Sunny Getaways Cruise on the Oceania Riviera
3/20/16 to 4/2/16
Due to the length of the review, it is in 3 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.
Page 1 - Embarkation, Ship, Dining, Entertainment, Activities, Ports of Call: Santa Marta, Colombia; Oranjestad, Aruba
Page 2 - Ports of Call: Kralendijk, Bonaire; St. George's, Grenada; Fort de France, Martinique
Page 3 - Ports of Call: Pointe A Pitre, Guadeloupe; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Gustavia, St. Barts
During our first cruise on the Oceania Riviera in December 2014, we booked this cruise onboard, since we enjoyed the ship so much. The Riviera is one of the nicest ships we have sailed on in our 42 cruises. With our first Riviera cruise only being ten days, we thought fourteen days would be a great vacation. Plus, we would be able to visit seven ports out of the eight we had not cruised to before. To make the cruise even better our neighbors Hans and Barbara decided to book the cruise several months after we did, so we would be traveling with friends.
It is very easy to cruise out of the Port of Miami, since we live just an hour’s drive north of the port. Our biggest challenge in Miami is the parking. The port charges $20 dollars per day at the terminal parking. By driving down together, we were able to split the cost. We had been concerned about stuffing all the luggage into my Venza; but it worked out fine.
Oceania uses terminal J, which is the only one across the way from the main terminals. It is a bit inconvenient to get to it; but it is so nice, since there is much less traffic there.
I dropped everyone off with the luggage and I parked the car right across from the terminal. Entering the building, going up the elevator, going through security, getting our key cards and boarding the ship took less than 15 minutes. There were no lines to speak of and everything moved very quickly. We were on board by noon and heading for lunch. That is what is called a smooth embarkation.
Since we just did a complete review of the Riviera public areas in December 2014, I am not going to include it for this review, since no changes have been made to the ship. If you want to see what the ship looks like, you can click HERE to go to our Riviera Mayan Mystique cruise review.
We thoroughly enjoy cruising with Oceania and love the ships; but they do have terrible internet service. It was embarrassing how frequently the internet was totally down. When it was working, it was painfully slow, other than early in the morning or late at night when there were very few people using it. For a premium line, they really need to upgrade their service and provide customers a product that is equal to the price they charge for it.
Our first Riviera cruise was in December 2014, so the ship was decorated for Christmas. On this cruise, we would be cruising during Easter. A few days into the cruise, a display was set up in the lobby area of Easter Bunnies and Easter Eggs.
Noro Virus Code Red
This cruise started on a Sunday. On Tuesday morning, a sea day, we were told that eleven passengers had contracted a gastro intestinal illness and that enhanced sanitation procedures would begin. We were aware that the Riviera had Noro virus incidents on some cruises since November, and hoped that our cruise would not be affected. I had read many horror stories on Cruisecritic.com about how horrible the cruises that had gone on Code Red had been. The worst one came back to Miami two days early to completely deep clean the ship. Since there hadn’t been any Noro reported on the cruise just before ours, we hoped that this wouldn’t be an issue.
I had read about how miserable the prior Code Red procedures had been with disinfectant everywhere and limited activities. There had also been people that didn’t think that the precautions were that bad. I guess we would find out for ourselves, since we were cruising with Code Red.
Below are the various Code Red procedures that we experienced:
1. Several public areas were closed to all guests to reduce contact with guests who might have Noro. They were: the Library, Laundry, Artist Loft, Culinary Center, Concierge Lounge and Executive lounge.
2. When entering one of the shops, an attendant would spray your hands with a mild disinfectant. Pens to sign tickets were sprayed with disinfectant and allowed to dry before using them.
3. In order to enter any dining venue, guests had to show their World Pass cards and use the disinfectant dispensers to wipe their hands before entering.
4. Doors to the public restrooms were left open so that they didn’t need to be touched by guests. Plus, the cloth towels were removed and only paper towels were available.
5. Dining room tables were totally empty except for table cloths. When guests were seated, plates, glasses and utensils were placed in front of them.
