Days 1-26: Wrapping-up the South Asia Cruise
Why did you take this cruise? For most passengers we asked the response was “the ports-of-call.” The majority (58 percent) of passengers on this Bangkok to Dubai cruise were repeat Oceania customers — for many of them it was a question of which Oceania cruise to take this year, so where the ship was sailing was obviously of critical importance.
Even those first timers we asked mostly mentioned the itinerary as the hook that got them to book. That’s certainly true for us. And, of course, we all got to go where we wanted — 5,432 nautical miles, from Bangkok to Dubai, with 11 intervening ports-of-call— safely and on schedule.
One of the secrets of Oceania’s success must be the not too conventional itineraries. Another secret? Based on our experience aboard Nautica, it’s the crew. At risk of sounding like a broken record, from the captain and general manager to cabin attendants and food service personnel, the crew made this cruise a success. We spoke with no one regarding their experience who didn’t have positive things to say about the crew. Nor did we have or hear any serious complaints about the food — we think Oceania may deserve its reputation for the best food at sea, although obviously we haven’t sampled every ship afloat.
It even seems churlish to point out the obvious — that neither the crew nor the food was perfect. We once were served a piece of overcooked fish, and sometimes in the Terrace Café our coffee wouldn’t arrive until we had finished eating breakfast. Once or twice at dinner in the Grand Dining Room, the sommelier wouldn’t find our table until our appetizer had been devoured. We attribute these minor lapses to our arriving at peak times when the staff was stretched too thin, not to any lack of skill or dedication on their part.
So, did we find any real bases for complaint? A couple of our fellow passengers commented that the fees charged by the ship’s doctor seemed excessive — substantially more than they could hope to be reimbursed by their insurance companies. Fortunately, we never needed to consult with the doctor so have no first-hand experience in this matter.
We do have experience with a more common complaint — the price of Oceania shore excursions. We found in one case a private guide and driver for the price of a group shore excursion (typically 20-30 people), minus the lunch. We were on the hook for lunch but that also gave us a choice of restaurants. Most of our excursions provided through Oceania proved very satisfactory; some were excellent.
Making one’s own arrangements — upon arrival or ahead of time — may involve more risk of dissatisfaction, but could reduce cost, especially if four to six passengers shared a guide/driver and van. In our view it comes down to one’s willingness to accept some uncertainty and to undertake the effort to make independent arrangements. These are clearly matters of personal choice and circumstance.
Next time we book a cruise with Oceania — and we certainly hope there is a next time — we’ll probably opt for a few more independent arrangements and a little more adventure.
Overall, we’d say it was a very successful cruise and we salute Captain Bencina, General Manager Cinque and the crew of Nautica on a job well done. Thank you all.
Until next time, Happy Travels,
Janet & Stuart Wilson