Crossing the Atlantic on Oceania's Marina
Looking for a real vacation with minimal running around and maximum of peace, quiet, water and sky, my husband and I decided to book a trans-Atlantic cruise. We were familiar with Oceania's cruises from a previous Mediterranean cruise, and also we were very tempted by the much reduced price of trans-Atlantic cruises, when ships were repositioning from the Caribbean to Europe, or vice versa.
Our choice fell on Marina, the newest ship of the company, a mid-size (about 1200 passengers) new vessel leaving from Miami and arriving to Barcelona 14 days later, after stops in Bermuda, Madeira and Tangiers.
I am not sure what to praise first. Let's start with the ship. Very nice cabins -- we chose a regular veranda cabin with no butlers and other fancy appendages. The bathroom was incredible, I wish I had such a bathroom at home. All marble, separate tub and shower, many little drawers and shelves for all necessities. Plenty of storage in the cabin as well, a perfectly comfortable bed, a sofa, desk, TV, and wide doors opening on a veranda with direct access to the skies, the clouds, the sun, the moon and the ocean. Just plain luxury!
The staff was multinational, and we ended up befriending the chambermaid, the waiters, the bartenders, the deck people, whose languages we knew or we tried to learn.
The food was delicious, many choices of restaurants with no extra charge. My favourite place was the terrace opening from the buffet-style restaurant. Sipping my espresso there was the sublime restful moment of the day. Of course, plenty of chaise-longues everywhere to read or snooze, or chat with friends. Daily lectures on everything connected to our journey, entertainment, quizzes, music, I can't list all the amenities, there were so many. However, if you wanted quiet and relaxation, there were many little hidden places to enjoy your own choice of time.
We loved coming to the highest deck with the whole wide night sky all around us. Every night we had a celestial show, with the moon, Jupiter and Venus changing places on the navy blue sky, among the ocean of stars reflecting in the ocean of water below.
The three stops on the itinerary gave us insight on places we had not visited before. In Bermuda, we took the local bus and explored by ourselves the whole island, stopping for coffee or lunch, or just for an opportunity to do some walking, and then continuing on another bus. I am not going to describe Bermuda, probably most of our Trip-Advised have been there before. If not, please go. The colours of the houses and the flowers in the brilliant light are just amazing. Also there is a lot of history to investigate as well. People are friendly and helpful.
Madeira, a Portuguese island, earns its name of Island of Flowers. Climbing on the side of a mountain, the capital city of Funchal houses one of the most colourful Botanical Gardens, as well as a captivating industry of home made embroideries. The views are superb, especially form the top part of the town with a wide view of the houses clinging to the sides of the mountain, the rich vegetation and the expanse of the ocean below with ships, sailboats and yachts adding their colours to the turquoise blue of the water.
Our last stop was Tangiers, one of the main cities of Morocco. It was our first time on the African continent and we chose to take one of the ship's guided tours. A different world opened up, with crowded suks (markets), narrow alleys with people trying to sell you anything at any price you chose. Bargaining became a sport and, as expected, I ended up with some gorgeous local jewellery and long Moroccan gowns at seriously bargained prices. A young enterprising boy followed our group throughout the walking part trying to sell some copper bracelets. He was very cute and pushy in a polite way, and we all ended buying some from him, nice filigreed delicate bracelets.
The journey ended in Barcelona. Many travellers probably chose to spend some time there, we had to return home, and so from the ship we were taken straight to the airport.
Thinking back on this first crossing of the ocean, I am trying to think of my favourite parts. Of course, the ship, as comfortable and beautiful as can be. Of course the stops in places which left us with such memories of natural beauty and of exciting history.
For my travel photographer husband, an immense richness of photography opportunities, of ever changing colours, shapes, shades, reflections...
The best for me? The ocean, the sky, the clouds, the stars, being part of this immensity with no traffic, no noises, no overcrowding, no phones ringing. Just the ocean, the sky, the clouds and the stars.