Disclaimer: This is a detailed and comprehensive review.
My husband and I recently sailed on Oceania's cruise of Australia/New Zealand (9-14 April 2017) on the ship, Sirena. This was our first ocean cruise ever and to say we ... Read More
Disclaimer: This is a detailed and comprehensive review.
My husband and I recently sailed on Oceania's cruise of Australia/New Zealand (9-14 April 2017) on the ship, Sirena. This was our first ocean cruise ever and to say we were impressed is an understatement. The Sirena was amazing. It apparently had been refurbished within the last year and it was very beautiful and well-equipped with several dining areas, lounges and other amenities like a pool and hot tub on an open deck, a gym with floor to ceiling views of the ocean, a library, computer room and a spa with a full range of services.
I must start by commending our Oceania POCs for their help. Christopher and then Sebastian, who worked with us throughout the pre-planning stage to book our cruise, select our room and excursions, and answer my many, many questions. They were very professional, patient and helpful throughout the process and everything went smoothly thanks to their efforts.
One of the things which especially impressed us was how Oceania took care of us when our flight from LA to Sydney was delayed 18 hours. We had purchased their pre-cruise package for two nights hotel in the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney which included airport pickup upon our arrival in Sydney. When our flight was rescheduled in LA, we figured we would have to find our own way to the Shangri-La Hotel upon arrival. But, when we cleared customs, there was a limo driver, holding a sign with our names on it, waiting to take us to the hotel.
We had a B1 stateroom with a veranda and we loved it. It was spacious and comfortable with a queen size mattress, couch, desk, small refrigerator stocked with soft drinks and water, lots of closet space and drawers, and a small, but surprisingly easy to maneuver in, bathroom with plenty of hot water for showers. The bed mattress and pillows were to die for. My husband and I both have back issues and the mattress seemed to make them disappear. The veranda was roomy and private with two chairs and a small table, a perfect place to sit and read, have a drink and watch the ocean. (Thanks to our Oceania consultant, we picked a room with no view obstructions, like life boats.) A big, soft robe was provided for each guest (so don't pack one) and soft slippers. Also, each room has 110 volt outlets for charging cameras, laptops, tablets, etc., so converters aren't needed.
The food was amazing. There are a number of dining options – the Waves Grill for burgers, hot dogs, fries and a small salad bar, two specialty restaurants – the Tuscan Steakhouse and the Red Ginger, the Grand Dining Room, and the Terrace Cafe. While some people, dressed up, dining attire throughout the ship is business casual. However, we saw people in jeans and sometimes shorts in the dining areas and it seemed to be accepted without any issue.
We tried all of the venues but found ourselves eating mostly at the Terrace Cafe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It had great buffets with a lot of choices for all types of dining preferences. There were stations for having omelets made, grilled meats and seafood, pizza, and rich, creamy ice cream. The breakfast sticky buns were so good and hard to resist and about 2/3 of the way through the cruise I discovered at dinner they would grill a flank steak or chicken for you, as well as, lobster tail. After that, I had lobster tail every night. Each night there was a special theme – like Italian or Indian – but there were enough other choices if you preferred something other than the special theme.
We did try the two specialty restaurants. The Tuscan Steakhouse was hit and miss. Some of the food was quite good but some things we did not care for. The Red Ginger, which served Asian cuisine, was fantastic. Loved everything we ate there.
We also made use of the free room service a number of times. The food was good and the service prompt. My husband is an early riser and likes to have coffee and orange juice when he first gets up so he had Room Service bring him that every morning. Then, later we would head up to breakfast.
At 4 pm, there was a semi-formal tea served each day with little sandwiches, desserts and tea with a classical quartet playing music. Very delicious and relaxing.
Alcoholic beverages are one of the few things not included in your cruise package. You can pay by the drink or purchase a package that covers all your drinks for the duration of the cruise. The package was pricey – over $800 per person – so it might be better to pay by the drink depending on how much you would drink over a two week period.
