The occasion was our 20th wedding anniversary, and we wanted to have a luxurious cabin on a great ship with no hassles. We are older and can't be bothered. We did a lot of research, planned and saved for a couple years so we could do everything first class, and this cruise, and this ship, really hit the mark.
Pre-cruise Papeete 3 days/4 nights
Because our cruise would take us only to 3 other Tahitian ports, we wanted to spend our first few days on vacation in Tahiti in an overwater bungalow. We booked the Intercontinental Tahiti online at Expedia, which was a couple hundred dollars cheaper than booking direct with the hotel but very pricey. The overwater bungalow was fabulous, and the Intercontinental property was beautiful with an amazing lagoon swim-up bar ... We did a renewal of our vows on a little island in the lagoon that the wedding coordinator at the hotel arranged, and it was wonderful. Drawbacks of the hotel: Food and drinks are very expensive, and the snorkeling is not great. Although the ocean is warm and the water is clear, not many fish and no coral reef to speak of. I did a scuba dive with TopDive at the hotel and did see a LOT of sharks, so that was fun. If we did this again, though, I would take the ferry to Moorea to spend a few days. It looks like a quieter, prettier island than Papeete, although our room, and our view from the balcony across the water to Moorea, and our time at the Intercontinental were all delightful.
Day One Embarkation
My husband always wants to be everywhere early, so we arrived to the dock a half-hour before we could board, even with our 11 a.m. boarding time (suite people get to board early! La!). It was very easy to leave our bags and go aboard to the lounge where they had set out danish and coffee and tea and water for the many people who had already arrived and were waiting to board. Then we were surprised when they announced they were prepared to check people in and as we were there, they would begin -- and even more surprised to discover our room was already ready for us. We were in our room 15 minutes before we were supposed to even be able to check in. Do not be afraid of some kind of cattle call or long lines to board and get checked in; Oceania seems to have this well in hand.
The ship is beautifully appointed! I loved the artwork everywhere which seemed whimsical and classical all at once. We chose a suite because we didn’t want any hassles ever. Only the Marina and its sister ship the Riviera have the particular suite we chose, the Oceania suite. We liked the looks of it when we saw the photos and layout on the website, and it had a champagne bubble tub on the balcony. Our cruise had a lot of days at sea, so I thought luxuriating in that tub would be perfect. As it happened, we stayed so busy, I only used it a few times!
The amenities with a suite are lovely. There was a bottle of champagne on ice when we arrived, and we also were able to choose 6 bottles of spirits or wine for the rest of the cruise, which we never even finished them all. We also got 3 bags of complimentary laundry, canapes every afternoon, turn-down service with chocolates, and a butler who brought ice, kept the fridge stocked with soft drinks, brought newspapers in the morning and would make dining reservations, serve room service, and more. We had some friends over and he even brought a tray of snacks for them ... He was delightful. His name was Logesh, and he was from Madras, India. We loved him.
The suite itself was amazing. I have cruised on Carnival, Princess, and Royal Caribbean, and never saw anything like this. The suite had a living room/dining room, including a nice sitting area where we put together a jigsaw puzzle. Again, I thought with the days at sea we would need something to do in the evenings, but as we came to the end of the cruise, I had to invite friends in to finish the puzzle with me. Which turned out to be great fun, actually.
There was also a huge closet, a media room with TV and a huge selection of on-demand movies, a guest bathroom in the entry hall and a huge master bath with double vanity, separate shower and whirlpool tub. It was insane! When we cruised before, it was with children and grandma and economy was a priority, so we had to cram suitcases and kids everywhere … I could not believe the amount of space we had. We were seriously like gypsies in the palace in this place.
Oceania seems to attract an older crowd; there were no children on board and very few young people. It’s also a smaller ship. It can take 1,250 passengers, and on our cruise, there were only 800 aboard, so there was never a crowd and never a wait for anything. And no blaring music or crazy contests or rowdy folks at the pool bar. Nothing at all for children or teenagers or wild young adults to get up to, but perfect for relaxing and enjoying the scenery and amenities. We took a knife skills class in the culinary center, which was excellent, and I had a spa day that was luscious on one of our days at sea. Plus we were pretty regular players of trivia and the beanbag toss, winning enough Big-O points to score 2 t-shirts, 2 hats, and a tote bag, I believe. Ship life was good for old folks!
Day 2 Raiatea, French Polynesia
All these French Polynesian islands are lush and lovely from what I saw! Bright sparkling blue water, gorgeous sandy beaches, and mountainous jungle-looking areas. Raiatea no exception. Here we docked, and this was good for my husband who is disabled and found it onerous getting on and off the tenders. We had booked a private tour with Excursion Bleu and Capt. Bruno. It was a whole day of snorkeling, a visit to a vanilla farm, a visit to a pearl farm, and lunch on the beach -- all by boat. The water was clear, we snorkeled with sharks, the beaches were beautiful, and the visit to the pearl farm was delightful. Learning how they get the beautiful Tahitian pearls was fascinating -- and of course my hubby doled out to get pearl pendants for me and his daughters who loved them! The lunch was fish and chicken with rice and breadfruit and plantains and coconut bread and all good things.
