EXCELLENT/PHENOMENAL/OUTSTANDING !! Having read so many reviews of this and other Oceania ships prior to our sailing and the nit-picky things pointed out by so many; I guess I felt our overall experience on this particular cruise and the weather and calm seas made this first voyage with Oceania seem to be all of the above and much, much more! Our room was very nice and very accommodating for the amount of time we spent IN the room itself. I could have wished for a slightly larger verandah/balcony and a bit more privacy on the balcony; but it was adequate. The teakwood definitely adds to the quality of the ship on both the balcony and the main outside deck. The ship personnel were very nice and helpful and very present onboard the ship in almost everything that was going on. Our dinner reservations were late almost every evening, so we did not have a chance to avail ourselves of the ship evening shows. so we cannot comment upon those events or the quality of the performances. We found the room was cleaned and well serviced by cabin stewards throughout our entire cruise and have nothing but positives about ice buckets being full/clean towels/linens, etc. when we left the room to go about our activities. I would rate us as "experienced" large-ship cruisers with many other lines other than Oceania. I would have to say in our travels, both on land and sea, that we have had the opportunity to experience some very expensive dining meals in many venues across the world and the shipboard dining experiences we had on the Regatta were simply superb given the fact this was a mid-size ship. Attention to details was impeccable in almost every aspect of the dining experience. Could they have slowed down the services of food delivery in both Toscana and Polo.. yes, perhaps it was a bit too fast, but the presentation, the quality of food and the overall upscale dining experience was very good indeed. I would also advise you that dining restaurants close PROMPTLY, so if you have a late seating; be strongly advised they will close down service before you get finished with your dinner; esp. in the Tapas and Grand Dining Room !! Initially, there was some miscommunication among the Concierge staff and the restaurants about when the dining closed and caused us some grief; esp. on the very first night of our trip...which we resorted to Room Service on our first evening on the ship. As it turns out, it was a a good late food experience and we ended up with a bottle of wine and cheese assortment on our deck following departure from Barcelona. I also have to report a miscommunication with staff since our two bedside table lamps had NO light bulbs upon our arrival to our stateroom. While I called several times to get TWO light bulbs, I got no response from staff about the bulbs. About 11:30PM while waiting on our Room Service to arrive a ship "technician" all armed with his "electrical" toolkit arrived at the door with his trouble-sheet stating I reported both lights to have "electrical trouble" when all I said was they needed just TWO LIGHT BULBS!! He laughed and brought them to us and that was that.....just a communication/language issue. This trip for my wife and I was something that we planned for a long time and did not wish to join "large" ship tour groups to traipse around the various ports; so we did not experience those shipboard Destination Services; but we ran into several Oceania groups as we preferred to do it by ourselves and spend the time alone on shore; but that's nothing against the folks that did so! There are no children on Oceania by and large. I do think there was one 8-10 age girl with her mom and grandfather onboard the ship and the only time we saw them was at the pool deck. Oceania does pay close attention to details that other ship lines go unnoticed. The passengers and crew are/were all extremely friendly and seemed to care about your experiences onboard the ship. The computer room for e-mails and photo downloading is a definite plus for everyone and was well utilized by most during our trip. OTHER FINER POINTS OF DIFFERENCES: 1) Double-seat deck chairs for couples.. makes everything very nice to sit close 2) Walking track-deck for those early morning jaunts around the deck to get warmed up 3) Cozy Bath Robes and Lap blankets for sitting on the verandah/balcony in the morning with coffee 4) Good quality shower gel and soap amenities 5) Tenders are easy since the ship is small enough to not create problems in getting to and from shore ports if ship is not docked 6) Prices for wine/beer and liquor are reasonable prices with gratuities added on each purchase. 7) The "Brunch" in the Grand Dining Room is a wonderful experience complete with Ice Sculptures and great food selections. We will definitely book Oceania again.... - Charlie & Anne Read Less
Sail Date April 2007
We were expecting quite a lot before this trip and it certainly lived up to and more than exceeded our expectations. The embarkation process was very smooth and took only a couple of minutes and we were aboard and in our Concierge class ... Read More