We did not make much use of the various lounges and the bar area preferring our room and veranda but there seem to be a lot of people who did. There was shipboard entertainment but nothing that enticed us although others found it enjoyable. I did attend two afternoon lectures on days at sea which were quite interesting. The library was well stocked with books and you could choose any book and take it your room.
When we booked the cruise, our package included free wireless, pre-paid gratuities, and five free shore excursions each. The choice of free excursions is limited to basic excursions. But, there are higher level excursion categories, such as, Oceania Choice, Oceania Exclusive, Artist Loft, Culinary Discovery, and Food and Wine Trails – all for a higher price. We signed up for Scenic Villages of the Sapphire Coast, Countryside Victoria, Devils and Roos, Fox II Nature Sail, and Nelson Sightseeing. I added one Oceania Choice excursion, Nature's Wonders Wildlife Safari, as well. We were very disappointed with the Countryside Victoria and Nelson Sightseeing excursions – not worth the time. Devils and Roos was to a wildlife park which was basically a family run zoo but the tasmanian devils and the kangaroos, which you could get close to and pet, were worth the excursion. The Fox II Nature Sail was nice, except for the annoying music played by the boat captain, but we were able to see the world's smallest dolphins, Hector's, and little blue penguins which made the trip worthwhile. And the Nature's Wonders trip was fantastic – the beautiful New Zealand coast line, the little blue penguins, baby seals and ATV ride were well worth the price.
We think it would have been nice to have some excursions geared to specialty groups (other than food and wine) such as golfing or birding. We ended up booking our own golfing and birding excursions ahead of time which worked out well but you have to be careful to make sure you make it back on board the ship before it departs. Boat departure time and the last shuttle bus or tender back to the ship is always posted as you leave the ship. If you miss the ship, you have to find your own way to the next port of call.
The crew and staff on the boat were ALWAYS friendly, courteous and helpful. Even when you met a staff member in the hall, there was always a “hello” or “have a nice day”. Staff in the Terrace Cafe, which was a buffet, would quickly come to your aid when you were holding a plate or two and trying to navigate back to a table, especially in heavy seas. Room cleaning was done each morning and in the evening there was a turn down service with chocolates on the bed. Every evening we received an information sheet describing the next port of call, or if at sea, a schedule of onboard events, such as lectures and entertainment.
Oceania should be commended for how efficiently they got people on and off the ship for embarkation, debarkation and for all the shore excursions. Everything was so efficiently organized with well placed signage and staff nearby to guide guests through the process. We were never confused or uncertain where to go, what shuttle to get on, where to wait, etc. Additionally, we never had to stand in long queues for our excursions. We just sat in the lounge area until our bus number was called and off we went. Getting on and off tender boats was easy with plenty of staff to help those who needed it.
Couple of things we didn't like:
1) TV reception was good but limited. Basically, we had several American news channels – MSNBC, CNN, Fox News and I think, BBC – that were usually broadcasts from the previous day. There was one channel that seemed to show older episodes of American shows and three movie channels. There was a schedule in the room for the movies shown for the entire trip but it wasn't always accurate and there were few movies we recognized. Many seem to be lesser known and independent films. Still, we did find something to watch in the evenings and a few that were extremely good movies.
2) Wireless was available in the room and throughout the ship. However, it was often difficult to get and stay connected. And, for each room, there was only one wireless account so only one person in a two person room could be connected at the same time. This was sometimes annoying but we were able to work things out by taking turns.
3) We wish we had longer time at some of the ports of call but we realize that would make the cruise longer by a few days. That would have been okay with us!
Except for the few things mentioned above, we LOVED this cruise, the Sirena, its staff and crew, the ports of call, the food and service, and the whole cruising experience. Oceania advertises that it provides luxury cruising and we certainly felt that it delivered. We can't wait to try another Oceania cruise in the future. Read Less