Cruise Review: Oceania Riviera Caribbean 2016

May 23, 2016 Comments Off by

Oh somebody please remind me what sleep is? I’ve been so poorly all week, that slept hasn’t featured very heavily in my life. I’ve been suffering with some sort of nasty virus that even mystified the GP. I have already seen her twice this year, and that’s already two times more than I see her in a year. So, here I am, 3.00am in the morning sitting in the dark at a LHR hotel while Mr C sleeps. I have spent the night blowing the contents of my sinus into a box of man sized tissues. I look forward to medication and a sleep on an aeroplane.
Yes, that’s correct we are off on holiday. A long awaited and well earnt holiday in the sun. But first let’s rewind a few hours …

Friday at home saw me fitting in nail appointment, rushing round for a few last minute bits and throwing stuff in suitcases. Mr C finished work at a reasonable time and we were in the road for 3.30pm heading for Heathrow. Now, SatNav woman has not featured heavily in my blogs for a while but oh boy did she make up for it today! I asked Mr C to set her up to make sure she guided us to LHR hotel without issues. So we set off and I ask which route we are taking. He was non the wiser and informed me he was following SatNav. It became clear within minutes she was about to take us via the M1. I prefer M40 which is much more direct, and less likely to have issues at this hour on a Friday. He wasn’t listening. SatNav knows best. Enroute to the M1 we had the opportunity to cut across to M40 again, but he’s still not listening to me. So M6 joins M1 at Catthorpe Interchange, but I wasn’t paying attention and SatNav woman didn’t appear to be aware of the new road layout. Too late!! We were on the A14 with no way back! Sat nav woman sorted herself out and set a new route. I would have thought best thing would have been to stay on and cut through to M40 at Chievely, but no. SatNav knows best and Mr C has every faith in her. We are off at Welford and then went through tiny villages, that whilst very quaint were not on my must see list this afternoon! We went through town after town. At one point I saw a sign, M1 turn right, but no, SatNav woman doesn’t agree with me. Instead she took us around the towns one way system, at rush hour whilst it was at gridlock. And where did we end up. At the sign I saw 20 mins earlier. Oh my patience was wearing thin. Some 3hrs later we hit a stationary M25. The whole journey shouldn’t have taken much more than two hours. And to cap it all Mr C is moaning that he’s tired!! Bite your tongue Jane, bite your tongue.

Eventually the hotel is in sight. We park up. He decides he will come back for two of the cases once we check in, but as blokes do, he changed his mind in a millisecond, and I was having to drag a big case, my small case, a bag full of bits n pieces I had in the car such as pop and water etc, and my handbag. It was too much for me and I put my back out. I wasn’t happy and abandoned the case along the corridor to the room. All SatNav woman’s fault!

I calmed down with a bite to eat in the restaurant and a large ice cold cola which helped wash down some pain relief. I really am poorly, I’m officially on holiday but I can’t face a drop of alcohol. Bedtime is looming and so is my chesty cough medicine. Oh my hotel neighbours must love me as I hack and cough for an hour or two. But touch wood, for the first time all week the cough seems to eventually subside. That will please my fellow plane passengers. So, it’s time to get in the shower, reshuffle the cases, throw a bit of makeup at my face and let’s see if SatNav woman can get us to the airport for our 6.00am checkin. Hopefully I will be back with an update!

P1090499Oh how on earth to people say they enjoy flying? It’s not for me, and I’ve confirmed that with myself today. We were all on board in good time and Mr Pilot told us we were ready to go, flying time would be 9hrs 20 mins which was a whole hour shorter than I thought it to be. Happiness was short lived when he said we had to wait while they distributed some of the containers more evenly in the hold. We eventually pushed back, but now we had missed even our original slot and there was a queue of 8 aircraft ahead of us. So we waited, and we waited, until it was our turn and then what happens? A fox on the runway! You couldn’t make it up. We could have been in the air for over an hour and a fox put paid to that. I’m bored already. Mr C meanwhile was snoring his brains out, until the sharp elbow thudded him in the ribs. So off we zoom down the runway and up we go, next thing I know it feels like all airways have shut down and I start gasping for breath and choking. I reached for my bottle of water, but that wouldn’t go down and dribbled back out of my mouth. I was choking, in tears, scared I was taking my last breath and all Mr C could do was to look at me as if to say ‘will you stop embarrassing me’. It was a scary moment, and eventually I composed myself, but not without wrenching my throat and nearly bursting my eardrums.

P1090500So this plane is quite nice. Premium Economy is good. Good leg room, wider seats, nice tv with lots of choice. Crew are fab, nothing too much trouble. The drinks have been free flowing, soft drinks, alcohol, tea and coffee. A lovely choice for lunch with wine, after dinner liqueurs. The ice lolly was the most welcome, it soothed my throat. I’ve also been sucking ice cubes. I’ve tried my hardest to get some sleep, but it’s just not happening until I can sort my airways out, and that’s not going to happen on here. I’ve tried really hard not to check flight progress thinking that it would be a nice surprise when we started to descend. But I caved in a while back and we still had 4 hrs 39 mins to go. Mr C just checked again and it’s now 2 hrs 20mins. Progress I suppose. Afternoon tea is yet to be served so that should pass a bit of time. I swear the pilot is circling the North Pole. It’s freezing up here. I have layers on plus a wrap and two blankets! Oh let me see and feel some warm sunshine.

I swear that plane could not have descended any slower, if ever there was a time I felt like barging into a cockpit and putting a plane on the tarmac myself that as it. Then we had the slowest taxi and a wait beyond waits until the aircraft doors were opened. I think we parked in the back of beyond because the walk to passport control was like walking from my house to town, which isn’t something I do too often, and with a few thousand other people into the mix that joined us from other gates along the way. I was struggling, like really struggling. My chest was so painful I could hardly breath, and every pace became an effort. Little buggies with the less mobile in them keep zooming past and I so wanted to hitch a ride. Every so often there was health warning posters regarding had you got some contagious disease. Have you recently visited this or that country etc. I daren’t show any sign of illness, or I might be whisked off and quarantined. Passport control was all electronic and the queue was massive. I had a German lady behind me (I use the term loosely) she was doing my head in. She was trying to manage the queue but she was 200 from the front, but she was trying her hardest to make herself heard. She also kept hitting me in my back with her backpack and if she put my poorly back into spasm she would have well and truly known about it. Mr C did the gallant thing and stepped in to take full force of her back pack. So, our turn at electronic immigration and we both failed. Big fat X through us, and we had to go and see “the man”. The Man was a very stern immigration officer who only spoke in commands. “Put your four fingers on the light. Left hand, left thumb, right hand, right thumb, look at the camera” two stamps of the passport and we were out of there. Phew!!

Luggage carousels, don’t you just live them. Well I don’t so I stood well away from the action and quietly prayed that all three cases had made the same flight as us. Mr C emerged from the mist looking triumphant, proudly pushing 3 cases towards me. Let’s get out of here. Even that was touch and go, really stern looking customs woman really glared at us on our way to the exit, then once into customs hall an officer approached Mr C and asked if we were from London? Oh here we go, I thought to myself, contents of cases were about to be emptied, but no, he seemed to be ok with the fact we were from London and sent us in our way.

It should all be pleasant and nice from here on in. We are on holiday! We need a cab to the hotel. Que the grumpiest, miserablist taxi driver ever to drive a cab. He literally grunted at me, so due to his lack of communication I showed him my hotel reservation confirmation, just to be clear of no misinterpretation of which Intercontinental hotel in the world I wanted. Our journey was in total silence. A ‘Welcome to Miami’ would have been nice! On arrival at the Intercontinental couldn’t even be bothered to wait whilst previous arriving taxis cleared from in front of the hotel, and instead he dropped us off a little before the hotel entrance. This meant that all the hotel porters totally ignored us and the cases were being ignored on the sidewalk. The taxi meter had clicked up $27 which is what the set fare confirmed for this area, plus it said if you paid in cash there was a $2.70 discount. So I had $30 ready and I was going to tell him to keep the change which I calculated to be a generous $5. But he had a different story, he reckoned it was $27 + a toll fee making it $29.90. I don’t believe him. He didn’t like my $30, but once I made it clear he had two choices, and one was to shove his 10 cents tip up where the sun don’t shine, he stuffed the 30 bucks in his pocket and took off with a flea in his ear. Welcome to Miami indeed!

