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Imagine yourself in a floating country club, and you'll have a good feel for Nautica's onboard ambience: elegant, understated and luxurious but with a casual vibe that keeps the whole experience from being overly formal. The experience is anything but pretentious.

Ask passengers what keeps them coming back (on our sailing, more than 50 percent were repeat customers), and it's likely that "The food!" will be their enthusiastic answer. Varied menus, five dining venues and creative cuisine that can rival top-notch restaurants all make for the best culinary experience at sea.

Nautica's itineraries tend to be longer, with many in the 21-day range. There is usually a higher number of sea days than on the average ship, and Nautica also spends the night in some ports, allowing for longer onshore visits. The ship travels around the world and hits a wide variety of destinations. Creative and varied itineraries are another element that keeps passengers returning.

In terms of facilities, there's virtually everything you'd find on a larger ship (Canyon Ranch spa, a casino and an excellent fitness facility), yet the atmosphere is cosy and intimate. Staff and crew routinely rotate among Oceania's ships, so a returning passenger on any of them is likely to recognize friendly faces. That could also be because Oceania treats its employees well -- and they return, contract after contract. Many of the officers, crew and staff members hail from luxury lines like Crystal and Silversea.

The line primarily offers mass sightseeing tours via motorcoach, and if there's one area where size limits the offerings, this is it. Shore excursions also tend to be on the pricier side, compared to other cruise line offerings.

If you define luxury as polished service, outstanding cuisine, an intimately sized ship with just enough of the key bells and whistles (variety of dining options, a gorgeous spa, top-notch lecturers), intriguing itineraries and an ambience of warmth, then this ship definitely belongs in that niche. On the other hand, there are also mass-market factors that don't necessarily hew to luxury standards: Drinks and other extras are priced on an a la carte basis, standard cabins can be small (cosy, but small) with shower-only bathrooms, and there are plenty of inside cabins.

The beauty of Nautica is its ability to keep a steady foot in both camps. Oceania is savvy in positioning its fares for a range of travellers, from those who consider suites and butlers necessary amenities to those who value luxury without the Mercedes price tag. In the process, Nautica offers exceptional value for money.

Plan for country club casual and you'll be fine (pretty flowing skirt/pants outfits for women, jackets and, okay, maybe one tie for men at night, and casual tropical wear during the days onboard). Editor's Note: When going ashore, pay attention to Oceania's dress recommendations, which will depend on the ship's itinerary.

There are no formal evenings onboard, though many folks did dress for the welcome dinner.

Theatres

The Nautica Lounge  (Deck 5) serves as the main venue for entertainment and enrichment. Set on one main level, it has banquette seating and chair seating with tables. At the rear, a slightly higher area has chairs and tables, as well as bar-height chairs arrayed along curving bars. The decor is in shades of gold and grey-blue, with dark wood accents.

During enrichment presentations by speakers, three large video projection screens show visuals. At night, entertainers perform from the stage. Nightly shows (one performance per night) include song and dance productions by the ship's quartet of performers, plus guest performers. During our cruise, they included a pianist and banjo soloist, both backed up by the ship's band; a comedian; and a comedy magician. Some nights a movie is shown in lieu of live entertainment.

Daily Fun

There were three excellent lecturers onboard Nautica during our cruise, and they spoke to large and engaged crowds. Two discussed destination-related topics, touching on history, politics, religion and other cultural aspects, as well as some general information that was helpful to know about sightseeing -- though they didn't get into nuts-and-bolts port information. The third covered topics less related to our itinerary. Ample sea days meant there were plenty of opportunities for lectures, which were presented in the Nautica Lounge, with illustrations projected on three large screens.

The ship's executive chef gave several cooking demonstrations in the Nautica Lounge on sea days, accompanied by different chefs from the ship. In addition to providing interesting tips and recipes, he was absolutely hilarious, too.

Other daytime activities include bingo, mah jongg, trivia competitions, golf challenges, social bridge (in a dedicated card room), watercolour classes, table tennis tournaments, dance classes, Top Toss and Baggo beanbag toss games, needlepoint and coffee chat, shuffleboard tournaments, daily quizzes and casino tournaments.

The ship's head sommelier offers a wine-tasting seminar for a fee. There are several modules, but it's possible to sign up for them individually.