6. Waiters brought around breads and butter to give to each guest individually rather than having it sitting on the table for guests to choose themselves.
7. Plastic was placed in front of open buffets in the Terrace Café and in Waves and all foods were served to the guest.
8. For part of the time, hamburgers could only be served well done.
9. Munchies were not served at bars.
10. A disinfectant spray was applied to surfaces people touched like stair rails, chairs, tables, doors and walls.
11. Guests were asked to report to the medical center if they had any type of gastro issues, such as vomiting or diarrhea for a free examination. If they were found to have gastro enteritis or Noro, both the sick guest and roommate would be quarantined in their cabin until cleared. To prevent sick guests from leaving their cabins without authorization red tape was affixed to their doors. I was told that if they did sneak out of their cabins, they could be required to leave the ship at the next port. Food would be brought to their room for all meals. The attendant would remove the tape, deliver the food and then put on new tape. This is what a quarantined cabin door looked like.
Reading through the above list, it does seem logical that the precautions were implemented, since they should reduce guests contact with one another due to passing germs from each other’s hands. Needless to say, some guests were very upset with the inconveniences. Some people were appalled that they would have to show their World Card to enter the restaurants. It didn’t make sense to them why they should have to do it, since they obviously had to have them to be on the ship. They didn’t realize that the guests who had been quarantined had to surrender their World Card. This procedure was to keep quarantined guests from sneaking out of their rooms and mixing with the healthy guests. It was quite surprising how after the first day, some guests still wouldn’t bring their cards to a meal and would have to go back to their room and get them. Of course there were those that confronted the attendants claiming that it was a stupid procedure and that they should be let in anyway. Some people just don’t know how to behave properly. Oceania was just trying to keep them from getting ill, and all they wanted to do was to fight the procedures.
There were many of us that didn’t understand why the casino remained open, since that is an area where contact with what other guests touched would be difficult to prevent. Since we don’t go to the casino, I don’t know if they were constantly wiping the slot machines, chips or cards to make them sanitary. I would hope they did.
The most hated and talked about procedure was the constant spraying and wiping of touchable surfaces with the various disinfectants. This included the elevators and the public bathrooms.
When you went to the restaurants, the wooden parts of the chairs that you touched would be a bit sticky. The tables in all areas were sprayed and left to dry on their own, so we did have to be careful where we sat. In the buffets and bars, a sign would be placed on tables that were not ready to be used, since the disinfectant had to remain on it for so many minutes. As soon as table guests left the tables, the process started again. To me, the main inconvenience of this procedure was that it reduced the number of tables to use.
When the cabin attendant cleaned our room, she would also spray and wipe the desk and tables with disinfectant.
It was obviously quite an increase in the workload for all the staff. It was particularly frustrating for guests in the buffet after getting their food and sitting down to have to wait for someone to bring them their cloth napkin wrapped utensils. No one wants to sit there watching their food get cold, while the attendants are having to attend to other guests needs. It was frustrating at times; but as the days went on, it became routine and the process did get quicker.
Because they were used constantly, the stair rails were normally wet from frequent spraying. The poor cabin attendants, who were already overworked due to the procedures they had to do that didn’t affect everyone, also had to regularly wipe down the hall rails and areas above and below them that could be touched.
This included the cabin doors and door handles. You could count on getting a wet hand when opening the doors. Not that bad, but you would want to wash your hands again when getting into the cabin; which also helped keep germs away. The first few days, the cabin attendants looked really tired since they were working from early morning until around midnight. Even with the exhausting schedule, they still managed to smile and greet the guests. Later in the cruise, it appeared that the schedule was modified some when there were no new cases, which eased the work load for the attendants.
In reading about previous Code Red incidents on the Riviera, a major complaint was that there was little communication about what was going on. On our cruise, the Captain would give a recap over the PA system at 5:00 PM of how many total cases there had been, the number of guests still under quarantine and the number of new cases. It did help us to understand that the procedures were helping to keep most of the guests healthy for the cruise. The final count showing on the CDC website, showed a total of 98 passengers (8.13%) and 6 crew members (0.77%) who had suffered from gastro problems. I don’t know if those were Noro, gastro enteritis or some other gastro problems.