Hotel check in was busy. The girl was lovely. She acknowledged our high priority status within their loyalty scheme but sadly in this occasion no upgrades available due to them being full. We had a harbour view room on 19th floor. Fabulous view of all the ships in port today. Two Carnival, NCL and MSC. But I can’t breath, I can’t speak. Mr C ran me a hot bath and it was heaven. It did help. I pulled on the bathrobe and collapsed into bed and slipped into the first sleep if several days. I woke up, it was dark, the ships had left. Where was I? Oh yes, on holiday. In Miami!

P1090508I was suffering badly but fresh air would surely help. So I rummaged through the open cases, found some clothes and we set off for Biscayne Bay area, which was just across from the hotel. Bad move, I could hardly walk for pain in my chest. We took it slowly. Hooters Bar was in full swing. Hard Rock Cafe, all the bars were jumping for a Saturday night. I couldn’t even be bothered to look in the shops. It’s official, I’m poorly! Mr C was hungry, and when he’s hungry, he’s hungry! But I couldn’t even entertain the thought of food. Everything was making my head spin. I could barely breath or talk. He got me a bottle of full fat Coke in the hope that the sugar levels would rally me round. We sat on a bench in the spitting rain opposite Bubba Gumps Shrimp Factory, and I just wanted to cry but I didn’t have the energy. Reluctantly we walked slowly back to the hotel. I felt like my body was in shut down. I administered 2 paracetamol, 2 ibrobuphen and an antihistamine (good cheat for opening up the airways according to my GP) and I climbed into bed whilst Mr C ordered himself some room service. I must admit for room service food it looked good. He had chicken wings and a bison burger all delivered on a big posh trolley. I was asleep before he had finished it. And I stayed asleep for just over 7 hours, hopefully just what my body needed. The start of our holiday was not supposed to be like this.

Sunday 21st February – Miami
DSC_7495Today is a new day. It’s also my birthday! But it took Mr C a while to remember, and even when he did, he had to confess that my card was in the car back at Heathrow. He had a pressie though, not gift wrapped. He had gone for the default setting if Swarovski, but I will nail him for something else at a later date.

So after a mammoth 7 hour sleep, and believe me it was mammoth after weeks of on and off poorliness, I was hungry. It was only 5.15am Miami time so not sure where I could get food. Pillow chocolate! I always knew they had a use. Yummy it was too. But oh the elation when I recalled I had dropped a bag of crisps into my bag during the flight. Yes, crisps and chocolate at 5.00am, win!
Miami is waking up. Already 2 Carnival ships are in, but they always go around in twos. One of the big NCL ships has just come in, plus a Celebrity and a Disney and my beloved Oceania Riviera is here, but she’s back early for a deep clean. Whoops! Fingers crossed she is very clean by the time it’s our turn.

Mr C has gone out armed with his camera for sunrise photos. I’m just laying here typing and taking it easy. But there is a day ahead. I need to get in the shower then somehow find things to wear from the cases and get out of here for the day.
First things first, we need to find some breakfast. We checked out the hotel restaurant but my first reaction was that it as a massive busy room, noisy and no windows. Forget that then. We will take a wander over to Biscayne Bay area, there must surely be some nice places there to sit in the harbour and breakfast in the sun. Well apparently not! 95% of the waterside restaurants were closed and the couple that were open, were rammed. As we walked back toward the hotel a table at a Cuban place became available, so we decide to stay there. Breakfast was ‘different’ and that’s about all I can say. Neither what I fancied or needed. After breakfast we had another wander through the shopping area. I passed a man with two parrots. He was one of those vendors that thrust them on your shoulders to take a photo. I gave him a swerve, but as I did so Mr C grabbed my hand, which is unusual enough as it is. He was pulling me towards him and advising me not to look. Oh my days, a man with a snake. I was off. I more or less clung to a shop front for safety, but I didn’t feel safe. Was I surrounded by snakes? I had no idea. We were soon out of there and never to return.

P1090518Back in the sanctuary of our hotel room I looked down on the pool terrace below. That looked nice and sunny, so we retreated to there for an hour until the sun went behind the next door skyscraper. Didn’t plan that very well. Time for a birthday drink. I homed in on the cocktail list. Mr C went to the bar so was disgusted with the ‘service fee’ lol. He was non too happy about the $36 bill either lol
The day is ticking by, we need a plan. We need to make the effort to go to South Beach as was the original plan. We decide we could go over, have a walk around, maybe a meal and come back early evening. It had turned chilly in the wind so dressed appropriately.

We got very on trend today and used Uber Taxi via the app. It was excellent. Car arrived with a minute or two, driver was cheerful and nice, which in itself was a vast improvement on yesterdays Yellow Cab experience we had from the airport the other day. And it only cost $9 instead of the quoted $25 quoted yellow cab fare. He dropped us exactly where we wanted to be, advised us where to go and where not to go, and money only exchanged hands for a well earnt tip. Uber fee was settled via the app.

DSC_7492So this is Ocean Drive, Miami! It’s loud, brash, noisy, and rammed full of people and cars. People just seem to wear what they want, if you have a 48″ hip measurement and choose to walk about in a thong bikini and high heels that seems to be the norm here. I was starting to feel positively svelte like! Let’s look at the beach. Is it how I remember it to be from when I stood on it aged 15? No! Sometimes memories are best left, and not tried to retrace. The beach was like Blackpool back in the 50’s & 60’s – rammed! There was hardly spaces to walk between people just strewn everywhere. The sea was green and blooming freezing, just like Blackpool! Time to check out this famous Art Deco area. This wasn’t my idea of a quiet sunny Sunday afternoon. Each bar spills out onto the sidewalk, and each bar competes with each other with noise levels of very loud music, karaoke, or just general shouting. Add to that a grid locked road full of flash cars with big engines that growl, music systems blaring and hands firmly down on their horns to just continuously out DSC_7513blast each other. As if it wasn’t busy enough, there were bikes everywhere, constantly dinging their bell from behind. Like, where would you like me to move to stupid bike? It also appears that you are nobody unless you have a hover board. The King of all hover boards seem to have an inbuilt stereo system, boom booming away. Segways are outrun by them. I heard it all as I passed a little girl on a hover board. She must have been about 10yrs old. She passed a Segway on her hover board and asked her elder if they were the same to ride and operate. Oh they are so old fashioned came the reply!!
If Scotty could have beamed me up, I would have liked him to choose now to do it. We walked from 5th to 17th street, just as Mr Uber advised and walked down Lincoln Street as the next attraction. Nah, it just wasn’t doing it for me. Market stalls, Cuban food. Does Miami actually exist? My throat was sore so I decided an ice cream was called for. Could we find an ice cream place? Eventually we did. I ordered a small lemon cone, Mr C had a small hazelnut cone. I got $10 ready thinking that would be ample for two small cones, and they were small. But no, $14.20! Two ice creams!!! Miami is out to rob me!
Time to hit the app and make a magic Uber car appear. I’ve had enough. We arrived back over Biscayne bridge just as Celebrity Eclipse was pulling out, closely followed by one of the carnival ships. By the time we reached our hotel room Disney was blasting out “When you wish upon a star” and she was gone closely followed by the rest of them.
I had a snooze for an hour. Mr C was well gone, and it took me over an hour to wake him. He was keen to go out in search of a meal, and so was I seeing it was my birthday, but I soon realised I couldn’t do it. My body needed more medication and rest. Mr C reluctantly agreed to go get me a cola and a sandwich from Starbucks. I managed have a sandwich, 5 tablets and the cola and I was gone. Unfortunately my sleep ended at 3.30, so I’m clearly still on UK time and might never adjust.
Not quite the Birthday I had imagined or planned, but at least I was on holiday.

