National Geographic Orion
My reflections of our cruise “From Boreno to Bali” – All I can say is WOW. Linblad and National Geographic brought the WOW back into vacationing.
I quickly realized I came unprepared for the Orion experience. I thought it was going to be more ‘expeditionlike,’ so, I packed only expedition clothes. To my surprise the other guests dressed nicely for dinner. I was only slightly horrified. I will know better next time.
It was such an honor to meet and personally talk with Dr. Galdikas, of Camp Leakey and the Orangutan Foundation. She is truly a legend in her own right. It was surreal to interact with the babies and toddler orangutans of her work.
Cindy and Dr. Galdikas, of Camp Leakey and the Orangutan Foundation
It was wonderful to be so active on this trip. My body has not failed me yet, but it reminds me how I need to take better care of it so I can enjoy the benefits in old age. Dennis and I decided to take this trip now because we knew we weren’t getting any younger.
Snorkeling in Pulau Setaih
To our surprise the ship was filled with active older people! The average age was around 75. Even the ones who couldn’t get around very well came anyway and experienced the parts they could. That is one group of active older people that are living life to the fullest! I want to be like them when I grow up.
Dennis & Cindy in Bali
The great things I learned about myself during this trip:
• I can handle the heat if something grabs my attention.
• My weight does not hold me back.
• I don’t like guided bus tours.
• I get tired of fancy food I can’t pronounce.
• My vacation must include animal sightings, otherwise I will feel cheated.
• I absolutely LOVE snorkeling.
• Dennis and I can spend three weeks together without killing each other.
• Litter disturbs me greatly.
• I am fearless when it comes to animals.
• I want to do another Lindblad/National Geographic expedition!
It (the American Queen Steamboat) was a wonderful experience!
We loved the cruise itself, the area, life on the boat (especially the coffee) and the small towns on the way to Memphis. We also enjoyed visiting the engine room, the caliope, biking on the levee in Natchez, the shows and last but not least, the food (editor’s note: they are vegetarians and were surprised by how many vegetarian choices there had)
The best part was the Staff – they were beyond excellent! Helpful doesn’t even begin to describe them – I just can’t say enough! You go on vacation to see things, but the staff was clearly the best part of the deal.
Please find a few photos from our trip attached.
Christine and Randal
St. Francis Church in New Orleans
Jazz Band playing across the street from St. Francis
Oak Alley Plantation, New Orleans
Earthworks Fort in Vicksburg
Rainbow on the Mississippi River
Will Kiefer on guitar and Jay Chalmers on keyboard, in the Engine Room Lounge on the American Queen Steamboat
Sunset on the Mississippi River
Cruising Tips, Testimonials, Travel and Cruising Tips
This review was submitted by my brother, Jerry Smith (with a few editor’s notes for clarification)
Overall: This cruise was, for me, both impressive and surprising. It exceeded my expectations in many areas, especially the food. It was hard to find something to complain about.
Oceania Regatta in Astoria
Oceania Cruises: My sister, Soozie (Smitty to you, but as her brother, I can’t call her that), told me that Oceania (along with its competitor, Azamara) is considered “upper premium.” That means it is more expensive, of course, but also the ships are smaller, the food is better, the staff is more attentive and the clientele is more “seasoned.” In a word, the clientele itself is “upper” and “premium” fits for the cost, but also the “upgrades” that come with it in terms of quality of service, and especially, food.
Pancetta-Wrapped Jumbo Shrimp with Kalamata Olive Sauce and Vegetable Julienne
Chocolate cake with ice cream
Oceania’s motto is “Your World, Your Way,” which is their way of saying that whatever you want is what you’ll get.
Ship: The ship, the Regatta, which Soozie points out is NOT a boat (boats can be loaded onto ships, not vice versa), was clean, and had a capacity of around 600, I believe, (editor’s note: actual capacity is 684) so it is much smaller than a traditional cruise ship. Cabins were small, as was the bathroom (a bit claustrophobic), but sufficient. (editor’s note: We were in a balcony cabin)
Balcony Cabin 6063
We hardly used the TV, and did not visit the pool, sauna or hot tub.
