Review of Marina for CruiseCritic
Our eastern Mediterranean cruise on Oceanias Marina was our second O. cruise. The first was an Asian cruise on the Nautica. We used an online travel agency to reserve, four months before the departure date. The original itinerary included Egypt, which was later canceled unfortunately. We decided to take the cruise anyway, and upon our request, the TA was able to persuade O. to rebate back to us a substantial price reduction. Note that this was due to our taking the initiative, thanks to another CCers prompting.
We arrived in Istanbul 6 days prior to embarkation and made independent travel arrangements. We used Delta Airlines direct flight to Istanbul from JFK and returned on a direct flight from Athens. This allowed enough time to see the major sights in Istanbul, as well as take a 2 day, 1 night jaunt to Cappadoccia, via Turkish Airlines. In Cappadoccia, we took day tours, the highlight of which was a hot air balloon ride during the early morning, of the second day. Our Istanbul hotel was the Ademar, a good choice in terms of its Sultanahmet (Old Town) location, small but comfortable rooms, airport pick up included if 3 days were reserved, rooftop terrace with great views, and helpful locked luggage room, used to store our large bags when we went to Cappadoccia.
The Istanbul embarkation was efficient and painless. We arrived by taxi and boarded at about 11:30 a.m. Since our cabin was not ready, we were permitted on deck 9 to use the laundry room to do our laundry, which was very helpful.
The stateroom on deck 9, Concierge Level was considerably larger than the one on the Nautica. The cabin and verandah were meticulously clean and generally comfortable. The room steward and helpers did an excellent job keeping everything tidy and replenishing supplies when necessary. As many have noted, the shower was claustrophobic and very poorly designed. The bathroom configuration is a major faux pas. Also, a number of the drawers and shelves in the cabin were too shallow for clothing and poorly designed. Everything else was top notch.
The Marina itself was very attractive, everything being new and polished. It was a lovely environment for a 12 day cruise. Compared to the Nautica, however, it seemed large and contained too many passengers. I prefer the smaller ship. The Marinas captain was often visible around the ship and was very friendly and approachable, which was a plus, in my view. The little touches like complimentary water provided at each port, the lack of pesky photographers and the classier atmosphere on the Marina were welcome. The charges to use the internet remain exorbitant, in my opinion. I realize that it is a profit center, but they are outrageously high.
The food was generally outstanding, especially in two of the specialty restaurants Jacques and Red Ginger. Service was very nice in Polo, but Toscana was not quite up to par in either food or service. The Terrace Grill buffet was excellent, with abundant choices, most very well prepared. The downside was that by the time the food arrived back at the table, it was often cool. Having plate covers available, might ameliorate that problem. The Waves Grill was also excellent. The Grand Dining Room was often very good but not outstanding or as consistent in terms of quality. Dinners also lasted way too long, in my opinion. Other than the limited room service menu, there was really no food service in the mid to late afternoon, when a snack or small meal would have been welcome, after returning from a tour.
The two shows that we attended were not stellar entertainment. The first was like a mediocre, high school musical production. The second was considerably better but still not great. Both the string quartet and the pop music band were very enjoyable.
We took only one O. shorex, to Caesarea, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The rest were either private tours or exploring on our own. The O. shorex was enjoyable but spent too much time at Caesarea, resulting in not enough time to see much of Tel Aviv, which was disappointing. Docking in the port of Haifa on a Saturday meant that the options were very limited, in terms of visiting Jewish sights. That was unfortunate scheduling by O. Also, the last minute port change from Kusadasi to Izmir, resulted in our being much further away from Ephesus, another unfortunate decision or problem caused by O. One other quibble, when taxis all over Greece went on strike the day that we were in Crete, we were not informed by anyone on Marina. We had to do our own internet research to confirm that information. That is info that should have been available to all of the passengers.
Our disembarkation in Athens went smoothly. Fortunately, there was no taxi strike that day. We had taken the precaution of pre-arranging taxi transportation through Athens Walking Tours. They also had access to a bus, if a taxi strike occurred. Buses apparently are not bound by a taxi strike. We stayed 3 more days in Athens, at the Athens Gate Hotel. It was an excellent hotel, located near the pedestrian walkway leading to most of the sights, comfortable rooms, excellent buffet breakfast, great rooftop terrace views of the Parthenon, and free internet use. We took a city and Acropolis tour with Athens Walking Tours which was also excellent and highly recommended.
We would definitely cruise with O. again but prefer the smaller ships, for a more intimate atmosphere and also would prefer more days at sea during a port intensive cruise.