MS Regatta Review10 day Heart the CaribbeanKenneth Eden
Number of Cruises: 60
Cruise Line: Oceania
Sailing Date: February 26th, 2006
Regatta Cruise Review
MS Regatta Cruise Review
10 day Heart of the Caribbean
Firstly, I must credit US Air for a splendid job
getting us to Miami. To make a long and miserable day in transit work, US Air
waitlisted us, gave us priority, and got us from Newport News/Williamsburg
Airport to Miami for something that was OUR fault, not the airlines. We read our
itinerary wrong, and got to the airport after our flight had left.
So, we got to Miami, took possesion of our rental car, a Taurus, and after having it for a couple of days, we wonder why anyone would want a car like that, it was a horrid thing.
On to our hotel, in pouring tropical rains. We booked the car, hotel and cruise from our travel agent. South Beach prices were out of the question, so we stayed at the Best Western, Biscayne Bay. The hotel was okay, nothing to write home about. The next day our best friends, Joe and Theresa, from Vermont, had a grueling day flirting with snow in Burlington. Flights were canceled. They were wiatlisted, rerouted and made it to Miami for midnight cocktails in our room. US Air did a great job again.
While driving around Miami we were shocked and in states of disbelief with the numbers of homeless people. They lined streets, filled courtyards, slept under overpasses, holed up in old motels that were in states of ruin.
It is hard to believe that in our many
Caribbean cruises, some 40 or so, that we have only sailed from Miami once before. There is nothing sailing from Miami we would ever sail on, and here we were, booked a gem of a ship sailing from Miami. Soooooooo.....we drove past the monster ships, to terminal J, where the Regatta lay waiting, isolated from the mass market ships.
After processing at the pier, we proceeded to board. Cabin stewardesses , in black French maid dress, with white aprons, greeted us, secured our carry ons, and escorted us to our stateroom. In what brief glimpses we could see of the Regatta as we made our way, the ship looked glorious.
We booked an outside stateroom with verandah on Deck 6, our friends had a Deck 3 outside, without Verandah. The staterooms were identical. Most ships built during the past decade share the same ammenities, basically. Closets, desk, color tv, modular bath et cetera. Oceania stateroom decor is what sets them apart from other contemporary cruise ships. Dark wood veneers, rich damask draperies, plush carpeting, wall prints that are attractive, all made the smallish space inviting. The bath, is small, the shower quite tight. The soaps and bath ammenites were of a high quality, towels very luxurious. The Tranquility Bedding so highly touted, is not so special. It is not the coccoon of of comfort found on Maasdam. Our verandah was indeed teak, with two chairs and a small table of resort quality, solid and not taking up a lot of space. One real plus, the phone was on the wall with readable, easy to use directions. Other niceties: terry slippers, spa robes, sewing kit, shoe horn, shoe shine cloth, ample electrical outlets, good lighting and a really powerful hair dryer.
This is a small ship, by todays standards. 30,000 gros registered tons is a far cry from 100,000 and more. Once a ship the size of the Regatta was large, consider 25,000 for Sagafjord, Vistafjord and the Royal Viking Line trio, even the ss Oceanic was HUGE in the 1970's at 39,000. Luckily these ships are still sailing under new owners and names. It is a size that we have not sailed in a long while, and found the Regatta to fill a void in our cruising pleasure.
We rushed to the Terrace Cafe for lunch. I will only review the Terrace Cafe for lunch this once, as to review it every day would be redundant. The salads, carved roasts, sandwiches, pasta station, pizza and wok stations, are much like other ships offerings, except, there are no trays available, so, no passenger is bumping or shoving a tray into somebodys back, and you are served, you do not "help yourself". The passenger returns to the buffet for each course, and returns to a cleaned table, reset with utensils, on white linen place mats. Oceania ships sail with 670 passengers, crew of 400. Service is paramount, excellent, exacting. Twice during our cruise a featured buffet was held at the Terrace Cafe, one exceptional seafood buffet, the other, a nice Italian buffet. The passengers are served iced tea. coffee amd lemon ade by stewards, not elbowing in a wet, sloppy line for a drink.
The Terrace Cafe also served breakfast daily. Early risers may start the day in the Horizons, with Continental breakfast, before the Terrace is open. The smoked salmon presentation in the Terrace Cafe, there is one port, one starboard side, is truly grand, with the highest quality of salmon. Eggs Benedict, made fresh, with a very decent Hollandaise sauce, were available each day. Rounding out Terrace cafes breakfast, omelets and eggs cooked to order, sausage and bacon well drained, not sitting in inches of grease, hot and cold cereals, fresh orange juice and melons, and wonderful fruits and yogurts. The decor here, soothing, the atmosphere refined. I will also note the absence of smelly garbage from bussed and scraped dishes. Compaint? No real maple syrup.