At Night

Nighttime is low key on Nautica. The ship's big band plays for dancing in different lounges, depending on whether they are participating in the main show that night or not. Sometimes the resident string quartet entertains in the early evening, and there's a pianist in the Martinis Lounge. When the band isn't playing, the cruise director takes song requests via a jukebox app in the Horizons lounge. Some evenings, there are also team trivia contests.

The casino, located on Deck 5, has 26 slot machines, one roulette table, three blackjack tables and one poker table. Hours vary widely, and they're also affected by local regulations. Typically, the slots open at 10 a.m., and there are table hours in the afternoon and evening.

Oceania Nautica Bars and Lounges

Once again, think "country club," and you'll have an idea of what the bar scene is like on Nautica. There are several options to choose from throughout the day, ranging from casual poolside to a sleek venue with great views high atop the ship. There are usually three cocktails of the day offered at discounted prices in all the bars, plus a two-for-one happy hour at two locations.

Nautica offers two all-inclusive beverage packages, "House Select" (wine by the glass and beers during lunch and dinner) and "Prestige Select" (premium spirits, wine by the glass and beers during bar hours), gratuities included. There's also a wine-by-the-bottle package, with a minimum of seven bottles. Soft drinks, juices, coffee, espresso drinks and bottled water are always free to all passengers.

Baristas (Deck 5): This cosy nook just outside of the Grand Dining Room used to be a regular bar, but it was converted to an espresso and coffee bar in the 2014 refurb. The Italian barista serves up Illy coffee drinks, including a cold frappe concoction, all at no extra charge. The thought of our morning latte was one of the few things that could get us out of the incredibly cushy Nautica beds. The barista does have a few alcoholic options on hand that can be added to your coffee. Next to the bar, pastries are available in the morning, with cookies and finger sandwiches available at other times. There's also seating around a couple of tables and sofas, with wood panelling and a fireplace to complete the atmosphere.

Martinis (Deck 5): Specializing in -- yes -- martinis, this bar is strategically located between the casino and a quieter seating area with sofas, wingback chairs and low tables. The space is decorated in blues, reds and golds, with dark wood panelling and swagged curtains on the windows. A dozen high chairs are arrayed along the bar. In addition to the menu of more than 25 creative martinis, you can also order the basics. The bar holds martini-tasting events, where you get to try four different cocktails for a discounted price. There's a two-for-one happy hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., but the speciality martinis aren't included.

The Upper Hall (Deck 5): On the U-shaped balcony surrounding the bi-level atrium, there are several groups of tables paired with upholstered chairs. The string quartet plays there in the early evening, and there's a chessboard set up for play. In one corner, it's possible to meet with the sales consultant to book future cruises.

Waves Bar (Deck 9): Facing the pool on the Lido Deck, this is the bar that will keep the mai tais coming on sea days. There's a handful of stools around the small wood-framed bar, but this venue is really there to serve the loungers around the pool. To the right of the bar is a shaded area with sofas; in front of it are tables with umbrellas.

Horizons (Deck 10): Nautica's main bar has a lovely location, forward on Deck 10, with sweeping views off the bow and sides of the ship. It's decorated in a more contemporary style than other areas of the ship, in shades of gold, grey-blue and brown, with dark wood trim and panelling. There's a dramatic abstract waves mural behind the bar, while large blown-glass art pieces resembling wildly colourful seashells act as space dividers. There are high chairs at the service bar and also chairs along a bar that overlooks the small stage and dance floor where the house band often entertains. On a slightly lower level, chairs, tables and banquettes line the floor-to-ceiling windows. The bar also participates in the two-for-one happy hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., though there are a few restrictions on what you can order.

As you enter the Horizons Lounge, on the port side, you'll see a glassed-in "fishbowl" area designated for smokers. Aside from a door, it's completely sealed off from the rest of the lounge and equipped with two banquette-style sofas and several groupings of tables with chairs. While it makes smokers look a bit like quarantined pariahs, it does give them the option to smoke at an inside bar.

Oceania Nautica Outside Recreation

Pools

Nautica is home to a single swimming pool and two jetted tubs that are open to all passengers. Located on Deck 9, the pool area is chic and lovely, with teak decking and mosaic tiles in an abstract pattern of blue and white. The square pool is surrounded by a shallower overflow area that's framed with mosaic benches -- so you can sit and cool your feet in the water if you don't want to take the plunge. The pool is flanked on either side by the raised hot tubs, accessed via stairs. Teak benches mark the corners of the entire area, and showers are located by the two entrances to the pool. To port and starboard are double rows of cushioned lounge chairs, with the back row shaded by the deck above. In front of and behind the pool are double bed-style contoured loungers with thick blue and white striped cushions. If you stake out a lounger and disappear for too long, don't expect to be able to reclaim it. Polite cards are placed on vacant seats, warning that left items will be removed and held at Waves Bar if the lounger still isn't occupied after 30 minutes have passed. On the starboard, forward corner of the pool deck, there's a designated smoking area.

