Marina Cruise Review by ahimsa: The Bar Is Raised
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The Bar Is Raised
We sailed on the Treasures of the Continent 12-day cruise embarking and returning to Dover (London) on July 29-August 10. Ports were: Amsterdam, Zeebrugge, Le Havre/Honfleur, Guernsey Island, St. Malo, La Rochelle, Le Verdon and Santander. Two ports were omitted due to seas and weather, those being Concarneau and St. Jean de Luz/Biarritz. The cruise was to celebrate a special birthday and it was a magnificent way to do so.
We did book the optional 2-night pre-cruise stay in London through Oceania and stayed at the Millenium Mayfair hotel. It was a lovely option including a half-day bus tour of London (it was our first time there, so we appreciated this offering). The hotel was comfortable and in a quiet location adjacent to Grosvenor Square. Their in-house restaurant was honestly fantastic (we had heard the horror stories of food in London). We stayed in for dinner the first night due to jet-lag and had an Italian meal we're still talking about. Their breakfast buffet was More varied and delicious. the hotel is several blocks from a tube station, but is a pleasant walk in good weather.
As for our cruise, Oceania left us very impressed. Our travel and transportation was flawless and effortless from the time we left Boston and arrived in Heathrow. Oceania has everything down to a science and we had no wait nor confusion transferring from airport to hotel to port. Once at the port, we had expected to wait to board, but were on the ship within 45 minutes of arrival at the port. We expected long lines, but there were none. Once aboard, we were given our Oceania Cards and never had to handle money except when using the guest laundry center as the machines use US quarters. Nearly everything we could want except wine & alcohol or gift shop purchases was included in our fare. It was really nice to not have to worry about what was included and what wasn't.
Marina is a lovely ship which felt just the right size to us. The staff seemed to genuinely take pride in everything that they did....as though they were welcoming you into their own homes. The food was amazing in ALL venues. Sadly, unless you are in an Owner's Suite, you are only given the ability to reserve one meal in each of the 4 specialty restaurants. However, the main dining room and the Terrace Cafe buffet were excellent. We especially liked that the passengers DO NOT handle the food at the buffet. It is served to you by a staff member, thereby reducing the transmission of foodborne illness. There are plenty of places to find a quiet nook to read and relax besides your cabin and we rarely felt like we were on board with 1200 people. Also, there were probably fewer than 10 ten children onboard, which was very nice. Oceania states that they do not have offerings for children, but does not refuse them.
We did not avail ourselves of any of the entertainment offered, but there was quite a bit. My husband did take one class in the Bon Appetit cooking center and enjoyed it very much. I used some of the Canyon Ranch spa services and was quite pleased.
We were disappointed with the shore excursions offered by Oceania and will not book them on our next cruise. We did not feel that we got our money's worth, especially when paying extra for a small group "Oceania's Choice" tour in Brugge, Belgium. We had a chatty, opinionated tour guide who spent more time espousing his politics than telling us about his city. This left us only minutes to shop and no time to enjoy the city on our own. However, this was really the only negative during the whole trip. We did "miss" two ports. The first was Concarneau/Pont Aven, France due to bad weather and the inability to safely tender off the ship. And the second being St. Jean de Luz/Biarritz, France due to rolling seas and the inability to safely tender again. The first weather issue was obviously not within the control of Oceania. However, in St. Jean de Luz, it was a lovely day. But, the waves were rolling into the shore at 5-10ft. They launched and attempted to board the tenders but could not safely do so. I later overhead a "local" who was working on the ship state that it was very doubtful that they would be able to get into this port as the seas are always like this here. He said cruise ships never visit this port for that reason. After all, Biarritz is known for surfing. It was disappointing to miss this port and it will be interesting to see if Oceania continues this port in their itineraries.
Our veranda cabin was very comfortable and quiet. Plenty of closet and storage space was available. The bathroom was well appointed but without an outlet for my blow dryer. The desk/vanity was were I sat to dry my hair. We are both tall 5'10" & 6'2" and we found the shower to be a bit short, though the water pressure was excellent. They are small corner showers and we've read other passengers had issue with them. They were tight, but certainly kept you from losing your balance if the seas were rough. Unfortunately, the large, gorgeous bathtub has no shower doors or shower curtain, so it became our drying space or dirty towel receptacle. We are not bath people, so it was wasted space for us.
Overall, we really enjoyed our first experience with Oceania and are already looking to sail with them again. Less
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