In our opinion, the Code Red procedures were a minor inconvenience and we still had a most enjoyable cruise. My feelings could be different if we had been in Concierge Class or a suite and not been able to use those lounges. Plus, in our four Oceania cruises, we have never gone to the Culinary Center or Artist Loft. Additionally, both Carol and I both bring Kindles with lots of books to read, so we don’t use the library. With the self service laundromat being off limits, there was a ship laundry promotion that was extended throught the entire cruise. For a charge of $24.95 they would wash and fold up to 20 items.
Other than delays in being able to eat in the Terrace Café because we had to be brought silverware and some wet or sticky surfaces, the major negative for us was not having munchies while in the bars. A minor inconvenience to remain healthy. Plus, it saved us a few calories.
At our second port of call, Aruba, our ship was refused admittance to the port due to the Noro. Most of the passengers, including us, were not happy about not being able to dock in Aruba. People were mad at Oceania for it; but they should have been mad at the government of Aruba, not Oceania. Some people expected to receive a refund of the port charges for missing Aruba; but that didn’t happen; and I don’t remember it happening on other lines when a port was missed for some reason.
Many people were quite unhappy and complaining about everything, rather than just relaxing and enjoying the cruise. A major complaint of many of the people we talked to was that the people were complaining about every little thing. We talked to a couple who were going to demand a free cruise when they got home because they missed Aruba and had to deal with wet disinfectant. I do hope that they weren’t really counting on a free cruise. Some guests were saying that this was “the cruise from Hell”. If this cruise was what Hell is like, it sounds like it’s not as bad as I thought.
I am including photos of our cabin, since it is a different category than the veranda we had the first time on the Riviera. We booked an ocean view cabin, since the pricing was much better than a veranda. We normally only cruise in veranda cabins; but on this class ship, the cabin is the same large 242 sq. ft. as the other veranda and concierge cabins on the ship; and the same layout. These ocean view cabins have large windows that are the same size as the veranda doors, so there is plenty of light and a great view to the outside. The only difference, of course, is that you can’t go outside. We had assumed that we would receive an upgrade opportunity from Oceania to a veranda cabin, if we changed our mind about the ocean view, and we did. The price offered still wasn’t worth the difference. Our friends also booked an ocean view, but since they booked after us, they had a guarantee ocean view cabin. They also got the offer and turned it down. Since there were no ocean view cabins available for them, they were upgraded to a veranda cabin for no extra charge. We were quite happy with our cabin; but had we gotten Noro, we probably would have kicked ourselves for not having a veranda to go out onto. This photo shows how the only ocean view cabins are right in the middle of the ship where the larger lifeboats are located. The location is perfect for getting anywhere on the ship easily.
As you can see from the photos, the cabin looks just like a veranda cabin, since the window is the same size as a veranda sliding door. The cabins feature a queen-size Prestige Tranquility Bed, with 1,000-thread-count linens. Oceania does have the most comfortable cruise ship beds that we have ever slept on.
The room is spread out adequately where we could even drive Carol’s scooter past the bed to store it near the large window. There were lots of drawers and a nice size closet. Since there isn’t a door stop on the closet sliders, we did need to watch how we slid the closet doors open so as to not to crush our fingers on the other door.
The desk was very functional with two US plugs and a single European plug.
The couch was quite comfortable, however the coffee table was larger than it needed to be and took up a lot of floor space. Had we not had the scooter in the room, it might have been OK, since we could have moved the table out of the way.
Between the couch and bed was a night stand which contained several drawers. Sitting on top of that night stand were information books with menus and other ship information. Above the night stand was another US plug and light switches. The nightstand on the other side of the bed also had a US plug and light switches above it. There were plenty of plugs in the room, which we appreciated.
The TV has a Blu-ray player on the side. There was also a listing in the room of all the movies that were available to borrow.
