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 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.
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)
We hardly used the TV, and did not visit the pool, sauna or 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.
• “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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
• “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.
• 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.
Staff: The staff were extremely attentive and friendly (“Your World, Your Way”), and willing to help, and went the extra mile.
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.