This was our 23rd cruise; the first on Oceania. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Princess, NCL, Holland America, and Celebrity. Oceania is not a line we can typically afford because we prefer to use that money to cruise two or three times per year, but this was a great deal and a great itinerary so we booked it. We learned a few things on this cruise: if you prefer balconies, stick with them. We would have been miserable in an inside cabin for 12 nights, especially with the movement on this ship. Also, size does matter. The Marina is about 66,000 tons, and after sailing on Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure, we really felt the movement on this ship. We had sailed on a small Princess ship in 2006 and loved it, but subsequently got spoiled on the larger vessels, so keep that in mind when selecting your cruise.
Passengers: The average age appeared to be about 75. We met mostly Americans, along with some Canadians and Brits. We saw a total of 2 children. Passengers were very friendly. We also expected that the "country club casual" dress code would mean that we had to dress very nicely, but found that everyone dressed just as they would on any other cruise line. It was GREAT not to have formal nights!
Embarkation and Disembarkation: Quite smooth. We boarded at 1:00 p.m. Cabins were not ready until 3:30 -- on other lines we are usually in our cabin by 1:00 p.m., but we went to the Terrace Cafe and had a great lunch. Disembarkation was smooth as well -- off the ship and into the car within 20 minutes.
Cabins: Small, but elegant. The bed was very comfortable with luxurious bedding, and the towels are thick. Storage is adequate, but the closet is in a very awkward place and is difficult to access. The safe is a nice size; an iPad will fit, but not a laptop. The shower is horrible. It is the smallest shower I've ever seen on a ship. The bathtub is huge, but the separate shower has a rainshower head with nowhere to move out of the way, so you have to keep turning it on and off. Good luck if you want to bend over to shave your legs. The shelf is tiny; there is not enough room to put shampoo, etc. on it, so most things are on the floor, where you can barely get to them IF you are small and can bend over in the tiny, cramped shower. The shower did not drain well. The shower is the worst feature of the ship. The cabin was also cold at times, and turning the thermostat to the warmest setting didn't do anything. The noise in the cabin was nearly as bad as the shower. The first night, it sounded like a loose tin flap was banging above the ceiling. The next day, they fixed it, but it was very windy throughout the trip and the wind whistled through the balcony dividers and rattled them so loudly it kept me awake. There was also a lot of creaking, and on the last few nights, an irritating pinging kept me awake. We were told that the cabins on the Regatta are even smaller, so again, keep that in mind when booking. Unless you upgrade to a suite, expect very, very small cabins on this cruise line.
Cabin Service: Adequate for the most part, until the last night. The refrigerator is stocked with free soda and bottled water, which is terrific, but we did have to ask for restocking a couple of times. We ordered juice from Room Service a few times and it arrived right on time with friendly service.
Unfortunately, when we were at dinner the last night, our cabin stewardess dumped all of the sheets, robes, etc. on top of our good clothes, preparing for the next morning. She took the robes we were using, soap, shampoo, and everything else out of our cabin. We were not happy. On disembarkation morning, we went to an early breakfast, and put the "privacy" sign on the door to let her know we were not vacating the cabin yet -- it was 6:30 and we didn't have to vacate until 8:00 a.m. When we returned at 7:15, she and other stewards had their cleaning supplies strewn all over the room and all of the dirty linens were piled on top of our open suitcases. We asked for privacy to use the restroom and assured her we would be out much earlier than required --within minutes, and she didn't want to give us that privacy. She got angry, and when we finally asked her to leave, she told us that there "is no privacy on disembarkation day" and we had no right to hold her up from "turning the cabin around by 1:00 p.m." We tried to convince here that we just needed a few minutes, but she was awful. She finally left and yelled some name at us in a foreign language, slamming the door. We complained, and the housekeeping manager couldn't have been nicer, so we felt better, but we have never been treated so rudely on a cruise -- ever. The manager assured us she would be disciplined and this behavior is not up to their standards and would not be tolerated.
The Ship: Very elegant, but it lacked a central meeting and people-watching spot, which we always enjoy on larger ships. The theater's seats are not very comfortable. We felt a lot of movement on this ship, and the sea did not look that rough; it was windy but no more than usual on this Caribbean route. Numerous passengers commented on this; we have been in much rougher seas with less ship movement, and that remains a mystery. The aforementioned noises were very annoying.
