We have been looking forward to the Inaugural sail with the brand new Marina from Miami to San Francisco, through the Panama Canal. Our trip followed closely a Caribbean trip with Holland America, so it gave us an opportunity to compare the two ships.
Embarkation on the Marina was easy, no crowds, or line-ups. The first thing you notice when you board the ship is the smell of fresh paint and polish. It is a mid-size ship and in spite of the ship being almost full, somehow we never ran into any line-ups or crowds. The decor is very modern, although the ship was built in Italy, apart from the beautiful Murano glassware, the decoration, furnishing and the extensive paintings on the wall showed little of the customary Italian flair. Many of the modern paintings consisting of geometric shapes were unsigned by the artists. It made us wonder whether the artists were reluctant to sign their name however; this must have made it difficult to decide which way to hang the paintings. The rather Spartan looking Atrium, which normally occupies the ship’s focal point where everybody poses for photos while descending on beautiful curved staircase, was deserted; during our 18-day trip, we have not seen a single person taking photos.
The main dining room is very elegant and can sit approximately half of the passengers at a time. There are numerous tables for two available for those not wanting to share their meal with others. In addition, there are four speciality restaurants, catering stakes, Italian, French and Asian dishes, where advance booking is required, but no additional fees are charged. For those who prefer buffet type meals there is also an additional eating place, although it is self service, once you selected a dish, staff will jump and insist to carry it to your table.
There are number of nice touches on the ship: for example for lovers of good coffee, you can have the best coffee prepared by Italian baristas, all day, for no extra charge, or there is a welcome absence of pushy ship photographers, or lack of aggressive sales pitch by the small but expensive boutiques, or health spa.
The quality of the entertainment varied from average to very good. The entertainment lounge could seat half the number of total passengers, and although normally there was only one performance at 9:45 PM, the lounge was never full. The only act attracting two full houses was a group calling themselves Platters, a familiar name to old timers. This group must have been one of the four recognized acts permitted to use "Platters" in their billings, although there are a number of other un-authorized ones. The sparsely attended shows could be either an indication of the quality of the entertainment, the lack of interest, or the late starting time. There were also the obligatory young dancers, girls with long legs reaching to their armpit; unfortunately, the same person who chose the ship’s artwork must have selected their costumes.
The piano bar had an outstanding pianist, hidden behind large columns, but most of the time at least he could be heard, if not seen. Unfortunately, he only played 45 minutes at a time, but once you have tried sitting in one of the couches in the bar, even 45 minutes seemed eternally long.
Extremely powerful lights with glowing blue colours lighted the main bar. Those who braved to sit at the bar without dark glasses had the double pleasure of enjoying their drinks and gazing at the Picasso nudes hanging on the opposite wall.
Perhaps one of the highlights of the trip was the outstanding food exquisitely served in elegant surroundings by efficient and attentive staff. During the entire 18-day trip, we did not have one single meal, which was not outstanding in presentation and flavour. The bread on the ship surpassed anything one can find in North America and it rivalled the best bread one can find in France or Italy.
In absence of obese people wondering around in tight psychedelic shorts, there was no need for formal- ware dinners, as the evening attire consisted mainly of casual elegance.
The staterooms were spacious, and nicely furnished. The bathroom surprisingly included a bathtub with shower and an additional shower stall. One would wonder how many of the elderly people travelling on the ship would or could climb into the bathtub. This made the bathroom rather tight, and it would be advisable if Oceania would provide a maximum hip measurement one could still negotiate both the toilet seat and the shower stall.
It will take some time before the ship becomes “ship shaped,” for instance our stateroom creaked badly so we had to rely in the beginning on earplugs at night. Although we were offered another stateroom, it turned out to be similarly cursed. After the third attempt, hammering in a dozen wooden wedges in the balcony doorframe, the maintenance crew managed to eliminate the noise.During our trip, one of the two engines had to be stopped because the propeller hit some floating object. As a result, the ship could only travel half its normal speed for more than one day skipping one port in order to limp in to Acapulco, where a diver managed to repair the propeller so we could continue our trip, as scheduled. We are still waiting to receive an apology from Oceania for the inconvenience of missing one Mexican port.
During the trip, there were the usual activities found on other ships, but in addition, there were some very interesting and intelligent talks by an economist, environmentalist, and historian.
Overall, we had a great trip. We had fantastic weather and visited some interesting ports, but the emphasis on the Marina was not the destination but making our trip enjoyable while getting to those places. So if you are looking for a cruise with no crowds, outstanding food and service, and are willing to spend approximately twice as much as some of the other cruises, take a trip on the Marina, or her sister ship Riviera to be launched sometime next year, but wait until the new ships are well run in. In the mean time start saving.