Days 3-4 Bora-Bora French Polynesia
Bora-Bora is amazing. The iconic view of those mountains from the sea ... It was stunning. Like you were sailing through a postcard. Our first day we had another snorkel adventure with BBQ and entertainment on the beach again. The company we booked with is Mahaoi Nui, and everyone said to do "Patrick's Tour." Patrick was booked up, so I decided on this snorkel tour with his same company and enjoyed it a lot. The dive guides played ukelele and sang as we cruised between the snorkel stops. Our first stop was in about 21 feet deep water, clear, warm, lovely to float in, and we were again snorkeling with sharks! It was amazing to see so many gorgeous black-tip reef sharks, so close at hand. Really enjoyed it! I think there were 3 snorkeling spots, total.
At lunch there was suckling pig that had been cooking for hours in the oven in the ground ... It was like a luau, plus a bit of Tahitian dancing and fire dancing to entertain us. Next time (if we can ever go again) I will book earlier and get Patrick's tour, which includes a land tour rather than a boat tour, but I found this snorkel tour to be delightful. And the scenery amazing.
On day 2 we used some of our shipboard credit to book Le Truck Tour, an open-air sort of bus that took is all around the island on land to see the amazing vistas, the remnants of WWII US military having been here, such as canon on the hillsides, and a short stop at "The World Famous Bloody Mary's," a beach bar named for the character from the South Pacific films. That was a fun photo opportunity. We also had a stop at a place where they make pareos, and it was fascinating to see how they dye them to get those beautiful colors and patterns. We enjoyed this tour a lot. I think we might've roamed around the main town afterward (a lot of our fellow cruisers did), but it was quite warm, and with my husband's disability, he finds it hard to walk far, so we were content to head back to the ship and relax that afternoon.
Day 5 at Sea
We had a lot of days at sea! They were all enjoyable because our cabin was like a little retreat for us, plus the activities and shows were fun. They have quite a good little entertainment troupe with some top-notch singers and dancers. There was also a magic show, and guest lecturers who were very good and entertaining! Also a "clean comedy" show which was quite good for all us uptight old white folks.
Day 6 Fakarava, French Polynesia
Another beautiful French Polynesian Island. In fact I think the beach we visited here may have been the most picturesque. It was one of those white sandy beaches, encircled by palm trees, but where the shallow water goes for yards and yards in front of the beach, so the water is so pale aqua it's almost white, and you can see where the water gets deeper as it's slightly darker ... It was stunning.
We had booked another snorkel tour on the advice of Cruise Critic Forum members with Captain Ato. The first stop was quite a far boat ride, 40 or 45 minutes? I had read on Ato's website that there would be 6-8 people aboard, and there were actually 14, so the boat was a bit crowded. But most of the lovely cruisers we met were charming people, and some I even knew already from the Forum here, and so the crowd wasn't a big problem.
Our first snorkel stop was in water I would say around 20-30 feet deep but with a beautiful patch of coral reef that came right up to the surface. There were 2 sharks, and a better variety of fish than I had yet seen in French Polynesia. Our next stop was, I believe, that beautiful beach. The boats dropped us off in water a couple feet deep, and we waded through the shallows into the beach. We were swimming or relaxing on the beach as the guides prepared the lunch. They broke the tops off coconuts for us to drink from, a true tropical picnic. The food was fish and sausage, rice and coconut bread, plus there was water and beer and juice ... Lovely lunch.
Capt Ato told us the wind had changed so we couldn't get to the next snorkel stop he had planned for us, and he took us to a different beach, but the visibility for snorkeling there wasn't great; I sat out on the beach most of the time, enjoying the stunning scenery. I guess Ato was right about a change in the wind. As we left for the next snorkel stop, we were in bumpy water. Because of the crowd, I was right up at the front of the boat, and it kept riding up on the waves and then slamming down hard -- it became very painful by the time the day was over! The first four hours of this tour were terrific; the last hour was torturous! I am sure the change in wind and bumpy water were a surprise to Ato, and otherwise the tour had been great.
Day 7-? At sea
When we left French Polynesia, we had a lot of days at sea to Pitcairn Island (where we couldn't go ashore, and then on to Easter Island where we planned to go ashore). As I say, the days at sea were not bad at all. It did rain! We had several rainy days, so sitting by the pool wasn't so fun, but I had a luscious spa day one day, and suite guests get access to the spa deck where there are quiet and gently whirling thalassotherapy pools that I took advantage of, and of course, the champagne bubble tub on our balcony.
And then there were the lectures! Gloeta Massie was the biologist who told us about the flora and fauna we would be seeing, as well as other astounding science stuff. Her lectures were hilarious as well as informative. If she's going to be on your ship, be sure you go to her talks!
