We are in our early 60's and have been on the Marina last January for 12 days in the Caribbean along with 40 other cruises on 9 different cruise lines. This is an overview of our 16 day adventure to a wonderful place in the world where the people are kind and friendly and the scenery is spectacular.
The embarkation was so easy because the ship overnight-ed in Auckland. Beware of the hotel Oceania offers, it is 4 times the cost per night of booking it yourself and the transfers are far worse than the shuttle bus offered by the airport at 6 times the cost. With the jet lag, it is wise to show up a few days early.
The ship is as clean as it was last January, well decorated with no wear to speak of. It has library second only to the Queen Mary II but a few things fall short. There are only 2 elevators aft compared with 4 in the front. With 1200 passengers and almost all the dining areas aft expect long waits during mealtimes. The casino is barely used because it is terribly small with limited staff and a silly miniature golf course takes up prime real estate high on the bow. Although this cruise was cooler than expected, the pool is far too small for a ship this size. We really noticed this last January.
The Stateroom was 10th floor middle A1 with a wonderful full bath but was cramped with small additional shower. 1st class toiletries were provided. The bed and pillows were very comfortable. Sadly the storage space is far to small and some drawers are so tiny as to be useless. The lighting is also terrible in the bathroom, around the desk and makeup mirror and we needed the crew to fix the closet door to stop that light from coming on during the night.
Dining is great if you avoid the MDR. The main dining room is worse than budget cruise lines. I had only 3 meals there and all had inedible entrees with poor service to boot. The good news is although you can only reserve each specialty restaurant once, on a 16 day cruise there are a lot of open seats. Only on one night did we get shutout. Talk to your concierge or dial #8 at 9 am. We ate at these 10 nights and enjoyed 3 others at the excellent buffet. My favourite was Toscana were the Italian food was perfect with real professional Italian waiters who do double duty up in Baristas in the morning with 1st class coffees. My wife just loved Red Ginger with its variety of Asian specialties. Jacques was better this time but the Polo Grill while having still great steaks, their seafood has really gone downhill.
The activities can become a little stale on a 16 day cruise. Trivia every day, bingo every day and of course nobody wins the jackpot until the last day. On the bright side, the artists studio was excellent, the cooking classes were fun but at $69 each in a group a bit too large was a bit too expensive.
The guest speaker was a New Zealand ambassador in various parts of the world. Ambassador Cotton was the best entertainment on the ship.
Which brings us to a serious flaw with the Marina. With only 4 dancers and 4 singers, a weak cruise director and a few less than mediocre performers, nights were really boring on this cruise. With 1200 souls on board, Oceania might make a small attempt at amusing us. This ship was far worse than ships half its size and the worst in over 40 cruises for us.
The ports of call were all great except for Timaru, there is nothing there. Why not Dunedin.
When it comes to shore excursions, Oceania has a corporate mindset that its clientele is willing to pays 4 times the going rate for little excursions. Case in point. Their 3 hour tour of Napier--$205 for 40 person bus ride. On shore, a 4 hour tour doing same itinerary plus a bit more in a 20 seat bus--$40. In Hobart, a tour to a wild life park with another Big bus load was over $300 each when you could take a cab for $12 each way plus $24 admission and stay as long as you like. This happened at every port and remember that Oceania provides free rides away from the docks to the I-Sites or downtown. I know other lines charge extra but Oceania has set new standards for greed.
Their pricing on wine is no different. Only the QM2 can equal the markup that Oceania provides then add 18%. Luckily we were in NZ where some of the great white wines of the world are produced and the Marina has a relatively easy going policy of bringing wine on board.
Fortunately, many of these very expensive add ons are voluntary hence self inflicted for those not travel savvy. One elderly gentleman was shocked when his post cruise bill was well above $5000.
Finally, I'd like to discuss the passengers themselves. This was by far the oldest group I have ever sailed with. No more jokes about HAL or Cunard. I am 64 and NEVER in 16 days ate dinner with anyone younger than me. The cruise reminded me of my mother's retirement home only more walkers. One lady was over 100. The other thing I noticed is that this cruise must have been marketed heavily in Florida and Georgia. My guess is that 75% came from those 2 states. I met only 1 couple from the Northeast and a few from California. Only 1 Kiwi and no Australians. Virtually no Europeans or Asians. There was a surprising number of Canadians on board, enough that they had their own cocktail parties. It was disappointing not to engage with others from around the world when you're halfway around the world.
The fares for the same cabin categories varied wildly. While I paid $6300 for both of us including air, the people next to us paid over $17000. He was not pleased. I feel Oceania preys on this elderly crowd and that's why you don't see the diversity on board.
I'll be headed back to sea on another line as soon as I cancel my Oceania booking for next January.