Oceania’s Nautica cut a neat and compact swathe moored in Liverpool. With a totally white hull (being touched up whilst in port), this R class ship of just over 30,000 tonnes has recessed lifeboats negating many of the ocean views or balconies being obstructed.
There were a series of eight R (Renaissance) Class ships built and walking round Nautica did provide a few déjà vu moments :The trompe l’oeil ceiling in the library is almost identical to the fresco that used to be on ‘Tahitian Princess’, the dark blue carpets and wrought iron staircase rails straight off ‘Adonia’ and I could picture the wildlife TV presenter, Nigel Marven leaning on the rail of the jogging track,in the sunset, one deck up from the swimming pool, albeit it on Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest.
Oceania, as a cruise line, is renowned for its food. Reputedly it spends three times as much as any other cruise line on raw ingredients and sources much of its speciality meats and fish from exclusive suppliers. Such is the position of food within the Oceania cruise experience, that on the ‘O’ class ships (which also have a Culinary centre for cooking demonstrations and classes), some shore excursions have a distinctly culinary slant including shopping with the chef for local ingredients and Culinary Discovery Tours on certain European itineraries. Restaurants and eating areas are very important and there is a bar area, adjacent to each restaurant for that relaxing pre or post dinner drink. The R class ships – Nautica, ‘Insignia’ and ‘Regatta’ have 2 speciality restaurants on board, open for dinner only and with no supplement. The larger ‘O’ class ships (‘Marina’ and ‘Riviera’) have 4 such restaurants, as well as 2 restaurants attracting a cover charge.
Nautica features Toscana (Italian with a definite Tuscan influence) and Polo Grill (classic American steakhouse style and the home of Oceania’s famed 28 day dry aged beef). These restaurants are positioned (typically on R class ships) aft on deck 10. As they are wrapped round the back and sides of the ship, the views are stunning and complement the exclusively designed Versace china to make this dining experience truly special. All guests are guaranteed at least one meal in each of the speciality restaurants during their cruise. Book early to avoid date/time disappointment!!
The Terrace Café and Waves Grill are on deck 9, just below Toscana and Polo Grill. Unlike many buffet restaurants on ships, you are served in the Terrace Café (there is also a drinks trolley available). As a result the ambience and furniture is more in the style of an informal restaurant, rather than a cafeteria and there is a lovely al fresco area for use in warmer climes. Waves Grill serves cooked to order burgers, bbq and seafood items, as well as mouth watering desserts and ice creams, sundaes and milk shakes. Pop out of the pool and come to this lovely shaded area for a quick bite anytime from early lunch to mid afternoon.
The main restaurant is called The Grand Dining Room and is on deck 5. It is approached by passing through Barrista’s – the Illy coffee & pastry shop, where you can indulge in complementary lattes, cappuccinos and espressos as well as delicate sandwiches and home made biscotti. An acceptable lunch was served on Versace china, with a good choice of starters, main meals and desserts, salads, burgers, sandwiches & wraps as well as healthy options suggested by Canyon Ranch. The service was excellent and the frescos over our heads provided a restful and light feel, even though our table was right in the middle of the restaurant.
If you are still peckish after this, then afternoon tea complete with starched white clothed tables is served every afternoon (except embarkation and disembarkation days) in the Horizons Lounge, forward on deck 10.
Nautica is not a big ship and there are only 5 decks with public areas, but the scale of many of the amenities are more akin to a larger vessel – there is a good sized casino (right next to Martinis – the martini bar), an internet room (Oceania@Sea Computer Centre), Canyon Ranch spa and large gym area and a spacious, airy library with comfortable arm chairs, a mock fire place, delightful frescos and over 2000 volumes, which is supposedly CEO of Oceania, Frank Del Rio’s favourite area on the ship. Nevertheless, there is no proper theatre, replaced by an entertainment lounge and no spectacular atrium built over 2 or 3 decks either horizontally or vertically. The Reception area with the Reception desk, concierge and destinations services are on deck 4 (the lower deck of the Reception Hall/Upper Hall area) and are connected by a striking red and gold Chinese style carpet and enclosed staircase.
Oceania achieves a country club ambience on board its ships and although many of the features on board are found on most other ships, the attention to detail and quality of the fixtures, fittings and fabrics provides a luxurious and relaxing feel, if perhaps a little old fashioned.There is even an indoor smoking area near the Horizons Lounge.
Staterooms are small – for the price tag – until you get to the Penthouse Suites. Inside, outside and veranda staterooms are a similar size to those found on many mainstream cruise ships and the bathrooms are particularly compact. Interestingly, when ‘Sirena’ joins the fleet in 2016 (currently sailing as Ocean Princess) it is likely that she will have no staterooms with bath tubs in –perhaps a sign that she is being refurbished to appeal to older guests. Concierge Class staterooms are exactly the same size as Veranda staterooms and the jump in cost is accounted for by increased complimentary amenities including priority embarkation and speciality restaurant reservations, complimentary lap blankets for use on the balcony, welcome champagne and unlimited access to the Canyon Ranch Spa private spa terrace. From winter 2015/16 a free internet package will also be included.
I felt that there was limited space to just sit and people watch as most bars are attached to restaurants and the Reception Hall area is quite enclosed. On board entertainment includes jazz nights in Martinis, dancing or karaoke in Horizons Lounge, a small orchestra and string quartet and on board lectures. Any production shows have just one showing at 9.30 pm, so that most guests will have eaten prior to this. On deck there is a driving range and small putting course, as well as a small pool and 2 jacuzzi pools.
Oceania’s strap lines are ‘Your World, Your Way’ and ‘Explore Your World’ and its itineraries are port intensive (often visiting boutique ports) with overnight and late night departures to allow extended visits. Prices often include free flights (from London, but with regional supplements starting from £49 pp return, including Aberdeen, Newcastle and Leeds/Bradford depending on itineraries), as well as pre paid gratuities, drinks packages and free wifi. Without all these extras, the cruise only price includes all complimentary soft drinks and bottled water (including stateroom mini bars) as well as some speciality coffees. Transfer prices are high and better sourced independently as are some flights (ie. when they are not included in the price).
Drinks prices are also quite high and attract a 15% service charge, but there are several drinks packages available (again, if not already included in the price) including:
All in all, Nautica is best suited to the older guest who enjoys good food, but in an informal atmosphere, is destination focussed and happy to relax in the public areas of the ship.