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Oceania Nautica, Aug 11, 2006
We just returned from our 28th cruise, on the Oceania Nautica, and my wife says it is her best ever. I had booked several customers on Oceania who raved about the service and we wanted to find out for ourselves.
We flew to Barcelona a day early to enjoy the city, staying on the Ramblas in Hotel Royal. $159 plus tax and we had a room overlooking the Ramblas on the 4th floor. No noise. And it is a short ride to the pier.
We stayed in a category B2 balcony cabin 6077. The next cabin forward was a B1, and more expensive. All the balconies on the B2, B1, and A1,2,3 (concierge) are the same size. Only suites on deck 8 are larger. Balconies are very private. The cabin is typical of balcony cabins, but no refrigerator. The shower is very small.
Service is exceptional, with 400 staff for 684 guests, and they really appear to enjoy their work and provide exceptional service. Dining is open seating in the Dining Room, and Tapas on the Terrace (the high end buffet style dining), and by reservation in the two specialty restaurants Toscano and Polo. There is no service charge for the specialty restaurants. There are plenty of tables for two, and only twice did we have a short (5 minute) wait for a table, in the Dining Room. Dinner menus seemed to have a lot of steak and beef, but there was an ample choice of fish, which included sea bass, grilled tuna, corvina, swordfish, salmon, and a wok seafood dish of shrimp, scallops and salmon. Desserts were excellent, including creme brulee in the dining room and specialty restaurants. Tables for two are arranged close enough to others to talk, but separated enough to be "separate".
The single pool was never crowded and there are plenty of loungers, including double seating lounges, all with cushions and terry cloth covers. The casino is small but adequate. We had not expected much entertainment, but during the 10 days we had three shows by a staff of 4 singers, and we also had a terrific illusionist, and two musical/singing performances by a husband wife team...the husband is the orchestra director. There is also a pianist in the piano bar nightly. Dancing was available nightly in a variety of locations, usually the Horizon Lounge on Deck 10 forward where a sextet from the orchestra played until 11 or 12 at night.
There are no live "port talks", just a repeating short TV talk by the cruise director, and it had no port map with the daily newsletter. It wasn't until the 4th port that we discovered that for a few hours each port morning there was someone near the purser's desk who distributed local maps and provided directions and port information. These passengers are, for the most part, 55+ and well traveled. We heard no "griping" all cruise!
While advertised as country club casual and the brochures show men in jackets, there were very few jackets, no ties, and women did wear nice dresses in the evening, including some cocktail dresses. The day wear was like any other ship.
Internet service is VERY slow but they do have wireless hotspots all over the ship. The internet lab had about 24 stations, and there were 2 more in the library for use if computer classes were in session.
They had good TV with CCN, Fox News, BBC, and a number of movie channels. There were no lines onboard, for anything, even tenders, except for embarkation check-in, which was done onboard in a lounge. There was absolutely no "pushing tropical drinks" and no onboard photographers, at all. Fine!
In Barcelona they allowed me to go back on the pier, purchase wine, sangria, and gin and bring it back to my cabin.
Our itinerary was termed Art Reigns Supreme and the ports reflected that. Sailing from Barcelona, we visited Marsaille, Monte Carlo, Civatavecchia/Rome, Livorno/Florence/Pisa, Amalfi, Taormina, Valetta Malta, one day at sea, and an overnight in Athens before debarking. A smaller ship, we often were in choice berths, with the larger ships further from the port. Lots of walking! And I think I have now seen all the churches and museums I could stand for a while, but the art was superb, including Gaudi in Barcelona, the Vatican Museum, the Accademi in Florence, St John's in Valetta, and of course the Acropolis, Agora, and Plaka in Athens. Without doing a travelogue, I will add that I did use Bob's Limos and Tours http://romelimousines.com/ in Civitavecchia and Livorno, and we were very pleased with experience, especially with the driver in Livorno/Florence/Pisa, who even took us via the Tuscan countryside at our request. In Athens we did use George Taxi and Limo http://www.greecetravel.com/taxi/, where George's son Dennis picked us up in a limo instead of taxi, as his father, the taxi driver, was on vacation in the islands. He took the time to help me find the house I lived in there from 1972-75, and at our request took us to local, non tourist, restaurant for lunch were we enjoyed salata horiatiki with a giant slab of feta and kalamata olives, tzetziki, moussaka, lamb fricasse, and swordfish kabobs.
The "free air" included was Lufthansa from Dulles to Barcelona via Frankfort, and Air France from Athens via Paris to Dulles. Lufthansa was superb, and both offered multiple meals, and complimentary wine and cordials. All our baggage made it, leaving a day early, but some passengers whose flights were through London, never got their luggage until we arrived in Athens, due to the security scares in London. On the way back, at our connection in Paris, at gate check-in they researched all carry-ons and body searched every passenger. Having watched the news on Fox and CNN we had no problem, but it meant we didn't try to bring back bottles of olive oil or liquor, as we had planned.
Oceania is a bit pricier than the premium lines (HAL, Princess, Celebrity), but the service and ambiance is wonderful.