Monday 22nd February 2016 – Miami
DSC_7584As I have every intention of departing this place they call Miami later today I thought I would let you have my thoughts on the place, if you haven’t grasped them already. I don’t like Miami, and it’s as simple as that. I’m not a fan at all. For one thing is there such a thing as a Miami’an? Everyone is Cuban. There is nothing American about Miami at all. Everywhere is way too loud and noisy. Very over commercialised and more than too dam expensive. The people aren’t particularly friendly unless they want your money for something. Oh and homeless people, what is it with homeless people? They are everywhere. At South Beach yesterday they were just randomly laid on the beach, on the grass, on the pavements. At the foot of this hotel there is some lovely parkland and it’s like base camp for homeless people. They must occupy some of the most sort after homeless residences in the world. Palm trees, beach, sunshine and it seems an endless supply of Subway and burgers.

IMG_9361So that was Miami. Today is cruise day, and time to cruise the Oceania way. We left the hotel at just gone noon and Mr C used his app to get us another Uber cab. Only $9 to the port. Embarkation hadn’t commenced when we arrived but we were given an embarkation card appropriate to our suite level. We didn’t wait long for embarkation to start and check in procedure was as swift as ever, within minutes we were on deck with a cocktail. The majority of passengers headed to the Terrace Cafe for lunch but we were happy to chill on one of the lovely comfy sun loungers and enjoy the peace and quiet. Our suites were ready quite early and by the time I got down there the cases had arrived, so all was good. I didn’t unpack, there was sun to be had on deck so I rejoined Mr C for another hour or so, then we unpacked together.
Anthony, our Butler, popped in to exchange pleasantries. He’s lovely. We had to attend muster drill. I know it’s essential but they are a chore and could be watched in the suite on tv, I realise that is very controversial of me. We had to sit in line in the theatre with our life jackets on, and the lifejackets give me claustrophobia. There were two couples who never stopped talking, which really upset a very posh lady in front of us. There was very nearly handbags at dawn! The walk back up 6 flights of stairs very nearly had me pass out. My chest has been so poorly that it couldn’t cope. I had to lie down when I got in. Now this is where it could have all gone horribly wrong again. My body clock refuses to adjust, so to me it was pj and bedtime, but ships time dictated I get up, showered, dressed, make up on and out. Oh it was an effort.

IMG_9405We made it to Martini Bar and took up residence at the bar. Juan is to be our barman. He is just back today from being on leave. He flew in today on a 20hr flight and was straight to work! Poor Juan. Throughout the cruise I heard him tell that story several times, so not sure what to believe, lol. Kathy & Tim seem to be bar flys like us and we had a laugh with them. Eventually going our respective ways. They are dining in Toscana and we were in Polo Grill. Mr C debated whether he should challenge himself to the 32oz rib streak again or should he have a fillet mignon. He went for the 32oz but failed miserably. For some reason neither of us could face food this evening, but we don’t know why. The food and service was spot on. Wine sommelier was spot on. An all round faultless dining experience just a shame we were still jet lagged. We left Polo Grill and went straight to bed. That’s how tired we were!

Tuesday 23rd February 2016 – Nassau
P1090578So today I woke up in Nassau. The view outside my windows was stunning but then Carnival Valor, Disney Dream and Majesty of the Seas showed up and spoilt my view. I really didn’t think the Majesty of the Seas was still around. I don’t think I’ve been asked for it in the last 10 years. She is a real blast from the 80’s and looks very odd by today’s cruise ship standards. Lots of outside cabins and only one deck of balconies

We had breakfast out on the aft deck of a Terrace Cafe. Fresh pot of tea, orange juice, iced water. I had fresh fruit and just a bowl of cornflakes, didn’t want to overdo it.
We ventured ashore not really knowing where we were going or what we were doing. We hit the straw market where clearly they make the prices up. $30 for a sun hat! I got one of them down to $10 which was much better for a hat that will go in the bin at the end of the cruise.
P1090601We strolled round to the public beach which was ok but Mr C wanted to snorkel. We walked back through the town which had all the usual t-shirt and tat shops, plus lots of diamond and jewellery shops but I didn’t look. Mr C was still on his mission to get to a beach to snorkel and before I knew it I was in a taxi heading towards Atlantis. From there we were marched over a hill and told a boat would come for us to take us to Paradise Island, $80 each! Oh I do wish Mr C would do his research. He has little else to do! Needless to say we were back over the hill and in a cab back to the ship. The port area of the ship is full of pretty little outside stalls but be warned, you will get pestered by these stall holders and every other vendor in Nassau. You want a taxi, you want horse and cart, hair braids, come look pretty lady. There are only so many times you can smile and politely decline in the space if 10 seconds.

P1090977Back on the ship we headed for the tranquility of the pool area. Within minutes I had an ice cold Daiquiri and my world was peaceful and serene once more. It was very, very hot, so I chose to cool down with a dip in the pool. Dry off, dip in the pool. Thirsty work though! At about 2.30pm we called it a day. I had a nice Bvlgari bath then sat on the balcony with a club sandwich and a glass of wine. I stayed there pretty much until we sailed, by which time I was in direct sun and it was too much so retreated to the suite. Anthony has just been in with the canapés. Fresh fruit skewers and tortilla dips.

I spent most of the afternoon taking it easy and pottering about then got ready at leisure for the evening ahead. Martini Bar is our usual pre dinner drink spot and it doesn’t disappoint, then we took a slow walk down to the Grande Dining Room. We were advised that tables for 2 have about a 10 minute wait, or we could choose to share a table. We decided to wait and took a seat in the Grand Lobby listening to the string quartet until a lovely waiter came to find us and escort us to our table. Food in all of the Oceania dining venues is exceptional and tonight was no different. Cant fault the food. It really is more akin to dining in a top restaurant, not a ships main dining room. We are struggling with the thought of staying awake, but we talk ourselves into a little night cap before bed. We just cant seem to hack this late night malarkey. I blame the weather. It takes it out of you, you know . . . and so to bed.

Wednesday 24th February 2016 – at sea
IMG_9358Mr. C was up with the larks this morning and into the gym. I decided to go out on deck early and take advantage of the quiet deck area. It was very windy and the swimming pool was trying to empty itself, but I settled into my sun lounger and watched my Oceania world go by. Top deck was busy with the walkers doing their laps. It’s taken very seriously and they all strut around in their fitness gear. Far too energetic for me. Grannie and her senior daughter have just rocked up on the other side of the deck and it looks like they are going in the pool for a swim. This could be interesting the way the water is jumping around this morning. Granny gets two swim caps out of her walker and dons both at the same time. Her daughter supports her to the pool steps and they are in. Granny is loving it, but how she hasn’t been catapulted back to her sun lounger by the waves of the pool is beyond me. Mr C is back from the gym with two Illy coffees and a Danish pastry for me. I decide that will do me for breakfast this morning. A Mai Tai and a Daiquiri kept me hydrated over the next hour or two. Despite the strong whirling wind the I was conscious that the sun was very strong and burning my side so we retreated to the suite.
We decided to have lunch on the Aft Terrace. I had a nice beef wrap and a glass of Prosecco followed by some fresh fruit. The afternoon was just spent chilling in the suite. I decided to go and see the Future Cruise lady. Lol, I think I might need to book another curse. Booking on board gives us a £175pp reduction plus an additional $100 OBC to spend on this cruise. And we get free air, free unlimited wifi and a choice of free shore excursions or free beer & wine drinks package or $400pp OBC! No brainier really!

We have had to have a little detour this evening to Grand Turk to off load a poorly passenger. The place was deserted when we arrived at about 6.00pm. I had expected to berth alongside but we didn’t. We trod water just off the pier for a couple of hours whilst they put down a lifeboat to take the poorly person ashore, then we had to wait for the boat to come back again, so it was a lengthy and costly operation.

This evening was Captains Gala evening which basically means there is a totally free bar for two hours, and oh boy were some people taking advantage. We couldn’t get near Martini bar. The long bar was equally as busy so we headed to Horizon which was also very busy but we got a nice comfy sofa right at the front in the window and observed our fellow passengers antics after their hour or so of free drinks. The table of American guests just in front of us had certainly had their share, but they decided to go and attack the Martini bar before the free drinks ran out.