Guest enjoying Hot Tub
The coffee-maker in the Terrace Grill and Horizons Lounge was quite good, capable of a wide variety of coffees, including espresso/cappuccino and teas. Editor’s Note: You could also get coffee drinks made to order at Barista’s Lounge, just outside the Grand Dining Room.
There were also the following “extras:”
• “Tea Time” from 4-5 each day in the Horizons Lounge at the front of the ship, with nice large picture windows looking forward to the water, which featured desserts on multi-level carts as well as servers with silver trays of finger sandwiches, both circulated throughout the room.
Tea Time in the Horizons Lounge while in Sitka
• “Happy Hour” with BOGO (buy one, get one) drinks from 5-6.
• There was also nightly entertainment, some of which was quite good (pianist Katie Clarke), and others not as appealing (“Noodles” Levenstein, an apparent comedian) as well as the Regatta Singers, two ladies and two men, that also performed throughout the cruise.
• There were also daily activities, including a ping-pong tournament (at sea days), putting competitions, and Team Trivia.
Conversation area, mid-ship
The middle of the ship had a number of lounges and a small casino, where you could stop and have a drink, and chat with fellow cruisers. These were generally full during the evenings, and there was a piano player in one lounge.
There was also a string quartet, “Bellissimo” that played much of the time in the Grand Hall, and at Happy Hour, which was always pleasant to have around. (Editor’s Note: They also did a full performance on the last evening, prior to dinner).
Bellissimo, string quartet performing at the Grand Hall
Food: I am pretty observant when it comes to food, I would say “picky”, but that sounds like I’m particular (e.g., won’t eat certain things), which is not the case. I do pay attention to how the food is prepared and presented, and I can find fault with lots of things (see my comments on the “Rhine River Cruise, From a Man’s Point of View” review).
Having said that, I have to say that the food on Oceania was delightful. Consistently not only good, but extremely good. Every meal seemed like dining at a 4- or 5-star restaurant.
Crispy Kadaif-wrapped tiger prawns with Mango chile Salsa
Herb-crusted rack of lamb with vegetable ratatouille and gratin dauphinois
For example, after a few days I noticed that the Grand Dining Room’s breakfast menu included a daily special Smoothie, as well as an egg special, in addition to a wide variety of items like muesli, oatmeal, pancakes, bagels, yogurt parfait, etc., you could get every day.
Disembarkation Day’s Breakfast Special
Once, I broke my long-standing refusal to eat Eggs Benedict (due to excessive fat!), when I noticed that it had pesto Hollandaise sauce. It was delicious (probably just as fatty too).
Huevos Rancheros in the dining room
Dining on the ship took the following forms:
• The “Terrace Café” is an upscale buffet at the rear of the ship, with a nice patio outside, as well as plenty of seating inside.
Terrace Grill Outside Dining with Golden Gate Bridge in background
Terrace Grill, inside dining
At any meal, there were 3 or 4 entrees to choose from, as well as vegetables and starches to accompany them. Same with desserts, plenty to choose from, all of them quite good.
Terrace Grill Lemon Cake and White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry Filling
They had a daily theme for the food (Greek, Italian, etc.) (Editor’s Note: Food in the buffet was plated, then ‘served’ by gloved crew, not “self-serve” with serving utensils and sneeze guards)
• The “Grand Dining Room” lives up to its own description. Nicely color-coordinated tablecloths, silver, and lots of stemware, it looked fabulous.
Grand Dining Room
Place setting with Versace charger in Grand Dining Room
And the food there was consistently exceptional. Copies of the lunch and dinner menus were provided the night before, which helped in deciding where to eat.
Baby scallops in Shell with Lemon, Capers and Seaweed
Black Angus Beef Wellington with Truffled Potatoes and Vegetable Bouquitiere
• “Waves Grill” provided very good casual food near the pool, such as burgers and hot dogs, but the menu includes upscale choices like seared tuna burger and salmon burger. There is also a full ice cream bar, where you can also get smoothies made during regular hours.
Enjoying a Smoothie at Waves Grill
• Specialty Restaurants: “Polo Grill” and “Toscana” were also available with a reservation (editor’s note: 2 nights for suite guests and one night for regular cabins) at no additional charge. As good as the food was, I preferred the Grand Dining Room.
