Number of Cruises: 32?
Cruise Line: Oceania
Sailing Date: n/a
Regatta Cruise Review
TRANSPORTATION to the SHIP:
We had packed, measured, and weighed our bags according to Lufthansa's published limits before leaving home. We were told at check-in that the carry-on couldn't weigh more than 8.5 KG, and we needed to transfer about half of the stuff to a checked bag.
Barb and I finally boarded our Oceania arranged Lufthansa flight from Vancouver, BC to Frankfurt on the afternoon of 2 November. The attendants took Barb's electric scooter and promised that it would be delivered right to the plane for us in Frankfurt (this has been done numerous times for us on flights within Canada and the USA). On arrival at Frankfurt about 12 hours later, we waited on the plane for her scooter to arrive until the plane was cleared, still no scooter. I went up to the gate reception people and was told that someone had told them that Barb could walk and that it would be delivered to the gate. After explaining that she could NOT walk to the reception area, they finally found a manual wheelchair that was too small for her and managed to get her up to the gate. The scooter finally arrived about a half hour later and we were able to get to our next gate in time to go through the same routine again for our flight to Lisbon.
At the new gate they told her that they had to have her scooter immediately in order to get it on the plane, so they stuffed her in another small manual wheelchair and left her sitting there, right beside her scooter, for about an hour and a half before they took it away to be loaded into the plane which had been delayed arriving from Vienna. They also told us that we couldn't take our carry-on bag (considerably lightened in Vancouver) on the plane because it was "TOO BIG". Finally we were taken to the plane and again told that the scooter would be delivered to the plane on arrival at Lisbon. When other passengers started boarding, most of them had carry-ons much larger than ours, which was checked through. We had to take Barb's meds out and carry them separately in a brown bag that another sympathetic passenger gave us.
Lisbon, about 3 1/2 hours later, again no scooter. Again they finally got a manual wheelchair and even after I tried to explain that the scooter was to be delivered to the plane, they insisted that we had to go to the luggage carousel first. "I understand" was all the lady said, than started pushing us, and another wheelchair passenger, the long way to the luggage carousel. Our luggage, and everyone else's arrived, still no scooter. Pretty much everyone had cleared the luggage area when, finally someone arrived with the scooter. I can't prove it, but I'm willing to bet that the scooter sat about an hour at the Arrival gate, while Barb was crammed into a small wheelchair at the luggage area.
Oceania's greeter met us at the airport and saved a front seat in the bus for Barb while I helped the driver get the scooter into the luggage bin of the bus. It was a holiday in Lisbon the day we arrived and the streets were crowded. The twenty minute ride to the ship only took about 1 1/4 hours. Check-in was fairly swift and we got on the ship around 7:00 PM for a sailing scheduled for 6:00. We were told we had missed the safety drill and would have to do a make-up drill in the morning. We went to the Terrace Cafe (the buffet) for dinner. Our bags were in the cabin when we returned from dinner but Barb was too tired to unpack so she went to bed and I went to the Welcome Aboard show in the Regatta Lounge, then off to bed for me too. A long day and a half getting there, but it was great to be "Home Again" on a ship. We learned in the morning that they had waited to sail till the last passengers arrived at 11:55, and sailed at midnight. There was a total of about 285 passengers aboard a ship designed to carry over 600.
The transition from the pier to the ship went smoothly. Our passports were retained by the ship for the duration of the cruise, our credit card information taken, official ID photos taken, and we got our cruise cards. The gangway had low steps and Barb had to walk up (with great difficulty) while several crew members carried the scooter up the gangway. There was no "Welcome Aboard" photos taken, I suspect because most of the people were already aboard. We were escorted to our stateroom and met our steward, Enery, from Roatan. He informed us that we could park the scooter in the hallway, just outside our door, which was less convenient than most of our recent cruises where we have had handicap access rooms, but it did leave more room inside. He also provided us with a long extension cord for recharging the scooter.
We had a Port side stateroom (#7056), the sunny side of the ship traveling east-west. We had ample closet and cupboard space and there was lots of room for suitcases under the beds. Deep fluffy mattresses and down comforters were as good, if not better, than those on the Statendam this past summer. The room also had a pull-out couch for a possible third passenger. A fridge for Barb's insulin and a shower chair, as requested by our TA, were in the room when we arrived. The bathroom was small, but adequate, the shower was "cozy". Our balcony was small, but large enough for a table and two chairs. We noticed that you could see into the adjoining balconies through the spaces if you had a mind to do that, but who cares. We just made sure we had the provided robes, or clothes on when we were out there. It was nice to be able to watch the waves go by, and hear the sound of the ocean at night.
The robes and slippers were available to take home for a price we thought was exorbitant, in our opinion (the ones on the Statendam were nicer).
