meow! Posted April 28, 2004 #1 Share Posted April 28, 2004 In the Summer of 2001, we booked the Renaissance Barcelona to Venice cruise for April, 2002. Unfortunately, that cruise never took place. Renaissance went bankrupt, and we hoped that someone would pick up at least some of the nice, new, mid-sized ships, and revitalize this "third option" (between the expensive boutique ships and the mass market) in cruising. By last year, it happened. Then we hoped for getting a good itinerary with a good price, and that happened last Autumn in the form of "free air", worth 2x$1000 for a couple for April cruises. So we booked the basic balconied cabin for 2x$3200 for a two-week cruise, which came to $157 per diem, after allowing for the air fare. This was a nice afffordable price, especially for a mid-sized ship with good food, as we had heard. Several weeks before the cruise, we were somewhat worried about reports on this board that a serious viral outbreak had taken place on the Regatta. We just hoped that everything would be alright. As it turned out, there was no outbreak of any kind that we noticed on board. No more people were coughing or sneezing than in an average public gathering. Whatever happened one month ago must have passed. We elected "flight deviation" at a cost of 2x$50 in order to get the flights we wanted and to arrive a few days early to spend some pre-cruise time in Barcelona, and to leave a few days late to spend some post-cruise time in Venice. While it was the free air that enticed us to book this cruise in the first place, sitting in economy seats across an ocean was not pleasant. "An economy seat is what gets you from point A to point B, safely and hopefully on time, but it is not something to be enjoyed". With such a realistic expectation, it "did its job" uneventfully. When we finally arrived at Barcelona airport, our legs were somewhat numb, and there was slight soreness in the back and the behind. Nonetheless, this was the way to travel for the majority of us who were financially challenged to afford the business class upgrade! To make things worse, the couple sitting right behind us coughed all the way, and we had nowhere to hide, as the plane was full. Thank God that we did not develop any symptoms. We stayed at the Hotel Colon in Barcelona, a local four-star which we learnt from other posters on this board. It charged 148 euros plus 7% tax per day. The room was small but the location was good, right at the centre of the tourist district, and across a well known cathedral. On Good Friday, we could see the open air service and subsequent procession below our hotel room balcony. There were numerous gift shops, restaurants and ATM machines just a few steps away. We did a two and a half hour taxi tour at 40 euros per hour. We passed by the famous five-starred Hotel Art, which was new and luxurious, but slightly "out of the way" and at a daily rate of some 400 euros ( so we were told), was probably more suitable for Silversea cruisers. The driver's English was difficult to converse with. The weather was cool, somewhat windy with intermittent rain. On Saturday, just after 3 p.m., a ten euro taxi ride took us to the pier. It looked like an empty godown, though reasonably clean. We handed the porters our "check in" luggage. There were half a dozen wickets and no line up. We handed in our passports, got our digital photographs taken, received a silver coloured plastic boarding card with a magnetic strip at the back (like a credit card) each, got another picture taken together, and were ushered through onto the ship. There were attendants to help with our "carry on" luggage and an officer at the stairway to greet us. So this couple of ordinary cats finally climbed aboard the Regatta (R2), two years late, but better late than never! Once on board, we headed straight to our cabin. The female cat then curled up on the "tranquility bed" to have her twenty winks (half a nap), while the male cat wandered around the ship, ending up in the computer room. There were some fifteen computers available to the public, mostly notebook models, and you could usually find one free. The charge was $2 per e-mail, but if you surfed on the internet, it would be 95 cents per minute "logged on time", and not "data transfer time", so beware! Even package deals were prohibitively expensive. THE SHIP While the ship was built in 1998, it was substantially renovated last year, and therefore appeared quite new. The public areas were decorated in a "modern ornateness" style, while classical in looks, made extensive use of modern facilities such as halogen lighting. It was warm and inviting. The pool deck was covered with teak flooring. Since there were only 684 passengers, despite its 30,200 tonnes size, it was usually not crowded except for the sea days when people were out on the decks in force. There were two gift shops, the selections were limited but reasonable. The casino was small, and could only open at sea. The only four nickel slot machines (you play more times with say a ten dollar budget) were nearly always occupied. Inside the ship, it felt cozy, while outside, looking from the pier, it did look somewhat small, more like a boat than a ship! THE CABIN Unlike the public areas, the standard cabins are sort of "plain functional". There was no minibar, and the desk chair was a stool. The shower was tight, and unless you were really slim, you would rub against the plastic "papered" wall or the curtain. A six inch widening of this stall would be welcomed, but since this was an existing ship which Oceania leased, nothing could be done on the basic physical structures. The entire washing closet measured 3'10" x 5'6", and that was outside dimensions. This washroom floor was raised 6 inches, and the shower stall height was 6'6". The entire interior of the cabin (including the washroom and closets) was 8'5" wide x 20'5" long, or 171 sq.ft. The balcony measured 9' wide (with no partition wall thickness) x 4'10" deep, or 44 sq.ft., so Oceania's claim of a total of 216 sq.ft. (including balcony) was justified. Due to the "drop ceiling", the interior ceiling height was 6'11", but the balcony ceiling height was 9'0". The cabin door width was 26.5", the bathroom door width was 21.5", while the ship corridor width (with horizontal handle) was 53". The closet was divided into sections, with a width of 23" and a depth also of 23". This area, just inside the cabin door was the most "congested", with the cabin door, three closet doors and the washroom door constantly colliding with one another