Mrs P Embarkation DayBack to Forum
Anonymous3 Jul 2013
So the day we, or rather I, had been waiting for, for years I suppose, had finally arrived. Another breakfast, and luggage sorted and down for the short cab ride to the pier at Seattle Port.
Alaskan cruises are usually of 7 nights duration but some do go for 10 – some from Seattle and some from Vancouver. We were on a 14 night cruise, which is unusual and when the chance to go popped into my inbox from my favourite cruise consultant, I immediately booked it, then phoned the DH! The conversation went a bit like this – Me “Darling, you know how I have always wanted to go to Alaska” “Yes” says he “Well, what would you think about going on a cruise” asks me, “Great, can we talk about later, I have a room full of people”, “No problem” says me thinking oh good he is distracted, I’ll just hit him with it! “I just wanted to say I got the chance to book a 14 night Alaskan cruise, so I phoned Jacqui* (*see details below) and booked it, but we’ll talk about it later” – “OK darling, eh ….. hang on a minute, what did you just say????” splutters he. LOL! It was too good an opportunity to pass up and I am glad I booked when I did as it quickly became a sold-out cruise.
We have cruised before, on leisurely transatlantic crossings with lots of sea days, but this was the first time we would have port stops on 9 out of the 14 days and therefore we had excursions to research, plan and book. That is the royal “we” you understand – Mr P simply turns up!
I do enjoy all the planning and this was no exception, but it was totally uncharted territory and Alaska was unknown to either of us, so I scoured the internet, review sites, anywhere I thought I could find information, I looked.
The cruise line does of course offer their own excursions, but usually at a price much higher than you can find buying direct from the tour companies, guides etc., and often you get a much more personal experience than going on a larger ship excursion with a bus load of people. If you read my Australian adventures, you may remember we do like to go off the main tourist track a bit, and be slightly adventurous keeping in mind the advancing years and my dodgy knees – which I have to say are not so dodgy now I’ve lost a bit of weight – thanks MartynSinclair, you are unknowingly encouraging this fellow BT poster to follow your example and lose the weight that took years to accumulate! 😉 :-).
So with ports of call scheduled at Ketchikan, Sitka, Hoonah (Icy Straight Point), Seward, Kodiak, Skagway, Wrangell, Prince Rupert and Victoria (both in Canada), there was lots of planning to do.
A little bit about the MS Oceania Regatta
The Regatta sails with a maximum 684 passengers, or guests as Oceania prefers, and with a staff to guest ratio of 1-1.7, we were going to be well looked after, we hoped! We had opted for a Penthouse Suite – not really a suite in the true sense, but a larger stateroom with a private veranda. It was very comfortably furnished, if not a teeny tad dated, but everything worked well, was very clean, had ample storage (to empty out the contents of 4 large suitcases) and the bathroom had a full-sized bath with luxury Bulgari tolietries, so we were happy. And we had the luxury of our own Butler! Grand, eh?
Our embarkation was smooth just after 11 am (there are quite a few privileges with booking a higher category stateroom and early embarkation is one of them) and we were soon sitting on the outside deck of the Terrace Cafe waiting for the announcement that our stateroom would be ready. In the meantime we enjoyed a selection from the lunch buffet and a drink or two! Seattle was looking glorious in the sunshine with the Space Needle towering over the downtown area. It was a warm and sunny day and we were relaxed and happy to be on board.
As we were sat there relaxing, the housekeeping staff were busy below decks getting all the staterooms ready for occupation and, as soon as the announcement was made that our stateroom was ready, we headed off – now the second thing worse than packing to go home, is unpacking! With a butler you can dispense with all of that and they will do the needy for you, but I really don’t fancy the idea of a stranger packing away my Rigby and Pellers! When we arrived at our stateroom, a bottle of champagne was temptingly chilling in its ice-bucket alongside a platter of “welcome” canapes. We resisted the obvious temptation and as only one case had made it so far, so we decided to go on a tour of the ship. We literally walked the ship starting at the top and working our way down through the decks. The Regatta is furnished in what I would call traditional country house style, and can be a bit dark in some inside areas during the day, but in the evening, we really liked it. There are 4 restaurants, a casual dining area by the pool, a lovely library with a good selection of books, a show lounge, a Martinis Bar, an observation lounge where they served the most delicious afternoon tea and other nooks and crannies where you could plot yourself up with a good book in my case, or an e-reader for just about everyone else! And just for me, a Spa! The restaurants included the Grand Dining Room with a different menu every lunch and evening (they also served breakfast there), the Terrace Cafe which served buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner (the lunches and dinners were usually themed along the lines of maybe Indian, Asian, Seafood etc), and two speciality restaurants – Polo, steak and seafood fine dining and Toscana, Italian fine dining. You are allowed a set number of Speciality restaurants (SRs) bookings per cruise as they are much smaller venues and only open for dinner – again the higher up the level of stateroom you book, the earlier you can pre-book your SRs, so when the date for us to book opened up, I went online and quickly and easily selected the dates and times we wanted. They do, however, keep some space back so people can book when they get onboard, but you may then have to be more flexible what day and at what time you wish to dine. I pre-booked ours for days when we would have time to relax and really enjoy them. We had read so much about the food on Oceania, so this was an important part of the cruise for us!