The Regatta is probably the best decorated, and maintained ship we have sailed on in about 32 cruises. It is fashioned to look like an English country inn. There were many vases around the ship with real flowers. Wood paneling, cove moldings, etc. were abundant in most of the public areas. We did not see any worn carpets or stains, and no areas were being repaired, as we have noticed on many ships. Chairs in all public areas and dining venues were sturdy and of ample size to accommodate people of any size. There were teak deck chairs and lounges in the pool area and some even designed for two people to cozy up in. They were also on the teak promenade deck which, unfortunately, was not a wraparound.
All public rooms, staterooms, and balconies are designated non-smoking, except a tiny area in the Horizons Lounge on Deck 10 and a small area on one side outside the buffet in the open pool deck (Deck 9).
The library was the largest we have seen at sea (over 2000 books) and was open 24 hours a day. It was run on the honor system with a request to please return books before leaving the ship. Very classy.
Several well placed bars and lounges where you could spend a quiet time with a book, or listen to Maciek on the piano.
The Casino was fairly small, and non-smoking. We did not spend a dime in here, but some claimed to come out ahead.
Regatta has a well equipped gym and fitness center, beauty shop and spa. We didn't use any of these services but some of our "trivia mates" did and found them quite enjoyable.
SHOWS and SHOWROOM:
Being a smaller ship, the showroom "Regatta Lounge" is all on one level with very good sightlines from all seats. It is located forward on Deck 5. Since the ship was less than half full we never had any trouble finding a seat for any event. It was used for the regular evening show as well as daily lectures, Bingo, movies, etc.
They had sessions of Snowball Bingo every day which we didn't attend, so can't say how much it cost or what the jackpot got to when it was finally won.
Entertainment at the evening show was varied, the most interesting to us was several comedy routines done by Lenny Windsor, a former writer for the "Benny Hill Show". He, and his young wife put on quite a show, including some amazing magic, and pick-pocketing demonstrations. The pianist "Maciek Flont" put on quite a show one evening, about an hour of non-stop, popular music from "Around the World". There was a violinist and an accordionist billed as the "Contemporary Duo" who played at various times around the ship, including teatime. The violinist was the headliner one evening in the Regatta Lounge, and he was excellent. There was also a juggler that put on several shows. I felt he was mediocre and don't remember his name. They also had several production shows but with only 4 singers and dancers in the troop, and limited stage props, they were not up to the standards of shows on NCL, Princess, RCCL etc.
They also had two lecturers aboard, one an astronomer who did several lectures on what can be seen by the naked eye. He also had several early morning sky watch sessions where we went out on the top deck and they turned the lights out for better viewing. The other lecturer, a Dr. Stewart Nelson, spoke about varying topics such as Pirates, the Titanic, the Bermuda Triangle, the Hindenburg, etc.
DINING, FOOD ETC.:
Most days we went up to the Horizon's Lounge where they had "Coffee Corner" starting at 6:30 AM. They had coffee, juice, and a selection of pastries. Some mornings we went to the buffet early for their pecan sticky buns (only available there), they were great. About 8:00 we usually went to the Grand Dining Room for proper breakfast. There they had regular, as well as chocolate croissants and the regular breakfast menu including Eggs Benedict, omelets, pancakes, waffles, steak, lamb chops etc. You could also get fresh fruit of your choice; my usual choice was Papaya (love that stuff).
We mostly had lunch in the dining room because it was easier for Barb than the buffet. Some days we ate in the buffet. They had a good selection of salads, carving station, pastas, etc every day. They also had Pizza available at lunch which I thought was not as good as Princess, or Carnival, but OK.
Dinnertime we ate mostly in the Grand Dining Room and the fare was always excellent, hot, and promptly served. It might have had something to do with the half empty ship, but I don't think so. The DR was open seating every day and we usually elected to join other people, but after about three days we asked for a table with our favorite waiter "Alena" from Croatia. We told her that we'd like to take her home with us. She was one of the best waiters we have had EVER! She made the best cappuccino, which Barb and I had almost every night with dessert. I am a regular coffee with cream drinker, but the coffee on the ship was very inconsistent (sometimes quite good, sometimes bad). Alena's cappuccino was always "top drawer", not what I'd say about several I had that were made by someone else.
We decided to try the Specialty Restaurants onboard (no extra charge, but reservation needed). We booked the Toscana (Italian restaurant) on Tuesday, 9 Nov, and the Polo Grill (steak house) on Wednesday. Toscana was very nice, we had a waitress we had had in the dining room at lunch previously. The service, and food was comparable to a mid-upscale Italian restaurant. On Wednesday we went to the Polo Grill, and fell in love with it. Everything was the best we have ever had on land, or sea. I had shrimp cocktail to die for, clam chowder, filet mignon (done perfectly) with a lobster tail, and crème brule for dessert. When we were leaving, we made another reservation for Friday. When it came near dinnertime on Thursday, Barb and I looked at the Grand DR menu and decided we'd rather go to the Polo again, if we could get in. They found a space for us, so we ended up eating there three nights in a row. I'm sure that would not have been possible if the ship was full, but it was GREAT. My waistline suffered a little, but it was worth every inch.