Concierge Level passengers also have unlimited access to the thalassotherapy pool on the Spa Terrace, reached through the Canyon Ranch Spa on Deck 9. (Non-Concierge Level cruisers can buy day passes to access the pool and terrace.) This is a lovely teak-decked area at the front of the ship, with the raised pool (three steps up) at its centre. There's a glass windbreak, and the terrace is partially shaded by an overhang and partially open to the sky. The pool is decorated with midnight blue and gold mosaic tiles, and several of the same double bed-style contoured loungers as at the main pool are positioned on either side of this one. The views are absolutely spectacular. When we checked it out on a sea day, only a handful of passengers was hanging out, making it one of Nautica's best kept secrets.

Recreation

Forward on Deck 11, there's a well-kept nine-hole putting green. To the side of it, there's a shuffleboard court.

Near the pool area on Deck 10, you'll find a Ping-Pong table.

Sun Decks

Aside from the Spa Terrace, all lounge areas are free and open to any passengers, with no adults-only or quiet zones. That said, it's doubtful you'll ever have to contend with packs of stampeding, rowdy kids aboard this ship.

The largest concentration of loungers is found around the pool, on Deck 9. But you'll also find a couple dozen cushioned lounge chairs and two cool-off showers forward on Deck 11. It can get a bit breezy up there, though, despite a tinted-glass windbreak at the front of the ship.

In addition, there are a few lounge chairs on Deck 10, near the balcony that overlooks the pool area.

On our cruise, the numbers of lounge chairs appeared to be more than adequate, with plenty of unused loungers available.

Oceania Nautica Services

Guest Services is located on Deck 4 and operates 24 hours a day.

Nearby, on Deck 4, the Concierge Desk (for Concierge Level passengers) typically operates from 8 a.m. until noon and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., although hours can vary.

The shore excursion desk (called Destination Services) is also in the same area on Deck 4, and it's typically open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on sea days, with varying hours on shore days. Because it's a smaller ship, shore excursion options tend to be more limited and a bit pricey.

Lots of attention was lavished on the Library, located on Deck 10. Due to its out-of-the-way location, it doesn't see much use, though. The self-contained space is lined with built-in book cabinets in dark woodwork with elegant moulding throughout. The traditional furnishings have a slight Asian flair, with ginger jar accent pieces and flowered Chinese brocade on the sofas. There are ample areas for reading, with leather wingback chairs, coffee tables and end tables topped by lamps. Overhead, a coved ceiling is painted with a faux solarium effect, featuring plants and exotic birds. At the centre of the space, there's a fireplace with a marble mantel, and windows with window seats look out to port and stern. In one corner, there's a desk space with two flat-screen Internet-connected (for-fee) computers. The selection of books is vast, with more than 2,000 volumes. It includes art books, bestsellers, travel guides, encyclopedias and reference works, wide-ranging nonfiction titles, biographies, histories, sports volumes, large-print, foreign-language books and a section for paperback exchanges.

On Deck 9, there's Oceania@Sea, a dedicated computer room and Internet centre. In it are 13 computers and two printers. The space is panelled in dark wood and has two windows, making it more pleasant than the cyber centres on some ships; however, when we visited, only one computer was in use -- perhaps due to Wi-Fi and the availability of iPads and laptops to Concierge Level passengers. Staff assistance is available there during certain hours, which vary and are listed in the daily bulletin.

Wi-Fi coverage was decent by shipboard standards. Though the signal wasn't strong, we could pick it up in our cabin. For those without Internet deals or discounts (sometimes offered as booking incentives), service is available a la carte at $0.99 per minute or in 200-minute increments priced at $160. An unlimited Internet package costs $21.99 per day. There's a $3.95 activation fee, which is waived for those who purchase the unlimited package. Beginning with winter 2015-16 sailings, Concierge Level passengers will get a free Internet package.

In addition to four-page world news briefings that are delivered with the daily bulletin, it's possible to order one of 15 different newspapers to be printed and delivered to your cabin. The cost is $6.50 per day.

