Yes, this has been a long time coming, but I figured better late than never!
First, a little about us. My husband and I are in our thirties, and we booked this sailing for our honeymoon. We are experienced Celebrity cruisers and like the product but not the recent cutbacks, and we decided to take the step up to Oceania and see if we would prefer this line.
We flew into LGA and stayed in Times Square so that we could see a show the day before we embarked. We both enjoyed Chicago, although I was horrified to be charged $10 for a hot dog from a street vendor. I didn't realize that prices were jacked that high in the tourist traps! Our hotel, Hyatt Centric Times Square, was comfortable and clean. We scored a great deal on Priceline, notwithstanding the $29 mandatory hotel fee.
We arrived at the pier around 11:30am, which is normally when we try to board. We prefer having as much time on the ship as possible even if we have to wait in public areas. There was some kind of delay though, and we wound up standing in the terminal for over two hours. It wasn't the most pleasant start to our vacation, but once we were onboard having lunch at the Terrace Cafe with a glass of champagne, we were much more relaxed and happy! We had no issues carrying onboard a bouquet of fresh flowers and balloons that I had bought as a honeymoon gift for my husband, and ship staff offered to place it in our cabin while we were eating lunch.
We stayed in cabin #4028, a handicapped accessible cabin in category G. We didn't require these facilities but when we requested a guarantee, this is what we were assigned. The cabin was spacious and comfortable. However, there were some maintenance issues that we experienced. There was a pipe that had burst next to our cabin and it was continually leaking through our carpet, which was cold and unpleasant. No one notified us about anything, they just put towels on our carpet. When we brought it up with the stateroom attendant, she explained the situation and told us that they would bring a fan whenever we were out of the cabin to try and dry it up. After three days in our ten day cruise, I asked how long this was going to go on, as it was unpleasant being in our cabin and getting wet feet. We were told that they didn't know and there was nothing else that could be done about it. Since it was our honeymoon and we did want to spend time in our room, we wrote a letter to the hotel director explaining the situation. Later that day, someone from the hotel department visited us and apologized for the inconvenience, but said that they had nowhere else to move us. He gave us a bottle of wine and $200 shipboard credit. It didn't alleviate the problem, but at least we felt that it was a nice gesture that showed understanding that this was dampening our trip a little (bad pun intended!).
Other than that, our cabin was kept clean and well supplied, and we didn't really have any noise issues. The room issue was still ongoing when we disembarked.
My husband has severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, so dining is always an area of concern for us. We had our booking flagged and acknowledged by Oceania, and we also went to speak to the maitre d' at the beginning of the sailing to discuss my husband's issues. Normally we take set dining on Celebrity, so the waiters get to know us- this was our first time trying open dining and we were a little worried about it but hoping that all would be well.
There were definitely some hiccups. We had to wait for a very long time on the first night to confirm that the bread on our table was nut free, since the server didn't know. My husband was given menus to pre-order his meals without nuts, which was great, but they didn't give him dessert menus until we asked a few days later. Waiters kept offering him creme brulee since that was clearly nut free and he was hoping for more options than that. Also, despite all the precautions we took, nut products kept being brought to us- we even had peanut butter cookies sent to the cabin via room service one day! When we had dinner at Toscana, they brought out almond biscotti even after being advised of allergies. Afternoon tea was also a big headache. Many times, there were even nut products in the savories and sandwiches, let alone the desserts. My husband wasn't able to eat anything there because of fear of cross contamination. When we raised the issue, they did make him a special nut free dessert to have at tea, but he didn't get sandwiches or anything else.
It's not that there wasn't food to eat; it was just the constant stress of worrying that precautions were not being appropriately taken. That seriously detracted from our enjoyment of the food. While we did very much enjoy the quality and presentation of what we were served, it was obvious that food allergies were much more difficult to manage in the open seating type of environment or at least on this particular sailing.
We also found it a little odd that there were such large blocks of time where there was nowhere to get food other than via room service. We like to sleep in, and if we woke up around 9:45 or so, by the time we got showered and ready to go for the day, we couldn't get breakfast anywhere else. Similarly, if we went off ship during a port day and returned after 2pm, there wasn't anything available until dinnertime if you didn't want afternoon tea. We often like to grab a snack after a port day, especially if we have skipped lunch to go on tour. Room service was getting a bit repetitive for us at this point. We also like to stay out late in the evenings and like to be able to get a midnight snack from the buffet, but it closed at 9pm. None of these were much more than inconveniences, but we just found it surprising that nibbles of some sort wouldn't be available during the day.
We did find that the food quality on Insignia was most certainly a step above Celebrity and the other mass market lines that we've tried. It lived up to the hype!
We very much enjoyed Toscana- I think our meals there were beyond exceptional. We received one meal at each restaurant as part of our booking, and were able to get one additional one at Toscana which was so worth it. We did not really enjoy the Polo Grill- the food quality there was not to our taste.
We booked the drink package, and certainly got our money's worth. The by the glass champagne was a pleasant surprise, and we found lots of different wines that we enjoyed. We found sommelier service to be a bit hit or miss though. Some days we had no issues getting drink refills and others it took a very long time to get served.
While bar service was generally very good, we did miss the specialty bars on Celebrity and the kind of service where staff learned our preferences and would customize drinks. It seemed that on Insignia, the menu was just the menu and the staff either wasn't interested in experimenting or that it's not permitted. We did like that everything on the menu was included with no upcharges though, that was a really nice benefit. We enjoyed sampling some fine cognacs and liquors that would have been an upcharge on Celebrity.
While we didn't expect this to be Oceania's strongest suit, we were a little surprised by some of the actions that were chosen by management. We went to the parties and activities, and at times things were hopping and busy, and staff would shut things down. We attended karaoke in Horizons and the bar was packed, people were having fun and signing up, but after the one hour, they announced an end and within minutes the bar emptied out. We couldn't understand why, if people were having a good time and very minimal staff were needed to run the machine, that they wouldn't keep it going especially given how many people were buying drinks.
We definitely enjoyed the live music onboard, and partook as often as we could.
Smooth and easy. We were staying in NYC for a few days postcruise, so we stayed onboard right until the end. We had no difficulties finding our bags or getting off the ship.
Overall, we enjoyed the trip enough to sit down and make a list of pluses and minuses between Celebrity and Oceania. We came to the conclusion that there are things we enjoy on both lines. We did decide however that the level of concern we had about my husband's allergies and possible cross contamination was too much worrying to have on a vacation, and we found that it detracted from our overall experience a bit too much. We expect that we'll be returning to Celebrity as a result. Had things been handled differently? We really did enjoy Oceania. We cruise mostly for relaxation, bars, and good food, and definitely enjoyed the offerings on our cruise. We had purchased a future cruise credit and only recently decided to cancel it.