Western Caribbean cruise
Oceania Cruise Line is not only the world’s largest upscale cruise line, it is probably the least expensive in the upscale category. We asked Nevada's Kathryn Skelley-Bird to share her Oceania Western Caribbean cruise experience with us. She called the cruise aboard the Oceania Regatta, "perfection!"
Here's her story -
I've spent years trying to convince my husband to take a cruise. With our 20th wedding anniversary approaching, I finally put down my foot and told him we WOULD take a cruise to celebrate. I was concerned that 10 nights might be too long for his first cruise experience, but he ended up loving it! We agree that this was the best vacation either of us has ever had.
Darrell and I are both highly critical of what passes for customer service these days but we found the experience aboard the Oceania Regatta to be as close to perfection as humanly possible.
The Regatta carries about 650 passengers from six nations and almost 400 crew members from 41 nations. The various accents blended into a beautiful symphony. With so few people on board, we felt that we got to know other passengers and the staff better. My husband had promised to get to know the bartenders by name before the cruise was over - a goal that only took two or three days to accomplish! It wasn't long before he'd enter a bar and hear "Mr. B! Heinecken or Jack Daniels today, sir?"
As the pilot boat guided the Regatta out of the Port of Miami, the Horizons Band played "Anchors Away" while Regatta Officers paraded around the deck to the music.
Afternoon tea was accompanied by a string quartet. Happy hour was enhanced by a pianist.
The Grand Dining Room was just that - grand. Service was impeccable in all of the restaurants. The food was awesome, drinks were generous and, as to desserts, let me just say that I had more than a few "When Harry Met Sally" moments with the desserts!
The Canyon Ranch Spa is wonderful. I got in twice on short notice. Melanie from Jamaica gave me the best-looking french pedicure I've ever had.
The swimming pool was nice, although bigger would be better. There were lots of deck chairs supplied with clean beach towels. There is a fitness center inside, as well as an outdoor walking/jogging track.
There were many activities for those who wish to participate: Daily Trivia contests, putting and ping pong competition, bridge, etc. There were shore excursions that required almost no physical exertion as well as excursions that were very physical. I took two excursions that were among the best experiences of my life: the dolphin encounter on Roatan and the airboat adventure in Belize.
There were some guest lecturers aboard, most notably Terry Bishop whose presentations are enthralling. Leslie Stabile, who makes beautiful jewelry from sea glass, was aboard sharing her passion and art with the guests.
There was a food preparation presentation, wine tasting, scotch tasting and martini tasting.
There were almost no children, which is one of the reasons we chose this cruise line. The demographic is older retired frequent "cruisers," most of whom are Oceania regulars. I disagree, however, with a review I read elsewhere that said there were no apre-dinner activities. The shows didn't begin until 9:00 PM; with entertainment scheduled for 9:00, 9:30 and 9:45. There was music and dancing on the deck beginning at 10:00 PM on at least two occasions.
Key West, Florida's Duvall Street is quite the happenin' place. Key West seems to be a wild and crazy place. There is a heavy Cuban influence in Key West. The banyan trees are amazing and unique. The only time we ate lunch on shore was in Key West. We ate at this outdoor restaurant where I tried conch (pronounced "conk") fritters for the first time. If you are really feeling adventurous, have a drink at The Garden of Eden, a rooftop, clothing-optional bar on top of the Bull and Whistle at the corner of Duval and Caroline!
For gay visitors, the GLBT Visitor Center is located at 513 Truman Avenue behind the Duval Street Denny's and it is open from 9 to 5 seven days a week. Key West hosts numerous LGBT events annually and is home to a number of gay and lesbian accomodations. Phone (305)-294-4603 for more information.
Roatan, Honduras is perhaps the most beautiful place I've ever visited. Private beach on Roatan, Honduras. Phil and Terese and I were in Gracie's group at the Dolphin Encounter. This water was so beautiful I actually donned a swimming suit and wore it in front of people! The water was perfect. To get from Mahogany Bay to the beach where we went, you can walk or take the aerial tramway.
Belize was one of the best experiences of my life. As we toured the mangroves in an airboat, our guide Nouri pointed out various birds. Everyone had to wear ear muffs when the boat was underway, due to loud engine noise. We saw mangroves, a crocodile's nest, and many beautiful birds - including many we'd never seen before.
During our time on Grand Cayman, we chose to visit the Botanical Gardens. A sign in the parking lot reads "Check for sleeping iguanas under your wheels."Blue Iguanas are endangered but there are many different species of iguana and they are plentiful in the Caymans.
Cozumel, Mexico is filled with opportunities for snorkeling and fishing and its coral reefs have been world famous since Jaques Cousteau's 1950s expeditions and exposure. Punta Sur on the island's southern point houses a 247 acre ecological park which includes reefs, beaches, lagoons and a lighthouse.
According to the Oceania website, nearly 70% of their staterooms feature a private veranda and 90% have ocean views. "You will enjoy the intimacy, camaraderie and unrivaled personal service that only a ship of this size provides, without foregoing all the comforts and amenities you expect in a much larger ship. Rich, warm mahogany decor, soft carpeting and a grand, sweeping staircase are sophisticated touches from the days of classic cruising."
The onboard atmosphere of the Oceania Regatta is "relaxed and reminiscent of the casual elegance of a private country club." Tuxedos and gowns are never required and you may dine when, where and with whom you choose and enjoy the flexibility that comes from four open-seating restaurants.
The Oceania Western Caribbean cruise aboard the Regatta is a great way to experience a luxury cruise with flexible dining and a casual-elegance atmosphere.
You can learn more about Oceania cruises at http://www.oceaniacruises.com
Kathryn Skelley-Bird is a lifelong world traveler. She has contributed travel, entertainment, wine and restaurant reviews to multiple outlets.
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