Marina Cruise Review by Travelin' Gal: Ancient Legends of the South Pacific
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Ancient Legends of the South Pacific
The Ship: Marina is a lovely ship with beautiful decor generally and lots of space. Decor was fairly modern and elegant in neutral tones that made some of the "paintings" in their bright and garish colors, seem out of place and some of these pieces were downright "ugly.". The pieces of sculpture and glass artwork, lamps, chandeliers, and upholstery were all very appealing in contrast. There is a self-service laundry on each accommodation deck with good equipment including three washers and driers, plus two ironing board set-ups, but no sink, and you had to buy tokens to use the machines at a rate of US$2 for each machine. There is a dedicated walking track, shuffleboard, and croquet on one of the high partial decks. The pool was small and usually so busy that you could not really swim laps easily; there were two jacuzzis on the pool deck. One warning--be very careful about entering a crowded elevator as we were stuck about 20 minutes in one rated for 18 passengers that was More
actually so stuffed with 15 people that it got stuck between floors; we learned that another elevator had gotten stuck earlier. This was really unacceptable on such a new ship and there was no real apology from staff for our ordeal in the stifling hot space without any fresh air.
Dining: So many choices! And, the food was very good to excellent in all venues. There is the large and attractive Grand dining room with open seating; the Terrace Cafe buffet with indoor and outdoor seating; the informal, on-deck Waves Grill with hamburgers, paninis and other inventive sandwiches along with salads smoothies and an ice cream bar; afternoon tea in the Horizons lounge; and the four speciality, reservation required restaurants: Polo Grill (steaks mostly), Toscana (Italian), Chez Jacques (French), and Red Ginger (Asian). Supposedly for the cabin grade we booked, we could reserve only once in each of these venues but there was no problem getting second and third reservations even for the very popular Red Ginger, our favorite. The sea bass and duck salad were particularly good--my husband and I ordered these dishes more than once. You would not even know you were on a cruise ship in this window-less restaurant but think you were dining in an elegant restaurant where you are given a separate menu just for tea and offered a variety of chopsticks. In Toscana there is a separate menu for olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Oceania knows how to feed its passengers especially on a cruise with so many at-sea days (10 in all).
Cabins: Our cabin was large and comfortable with both a shower and a separate tub. We had a B4 veranda cabin (7110) and chose this one because the balcony was so much larger than any of the others in the basic veranda category and one of the largest we have had. This was true only for the very forward and aft cabins on Deck 7. We notice that Oceania is now charging a little more for these cabins where we paid the lowest price for a veranda. There was lots of storage space including a very useful small drawer under the bathroom sink in addition to mirrored-shelf towers on either side of the mirror, a hand-held hair dryer, a clothes line over the tub, robes (but no slippers), a large flat screen TV with built-in DVD player, a great bed, and the best lighting (especially for reading in bed with an adjustable, small LED light) that we've had on any ship. The refrigerator was stocked and replenished with free soft drinks and complimentary water was always provided. If I had any complaints or suggestions about the cabin it would be that the design of the closet with sliding doors held in place by magnets was not great since the doors sometimes slid open with the ship's motion and that turned on the closet light in the middle of the night. Also, the tub was hard to move in even for a petite person. Also, a makeup mirror would be a nice touch.
Service: In this area, too, Oceania did a great job on Marina. We had been disappointed on a previous cruise on Nautica, one of their smaller ships, but the service was very good to excellent both for our cabin and in all dining locations on Marina. If we asked our cabin steward or stewardess for something they responded immediately and were always very cheerful and friendly. Some of the dining staff even learned our names despite the ship carrying over 1200 passengers. Reception was responsive as well. My only complaint about service was in the Spa where the woman who gave me a pedicure actually inflicted pain on my toes several times.