Pretty much everything is included in your cruise fare, apart from alcoholic drinks, spa treatments and gratuities. Thanks to the lovely Jacqui*, we had an On Board Credit (OBC) which came in handy. They offer drinks packages, so you can choose from a wine and beer package, or a full package which means you can have everything including cocktails but excluding the very most expensive rare malts etc., whenever you want as long as a bar is open or with room service. So guess which one we had? It worked perfectly and we reckoned we saved a fair bit on taking the drinks package. Especially as every time you buy a drink, they add an 18% gratuity, but with the drinks package the gratuity is included. So unlike main stream cruise lines, where they nickel and dime you for everything, you could enjoy a cappuccino, or real milkshake (my secret indulgence on a cruise ship) anytime you wanted – it was all included. We also had a well-stocked fridge in the stateroom with soft drinks, and you just had to ask your butler for anything extra you wanted or swap things for your favourite.
When we returned after our exploration of the ship, our butler arrived and introduced himself, showing us around our suite and telling us he was there whenever we needed anything, and if he wasn’t on duty, there would always be someone who would respond to us 24 hours a day.
Our butler truly spoiled us – from having afternoon tea waiting for us when we arrived back from a busy day on shore – to making sure our fridge was stocked up with our favourite drinks – we really didn’t want for anything.
I really must mention our fellow guests – briefly. The ship was quite full, and although the majority of people we encountered were very pleasant and well-travelled, there were a few who would push and shove – maybe they thought that the food might run out, or they were somehow “entitled” to always be first in line – the food will never run out, or at least I would take a safe bet that it would not; and really you are on holiday, with lots of people looking after you ensuring you have a great time, so why get so het up, or angry, or rude, not only to fellow guests, but sometimes the way some people spoke or barked at the crew was disgraceful. So we avoided the early rush for everything, deciding after the first morning’s Terrace Cafe encounters that that breakfast buffet was not for us! On subsequent mornings, we enjoyed our breakfast in the comfort of our suite, served as we had ordered by our butler – it was fabulous if you were heading out early on a tour having breakfast brought to you, so we didn’t have to rush to get to the GDR. We also enjoyed our later, more leisurely lunches (when we were not ashore) and dinners which we had planned anyway; we avoided the “shows” which were not that much of cop that we didn’t feel we missed out; and as most then went to bed (60+ mainly on this cruise – not me haha!), we enjoyed our night cap in peace.
Oceania has an “open seating” policy, in that you dine where you want, when you want and with whoever you wish. We sometimes dined romantically a deux, and other times with new friends and we were also invited to dine with a couple of the senior officers on two separate occasions (La Dee Dah!! LOL!) Best bib and tucker those nights! But we did have fun and met people from Germany, Australia, the US, Canada, Russia, Romania, Belgium, and the UK. It always amuses me that you continue to bump into the same small group of people the whole cruise and end up having drinks and dinner with some of them. I imagine “like” attracts “like” – it was fun and we had some great dinners with some great people. You are never looking for “new Best Friends”, but it is lovely to be able to keep in touch with some, and we have cruised already with people we met on our very first cruise.
On board for this cruise was a British guest lecturer who is one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met on marine animals and environmental issues – we first met him and his wife at dinner and he was always on hand to point things out at sea that you really would not have noticed and suddenly with his enthusiasm and educating, you would spot a whale, or a pod of dolphins. I have to admit we didn’t go to his lectures – way too lazy for that! – but we did seem to bump into them a fair bit, so enjoyed a couple of entertaining lunches sitting out on the terrace whale spotting. I never knew whales had different “blow” sizes (i.e. height) and that can distinguish what type of whale they are before you even see them!