We were expecting quite a lot before this trip and it certainly lived up to and more than exceeded our expectations. The embarkation process was very smooth and took only a couple of minutes and we were aboard and in our Concierge class cabin. We were very impressed with both the food and the service on this ship. The three restaurants with their open dining policy impressed us - there was never any waiting at the main restaurant - The Grand Dining Room, and the two other restaurants - Polo Grill and Toscana required a booking time but no surcharge. It was silver service at all three dining rooms - fantastic prime rib of beef, filet mignon with lobster and a great variety each day. The buffet for breakfast and lunch served by the staff which certainly a bonus from a hygiene point of view. Our Concierge cabin with balcony was a bit on the small side, as was the bathroom, but was fine for our needs. Our room steward, Ivan was fantastic - cabin was always cleaned while we were at breakfast and at night while we were at dinner. Ice in the ice bucket, curtains drawn at night - everything beautifully tidied up. We have been on six previous cruises with Celebrity, Princess and the Star line in Asia, but this trip surpassed them all with great ports of call,fabulous food and service and great attention to detail. Disembarkation was a breeze - luggage well organized on the dock and porters standing by. Congratulations Oceania and all the staff on the Regatta - we can't wait to sail with you again. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
Regatta, at 30,000 tons and a capacity of 670 passengers and 400 crew, is more akin to a yacht when lined up against today's mega-ships. Originally built as a series of eight vessels for the luxury line Renaissance Cruises, Regatta ... Read More
Regatta, at 30,000 tons and a capacity of 670 passengers and 400 crew, is more akin to a yacht when lined up against today's mega-ships. Originally built as a series of eight vessels for the luxury line Renaissance Cruises, Regatta and sisters Nautica and Insignia were each given 5-million-dollar facelifts and compose the entire Oceania fleet today (meaning that one ship on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or Princess would be larger than all of Oceania Cruises). From our stateroom amidships on Deck Seven, we were within a three or four minute walk of essentially everywhere onboard, a feat not possible with larger vessels. Not that we mind the walking, especially with all the food bound to be consumed on one of these sailings, yet it's nice to have it all on a manageable scale. Up top and forward is Horizons lounge, royal blue and plaid motif with generous cherry-wood paneling and floor-to-ceiling, 180-degree views. Horizons serves as the music and dancing venue in the evenings; is used for continental breakfast on port days  best croissants at sea, crusty and flaky on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside  and elegant afternoon tea every day, scones and the string quartet, not to be missed. Above Horizons is the sun deck, with private cabanas rarely if ever in use during the entire duration of the cruise, while below is the spa and fitness centre. Outside the spa are what had been two conference rooms, one of which has been converted into a card room and the other into Oceania@Sea, the ship's internet and computer facility. While we did not go online at $0.95 per minute, we did take advantage of a couple of free classes on digital photography and Adobe PhotoShop; and even better were able to download our digital photos every day, sort through and touch them up, and burn two CDs (we'd taken nearly 1500 pictures, after all) at the end of the cruise, all for a $30 fee. Amidships is the teak-decked pool area, with a running track circling the top, a salt-water pool and two hot tubs, comfortable lounge chairs running along the port and starboard sides, and wooden double benches that face either end of the pool and were oh, so relaxing when at sea. Aft of the pool area, top deck, is one of the nicest areas on Regatta, the library. With over a thousand titles available  I took Tom Friedman's latest (while also reading Devils of the Deep Blue Sea, a tome about the cruise industry presumably not on the shelves of any ship at sea)  this wood-paneled room is a cozy spot to read or chat. The library leads to Regatta's two specialty restaurants, each of which occupies an aft corner. Toscana, where we dined twice, is a contemporary trattoria with favorites such as osso buco, pastas and risotto, antipasti such as carpaccio or calamari, and a nice selection of meats and seafood. The tiramisu is not to be missed. Polo Grill, on the starboard aft corner, is a classic steakhouse, with mahogany panels and generous hunter greens. Our meal here on the second to last night of the cruise would feature a powerful set of courses including shrimp cocktail with the largest and most succulent shrimp we'd ever sunk our teeth into; a rich lobster bisque; caesar salad prepared tableside; classic surf and turf accompanied with oversized asparagus and creamed spinach; and a key lime pie and Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream that left us staggering out of the establishment. Leveraging the kitchen upstairs, Deck Nine aft offers the Terrace, home to breakfast and lunch buffets, and evening Tapas on the Terrace. While the indoor eating areas are bright and airy, the highlight by far is the teak-floored, umbrella-festooned aft patio, and we'd come to eat many a meal out here, enjoying sea breezes and views of ports and sunsets. The Terrace, like each of the five dining venues, has its own china pattern, but its staff rotate from the other venues, meaning passengers and staff get to know each other, another nice feature of the small ship experience. That's why, when you return from port, staff always greet you with welcome home. Of the ten suppers aboard Regatta, we ate in the Grand Dining Room six times, read the menu on the other evenings, and never saw anything of the rotating entrees or appetizers repeated. A solid A to Oceania for creativity and variety in its menu planning, even if not every dish was a complete hit. Appetizers included tiger prawns with orange Sauce and onion confit; chicken mousseline sausage with roquefort; and