Although we are experienced independent travellers, this was only our second cruise (the first was the inaugural cruise of Oceania's Insignia about ten years ago). We were initially concerned that the size of Marina (1200 compared to 650 passengers on Insignia) would feel too large, but we were quickly convinced otherwise.
Embarkation was extremely efficient. We arrived at about 1:30 for a 6:00 PM sailing. Our luggage was whisked away and our stateroom was already ready. Lunch was offered at either the Terrace Cafe or the Grand Dining Room and by the time we returned to our stateroom, our luggage was there waiting for us. The stateroom was lovely with plenty of space for clothes and suitcases (under the bed) and supplied with every possible amenity from cashmere lap robes to ward off the chill while sitting on the veranda to a well-stocked mini bar (non-alcoholic beverages) to a laptop computer (which we didn't use due to the high cost of internet access on the ship) and a bottle of iced champagne.
The public spaces of the ship were absolutely spotless for every minute of the 14 day cruise. They are elegant and classy without the gaudiness we have seen represented on other ships. We loved the pool deck with lovely (and numerous) loungers and the spa deck forward (available to Concierge level staterooms and above), Baristas (serving up some seriously good coffees and teas) and the Horizons lounge, a huge but comfy space with floor to ceiling windows and a great happy hour. The well-stocked library was a nice refuge from all of the activities, although the ship never felt crowded or too busy. Overall, a major strength of the Marina is the number of outdoor places to go to beyond the stateroom veranda. Compared to other similar size ships we docked next to on the cruise, this is a huge plus.
We pre-booked four of the specialty restaurants 60 days ahead, along with La Reserve (the Wine Spectator experience with three tasting menus, accompanied by wine pairings). Once on board, we were able to book two more evenings in these restaurants. We especially enjoyed Toscana, Jacques, and La Reserve, although every meal we had on board was excellent to outstanding. Even the burgers and sandwiches at the Waves Grill (where we also had breakfast several mornings) were very good. The flexibility to either book a table for two or to be at a sharing table offered us the chance to meet fellow travellers or to dine alone.
The staff on Marina is one of its main strengths. Representing over 60 countries, they are friendly, cheerful, well-trained, and committed to making every guest's experience as perfect as it can be. Many of them commented on their satisfaction with being on an Oceania ship. Twice during the cruise, guests were asked for feedback on survey forms. It was very clear that comments were being followed up on immediately.
We enjoyed the itinerary of this cruise. Three days in St Petersburg were a highlight but sailing into Stockholm at dawn through the breathtaking archipelago was another. As many guests comment, Oceania excursions are expensive compared to local options. We booked a bundled package through an independent tour company for 5 days of the cruise and were very happy with the guides. The one excursion we took with Oceania was enjoyable but overpriced.
Entertainment? We didn't go on this cruise for entertainment but we did enjoy several evenings. It wasn't the West End of London or Broadway, but we didn't expect that, either, on this size ship. We did love the string quartet, which was on the entire cruise and the Marina band is excellent. We wish there had been more education presentations (about St Petersburg, for instance) of a higher standard, but we were so busy, we aren't sure when we would have had time.
Our fellow passengers were interesting and well-traveled. We enjoyed meeting them. The age range seemed to be from late 40's to 70's, mostly North Americans, many Australians, New Zealanders and Brits, and quite a few other nationalities. Luckily, the very well equipped fitness room was large enough to accommodate those who wished to work out. Exercise classes were also well attended and many passengers took advantage of treatments at the Canyon Ranch Spa.
Embarkation was superbly well-organized. We were able to get (cheerful!) room service breakfast at 4:00 AM, and our suitcases were delivered to our bus without a glitch. We hated to say good-bye to Marina and would definitely recommend Oceania cruises to others.