The bathroom was quite large with a full size tub in it. All of the marble and granite made for a very elegant look.
The only negative was that the stall shower was quite small; but it was adequate for us. I did like that there were two shower heads, with one being the rain shower type. For someone that was too large for the stall shower, they could always use the shower in the bathtub.
We had a very good cabin attendant, Lilia from the Ukraine and her assistant Timothy. We felt so sorry for her having to work late into the night. Even though we could tell that she was very tired at times, she still tried to help us as much as she could and was always pleasant and smiling.
Dining (Link to Menus)
I have included copies of the menus for the main dining room along with photos of some of the food items, at the Menus link just above and at the top of each page of the review.
Since I discussed the dining in the previous Riviera review, I won’t repeat myself. Once again all the restaurants were very good. We were able to go to all the specialty restaurants at least once. We were able to get additional nights at Polo Grill and Jaques. We ate all of our breakfasts in the Terrace Café, since the Grand Dining Room takes so much longer and there are less food items to choose from. We also did not go to the Grand Dining Room for lunch for the same reasons.
Our only complaint is about lunch in the Terrace Café. The food is quite good; but because they have so many fancy types of items, there aren’t any plainer choices when we just wanted a simple lunch. Granted, Waves does have some of those choices, but it would be nice to be able to have some tuna, chicken or egg salad to make a simple sandwich or salad plate with.
Many people prefer to go to the Terrace Café for dinner, but we never tried it. I guess that, at night, we just like to be served and spoiled. Plus, with the nightly shows starting at 9:45 PM, there was plenty of time for a relaxing dinner.
On two nights’ free wine was served in all of the dining rooms. We were offered either a red or white wine from the servers that were going around to all the tables filling guest’s glasses. When the glasses got low, the servers would come back around to fill them up. We assumed it was peace offering from the Captain due to the Code Red status.
We have now been on four Oceania cruises and this was the third time that we have had Dottie Kulasa as our Cruise Director. She is a pleasant person that is involved with everything involving entertainment. She is always around the ship trying to help the passengers to have a good time, whether on board or even handing out water while leaving for excursions. As with all Cruise Directors, she was the master of ceremonies for each of the evening shows. After her announcements, she always stops and says “a joke”. Then she tells a joke to the audience. It is a nice way to end her announcements, but I have never heard her tell a joke I haven’t already heard. Since she does get a lot of laughs from the audience, I must be in the minority. She is quite popular with Oceania cruisers.
Captain Gianmario Sanguineti did speak a couple of nights.
For this cruise, there were four individual performers and four production shows.
Soloist Jennifer Singer provided a very varied selection of well-known music. It is interesting that Singer is her real last name. She has a very pleasant voice and the audience was very pleased with her performance. She did a short performance on the first night of the cruise and a full show a couple days later. I wish that she had been on the ship longer, so that she could have done another show.
Comedian Tom Drake has the tag line “An Attitude with a Tie”. Since he is married to Dottie, he travels with her and is always one of the performers during the cruise, so this would be the third time to see him. The first time I heard him, I wasn’t that impressed, since I am not a fan of some of his type humor. I was in a small minority, since the audience loved him. The second time was a year later and he told the same jokes, so I didn’t stay through the full performances. Since it had been a year since I last saw Tom and our friends had not seen him before, I again went to his shows. Some of the routine was the same; but I do believe he had some new material. With the ship being on Code Red, he was able to improvise some funny stuff and I kind of enjoyed the show for a change, so I guess he is growing on me. For this cruise he also did a third show that he shared with one of the production cast singers and it was totally new to me. I must say that Tom drew the largest audiences of any of the production shows or performers.
Soloist Rebecca Futterman is also a member of the production cast. She is new to cruising and has not been a professional singer for a long time. She did something that I would think would be pretty foolish on a cruise ship with an older audience, she sang songs most people had never heard before. They weren’t current pop tunes, since I am very familiar with those. I believe most were songs from some of the more current Broadway shows. In addition, she thought that screaming was an effective way to please the audience. It didn’t work. People began walking out early in the show. I stayed for a little over half of it. I was shocked when I went to the elevator that there was a crowd of people that had been in the show waiting to go up. I have never seen so many people leave a show early like that.