P1090637The Grande dining room was beyond busy with a long queue to get in. I knew there wasn’t going to be much hope of a table for two, but we stood in line and tried our luck. We got to the front to be told it was an unusually long wait of 40 mins if I wanted to have a table for two. We decided to chance a table for 4. We needn’t have worried. A nice couple from Jersey showed up and we had a very pleasant evening chatting away with Ann and Vic. The rib of beef was lovely, but the real reason I was in the Grande Dining room this evening was because I had to have my Chocolate Cappuccino Cup desert. It’s the best!

We could have gone to the show after dinner, but somehow we never made it past the Martini Bar stools. It’s much quieter and nice in here now they have stopped serving free drinks. We have the pianist literally to ourselves. My shoes and bag have caused quite a stir among my fellow passengers this evening. The ladies especially are loving them. We spent most of the evening chatting to a couple from Canada, he has been in the casino and I think he had won. Mr C wants to give the casino a try, but gambling bores me. We decided to take the lift upto Horizon before we headed to bed, just to see if it was busy. It was fairly busy, but we decided we had had enough so after a moonlight stroll on deck in the balmy Caribbean air we headed for our bed!

Thursday 25th February 2016 – San Juan
DSC_7765My morning started with the lovely Anthony (butler) at the foot of my bed laying out the breakfast. Mr C was away at the gym, but arrived back right on que just as Anthony had got the breakfast ready. That was nice to just slither out of bed, eat my cornflakes and Danish, then slither back under the covers again. We pondered for a while re what to do and decided to hit the deck to catch some rays. Another blustery morning at sea. I had no sooner hit the sun bed than I was asleep! These sun loungers are way too comfortable. I could feel my skin burning so retreated to the suite. Good job we did because 10 mins later we ran right into a heavy downpour so there would have been a mass evacuation on the deck. I laid on the bed and before I knew it I was snoozing again! Must be something wrong with me. I decided to have a bath, then I had the luxury of choosing between three showers to wash my hair. Oh how I love suite life!

By the time I got out of the bathroom we were arriving in San Juan. Norwegian Gem was already in. Mr C seemed happy to go ashore without filling his belly first which is unusual. It was very breezy along the pier but jeeze it was hot as we ventured closer to town. Anthem of the Seas came in whilst we were walking along the front looking non to worse for wear after her incident with a storm the other week. We really didn’t venture very far into town, although we did get pretty close to the fort. I could feel my skin burning as we P1090655tried to get back to the ship. I had a scary moment along the pier front. Those that know me, know that I can’t stand reptiles, they beyond freak me out. I knew they were in San Juan because Lizy had come face to face with one at the fort last December, so I had been on full lizard alert. So we were nearly at the ship and I saw this Caribbean bloke walking towards me in a very bright suit. That’s when I realised he was carrying matching dinosaur lizards. Panic set in. I screamed at Mr C to help me, but he hadn’t a clue why. I was off, verging on a full blown screaming fit. I retreated to the back of a stall close to a policeman, but I was still paranoid that the lizard man would find it amusing to hunt me out. I wanted to cry! I was through the dock security gates faster than I knew I could move.

It took me a while to calm down, even in the tranquility of the suite. I needed a drink, a strong one. The barman at Waves obliged with a very strong Bahama Mama. Mr C has now decided his belly needs filling so we had to stop by Waves Grill fir a chilli hot dog. That should see him through to Toscana later this evening. For me, it was time to just chill out on my sun lounger. Yellow Bird, Daiquiri, anything that will numb the pain of seeing that wretched lizard!

P1090669We have a late sailaway this evening and many passengers chose to venture ashore to eat or take advantage of the local bars etc. No way I was venturing back into that place with lizards walking the streets. Just as well that I had pre booked Toscana. So, lovely peaceful pre dinner martinis in Martini Bar and then upto Toscana, which is one of my favourite dining options onboard. The Maitre De had reserved us one of the best tables right at the stern of the ship over looking the back of the ship. Fantastic when you dine on a lighter night, in the Mediterranean etc, but Caribbean after the sun has gone down you can forget it, its just black out there. We couldn’t even see the lights of San Juan because the aft was facing out to sea. It was so dark I had to restaurant to getting the torch on my iphone to guide me through the window. It was quite amusing. Oceania do everything so properly. They bring the bread basket and explain every different bread roll and slice of bread. There is even a menu for the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then that shows up on a wheeled trolled full of all the different flavoured oils etc . If like me, you haven’t got a clue about such things as oil and vinegar flavours, tell the nice oil and vinegar P1090679man and he works it all out for you. The meal was devine. Minestrone soup, lasagne, and the compilation of mini deserts. I like to keep it simple. Mr C had all sorts of things, but we both agreed it was a lovely meal, although maybe the plate full of mini deserts was a step too far, but it just had to be done. Just when I thought that I couldn’t possibly face any more food, in any shape or form, a Birthday cake appeared! Complete with choir boys. thank goodness that the Maitre D offered to have the cake delivered to the suite! lovely as it was, i could not have even licked the icing. We could manage no more than a little stroll out of deck, and then we heard the calling of the bed from the suite. Those million thread soft silk white cotton sheets were calling us, yelling to us in fact. Good night!

Friday 26th February 2016 – St Bart’s
We had a very lazy morning doing not a lot of anything. Although we did decide to attend the Oceania future cruise presentation, for no other reason that you could win $250 OBC in the raffle just for turning up. We didn’t win but I did spot another cruise I like, so I have to find time to see the lady again sometime soon and see what the deal is with that one.

DSC_7828We arrived at St Barts at around noon so we headed to the aft deck of Terrace Cafe for a light lunch whilst they got the tenders ready. We went ashore soon after lunch. Not the smoothest or shortest of tender rides. It was a bit too warm to be bobbing about at sea, squashed in like sardines with my fellow passengers. Mr C had his eye on which beach he wanted to go to and it was a taxi ride away called Gouverneur. Stunning! Absolutely stunning! A private little beach nestled into a bay. No facilities so I had to slum it on a towel on the sand which I don’t find the most comfortable but IDSC_7839 can think of worse places to sit. We had arranged with the taxi driver to only stay a couple of hours. Just as well because it was baking hot. Mr C got to swim and use his underwater camera so all good. I really appreciated the bottles of mineral water Oceania give you as you leave the ship. I needed it to stay hydrated. As we headed back to the taxi pick up point, we saw possibly the most bizarre thing I will ever see. A turtle crossing the road. I was so amazed I forgot to get my camera out! The whole of St. Bart’s is very picturesque so it was a lovely ride back to the ship. Fare was $15 each way. Back at the pier we decided to walk around the harbour and find Shell Beach. I’m glad we made the effort to go to the other one. It was a very hot and intense walk. So hot we had to stop for a cold drink. I had a Coke and Mr C had a beer. The effort involved in getting back to the tender was too much. There was a tender in and others P1090707started to run for it, but I simply didn’t have the energy, so we missed it and then stood in line for the next one. The ship was berthed so far out that it took a while got a tender to arrive. There was the most amazing sunset as we sailed across back to the ship, shame we weren’t close enough to the tender opening to get a photo. I had to have a little smile to myself about the tender, it had silk curtains and matching upholstered seat backs. That’s the extra touch with Oceania. The tender arrived back at the ship and there was the usual rush to stand up before the tender had tied up. We let our fellow cruise passengers go ahead of us and just as we were about to get off the tender the driver shouted for everyone to sit down immediately. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe another fast boat past us and caused a wave but all of a sudden we were being thrown all over the place. Mr C lept onto one of the high crew seats and grabbed me. Despite him holding me very tight with both arms around me it was all we could do to stay upright. It was quite a while before they got control of the boat again.
Back on board we had to have a very quick turnaround because it was late. Now there is a story about tonight. Earlier this morning, Anthony, our lovely Butler appeared and proudly announced he had booked us into Jacques at 8.00pm. We are not quite sure where the confusion came from because we never asked him to book it for us. The only conversation we recall is when he asked us if we had all the restaurants pre booked and I showed him our reservation card to show him we had reservations in all of them. He offered to get us other reservations but we advised him we were happy with the ones we had. We really should have nipped P1090729it in the bud and told him earlier that there must be a misunderstanding, but he seemed so pleased with himself that we didn’t have the heart. We were so rushed to get ready that I really could not face a big meal in Jacques tonight. Mr C was despatched to Jacques to make our excuses and let the table go. We decided instead to dine out on the aft deck at Terrace Grill. Perfect choice. It was a lovely balmy evening. We were still at anchor. Star Clipper was at the side of us and all lit up looking stunning. Now, anyone that knows me will be aware that I hate self service restaurants on ships with a passion, but this is on another level. Freshly prepared and cooked pasta, wok station, sushi, carvery, and at the grill there is freshly cooked steaks, lobster and giant shrimps. The selection of good is vast. The sommeliers are on hand and serve champagne, wines and beers. It was a fabulous meal in a perfect idyllic setting. Mr C had surf and turf, which consisted of a full lobster tail. I had fresh pasta followed by freshly cooked chicken chow mien, oh and an ice cream. Their ice cream is something else! We had a little stroll out on deck, and it was very, very warm. We retreated to the Martini Bar where I amused myself with the rudeness of some of my fellow guests. How or why the bar staff put up with some of it I don’t know.

