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We booked this cruise because of the founders/owners of theese cruise lines, Frank Del Rio, from the former Royal Cruise line, and Joseph Waters, from the former Royal Viking Line, both men we admired for their wonderful cruise lines and ships back in the day, who are now the top brass of Oceania Cruises.
We flew to Miami via US Air, icked up our rental car and went
to our hotel.
We stayed at the Best Western Biscayne Bay, far removed from South Beach. It was "under reconstruction" and looked as thow it was permanantly that way. Okay, nothing to write home about. Our friends, Joe and Theresa, arrived late from Vermont, due to heavy snow.
While driving around Miami we were shocked at the number of homeless people along the streets and sidewalks. They lined strets, slept under overpasses, holed up in ruined motels and abandoned courtyards.
We drove past the monster cruise ships, looking for Terminal J. In at least 40 or so Caribbean Cruises this was only our second time sailing from Miami, as we have always sailied from Ft. Lauderdale, New York, San Juan, Norfolk or Boston . There was an air of shear excitement seeing the newest mega liners all lined up. Way away, isoltaed from the big ships was the Regatta, waiting.
After processing at the pier, which took less than 3 minutes, honest, we proceeded to board. Cabin stewardesses, in black French maid dress, with white lace aprons greeted us, secured our carry ons, and escorted us to our staterooms. In brief glimpses of the interiors of the ship as we rushed to our stateroom, the ship looked gorgeous.
We booked an outside stateroom with verandah on deck six, our friends an outside on deck 3 without verandah. The two cabins were identical. Most ships built during the past decade share the same ammentities, basically, closets, desk, color tv, modular bath, et cetera. Oceania staterooms decor sets them apart from other contemporary cruise ships. Dark wood veneers, rich damask draperies, plush carpeting, wall prints that are atttractive and rich duvets and bed coverings. The illusion is that of a larger cabin than it actually is. Our sofa could sleep a third pax. The bathroom is small, the shower tight. The soaps and toiletries were of a high quality, towels luxurious. The Tranquility Bedding, highly touted by Oceania, is very nice. Other nice touches were spa robes, comfy slippers, sewing kit, shoe horn, shoe shine cloth, very ample electrical outlets for recharging all of those gadgets we all seem to have these days, hair dryer and excellent cabin lighting.
This ship, and its sisters, Insignia and Nautica, are small by todays standards. At 30,000GRTs, they are a far cry from the 80,000 to well over 100,000 tonners sailing today. Once a ship the size of the Regatta was large, consider 25,000 for Sagafjord and Vistafjord, the Royal Viking Line trio, or, Home Lines Oceanic, considered HUGE in the 1970's and 1980's at a whopping 39,000. This was a ships size we have not sailied in a long while, and found that the Regatta filled a void in our cruising pleasure. The real bonus. however, just over 600 passengers, and just over 400 crew.
We rushed to the Terrace Cafe for lunch. I will only review the Terrace Cafe for lunch this once, as to review it every day would be redundant. The salads, carved roasts, sandwiches, pasta station, pizza and wok stations are much like those found on ships sailing today, however , there are no trays available, so, you select what you want, and a steward takes it to your table. The passengers return to the buffet for each course, or simply asks to have whatever served to them by a steward. This applies to iced tea and so forth, and there is never any pushing, grabbing of food or slamming of trays is the back or knuckles in the buffet line. Very civilized. Table are set with linen placemats and napkins, hotel silver plate utensils, real china and real glasses for drinks. Used plates are cleared rapidly, and no garbage is noted sitting at serving stations. The quality of the food and the preparation made the dining experience stand out from many a ships buffet.
The Terrace Cafe also serves breakfast daily. Early risers may start the day in the Horizons, with Continental breakfast, before the Terrace opens. The smoked salmon presentation in the Terrace Cafe, of which there were two, one aport, one starboard, was truly grand, in presentations, size and quality. Eggs Benedict, a treat for me, was made to my order, as were all manner of eggs as well as omelets. There were a variety of melons, fresh fruits and fresh squeezed oragnge juice plus yogurts and pastries each morning. The decor, and atmosphere here is refined. Complaint? Just one, no real maple syrup, although, it was available in the Grand Dining Room at breakfast. Traditioanl pork sausage and bacon, as well as turkey vaireities, were hot, never dried out, and drained correctly, not sitting in inches of cloying grease. Breakfast pototos were cokking on the grill, fresh.
Waves is the BBQ spot. Really decent, large, juicy burgers, cooked to order, fat all beef hot dogs, fresh chilli and fresh rolls and buns, crispy cooked to order fries, a fish of the day, crisp fresh salads were offered each day. This is a more help yourself place, more casual and wet bathing suits are ok here. The ice cream cart featured sorets and ice creams, all made on board, and complimentary. Dining is al freso, on linens and on no plastic plates are used here, either.
Room service is available, of course, with some fine selections according to the meal and time of day, as well a 24 hour availability menu and full Main Dining Room menu available upon advance ordering, and at no additional charge.
