When I travel I never look for the most expensive hotel. I just do not need the "comforts" those hotels offer. A good bed, clean room, sanitary bathroom facilities that are well thought out and work well, a restaurant near by that serves great food is what I look for. I like a quiet, spacious room. I do like cool rooms, not hot rooms. I way prefer air conditioning over a whirling fan. Yes, like most people I am a spoiled human that just likes to live with a certain level of civilization. A view, while nice does not seem that important to me. I do like natural, happy and smiling service. I do not like, grumpy, unhappy or miserable, thieving individuals around me. When I have to pay for an overnight stay, I like to find the best I can get for the least money I must spend. I have met people that do not think the way I think. Some just want a bed in any condition and will make do with noise, dirt or inconveniences. Others seem to need pampering more than anything else and will pay any price to be made to feel 'special'.
Cruising is a floating hotel. Firstly you pick a hotel when you go for a cruise. There are certain ways a Reeder runs his ships. You need to know what kind of clientele he pursues and how he looks at activities during the days spent on board. I have been on exactly two cruises before I took the Oceania cruise. Yes, I have talked to people that cruised more than I did, but picking your cruise line, the one that fits you best, is difficult and akin to picking a hotel chain. Is Hilton your choice or Best Western? Or will Motel 6 do? All your choice.
We, Carol and I, opted to give Oceania a try. Oceania sort of fits the criteria we learned makes for a better cruise in our age group. No water slides or activities targeted for children. I do not like to be surrounded by noisy, bratty and undisciplined children even in the best of circumstances. Certainly not while being on a ship in the middle of an ocean, unable to walk away from their shenanigans. We looked at Oceania because it has rooms that are quite large for on board facilities. The program the cruise director worked out is targeting our age group. No rap music parties, no raves or spring break kind of behaviors. Yes, I know, some think this is too boring, but those were our choices. For folks who love more 'action' let them try the Carnival cruise line. I for one did not want a carnival atmosphere while on vacation. I do love quiet surroundings and an intellectual approach. I loved the university type lectures without having to take a test or write a report. We were aware of the Holland American reeder and also of the Princess line but finally leaned towards Oceania because their ships are very new, their ratio passengers to crew is an astonishing 1.53 to 1 and their dress code is club casual, rather than formal. All good points in our estimation. The food on all cruise ships is good yet I believe Oceania's food delivery is outstanding. We never had a bad meal, we never waited for service, we never ran out of anything. Meals do play a substantial role during one's voyage.
I liked the idea, too that the tips were all included in the price. No tipping anytime just makes life easier. We never, ever had the feeling that the service lacked in anything because of the 'no tips' policy. We were in fact surprised as to how friendly the whole crew was at any time, day or night. Almost like they were drilled behind the scenes to be extra friendly and extra polite to all passengers. No differences were made as to folks who were kind of slow in getting about with walkers or canes. For sure the training program the cruise line installed and invested in was working. This is especially astonishing since the crew on our ship came from 56 different countries. Everybody spoke English, all could communicate well with us and each other.
Our cruise had 1170 passengers, almost the maximum capacity of 1200. The crew was a total of 796. The ship, the Marina, was inaugurated in 2011. All the latest technical innovations were built in, everything was run and guided with the help of computers. I can not think of anything that needed changing yet I did hear that some single ladies on board were not too happy. They just missed companionship. Maybe a better social program where singles could get together could be added.
Others preferred the idea of a 'permanent' dinner table to eat with the same folks all the time. Carol and I were just fine with the way it was, however. For every meal you find your table and eat your food. If you wanted company, just ask someone if you could sit with them. People never said no to us. If you prefer to 'dine' then you have had the option to visit 6 different on board restaurants specializing in different foods from different countries. We had Chez Jacques for French cuisine, Toscana for Northern Italian food, the Polo Grill for an American Steakhouse, Red Ginger for an Asian Fusion experience and others. Plenty to chose from. At any and all restaurants the choice was yours to eat as just a couple or share a meal with others. Yes, you did not sit with the exact same people all the time, but I see that as a plus. We had the experience that some people are just not compatible and I was glad not to be stuck with those folks for a whole cruise. One can not please all the people all the time, some concessions have to be made.
The gym on board was great, unfortunately I did not visit too often. I was plainly too busy attending all the lectures given, and reading all the books I had saved for this voyage. I never thought it possible, yet there was just too much to do. The nightly shows in the main theater featured a variety of performers that changed from port to port. While some artists left at a certain port, others came on. We experienced something new each night. While not world class, the performances certainly were first class. No complaints on my part.
With a lot of extra money to spend one could come off the ship a new person. A spa would strip off the old layers of skin, give you treatments that at least would make you feel younger. Add to that a daily gym session, cooking classes and eating different foods and in no time at all you would be a different you. At least that is what is promised. I will never know, I did not want to spend the extra dollars nor did I want to sweat in the gym for hours on end. But, I think I might do it some other time. I would certainly enjoy cooking classes. Or does that not count? A cruise can be a lot of things, one is given a lot of choices. It is always like Yogi Berra said: " you come to a fork in the road, take it!". When given the choice to cruise or not we took the cruise. Looking back it was a good choice. Let's see what other choices I will have to make, so far, so good.
More cruises? We will have to see when we come to the fork in the road !