As a travel writer with nowhere to go, one of the things that has kept me inspired during this protracted Lockdown has been scrolling back through my camera roll and re-living trips I’ve been fortunate to experience. One of my most memorable this year, done just before Corona interrupted life as we know it, was a subtly luxururious cruise with Oceania Nautica.
I boarded the Nautica in East London, Joined by Darren Meltz of More Than Food e-mag. The destination was Maputo in Mozambique, one of the main reasons for my taking this cruise. Port stops en route along the South African coast included Richards Bay and Durban and after Maputo, it was an uninterrupted sail down to Cape Town, the stunning city that I call home.
THE OCEANIA NAUTICA
Nautica is one of a fleet of six liners belonging to Oceania, a Miami-based outfit. Built in Saint-Nazaire twenty years ago, she is a smaller ship with a 684 passenger capacity, an 11-Deck floating hotel that’s sleek on the outside and posh on the inside but sans the fussy pretension that’s so often synonymous with luxe travel. The interior design leans towards olde world elegance, nicely balanced between functionality, comfort and sophistication. As I type though, the finishing touches are being applied to a sweeping makeover to Nautica and three of her sister ships- Sirena, Insignia and Regatta – a $100 million dollar re-design to be exact. Here are a few fun facts about the 66-day refurb effort and what you can expect of the Nautica reloaded: 1,368 New Suites & Staterooms, 1,400 New Marble Bathrooms, 8,00 New Light Fixtures, 12,0000 New Sofas & Chairs, 1,000+ Artisans & Craftsmen.
Lovely as she was before, Nautica’s new look is going to be spectacular and they’re calling it #oceaniaNEXT.
Stepping off the gangplank and into the cool atrium we were met by GM Raffaele Cinque (pictured above), who proved to be a charming and attentive host throughout the cruise. (Bear in mind that crew are regularly rotated between ships, so you may or may not encounter Mr. Cinque on Nautica).
Crew we met were professional and efficient, with such a great vibe. From the concierge desk through to the housekeeping teams, restaurant maitre d’s, waitrons, sommeliers, IT teams (special kudos for their patience with passengers during the brief loss of WiFi in Maputo), baristas and deckhands, they were energetic and exceptional. Staff encountered on a regular basis made a point of greeting us by name too- a small thing, yet always appreciated. In three words, five star service.
Nautica prides itself on having ‘the finest cuisine at sea’ and each restaurant is committed to meeting these high expectations. For cruising gastronomes, Oceania is the stand-out line and passengers I met who sail frequently, testified that her culinary offering is unmatched. There are 5 bars and lounges on board and 6 eateries, ranging from the Grand Dining Room with its centrepiece chandelier to Waves right next to the pool and the more formal Polo Grill, reminiscent of a moody country club lounge with its dark wood panelling, leather couches and high back chairs. Passengers are free to dine at all the restaurants but access to the two specialty restaurants is limited.
Toscana (below), with its gorgeous outlook offers a Tuscan-inspired menu that draws on traditional and regional recipes.
Before you’ve even cast an eye over the appetisers, you’re served with freshly baked breads, a trolley load of premium Italian olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and generous chunks of tart parmesan cheese that are impossible to resist but, word of advice, pace yourself. Each dish is presented on exquisite tableware by Versace Rosenthal, a glam touch to the dining experience.
Bordeaux-born, Chef Laurent Trias (below) has been with the Oceania line since 2010 and is the Senior Executive Chef overseeing each dish on every plate set before you. It’s a massive gig and he excels at it, ensuring that diners have an optimum experience no matter their choice of restaurant. Trias relishes new challenges in the culinary space and is constantly looking for ways to exceed expectations. “We have such strong support from our culinary directors. The continual training is unrivalled for our culinary team and there’s absolutely no time to get bored and fall into a routine!”
WHAT TO DO ON BOARD?
It’s tempting to want to linger in your comely stateroom but, don’t. Check the Currents newsletter left for you each night at Turn-Down and you’ll find numerous activity options, plus opportunities to try something new. Like Shuffleboard. Who even knew such a game existed?