a salmon and scallop tartare for which Jen procured the recipe at the cooking demonstration. Salads were crisp, soups were varied, and an intermezzo of sorbet or daiquiri ice were de rigueur before entrees such as roasted lamb rack Provencale with herb crust, or sautEed sea bream fillet with rosemary butter. The desserts were consistently good, with daily rotating ice creams complementing a line of cakes and creations, chocolate and otherwise, though I sometimes opted for a simple sorbet along with a selection from the cheese trolley. All that is no surprise, given that the chef for Oceania  not onboard but the consulting chef to the line  is Jacques Pepin, TV host, author, and chef extraordinaire. With that billing, one might look for some flaws in the dining experience, which Oceania boats to be the finest at sea. And so we looked. Though the experience in the main dining room was overall an A-, we found some inconsistencies among the various staff. Unlike traditional cruises, Oceania offers anytime dining, meaning one can visit the dining room within a three-hour window and could end up with a different serving team each night. Some staff were energetic and highly efficient, while a few did seem, to us at least, to be a bit perfunctory in carrying out their work. And we encountered the occasional faux pas such as reaching across the table to place an item rather than walking around, or serving from the cheese tray in a haphazard manner that resulted in a less-than-attractive plating as well as cheese becoming mixed on the tray. On the Terrace, most staff eagerly served the iced tea, coffee/espresso/cappuccino (very nice, by the way, and not at an extra charge like many lines), lemonade and so forth from the quasi-self-serve station, but a few seemed to be standing by and not taking much interest in their work. In the specialty venues the service was outstanding, though compared to those on Celebrity Cruises perhaps not quite on the impeccable level  ordering wine by the glass seemed off-putting once at Toscana. As for the cuisine itself, as stated above the creativity gets high marks, but the end results were sometimes only fair. One of the Jacques Pepin signature dishes is the herb-crusted rotisserie chicken, available every night along with the aforementioned signature steak frites. While the latter was succulent and was worth ordering (even as a second entree) on subsequent nights, we found the chicken to be unremarkable and on the dry side. At least two of the soups had far too much salt, surprising when much of the clientele are older and health-conscious. And a couple of the more adventurous entrees, such as the attempt at tandoori chicken, simply fell flat. All that being said, however, we'd recommend Oceania to just about anyone looking for a cruise experience, and would add that, in a time when mainstream cruise lines are cutting back their food budgets, Oceania probably does offer some of the best dining at sea. The ship's crew and staff in general are quite friendly, saying hello whenever you see them and going out of their way to help whenever possible. As said before, the clientele aboard Oceania's sailings to tend to be a bit older, although here on the Mediterranean they seem to be a more fit and energetic lot. Still, this can present certain challenges for crew and staff, and we thought the Oceania gang did a fine job. Cruise director David Shermet was informative and entertaining, and we had several nice chats, most notably about how he'd played baseball at the University of Arizona and who we knew in common. While the Oceania ships are too small for Broadway-scale production shows, the theatre is intimate and hosted daily entertainment ranging from a musical revue, to comedy and magic, to the talented violinist Hanna Starosta. And the martini bar, itself a cozy space at both day and night, featured lively piano music and good spirits sailing well into the night. As on most cruises, we were disappointed to have to leave Regatta, and of course the 10 days had sailed by (sorry, couldn't resist the pun) far too quickly. We'd most certainly sail with Oceania in the future, particularly if their itineraries can get more exotic and the 2-for-1 and free air deal is available again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2006
Just as background, I'm 53, and this was our third cruise. Last year we did a Viking River cruise in the Netherlands (loved it!) and the year before that cruised to New England and Canada on a now-defunct cruise line. We loved ... Read More
Just as background, I'm 53, and this was our third cruise. Last year we did a Viking River cruise in the Netherlands (loved it!) and the year before that cruised to New England and Canada on a now-defunct cruise line. We loved Oceania. We booked it because we were attracted to the port-intensive itinerary and the fact that the ship only held 684 passengers. We thought the food and service were excellent, and liked the variety in dining venues. We liked open seating, never had to wait to be seated, and found the service and food consistently great. Toscanna was a feast (and beautiful decor) and Polo could be depended upon to have great steaks and good seafood. Tapas was nice for a more casual meal, although I'm not crazy about buffet. While the food was pretty good, it still was a little less appealing because it was buffet. However, I did learn to seek out the made-to-order pasta. We only did the tea once, but it was fun. We ordered room service once and it came promptly. We ordered box lunches once -pretty good. Most of the time we just ate the breakfast buffet, but had eggs benedict once in the Grand Dining Room. Lunch we were out in port