Table at Toscana
Bread baskets at Toscana
Olive Oil Cart at Toscana
Caprese Appetizer at Toscana
Staff: The staff were extremely attentive and friendly (“Your World, Your Way”), and willing to help, and went the extra mile.
Crew’s Farewell (crew of 370 for 684 guests)
Overall: This was my first time on an “upper premium” cruise ship, and I was very impressed. Just about everything was at least a little better than on the mainstream cruise ships (Princess, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, which recently acquired Oceania and Regent). Some things, like the food, were substantially better on Oceania.
It’s no wonder that many people we met on this cruise were repeat cruisers on Oceania.
Cruising Tips, Testimonials
Overall: The cruise was very enjoyable and exceeded my expectations in many areas (mostly the history associated with the quaint German cities we visited, especially Nuremberg).
Document Center – Nuremberg
Nazi Rally Grounds Photo
The boat was nice, the wi-fi worked well and the walking tours were quite good; some of the tour guides were exceptional.
There was also entertainment in the evening. A pianist played before dinner and then a variety of local entertainment was brought onboard each night after dinner, some better than others.
Max, the token child onboard, participating in the glass blowing demonstration
The food was a bit disappointing, but this is in part due to AMA’s claims of being a member of La Chaine des Rotisseurs, which may have some cache, but it didn’t seem to translate into the food on board, which was good and nicely presented, but unspectacular to the taste.
Surf N’ Turf
The boat (Amacerto) was clean, and had four decks, with a capacity of 164, I believe. Cabins were small, as was the bathroom, but sufficient.
Bathroom on lowest deck
We never did use the TV, the pool or sauna (it was cool in November, although some did use the pool). The wi-fi was handy, but reception was a bit weak on the lower deck. Many people chose to bring iPads or tablets into the lounge, which was on the second deck. The coffee-maker in the lounge was quite good, capable of a wide variety of coffees, including espresso/cappuccino and teas.
River Cruise Format:
The river cruise promises to be more intimate (fewer passengers) and engaging (stopping at, or near, destination cities) than ocean cruises, and they deliver on that. The walking tours (aided by AudioVox portable receivers with an ear piece that lets you listen to the tour guide, regardless of how far ahead they were) ranged from moderately interesting to fascinating. They call it a “Floating Hotel,” and that seems to fit.
Miltenberg street and castle
Food: The food was fine, which is both good and bad. I found breakfast to be quite good – they had eggs each day with bacon and sausages, and a guy making omelettes, as well as plenty of fruit, cereals (including muesli), home-made breads and pastries, yogurt and fruit juices, not to mention champagne.
Lunch and dinner were a combination of menu or buffet, or both. The food was good, but unremarkable IMHO, and it was a bit disappointing that while the wines were generally regionally sensitive (and also good, but unremarkable, which is understandable), but the food was not regionally sensitive.
Lunch Salad Bar
We were in Germany for six days and only got German food (bratwurst, etc.) as a pre-lunch snack one day as we were leaving Germany. It would have been nice to have had one regionally sensitive option at lunch and/or dinner. A couple of dishes were well-executed, but I would have preferred more food that was rather simple and prepared well, to items more exotic that may or may not have achieved the desired outcome. I would have enjoyed, for example, a simple pork tenderloin with some garlic mashed potatoes, or even potatoes done German style.
We ate at the “Chef’s Table” one night and it was also good, but seemed to reach too far.
Chef’s Table Menu
The staff were quite good, willing to help and went the extra mile in most situations.
Presentation of Chefs prior to Farewell Dinner
Crew loading supplies while in port
Thanks to Susan “Smitty” Price and Priceless Cruising for setting this cruise up for us!
We had a wonderful time!
Sarah, Sharon, Addison and Aiden boarding the Carnival Magic
On a cruise you can have fun, wherever you are …
in an inside cabin …
onboard, looking at the water …
at Mayan ruins …
in the dining room …
at the beach …
playing pirates at Camp Carnival …
swimming with the dolphins …
where even Gramma joined in the fun!