A word on the interior decor: plush. Heavy floral brocades, veleveteen draperies, silk sheer curtains, adorn all public rooms decor. Rich dark wood furnishings, and overstuffed chairs and sofas offer supreme comfort. Ceilings, domed and bas relief, draw the eye upward. Gold leaf and heavy crwon moldings line the perimetier of the public spaces. The ship is a testament to the Edwardian era.
Many people, I hope, know who the famous French chef, Jaques Peppin, is. He oversees all of the menus for all three Oceania ships. Each dinner in addition to the ships menu offerings, there are Jaques Peppin signature dishes that compliment the dining experience of that provided by Chef de Cuisine on the Regatta, Wolfgang Meier. We knew soon on that Mr. Meier ran a wonderful galley. In 10 dys on the Reagatta, no menus were repeated in the Grand Dining Room.
Before reviewing the Polo and Toscana Gills, there is one feature on this ship that was wonderful, I assume, the same was true on two other sister ships, and that was afternoon tea. High a is offered in the Horizons Lounge each afternnon, with the Regatta String Quartet playing light classical pieces, lovely china and linens grace each table, while a tea trolley, laden with eclairs, finger sandwiches, scones and cookies is offered. A full selection of coffees is also available.
Polo Grill is a softly lit, clubbish, room with a hunting-plaid theme. Bold checks and dark paneled walls beckon. Single malt scotch is the trademark drink here, and during our sailing the price range was $6.00 to $50.00, with 26 bottles to choose from. The finest aged beef and chops, prepared absolutel;y to perfection, with service to match were savored here. Remember, it is included in your cruise fare. Filet mignon, anyone?
Toscana, as the name implies, is Italian, in look, atmosphere and in its fine cuisine. The menu is more extensive than any Italian menu I have seen at sea. The lobster, a Maine lobster, was prepared in the fra diablo style, the lasagna authentic, the steak butter knife soft. Again, all is included in your cruise fare.
Passengers in the suites and at concierge level get to dine in these two rooms twice, other passengers only once, during a cruise. We were in the obnly once cabins. Next time we want to book concierge.
One dining spot we checked and dismissed was the Tapas on the Terrace, a very casual night dinner venue. We did not care for the menu. Tapas is also included in your cruise fare. No shorts, jeans, or the like are allowed in the Grand Dining Room, Polo or Toscana Grills after 5pm., Tapas is the exception. A tux is never needed, a blazer without tie is the norm at night, and ladies wore country club chic resort wear. There was no captains welcome nor formal nights.
There were no ships photographers, and no high line hucking to force a passenger to buy things, and never a solicitation for gratuities. Announcements were few, if any, of note. Other irritants, thankfully missing, included no musack in the elevatiors or passageways, and no old disco music blasting on deck.
The ships entertainment was low key, as compared to cruise ships today. An 8 piece orchestra became the Regatta Orchestra when the string quartet joined in. The cast of the Regatta consisted of the cruise director and his assistant, with two hostesses. A wonderful violinist, Hannah Starosta delighted us, Shields, (remember Shields and Yarnell - we had just Shields), the pianist from Martinis, the bar boasting 30 different martinis, and two young Vegas style humorists and dancers. No flashy costumes, and much to my delight, no canned click track lip syncing performances. This may sound corny, BUT this was a lot nicer than the junk presented on many of the ships today, because it was geniune, not forced or phoney.
Two ships spots to be noted for their handsomeness -one, assuredly the most handsome library at sea, with a cantelievered ceiling inset with Tiffany style stain glass, a gilded rotunda and faux white marble fireplace. The other spot, the Grand Staircase, which serves a a mini two deck atria, in Belle Epoque style. If one could describe the interior of the Regatta in one word: delicious.
We were put off by the ships spa, the Mandara Spa, operated by, of course, who else? Steiner. The staff too eager, on other ships with Steiner, however, a great degree of civility and professionalism prevailed on Regatta, and we enjoyed our three masssages as a result.
We igniored the tiny casino. We did drop our money in the ships shops, finding the merchandise to be of good quality.
A joy for us to sail with one of our favorite captains, Captain Jahn Rys, a sturdy Norseman, a captain we have sailed with before, on the Sagafjord, Vistafjord, of Cunard/NAC fame. He recently commanded Crystal Cruise ships, before coming to Oceania Cruises. Sailing with him again was real nice. I also met passengers from earlier cruises on the Maasdam, QE2, Princess and Royal Viking Line.
Ports are ports, and I am not going into great detail on them, as our first cruise with Oceania is the main point here.
It was odd not callng at St Thomas, after 40 or so visits there, we did not miss it. Nobody seemed to, in fact. We called at Virgin Gorda, visited the Baths, La Romana, St. Kitts and Antigua, one of our very favorite and special places. Joe and Theresa were celebrating their 25th anniversary and did well in the jewelry stores here, treating themselves to some nice gifts. And, then St. Barths, which we adore.
So, this is my first Oceania Cruises experience. It is not a product for everyone, and does not try to make it self out to be a mass appeal product. It is expensive and low key. I can not wait to book another Oceania cruise.