most days, but when we were on the ship, we went for casual (grill by the pool, or buffet, seated on the terrace). Our cabin was the smallest available (180 sq. feet), and inside, but it was attractive and functional. Bathrooms on the Regatta are small but we didn't spend much time in there, so it didn't matter much! Our stewardess (Katarzyna) was fabulous - very personable, always around, always willing to help out if we wanted her to. The cabin was kept spotless. Yes, the beds were quite comfy, although to really enjoy that quilt you had to crank up the A/C, which I'm not crazy about. We didn't take a single shore excursion, since we were trying to save money, and because we're pretty independent to begin with. In Europe, trains are everywhere, so we mostly sought out the train station and did our own thing. I had researched what we'd do in advance. While we missed having some commentary and hearing about what we were seeing, we DID save a lot of money by not taking the ship's excursions. We thought the port briefings were very good, and liked the fact that you could watch them on the TV in your cabin at your leisure. I also liked the web cam, since we were in an inside cabin with no window to the world! We seldom felt the ship move, and certainly didn't have any problem with seasickness. The weather was great, which helped. The nightly shows were modest but of good quality. I only made about half of them (often too tired from a full day in port!) but I enjoyed the ones I did go to. I didn't attend the "enrichment lectures" or art auctions, didn't shop much in the store, and didn't go to the spa or fitness center, so I can't comment on those. Can't comment on the internet cafe (only used a PC in the library once) or the casino, although my husband spent a bit of time there and obviously had a good time..... The ship is beautiful and my fellow passengers were just right for my husband and I (in terms of age mix, background,and all that stuff). With less than 700 people on board, you saw some people more than once, but didn't always run into the same people, which was nice. You didn't feel you were on a megaliner, looking for a quiet space. I really liked that. Embarkation and disembarkation were really fast and easy. The tendering in Portofino was painless. Getting off the ship quickly in port was important to us, and that turned out to never be a problem. The free (or two for one) air flights from Oceania are not the best - (i.e., translate lengthy!!) but I guess you get what you pay for. Service from everyone we encountered without exception was fabulous, although we're probably a little less picky about that than some other folks who've cruised more and/or expect more. Entertainment was a little limited (certainly no climbing wall!), but with the port intensive itinerary and the few "at sea" days, it really didn't matter to me. All of the ports that we visited were fabulous - including under-rated Cadiz and Malaga. I liked the fact that the ship had an overnight stop (in Cadiz). We had originally planned to spend the night in Seville but ended up not doing that. It would have been nice, however, to take in some late night flamenco and soak up that Spanish atmosphere... I heard very few complaints from any fellow passengers on this cruise. The only ones I heard had to do with Destination Services not giving out enough information for independent travelers, but my personal opinion was that perhaps people were expecting just a little bit too much for a new cruise line going to new destinations....(Would they really know where the closest ATM in Marseille is??)Destination Services, did, however, have maps and train schedules for many ports, which seemed adequate to me. We have already booked our next cruise with them - so obviously my husband and I were pretty impressed with them! Overall a wonderful line, with great food, Med itinerary, and service. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
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
Flight times as set up by Oceania. My flight was changed about 3 times by them. Flight left 1 hr. late, thank goodness my connecting flight was late too. The seats arranged by my travel agent were not honored and we had other seats ... Read More
Flight times as set up by Oceania. My flight was changed about 3 times by them. Flight left 1 hr. late, thank goodness my connecting flight was late too. The seats arranged by my travel agent were not honored and we had other seats assigned to us. We were met by Oceania staff on arrival to Lisbon and after collecting our luggage quickly bused to the port. The embarkation crew did not seem to be prepared for us and there were long lines as they were getting ready. I was in the front of the line and once they started we were processed quickly. I'm not sure about all the people behind me. Once on board we went to the Terrace cafe (Buffet). Then we made our 2 reservations for each of the restaurants (Polo and Toscana). There was some discrepancy about this. The Reception desk told us we couldn't but when you go up to the respective restaurants you can make your 2 reservations. You also need not remember when they are, you will be reminded by a card in your door. We were very tired at this point and made our way down to the cabin. It was ready and we crashed until dinner. Dinner for my first night was in the Toscana. We were still quite tired and didn't really order much. There was also no encouragement on the part of the waiter to try anything. Left there a little on the hungry side and went to the 9th floor. Overall, I would say the food was quite good except for a couple of meals. One was where I ordered sword fish in the Polo and the