Entertainment and Activities: Perhaps one of the weaker aspects of this cruise but we are not fond of production shows and the main lounge entertainment anyway. The main band was fair but a smaller group that played every night for listening and dancing in Horizons was very good. We noticed many more couples dancing on this cruise than we usually see. There were two enrichment lecturers who were both excellent and informative. Occasionally we went to the talks but usually viewed them on our cabin TV as they were always rebroadcast. Topics were relevant to our South Pacific cruise: The Pacific War, Darwin's Voyage on the Beagle, Voyages of Captain Cook, Pirates, Mysteries of Easter Island, Wild Polynesia, Coral Seas, and Captain Bligh. One of the reasons we often did not attend these lectures in person is that they conflicted with bridge lessons and play each day at sea. We had the best bridge instructor we have ever had: Barbara Seagram and her husband Alex from Toronto. One popular activity aboard was taking a cooking class in the Culinary Center with hands-on experience. While we were a little disappointed in the actual recipes we sampled for the Paella and Pizza classes, it was a fun experience. Thus, with the bridge, dancing, lectures, cooking, etc., we were never bored on sea days. The gym was handy for use of free weights or exercise machines.
Excursions: Oceania did not offer any sightseeing option for the transfer to Valparaiso so we booked one independently to see Santiago and be taken to the ship. In fact, we did not book one shore excursion with Oceania as we felt what they were offering was over-priced and not good value. There were no shore excursions for three of the ports and we had been to French Polynesia before so we chose to leave the ship and stay overnight in an overwater bungalow at the Hilton for a much better price than Oceania was offering guests for two other resort properties. (Theirs was twice the price I paid for the Hilton.) This independently arranged "excursion" was a highlight of our trip.
Ports: Our stops included Valparaiso - a charming port city on hills with old cable cars and brightly colored houses; Robinson Crusoe Island - interesting history but very small, with not much to do (no excursions offered); Easter Island - the main reason we took this cruise and a fascinating place worth the two day stop and overnight; Pitcairn Island - only 40 inhabitants and less than 30% of cruises can actual tender passengers ashore (We're not sure there ever was a plan for passengers to disembark here as tables were set up in one of the lounges for the local population to bring aboard their crafts, t-shirts, postcards, and famous stamps, before we even anchored.); Fakarava, an atoll in French Polynesia - no excursions offered but we were able to walk to a small beach a short way from the tender dock for some good snorkeling (we brought our own masks and snorkels on the cruise.); Bora Bora with an overnight; Moorea - where we took a free shuttle to a pearl shop and then ambled about the little overpriced shops in the area; and Papeete for an overnight before late disembarkation at 5pm the next day. One warning to anyone going on next year's cruise is that January is one of the rainiest months in French Polynesia so don't be surprised if it pours some of the time. Since we had already visited Tahiti in July (a much better time to go) and knew this in advance, we were not disappointed.
Package and Air: Almost everything was included in our Ancient Legends cruise from Valparaiso to Papeete departing December 27, 2012. Our internet travel agent paid our gratuities and RT economy air was included in the package price. There were no real problems with the flights from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Santiago but when we arrived early the next morning we found we had to wait in a very long line to pay a Chilean entry fee of $160 per person that Oceania had not told us about. Then we had to wait in another long immigration line. The return flight was another matter. We were booked on an Atlas Air charter (they are normally carry cargo) out of Papeete to Los Angeles. The flight was scheduled to board at 11:45pm but it kept getting delayed and no adequate explanation was given while we waited in the hot and humid Papeete airport for hours. Our actual boarding was delayed for over an hour, then we sat on the plane and did not take off until 2:15am--2.5 hours late. The reason? Oceania had booked 22 crew members at the last minute and did not match their birthdates and passport numbers or get approval from the TSA so the Atlas Air crew had to do all of that paperwork before we could depart. Definitely not a good move on Oceania's part. Less
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Cabin review: Marina Veranda Stateroom Deck Seven 7110
Cabin 7110 B4 Veranda has a larger balcony than most of the other standard veranda cabins. This is true for a small number of forward and few more aft B4 cabins. However, Oceania seems to have discovered this advantage and is now charging more for these cabins than the other verandas on Deck 7. Also, I estimated the square footage as less than what is listed by Oceania. Still, the cabin is of good size at about 206 sq. ft. without the balcony and including the bath. Having a separate tub was nice but it was very hard to move around in the narrow space. Bed was very comfortable and the cabin had great lighting with two kinds of lights on each side of the bed to enable reading in bed.