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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Ocean Village Holidays

MV Ocean Village

Your Rating:Three Stars
Reviewed by: Vikie Spork
# previous cruises: 3
Date of Trip: April 28, 2003
Itinerary: Mediterranean

This was our 4th cruise and our first in the Med we are late 30's early 40's with no children. As previous cruisers, we were disappointed with the Ocean Village, but nevertheless I won't deny that we had a wonderful holiday primarily due to the excellent ports of call and the fact that as the days wore on we learnt to laugh about, and accept the "ways" of the Ocean Village.

The reason we booked this cruise was because of the ports of call offered and the fact that we had previously enjoyed the NCL "freestyle" style of cruising, which is also a casual, dine when you want, more relaxed type of ship, and therefore expected OV to offer something similar to the NCL experience. Price-wise for us, Ocean Village is expensive for what it offers by comparison, taking all things into account.

Public Areas
There is a gym in the Bayside area (deck 14), as well as a lesser used one down on deck 2. Both were well kitted out and the one on Deck 2 is in the same area as the sauna/steamroom. Unfortunately the ladies steam room was out of order for both weeks we were on board - so I was told to use the men's one!

I did have call to use the medical centre as I have a skin allergy which reared it's head and needed steroid tablets. Again the staff here were excellent, and the facilities impressive. A consultation is #40, plus cost of medicines (extra #9.50 for me!) Check you travel insurance as I now realise I have a #75 excess, so I can't claim anything back - but the allergy would have ruined my holiday so I have no problems with the cost.

The foreign staff (especially in the speciality restaurants) and generally anywhere on board are dedicated, personable, courteous and very hard working. They remember who you are, remember what you drink, call you by your name, nothing is too much trouble. They give 150% and are an absolute credit to Ocean Village - it was lovely to deal with them!! The Spa and hairdressing staff were also excellent - I highly recommend attending the make up demonstration on the "at sea" day.

Food and Service
The Bistro restaurant @ #8.50 pp is excellent - book early (you can cancel later!) as both speciality restaurants were fully booked for the Sat/Sun/Mon by midday on the Friday. Wonderful large fillet steaks, crab and prawn starters, chocolate puddings to die for etc. Note also that they changed between 2 menu offerings during the week. So ask what day they will be changing, and make an effort to try both menus. Smart casual dress - short sleeve shirts for men etc is perfectly acceptable.

- La Luna @ #4.50pp was also good - offered panfried chicken with risotto and various sauces/speciality fish of the day/sirloin steak/lasagne/seafood brochette etc for main course, make sure your try the mushroom and onion tart for starter, a lovely light tiramisu or cheese and biscuits for pudding. La Luna is also open from 12-4pm serving pizza and salad, baked potatoes etc which was a pleasant change to eating in the buffet restaurants at lunchtimes

- The Plantation buffet offers excellent salads both in the daytime and evening, with good quality ham/beef/smoked salmon/prawns etc in the evening and a more limited range at lunchtime, plus cheeses/desserts etc. The Plantation also did snacks between 10pm and midnight - often these were good - steaks / chicken wings/ leftover spring rolls/samosas/hamburgers/hotdogs etc. If we ate out during the day we sometimes hit the snacks around 10.30pm in lieu of dinner.

- The Waterfront restaurant offered themed evening dining - eg Spanish (paella) English (roast beef) American (steaks/ribs) etc - but seemed to get busy around 7.45-8.30 when there were long queues. The food quality varied here, as it did in the Plantations Restaurant, which specialised in Chinese/Curry type evening dinners. Nothing ever seemed to be "hot" and finding a table in the Waterfront restaurant was chaotic at times. I have listed this type of dining as a con as I always felt rushed, and there was a real lack of atmosphere - sometimes we didn't even have an alcoholic drink with dinner as we felt more like we were eating in the local Tesco Coffee-shop.

Lunch's were another story with both restaurants serving the same choice of 3 hot offerings. On the sea day, it is vegetable lasagne, sausages with gravy and chips, and something else that I can't remember, .(plus the usual burger or hot dog) Or the salad bar in Plantation, which was very good, I admit. The menus in the two buffet restaurants are repeated each week EXACTLY day by day, plus a few other choices!! They also do deck BBQ's but after day three we were all "burgered" out and didn't bother with them. We later realised that a few days later they started to offer steaks and chicken at some of the evening BBQ's. (we are still not sure whether this was down to complaints or just plain inconsistency on the weekly menus)

The cabins on board are probably one of the most spacious you will come across - with tea/coffee/kettle/excellent supply of good quality biscuits. Beds were comfortable and large (2x3ft singles, side by side as a double) Bathrooms were small but pleasant, with just a bar of soap and towels daily, plus an additional set of deck towels in the cabins.