The Internet on Deck 14 was terribly slow. Dozens of us complained. The Internet staff used every excuse they could think of, including interference from Cuba. The Internet in the cabin didn't work at all until day 8, and then it worked for that day and reverted back to dial-up speed for the remainder of the trip. Internet access is VERY expensive on this ship: 80 cents per minute is the starting point. I purchased 800 minutes for $400, and wasted tons of time the first several days getting bumped off and having extremely slow connections. The Guest Services staff was downright rude about it when everyone complained. I finally got about 150 minutes credited by the Internet Manager. On days 6 and 7 they tore out the ceilings in the passageways to install "more access points," "more bandwith," or "newer antennas" -- depending on whom you asked. After day 8, when I went to Guest Services to inquire about the slow Internet again, they just said that they were frustrated, too. No matter whom we asked, nobody was willing to tell us the truth. On day 10, contracted engineers arrived at our room to test our wi-fi connection and they told us the ship planned to upgrade the satellite, confirming that what they had was terrible. I used all 800 minutes plus the 150 doing about 300 minutes of work.
For a new ship, this one just had too many issues and they definitely detracted from the experience; so much that we have cancelled a future cruise on this ship. Many passengers we spoke with had sailed on the Regatta, which is less than half the size of this ship, and loved the intimate atmosphere. I can only imagine, though, how bad the Internet is on a smaller, older ship, and I don't want to experience all that movement and ship's noises.
Staff: the dining venues all had wonderful, cheerful staff. This was the best dining service -- in all venues -- we have ever had on a ship. The waiters genuinely seemed to like what they were doing. They couldn't have been nicer or more attentive. The reception desk staff, however, was completely unimpressive. If anyone had an issue, they just stonewalled or lied. We talked to several passengers who had this same impression. They need to promote some of their waiters and put them at the front desk because the Guest Services people were crabby, inattentive, and acted like they absolutely hate people.
Dining: The main dining room is comfortable, pretty, and has great service along with great food. There are plenty of choices and the waiters were extremely attentive. The casual venue, the Terrace Cafe, also had fantastic food selections and service. A highlight of this cruise was the free lattes/cappuccinos any time you want one. The buffet selections were not vast, but they were really good. I am a vegetarian and I didn't have any trouble finding choices. The Waves grill, between the casual Terrace Cafe and the pool, has fantastic lunch food, including a surf and turf sandwich, and an ice cream bar that also serves malts, shakes, and smoothies. Cappuccinos, lattes, etc. -- all at no extra cost -- are served throughout the ship. The food and food service on this ship were by far the best we have ever had.
The cruise fare included one night in each of four specialty restaurants. Red Ginger has great Asian food with wonderful service; Jacques has French food with fantastic service, Polo is a steakhouse with unbelievably good food and wonderful service, and Toscana serves Italian food -- the service and food was good there.
One nice feature of the cruise is that the bar service was wonderful but we never felt like they were constantly hovering and pushing drinks on us.
Entertainment: We enjoyed the comedian Tom Drake's shows. There is only one show per evening at 9:45 p.m., so we missed all the other ones because we were just too tired to stay awake. The cruise director, Dottie Kulasa, was absolutely fantastic. She made everyone feel at home, always took time to chat, and really made the cruise enjoyable. A guest lecturer from NOAA had some interesting presentations. We did not visit the Casino.
Photos: There are no photographers on this ship. It was nice not to constantly be bothered by them; on the other hand, we always purchase our embarkation photo because they have the ship's name, date, and itinerary on them and we keep them in a cruise album, so we missed that.
The Spa: Ridiculous prices. It is a Canyon Ranch Spa and you pay for the name - $182 for a 50 minute Swedish massage. I didn't even think about doing that.
Shore excursions: Typical. A bit over-priced. After the first two, we cancelled the rest.
Overall: There is not a lot to do on this ship, so it is definitely the right ship for those who just want to eat great food, have great dining service, don't need to use the Internet, don't need to be entertained, and want a very slow, relaxed pace. The Internet and cabin fiascos absolutely put a damper on our experience. The free bottled water, soda, smoothies, and lattes are nice extras, and you will sleep in a very comfortable bed. This line's itineraries are terrific. However, if you like more choices in entertainment, people watching, and a more lively, upbeat atmosphere, this probably is not the ship or the cruise line for you.