Two shopping boutiques face each other midship on Deck 5. They offer the same types of merchandise you'll find on many ships: perfumes, bargain costume jewellery sets, fine jewellery (including a special assortment of pieces with opals), watches, sunglasses, sundries and a surprising amount of clothing -- with some creative women's outfits by designer Joseph Ribkoff. There's also a small section of Oceania branded swag.

A card room with six felt-topped tables is located on Deck 9. It has the same clubby wood-panelled decor as the computer room, with double windows. When we checked it out on a sea day, four of the tables had active players.

There is a self-service laundry room across the hall from cabin 7076 on Deck 7. It includes four washers, four dryers, two irons and ironing boards, and laundry soap. The machines take tokens that are available at Reception. Laundry room hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Spa

The luxurious Canyon Ranch Spa on Deck 9 is a treat for the eyes. The hallways and waiting rooms are decorated in green-, rose- and honey-coloured marble, with inset mosaics and dark wood trim. There is a eucalyptus-scented steam room for each sex, as well as two spacious, mosaic-clad showers (a welcome relief from the tight cabin showers). The marble-lined dressing rooms have ample lockers made of light-coloured wood and an elegant mosaic design on the floor. There are five treatment rooms, most with showers.

The spa offers nearly a dozen types of facials, plus scrubs, wraps and combination treatments. Massages include aromatherapy and hot stone, as well as Thai, shiatsu and Ayurveda versions. Everyone we talked to was a big fan of the spa's massages, regardless of who their therapist was. You can add a scalp or foot treatment to your massage (a service the spa pushes -- but be aware of the extra fee). There's also reiki, body composition analysis, orthotics assessment and other wellness services.

The adjacent three-chair beauty salon has a large menu of pedicures and manicures, including acrylic nails. They also provide all the usual hair services. There's one hair stylist and one nail tech.

Spa personnel give free promotional seminars, such as "Bright Eyes," "NuFace, the 5-minute Facelift," and "New Look. New You." These are listed in the daily bulletin.

As is the case on many ships, the spa offers some specials throughout each sailing, with the best deals on days when the ship is in port. There are also discounts offered for services performed at off-hours. These discounts weren't mentioned anywhere except a sign on the spa desk -- so be sure to inquire if you're interested in these savings.

The spa hours are typically 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and spa-goers must be at least 18 years old. Particularly for sea-day treatments, it's important to reserve in advance.

Fitness

Starboard on Deck 9, adjacent to the spa, the fitness centre provides great views from many of the exercise machines, since most treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bikes face floor-to-ceiling windows that line the space. There are 14 TechnoGym circuit machines, four bikes, four elliptical machines, five treadmills, one rowing machine and an area for free weights.

The centre usually offers four to six exercise classes per day, with most of them -- like stretching, "Buff Booty," "Walk a Mile" and "Energize Your Soles" -- complimentary. There's an $11 charge for 45-minute yoga, Pilates, bike and ball classes. Personal training sessions are available at $95 for 50 minutes, with discounts for packages. Staff also offer gait analysis and fitness assessments.

The centre is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Up on Deck 10, a small fitness track circles the balcony over the Lido Deck.

When a ship delivers copies of the day's menu as part of the daily bulletin, you know it's serious about food. We noticed passengers perusing these menus around the pool, plotting what they were going to have for lunch and dinner. No surprise, the choices are many, and if you don't study the menus closely, you might miss a tasty morsel that other passengers will be gushing about later.

We agreed with our fellow travellers that this is the best food we've had at sea. With five dining venues, plus a copious afternoon tea (complete with a string quartet), we never went hungry. In general, the food could compete with fine land-based restaurants. Only when it came to fish did we feel let down a bit, mostly because the fish tended to be overcooked and on the dry side. Otherwise, we found the ingredients to be luxurious, the flavours sublime and the selection extraordinary.

Nautica doesn't offer any added-fee dining; all restaurants are free to all passengers, although access to the two speciality restaurants is limited. The service in both speciality restaurants is admirable. We especially appreciated that the usual white napkins were exchanged for black ones when a diner was wearing dark clothing. Details like that truly make passengers feel cosseted.

