Having previously cruised in the owner's suite on both the Regatta and Insigna my wife and anticipated a new dimension in cruising as we booked an Eastern Caribbean voyage on the Marina. Since our last Oceania cruise the company become apart of Apollo Management LP along with the Regency Seven Seas.
With the exception on the Ikea inspired dorm like furniture in the stateroom, the ship is truly lovely. The library can only be imagined - wonderful. The furnishing the size/comfort of the seating in the public areas are perhaps the finest afloat.
The crew was helpful and personable. The ships officers were aloof and offered no ship's tour of the kitchen or bridge so popular on other cruise ships like Silver Sea.
The cruise director and many members of the staff were recovering from a sever case of bronchitis which quickly spread to the passengers including ourselves and traveling companions. Each bar check had to be individually signed with a common pen which was probably one of the ways in which the infection was transmitted between staff and passengers. Holland America doesn't require each chit to be signed and also had a staff member at the maitre d stand who would offer a hand sanitizer to each diner upon entering the restaurant. Our bout lasted almost a month and required a doctor's visit at home. Perhaps cruising during the winter flu seasons isn't advisable.
The shows were apparently well produced by an independent company from Nashville, but only one was performed as a late afternoon matinee. The normal shows started after 9:30 pm which was too late for us as we wanted to participate in morning shore excursions. The matinee was almost filled to capacity and one would wonder why more aren't offered which would cater to the ages ( 60-80 ) of the ships passengers.
Oceania is attempting to follow Cristal with optional all inclusive beverage and gratuity packages. We chose not to purchase the beverage package as we felt that it would be difficult to be identified by the wine servers in the dining room. We did take the gratuity package. Our room staff were fabulous and I inquired at the reception how much of our pre-paid was allocated to them. I was told that that was confidential. Not wanting to short change them, we gave them additional gratuities. Oceania should be all inclusive.
Country Club Causal - My wife likes to dress up when we dine in the main dining room which is elegant and has the staff in formal style uniforms. Jackets are no longer required for the main dining room. We typically prefer to share a table with others, and many of the other passengers dressed as they were attending bingo night at the local Elks club. Shirts without collars, suspenders, sweaters without shirts, shorts, you name it. Not for us . Perhaps a section of the dining room could be reserved for those who want to dress down market. Other cruise lines have a blend of causal and more formal. Perhaps Oceania will be able to figure out their identity as a premium cost cruise line with a down market clientele.
The food was exceptional. We enjoyed all venues with the exception of the evening meal on the Terrace grill where there was often a long line for the grill item of the night. I would be in line for 5-10 minutes while my wife would be at the table having her food getting cold. They should have wait staff take orders for grill items and serve them at the individual's table.
The Muster Drill
Given the Costa Concordia tragedy, I will finish with a few comments on the importance of muster drills. As a former holder of a US Coast Guard Masters License I have observed these drills with a critical eye. In recent years I have cruised on Crystal, Oceania and Silversea and all ships had full muster drills prior to departure. Having only been aboard only a few hours, the muster drill gives the passenger the opportunity to locate their life jackets, get familiar with them and become knowledgeable with the location and procedures of the life-boat stations. A critical aspect of the drill is that the crew station themselves on the stairways and hallways to give directions to the passengers. Since everyone is wearing a life jacket, the crew ware brightly colored hats which distinguish them from the passengers. The crew on Crystal and Silversea took their duties seriously and were easily identifiable by their hats. On the Marina during muster drill the crew were more casual about wearing their caps. The ships officers need to enforce this requirement and if the crew objects they should be replaced. The muster drill on the Marina did not assemble the passengers at life boat stations but in the main dining room. Apparently this was due to the fact that the ship doesn't carry enough life boat capacity for the guests and crew and instead relies on life rafts in canisters to supplement the life boats which will deploy upon contact with the water. I asked many officers and crew members how one was to enter a life raft and my questions were evaded. My guess is that once the guests have assembled in the main dining room a ship's officer will determine who gets to go the life boats - and depending on the sea state who will attempt to enter a life raft from the water (jumping fgrom the ship) or directly from the ships boarding ramp. Both the Nautica and Regatta muster drills assemble on deck at a designated life boat. Now in my seventies, I am not anxious to go thru a life raft drill and will chose smaller ships with full life boat capacity.
If we cruise with Oceania again it will be on their smaller ships. We will look to Holland American for a up market value package and SilverSea for our all inclusive voyages. Oceania seems to be almost pregnant - it should be an all inclusive cruise line like Crystal or SilverSea or return to being an add on cruise. Hopefully Oceania will discover it's identify once again.