Sue – We had a great time! Only a few things I could suggest as “improvements.” The cabins at night (Carnival Magic) did not get nearly cold enough for me. It made it difficult to get to sleep, but once asleep, I slept like a baby. Our service overall was exemplary, except for a couple dinners we had sub par service. I talked to a couple other people, and they said the same thing, but mostly the service was great! Would highly recommend this trip, and the dolphin experience to anyone! – Sharon
FABULOUS vacation! Thank you mom for memories the kids and I will never forget! – Sarah
This is our cruise (with the exception of our days in Copenhagen and St. Petersburg, which are big enough to be albums of their own). This album includes Aarhus (Denmark), Oslo (Norway), Helsinki (Finland), Stockholm (Sweden), Rostock & Warnemund (Germany) and Tallin (Estonia).
Lisa and I safe and happily stuffed with our first meal in Copenhagen. Tomorrow is another day of adventure with much more rest. Can’t wait.
At the fountain next to the Marble Church in Copenhagen. Resting before our evening adventure in Tivoli Gardens. What. A. Blast!!
Spent the day touring castles in the rain, followed by a jazz cruise on the water. Tomorrow we board the Emerald Princess. Lisa and I have been upgraged AGAIN for our cruise, this time to a balcony room. Life is just full of little surprises. Excitement and more adventure awaits us!
Aarhus, where an All Girls Band greeted the ship’s arrival!
Aarhus…the visuals just made me laugh.
On our Oslo Bike tour (Did I mention that neither of us had ridden bikes for years???), we stopped at the castle and took our pick with the guards.
Me and Lisa in Vigaland Statue Park…the gals who took our picture were service women stationed in Germany, who took every opportunity to travel around Europe together.
Oslo sign made me laugh…you see them in every language now.
Lisa at the fortress in Helsinki
Lisa at Stockholm
The Vasa…a ship that sank in the Stockholm harbor after only sailing 300 yards. It was discovered recently and they raised it intact, preserved it, and now it has it’s own museum. AMAZING!
The back of the ship…the tale is that all these adornments on the Vasa were so heavy that the ship was not balanced enough to sail.
I sorta clean-up nice…this was the 2nd formal evening. Lisa cleans up well, too. Stockholm formal night.
This cute warthog was part of the Rostock fountain.
Lisa at the shoe stop…yes, we both bought shoes!
yep…we had fun with the cutouts in Tallin.
Warnemunde…this fountain was for allowing pets to have a drink. it was adorable!
Yep, that’s the Emerald Princess in the background from the bridge in Warnemund.
The cruise with Lisa on the Emerald Princess was fantastic. We used the balcony every day. Thanks Smitty!!!
We were told that only 2 out of 10 visitors get to see Mt McKinley clearly. It’s usually at least partially covered by clouds.
I thought I would be able to post more from my phone, but we didn’t get service much of the time. I did get to send my kids a text saying “I’m standing on my balcony in my pajamas watching the whales go by! Don’t know if I’ll ever get to say that again!”
This was the Lighthouse, Eagles, and Totem pole excursion. Behind us, the totem pole park.
Here we are on our rainforest/whale watching excursion. My camera decided to act up for the whale watching part. Didn’t get good pictures but got to see Humpback whales bubble net feeding!!!. For me it was the most exciting part of our trip!!! Well, that and Glacier Bay. Hearing the booming of the ice cracking and seeing it calve, and hearing whales trumpeting!!! This was definitely a once in a lifetime trip!!!
This is us standing on a glacier! We decided to go for the helicopter ride to the glacier! It was Awesome!!! We even drank glacier water!
Smitty, thank you for all your help!
Susan & Ollie Olson
Denali Park, Alaska
I must say that I would heartily recommend Oceania, to everybody, they are in a class by themselves, more intimate, top service etc…The only way I would ever travel again.
Good luck for the future!
I certainly will try to send some business to you any time I can!
Montreal to New York
With my granddaughter graduating from high school this year, I decided to treat her and my daughter-in-law to a cruise! Neither had been on a cruise before, so the 4-day cruise to Ensenada sounded like just the right thing!