James Peterkin is an Easter Island expert who prepared us for both Pitcairn and Easter Islands with fascinating lectures on the history, culture, language, etc. His explanation of the Mutiny on the Bounty story was eye-opening and riveting. And his talks about Easter Island kept us all in suspense: what are those statues? why did they make them? why did they stop making them? what caused the collapse of Easter Island? He did a great job of preparing us for these stops!
At Pitcairn the island is too tiny and infrastructure too small to accommodate a cruise ship full of people going ashore, so the islanders came to us. They set up shop with their handmade crafts, curios, t-shirts, postcards, stamps, etc. They were all very friendly and genial people and talented artists and craftspeople. One of them, an immigrant to Pitcairn, gave a talk about life on the island today which was quite interesting.
We had more days at sea to Rapa Nui, which is what the locals call Easter Island. We were so ready to get a look at those statues! But we had been warned that there's no dock, and only a small harbor that's difficult to navigate, so it was possible our tenders wouldn't make it in if the weather was wrong ... So we did NOT get to set foot on Easter Island! This was the biggest disappointment of the entire cruise! We circumnavigated it, but did not get to see the moai for ourselves.
Then it was back to see for a few more days.
Let me mention the restaurants here. Oceania bills itself as having the finest cuisine at sea, and I can't argue. The Terrace Cafe, which is the buffet where you can always get any meal, was one of our favorites! They would grill you a lobster tail while you waited -- and some of their theme nights were terrific. Likewise one of my favorite meals was the brunch in the Grand Dining Room, which is the other place that's always serving with no reservations required. In fact, I think I enjoyed the food there every time we went.
The specialty restaurants, where you had to have a reservation, were also quite good. The French restaurant, Jacques, has a menu by celebrity chef Jacques Pepin. I think Mike’s favorite was the steakhouse, Polo, and my favorite was the Oriental fusion place, Red Ginger. I had a trio of scallops there that was that perfect bite, where you put it in your mouth, and you have to stop and just sit a few seconds and let that deliciousness settle in … Lovely. There was also an Italian specialty restaurant, and surprisingly it was my least favorite of the 4. It did have WONDERFUL desserts, though. Definitely worth going.
All the food was included in your fare, even the specialty restaurants, but those did require reservations, and I understand when the ship is full, it can be hard to get a reservation. We were guaranteed 2 reservations at each of the specialty restaurants because of our being in a suite, but we enjoyed Terrace Café and the Grand Dining Room nearly as much as the others; the food was all around very tasty.
Day 16, Lima, Peru, Disembarkation
Like everything on Oceania, disembarkation was easy. We did have to set our bags outside the door the night before like you do, but they took our bags to the JW Marriott where Oceania had a complimentary lounge for passengers who had to wait all day on their flight home, which we did. Our flight was at midnight that night. The service also included transfer to the hotel and from the hotel to the airport at the time of your flight -- I don't know if that was a benefit of our having a suite or if it was complimentary for everyone, but it was nice. To get a room at the hotel was about $350, and you couldn't even get into it until 3 p.m.
I didn't want to spend the day at the hotel though and I had booked with ToursByLocals.com for a custom tour of Lima. We had read about Lima and decided we wanted to see the Inca market in Miraflores, the "Love Park" also in Miraflores, and the neighborhood of Barranco which is supposed to be scenic and touristy. Our guide had agreed to this and said she would also recommend a good place for lunch for us, and if there was time, show us the city center.
Her regular half-day tour in Lima began in city center and included monasteries, museums and historic buildings that didn't interest us as much as the things we had prioritized. As the tour began, we were driven through horrendous traffic to the city center. I should have spoken up at that point and reminded the guide that we had arranged a custom tour with Miraflores and Barranco at the top of the list and the city center reserved for "if we have time," but I didn't speak up, so the rest is on me.
The traffic as we took in the historic sites was atrocious, so the van stopped and starts in fits, and my husband got car sick! After a couple hours, I finally did say that we needed to stop by the hotel and let him get inside for a bit, but by the time we got there, he didn't want them to wait; he wasn't getting back in that van. So we didn't get to see the scenic sights in Lima we had hoped to see — and had paid to see! If you book with TBL, be sure you are clear on what you want to see and speak up if it is not happening. I should have.
However we saw a bit of lovely scenery near the hotel. We walked across the street to a very modern and popular mall that's built into the bluff facing the coastline. It has a lovely children's playground and park on top, and all chic stores in the multi-level mall. It was a beautiful sunny day for a little stroll, so that was nice. But it still left us with hours to sit around the hotel until our ride to the airport and our midnight flight home. I fell asleep on the plane before it even took off and woke up when we were about 40 minutes outside of Houston … our dream trip of a lifetime was over!
If you're looking for a cruise with a rock-climbing wall and a water slide on the ship, Oceania is not for you. But if you want to relax and enjoy great service and good amenities, I highly recommend it. Read Less