I have never had better service aboard ship or on land than I had on this cruise. The staff appeared to have been instructed never to say "no," even if the request had not been made. When a few couples were early for breakfast at the Terrace Cafe, the staff opened it up for us unasked. When a passenger dressed only in a swimsuit started eating at a table in Waves, a server came over with a towel and asked him if he wouldn't be more comfortable with that over his shoulders. It wasn't a shirt, but it did the job tactfully. The Marina has a few wheelchairs for use solely aboard ship, yet a staff member let an obviously irritated and out-of-line passenger take one wheelchair ashore because the passenger thought he could visit a venue that might not have wheelchairs.
On all the Cruise Director's announcements he referred to "the beautiful Marina." That grew repetitious, but the adjective is correct. The Marina is beautiful and has just enough glitz to make an impression. Most of the artwork was too abstract for me, but I recognize that it was all in good--if modernist--taste. Marina is still relatively new, and it was shiningly clean. I noticed no spots on the windows or furnishings, but there were signs of wear on the carpet near my bed.
The stateroom had all the storage space needed and was a good place to relax. One closet door needed fixing, and a workman appeared promptly when summoned by the room steward. The fix took some time, but the door gave no further problems during the cruise. I have read a good deal on these boards about the showers on the Marina. I am tall and wear extra-large sizes, and yes the shower stall was a squeeze, but I could shower. On the other hand, I expect better from Oceania than a shower stall that is a squeeze.
Embarkation and disembarkation
The shore staff in Civitavecchia was ready for us. Embarkation formalities were brief, there were no lines to speak of, and within a few minutes we were aboard, followed promptly by our luggage. Disembarkation in Dover was different. We were tagged to get off at 8:00am, but our group was not called until 9:30am. Our fellow passengers who had close plane connections were visibly anxious, and there were some complaints when those on tight schedules were permitted off the ship out of order. Despite repeated requests, some persons whose groups had not been called congregated at the gangway exit slowing the departure of groups that had been cleared to leave.
The Cruise Director was active and high-profile throughout the slowed debarkation, which he attributed to a shore-side conveyer being broken. "Fifteen wonderful days cruising will be forgotten, and the passengers will complain about this," he sighed more than once. In one minor snafu on the part of the ship's personnel it was at first announced that passengers could wait in the public spaces, then all passengers were asked to gather in the Marina lounge, and later this was reversed to let passengers return to the (more comfortable) public areas of the ship.
Food and drink
We ate well aboard the Marina. I cannot think of a single complaint about the food. My vote for the best dining venue is Red Ginger, closely followed by the Grand Dining Room. The best single dish I had aboard was the grilled seafood in Red Ginger followed by any number of entrees in the Grand Dining Room, including the Veal Oscar. We paid extra for a wine dinner at La Reserve and thought it was not worth the money. One ate (and drank) as well in the other ship's restaurants.
I think the Baristas bar is under-appreciated. The coffee was the best on the ship, and the espresso is as good as the best ashore. Baristas had all the snacks that are in the concierge lounge, plus biscotti and other items. The coffee-flavored custard was excellent. Baristas has an outside view not found in the concierge lounge, the Grand Bar or Martinis.
During our one day at sea Marina laid on an elaborate brunch buffet in the Grand Dining Room. It was as usual excellent, but I could find no fruit. What I took to be a purely esthetic display of food was in fact a serve-yourself section of berries, melons cut into forms, and artistically arranged slices of mangoes, pineapples, kiwis, and the like. I almost felt bad about heaping the fruit onto my plate. Almost.
The Oceania Web site says the House Select beverage package includes beer when drunk with meals. That is true but inaccurate since the House Select package does not include the Asian beers served in Red Ginger, nor does it include the draft Heineken at Waves. The publicity should be clearer on this point.
I cannot recall the name of a quartet from Ukraine which played in the sixth deck lounge across from the grand bar, and also during some lunches in the Main Dining Room. They were talented players who chose well-known pieces from the classical repertoire. I am usually too tired from touring to go to the Marina Lounge at night, but having heard the quartet around the ship I went to a program they had and it was excellent. I felt the group's appearance in the Mariner Lounge in the evening should have been better publicized in the Cruise Director's morning TV program.
Dr. Ian Gardener, the ship's physician, gave me outstanding treatment after I had a mishap while ashore. I needed X-rays, stitches, analgesia, and a corticosteroid injection for my knee, which he provided. Dr. Gardener also successfully treated a rash I had picked up in Rome, and identified another potential problem that my internist is following up on. Dr. Gardener is an interesting and well-informed person who I would have liked to have dinner with. Meeting him mitigated the unpleasantness of stumbling over a curbstone in Barcelona.