We just returned from a 26-day cruise on the Oceania Marina (back-to-back Athens to Civitavecchia and Civitavecchia to Miami). We've sailed on more than two dozen ships, but it was our first on Oceania.
When we boarded the Marina, we were immediately impressed with the luxurious appearance of the ship and of our cabin (Concierge-level veranda). The bed was the most comfortable we've ever had on a ship and, together with its elegant headboard, could have held its own in a fine hotel. The bathroom was beautifully appointed with gray marble on the floor and the walls, and it had both a full-size bathtub and an extremely uncomfortable diminutive shower stall, smaller than a phone booth. The shower head is mounted directly above and may work well for shorter people. However, if you are tall, you will have to learn to contort your body and especially your neck to avoid hitting the shower head.
Oceania's unquestionable strength is in its attention to food quality. From the baked goods at breakfast (comparable to those in a good boulangerie in France) to the top-notch specialty restaurants that carry no surcharge, we were dazzled by Oceania's culinary offerings. The service in all the restaurants is unfailingly attentive and efficient. Even the various chefs walk around the dining rooms periodically to make sure excellence reigns supreme. Add to the high quality of the cuisine a full Starbucks-style barista set up serving all sorts of specialty coffees at no charge and you get an idea of Oceania's strongest points. The food at the Terrace CafÃ© is superb as well. Next to it, yet another eatery, Waves, serves up made-to-order Kobe burgers and grilled pannini. We particularly enjoyed the traditional high tea service every afternoon accompanied by the sounds of an extremely talented string quartet, the Tatra Strings.
We wish we could give equally high praise to the rest of the entertainment on board, but time and again the shows were disappointing. The small theatre is quite comfortable with ample leg room between the rows but lacks a state-of-the-art stage. In fact, Oceania calls the theatre a lounge which is probably more appropriate than calling it a theatre. Unfortunately, the quality of the performers is the poorest we've ever seen on a ship. On the other hand, the onboard activity program was quite good: language classes, photography classes, etc.
There are other bizarre problems with the Marina. For some reason, the designers of the ship decided to put four elevators in the front of the ship and only two in the back. Can you guess where all the restaurants are? Yep, in the back. You can imagine the long waits at 6:30 PM when all the restaurants open and hundreds of passengers try to take one of two elevators to have dinner. To make matters worse, one of the two is periodically out of service for repairs.
The cabin door locks have a nasty habit of resetting themselves randomly and they need someone from security to come and reprogram the lock completely. This is not a problem of cards getting demagnetized since it happened more than once to several cabins in our area simultaneously, including ours. Imagine getting back to your cabin at 6 PM to change for dinner only to find that you cannot get in. You go down, get new cards, and they don't work either. Then someone comes to take a look and leaves. Then security comes and reprograms your lock. Then someone else comes up with new cards. Now you've spent a half hour waiting to have the lock on your door fixed and you no longer have time to change for dinner because your reservation is for 6:30 PM.
The Internet service on board is also frustrating. It is not only the most expensive we've ever encountered (as much as 95 cents per minute), but it also has a maddening habit of disappearing while one is on line, making it impossible to log out. The Internet manager tried his best to help during the limited hours he was on duty, but there were way too many instances when Internet service crashed for several hours.
One of the oddest of Oceania's practices is the confiscation of all passports, allegedly for "immigration reasons." Nobody on the staff was able to explain to me why Celebrity, HAL, Princess, and other cruise lines don't see a need to confiscate all passports at boarding. The concierge on deck 5 became ornery (unusual among the generally ultra-polite staff) when I asked for my passport back, throwing all sorts of nonsensical excuses and scoffing at my point that no cruise line had ever taken my passport in over a dozen transatlantic crossings. I protested (in writing) and the head concierge contacted me and admitted that the passport confiscation was Oceania policy rather than governmental policy, but he could offer no logical explanation for the practice either.
There are laundry facilities on every deck and each is equipped with a large-screen TV and with a comfortable couch and chilled mineral water. Speaking of water, all mineral waters are complimentary in both the dining rooms and the cabin. Passengers also get complimentary bottled water as they get off the ship at the various ports they visit.
The ship has one small pool that is hardly used. Why? Because the water is ice-cold even on warm and sunny days. Shopping on board is limited and Oceania makes no claim that the prices are better than one would find back home. Draw your own conclusions. In a departure from other cruise lines, there are no photographers snapping pictures and then trying to sell them at exorbitant prices. However, Oceania does charge lofty prices for its excursions and for post-cruise transfers ($199 for a transfer from the port of Miami to Miami airport!).
The bottom line? The Oceania Marina is a great ship if you are a foodie, but it falls short in many other areas: dismally bad elevator service, uncomfortable showers, and a lame entertainment program. And for me personally, the confiscation of the passports for the duration of the cruise is also a strong negative, particularly when Oceania staff either lies about the reason ("it's for immigration") or cannot provide a coherent explanation.