The Grand Dining Room (Deck 5): Nautica's elegant main dining room seats 352 and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's decorated in traditional style, with brocade curtains, shades of gold in the fabrics and wood panelling. Tablecloths are white, the silverware is substantial, and you'll be sipping from Riedel crystal. We were particularly impressed by the Versace service plates, with rims decorated in a lavish floral design. (See if you can find the painted ladybug.) Waitstaff are dressed formally, and wine stewards call on tables to help navigate wine choices. Plenty of tables for two line the aft windows, while larger tables fill in the rest of the room. To break up the space a bit, an ornate railing surrounds the central area. Seating is open, and we never had to wait for a table -- although, on some occasions, that meant sharing a larger table.

In addition to the Continental-style food that's a hallmark in this venue, Nautica's chef offered a number of Asian-focused choices on our Asian itinerary, including recipes from Red Ginger, a speciality restaurant aboard other Oceania vessels. There are also recipes from Jacques Pepin and a menu section devoted to Canyon Ranch Spa dishes, with the calorie counts noted.

At breakfast, the menu offers smoothies, juices, hot and cold cereals, yoghurt, eggs to-order, omelettes, a daily egg special (huevos rancheros, for example), steak, lamb chops, smoked salmon, finnan haddock, kippers, bacon (pork or turkey), sausages (ditto) and other sides, including a choice of three different types of potatoes. The menu also lists more than a dozen bread and pastry choices -- and trust us, they're luscious. If that's too much, there's a Canyon Ranch section, with items like an egg-white scramble and apple muffin. Or, if you're in a rush, an express option offers scrambled eggs, toast and bacon.

Lunch brings a bounty of choices, with Jacques Pepin signature items like a Nicoise salad, Canyon Ranch fare and a daily themed section focused on a type of cuisine -- Asian, Greek or Italian, for example. A nice option from this corner of the menu is the sampler plate for two, which gives you appetizer portions of six or so different dishes. You also have plenty of European-inflected choices among the daily soups, appetizers, main courses and desserts. At both lunch and dinner, at least one dessert is offered in both sugar-free and regular forms.

Dinner continues the cavalcade of deliciousness with a four-course degustation menu option (complete with suggested wine pairings by the glass) or an a la carte section that includes at least 10 appetizers, soups and salads, plus 12 main courses. Among those are Jacques Pepin signature dishes, like steak-frites and poulet roti (herb-crusted rotisserie chicken) and items from Red Ginger and Jacques, speciality restaurants on other ships in the fleet. These choices are a relatively new option, and they were happily greeted by Oceania veterans who fondly remembered the restaurants from other sailings. There's also an appetizer, salad and main course on the Canyon Ranch menu. It's possible to mix and match among any of the dishes, so the hardest part is just making up your mind. The dessert menu typically offers five tempting regular choices (and by "regular" we mean things like warm milk chocolate tartlet with passion fruit sorbet), a Canyon Ranch item (we recommend their chocolate mousse), a sorbet, five ice cream choices (often creative flavours like creme brulee or lemon tart) and a cheese plate. If you still have room, you can finish off with homemade cookies and petits fours.

The Terrace Cafe (Deck 9): This is Nautica's casual 220-seat buffet restaurant, and it also serves all three meals. With floor-to-ceiling windows, plus an outdoor area with both shaded and sunny tables, the feel of this venue is all light, sky and water. That's complemented by decor accented with wood and marble-topped serving counters. You actually don't help yourself there; you indicate to servers what you'd like from the food you see displayed. This is certainly better from a health safety standpoint, but it can be frustrating in the midst of breakfast mayhem on a port day, when a mob is waiting to be served.

Breakfast choices are pretty much in line with what you'd find on another upper-end ship, including smoked salmon and herring, berries and other fresh fruit, eggs and omelettes to order, daily speciality eggs (different sorts of Benedicts, for example), bacon, sausage, pancakes, cereals, yoghurts and a wicked assortment of pastries. (We were particularly smitten by the gooey sticky buns, served warm.) We usually ended up going with ready-made items because the egg stations tended to get backed up, particularly on port days.

Lunch brings a salad bar; an array of cold cuts and antipasto items; prepared salads; a carvery that offers items like roasted meats or salmon in puff pastry; a burger bar; fish of the day; a pasta station; two pizza choices; assorted hot entrees, side dishes, fruit and six or so desserts, plus ten ice cream choices. There's a real international variety among the offerings. One day, the crew might be assembling bouillabaisse before your eyes, and the next there's an Asian stir-fry and spring rolls or jerk chicken with dirty rice. 