Our cabin had champagne glasses, plus wine glasses and water glasses when we set sail. As soon as we started using them, they started to disappear and were never replaced. We were left with just the water glasses by day 5!! There is a fridge in the cabin also, but it wasn't very cold and we never drank our specially ordered bottle of champagne on day one as it wasn't cold enough. There were nice new wooden cupboards and a brand new carpet in our cabin as it was a reworked grade BB cabin. Alas after a stormy night at sea we awoke to find half the carpet saturated as there was no seal under the balcony door, . They vacuumed the water away the following morning, but even on our last day the carpet was still wet and starting to smell, . I pity the next person in our cabin, but have no real complaints here - as it was just one of those things! c.

We don't have kids - but there were good facilities/kids clubs on board - I overheard this several times and saw a few families leaving their children on board when the went to Florence etc.

Entertainment was adhoc and not especially brilliant. The Diva Experience evening show (3 nights out of the 7) was repeated - so you saw the same entertainment each week. There were guest singer/comedians appearing 2/3 times on other days, but some of this was repeated also and there were always waiting times between performances, which lasted about 30mins, so everything was a bit "bitty". . In one instance they even cancelled the entertainment without telling anyone

Tender ports (Cannes/Monaco/Menorca/Santa Margherita) were badly managed. Eg in most cases the ship arrived as advertised at 8am - excursion passengers would get off first (often taking over an hour) and you were told to wait in the Connexions bar where numbered tickets would be given out at 9.30am, then you got off when your number was called - so in the case of Menorca, when we arrived in the bar at 9.35am - there was already 200 other independent passengers with tickets infront of us and we had to sit there in the bar for an hour, eventually getting ashore at 11am. Normally on other ships, tender tickets are given out the night before - then you can plan your morning knowing roughly what time you would get off, rather than sitting around. They use bigger tender vessels in Cannes and Monte Carlo - so you will get off quicker in these ports.

On board activities were rare (few quizzes) & some spa demonstrations - but published timings were often incorrect so you were lucky if you made it to any of them!

Every cruise ship has an entertainment director - who is accessible and visible and talks to his passengers to make sure they are having a good time. I honestly never came across any kind of management on this cruise who seemed interested in whether things were going well for the passengers. The onboard activity staff were so laid back at times they could fall over. I overheard a fellow passenger in the lift telling her husband about the sail away party, his response was a sarcastic "what party?" - though I will admit that this first nights sail-away party from Palma was a fun event , . After that I agree that the word "party" was overstated, though the resident bands were not bad.

Malta - get up early - this is without doubt the prettiest harbour we have ever sailed into/out of and we docked early (6.30am) and were allowed off early. Be on the starboard (right) side when sailing out of Malta - just beautiful!. Taxis will offer to drive you to the main Valletta area for 11 Euros as some of it is uphill. You can do the one 500yd steep hill and 100+ steps to the main street area in max 10 mins walk if you are of average health.( I don't exercise at all!). Valletta is small and nice - fine for a morning. Be sure the visit the inside of St Johns Cathedral (cost of 2.5 euros each , I think). It's not much to look at on the outside, but very impressive on the inside, whether you're religious or not (and we're not!). There was also a market to wander round and some nice shops. There are wonderful views from the walled areas surrounding Valletta and there were heraldic banners hanging in some of the streets which made it look nice. I believe Mdina is also worth a visit, but we didn't want to rush around as the port time was so short. All places accept Euros in Malta, but they obviously eke up the exchange rate in their favour in shops/cafes etc

Naples - We spent a full day visiting Pompeii and Sorrento and had a short trip on the Amalfi coast (on our own with a local taxi driver - booked in advance). It was a wonderful day. Our best lunch of the holiday was here, on an outdoor terrace in the hillside overlooking Sorrento at "Zio Sam" on the Piano Do Sorrento (closed Tuesdays). It was recommended by the taxi driver because he said Sorrento itself was too expensive and was excellent and good value! Pompeii is fascinating and Sorrento very pretty, but touristy. We paid 200 euros for a full days sightseeing 9am-4pm (plus entrance to Pompeii) but if there are 4 of you on the ships tour @ #44pp - you can do this cheaper on your own and have a much more pleasant experience. Ocean Village also run a #2 shuttle bus to Naples centre, but I am told it only takes you 800yds to the port exit and then drops you off - perhaps someone else can comment on that. As usual, there was a line up of taxis on the quay and I believe they also charge 200 euros for a full days sightseeing for a full car.