I had seen comedian magician Harry Maurer last year while on the Nautica. I just loved him last year and was looking forward to seeing him again. I do enjoy magicians, but since we do cruise a lot, we have seen many of them and quite a few do very similar routines. Not Harry. He truly does some amazing tricks that should be impossible to do. To add to his performance, he utilizes his dry sense of humor to provide a lot of laughs for the audience. I believe that his assistant is his wife. She did some impressive tricks herself. If you are ever on a cruise with Harry performing, do not miss it.
Production Shows –
Oceania is not known for having great production shows. Many Oceania cruisers don’t even come to see if they have improved enough for them to start going to the shows. I have seen some pretty weak performances in the past; as well as some very good ones, so I always go to see them and take photos to remember them by. Oceania recently cancelled their contract with the Jean Ann Ryan Company, who had produced the shows in the past. I believe that Oceania’s new owner, Norwegian Cruise Lines, is now producing the shows. The shows now have large video backgrounds that add variety and vivid colors to the show and almost no sets to change. The music selections were pretty good, in my opinion; but the shows appeared very amateurish. The dance moves appeared to be pretty simple and the performers were not in synch. The singers also weren’t that good. There were some good performances; but overall the shows were weak, especially at the beginning of the cruise. Below are the four shows we had on the cruise.
That’s Entertainment – This was the first show and was definitely the worst of them. It was a nice music selection from various entertainers; but the singers and dancers were just not good for this show. It was the only one that Carol went to, since after this one, she didn’t think the shows would be worth going to.
The Look of Love – This show was mostly little skits and love songs. It was better than the first show; but not great. They announced at the beginning of the show not to take videos or use cameras of any kind during the show. In the daily Currents itinerary, it says no video or flash photography for production shows. I took a couple photos to help remember the show; but it wasn’t that memorable.
Lights, Cameras, Music – This show was a tribute to the Hollywood movie music. It was much better than the first two. I enjoyed the music selection and most of the performances.
World Beat – This show was composed of music from around the world. It was the best show of the cruise. It was a shame that there wasn’t a full house to enjoy it. The first production show had a very good attendance; but I guess it scared away a lot of guests, because the other ones had a lot of empty seats. On most of the cruises we have been on, the production shows are normally standing room only. The entertainment is one area that Oceania really needs to work on.
Cruise Critic Meet and Greet (www.cruisecritic.com) - Each cruise we enjoy meeting the people that we have been communicating with on our Cruise Critic roll call for many months before the cruise. We set up private tours together and just get to know each other prior to the cruise, so it makes it so much fun to finally meet them. On the cruise lines we normally cruise with, there is an official Meet and Greet party that is put on by the cruise line. Normally the Cruise Director and sometimes even the Captain will attend to welcome our group to the ship. Unfortunately, Oceania doesn’t participate in the program.
For this cruise one of the people on the roll call contacted someone on the ship and set up an area in Horizons for our group. We were glad she was able to do it. When we entered the room, we were really surprised, since they had a Cruise Critic sign, munchies on the tables and waiters taking drink orders. Carol brought nametags she printed out at home; and passed them out to the 40 people who attended.
General Manager Edwin Brunink even attended and welcomed everyone to the ship. The Senior Executive Chef was also in attendance. We were so glad to see that Oceania is recognizing Cruise Critic members who support their product.
Martini Tasting - On the first sea day, I attended a Martini Tasting. Since I like martinis, I try to attend at least one on a cruise. That way I find out about the different martinis and get acquainted with the bartenders. It is always a pleasure to attend, plus the attendees always have a good time. It is also fun to watch the bartenders impress the group by throwing the filled containers around like they did in the movie "Cocktail".