Waves is the BBQ spot. Really decent, large, juicy burgers, cooked the way one orders it, beef hot dogs, chilly if you want, quality rolls and buns, cripsy fries, a fish of the day, and nice salads are offered each day. This is a more help your self place, wet bathing suits are ok, the place is laid back. The ice cream cart features complimentary ice creams and sorbets made fresh on board each day . Ice tea and so forth are served to the passengers. Real china, hotel silver and linen placemats.
The more formal dining venues are to be enjoyed to the fullest. Not only are they elegant to see, the food matches the grandeur of these lovely spaces.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available in the Grand Dining Room, Deck 5, aft.
A word on the interior decor: plush. Heavy floral brocade draperies, with under sheers, line the walls, bas relief domed celing accents, mirrors, wall sconces, and tables with cafe lamps hint at intimacy in the large space. Here, as in all restaurants aboard Reagtta and Oceania ships, no reserved tables. You may request to be seated with friends, alone, or be surprised in meeting new aquaintentses. Not having an assigned waiter daunted us, since we have always sailed with traditional dining. Not to worry here! The highest level of true European service is provided. We often requested a table and waiter each night. Be it breakfast (we ate most of them at the Terrace, however), or lunch, we had one in the Grand Dining Room, everything orderd was served at the perfectly just cooked termperatures expected.
Most cruise ship menus offer a steak, chicken and salmon "as availble each day" on the dinner menu. On Oceania, they are noted as Jaques Peppin Signature items. JP entrees are also featured as specials entrees thoughout the cruise and are quite elegant. Jaques Peppin is a top-world chef, and he oversees all menu and recipe selections on Oceania. Jaques Peppin cruises are a highlight during the cruise year, with several offered. The Chef de Cuisine on the Regatta, Wolfgang Meier, was in evidence throughout our cruise, and always available for conversation. Mr. Meier is one very capable, fine chef, and he runs an excellent kitchen.
Before I review the Polo and Toscana Grills, there is one feature on this cruise line that is just wonderful. High Tea. High Tea is offered in the Horizons Lounge each afternoon. The Regatta String Quartet plays, lovely china and linens grace each table, while a tea trolley is brought to the passengers piled high with cakes, scones, eclairs, and other assorted pastires, as well as serveral tea sandwiches. Coffee, tea and espresso, and full bar service is offered.
Booking Owners, Vista or Pent House Suites, or Concierge Level Vernada staterooms, ensures priority reservations in Polo and Toscana Grills, twice during a cruise. Other staterooms, no priority status, and dining limited to once in each grill. We four were non-priority, and we dined once in each grill. The two grills, lavish and regal, are included in your cruise fare, are not charged extra, with tip included!
Polo Grill is a softly lit fairly masculine room. Bold checks and plaids, with dark paneling beckon. The walls are plain, with studio stills, publicity photos, of the great lengends of Hollywood. Single Malt scotch is the hallmark at the Polo Bar, featuring 26 of them, priced from $6.00 to $50.00.
The finest aged beef and chops, prepared to absolute perfection, with service to match, are Polo Grills trademarks. Filet Mignon, anyone?
Reserved the same way as Polo, is Toscana Grill, with the longest, most interesting Italian menu I have ever seen at sea. Nothing has been omitted. Again, the service is exceptional, the Toscana Grill is not additional, and I felt as though I was in Roma or Fiorenza.
One dining spot we checked the menu out serveral time was Tapas on the Terrace. It left us cold. We never dined there. It was boasted as the "casual" place for dinner. Which brings me to the ships dress code. No shorts, jeans or the like are allowed in the Grand Dining Room, Polo or Toscana Grills after 5pm.. The dress code is spelled out clearly on board. What is a nice refreshing change, to suits, ties or tuxedos for men, gowns for women is the casual chicness on board, the country club look.
There were two captains nights, where most men wore a dark blazer, and khaki trousers, myself included. NO TIE!
Two things that have become irritating for us on our cruises are the pushy photographers, and the endless stream of junk-printed matter stuffed under the cabin door. Not once did a photographer invade anyones space during this cruise, and the endless auction pushing, spa pushing, 50% off sales flyers - or any of the usual junk get stuffed under the door. Daily specials were available, and mentioned briefly in the daily paper, Oceania Currents. Other irritants that were missing included announcements absent from the stateroom, and no blarring musak in the elevators, halls and on deck, nor piped into any public spaces.
The entertainment on board was low key, compared to most cruise ships today. An 8 peice orchestra, and the String Quartet, became the Regatta Orchestra each night, playing show tunes and Big Band music. There were four very talented staff members: cruise director, his assistant, and a host and hostess, that became the Cast of the Regatta. A fine violinist, Hanna Starosta, Sheilds (anyone remember Sheilds and Yarnell?), a pianist in the popular Martinis (home to 30 different Martinis) Bar, and two young men that did Vegas acts rounded out the entertainment. The shows presented were ALL live, no canned music, no insulting click-track, and no all-the-same Salute to Broadway, that seems to be the same on every ship I have sailed for the past 15 years! The Regatta Lounge is a well appointed room, large, with absolutely comfotable chairs from which to view the entertainment, not those butt aching, back constricting excuses for seating found in most "grand lounges". However, the vast room, void of pillars, is low ceilinged, don't expect to see anyone thrown into the air and then sung to on this ship.