Livorno - Again we had a full day visiting Pisa and Florence (re-booked, on our own), with a drive into the Chianti hills for lunch. Florence is the without doubt the loveliest city we visited and should not be missed, especially the old Ponte Vecchio Bridge and all the religious buildings. Everything in Florence is walkable on your own, and Pisa is definitely worth a visit also. I would therefore recommend the ships "Florence and Pisa on your own" @ #24pp. There is a whole line up of taxi drivers on the quayside in minivan type taxis - so if you get together with another 2 couples you could probably see Pisa for a few hours for 120 euros return fare - but I think the ships excursion is good value in this instance.

Cannes - We met up with friends and went to Antibes and St Paul de Vence. Antibes was a lovely little olde worlde town, with craft shops, a bustling food market (even on a Sunday morning) and nice pavement cafes. (You could probably catch a taxi there for 15 euros, as it's only 4 miles or so from Cannes) St Paul de Vence is a pretty hilltop enclave - wonderful views, and again lunch on a terrace at La Petite Chapelle in St Paul de Vence. There are lovely but expensive trinket and art shops, all of which were open. The ship offers trips to Nice and St Paul de Vence for #24. Our friends were staying in Nice and said it was a very nice place. All in all a great day out, but I heard that Cannes is equally nice and do-able on your own steam. We didn't really see the usual flood of taxi drivers on the quayside, but I doubt it's difficult to find one if you want to venture out. As we were being picked up at 9am, we created a bit of a fuss over the late tender timings and were allowed off on the 8.30am tender with the excursion passengers.

Menorca - Ciudadella has a pretty harbour, and is the place to buy colourful pottery at a fraction of the price of Nice/Antibes/Sorrento!. It's much quieter than the other ports of call, but equally pleasant after all the rushing around of the previous days. There were no taxi drivers waiting at this port, so either take a trip/hire a car or walk around Ciudadella. Slow, quiet and relaxing is how I would describe Ciudadella, with a lovely "old part" of town to stroll round. We had a very nice fish lunch here by the harbour at the El Ancla Restaurant.

Palma - a lovely place to shop/eat/relax. Try a tapas lunch in the Placa Major Square, watching and listening to the street performers. OV lay's on a #2pp shuttle bus from the port berth to the town centre (too far to walk!). The shuttle busses run every 30mins and the 10-10.30am ones into town are VERY busy so get there at 10 for the 10.30 bus!! Tickets for the shuttle bus can be obtained from the ships reception. There are taxi drivers that come and go during the day of you want to venture further. There is also a mid-sized shopping centre as you leave the port area, about 15 mins walk from the ship - I didn't actually notice it until our second week in Palma - I think it's called Centro or something like that, so look out for it on the drive to the ship of you want to size it up.

Bizerte - due to windy weather we did not dock or tender . The sea day en route to Bizerte had been rough and it was announced the day before that we would tender in Bizerte (which is a docking port) . Excursion people were told to be ready an hour early for a 7.30am departure by tender, only to announce at 7.30am that it was too rough to tender people ashore. The Island Breeze/Escape did manage to dock that same morning but I think that because our ship was bigger it was not safe to enter that harbour in the rough seas. We spent the morning anchored off the coast of Tunisia and sailed as planned at 1pm for Civitavecchia. I don't recall any extra entertainment being laid on, as this ultimately became another sea day. The resident band sang indoors in the morning in the Marquee, but was poorly attended - I felt a bit sorry for the singers!

(Civitavecchia) Rome - another must see! We had been to Rome before, so we wandered around Civitavecchia instead. People who chose the Best of Rome tour were disappointed as it was the most expensive @ #52, and the tour ran out of time due to leaving late and late stragglers back on the bus. They ended up driving past some sites such as the Colloseum, rather than stopping for the listed photo stop. I also heard that exactly the same thing happened on the previous tour. Personally, I'd suggest the walk around Rome tour @ #38 to get a real feel for Rome - but be warned it's a lot of walking as Rome is BIG, and if you go in July/Aug it's seriously hot (32+ deg) . It was 26deg on the day we docked. With regards to Civitavecchia, what OV don't tell you is that there is a free port shuttle bus to take you from the quayside into town, and when you arrive in town, there is a lady from the tourist office handing out free town maps - all of which is walkable. We also walked back to the ship (about 15-20 mins walk). There was a food and nick-nack market on in town that morning, some designer shops and a pleasant stroll along the seafront promenade, but other than that and a few good seafood restaurants, there's not a great deal in Civitavecchia - but we had a nice fish lunch at the Bounty Restaurant with a bottle of wine! The train station to Rome is about 10 mins walk from where the free shuttle drops you off, if you want to get the train to Rome on your own. I think we were in port quite early - so Rome by train is perfectly feasible (1hr by train to Rome city centre, with 10-15 mins walk to the main attractions of Trevi Fountain/Colloseum etc, and a stop on the underground to the Vatican City)