Your cruise type (family, singles, adventure etc) will determine the activities menu and on every ship there is a cruise entertainment director-come-event planner (we had the inimitable Ray Carr) to remind passengers of what’s happening via regular intercom announcements. Days on board are languid and mine were taken up with classical recitals, time spent in the library, or at the pool. With such excellent excercise facilities it’s easy to maintain my fitness routine too – mine amounted to early morning jogs around the track (take extra care when the track is damp as it gets very slippery) and a gym workout. Being up before anyone else was the best way to start the day with the deck all to myself and the surrounding ocean so beautiful at sunrise.
Evening entertainment ranges from drinks in one of the bars, to watching stand up comedy (Paul Adams was hilarious!) and live jazz in the Lounge and dancing in Horizons.
And if in doubt, go shopping. I fell for a stylish Skagen watch at the boutique, a one-stop shop run by the lovely Michelle, that stocks a range of clothing, accessories, jewellery and essential items. Particularly loved that they stock a range of Faith in Nature vegan products too. 🍃
What was astounding to me was the absence of crowds. At no stage did I ever feel hemmed in or aggravated by too many people congregating in one place. Whether walking about on deck, lying at the pool, reading in the library, eating out or playing deck games, there was always space, no queues, ever. This, in spite of the fact there were close to 700 passengers on board and 400 crew roaming different parts of the ship. Had this experience taken place during Covid-19, we would all have waxed the social distancing thing without even trying!
When in port, Oceania offers shore excursions (at an additional cost) that are particularly useful when time is tight and you need to pack in as many of the key sights as possible. In Durban we disembarked and hopped on a coach for the Valley of a 1000 Hills, only thirty minutes from the harbour. and . It’s a gorgeous part of the country and if you get the chance, factor it into your Nautica excursion itinerary.
Time in Maputo was too short but I’ll be writing a separate post on the experience. The city is an interesting integration of architectural styles, influenced mostly by many years of Portuguese rule. We joined a group of passengers on a walkabout through the old town and part of the city: the Mercado Central market, the Fortaleza Museum and then into the capital’s piece de resistance, the MAPUTO CENTRAL STATION (below).
Built in the Beaux Arts style, the domed railway station circa 1916 is a classic example of Portuguese colonial architecture. Painted in mint green and white, it is a well preserved national monument with vintage tiles, wrought-iron latticework, and antique locomotives on display. When you go, and you must, don’t forget to stop at the platform cafe for pasteis de nata, the world’s most appreciated custard tartlet.
WHO IS CRUISE’ing & WHY?
The significant number of guests on board our cruise were upwards of 70 which is nothing unusual when it comes to this type of travel. Few travel options exist for the elderly (up to 90 yrs of age), especially those with mobility issues, and cruise liners cater perfectly to this market. “The average age is different per destination as well as per ship,” explained Oceania’s Sales Director for Mainland EU, ME & Africa, Riet Goetschalck. “The Regatta class ships (Nautica is one of them) with only 684 guests attend more to elderly guests, mostly due to the itineraries and the length of the cruise. The Oceania class ships ( Marina & Riviera) attend to more mid-age guests, so the average age might be younger than 70 on most of those cruises.”
For anyone though, no matter your age and stage in life, a cruise holiday is all about ease. You unpack once – no hotel hopping -and you’re ferried in style multiple destinations. There is an all-inclusive package to suit most budgets so once you’ve boarded, everything is taken care of and for ten or more days, the ship is your floating haven and it’s really does feel that way. In a nutshell, all you have to do is show up.
On all their ships, Oceania have placed glass water bottles in each suite, topped up as needed. I was disappointed though to find that there wasn’t a portable water bottle offered (like when on you’re on safari) for passengers to carry around with them on board and when ashore. Hopefully this will change in the future to reduce the vast amount of plastic bottles from cruise liners that end up in landfill. That said, the company strives to continually improve environmental processes through best management practices and innovation.
The curve will flatten and when it does, Book a cruise on the revamped Nautica. There are loads of tantalising itineraries from which to choose, anything between 10 and 195 days and to the most incredible locations. The journey that is coming in hot is the 2022 world cruise, set to be a dreamy ocean odyssey.
“…throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -H. Jackson Brown Jr
BON VOYAGE! (pls Follow me on Insta @allisonfoat)
Click the link 👉🏼 to watch my TV interview 📺on E News after Nautica was delayed by a day in Table Bay, due to gale force winds.
WHAT TO TAKE
*Seasick tabs, just in case
*Your own water bottle so you can dispense from the glass water bottle in your room and avoid using water provided in plastic bottles