Oceania is known for having possibly “the best food at sea” – I have used the word “possibly” as we have not been on so many other cruise lines to compare all fairly, but having been previously on 2 other luxury lines and now Oceania, I think in my humble opinion, they can hold their head high and that reputation is well-deserved. With a few blips, not really worthy of mention here they were so minor, the food was excellent. The patisserie and breads have to be some of the finest I have ever enjoyed. What about “the diet”, you ask, what about the worry of the weigh-ins, you ask? Ah well, I am afraid my resolve did not last beyond the first dinner when they brought the most delicious food to our table in Polo – what’s a girl to do? Earlier at my distraught face and my mumbling, oh I would love that but I can’t, over and over, as I perused the menu, my darling DH just looked at me and said “don’t worry about it, have what you want” – so I did and got stuck into some bread – well I hadn’t eaten bread for weeks, so it was manna from heaven! Well, I didn’t have any butter the first night! LOL!
If you want to know anything more about Oceania, here is the link http://www.oceaniacruises.com and for all and every enquiry about them or any other cruise, I would highly recommend the very knowledgeable *Ms Jacqui Ridler, Regional Manager of The Luxury Cruise Company – http://www.theluxurycruisecompany.com – you could email Jacqui <a href="mailto:email@example.com“>firstname.lastname@example.org or 01323 763 579 (I have her permission to print her email, and phone number and please say Papillion sent you – nothing in it for me, just good for her to know). Jacqui has helped me with some of my dafter questions and has never batted an eyelid! She will not tell you who I am, so if you think contacting her will give you that information, please don’t waste her time! Not that you would be remotely interested, just saying! 🙂
So would I recommend Oceania – yes, for excellent value for money and for an itinerary you wanted to do – with a smaller ship they can access ports that many larger ships can’t or don’t. Would we sail with them again – yes, we are already booked (before I booked this one!). And the DH knows all about it! LOL!
Next time …… the towns, the people, the wildlife, the scenery of Glorious Alaska!
Edited to add: not sure what’s happened when I put in the email but it seems to post the first bit as an added link, so if you do need to contact Jacqui, click on the “second” email and it works!3 Jul 2013
Another splendid review.
Just a quick question on the food – I presume that would be an opportunity to discuss specific food requirements, but from the sound of things the kitchen could probably cope with a steak eater right across to a vegan….
What was the trip highlight in terms of the cruise. Did you get to see any polar bears??3 Jul 2013
MS – yes you can advise them of any dietary requirements before you board either through your TA, or you have an online booking system which shows all your details, so you can make any requests on your pre-boarding questionnaire. For run of the mill dietary requests, such as gluten free, low fat, diabetic, sugar free, there were always options readily available for that sort of thing. If you had anything a bit more complicated or unusual, it would be best to speak to them before you sail. Nothing seemed go be a problem and there was always a Healthy Option menu as well. So I think pretty much everyone was accommodated.
It would appear, however, that nearly everything I ordered was delivered with a flourish and the comment “calorie free”! 😉 🙂
Not far enough north for polar bears, but we did see Kodiak brown bears and grizzlies. Quite close too!
Highlights. Well so many, but one of mine was just the vast expanse of land that is Alaska, which when you fly over in a small dehavilland 4 seater seaplane and sweep over the snow-covered mountains and glaciers and forests you realise that it is most likely that no human has ever actually walked on that piece of our earth. It is so unspoilt and the air so clear and fresh.
And the wildlife – words are difficult to find to describe the feelings I had when I stood on the floats of the seaplane and watched bears digging up clams on the beach, a mere 15 feet or so away! We were close enough to hear them crunch the clams – they eat the whole thing. Apart from the gentle lapping of the water on the floats and the crunching of the clams, there was complete and utter silence under a cloudless blue sky. I don’t think any of us dared speak. It was magical.
Oh and when four humpback whales swam towards our small boat and split to go around us, literally sending us some whale action rock and roll! I could have touched their tails, they were so close. You are not allowed to go within a hundred yards of sea mammals, but if they come towards you, well that’s just fine. Even the lady who owned the small tour company rarely has that sort of close up and personal with a humpback!
In terms of the cruise specifically, it was we felt one of the best ways to see Alaska, as so much of it is only accessible by boat or plane. So we got a fantastic overview of so many different places. I also think we did well in choosing Oceania as we do like a smaller ship – I don’t think I would like the large ships with 3000 people on board.
Sitting having dinner eating some of the finest food and wines at sea, at a window table set with fine china, sparkling stem ware and enjoying gracious service and then spotting the telltale blow of humpbacks as the ship cruises the seas off Alaska with snow-capped mountains in the distance and the sun slowly setting ….. What more could a girl want … Oh yes her man to share it all with …. So very happy Mrs P! :-)))4 Jul 2013
Very many thanks for the contact, I’ve also looked at the www, very nice. I liked your description of the ship as it answered some little questions which I had wondered about.
Safe travels, and I wonder where you will be off to next?
Marlene9 Jul 2013