Just stepped off the Marina earlier today following 12 days of sheer gastronomic bliss and enough eye candy to fill a lifetime of photo albums. Without previous cruising experience, it was hard to imagine any cruise line meeting, never mind exceeding my expectations. After THOROUGH research comparing Oceania, Seabourn and the Celebrity Solstice class ships, the $/day rates, multiple dining venues, smaller ports of call, affiliation with Wine Spectator, and yes...terrific reviews found on Cruise Critic, the Marina quickly became the perfect "toe in the water" cruising experience. A few comments by category...
Food: Simply put...spectacular. I heard passengers wih experience on Seabourn, Crystal and Silver Sea give Marina higher marks both in terms of quality and variety. If a tourine of duck foie gras from the kitchen of Jacques Pepin sounds intriguing, then read no further and book now! La Reserve (the co-op effort between Wine Spectator and Oceania) serves 2 separate 7-course tasting menu paired with specifically chosen wines. The venue only holds 24 and easily commands a $75/pp premium to partake. Our 2 dinners here were the highlight of the trip.
Wine: I simply must call out the terrific quality and depth of the wine lists as well as the very fair pricing. Accustomed to "expense account" wine prices at dinner, we were pleasantly surprised at the pricing strategy used. We felt as though every bottle had terrific value. The sommelier staff is adeptly led by the cellar master (Craig), and their knowledge and palettes created oenophilic portraits as vivid as murano glass.
Service: We stayed at the St. Regis in Rome prior to our departure. I'll keep this simple.... The St. Regis could learn a lot from the Marina team. One day early in the cruise I lost count (after 16) of the number of employees who made eye contact and greeted me. By day 3, Maria (restaurant reservations) knew our last name (among 1100+ guests) and the barristas knew our coffee preferences by heart. Bravo, Oceania!
Staterooms: Bigger, more functional and better appointed han most business hotels. The beds are also better than advertised and we slept soundly each and every night.
Entertainment: Ok, well, not everyhing can be perfect in this review....otherwise it might become suspect. Oceania needs help here....desperately. Both pop band and Martini Lounge pianist were straiht out of a Saturday Night Live skit. We either had to tune them out, or in a few cases, find other locations to linger. That said, the string quartet was exceptional, and the guest lecturer and artist in residence were inspiring.
The management of Oceania and the crew of Marina are dialing in on an extremely compelling product which will no doubt establish lifelong customers who are simply unwilling to sail with anyone else lest they be disappointed.
I, for one, fall into that category.