Afternoon Tea – Each afternoon at 4:00 PM, there was an afternoon tea in Horizons. They had a nice selection of teas and delicious looking snacks. Since I was normally in the 3:30 enrichment lectures, we didn’t attend any on this cruise. I did pass through one day after a lecture, while it was still going on to get some photos from the front of the ship. Since I was already there, I took these photo of the snacks.
Enrichment Lecturers –
For this cruise we were fortunate to have two very knowledgeable and interesting lecturers. They were both very informative as well as entertaining, while covering numerous subjects. Since Oceania ships are smaller and don’t have as many activities, the lecturers are my main source of entertainment, other than ports, while on a cruise.
Sandy Cares – Sandy had been a lecturer on our first Riviera cruise. I was so happy to see that she would be with us again, since I was crazy about her on the first cruise. She discussed the ports we would be visiting, as well as other subjects related to the Caribbean that were just fascinating. She is the type of speaker that keeps the audience interested in whatever subject she is discussing. She just pulls you into her lectures and makes even dull subjects fascinating by throwing in interesting stories and strange tidbits that keep the audience intrigued and laughing frequently.
In addition, Sandy never stops moving. She constantly walks around the theater stage and up and down the aisles. She has so much energy and enthusiasm. It keeps the audience alert and involved in the discussion. On this cruise, Sandy had 13 lectures in 14 days, most very well attended. I am sure she was exhausted by doing so many. I only missed one of them while on an excursion and came in late on one due to a long tour. I just love Sandy. She made the cruise so enjoyable and educational for me. I look forward to being on another cruise with her one day.
Dr. Roger Cartwright – Roger is a maritime historian from Scotland who has worked with the Royal Navy and is an acknowledged expert on the cruise industry and the history of cruising. His talks were most interesting and covered a variety of nautical subjects. He really enjoyed talking about the different types ships. One of his talks was about the Titanic. Even though we have seen many shows about the Titanic, he did provide information I hadn’t seen before and pointed out things not normally discussed. It was obvious how much he loved anything related to ships. He kept the talks most interesting and the audience enjoyed him.
Ports of Call
Santa Marta, Colombia
We arrived into what appeared to be an industrial port. The area seemed to be mountainous; but it was overshadowed by the heavy equipment and metal tanks.
I had read that there isn’t too much to see or do in Santa Marta. We decided to take a ship excursion rather than setting up a private tour, which we normally prefer to do. I booked an excursion called the Taste of Tayrona and Carol booked one called Santa Marta Highlights. Since Carol is still recovering from her knee replacement surgery, there was no way she would be able to go on my tour, which was considered strenuous. Tayrona National Park is the main tourist attraction near Santa Marta and was what most people had recommended to do while there. Carol went on her tour with Hans and Barbara.
My tour guide was a young man named Giovani. He was very pleasant and attentive to our needs, while he provided lots of history and information about the area.
The drive through town and the countryside to get to the park would take 45 minutes. Everyone was so surprised at how filthy the area was and how dilapidated the homes were. It didn’t appear that people picked up the trash in their yards; or that there was any public pick up of loose trash that was all over the public areas. The unemployment rate in the area is over 30% and there is obviously a lot of poverty. But it doesn’t take money to pick up trash around one’s home and take pride in what you have.
It did get better when we got out into the country and closer to the park, thank goodness.
When we got to the park entrance, we were shocked at how many people were lined up waiting to get in. This was one very popular place! We were glad that we didn’t have to wait in that line.
The drive to our stop in the park was a pretty good distance away from the entrance and up a hill. I felt sorry for those that were walking the trail up rather than taking some of the shuttle busses that they could pay to take up. The roads were rather narrow, which explained why we had very small busses for the tour.
When we finally stopped and exited, we headed for the restrooms before taking the trail through the jungle. It turned out to be a pretty good walk.
Along the way, Giovanni would stop and tell us about the vegetation we were seeing as well as point out some leaf cutter ants that were marching across the path. They were carrying pieces of leaf that were larger than them.