Santa Margherita -(Portofino). Another very pretty harbour . Definitely do this one on your own!! We decided to take the local bus (82 or 882) from Santa Margherita to Portofino (3 miles) . The cost was 1.5 euros payable to the driver. You can't go wrong as there is only one main road in S Marg so you take the bus heading left towards Portofino. What we didn't reckon on how packed the bus would be - but it was an experience!!!! Alternatively there is a passenger ferry from the same drop-off point where OV tenders you ashore, and you can get a 6 euro return ticket to Portofino instead - much nicer! Portofino is very small and expensive (7 euros for 2 coffees, and 30 euros if you want to take a taxi back the 3 miles to S Marg). We walked up to Castle Brown (3.5 eur entrance fee and has a nice clean toilet!) for wonderful views of Portofino (but big hill - similar to Valletta) and the surrounding harbour. Some people walked to the lighthouse (another 15 mins) but I don't think they saw a nicer view than us and it's up and down hill all the way there. A word of warning - the first returning ferry from Portofino to S Marg is at 12 noon, and you don't need more than an 40-80mins in Portofino (if you're not lunching there) so plan your timings accordingly. (Hence we asked about the taxi fare back - but waited for the ferry on principle as we couldn't face the packed local bus back!!) There were lots of ferries arriving all morning from Santa Margherita, but they go on round the coast, rather than straight back to S Marg. The single ferry fare back to S Marg is 3.5 euros. Shops in S Marg, close early so suggest you do Portofino in the afternoon. S Marg is not as expensive as Portofino - pizza for lunch is around 9 euros, 1 litre of local wine 11 euros.

Monte Carlo - personally we felt it was pretty, but over-rated. Part of the problem is that you arrive on a Sunday and all the main shops in the pedestrian areas around the harbour area are closed, apart from a small food market and some cafes doing coffee and pastry breakfasts. OV also referred to escalators and lifts upto the Old Town in their newsletter - but don't show their locations on the maps they give you, so like everyone else, we walked up the STEEP hill to the fortressed Old Town. The Old Town is undeniably very lovely, with great views of the harbour and the midday changing of the guard ceremony, and cobbled back streets. There are restaurants in these back streets serving good value lunches at 8-10 euros On the other side of the harbour, you can also go the casino via lifts and escalators - but again we couldn't find them!! Try and do your homework before you leave and search the internet for maps and info on where these escalators and lifts are!!

Barcelona - One you can do on your own. When we docked I thought we were miles from anywhere, but as you get off the ship there is a free port shuttle bus to take you to the start of Las Ramblas - the pedestrian thoroughfare of Barcelona. Again, OV tell you nothing about the free shuttle bus - so I'm sure there were people who paid a few euros for the 2 mile taxi ride into town, not realising there was a free bus!! One thing we didn't realise about Barcelona is that a lot of tourist places are shut on Mondays. There are two open top tourist busses operating in Barcelona and you pay 15 euros per person for a full days use of both busses - called "bus turistic" where you can get on and off as you please and they give you a running commentary in English of what you are seeing. We bought 2 tickets, not realising that half the sites it stops at were closed!!!! - but we did get to see the Sagrada familia church and lovely Gaudi Park Guell (another big walk up a hill) and some lovely Gaudi designed buildings en route. Other people spoke highly of using the Barcelona underground (cheap and very clean) - so again, do your research carefully on this port to get the most out of it. It was a lovely place to visit, with shops, street entertainers, cafes and wonderful architecture! As normal, you get the shuttle bus back from where it drops you off.

Who Goes
The passengers during May were 70% 50-80yrs and 30% 18-50, but I imagine that during July/Aug the age range will be significantly higher in the lower age bracket.

Above all, I believe a lot of issues with the ship as a whole will be ironed out in the coming weeks as I would hope they will react positively to the customer comment cards. We were on board on their second and third week of sailing - and teething troubles are inevitable.

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