Major Change for Our Upcoming Cruise – What Would You Do?

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We recently received an email from Oceania Cruises about an itinerary change on an upcoming cruise.  These changes are fairly common, but in this case the changes are fairly significant as they affect our embarkation port as well as the first two ports.

What we Booked

a map of the caribbean islands
Original Itinerary

We were looking for a Caribbean cruise that would hit a few ports that would be new for us as well as a visit to Colombia, a country we have yet to visit.  So when we saw a 10-night itinerary that would embark in Cartagena, Colombia on a Sunday we thought it was a great opportunity to spend a weekend visiting Cartagena, then we would have an opportunity to visit a second city in Colombia – Santa, Marta before starting our island hopping on our way up to Miami.

Well, that all changed when we received an email from Oceania Cruises letting us know that we would now be starting our trip in Panama City, Panama instead completely skipping over our visit to Colombia.

What’s Changing

a map of the caribbean
New Itinerary

The biggest change is that the cruise will now start in Panama City, Panama and not Cartagena, Colombia meaning different flights, different pre-cruise hotel, etc.  Additionally we’re now completely bypassing Colombia and Aruba.  Here’s a summary of the changes to the first three days of the cruise.  If you’re interested, here’s a link to the entire Island Tapestry itinerary in its present form.

a screenshot of a computer screen
Itinerary Changes

As you can see, Oceania Cruises has replaced our Santa Marta and Oranjestad stops with a transiting of the Panama Canal and a sea day.  Sounds great, right?  Well, it is, but we had the good fortune of sailing on a Panama Canal cruise that embarked in Panama City just last year.  Additionally, we’re fairly active cruisers and doubling the number of sea days from two to four means a lot less time exploring ports and enjoying water sports and more time lazing on the ship.

The Offer

Oceania Cruises has offered a few things as compensation for the changes in the itinerary:

  • $300 per cabin or suite in onboard credit
  • Up to $300 per passenger reimbursement for airfare change fees and/or difference in fares
  • For those that have Oceania Cruises flights there will be no difference as it will all be taken care of for them

We booked our own flights to Cartagena (CTG) using Delta Skypennies and were able to book attractively timed flights at a cost of 44,200 miles (including the 15% Delta SkyMiles Amex Card Member Discount) and $20.60 in taxes and fees each in first class for the 4 hour flight.  In checking comparable first class flights to Panama City (PTY) for the 4 hour flight they are pricing out at 74,300 miles (after 15% discount) and $13.70 in taxes and fees.  The 30,100 difference in miles essentially maxes out the $300 per passenger reimbursement offer from Oceania Cruises assuming they share our value of Delta Skymiles of $0.01 per mile.

Because we’re still in our refundable deposit period and had booked onboard a prior cruise with all the benefits offered by doing so, we can easily roll our deposit over to another cruise if we so wish.  There are a couple of interesting South American cruises of a similar length; however, the flights are much more expensive in dollars and points, and the cabin and ship we wanted to try are not available on these itineraries.

a train tracks next to a body of water
Oceania Marina Passing Through Gatun Locks, 2022

We loved our recent sailing on Oceania Marina through the Panama Canal and would highly recommend a Panama Canal cruise if you haven’t yet had a chance to sail through this modern wonder of the world.  We’re still excited about the cabin we booked and sailing on Sirena for the first time, but we’re a bit less excited about the itinerary.

What would you do?  Please let us know – Michael

 

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Dealing with a similar situation. Our upcoming cruise to Hawaii has understandably had to omit a Maui overnight But the replacement is stops in Victoria BC and Seattle. Not what we had in mind for sure. But since the embarkation and disembarkation ports are the same we get no other compensation from RC. Adding 300 OBC would have been nice. I would stay with your plans.

    • @Chuck Rogers – What’s happened in Maui is absolutely horrific. Interesting that RC added those stops instead of extending others in Hawaii, but I suppose those ports couldn’t handle additional ship traffic, particularly in light of all the challenges they’re currently facing.

    • @Genr – The cruise is still in the refundable window; however, the communication from Oceania Cruises does not mention cancelling your cruise for a refund.

  2. Missing Aruba isn’t such a big deal to me, but Cartagena is a wonderful city to explore (take the Gabriel Garcia Marquez tour, where an actor in Costume from one of his novels leads you through the old city, and definitely go to the Gaetsemeni neighborhood, where the street art is brilliant and filled with social). I think if it were me — and if the ports were more important than the cruise — I’d ask Oceania to move you to another departure where Cartagena is included. The other option is to spend a few days in Cartagena, pre-trip, and fly from there to Panama City (1h15m flight).

    If you do go, my favorite hotel is the Sofitel Legend Santa Clara. Perhaps you can use ALL points. There’s also a Marriott there.

    And definitely: do the make your own ceviche at OhLaLa Bistro. The chef is the most marvelous woman; you’ll have a ball!) and consider the coffee master class at cafè del mural (I’m less of a fan of cafè San Alberto). Finally, a rum and chocolate tour can be fun…if they out as much emphasis I. The chocolate as they do on the rum.

    • @Tom – Now you have me thinking about a dedicated trip to Cartagena as it appears Oceania has wiped all of their stops from the calendar during our travel window. Delta has introduced direct flights from Atlanta starting this fall making a visit for us using points fairly simple. Thanks for all of the great tips!

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