We then stopped at a large smooth rock that had been mounted on another rock. There were several of these in the park; but I don’t remember what they were there for. The steps up to the top of the hill we would climb were right behind it; but since another group was going up first, I walked over to get some photos of the lovely beach area. The large boulders made it quite a scenic place.
When it was our time to climb up to the viewing area on the mountain, several people asked Giovanni if they could wait at the bottom of the stairs for us to return, so they wouldn’t have to climb up. He told them that we would be going back a different way to the bus and they would need to go up the stairs. They weren’t happy about that; but the tour description did state that it was a strenuous tour and that there were steps to climb. I always seem to get on tours that require a lot of climbing. On this cruise I would do way more than I planned on.
When we got to the top, the view was gorgeous and well worth the climb. There were large boulders that you could look between to see the ocean; and on either side there were views of lovely beaches.
When we were at the top, one of the other guides told Giovanni that we would have to go back down the steps because we couldn’t take the other path for some reason. There were several disgruntled climbers that hadn’t wanted to climb there in the first place. The climb down, as usual, was much easier that the climb up.
We then headed back down the path to a covered area to stop for a drink of tropical juice and fresh fruit. You can tell from the photos that the fruit was very good and sweet. I had to go back for seconds.
Other than the refreshment and restroom break, the other reason to stop at this place was that there was a beach not far down the path. Several people had brought their swimsuits and were rewarded with a lovely beach for swimming. The previous ones we had seen were not for swimming due to the very rough conditions and steep beach. With the stop being 45 minutes, they had time to jump in and cool off.
Giovanni had told us that they had been in a drought and that it hadn’t rained for 10 months. We could tell by the brown grass everywhere. In fact, the ship excursions to a waterfall were cancelled, since there wasn’t much of a waterfall to see at that time.
We did pass by a lot of nurseries with beautiful plants. They really stood out, since the rest of the area was so dry looking. There were also many fruit stands along the way.
As we got closer to Santa Marta, we were disgusted by the trash again. We passed by hills that had “thrown together” homes that had old tires supporting their foundations; and of course lots of trash everywhere. Closer to town it wasn’t much better. This was a very depressed and depressing area to visit. I certainly understand why most cruise lines don’t come to Santa Marta. Carol wasn’t impressed with her excursion of the city either.
I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to drive by the beach area where the large hotels were located. This is a popular area for tourists to stay to enjoy the beaches. When I got back to the ship, I headed to deck 14 to see if I could get some photos of the area from the ship. It did look much nicer than the areas we had visited.
We were looking forward to our next port stop, Aruba. We knew it would be a much cleaner place to visit. That night we had dinner in the Polo Grill at a shared table. One of the couples was Billie and Ted, who we had eaten in Toscana at a shared table on our first Oceana cruise to Bermuda. That night we had had hurricane force winds and plates and glasses were crashing all around. This evening was much more enjoyable. It was such a pleasure to be able to cruise with them again. They are a very nice couple and we would run into them many times during the cruise.
Aruba was one of the ports we were really looking forward to finally visiting. We were supposed to arrive at noon and depart at 11:00 PM. As we got closer to the island, the ship stopped. After a while, there was an announcement that the Captain was waiting for the pilot boat to arrive. That was strange, since they are normally very prompt. We had a private tour starting at 1:00 PM, so we were getting a bit concerned. I texted our guide and let him know that we were having issues. At 1:00 PM, we were still waiting for the pilot boat. Something else was obviously going on. The Captain finally announced that Aruba did not want to let us dock due to there being Noro virus onboard. This seemed rather strange, since the ones with Noro were quarantined to their rooms. The Captain said that the Oceania corporate office was getting involved and trying to fix the issue. Around 4:00 PM, the Captain said that we were not going to be able to dock and we headed back out to sea. It was most disappointing. We also worried that we could miss other ports due to the Noro, especially Bonaire, which is also Dutch. The only photos I took of Aruba were from the upper deck. We are so glad that we will be back in Aruba on a different cruise in January 2017, so we will finally get to experience the lovely island.
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