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Barcelona to Venice April 10 to 24 - Part IV


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continued from Part III ...

After the completion of this trip, we made some calculations. The cruise itself was 2x$3,200, but then there were various taxes (including air taxes) and charges (e.g. deviation charges), and travel insurance etc. So before we hit the road, we had already paid some $7,500. We stayed for a few days pre/post cruise on our own, took numerous taxi tours, bought souvenirs, and we paid the standard tips (automatically put on our shipboard). We charged everything to our mastercard, and took out cash from various ATM machines. These items came to 3,200 euros plus $500, or roughly $4,500. So, the overall bottom line for our 20 day trip was $12,000, which came to roughly $600 per couple per day. That seemed reasonable, and might appear insignificant to the well-heeled, but it also meant more than two months take-home for the average family, and therefore a substantial sum for most of us.

The majority of passengers appeared to be in their fifties and sixties, with a good fraction being over or under that age range, plus a handful of children. Few passengers smoked, and those who did abided by the rules and stayed in the several designated corners when they smoked. On the whole, passengers were congenial or at least polite to one another. Some were outgoing and talkative, while others stayed mostly by themselves. As Oceania itineraries were of the longer category, its passengers must be able to leave on long stretches or be retired. Most appeared to be "comfortably middle class".

The crew worked hard and were pleasant. We should appreciate that most of them stayed on the ship six months at a time, away from family and friends, working long hours with little rest, sacrificing their youthful years to earn a living and to support their families back home. We should all thank them for their "service with a smile" even on rough seas and under strenuous conditions. Of course, many of them also enjoyed the opportunity to see the world and learn new things. We did not extra tip not because they were not worth more, but because so many of them were so nice. If you tipped one, you would appear unfair to the others, and you couldn't tip them all.

As to whether Oceania's fares are worth it, we have to understand that Oceania's pricing seems to be quite uniform across different geographic regions, while other cruise lines seem to charge significantly more for Europe and less for the Caribbean, for example. Our cruise in the Mediterranean was of better value, especially with the free air. Having said that, on the whole, Oceania may be 10 to 20% more expensive than Holland America, and 20 to 40% more expensive than Celebrity, based on prices we could read up on the internet. Being a smaller ship, Oceania cannot compete on cheap pricing due to the lack of "economy of scale" which the former Renaissance had learnt the hard way. So it has to compete on quality. Given the existing physical reality of its acquired ships, it would be difficult to change the hardware (cabin and washroom sizes, etc.), so they tried to upgrade the software (bedding, food and service) as much as they could, and that seemed to be a success. The present management appeared to be quite wise in their methods, trying their best to carve out a niche market under the circumstances, and as they leased their ships at auction bottom prices when interest rates were at the lowest, they could do business with less capital, lower cost and potentially better profit margins. If they don't make the fatal mistake of over-expansion again, they should be quite stable and do well in the longer term. On the pricing side, they have to be careful not to increase it by too much, thus pushing into the true boutique category. We can read on Silversea's website that they have just slashed prices for the rest of this year. The high-end market must be weak, and if Oceania charges too closely to this level, passengers may be tempted to try the boutique ships intead.

From us the passengers' point of view, if you hesitate at long queues and don't particularly enjoy large crowds while being financially challenged to pay true boutique fares, Oceania is a beautiful compromise. It charges a bit more than the mass market, but then it gives you great food, friendly service, and a simpler, smaller and therefore more cozy environment, making you feel more relaxed and much "easier to handle", so as to speak. For the well-heeled who likes Oceania's itineraries, there are owners/vista suites and at least PH minisuites with added amenities and butler service.

We did not take any of the ship's shore excursions but took taxi tours on our own instead, because we preferred the freedom, privacy and convenience of a taxi. On a bus tour, they control the tour, while on a taxi, you control what you want, and the taxi fare, after negotiations, may be less than 50% more than two people on the bus. Also, book your own pre/post cruise hotels if you can, most cruise lines (Oceania included) tend to charge substantially more than what you can get on your own. A cruise, and indeed any form of travel, requires a lot of preparation. Some folks will leave it to their agent or secretary, we tend to plan the various steps on our own, it is a matter of personal choice, I guess.


Being realistic, we will only suggest things that are practical, that can be realized if the cruise line is willing:

1. Increase the number of tables for two, especially at the Terrace Cafe and the two alternative restaurants,

2. Increase the power of the hair dryer in the cabins. We realize this may not be possible because of electric power limitations. Even so, replace that rubbery/plastic hair dryer hose, which breaks easily, leaking air in all directions,

3. Be more generous with cabin supplies, e.g. soap, shower caps, kleenex, bath gel, etc. We know that conservation is necessary, but don't throw away our half-used bottles/items and not replace them, waiting for us to call and ask before getting it,

4. Upgrade or replace that sound system in the Regatta Louge, it tinges the notes of the musical instruments,

5. Keep the fares at the present level for the forseeable future and offer free air/shipboard credits liberally. Rearrange the "promotions" page on your website to make it less confusing and easier to compare. Try something similar to what Silversea does, with all itineraries, prices and discounts tabulated, everything clear at a glance,

6. Put more information on the television data page, to include local weather forecast, temperature, wind direction and strength, the magnitude of the waves, etc. (they might be already on somewhere, but we didn't find it),

7. While the services of the photo shop was good, and the digital processing fees were reasonable, the photographers were too eager and probably took more pictures than the average cruiser would want, and would feel obliged to buy it,

8. The authors invite the readers to make other suggestions and to comment on one another's suggestions. This will show how popular the various suggestions are. Afterall, people are all different and have different ideas.

Finally, we wish Oceania good luck, and hope that they succeed in the long run, thus providing one more option for us ordinary consumers to choose from. It is better to grow more slowly and steadily, than to risk ballooning too quickly! Thank you all for spending your precious time in reading our long-winded account. Your comments to all four sections of this report would be cordially appreciated.
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Thanks for your detailed and fair-minded account of your cruise. You are certainly setting a wonderful standard for thoughtful postings. We are booked for the 9/25 Barcelona to Venice cruise on Regatta and really appreciate all your comments.
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Wonderful , wonderful review Meow. Appreciate the info esp. on the taxi fares and tipping..
I had to chuckle when got to the part about the high ceilings in your Venice hotel room and thinking to myself- well where is the tape mesure? And then you mentioned it! ;-)
you cats have a sharp wit and a great writing style. Thanks for taking the time to do this for all of us.

Barcelona to Venice on Oceania - "Insignia"
Buenos Aires to Rio Oceania - "Insignia"


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