Oceania's new Marina is a fine addition to its small fleet. The enhancements are impressive; two new dining concepts, spacious bathtubs, an excellent performance space, bigger pool, wonderful artworks and a culinary school set it apart from its smaller siblings. But not everything has gone to plan.
For example, the library area borrowed from the smaller ships has been split into a new reading area and coffee bar and neither work.
But what Marina gains in the excellence of its facilities, it loses in hospitality and service excellence. It accommodates almost twice as many passengers as its other ships and this seemed to me to be the source of its problems.
The pinch points that all cruise ships encounter as passengers congregate was never an issue on Insignia. It's a major problem on Marina. We never had to queue on Insignia. On Marina queuing was the norm for the Terrace Cafe breakfast, Grand Dining Room dinner and tendering.
Transporting 650 passengers by tender or bus was largely hassle-free on Insignia but seemed a huge logistical issue on Marina.
The tenders themselves are badly cramped and ill-designed. On Insignia there was a constant relay of tenders but on Marina the policy seemed to be to fill a tender to capacity and only then, send out another.
Port side buses were the same. Passenger queues just to board the infrequent buses at the container ports sometimes took an hour.
In time, Oceania may find itself squeezed. It is pretty dismissive of independent travellers in terms of convenience and meaningful information. And at the same time, punishing those wishing to book excursions with excessive pricing. An Oceania excursion around Guernsey costs $100. A local bus costs just £1.
Oceania also seems to be playing a dangerous game in its literal descripton of destinations. Dover is described as London; Bordeaux is Le Verdon - 100 km away.Passengers become irritated on realising they are stranded a distance from their perceived port of call. Sometimes disembarking did not take place until 11am and naturally pre-booked excursions had priority. Therefore independent travellers sometimes did not get off the ship until an hour later, constricting time at the destination.
In most instances the ports were not attractive harbours. They were featureless container/car ferry ports with little appeal. Perhaps the smaller Oceania ships can access more attractive ports more easily for either docking or fast tendering.
The result of all these compounded frustrations seemed to generate a general exasperation amongst passengers, which in turn affected the crew who seemed lacking in confidence. Each was comfortable in their own narrow sphere of work, but could not respond to issues outside their responsibility.
In the smaller Oceania ships there was a real sense of community, amongst both crew and passengers. On Marina this was not apparent and relationships that would naturally develop, were absent.
Marina is therefore an unbalanced ship. It is much improved and more elegant than its smaller siblings but nothing like as satisfying. My advice would be to stick to those smaller vessels until Marina is able to redress its service delivery.