Saturday 27th February 2016 – Antigua
By the time I awoke this morning we had already arrived in Antigua. Reversed in, and gangways were just being lowered. Mr C had been o the gym and bought back a delivery of Illy coffee and muffins. I confess to feeling non to shiny this morning. Few too many martini cocktails maybe?

P1090750We skipped breakfast and we’re off the ship just before 8.30am. The tours had departed and the place was deserted apart from a hundred or so orange shirted taxi drivers. I was in no mood for listening to each of them “you wanna take a tour today, I show you the lovely island” nobody wanted to take us the beach, too early! But if we wanted to wait an hour they might fill a cab up. Then Mr C started talking to a Stetson wearing taxi driver called Shem. He would take us. It was $32 if we didn’t want to wait for people to share with, making it $8pp, but he would take us for $28 each way. I was in no mood for waiting around or being squashed up in a taxi, so we accepted his offer. He didn’t try and sell us a different beach like most do. He was just a very nice man and he chatted all the way there telling us how the Antiguans earn a living etc. My beach was deserted, perfect! Two chairs and a bucket of beer $25. We actually had 4 beers and 2 P1090739cokes because I seem to have my sensible head on of late. I spent the next few hours walking from my sun lounger, into the sea, and back to the lounger again. It was very hot so I needed to keep cooling down. The factor 30 didn’t seem to be having any affect. I was hungry because we skipped breakfast so Mr C ordered a BLT and fries from the bar. I have to say it was $5 well spent. By the time we were getting ready to leave Darkwood at 1230 there were probably about 20people here. That’s why I like Darkwood so much! Not too busy, no hassles, just typical laid back Caribbean, with soft pink sand and clear blue sea. Shem our taxi driver arrived right on time as arranged. He had taken 4 people on a tour to Nelsons Dockyard and just needed to drop them off at Jolly Beach, which was exciting for me because I have heard good things about this beach. I have to say though, it is not a patch on Darkwood and as soon as they got out of the taxi they were hassled for sun loungers, water sports etc. That doesn’t happen at Darkwood. As we set off back to the ship Shem decided we were going to have a bit of car-e-oke as he called it. Oh what a character. He serenade us with all sorts of familiar Caribbean songs and some I had never heard of. He was shaking his marackers and getting the locals to join in as he drove past them. So next time you are in Antigua look for Shem, orange shirt, official taxi driver and a cow hide Stetson hat. Crazy lovable guy.

P1090773I couldn’t wait to get to the tranquility of the suite and straight into the shower to freshen up, bliss. We had a little stroll back ashore to the shops. I don’t think I have ever seen Antigua do quiet. Usually there would be at least two big ships in, but today there was just relatively small Oceania Riviera. The locals were loving my dress for some reason. I must admit it was nice and cool in the breeze. We didn’t buy anything and came back on board for a lay down.

We were supposed to sail at 5.00 but I don’t think I have ever seen so many latecomers. Thy got one gangway in. The rope men turned up, then we waited, and waited. People just seem to keep drifting along the quay side without a care in the world. I heard an officer politely suggest to one American man that we had been waiting for him and his friends. Oh boy did he go off on one “don’t tell me I’m late. I’m never late for anything. I am not late do don’t you dare say I am”. He wasn’t the last either. What amused me more than anything was the late comers could all see the main gangway and hospitality tent had gone, with only a basic crew gangway remaining and still they didn’t rush or panic. I would have been mortified.

While I was on the balcony watching and waiting I saw Dolphins playing in the bay. I’m getting to be a right wildlife spotter.

We eventually set sail just as the sun was setting. Stunning, absolutely stunning.

Time to get ready for the evening ahead. The evening started in Martini Bar and it was rather busy. We timed it just a little too early whilst the pianist was on, and the first wave of diners were yet to go to dinner. But as soon as the pianist finished they all departed and normal device at the bar was resumed with just us and the barman. It has been so busy that they didn’t have a Big O glass left for me. We decided to dine in aft Terrace Cafe again, or should I say Mr C decided. I’m not over fussed about where we eat, but I must confess even I enjoy it up there. It was a little bit breezy on the open deck so we opted for a table for two by the DSC_7818window. I had some melon and Parma ham. Then a small bowl of chilli pasta followed by a freshly cooked steak, jacket potato with sour cream and a bowl of salad. Pineapple ice cream with a sprinkling of coconut finished it off nicely. All washed down with a couple of glasses of Nobillo. I just want to point out that this is no ordinary self service cafe, there are tablecloths, beautifully laid tables, chandeliers and lovely viol curtains at the Windows. Service from the sommeliers and waiters is spot on. There was another British couple on the table for two next to us and we got chatting when he realised I was people watching and relaying my observations back to Mr C. We exchanged some stories and had a good giggle between us. My observation of the evening had been the same irritating couple as last night. I had been getting some salad and he was in front of me. He selected his salads but then the girl didn’t toss it to his liking. Poor girl was as shocked as I was and he insisted she start a fresh. I was so disgusted I must have tutted a little too loud because a chef appeared from nowhere to ask if I was ok. I couldn’t begin to explain, but he served me my salad and I went and sat down. The ‘man’ was still making a fuss. He must have fetched five or six plates of food to his wife, who doesn’t appear to be allowed to make her own choice. Then I saw him complaining, and the chef attended his table twice. I just had to roll my eyes. He just seems pretty arrogant to me.

After dinner we went back to Martini Bar. We could have gone the show, or the casino, or happy hour in Horizons, but we like Martini Bar and we have it more or less to ourselves, just the way we like it. Tonight the bars staff went above and beyond. Enrique and Mr C were chatting about how much they love to sleep. Then it turned to a conversation about hot chocolate and cookies. I commented that Mr C should have asked Anthony, the Butler to prepare him some for bedtime. Enrique was on the case, he was on the phone and had it ordered for bedtime. That has to be the height of laziness on Mr C’s part, sometimes he can be an embarrassment! But when we turned in, there was the flask of hot chocolate and 4 big cookies. Best hot chocolate at sea, and Mr C was in his element!

Sunday 28th February 2016 – St Lucia.
P1090839Another day another port. I woke up as we were approaching port, mainly due to Mr C being out on the balcony with the door open and an aeroplane getting ready to take off on the small runway just by the port. I sat on the balcony for a while whilst we tied up and then we wandered up to breakfast at the Terrace Cafe. We sat outside and were treated to a sprinkling of liquid sunshine. Some ran for cover but they put the parasol up for us and by the time they did so the rain had stopped. I had cornflakes and a toasted salmon bagel. Delicious.

