My wife and I sailed with the 1200 passenger Oceania Marina on their 16 day cruise from Lima, Peru to New York. We have typically traveled on smaller ships, including Sea Dream, Silversea and Seabourn, and I have to admit to having reservations about the ability of the ship to meet the service and food standards of ships half their size or less - especially since Oceania originally had only smaller ships (600+). Our experience with the other lines mentioned was that it was extremely hard for them to bring the smaller ship personalized service and dining to the larger ship.
I needn't have worried - Oceania has done a masterful job, and in many categories I rate them better than the other lines on which we have traveled. That was an unexpected and very pleasant surprise. In fact, I would have to say that overall, I would now put Oceania on the top of the list of Cruise experiences. Below are some of the specifics:
There was clearly much thought that went into the design of Marina. There is a vast amount of public space, and there was always space in the lounges to sit comfortable without feeling that everyone was on top of each other. The lounges are well spaced and designed, furniture comfortable and well chosen. The pool area was designed in such a way that there is a lot of space for sunning and swimming. We had 8 days at sea, and my wife and I never had trouble finding a place to sit, whether we wanted sun or shade. The spa is good sized, with a relaxation room for quiet reading if one is in the mood.
There are also nice little touches. Specialty coffees were available at the Barista during the day, and I worked very hard to avoid the stand near the pool where mail shakes and frappes were made to order.
Oceania has done a very good job of space design in the staterooms. We were in room 9107, which was toward the back of the ship. I have always four it amusing that cruise lines sell the center of the ship as the place to be fro the smoothest cruising, and yet the best suites are always at the ends of the ship. Go figure!
The verandahs are a bit smaller than we are used to - first time there were chairs instead of loungers on our verandah - but the truth is that unless you want to spend a lot of time in your cabin, it doesn't make a lot of difference. Plenty of room for clothes, even without a walk-in closet. Stateroom service was extremely attentive. Rooms were made up twice a day, and the few times we wanted assistance from our stewardess, she was responding within the minute. I wish the showers were a bit larger - just don't drop the soap! - but not a big deal, and the fact that there is a full size tub made my wife very happy!
We were on the concierge level, which is actually the same size room as a regular verandah suite. The difference, however, is worth it if you are going to regularly use the steam and sauna and relaxation areas(free if you are on concierge level), and/or the concierge services. William was the concierge on this trip, and he could make just about anything happen. He arranged for us to get reservations on "local" excursions in two different ports, and was helpful in several other areas, including dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants.
I am in awe of the quality of the food on this ship. While in our experience ships like Seabourn, Silversea and Cunard seem to be using the dining room as a place to save money, Oceania seems determined to live up to its reputation as a "foodie" ship. It seems that everything is cooked to order, and they have food service and quality down.
There are several dining options. The main dining room is open seating, come whenever and eat with whoever. The food was consistently creative and delicious. The room itself is nicely decorated. My only suggestion is to try to get a table away from the middle of the room - the tables there are just too close together and the maneuvering the staff has to do to get you your food is distracting.
There are four other specialty dining rooms. Red Ginger (our favorite) had an oriental flare. Don't miss the glazed Sea Bass! We only went to Polo, which is their steak house, only once. It was the one meal that disappointed. I had a Strip steak that, given that it is represented as prime beef aged 30 days, came out as basically tasteless. On the other hand, had steaks in some of the other venues and they were fine, so.....? Toscana is their Italian restaurant, and there as well the food was terrific. The fourth restaurant is country french. Food was also really good, the french bread to die for! Room design....meh.
One can also eat at the Terrace Cafe at night, which is buffet. We only did that once. The food was also very good, but we found that the buffet style put us in a mode that was less relaxing. Not their fault, I think for us buffets lend themselves to quick eating, and that is not what we enjoy at dinner.
I save the best for last. The culture of service on this is really exceptional. We have cruise on ships much smaller in size, but I would have to say this was the best. I was impressed not only with the personal attention, but the genuineness with which it was delivered. Two quick stories. The first night we went to Horizons bar before dinner. A gentleman named Clifford was behind the bar where we sat, and we ordered our drinks from him and chatted a bit. 10 DAYS LATER we returned, and he remembered exactly what we had ordered that first night! If you had told me that could happen on a 1,200 passenger ship, I wouldn't have believed you. Second, a manager interrupted my steam room time to quickly enter, excuse himself, and briefly fool around with the emergency button. I figured they were having problems with it. About a minute later one of the staff entered the steam room to ask if I had pushed the emergency button. As I found out later, it was a random drill to make sure procedures for emergency assistance were followed!
I have been a consultant most of my life, and know how difficult creating and maintaining a culture can be. I am awed by how well this ship does it.