I sailed on the Oceania Marina mid June with a group of 10 friends that I met through Cruise Critic over the years. I have already published a comparison of my "observations" on Oceania vs. Azamara, on the Oceania board. I have reset my expectations and had a little "cooling off" period so I am hopeful that this review will be fair and balanced and will only deal with the Marina experience.
Firstly, the ship is gorgeous! She is clean and bright and cheerful and the works of art onboard are amazing. It was a delight just to stroll around her.
I arrived too early to embark but my luggage was taken away quickly and I was free to wander or sit or snack. The port in Stockholm is a working port, as were all the ports on the Baltic cruise, so the terminal was a prefab unit but was just fine. There was a small gift shop with coffee and snacks and water. There were quite a few folks there already but it was not crowded. It was cool outside so the temperature in the terminal was pleasant. There were enough seats to handle the number of passengers so all was well. At around 1:30 am they began herding us all towards the security check point. Since there was a bit of a crush - they began to call the Suite passengers first, then PH, then Concierge and so on. This created a bit of a fuss since there were lots of folks already in line. It seemed a bit disjointed. One still had to go to the check-in counter and line up in the appropriate line before being allowed to board, so it seemed strange that they wouldn't just let the line clear through security and let the Concierge and above board after check in. The entire process from line up to check-in to boarding took less than 25 minutes. Pretty good!
Suite wasn't ready so I proceeded to the Terrace Café for a bite and a drink...I was impressed by the variety and the quality of the food, along with the presentation. I managed to secure a table on the aft deck. Weather was wonderful and I was enjoying the view!
After snacking and downing a perfectly prepared martini - I popped down the one floor to see my room. Very lovely - spacious and well appointed, clean and bright. I had flowers from some friends that had been delivered so the smell was lovely UNTIL ..... I entered the bathroom. :-( Where I was greeted by the smell of sewage. Yikes ---- I thought I was imagining it until my cabin steward came in a told me this was a known issue and they had been struggling to keep it under control. Bottom line - I smelled it off and on for the duration of the cruise. My friends and I also noticed it in the hall out side my room. I know that they were pouring lots of water in and using heavy duty chemicals but the issue was never really resolved. Luckily - my room smelled so lovely from the flowers, I didn't notice it in the room. It seemed to be worse during the day - at night I think I was just so exhausted, I didn't notice. The balcony is a nice size with comfortable chairs but I could have used a table for dining out there as that is what I love to do each morning. The walk in closet is totally decadent .... I could have rented it out, all I needed was a blow up mattress! The tv was a good size with lots of news stations (no CNN).... the cordless phone was a great touch --- used it in the closet!!!!! The upmarket amenities were excellent.
The smell was also very noticeable at the shuffleboard court. So much so that my friends stopped going there. They also put away the sports equipment precisely at 6 - although the sun didn't set until midnight. We returned from touring around 5 pm each night as did most people.
The food in the Specialty restaurants, Terrace Café, Waves and Room Service was excellent....really well done with lots of choices. Service was great too. Red Ginger had a great manager and I can't remember her name but she was also at Waves and you could see that she REALLY knew what she was doing. She was also really kind to her staff and that was nice to see. Table turnover for the buffet was good. Only one day where it was so busy that you couldn't find seating. I didn't get a chance to go to Toscana, but my friends thought that it was the best dinner they had onboard. Red Ginger came in second. Not that the others were bad...they weren't. I don't think I had a bad meal anywhere EXCEPT the GDR. The food and service there was spotty everytime I went there for breakfast or dinner (with the exception of dining at the Captain's table). We tried it several times and we were always disappointed. Food wasn't hot and when it was sent back, it came back cool again. If it can be good when dining with the CAptain, it should be as good as that for all guests I think.
I have recently adopted a gluten and dairy free lifestyle. I was accommodated in every way possible and managed to get very tasty alternative foods! I must say - they watched me like a hawk and I had to tell them that I wouldn't die if I had any gluten or dairy in fact the only thing that might happen is that I just might contribute to the nasty smell we were noticing around the ship!!!! LOL AND NO the nasty smell wasn't me ... I CHECKED!!! :-)
The entertainment onboard was nothing special - but this has been noticed by many reviewers for some time. The ports were very intensive and most folks retired early. If you ate dinner past 7:30 it was usually impossible to see the show that started at 9:30. My friends and I aren't notable night crawlers - so it was usually a quick boo at the show's tail end and off to bed. We danced one night and the duo were good. The guitarist was spectacular!!! He did two shows and we wish he had done more. Magician was good too.
The Spa onboard is beautiful - but get ready to shell out HUGE bucks for treatments. The Sanctuary turned out to be the biggest disappointment for us all as there was very little maintenance done on it. Used towels, long abandoned by their users, lay on the loungers. New clean towels were sometimes not even available. In the change room, baskets overflowed with used towels and amenities were not replaced. Locker keys were given out and when opened there were still used robes in them. The beautiful heated stone loungers in the Serenity room had used towels on them and the tables were littered with used cups and soda cans. What a shame. My friends and I went up there every day and always had the same experience. When we asked the Spa desk about this - we were told that they are not responsible for cleaning the areas. It was Oceania's job. Hmmmmmm.
The gym was well appointed and all the machines were in service everytime I went. But again, there was an issue with tidying up. The disinfectant cloths were empty or turned over and bleach spilled out on the counter for hours!
My butler and his staff were excellent - shout out to Sonu and Liliya! Every night he presented himself to escort me to dinner as he felt it was necessary that a single woman should not enter the dining room alone! That was lovely.
I wish I could remember the names of all the people who were so wonderful on board. The crew were all so friendly and kind - it was a pleasure to see their smiling faces each day.
In summation, I would say that Oceania is a solid 5 star cruise experience. The issues I have mentioned could be fixed very easily and I hope that it has already been taken care of. Based on my previous travels with many other cruise lines, I would say that my experience would have been enhanced if there were just a couple of things that had been there that I missed.
Anyone in mid or senior management to say hello/goodbye each day at the gangway.
Cold towels and a refreshment at the gangways after tours returned.
Anyone in a senior management position to Welcome guests onboard and maybe a sparkling wine?
A more proactive greeting from Mid or Senior Management or officers when walking about the ship. I always felt that I had to do a little "dance" to get someone's attention or even to say Hello. It became a bit of a joke as we started counting the number of times we had the practiced "avoidance" coming towards us. Just because we are troublemakers at heart...we boomed out hello to everyone walking by! They always returned our hello with a smile.....with one exception. ;-)
What it comes down to is that little things make the difference between meeting expectations and exceeding them. Many new or "upmarketing" cruisers onboard felt that their first Oceania experience was extraordinary having nothing else in the 5 star region to compare it with. To that end and in that market Oceania has achieved and possibly exceeded customer satisfaction. I would hope that delighting the customer would extend also to passengers who have experienced other cruise lines competing for the same market share. I am sure that Oceania values this highly prized group and from all I have seen of their spectacular shoreside service and the exemplary attention I have had from some their senior management, meeting expectations is not the goal. It will be my pleasure to cruise again with them in the future and will feel confident that the experience will be solid 5 star approaching 6!