We pondered for quite a while trying to decide what to do with our day. I knew I didn’t want to go to Rodney Bay, Spinakers Beach because last time I went it was way too busy and commercialised. I fancied going to Marigoit Bay but it was a 7km ride away in a small boat, and I was worried it might be a bit too choppy because we had found a few lumps in the sea on our way in last night. It was also threatening more rain so we opted to stay out and just chill out on board. I did later enquire how much the small ferry boat was to Marigoit Bay and the man in the boat told me it was $25 each way. We sat in deck and we were treated to two lots of liquid sunshine before the clouds passed and the sun came through. One lot of liquid sunshine was quite serious but we just laid in it and soaked it up. But oh boy when the sun came through was it hot. It was so hot we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We went in the pool. We went in the Jacuzzi which turned out to be hotter than a bath. I laid in the water at the side of the pool. I had a couple of Yellow Bird cocktails. No, it was just too hot, and the sun too intense, so I headed for the tranquillity if my air conditioned suite and a cold shower. Bliss, sheer bliss.

P1090834Time to contemplate lunch, and you guessed it we opted for the aft Terrace again. We did contemplate Waves Grill but like to be able to control portion sizes. So what did I choose for lunch. A bowl of piping hot vegetable soup! It was lovely light spring vegetable but oh heck it was hot. Then I had just a small portion of pasta and a nice bowl of salad, followed by rum and raisin ice cream. Oceania ice cream on here is amazing. The sommelier had been very attentive and topped up my glass twice. I don’t know what I was drinking but it was very nice. I think it might have been called Pineapple Ridge or something.

After lunch we took a stroll down to Pointe Seraphine to look at the shops. I have never ever seen it so quiet down here beauty of being in a smaller ship I guess and thankfully Rum Therapy karaoke was not in full swing! I must be a Brits thing and when they see a P&O ship fine in and they crank it up. Today Rum Therapy was a serene oasis of mainly crew sat under the palm tree umberellas making use of the wifi enjoying a cold bear. I didn’t buy anything. I did go into a jewellers and tried on some diamond rings, just because I could. The people in the shop were very nice, no hassle or pressure. I left Mr C ashore using the free wifi but I needed to retreat to o coolness of the ship before I melted. I took one look at my bed and woke up two hours later when we had sailed. Thankfully Mr C was on the balcony so he had made it back on board all by himself. Anthony dropped by with some canapés. He seems concerned that I haven’t ordered any the last couple of nights but truth is there is just too much food. I pacified him by allowing him to leave me some fruit skewers.

P1090780We are dining in Chez Jacques this evening. We arrived at Martini Bar a little too early again and my bar was rammed. Bar staff found me a barstool tucked into the far corner and soon had my Breezetini on the bar along with yet more canapés. Killer pianist, as we call him, was clanking away and tapping his feet. He seems a very angry pianist, possibly locked away with a piano as a child and ordered to practice. The Americans seem to love him but he can murder a good tune. The bar staff know I don’t appreciate his music so when some bar stools became free at the other end of the bar Enrique moved us. At 7.35 the pianist stopped and the majority of the Americans went to dinner. Normality was resumed at the bar once more. A couple from Texas joined us at the bar. They were an amusing pair. My love of Martini cocktails seemed to amuse him and my knowledge of the subject impressed him. My red bowed shoes and bag were also causing a bit of a hit again with lots stopping to admire.
P1090876Jacques French bistro is a very popular dining venue but he is the Chef of the fleet. We had a nice table for two by the window. Sommelier was in hand to advise me of my wine choice for the evening. From the menu, I opted for pumpkin soup and the chicken this evening. Mr C had the pork chop which I know is always good. Crepe suzette to finish and all was good. Mr C could hear his pot of hot chocolate calling him. The food in Chez Jacques was amazing, but we were beat, and decided we cant take any more this evening. Mr C has assigned Anthony Butler the role of hot chocolate delivery before he retires for the night. Back at the suite, there it was. Flask of hot chocolate and four cookies. What a star.

Monday 29th February 2016 – St. Maarten
Where is Mr C? I woke up it was dark and he didn’t appear to be around. Eventually I got out of bed checked the balcony, he wasn’t out there. Checked the bathroom, no not in there, so I checked the walk in wardrobe just in case, but he wasn’t in there either. It was 5.49 am and he was missing in action. I snoozed for a bit, when really I guess I should have been worried and raised an alarm or something? I sat on the balcony and watched the officer of the watch playing or texting on his phone. Then I went back to bed to do some writing. Eventually Mr C emerged in his gym kit and with an Illy coffee delivery. I don’t know what he had done but he had miscalculated the time and arrived at the gym an hour before it opened. He had also forgotten his door keycard so wouldn’t come back to the suite to knock the door for fear of waking me lol.

P1090882Breakfast was out in the sunshine in the aft Terrace just as the first few passengers were going ashore for the tours. For now we are the only ship in but MSC Orchestra and Horizon are due in later. Neither of us knew what we wanted for breakfast today. We both started with fresh fruit. Melon, strawberries and pineapple. But I made a bad choice of trying to construct some beans on toast. Their butter has no salt in it and their baked beans are just plain odd, no salt, no sugar no colour. So my breakfast was a fail and I couldn’t be bothered to see what else I wanted. We opted to walk into town. The duty free area was like a ghost town. The walk into town was a hot one. First thing I saw as we turned out of the port gates was a dinosaur lizard so I was upset for the rest of the walk and on very high alert. I didn’t feel much happier about it in the town having met one in the palm trees before. We walked along the shopping street. Every shop keeper tried to entice us in because we were literally the only people around. We walked back along the prom and then sat at Delphines for one or two of her amazing fresh strawberry Daiquiri. Mr C couldn’t take the brain freeze so continued with beer. Then we went diamond shopping! I can’t tell you how close I was to having a 1.5ct diamond solitaire. It did seem a very good price by the time I had finished with the nice shop keeper man. Mr C was being plied with ice cold P1090912beer in the shop. Little did the nice shopkeeper know that I was controlling the budget, not Mr C. Truth is we had gone in for a diamond bracelet, but I want another ring, and once I had got the man talking about solitaires I couldn’t down grade to a bracelet. We walked away in the hope that he would make his good price more in line with my spending money. But it didn’t happen. We continued to the end of the shopping street then cut through to the prom and walked the full length of it again. Heck, it was hot, like intense hot. We retreated into the Greenhouse for an ice cold beer and a cola and we shared a jerk chicken wrap and fries. Then, just to torture ourselves a little bit more we decided to walk all the way back to the jewellers just to see if he really wanted to sell it for my price not his. He came down a little, but this time we decided to decline and maybe budget for it better next time. And as if we hadn’t done enough walking for the day we had to walk all the way back along the prom again and all the way back to the ship. Yes we could have got the water taxi for $7 each but it was far more fun trying to see if we could survive the walk in the intense heat. I actually felt like I wouldn’t survive as we approached the ship. My skin was frying despite the factor 30. Thank goodness I set the air conditioning in the suite to lowest setting before we left. It was like walking into a fridge. Bliss. I climbed under the big rain shower and set it to cool. Ahh that was better.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the suite with the balcony door firmly shut to keep any heat well and truly outside! How wrong does that sound. Anthony dropped by with the canapés. Today we had tortilla chips and samosas.

Martini Bar wasn’t as busy this evening so we were able to get a seat at the bar without problem. When I say it wasn’t as busy, it didn’t seem as busy, but the poor bar staff were run off their feet and it seemed to be the far side of the room that was busier than the rest of it.

Caribbean buffetThere was a Caribbean buffet up at Terrace Cafe so once again we chose to eat up there. I don’t mind we eat because all of them are exceptional. I had some very nice jerk chicken with a baked potato and sour cream, and a bowl of fresh salad topped with fresh pineapple. Delicious. We had a little stroll out on deck and then went along to Martini Bar. Why change the habit of a cruise! The comedian in the theatre was said to be very good, and up in Horizons Lounge it was New Year celebrations every 15 minutes. Quite a party from what I hear with balloons, streamers and a great party atmosphere. But we were just here to chill, so that’s what we did with a Martini or two.
Mr C had an appointment with a pot of hot chocolate and some cookies. Anthony the Butler now makes it his last task of the evening before he finishes to leave a pot of fresh hot chocolate for us. We only had to ask him the once, and he knew to deliver. Can’t fault him and his Butler skills.

