Before I share my initial observations of the Nautica some of my background may be helpful. I am a 43-year-old gay male in a long-term relationship. I have been on many cruise lines including Holland America (1x), Royal Caribbean (10+), Celebrity (5+), Princess (5+), Silverseas (1x), Radisson now Regent (6x). Overall my favorite is Regent. I particularly like their cabins and ship size. Silverseas has equally good, sometimes better cuisine and service, but I prefer Regent’s larger ships and slightly more casual passengers.
Given all the buzz about Oceania I couldn’t wait to get on board. I carefully read all the reviews on Cruise Critic, purchased Lonely Planet guides to all our destinations (Jordan, Vietnam, India, Egypt, Oman, Singapore, Thailand, Greece and Hong Kong) and tried to glean tips in the message boards from past passengers.
On this itinerary I am traveling with my retired parents (my partner of seven years couldn’t get six weeks off… imagine that!) and paid a single supplement for my own outside cabin. My parents are both experienced cruisers. We are all optimistic we’ll enjoy this itinerary and more importantly the chance to spend time together. My dad is 75 and a cancer survivor. My mom is 69. I realize if I want to do things like this with them I can’t procrastinate any longer. Rather than pay for balcony cabins I elected to reserve a cabana on Deck Eleven for all thirty-five days of the cruise.
As we exited the cab the baggage handlers briskly grabbed all our luggage and less than five minutes later we were literally onboard the ship where the actual check-in occurred. Immediately upon boarding Nautica I grasped why everyone describes Oceania ships as reminiscent of an English Manor. The decorative paneling and crown molding, color scheme and overall ambience immediately evokes a luxurious English bed and breakfast or country estate. I kept wondering where they hid the English garden!
Check in only took about ten minutes and my dad and I sat in overstuffed stately green chairs on Deck Five while my mom went up to Deck Ten to reserve the two specialty restaurants. My birthday is April 4th and we wanted to celebrate in the Polo Grill Steak House. We successfully got both days we wanted. We were advised to book both early in the itinerary in case we want to eat there again. According to the ship staff on most cruises standard (i.e. non-suite or concierge level passengers) passengers are only guaranteed one reservation to each of the restaurants, but due to the length of our cruise we could likely eat there several times if we chose.
Our cabins weren’t ready until three o’clock, so we wandered around and I continued to enjoy the many little spaces to comfortably relax, the excellent library and the computer room. Finally it was announced the all the staterooms were ready for occupation. I knew this was only a 165 square foot stateroom, but when I entered it I was disappointed for the first time since boarding. It has been many years since I have had a standard room without a veranda and I really wasn’t prepared for it. Admittedly I decided to purchase a less expensive stateroom, I received what I paid for, but I didn’t like the size. The bathroom is extremely small and the shower is tiny. In all fairness I am 270 lbs and 6’ tall (I am watching my diet on the cruise—the goal is don’t gain any weight), but I felt pretty cramped in both the bathroom and stateroom. After being used to walk-in closets and decent sized bathrooms on Regent this was a distinctly different and less desirable experience. As I settled in I grew more accustomed to the cabin size and since I am traveling alone I am certain it will be fine. I don’t know that I would want to share this cabin for 35 days, but it would be fine for two on a 7 to 15 day trip. The bedding is excellent and the closet space and lay out is intelligently designed for maximum efficiency.
My cabana on the other hand is fantastic and absolutely exceeded my expectations. Each cabana is named after a famous port-of-call and I was fortunate enough to be assigned ‘Saint Bart’s’ which is located at the extreme forward starboard side of Deck Eleven. For those who aren’t familiar with them Oceania rents cabanas on Deck Eleven, the highest deck of the ship. There are eight cabanas total and they stretch completely across the highest most forward section of Deck Eleven. On my trip all but one are sold for the entire cruise, but on most cruises they are available for daily rental of $50 on port days and $100 on sea days. Although they include amenities such as delivered fruit skewers, ice towels, chair massages on port days and meal service from the grill on Deck Ten, the real reason I wanted it was to enjoy the large outdoor Balinese day bed for two while reading several long-due-to-read novels and laying in the sun. Having a guaranteed private outdoor area always available was particularly appealing to me and by choosing this instead of a veranda the cost was similar. Although I am sympathetic to those passengers who complain the sale of cabanas takes away some of the best viewing areas on the ship, I doubt Oceania will remove them since the extra revenue for the ship is significant (I paid $1,500 for 35 days exclusive use).
I checked the internet speed onboard and it wasn’t quite as slow as I feared. Using testing software I discovered the download speed today was 118k and upload was 85k. This will get worse on days when the satellites are obscured, but it is tolerable for e-mail. I had planned to purchase a 500-minute access package for $300, but beginning tomorrow Nautica is also offering 800 minutes for $400 and 1,200 minutes for $480. Unfortunately I have to stay in touch with work or I couldn’t have come on the cruise, so I am buying the mack-daddy 1,200-minute access. It costs as much as a year of broadband at home!
Dinner last night was good. Not exceptional but certainly on par with some of my meals on Regent and even Silverseas. Even the best cruise line cuisine won’t please everyone, and some passengers will always enjoy the buffets on Carnival, while other will always complain about Silverseas. Judging solely from the first two days I haven’t notice any significant improvement or deterioration of Oceania’s cuisine compared to my dining experiences on other luxury cruise lines. Overall I expect the food will be great.
Several other things are wonderful about Nautica. The ship size feels “just right” to me. Oceania ships are large enough to feel bigger than an overblown yacht, but small enough to get from one end of the ship to other in less than five minutes. The crew is exceptional and couldn’t be more helpful. So far the service on board is equal to or better than any ship I have sailed on.
Hong Kong was fabulous. I have been here several times in the past few years to attend trade shows and the city never ceases to impress me with its vitality, commerce and unique blend of East and West. This is my parent’s first trip so today we took the double-decker public bus from Kowloon to Stanley Market. This roughly hour long ride is a super-bargain at $13 HK Dollars (less that $2 US). We had a great tour of Hong Kong from a second-story perspective, and I purchased 4 pair of genuine Tommy Bahama shorts and 3 shirts for less than $100 US. My mom found 5 shirts she loved and she paid about the same. All in all the shopping was great and we were a little sorry to see Victoria Harbor disappear as the Nautica set sail to Danang, Vietnam.
If anyone has any questions about the ship please post and let me know. I am off to Vietnam!