fish really wasn't cooked. The waiter was trying to convince me and the other woman at the table who had the same fish that it was supposed to be that way. We thought it was strange when we couldn't cut it with the knife. Maitre D. confirmed this with us and the fish went back to the kitchen. My cabin was on level 3, port hole. The cabin was small, but I had great neighbors. Everyone was very friendly. Lots of crew traffic on the 3rd level. Also, you can only access the cabins from one elevator. The other half of the 3rd level is for "crew only". Destination service: This is where Oceania really needs some improvement. At the last minute I decided to book a shore excursion package. It states in the booklet that is sent to you that this is not available for purchase on the ship. In fact they did allow you to purchase this on the ship. The real disadvantage of prebooking is that you are not allowed to use any ship board credits towards this purchase. (I did have a small credit from my travel agent). I had been reading these boards before my cruise and felt that I didn't have a good handle on what I could do independently. I am geographically challenged and didn't want to waste what time I did have getting lost and finding my way back. By booking these tours I had quantity activities but did not have quality. They say and do use reputable tour companies, which means the bus is clean. I wasn't prepared for a bus that is much like the airlines whereby if the person in front of you reclines their seat, their head is in your lap. There was no leg room on these buses and I am 5'4" and complaining. The tour buses were usually not filled to capacity, but there was always upward of 40 people. Many of the tour guides I experienced were struggling with their English and had a memorized script of what to say. In the bus its not a big deal, just enjoy the pretty scenery, but when you're on your tour and your standing there with this big crowd of 40 plus people struggling to hear it is a problem and a big waste of time. Some of the people who I did meet canceled the package after Spain. For me it was an expensive waste of time. I forgot to mention I did the explorer collection. I also almost forgot to mention we didn't dock at one of the ports we were supposed to. Portofino, the weather was bad and they couldn't tender us. We went to Genoa instead. Peter, the charge destination person, was quick to say there would be no refunds for the excursion in Portofino. They instead "had something of better quality" that would be even more exciting. No one had any idea of what was being planned but it was better. Peter had the best adjectives. To bad they weren't true. I was looking forward to cruising on the Italian Riveria and not another bus tour. We received another bus tour with yet another struggling English tour guide. This guide even apologized for her English. As for the destination service desk and the Reception desk: this is one of my favorite stories. It didn't happen to me but I did hear it at dinner that night. At the port in Livorno, 2 women went to the desk to get a map so they could take the train to Florence. They were wandering around looking for the train station. Finally, they met someone and to make a long story short, what they had received from the reception desk was a map of Civitaveccia not Livorno. Good thing they had been to Florence before. Peter was also advising people not to take the trains because of what happened in Madrid. I felt they (Peter) were unnecessarily scaring people out of doing things on their own. Obviously for economic reasons the shore excursions were highly encouraged and there was no help or support if you wanted to do anything on your own. For me they were something to do but I wouldn't do them again nor would I recommend them at this point. It is the one thing that Oceania may get a letter from me about. Lets go back to the food. Dining experience in general good. I liked the Grand Dining Room. Somewhere on these boards or reviews someone mentioned they didn't enforce a dress code. It was probably me. After those all day excursions I was too tired to change. My least favorite place to eat was the Terrace Cafe. Some had to do with my taste in food and that is where some of the wait staff seemed really oblivious. Either they were really good or they stood there like space cadets. This was also my first experience with open seating. It's wonderful to meet other passengers, but there is no one to really take care of you. Entertainment: I did not spend a lot of time in the lounge. I did go see John Paul who was excellent. Afternoon tea: I really enjoyed this. Excellent scones. The enrichment Lecturer, Dieter, very interesting and informative to listen to. Way more interesting to listen to than the tour guides on those expensive excursions. I hope this helps gives some information to any readers out there in cyberspace.  As for me this was my 5th cruise. Second European one. I must say even if I wasn't really impressed with the shore excursions we did have a really nice time. A lot of that was due to the really nice fellow passengers that I met. It was a very nice experience but I don't feel Oceania is at that upscale cruising experience they are advertising or trying to achieve. I will also mention my flight home. Had an extra night stay. My flight departed from Barcelona, stop over in Amsterdam, to the US. Well guess what, got to Amsterdam. The minute I reached the terminal there was an announcement that the flight was canceled. Within minutes we were whisked out of the airport to a hotel in Haag. Got to see a place not on Oceania's itinerary. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