At dinnertime, things get a little fancier, with the addition of lobster tails, steak and lamb chops prepared to order; sushi and sashimi; charcuterie; a pasta station; fish options; and creative fare ranging from escargots to sesame chicken.

Polo Grill (Deck 10): This clubby 90-seat dinner-only restaurant specializes in steaks and chops -- though there are choices for fish-lovers, too. Seating is by reservation, and passengers in regular cabins are officially offered one advance-reservation night of dining there, while Concierge Level passengers get two nights. In practice, we found that it was possible to get on a waiting list and score a same-night table, particularly on shore days when people with late reservations had more tendency to cancel.

Polo Grill offers classics, done well, with appetizers like colossal shrimp, oysters Rockefeller and generous lump crabcakes; clam chowder, navy bean soup and lobster bisque; a cobb salad; and potatoes au gratin, onion rings and green beans amandine among the 11 sides (though you can get trendy lobster mac and cheese, too). For the main attraction, choose from prime rib (the best we've ever tasted), porterhouse, ribeye, New York strip and filet mignon. You'll also find an Iberico de Bellota pork chop, rack of lamb and roasted chicken. Or, try one of five seafood choices, ranging from lobster to tuna, plus a surf and turf. Choose from five classic sauces on the side. Can't make up your mind about dessert? Opt for the sampler, with five petite portions that let you try everything, including cheesecake, creme brulee and a crumble.

Toscana (Deck 10): For a gracious Italian experience, head to the ship's other dinnertime speciality restaurant. Also with just 90 seats, it operates by the same rules as the Polo Grill. This is definitely not your checkered tablecloth Italian, but the sort of chic experience you'd find at a restaurant in Milan.

The meal begins with a menu of olive oils from which you choose to complement your bread. The menu offers both cold and hot antipasti, including carpaccio of both beef and octopus, Caprese salad and a luscious artichoke and parmesan timbale with black truffle sauce. There are two soups, including a classic minestrone, followed by a choice of nine pastas and two risottos (one with lobster), plus a daily special. The pasta and gnocchi are made onboard. The three salad offerings include a classic Caesar, made at the table. Meats dominate the 10 main courses, with choices like veal scaloppine and osso buco. We loved our monster veal chop smothered in porcini mushroom sauce. Non-carnivores can opt for lobster, sea bass or Dover sole, a favourite at my table, sauteed in lemon and parsley butter. Dessert samplers include adorable mini-cannoli.

Waves Grill (Deck 9): The ship's most casual dining spot is located on the pool deck, and it operates during breakfast and extended lunch hours. The 80 seats are all outdoors, but in the shade.

Early risers will want to hop up there for morning coffee, pastries, fruit and yoghurt, since it usually opens an hour prior to the buffet.

At lunchtime, Waves offers a salad and fruit bar, five different beef burgers (the "Kobe" is Wagyu beef with black truffle sauce, salmon, tuna and veggie burgers, plus additional hot speciality sandwiches like the "surf & turf," with lobster and filet mignon, served with parmesan-dusted truffle fries.

You can also order ice cream, milkshakes, malts and smoothies there.

Afternoon Tea (Horizons Lounge, Deck 10): Afternoon tea is served between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., with nearly a dozen types of Twinings teas and a luscious array of traditional pastries, scones and finger sandwiches. On some days, there's a speciality tea, such as one focused on cupcakes. As afternoon tea aficionados, we appreciated that Nautica served real clotted cream with their scones (not falsely labelled whipped cream as some ships do). As an extra touch of elegance, the string quartet performs when tea is served.

Room Service: 24-hour room service is available in all cabins from a special menu in the cabin information book. The menu offers only a Continental breakfast unless you're in a Concierge Level cabin or suite, where hot breakfasts can be delivered. Examples from the all-day dining items include shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, salads (Caesar and Cobb), sandwiches, burgers, beef filet, chicken breast, pizza, pasta and seven desserts, including a low-fat "after the gym" yoghurt smoothie. A couple of Canyon Ranch choices are also available. In addition to choosing from the in-room menu, passengers in suites can opt for course-by-course dining and can order-in from the ship's speciality restaurants.

Nautica's 342 cabins are plush and well organized -- comparable to the feel of a high-end hotel room, like you'd find at a Fairmont or Ritz-Carlton. Nearly 70 percent of the cabins have verandahs, and there are 62 suites in three different configurations. There's also the option to choose a stateroom with "Concierge Level" benefits, which adds extra perks to some verandah cabins and all of the suites.

