My husband and I chose this cruise to meet two requirements– he wanted to go to Rio and I wanted to go on a cruise!
Based on that requirement and the time we were able to go, only Oceania and Regent had itineraries that worked (and they were identical). So based on our TA’s recommendation and our own preferences based on what we’d read on Cruise Critic about both lines, we chose the Marina for our cruise.
Before boarding the ship, we spent a few days in Paris and a few days in Barcelona. In Paris we stayed at the Best Western Premier L’Horset Opera, conveniently located close to the Opera Garnier and the Louvre. Advice: go to the Louvre first thing in the morning, and use the entry that is in the shopping center below the museum. You get in quick, and if you are lucky, as we were, you can see the Venus de Milo in a completely empty room, and the Mona Lisa with only 50 other people rather than 1,000. In Barcelona, we stayed at the Renaissance Barcelona Hotel on Pau Claris, again, really nicely situated for many sights, and shopping. Also easy access to the Metro. A must see in Barcelona was La Sagrada Familia. We made prior reservations online for entry and for a tower climb, but the weather was bad and the towers weren’t open. But we didn’t have to stand in line in the rain to buy tickets. Highly recommend getting tickets in advance.
Embarkation to the ship was a breeze – we got there at around 10.30am, and were in our suite by 11.15am, with our luggage by 11.30. Super easy.
The ship is everything that has already been said about it – beautiful and classy. And the staff is amazing. We were onboard for 19 days, and I can’t think of one time when service was below excellent. We had some issues with technical equipment in our suite, which was resolved by the ship buying new equipment in Gibraltar, since it turned out the glitch was because we were trying to use new technology and the ship is two years old (and therefore out of date!). But the efforts of our butler (Lector), the GM (Dominique) and the Concierge (Javier) were outstanding. We never felt unheard.
Some observations on the ship:
Clientele – upscale, well travelled. We heard some comments from long time Oceania cruisers that this itinerary had attracted some “overly entitled” folks, and we did see a bit of that, especially when it came to seating and access on the tour buses. A large contingent of more senior folks that sometimes behaved like high school kids without a chaperone…pushing and shoving and cutting in line. But overall, a relaxed, country club atmosphere. There was also a large number of LGBT on this cruise, including us, and we never had any concerns. The clientele is sophisticated, smart and accepting…..and we felt totally at home.
The spa is fantastic, but the steam room is very small. The gym is great, but got very crowded on sea days. As is normal on ships, massages and other treatments were very expensive, but we enjoyed them anyways.
Entertainment – we didn’t ever go to the Marina Lounge except to disembark for excursions. The Casino is small, and the selection of games is a bit weak. But the staff is very friendly and Nico did a great job making me feel at home.
Food – there is little to say here except I want the cookbook. Red Ginger is amazing, Toscana and Polo are wonderful, Jacques is enjoyable. However, the lack of rotation on the menus at the specialty restaurants meant the choices got a bit repetitive. The Grand Dining Room – we ate there twice. The second time was for Thanks Giving Dinner, and I have to say it was the worst meal on board. I don’t think the chefs “got the concept”. We never ate at Waves Grill, and we regret that. We were told on our last day that it’s one of the highlights. Who knew? The Terrace Buffet was adequate, apart from never being able to find a table and sometimes the service was slow to non-existent, especially if you were seated inside towards the entry doors to the Grill.
Butler service – if you are blessed to have one, USE it. We did course by course in suite dining, we did last minute reservations at Red Ginger, we did a cocktail party with canapés….we got advice and information on ports of call, we got laundry expedited…..you name it. Let the butler do his/her job. At first, it was a bit weird to have a hovering attendant during meals, but by the mid-point of the trip, he was becoming a highlight! Lector made a huge difference in our enjoyment of the cruise.
Suite – an amazing space. We were in 12009 Oceania Suite. Glorious indulgence. The media room separate from the bedroom meant my husband and I could indulge in our different rest/entertainment needs without any issues. The balcony and Jacuzzi were an indulgence that we used a lot. The only issues I’d have with the suite was the overly complicated lighting (we never did work out what switch did what, and in the middle of the night trying to turn on one bathroom light, we sometimes got a Vegas style light show instead), and the glass doors which negated the isolation of the bedroom from the rest of the suite (particularly during said Vegas light shows).
Some observations on the itinerary:
Cartagena – didn’t really do much here. Went ashore and walked around.
Gibraltar – wonderful experience. Did the “Walking Tour of the Upper Rock” excursion, and the guide (Karen) couldn’t have been better. We got so much out of this tour, we forgot the outrageous cost for excursions that Oceania charge.
Lanzarote – it was raining, and our submarine tour was cancelled due to lack of interest. Also, scheduling a port stop on a Sunday in a place that closes down on Sundays was never a good idea. The place was shut.
Tenerife – amazing tour “Canadas del Tiede”. The bizarre Martian landscape of the volcano was worth every penny, and the House of Balconies in La Oratavia was wonderful. The lunch we could have skipped.
Cape Verde – don’t get off the ship. Really.
Recife – unless you go to Olinda, another “why?” port. Again, this port stop was scheduled for a Monday, a day that all the museums in the city are closed. Bad timing by Oceania since this information is publically available.
Salvador de Bahia – we enjoyed this very much, and will return. We did the “Highlights of Salvador” tour, and it was worth it to get a sense of place and geography, so that on the second day, we wandered around on our own and got a more in depth look at some of the places on the tour.
Buzios – we did the “Swim by Schooner” tour….but the water was too cold for real enjoyment. Afterwards, we took a cab to a different beach away from the town, and had a relaxing beach afternoon. Beautiful.
Rio de Janeiro – we did the “Best of Rio” 8 hour tour. Again, the lunch could have been skipped. Sugarloaf and the Corcovado was basically the rest of the tour. We had two more days in Rio, and went back to Corcovado again, when it was sunny. It was a lot less expensive and pretty simple to do by ourselves, but probably again partly due to the fact that we had some familiarity from doing the tour.
Disembarkation – we were off the ship by 9am, and we organized our car service through our hotel – a cost of about $100, compared to Oceania asking for $395. We stayed two days at the JW Marriott at Copacabana – which was great, but after being away for a month, we were both a bit “tired of touring” so we stayed inside and watched movies for the most part!
Flights – all arranged with Delta, not using Oceania. We used points and flew Business Elite – and now we can never do coach again.
Overall observations: Oceania is not for you if you want exciting entertainment and partying. It’s not for you if you have young kids. If you want an upscale resort experience, excellent service and food, to return home feeling relaxed and rejuvenated….and maybe a little wiser about the destinations you’ve been to….then Oceania is a good choice.