What was it like cruising for 30 days aboard the Oceania Nautica? As with everything, likes and dislikes are individual tastes. Here are mine:
There are many pluses about the Nautica. The multinational staff is very good. The rooms are comfortable with marvelous mattress and bed linens, DVD player, plenty of storage, and adequate 220 and 110 outlets. I could bring alcohol and wine on board. Water and sodas are complimentary and water is always on the gangway as one debarks. Also, my cell phone received a signal on days at sea and in most ports (I have a SIM with both US and international numbers). Nautica’s best attributes are its size and itinerary. These were the two reasons I chose to sail with Oceania and in neither was I disappointed.
Entertainment is not a big deal to me. I am focused on the ports, people and their culture. Nautica entertains people with a veritable plethora of games, contests, trivia, projects and crafts, and some lecturers. Terry Bishop, a historical lecturer, was excellent. The bands, from what I heard, were good. There are endless interest groups almost to the point of nausea. But all those cranky battles over Big O Points – what is that all about?
Our Captain Jurica Brajčić of Dubrovnik Croatia is charming and quite the celebrity. He commanded the Nautica during a Somali pirate attack in the Nov 2008.
However, there are issues to consider before sailing with Nautica or Oceania. First, the ship excursions are expensive and rather shallow. Comments from those on the tours ranged from “great” to “rip-off.” I arranged private tours for the ports, did twice as much yet paid about a quarter of what the ship charged. As an example, in Ghana, their 5 hours to Elmina and Cape Coast Castles cost $229; 6 hours to Kakum Park and the canopy walkway cost $229. Our private tour of 8 hours to Elmina and Kakum cost $90. For those not wanting to be off the ship too long, or miss their trivia game, or uninterested in seeing as much of the port as possible, I suppose the ship’s tours are adequate. But meeting people thru the online Cruise Critic, there is an opportunity to form small groups and independently tour the ports. And by the way, it would also help, for those not using Oceania for overpriced pre-cruise arrangements, if Oceania notified us of the specific dock where we were to find the ship.
On this cruise, we docked most often in commercial ports. Some shuttle service was provided, but never enough for the numbers of people wishing to get to town on their own. It was usually a long walk to the gates for a taxi.
Secondly, the Internet is slow and expensive. It has been a long time since I have had to use dialup. I purchased a 100-minute package for $80. However, when these minutes were used, the next time I signed in it cost .95 each minute. An answer is WIFI. Before sailing, unsubscribe to sites and ask friends not to send any attachments. I took my iTouch and logged directly into my GMail account. I could download my mail, send 2 or 3 pre-written messages, and publish my Blog in about 6-7 minutes. And I could get a signal in my cabin and everywhere about the ship.
I am extremely disappointed in the air arrangements. I paid the extra fee to leave early and fly through Chicago to pick up my sister who is asthmatic and mobility-challenged. I paid for both of our cruises on my credit card, we stayed in the same stateroom, and I could not have stressed more how important it was that our flights be coordinated. No such thing happened. While we were on the same flights, our seats were at opposite ends of the plane and each leg of the trip I had to find someone to exchange seats. We were told by the airlines that our reservations were not linked.
The Nautica has recently been refurbished and most public areas are quite nice. However, there is a lack of quiet deck space. Chairs around the pool are in a noisy area and at times the area was too hot or windy to use. And rarely did anyone ever come around to see if I wanted refreshments. There is an area along both sides of Deck 5 but only a few lounges. We were able to occasionally get a staff person to bring more lounges. However, charming Captain Brajčić fetched one for my friend before he reminded him he was the Captain and this probably was not in his job description.
I am neither impressed with the dining nor the wine. Toscana was a major disappointment because of its unremarkable décor and menu. It did have a large selection of olive oils. Our first and only dinner there took over 3 hours to serve. We cancelled all future reservations. Polo Grill was better but steaks were inconsistently grilled. Food and service in the Main Dining Room was better. Breads, no matter where you eat, are excellent. The best dining, however, was on the open terrace at Tapas (inside is utilitarian). Probably the best food most nights was cooked-to-your-order specials in the wok. For lunch, Waves was great. The wine at a minimum of $30 a bottle was not that good (add 18% service to all alcohol). Hopefully the $75+ was better. A real drawback is there is no place to get something to eat 24/7. To call room service for a sandwich or piece of bread or cheese is silly. However, I must admit ordering crème brûlée from room service was decadent heaven.
For all the advertising of how “country club casual” Oceania is, I did not find much truth in advertising. The words “elegant and resort style” are most often heard once aboard. I have decided I belong to the wrong country club.
Whatever you do, try not to exchange money on the ship. The absolute worst was when a “bank” came on board after docking.
Perhaps the most offensive issue with Nautica is the different colored WorldCard used to signify level of stateroom booked. In fact, many things are tied into the level of stateroom, from boarding times, amenities, and dining arrangements. Forget pre-reserving a table to include friends unless your guests are traveling at the same level of accommodation. My travel mates upgraded to Deck 7, we were Deck 4. They could not reserve a table to include us but 4 of their 6 reservations. Forget doing it later on the ship as this is just not going to meet with success. And what is the purpose for issuing different colored WorldCards anyway?
Would I recommend Oceania? Certainly. Like all ships, there are pros and cons to cruising. Pick out what is most important to you and choose the ship and itinerary that most closely fits. No matter what, you won’t starve, you will have good service, and fun and beauty will be in the eye of the beholder.
“Now voyager sail forth to seek and find.” – Walt Whitman