We booked our trip through Smitty. She is an experienced cruise traveler, so I knew she would take great care of us! Smitty was so thorough in making all of the arrangements and offered some really great travel advice! We were booked on one of the Carnival Fun Ships and found all of the accommodations to be excellent!
Our stop off on Catalina Island provided a full day’s worth of shopping, eating and sightseeing. It is a must to take the island tour bus and hear about the island’s history!!
When we arrived in Ensenada, there were shuttle buses to take us into town, and from there we found the shuttle bus station to buy tickets to take another shuttle bus down to the “La Bufadora”, otherwise known as the “blow hole.” Our bus driver was hysterical and provided many jokes along the ride, as well as much history about Ensenada. Note to the “new traveler” – be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
The La Bufadora is one of three blowholes in the world, so it was exciting to see the water spray shoot up several feet into the air from the ocean’s edge. While walking down to the blowhole, we passed many street vendor shops – lots to buy, from silver jewelry, serapes, sombreros, and many, many more Mexican-made items. The Vendors are most anxious to pull you into their shops to showcase their wares. Some of the shops were recommended by our bus driver (as well as Carnival), so one is able to obtain some “discounted” rates.
I was amazed as to how well my granddaughter learned to “haggle” prices with the vendors!! She bought merchandise at great prices!! Or maybe they just gave in to her beauty!! Back on the shuttle bus, everyone shared their newly purchased items and enjoyed the scenery back to Ensenada. Before boarding the ship, you have another opportunity to buy even more stuff in the shop located on the pier – if you didn’t spend all of your money in Ensenada!
Our next day was spent at sea relaxing along the edge of the pool, watching a large chunk of ice sculpted into two (2) beautiful swans and shopping in the ship stores.
Dining each night in the main dining room, the waiters (who make you feel like a queen-for-the day) tend to all of your dining needs. After dinner, we were off to the wonderful shows in the main theater. The entertainment consisted of comedian acts to full-fledged Vegas-like shows with dancing and singing. The majority of entertainment was always first class and rated G, so that young people could enjoy it as well.
Each night we were provided with a cute “towel” animal by our room steward – he was sooo creative and always kept our room tidy with our beds turned down with little mints on our pillows!
Pretty much everywhere you went on the ship, on Catalina Island and Ensenada, there were ship photographers taking your picture. Those photos were displayed on boards throughout the trip for us to buy. Buying the photos is a must, as they provided wonderful memories when we got home!!
When the trip was over, it was sad to leave, as we all had such a great time – including me at the Casino! Getting through customs was a breeze, as it was so orderly. This being my fourth Ensenada cruise, it was a great adventure to share with my granddaughter and daughter-in-law and I’m confident they will enjoy more cruises in their future. I’d like to take this opportunity to personally thank Smitty for all the time she put into making sure our cruise was a memorable trip!!
Time sure has flown since that first trip to Alaska. I don’t remember many of the specifics but I remember we had a great time. We really enjoyed the land portion of the tour.We did so much in that first week. We landed in Fairbanks, which reminded us a lot of San Luis Obispo, and it was in the 70’s as I recall.
We took a Riverboat tour on the Chena River, which was awesome.
We also went Gold Panning, saw the Alaska Pipeline and went to adinner show at the Malemute Saloon located in the Ester Gold Camp, which was a lot of fun.
Holland America did a great job of taking care of us. The guide was very nice and informative. Then we boarded the train to Denali. Since it was foggy we didn’t see Mt. McKinley, but we saw lots of wildlife and other great views. We went river rafting in Denali and it was SOOOOOO much fun.
Rose & Steve at Alaskan Pipeline
The train ride from Denali to Anchorage was fantastic. Holland America’s train cars were very nice and had large windows so we could see all the fantastic views. In fact, most of my pictures are of the wonderful scenery.
One of our favorite excursions was a boat trip around the Kenai Peninsula. I would definitely recommend that one. We saw Puffins, tons of jellyfish, an eagle nest and calving glaciers.
Holland America’s cruise was awesome too. The food was great, as was the service. Glacier Bay was awesome. We enjoyed all of the ports, especially Ketchikan.
Holland America Statendam
Rose & Steve on Holland America Statendam