The hotly-anticipated arrival of Oceania Cruises’ Marina brings style to the high seas. Decorated in a colour scheme that screams luxury, dripping in chandeliers, and with Ralph Lauren-designed suites, this is the last word in chic sailing
View the Oceania Marina Deck Plan.
Until now, Oceania Cruises has been one of the UK’s best kept cruising secrets; far from a household name, but steadily building a following among cruisers looking for a smaller ship, a laid-back environment and above all, superb food.
The Fort Lauderdale-based line currently operates three identical, mid-sized ships, carrying a comfortable 684 passengers each. Cruises on Insignia, Nautica and Regatta are priced at around a four-star level but in almost every way, food and service in particular, deliver a five-star cruise, which explains why snaring a cabin can be so tricky; American cruisers, who tend to book early, are getting in first.
The three existing ships were acquired from the defunct Renaissance Cruises. Regatta was relaunched for Oceania in 2003, with its sisters following suit. But it was only in 2007, when the line had been acquired by a private investment company, that orders were placed for two new-build vessels for Oceania. The much anticipated Marina is the first, and will leave the yard in Italy in January 2011.
What’s exciting about Marina is that Oceania has taken the best elements of its existing product and made them better. This is the line’s first chance to put its own stamp on a ship, and the interiors, in particular, promise to be like nothing we’ve seen before.
Marina will be bigger than its sisters, measuring 65,000 tons and carrying 1,252 passengers, but not so big (Oceania’s management hopes) as to frighten off the guests who are repelled by ships in the 2,000-plus bracket. If the speed at which the maiden voyage sold out is anything to go by, the size is no deterrent at all.
One much welcomed element of the new ship will be the cabins. The one negative about the existing vessels is the small size of the cabins and the tiny bathrooms; it’s this that prevents the line from taking on the Silverseas and Crystal Cruises of the world. On Marina, the regular cabins will have a lot more living space, as well as marble sinks in the bathrooms, and separate baths and showers. Most cabins have a balcony but cruisers on a budget are catered for with a few inside staterooms. Even the ocean view category, with no balcony, is gorgeous, flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The beds on Oceania’s ships are amazing – custom-designed ‘Prestige Tranquillity’ beds with super-luxury memory foam mattresses. The Egyptian cotton sheets have a thread count of 1,000, which is lavish by any standards.
There are an impressive nine places to eat on the new ship (10 with room service), not least the beautiful Grand Dining room, with 17- foot ceilings, a stunning chandelier as its centrepiece and a colour scheme of cocoa, cream and gold, with splashes of apricot and cranberry. Look out for the Versace charger plates which appear in all Oceania’s dining rooms; quite the most beautiful crockery at sea. The menus change constantly and there’s always a wide choice, including healthy offerings from Canyon Ranch, the famed American health spa that runs the spa on board.
Jacques is the first eponymous restaurant at sea from the eminent chef Jacques Pepin, culinary consultant to Oceania. In this bistro style setting, expect French classics with a contemporary twist; coq au vin, or steak frites, for example.
The restaurants that have been so successful on the existing ships, Toscana and Polo Grill, will be present on Marina. Toscana serves Italian cuisine, complete with an olive oil menu, while Polo Grill does classic steakhouse and seafood dishes. The Terrace Café, less formal than the main dining room, has a beautiful outdoor dining area and is genuinely romantic at night, serving tapas and sushi on the aft deck at sunset.
New on Marina is La Reserve, a wine-tasting room seating 24, where special wine-paired dinners will be offered, or Privee, a 10-person dining room set between Toscana and the Polo Grill, with a hand-made Lalique crystal table, for degustation menus (for which there is a charge).
And for guests whose minds are still firmly focused on food after all this, Marina will also have a Culinary Arts Centre, a proper, hands-on cooking workshop where up to 24 people can take part in interactive demos.
The spa on Marina will be run by Canyon Ranch, a refreshing change from the ubiquitous Steiner spas on the vast majority of cruise ships. There’s a huge range of treatments, bookable online, including some based on the Indian system of Ayurveda.
What you won’t find on Marina, or any Oceania ship, is lavish nightlife. Entertainment tends to be low key – more jazz trios and string quartets than West End shows.
Marina will spend her inaugural season on the other side of the Atlantic, leaving Barcelona on 22 January 2011 for the naming ceremony in Miami. Next summer, however, the new ship will sail in Europe. But book early. A lot of sailings have sold out already as more and more passengers discover what superb value this line offers.