Written by on Wednesday August 26, 2015
It is not often that we get the opportunity to visit many luxury cruise ships as they are most often sailing to far-flung exotic destinations so when the opportunity to experience the Oceania Marina came up I jumped at the chance!
Oceania Cruises are one cruise line that has excited me right from day one – the opportunity to experience a mid-sized ship with exquisite dining, impeccable service yet with a reasonable price tag and country club casual dress code has always appealed!
First impressions were that the ship was stylish, sleek and enticing from the exterior. I couldn’t wait to get onboard and see the “Best kept secret in cruising” for myself.
Oceania Marina is one of the larger ships of the Oceania fleet – the first in the O class grade she came into service in 2011 before her sister ship Riviera launched in 2012. Both O class ships have a capacity of 1,250 passengers compared to just 684
on the smaller R class ships Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and soon to be launched Sirena. Although the ship is one of the larger in the fleet she still had an intimate and exclusive feel.
The Atrium was spectacular, dotted with contemporary seating and gorgeously lavish surroundings but the sparkling Lalique Grand Staircase was the true highlight of this beautiful area.
Bars & Lounge areas
We began our tour in the Horizons Lounge; an elegant observation lounge with floor to ceiling windows and a casual daytime feel. This is hub of the ship come 4pm when afternoon tea is served before transforming into a relaxed evening bar and entertainment venue.
There are two other evening bars onboard – Martinis and the Grand Bar. Just as in the name Martinis serves numerous incarnations of the famous cocktail with live piano music. It felt like a private club and was very intimate and the Grand Bar is just that – opulent and grand.
Outdoor Decks & Pool Area
The Marina has a large heated pool and three whirlpool spas, so there is always room for a refreshing dip in the pool, whatever the weather. Alternatively you can relax by the poolside or enjoy a soothing spa experience. The Waves bar and grill is next to the pool also so you can enjoy a cocktail or snack at your leisure.
The thing that stood out most for me with Oceania was the sheer number of different dining options with no additional cover charge. For a mid-sized ship the opportunities are pretty much endless! Oceania are proud of their status as having the ‘Finest cuisine at sea’; a bold statement but one that really rings true with their six open-seating gourmet restaurants: The Grand Dining Room, The Terrace Café, Jacques, The Polo Grill, Toscana and Red Ginger.
In addition to these six options there is also the more informal Waves Bar and Grill located close to the swimming pool serving lunch and afternoon snacks. The menu here consists of gourmet sandwiches, burgers, salads and tasty seafood which can be ordered in the open galley.
The main restaurants, The Grand Dining Room and The Terrace Café, are open seating so there is no fixed schedule or seating plan so you can just turn up and dine whenever you are ready and with whomever you choose.
The four speciality restaurants, Red Ginger, Toscana, Polo Grill and Jacques do require reservations but guests are guaranteed to dine in each of these restaurants at least once during a seven night cruise.
I also like the fact that it was possible to request additional dining in the speciality restaurants through onboard Guest Services. If guests note their interest there is a waitlist available so if a space does become available it may be possible for you to dine in your favourite restaurant more than once.
There are two other dining options onboard which do incur additional charges – La Reserve and Privée.
La Reserve is an exclusive Dining area which pairs fine wines with exquisite cuisine such as Duck Foie Gras or Maine Lobster Cassolette. This experience is claimed to give even the most devout foodies a new appreciation of fine dining! The cover charge here starts from around $100 per person dependent upon the menu you select.
What can I say, Privée is a hidden gem! An exclusively wonderful all-white private dining room tucked away between the Polo Grill and Toscana. For a one off cover charge of $250 you can host a private dining event for up to 10 guests. The white marble dining table is a wonder in itself custom-built and illuminated by a spectacular golden Venini chandelier and guests can choose any number of courses from the Polo Grill, Toscana or even a combination of both.
On Board Enrichment
Next up on our tour was to investigate the onboard enrichment services.
The Canyon Ranch Spa
The Canyon Ranch Spa is a well known brand in America but less so in Europe. They operate a range of award-winning health resorts in the USA offering a full range of treatments from facials and body scrubs to massage and fitness assessments. All Concierge Level and Suite guests enjoy unlimited access to the private Spa Terrace, ideal for sunbathing or relaxing with your favourite book. The Spa itself also holds the fitness Centre, Sauna, Steam room and beauty salon.
The Culinary Centre & Artists Loft
Believe it or not Oceania cruises were the very first cruise line to offer Cookery classes at sea when they launched their then ground-breaking Culinary Centre. It is still now the only fully hands-on cooking school at sea. A range of master chefs from throughout the world guide and teach you how to prepare exquisite dishes at your own fully equipped workstation. The workstations really were state-of-the-art with everything you would expect of a true professional kitchen - It was just like featuring in your own Masterchef heat!
The Artists Loft is another unique addition for Oceania. Aspiring artists will love this experience as a range of talented in-house artists offer step-by-step instruction in creating your own masterpiece. Here you can paint with oils, watercolours, or create collages for everyone from beginners to professionals, ideal for those days at sea.
Library, Casino & Marina Lounge
As we toured the rest of the ship we discovered that the busiest place onboard was the Library! I was really amazed to see so many people using this traditional English-style space – almost every available area was occupied. Within the library sits Baristas, the signature coffee bar, serving illy® coffees, speciality teas and freshly made pastries, so perhaps this was the reason why it was so busy!
The Monte-Carlo style Casino was extensive too with slot machines, blackjack, poker, or roulette but was obviously closed due to the ship being in port. The Casino bar was my favourite part with pink lights and sumptuous grey sparkly furnishings. I could certainly see myself here on a night enjoying a chilled out Gin & Tonic or two!
The Marina Lounge, however, is certainly where the main nightly entertainment takes place with magicians, comedians, singers and dancers making the headlines here.
Unfortunately as the ship was mid-cruise we didn't get the chance to experience any staterooms for for ourselves, however Oceania are known for their incredibly spacious accommodation across every category, especially with regard to the lavish bathrooms.
Six course Luncheon
Our final time onboard was spent in the Grand Dining room where we enjoyed a six-course lunch with taster dishes from each of the different speciality restaurants. I was really looking forward to this as it gave me the chance to try caviar for the first time!
The presentation was exquisite and the food was just as good as I anticipated. The beef and lobster were to die for but my favourite by far was the risotto – it was divine!
For me Oceania has truly won my heart. It is an outstanding value 5* product and it’s easy to see why it is the cruise company of choice for travelers seeking a truly refined and casually elegant travel experience. It is sophisticated, intimate, stylish and luxurious and right up my street!
Nicola Payne, Product Manager