when more than one were open at the same time. This problem was not unique to Oceania, but rather commom in most modern cruise ship design. In fact, in most aspects, this basic balconied cabin was nearly identical to one (category 2) on the Celebrity Mercury, for example. The "tranquility bed" was nice, nicer than all other ship beds that we had tried (mass market ships), but compared to land based hotel beds, it might not be "the best bed anywhere". Among land based hotels, the Hotel Kamp Helsinki, the Westin Melbourne and the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, for example, had even more comfortable beds, just to name a few. One reason might be the lack of box springs under the mattress -- in the case of a ship cabin, the 10" clearance under the mattress was necessary for storing luggage! The mattress in our cabin measured 76" long x 66" wide, ample for most couples. There were a total of four down filled pillows. They were nice, but we would prefer them to be somewhat thicker and larger. There was a desk 49" long x 16" wide, with a mirror measuring 43" x 43" above. In front of the bed, there was a full length mirror, at 47" wide x 72" tall. The walkway clearance between the end of the bed and the wall mirror was 22" wide. The loveseat was 53" total length, and the small round table was 20" in diameter. There was only one telephone, two 110 volts and two 240 volts outlets and a 21" Sony television, with CNN and Sky News, among other channels (rerunning movies). One channel showed the navigation map, while the other showed ship speed (often between 10 and 12 knots while cruising, and occasionally between 16 and 19 knots when rushing between Dubrovnik and Venice). We would also like to see weather forecast, outside temperature and windspeed too, but these important data were missing. There was a four-digit, self-set safe in the cabin, which was appreciated. Two bathrobes and two pairs of slippers were provided, but no sewing kit or Q-tip. The floor (other than the washroom) was carpeted, but there was no marble, and no pretence to luxury. Shelves and drawers were plentiful, and with careful organization, quite enough for a two week cruise. The balcony sliding door opening was 27.5" maximum, with glass covering the entire outside surface of the cabin, and the usual curtains with sheer. There were two plastic chairs with cushions, and one small square stool/table. Unlike its former days as R2, the Regatta had removable ribbed-teak-carpet styled flooring, covering the entire metal floor, making the balcony more inviting. There was also a switchable ceiling light on the balcony. During a fire drill on a Wednesday, we saw staff members removing screws from one end of the balcony partitions, creating a temporary balcony-corridor with "collapsed" hinged partitions. In other words, these partitions were necessarily "incomplete" and easily removable in order to meet safety requirements. In all, Oceania had to accept what was given on an existing ship, while upgrading on the bedding and the balcony flooring. Other than the superior bed, the cabin was "standard fare" in the modern cruising industry. I have included detailed measurements here not for our own sake, but for the benefit of those who might be tall, chubby, carry large pieces of luggage, or need the use of walkers, etc. The actual measurements are not available in any borchure, can only be obtained by someone on board, and may help others plan on what to do. Those who can afford it (e.g. the boutique ship folks), or need more room can always go for an owners/vista suite, or at least a PH minisuite, with more amenities and butler service. FOOD The food on board was excellent. Breakfasts featured the same items throughout the two weeks, which included smoked salmon, omelettes, oatmeal, various meat and fish selections, and lots of prepared fruits. Lunch could be in the Terrace Cafe or the Waves Grill next to it, where we often ate. We had dinner twice in the Polo Grill and twice in Toscana, both very well prepared and presented. In the main restaurant, we had sevruga caviar appertizer (tablespoon sized portions) once and missed it the other time. We asked for it the last night on board, but was told it wasn't on offer that night. We also had foie gras twice. Lobster tails were often served, but probably due to the geographic location of the cruise, we did not see king crab legs. Steaks and other delicacies were plentiful, and it was hard to resist eating more than one should. The Terrace Cafe became Tapas on the Terrace in the evening. The food was just as good, and since it was buffet styled, we had the freedom of selecting whatever we wanted and ate on our own terms. This venue became more popularly known and appreciated as the cruise went on. We also appreciated the fact that even for a buffet meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, most of the time, the waiter/waitress would put the item you had selected on your plate for you, rather than have passengers pick up their own items with common utensils. This should substantially cut down on "cross contamination" among passengers, thereby raising public sanitory standards. Food on this ship was by far the best we had ever encountered at sea, though we had not been on a true boutique ship to compare it with. After twenty days on the road (including pre/post cruise), the male cat gained four pounds while the female cat gained two and a half. It will take at least one month to rectify this! SERVICE Though we had different restaurant attendants at different meals and the staff pooled their tips, the service was better, more friendly and attentive than on ships with assigned seating. The restaurant staff were smilingly, eager and cheerful, a very good crew whether they had been on the ship for close to a year or newly hired to replace those who had just been transferred to the Insignia. They seemed to be genuinely happy with their jobs. The housekeeping staff did their job, cleaning the cabin in the morning and turning the bedding in the evening. However, quite often, they did not adequately replace the supplies, such as used shower caps, floor mats, various lotions, and hand soap. Several times, we had to call them to replenish what we had used up. We did not know whether it was a matter of an individual staff member, or the cruise line's policy in conservation. We did get what we wanted whenever we called though. ... to be continued Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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