IF you are looking for a cruise line with lots of parties, big time entertainment, lots of bars to "booze cruise", lots and lots of "stuff yourself mediocre buffet food and extreme high energy...".well this isn't your cruise line, so read no further. IF you enjoy peace and quiet, top quality food and service, good lecturers, fabulous High Tea and wonderful ports, this IS your cruise line and read on.
We have enjoyed transatlantic cruising as we enjoy being with each other and can always find things to do. This cruise was excellent (with only a slight glitch that I will mention later). We really loved the size and wonderful style of this ship. Marina is beautiful in all aspects, from the lobby to the restaurants to the little nooks and crannies that make her what she is.
We found that even at 60, we were still some of the youngest people on this cruise. Perhaps the 14 day excursion, perhaps the price or just perhaps this is the age group that is well travelled and sophisticated enough to enjoy this lifestyle. Many walkers and wheelchairs, that's for sure. The persons who we did come in contact with were delightful and shared many of the interests that we do.
We enjoyed the cabin we had selected, which was a lower veranda concierge cabin, amidships (9086, deck 9). Although we used the concierge room once or twice (and it was excellent), I don't know that I would book again as the amenities everywhere on the ship were just as good. We have read complaints about the size of the drawers and the shower, but found everything ok with us. Yes, the shower is a bit tight (certainly the Solstice ships have this beat), but having a tub with bath salts beat it out! The shower pressure was great and we thought the bathroom very good for our needs. We always take a few light weight hangers with us, so we had no problems whatsoever with space for our three bags of clothes. The lap top computer was nice, but again, as a concierge amenity, could be done without. We thoroughly enjoyed the free bottled water each day as we consume quite a lot. Our room attendant was always there, making sure all our needs were attended to.
We liked the Internet area and the Espresso bar (free!) and thought the Library area one of the best at sea! We did use the pool hot tubs and enjoyed it as well (the pool is also heated; nice touch).
There are very few bars and lounges on this ship, but we did think they were great. The entertainment at each was well thought out and very pleasant.
Now, let's get down to the food! We are avid foodies (I have been in charge of 30 restaurants and 40 bars in my profession). I KNOW how hard it is to have top quality food and service, especially onboard a vessel. We have tried all kinds of cruise ships (27th cruise) and truly think this is some of the best food at sea! Crystal, Holland America and Celebrity are the other ships we truly like, but this was very good to outstanding.
Main Dining Room: The food and service in this room runs the gamut from okay to superior. As on any big cruiser, the service dominates how your food is going to come from the kitchen. We found the food product itself to be well seasoned and of superior quality than most ships. The food was not hot sometimes, but really depended on our server and the time we ate. IF we ate early (6:30-7:00 p.m.), our service was extremely good with all of the superior service you would expect (frenching the bread, attentive service, excellent attention to detail. IF you ate later and the servers had too many tables, most of this fell apart. Food missed, soups cold as they are brought out with your appetizer and left on the side stand). All in all though, we really enjoyed eating in the MDR as 90% of the time, they did a great job.
The restaurants, all except La Reserve, are included in your fare, were truly outstanding. We ate each night at 7:00 in these outlets and found our food and service to be of superior quality. I have nothing bad to say about JACQUES, RED GINGER, TOSCANA or POLO GRILL. IF I had to put them in order of MY preference, it would be Toscana, Red Ginger, Jacques and Polo Grill. This is just my taste and in NO way lessens the quality of the meals we had. IF you ate in these outlets each night, you would have a meal as good, if not better, than most great NYC restaurants.
We ate at LA RESERVE twice! This is a cost plus dining experience (about $120 per person by the time you are finished). They change this wine dinner each week, so we went to both. This DR only seats 24 persons and was never filled to capacity on our voyage (Too bad for those who missed it!). The seven course meal was outstanding, along with the wine pairings with them. The staff was superb in their service and deserves great kudos for the job they do!
The buffet serves very good food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We never did get around to having dinner there, but enjoyed our other meals there. The selections, again, were of top quality. I especially enjoyed the cheese cart, with all of the wonderful French cheeses each day. Desserts and breads on most cruise lines are usually the worst part of the culinary experience. The Pastry chef on this line makes some of the best desserts on the sea. His breads, especially the croissants that are baked each day, were as good as if eating in a cafe on Paris! Finally, the pool grill, which I didn't think we would eat at much, was great. Imagine a Kobe Cheeseburger or a Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail Burger! Yes, they are there, along with handmade milkshakes (all at no extra cost!). Bravo to all of the chefs and service personnel on board! We will book again because of YOU!
IF you want to have a really fun time and love to cook, want to learn, or just go and watch, please try out the Culinary Arts classes. Both Chefs, Noelle Barille and Annie Copps, put on a great 2 hour class that we really enjoyed. We went to three different classes and had a ball. I have a lot of respect for these two ladies, as this kitchen lets people put knives in their hands (Yikes). IF you want to enjoy yourself, while having top notch professionals teach and entertain you, this is well worth the price.
Excursions: I will make this fast as there weren't too many. Bermuda: Not so sure what the hype is about Bermuda. We took and island tour and it was okay. Yes, the beaches are beautiful, but I, myself, would prefer the Caribbean. Funchal: Again, did an excursion through the ship and had a nice time here. Tangiers: Another excursion thru the ship and was truly surprised that I liked Morocco so much, It's a destination that I would like to go back to and explore more of the country.
We stayed two extra days in Barcelona (which I find close to Paris as one of the best European food experiences). Stayed at the Hotel MAJESTIC, which was as good as any Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons in the world.
Debarkation was a snap and our trip home through Delta airlines (booked by Oceania) was great.
So my final IF....IF you want a great trip in the air, DO NOT USE AMERICAN AIRLINES!! ) Anytime we have used American, bad things happen, or the service and food is ghastly! Oceania needs to work with some other airline. Yes we booked through Oceania as they include the airfare in the price of the cruise. I would NOT do that again! We ALWAYS book our own air, and anytime we go on any cruise experience, we stay one day early in the port of departure, Didn't do it this time and it almost ruined our cruise. Won't get into lengthy detail, but just to say that American plane malfunctions forced us to be 3 hours late to Miami and we were told that we would have to find our own way to Bermuda to board the ship. As it happened, the ship left two hours late and we were able to board. It was the most stress we have ever incurred on a cruise, and I learned a lesson. THIS was the only thing that we thought was poor on the part of Oceania. Not the malfunction, but the way we were treated by their representatives at the Miami airport. Clearly NOT the service standard that we had hoped for. Thank goodness that the ships' crew shined on and our experience was saved.
IF you worry about what this cruise line costs then you probably shouldn't be on their ships. I can only state that we felt every dime we paid out was well worth it and the Price/Value was extremely good for what you receive. Although our next voyage is back on Celebrity, we have booked for next year on Marina again. We look forward to the exceptional services that we enjoyed this time and hope that it will be as good the next.