All of Nautica's cabins were redecorated in 2014. The colour palette mixes royal blue with neutrals like grey, brown and beige. Ample dark woodwork (no faux stuff) adds a refined note, while floor-to-ceiling mirrors make the space feel more expansive. Beds have upholstered headboards, and they can be configured as twins or combined as one queen. They're the kind of beds you'll dream of long after you're back home, with 1,000-thread-count sheets, down duvets and mattresses that have both a memory foam layer and a pillowtop filled with gel and wrapped in chamomile-infused fibre. That all sounds a bit gimmicky, but bottom-line: These beds are pure bliss.

Cabins have two bedside cabinets, and reading lamps are attached to the wall on either side of the headboard. Attached to the regular shaded reading lamp is a mini "snorkel" lamp with a pinpoint light that lets you read with less light disruption to a sleeping cabinmate.

Most cabins each have a loveseat (or a sofabed in some cabins) and a small round glass-topped table at dining height. There's a desk/vanity with two cabinets and a stool; a large cabinet below the flat-screen TV that contains the safe, which operates by sliding your ship card; a cabinet that houses the minifridge (with nonalcoholic beverages that are complimentary); and a closet with two sections. One closet section holds four drawers and a short hanging space. The other, wider section is for full-length clothes, with a shelf on top that's mostly taken up by life jackets. The closet is equipped with ample wooden hangers, terry robes, slippers and an umbrella.

In each cabin, the phone is atop the desk, and electrical outlets are in the wall just above the desk (but no outlets next to the beds). There are two U.S.-configured 110V outlets and two European-configured 220V outlets. (U.S. appliances would need a converter for the latter two, unless they have a built-in transformer.) A hand-held hair dryer is stashed in the closet. The TV offers eight news-oriented satellite channels, three movie channels, episodic TV shows and 12 music channels, plus daily activities rundown by the cruise director, replays of the enrichment lectures, shore excursion videos and other ship-centric channels. If that's not enough, cabins also have DVD players, and there's a 9,000-DVD library located at reception.

There's an original painting over the sofa, which adds to the cabin's general upscale atmosphere. In keeping with that, there's a twice-daily maid service, and a different type of Belgian chocolate will appear on your pillow each night with the turndown service. Our cabin was in excellent condition, showing no wear on the upholstery or dings in the woodwork.

If there's one quibble we have with the non-suite cabins, it's their compact bathrooms. There are no towel racks near the sink; rather, you have to reach across the toilet to grab a towel. The narrow showers are a claustrophobic two feet at their widest, growing even smaller the further you get from the fixtures. Water pressure was good, although temperature varied on occasion. Oceania makes up for it by providing luxe amenities like abundant, thick towels, with a chic chevron pattern and large bottles of Bulgari shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, as well as substantial Bulgari bar soaps, all in a refreshing "white tea" scent. A shower cap, vanity pack and tissue dispenser complete the amenities. The bathroom is decorated in beige tones with some wooden accents, and a cabinet with three shelves provides space for personal items. There's additional space on a narrow shelf below the sink, which also holds the built-in wastebasket and a sharps container. A second hair dryer is attached to the wall.

All of the suites and one deck of verandah cabins are designated "Concierge Level." This upgrade brings occupants added amenities and privileges, including early embarkation and priority luggage delivery, a welcome bottle of Champagne, garment pressing at embarkation, shoe shine service and a tote bag. It also enables you to make one advance reservation at each of the two speciality restaurants prior to boarding, and to book shore excursions in advance of non-Concierge passengers. One big benefit is unlimited access to the glorious private spa terrace, a sun-drenched space at the front of the ship, with loungers and a thalassotherapy pool. A limited number of iPads is available for loan and, starting in winter 2015-16, Concierge Level will also include a free Internet package, with the number of minutes varying by the length of the voyage.

There are 12 available pairs of connecting cabins in various classes, plus six options for connecting suites (four with another suite and two with a regular cabin). Fifty-six cabins come with sofa beds for one person, and 30 suites are equipped with sofa beds that sleep two. Four inside cabins are triples, each with a Pullman bed, while eight inside cabins are set up to sleep four with Pullman beds.

There are three accessible cabins -- all interior staterooms, located on Deck 4.