Tuesday 1st March 2016 – at sea
P1090923The day started with Anthony delivering a champagne breakfast. Not a bad way to wake up! All I had to do was get myself to the dining table at the foot of the bed. I was tempted to climb back into bed afterwards but we went up on deck instead. It was lovely at first, sunny with a nice warm breeze. But the Captain went and found a few too many rain clouds and so I had to retreat to the bar. I couldn’t quite see what the problem was with having an Alahbamha Slammer at 8.55am, but the barman seemed a little taken aback lol. As soon as the rain stopped the deck boys stripped all the sun loungers of the covers and replaced them with fresh clean ones. That was it, I settled down with a Yellow Bird and all was good. The band were on deck for a few lunchtime tunes. I fetched myself a light lunch from Waves Grill, then laid back and took in the rays. Before I knew it I was snoozing. It was bliss. I woke up a little burnt though on the legs.
I decided it was enough sun for one day so we retreated to the suite where I ran a nice Bvlgari bath and had a soak. The beauty of this bathroom meant that Mr C could take a shower in the shower cubicle at the same time. No need to queue.

P1090949As we hadn’t had time to do afternoon tea yet this cruise, so we went upto the Horizon Lounge for white gloved afternoon tea. Oceania execute this very well, dare I say better than Cunard! White gloved waiters come around with silver trays of beautifully prepared sandwiches. My salmon sandwich had been finished with a tiny lemon peel decoration. Their attention to detail is perfect. The cake trolley was laden with all sorts of tempting delights. There is also a display table laden with lots of choice. Beautiful China ware too. I made mine a champagne afternoon tea, that’s another beauty of the drinks package.
On our way back from afternoon tea we called in to see Sharon the Oceania future cruise manager, and booked another cruise! And why not. We got $100 OBC to use on this cruise, we got money off the next cruise for booking on board, and we got a price guarantee. So, if the cruise goes to a better deal right up until departure we will always be guaranteed the better deal. We also got $400pp OBC from the current Oceania offers, free unlimited wifi, free flights and a great price. What’s not to like!
I needed a lay down after such a busy afternoon.

Grande Dining RoomIt was a little busy everywhere this evening due to the Captain announcing two hours of complimentary drinks. Very nice of him but he forgets some of us have already paid for them on a drinks package. It did make the bar very busy but I got my barstool eventually. We wanted to dine in the Grande Dining Room this evening and for some reason there has been a bit of a wait for table for two. If you are willing to share you can be seated immediately, but I like my own space. I now have the table situation Sussed. I wandered down to see the Maître De and sure enough there was a 30 minute wait for tables for two. Perfect timing for us as it would mean we eat at our preferred time of 8.30pm. So my details were noted and I strolled back to the Martini Bar. No pagers on here, they send a steward out to look for you and escort you into dinner. Impressive!
There was a gala menu this evening. Anthony the Butler had told us all about it so we knew what to expect. The food has been utterly amazing wherever we have chosen to dine. There were a lot of tables being hosted by various officers and ships company. Excellent meal with service to match.
There was a show on in the theatre which the entire ship seemed to attend because at the end of the show it was the parade of crew. I should have made the effort to go and if I hadn’t have seen it before maybe I would have. Instead we had a very enjoyable couple of hours at the bar with another couple we often chat too and the bar staff are fab in there. Mr C got himself a large brandy to take to bed, and Anthony had been a star again and delivered the pot of hot chocolate which was still piping hot. Bed is bliss. I love my Oceania bed.

Wednesday 2nd March 2016 – at sea
cocktail OceaniaMr C was up and out and at the gym for 6.00am and arrived back at the suite just as Anthony was laying out the breakfast of cornflakes, orange juice, smoked salmon bagels and breakfast tea. Well actually it was ‘afternoon’ tea, for which Anthony was very apologetic about.

The plan was to get out of the suite early so it could be serviced, then I would come back in and pack, and the rest of the day could be at leisure. That’s where it all went a bit wrong. I saw my sun lounger up on deck and didn’t move for another three hours. It was a glorious morning. Perfect sea day. I think I may have had two cocktails before 10.00am. Well, I am on holiday. They were strong too. They do know how to mix a good cocktail on Oceania. By 11.30am I felt I could take no more sun. So we got freshened up and went for our final lunch on the aft of Terrace Cafe. Yes, I was back in the sun again! It was just amazing though. Sun shining. Blue sky and deep blue sea and then a dolphin swam past, really close to the stern of the ship and there was only us there to witness it. I have loved the food in Terrace Cafe. I can chose exactly what I want and many times have had it freshly prepared for me and cooked fresh. The pasta dishes have been a favourite.

I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to pack. I just couldn’t seem to crack on with it. I had to stop at one point for a cold shower. Packing seemed to take forever. I have to be in the mood to pack and generally speaking I never am at the end of a cruise. We sat on the balcony for an hour or so it was beyond glorious and it seemed such a shame to waste the perfect afternoon. Anthony came in with the canapés at 5.00pm and I asked him if it was a myth that Butlers do the packing for guests. I think his chuckle spoke volumes. It was as if to say “Madam I’m a bloke. I will just throw it all in for you if you want me to” He went off having a right old chuckle to himself!
The sunset this evening was the best of the cruise. Simply stunning huge orange ball setting on the deep blue sea.

We were out for just gone 7.30pm. We try to time it just as the killer pianist is finishing. The bar is generally busy when he is on because he seems very popular but we think he murders a good tune.
P1100018We dined in Red Ginger this evening, and in my opinion we saved the best until last I do love Red Ginger. The food in here is just superb. So much choice, as there is in all of the other restaurants, maybe it’s just that this one, being Asian Fusion, that makes it just that little bit different. Mr C couldn’t manage a desert so chose to utilise that time, whilst I ate my trio of sorbets, by having a power nap! He’s done well, it is the first time this cruise!! And it gave him a second P1100033wind to manage a final visit to Martini Bar. We had a lovely last evening joined at the bar by two of the couples we have met during our cruise. We shared a few giggles and laughs and it was the best way to end a perfect cruise. Very reluctantly we headed to bed just after midnight. I had to lay the last few remaining things in the suitcases and Mr C put them outside the suite door to await collection.
Anthony had pre delivered the pot of hot chocolate, despite it being the last night. We still had our luxurious bathrobes, the steward hadn’t placed the next set of bed linen into the drawers or cleared all of the stationary. This suite was still well and truly ours right up until the time came for us to vacate it for disembarkation. It has long been an irritation of mine on other major cruise lines when things have disappeared the afternoon or evening prior to the end of a cruise, and the next occupants welcome pack had been placed in a draw with the new bed linen etc. The hot chocolate was the best. My head hit the pillow and I was gone.

Thursday 3rd March/Friday 4th March 2016 – Miami
P1100039Mr C was awake early and prowling around. He can be so irritating at times. He was missing his gym session. He had the balcony door open so the noise from the pilot boat woke me. I’m glad in a way that I was awoken because it meant I got to see the Miami skyline light up as the sun started to rise. The Intercontinental was scrolling the message Good Morning Miami across the building.
Anthony, nor Oceania, didn’t let us down as suite guests. We were still able to order room service breakfast even on the morning of disembarkation. That’s a first for me. Not even a hint of ‘your cruise is over’ Anthony delivered the breakfast exactly at the requested time of 6.45am and his service was exemplary as it has been all cruise. The breakfast was perfect. Our Penthouse suite has been just perfect for us. I aspire to one day have a higher grade Oceania Suite, but for now this has been a very comfortable suite for us. After breakfast we were able to retreat to my favoured sun lounger just before 8.00am and wait for disembarkation to commence. US immigration were being particularly thorough this morning for some reason with crew immigration, and then an inspection if P1100060the ship. This had an impact in passenger disembarkation starting and some of my fellow passengers were becoming a little bit irritating, shall we say. They had decided to do exactly what they shouldn’t do and did block the stairwells and alleyways and a grid lock situation arose as we were called to disembark. But we made it but not without negotiating a few stubborn bodies sat on stairways etc. The baggage hall was in equal chaos with baggage handlers struggling to be allowed back in to waiting guests, and so tempers were fraying with lack of porters and no trollies. However we did make it outside, assisted by a very jolly porter, and set us down at the kerbside while Mr C ordered an Uber cab via his app. It’s the future, and a lot cheaper.