Two places of note on board, is what is assuredly the most handsome ships library at sea, capped with a staingleass rotunda, and, the ships Grand Stairway, which serves as a mini-atria, and is a focal point for pictures. There is also the Oceania@Sea, the computer center, and the oak paneled card room. I ca not under play the overall interior fittings of this ship. One word describes the decor: delicious.
Before I mention the ports, we had the honor of sailing with Captain Jahn Rye, a sturdy Norseman, and a Captain we have sailed with before, on the ms Sagafjord and mv Vistafjord, of Cunard/NAC fame. He recently commanded Crystal Cruise ships before joining Oceania Cruises. Meeting and sailing with him once again was wonderful. I also met passengers on board that I sailed with on Maasdam, QE2, Princess and Royal Viking Line.
One area that has always put us off is the ships spa. The staff is too eager, too loud and on the surface lacking the sophistication we want to entrust with our bodies and money, for a massage.
The Mandara Spa, and yes, it is operated by Steiner, who seems to run every spa at sea, is understated, and highly sophisticated. The three massages we each had on board were absolutely exceptional.
One area we did not bother with is the casino. We have not dropped money in a casino in years. One area we enjoyed were the ships shops, and one area we spent and enjoyed ourselves with were the ships auctions, buying several items and enjoying the company of passengers that appreciated what was being auctioned.
Our first post was La Romana, Dominican Republic. We were due to dock at 9am, and we docked at 7am. From our veranda the place looked clean. This was a first for us. We have stayed in the Dominican Republic, this being our first cruise call. We struck our price, $55.00 for four, roundtrip, to Bayahibe, a little town, were we were left at Casa Del Mar. A chaise was $5.00, umbrella, $5.00, all beers $2.00 us. The beach was heavenly. We paid the driver upon return to the ship.
Virgin Gorda was very nice, we had been there before, only, we had had a shore excursion that brought us to the "baths", this time, it was 500 yard walk to be beach and the baths. The thing here is, granite boulders that create grotto like caves to swim in, and prowl around in. Slippery ladders and roped walkways, that you crawl into, under and around, take you through some beautiful natural spaces. The first grotto, which is the largest, is enough, and to my mind, is the most awesome of these grottos, and involves no real effort to get to, and you can photo, wade and relax without pushing through the wholelong park. It may be done without booking a shore excursion. We took no excursions on this cruise. NOTES ON SAFETY - there are signs warning of jelly fish here, we saw non. There are warnings of severe undertow - and they mean it. In the water at the beach. A passenger from our ship fell victim to undertow, was rushed by EMT boat to a hospital, and was returned to Regatta.
St. Kitts is still sleepy, and is still unspoiled. New duty free shops are being built, so, its laid back Caribbean charm will soon be gone forever. We have been here several time, most recently on Dawn Princess. We struck our price with a van/taxi, to Turtle Beach. The 30 minute ride, for four, cost $52.00 roundtrip. Use of the beach and chaises was free. We enjoyed a nice lunch here, with excellent conch chowder. "Mens Journal" magazine awarded the Turtle Beach Bar, one of the Caribbeans best in 2003. The beach was grand, the large smooth rocks in the water were not. It was, however, a beautiful, unspoiled beach.
Antigua is one of favorite islands. It offers a lot, shopping, 365 beaches, good food and drink, and warm, friendly people. Joe and Theresa were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary during the cruise, and they were bought their celebratory three diamond ring for her and a watch for him.
The crowning touch on this cruise was Gustavia, St. Barts. This island, by most peoples standards, is EXPENSIVE. Seeing by ship takes the price bite away, until you shop, or dine here. Years ago we had lunch at La Plage, which is still on the beach where we always go to, and $35.00 burgers come to mind. We Paid $20.00 for four, each way, for a 3 minute ride, to Eden Rock Beach, paid $37.00 US for chaise use, and ate nor drank anything. A Bud was $7.00US...!! The beach was just spectacular.
That rounds out most of my first experience with Regatta, and with Oceania Cruises. Needless to say, we will not only be back, we have booked another Caribbean cruise, for March 2007, and are looking into other cruise areas for this year.
This product is not for everyone. It is not glitzy, smoked glass and mirrored walled public rooms. There are no sing for you supper dinner themes, and no not so newly wed or other games offered. Everything about the Oceania is to experience a quiet, relaxed cruise, with fellow passengers that demand it, and a crew that is very carefully picked to please even the most grouchy passenger.
A well heeled and well traveled crowd will frequent this product, and will pay the price that is charged, and not complain.
Oceania sails to the lesser visited Caribbean ports, the sophisticated cities of Europe, the ancient civilizations of South America, and the exciting cities of Asia.