Interior: Nautica has only 28 inside cabins, scattered among four decks. They are 160 square feet, with all the standard amenities described above. If you happen to be a group of three or four that wants to share a cabin, some of these staterooms offer Pullman beds.

Oceanview: There are 82 oceanview cabins. Eleven of them on Deck 6 have views blocked by lifeboats, and they're a bit smaller, coming in at 143 square feet; the remainder measure 165 square feet. The lower-priced Deck 3 rooms have portholes, while the Deluxe Oceanview models have picture windows and are mostly located on Deck 4. Otherwise, the floor plans and amenities are the same. There are also two Deluxe Oceanview rooms each on decks 6 and 7.

Balcony: Known as Veranda Staterooms, these cabins are primarily located on decks 6 and 7. On Deck 6, you'll find 66 of them with standard service and amenities; on Deck 7 there are 100 with Concierge Level service and amenities, plus an additional four Concierge cabins on Deck 8. All are 216 square feet, and that extra space comes with a different configuration that puts the desk and seating area next to the glass-walled balcony entrance, rather than near the cabin's main entrance, as it is in most of the Oceanview cabins. A sliding-glass door in each stateroom leads to the teak deck, equipped with chairs and a low table. The railing is made of wood, with a thick glass panel below it. Smoking is not allowed on balconies. For regular Veranda Staterooms, the balcony is 43 square feet (with four lucky exceptions -- two cabins with 73-square-foot verandahs and two with 92-square-foot verandahs). For Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms, the balcony is about 41 square feet (with six more lucky exceptions -- two cabins with 72-square-foot verandahs, two with 94-square-foot verandahs and two with 96-square-foot verandahs). Concierge cabins also receive expanded toiletries in a different Bulgari scent (green tea), including a bath tea bag, aftershave emulsion and eau de cologne.

Minisuite: The 52 Penthouse Suites are all located on Deck 8 and were redecorated in a 2014 refurbishment. At nearly twice the width of two regular cabins, these minisuites come in at a spacious 322 square feet. Balconies are each about 55 square feet and include two reclining chairs, along with footstools and a small table. The interior decor is in soothing shades of sea green, gold and beige, with a full-sized sofa and the addition of two upholstered chairs arranged around the small glass-topped dining table. Bathrooms are decorated in granite and have full-sized bathtubs, plus the same upgraded Concierge Level amenities.

Suites come with all the Concierge Level amenities, plus even earlier embarkation; 24-hour butler service; a laptop computer and iPad; a free printed daily newspaper (a $6.50 item for non-suite dwellers); and personalized stationery.

Butler services include course-by-course room-service dining, the ability to have food delivered from the speciality restaurants, coordination of onshore dinner and entertainment reservations, packing and unpacking services, evening canapes and last-minute luggage collection.

Suite: There are two types of suites to choose from: four Vista Suites, located at the front of decks 6 and 7 and six Owner's Suites, located aft on decks 6, 7 and 8. Besides all the amenities of the Penthouse Suites, these suites also include a bar setup, with six full-sized bottles of your choice of premium spirits and wines. There's also a fruit basket that's replenished daily. Passengers in these suites choose from three Bulgari scents for their toiletries and also receive a Bulgari gift basket.

The 786-square-foot Vista Suites are decorated in sea green and beige tones, and they have views over the bow from both the separate bedroom and living room. Swagged curtains can close off the opening between the two rooms, and there's also a curtain treatment at the head of the bed. The living room is furnished with a contemporary beige sofa, a coffee table, two upholstered armchairs, two side-tables and a lovely classical-style wood dining table with three chairs. The suite has two flat-screen TVs, one in the bedroom and one in the living room. In addition to the main bathroom (redone in 2014 with an oversized shower), there is also a guest powder room. The balcony covers just slightly more than 190 square feet and is furnished with two loungers, two chairs and two low tables. Two of the Vista Suites can be combined with an Oceanview Suite to make an even larger suite.

The 962-square-foot Owner's Suites include similar furnishings in an even more spacious layout with a 262-square-foot wraparound teak verandah. You get panoramic views off the stern from both the living room and bedroom. The colour palette there is deep rose, gold and beige, with a bit of a country French feel. The living room holds an L-shaped sofa bed, an armchair, coffee table, credenza, two side tables and a dining table with four chairs. The bathroom was redone in a 2014 refurb, with an oversized shower; there's also a separate guest powder room. The balcony is furnished with two loungers, two chairs and two low tables.

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