P1100070We had arranged to leave our luggage with the Concierge at the intercontinental for the day so once that was sorted we headed up to their pool area with the intention of just chilling out for the day there. But it was hot, intense burning sunshine hot and we decided we couldn’t do it. So, we decided to take a walk across to Bayside for something to do. I’m not a fan of this place but there is little else around. In hindsight I wish we had gone across to South Beach. It would have possibly been less crowded than it had been when we visited pre cruise. Bayside is just full of tat, expensive tat at that. I also needed to avoid ‘snake pit alley’ where I knew the man to be with the snake draped around his neck. Mr C later informed me that he had an alligator with him today. That is compatible to a dinosaur! We sat and had a coffee before heading back to the hotel lobby to cool down. The park was closed off because it was being prepared for some music festival, so we had to walk via the roadway. That’s when I spotted ‘Dress for Less’ oh my days it was like TKMaxx on steroids. Mr C did not seem impressed. I avoided any purchases this time, but now I know it’s there it might be different next time if I ever find myself in Miami again.

Back at the hotel we had a quick change of clothes, and a freshen up, before retrieving the cases and ordering the final Uber cab of this trip to take us to Miami International airport. Once at the airport we checked in without any queue or hassle but getting through security, or anywhere near it, was another story. It was basically 35 mins of wait in line and be shouted at, but you just had to grin and bear it. Miami airport had very little to offer, either in the way of comfort or retail therapy opportunities. Maybe other terminals are different but terminal F is pretty dire. I managed to recharge my phone a one of the charging terminals, and we had a very yummy pepperoni pizza to share from Pizza Hut, other than that I have nothing good to say about my airport experience. I must listen to myself and book an airport lounge next time.

flight homeFlight was on time and pilot is advising 7hrs 20 mins flying time. Do they take a different route home or something? It was in excess of 10 hrs torture on the way out. It made the thought of being on the plane a little more bearable. I had a plan. Watch a bit if TV, have a drink, eat meal, take an Avomine which would hopefully sent me to sleep. It most went to plan. I watched a 45 minute documentary. Main meal arrived in the form beef and crispy potato topping. I declined the wine, took my tablet, got my pillow, wrapped up, lights out, sleep! Result! I usually spend hours staring into space on flights. I did wake up at one point and became puzzled by the bright lights outside. It took me ages to work out that they were the stars. Wow, it was so clear, I was mesmerised. Then I must have fallen asleep again because the next thing I knew the bright lights were on and there was a blonde haired Virgin flight attendant in my face asking what I wanted for breakfast. I honestly couldn’t compute the question. It took me ages to work out where I was never what breakfast could possibly consist of. I soon regretted her waking me. I thought the breakfast was vile, but Mr C didn’t agree and ate every last bit of his. By now the sun was waking the sky up and it was like I was watching it from an upside down horizon of cloud. As we broke through the cloud cover the British coast line was below us and we were soon flying over Canary Wharf and other London landmarks.

Yet again we had arrived at a gate as far away as possible from passport control, but when we eventually did arrive at passport control so did several hundred others. Mr C had his smart head on and decided he could blag his way through ‘Fast Track’ I told him it wouldn’t work and sure enough we were sent back with a flee in our ear and had to rejoin the original queue behind a few more hundred people. It was the longest snaking queue ever with about twenty zigzag lanes. It was hot, there was no air, and people were getting irritable. But what could we do. They were being thorough. Where had we been? Why had we been there? Lady immigration officer was pleasant enough, but I was struggling to be pleasant back. By the time we arrived at the luggage carousel many of the cases had been taken off and placed at the side. Our cases were quickly located and we were out the doors. Now we just had to find the valet parking collection point. Instructions were short and to the point, and easily located. We were in the car an enroute for home. Mr C set up SatNav woman, and brace yourself, this is where it all gets a bit tense. Mr C asked me to help him navigate his way out of the airport. I was confused why I needed to assist with directions when he had SatNav woman to do that for him. But I obliged and got him out of the airport perimeter and onto a main island which was well signposted. Next thing I knew we had the first frayed temper of the holiday. He panicked about SatNav’s choice lane and before I knew it we were on a dual carriageway that I knew we shouldn’t be. No worries there as an exit approaching. But, what? How did he miss it? Oh let’s carry on in totally the wrong direction for a while longer. He pulled over in a side street to give SatNav woman a bit of a talking to, and after some choice words, he was back on the dual carriageway heading in the direction of our original starting point. Recovery over I stayed alert to put him onto theM40. And relax! Mr C was struggling, and I knew I couldn’t get behind the wheel due to my super tiredness. So Cherwell Valley services provided him with a place to power nap and me the opportunity to nip into M&s to break me in gently to ‘normal food’

P1100050This has been one of the best cruises I have had for a long time. After my third cruise I feel fully settled into the Oceania way. Could I go back to one of the mainstream cruise lines, with thousands of passengers to share my deck space with? I doubt it. Everything just happens so effortlessly with Oceania and they execute it very well. The little touches are there, little touches that make a massive difference. Oceania has everything I want out of a cruise and more. If I want to go to a show after dinner, I can go to one. If I want a late night venue there is one. If I want to sit and totally chillax I can do it.

To summarise, we have had the most amazingly, fantastic cruise on Oceania Riviera. Miami, I could take it or leave it. Im not a city girl, never have been. For me, Miami is a means to an end. I realise now we possibly chose the worst day of the week to visit South Beach, and hopefully next time will be mid week when I would like to think it is a little more serene there. For me it just reminded me of a computer game that my boys used to play. I think it might have been ‘Grand Theft Auto’ But the holiday was never about Miami, that was just a pre cruise stay, that was supposed to help us get over any jet lag. Im not sure it did serve its purpose, but Im sure it was better than going direct to the ship.
P1100068The more cruises that I do with Oceania the more I realise that this is the best way to cruise. Great food, great service, lovely suite, great ports. Oceania is my kind of cruise. Stunning environment, less passengers. Higher level of food and dining than mainstream cruise lines. All in all much, much more than a main stream cruise line can offer me for my list of needs. Is it expensive? No not in my opinion. Before I booked this cruise I compared it to the same two weeks on P&O Britannia in a Superior Deluxe balcony cabin, Caribbean. Or same two weeks on Royal Princess in a mini suite, Caribbean. The ‘cruise fare’ was less on Oceania and included far more, and more importantly, I knew I was going to get much better value for money. I had higher grade accommodation on Oceania – Penthouse with Butler. The fare at the time included pre paid gratuities and a drinks package, and free flights! All 4 of the specialty dining venues are complimentary as standard on Oceania. I can easily spend £1000 in on board spend on a P&O Cruises! We walked off Oceania, having drank premium drinks day and night, ate in all of the specialty dining venues and had some of the best food at sea, service was exceptional and I dining have even one slight niggle about anything! Our on board account at the end of 10 days? $135!!!
Me and Mr C have decided that if we are ever in a position to do a World Cruise, this would be our preference of cruise line to take that journey, pretty confident that we would return relaxed, after taking in the wonderful sights around the world.

P1090996Oceania currently have some amazing deals which include upto $1000 OBC, complimentary free wifi. You can also opt to have free shore excursions or the classic drinks package instead of the on board credit. Free air fare is pretty standard. Many departures have £99 air upgrades to Business Class. What does the fare include? All soft drinks, all bottled water, all Twinning’s teas and Illy coffee, all ice creams (oh they are delicious) all milk shakes, all smoothies. The in cabin fridge is replenished daily with cans of branded soft drinks and bottles of water. Speciality dining in Toscana, Polo Grill, Red Ginger and Jaques is all included! Room service – included! Add the standard items included to the different offers that Oceania have and the fare represents more than good value for money.

Both Lizy and myself have cruised with Oceania a few times so we consider ourselves to be more than knowledgeable about all things Oceania. Oceania have six stunning ships in their fleet with a wide range of itineraries and have pretty much everywhere covered.

Contact Jane or Lizy to discuss your next Oceania cruise options. Tel 02476 742135 or email us janechadwick@gocruise.co.uk

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