This was the most horrid trip that I have ever been on. I contacted the company right after returning, and never received a return phone call. I have sent numerous emails, also without a response. BEFORE THE CRUISE  We received our ... Read More
This was the most horrid trip that I have ever been on. I contacted the company right after returning, and never received a return phone call. I have sent numerous emails, also without a response. BEFORE THE CRUISE  We received our documents in good time, the air arrangements were poor to say the least, and we were traveling for over 24 hours before we got back to Minneapolis, not to mention the drive home to Iowa. ACCOMMODATIONS Our stateroom, penthouse suite 8019 was well maintained, kept clean by our attendant, and the bedding was fine. I cannot say that it was as spectacular as the company advertises, but it was acceptable. Our penthouse suite was a nice size, however, could have been furnished better. On Celebrity we had a bar in our suite with wine and other types of glasses always there. On this ship there was no such animal, and we had to ask every day for glasses. OVERALL ATTITUDE OF THE STAFF This was the worst staff I have ever dealt with. Frankly, they acted like they were doing us a favor, not the other way around. They were not friendly, and could do nothing on their own. From the front desk to the dining room, the staff was pathetic. We even met with the Hotel Manager (General Manager) after four days of total frustration. He had sent a letter in response to our comments that had been submitted just a few days into the cruise. We called to confirm that we wanted to meet with him, as well as some friends of ours. He agreed. When we went to the area( the main lobby) to meet him, he refused to meet in private. He wanted to have us sit in the lobby and discuss these issues with us. We told him no, and he finally agreed to meet in his office, which was were you have private meetings in the first place. We listed our complaints, dining room service, cold food, and a multitude of others. He became defensive, and never once offered the simple question "what can I do to make it right". It was just a patethic example of how the lack of leadership does come from the top. No wonder the staff was so horrible. The hotel manager could not even set a good example. STAFF PERFORMANCE AND SERVICE I would say the officers were poor based on your meeting with the hotel manager. The butler was a joke. He didn't even show up for two days ("because he did not want to disturb us",) never offered to do anything, and we always had to ask. I had the tips removed from our bill, and I assure you he received nothing from us. His name was Manuel, from Portugal, and basically did the absolute least he had to do. We ask him twice to make reservations for us at the two speciality restaurants, and never once did he even get back to us. The bar staff leaves a lot of be desired. One evening the waitress accidently put two glasses of wine on our friends tab, as only one should have been his and one mine. She did not know and it was not her fault. When she brought the bill back we expained it was on two separate checks. The next thing we know some woman bar manager comes marching in the dining room with this poor girl and made her apologize in front of us and just about everyone in the dining room. Not to mention the scene it made. We were embarassed. Then they both come back with two glass of wine and give them to us. Again, another scene. DESTINATION SERVICES DEPARTMENT This was a joke. We took three tours and the only one that was acceptable was in the Azores. The one in Funchal the gal read the script for three hours, and the worst was the one in Jerez, Spain. There was a man in a wheelchair with his wife, and myself with an injured leg with 25 stitches in it. Neither of us could walk. The bus dropped us in town, and this was a walking tour. My husband spend all of his time trying to help the man in the wheelchair as his wife could not do it by herself. It was very difficult for me to get around on these streets, and we were never informed that the bus would not be available to us. When we returned we went to the DESTINATION SERVICES desk, and ask for a refund. The lady with her husband in a wheelchair did also. We were required to fill out a form as to why we felt we should have our money back. Then when the completed form was taken back, the DESTINATION SERVICES manager said he would have to take it to the hotel manager for approval. That evening we received a voice mail during dinner that we would not receive a refund, and we would need to contact the Miami office. We paid $120 total. I saw the lady with the handicapped husband, and they told her the same thing. ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES T here really was not much to do. I enjoyed the art auctions and other than that, crafts, etc (everything had an extra charge) were of no interest. My husband attented the "Enrichment Lectures" given my some retired 3 star admiral who spent 20 years of his career in the pentagon ( not quite out with the troops) and his talks were all political. Very pro Geroge Bush, and not at all what should have been on a cruise ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
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
Regatta Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 5.0 4.2
Entertainment 3.5 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.4
Fitness Recreation 4.5 3.8
Family 2.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.2
Enrichment 4.5 3.5
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 3.5
Rates 4.0 4.0

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