Just as a matter of interest to some, there was no late-night buffet on this ship. Only room service was available late. This might be different on different itineraries, we really didn't miss it. There was coffee available most times at the buffet area.
Passengers on this sailing were mostly of the "retired" ilk. We almost felt like the babies of the cruise. We were probably in the lower 10% income wise, and there were ZERO children aboard. There were several honeymoon couples, but I believe they were on their "second, or third" time around honeymoons. They were in their forties or fifties. That's OK though, we like older people, we're rapidly becoming them. At the Captain's cocktail party they asked who had sailed with Oceania, or Renaissance before and about 25% put up their hands. When they asked who had cruised any line before, almost everyone had. When they asked who was on their first cruise there was about four hands up.
CRUISE DIRECTOR AND STAFF:
The cruise director David Shermet was about 40 years old. He had been Cruise director on several other lines previously, left cruising for a life ashore for several years, but found he missed it so much he came back. He did a talk every morning at coffee corner, usually with guests from the entertainment staff. He did announcements on the PA every morning at 9:00 regarding happenings around the ship during the day (not at all hours of the day like some lines). The Captain did his "Report from the Bridge" just after noon every day, informing us of ships position, distance traveled, sea and weather conditions,etc. Other than that the only announcements heard over the PA were crew safety drills,etc.
The Cruise director had team trivia every day, which we attended daily. "Our" team varied some day-to-day, but mainly had the same core 5 players. We did well with 6 times in first place in 9 days. We won prize tickets to be cashed in on the last full day at sea. They also had activities such as ping pong, shuffleboard, etc. that you could get tickets for. I did well in shuffleboard with my partner "Monique" a nice young lady from Montreal PQ. Barb and I got a T-shirt, a ballcap, and a neck wallet.
The Photo people were very unobtrusive, never in the dining room, and the only time they took our pictures, that I remember, was at the Captain's party reception line.
Being November already, we expected, and got, some rain and heavy seas. When it rained, we made use of the inside facilities of the ship. Although a moving ship doesn't bother me in the least, Barb felt somewhat uneasy for several days. The swells were measuring up to 14 ft. at times, and it sometimes felt we were going to be dumped out of bed at night. Many people missed dinner several nights and ominous bags showed up at the elevators, but we never saw anyone using them. We once sailed from New York to Bermuda in November on NCL's Dreamward which was much worse. I believe we had swells to 40 ft. and had to skip one of the ports in Bermuda because the harbor entrance was too narrow and they don't chance it in high seas. We DID see bags being used on that one, and a few green faces.
Almost everywhere on the ship was quite accessible for Barb with her scooter. The sports deck was the only deck only accessible by stairs. There were several other passengers with wheelchairs but Barb's was the only scooter and sometimes it seemed like a competition in the dining room as to who was going to do "Valet" service (drive the scooter to the "parking lot" outside the DR.
Other people with physical handicaps should be aware that there are no fully accessible outside cabins on this ship. If you need things like hand rails, and roll-in showers, etc. they are only available in inside cabins. Barb decided she could make due with a regular cabin as long as we could park the scooter outside the door. the price we got for a balcony cabin was the same as they were offering for an inside Handicap.
DEBARKATION AND RETURN HOME:
We had breakfast and cleared immigration in Miami on Saturday morning by about 8:00. We had been assigned Black #1 luggage tags. I'll never know how they decide who gets off first. They called several other numbers, including Black #3 before us, but we were off the ship, and on the bus for our transfer to MIA about 10:30 AM for our American Airlines 1:30 PM flight to Dallas, and onwards to Vancouver. Our luggage, and scooter, all arrived in good order. I called my niece to bring our car and we were on our way to the ferry back to our "Island in the Pacific", arriving home around midnight.
We were pleasantly surprised at the over-all quality of this cruise. It should not be assumed (because of the less-than-half-full sailing) that this company is in any financial difficulty, or that the "older" demographic of this cruise is the normal situation. This was a 10 day, all sea days, cruise and, as such attracts an older crowd that can take longer cruises on short notice. I understand that the more port intensive cruises (i.e.. Caribbean sailings) are selling out, and they are also not as good a price (per dium) as we got on this cruise. I think Oceania really fills a niche that has been lacking lately. They have smaller than average ships, with better than average quality accommodations, along with superb service.
Would we sail again with Oceania? You bet we would, but next time perhaps in the other direction in the spring, (Florida to Europe) with a European extension. Hoping to meet many of you (again) on the MOAGC, GGC2005