After 25 days on board Marina, I'm reminded of a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: "People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like."
Marina is a wonderful ship -- well designed, comfortable, wide-ranging and excellent dining options. The staff was - almost - uniformly superb. For most cruisers who don't care about such (to my mind) nonsense as rock-climbing walls and extravagant entertainment, I suspect it is just about perfect. My wife and I enjoyed it thoroughly. And yet our personal bias got in the way.
We know we are in the minority, but we found our ideal ship years ago in Alaska - the 100-passnger Spirit of Oceanus, part of the late, much lamented Cruise West. Even though Marina is 12.5x bigger, we heard so many wonderful things about Oceania we gave it a try.
To our own taste, the ship was a bit glitzy. Our penthouse suite was comfortable enough, but was starting to show some wear from repeated voyages, as was the passageway on our deck, leading past a bazillion cabins.
From our wonderful butler - thank you, Sonu - to the dining staff, cabin attendants, excursion staff, officers and crew, all the Marina folks were friendly, gracious, helpful and welcoming. The exception was the Main Dining Room maitre d' (who doubled as boss of the outdoor grill) who had the personality of a prison warden.
We arrived in Sydney a couple days early (very good plan) and arranged our own hotel (also, from what I hear, a very good plan.) Embarkation, for getting 1200 souls on board, was surprisingly easy, although it got off to a somewhat late start.
Unlike some reviewers, we found the service and the food in the Main Dining Room to be quite good. We were shown to tables where we could meet and chat with shipmates, and there spent a charming evening with the featured lecturer, Ambassador Paul Cotton, finding to our delight we have a mutual friend. The specialty restaurants are the hot tickets, but the butler, the concierge or the dining desk in the lobby can usually get you in. Our favorite was the clubby Polo Grill, and we loved Toscana (first time ever seeing an olive oil sommelier) and Red Ginger.
We are not big evening entertainment people, so I'm not qualified to judge. Some reviewers bemoan the lack of cast-of-thousand stage shows, some of our fellow passengers thought the shows were great - particularly the comedian.
Shore excursions should raise an enormous red flag for any potential cruiser. In the main, we found them to be overpriced bus rides with 40-50 of your new best friends, where you'd make several stops and wait and wait and wait for the laggards to clamber back aboard the bus. For our next Oceania cruise, we'll be doing careful port research and going independently where we can, or joining with folks in the Cruise Critic roll call for our cruise to arrange a small group trip -- far better, far cheaper. We wish we had known about that prior to this cruise.
Midway through the cruise, my wife became ill. She's fine now, thanks. The doctor on board seems professional and capable, but - holy moly - be prepared to pay a fortune. Here's another hint for South Pacific cruisers: if you really must get sick, and think you need to visit a hospital, go the ER in Auckland at the city hospital there. They are extremely competent, extremely friendly, extremely inexpensive. Wonderful people and wonderful care. But, then, that's the Kiwis for you.
So, for us, Marina is as big as it's going to get. Our next cruise is on Nautica, roughly half the size and for us that's double the appeal. If that doesn't work out? Well, there's always a rowboat.