I admit I was prepared NOT to be impressed as we really liked "our" little
REGATTA after five cruises and worried that something twice as big with twice as many passengers would be half as nice. In the end, and indeed from the onset, I was instead very impressed and pleased with almost every aspect of the ship, her staff, cuisine, service and operation in general. I am not sure if MARINA is the best ship for the money in the world, but surprised if she were not.
Predictable pile on a raft. One day someone will design a handsome new
cruise ship. This ain't it. Funnel is surprisingly ineffective and there was a lot of soot deposited aft. Maintenance is good but the varnish needed redoing. Outside decks are spacious, ample and well laid with more space than I imagined and mitigating fears of crowding. However, this is achieved at the expense of losing the elegant teak deck furniture of REGATTA so that it's back to the cruise ship serried rows of loungers and except for the main lido, it's plastic underfoot. None of this looks as tidy and appealing as REGATTA and towels were often in short supply. Oh and I LOVED the miniature golf course despite of my preconceived notions other that it would impede on deck space. Finally a ship with stuff to do: shuffleboard, croquet, paddle tennis... HAL is a lousy basketball court and that's it. Only one pool but my goodness what a nice big one it is. Excellent. But where is the promenade or boat deck guys, what were you thinking?
Interior is well laid out and familiar to the "R" ships which is good. Only real flaw: only two lifts aft where all the dining is situated and four lifts
forward where they aren't as needed. So lots of good healthy stair climbing or
long waits. Someone needs to reprogram the Stepford Wife lift announcement: it's a DECK people not a "floor". Decor is generally lovely, not
sure how they managed such an elegant transition from the Edwardian of the old
ships to something equally pleasing but more contemporary but they did and it
works. Disconcerting changes in ceiling heights are very odd.... the dining
room going from 17 ft. to barely 7 ft. at the entrance and deckheads are
too low in the Grand Bar, Casino and Martinis.
The Dining Room must rank as the most handsome space afloat with its 17-ft
central ceiling and impressively restrained decor and colour scheme. Gorgeous.
Martinis, our favourite watering hole on REGATTA, isn't nearly as cozy and
effective on MARINA, though, with its central area a walk-through. Horizons is
as close to a mid 1970s shipboard lounge out there, but it works and unlike the
ones on the R ships actually used outside of tea. Cabin decor could have been a
lot lighter, too much dark phony wood. Superb furnishings throughout although
some choices will probably not hold up in heavy shipboard use, my chair in
Toscana already had a wobbly arm. Library has the best selection of books afloat but what a cramped, impossible to use room it is... as boneheaded a layout as I've seen. Like trying to read in a dark, wood panelled phone box and totally opposite of the simply delightful libraries on the R ships.
Food & Service
Simply exemplary throughout. Astonishing really how good it is
and even better than REGATTA which seems impossible although lots of familiar
faces from her: they remember us and we remember them and we like that a lot.
Everything was done in that subtle efficient manner that only high standards,
supervision, training and experience can achieve and very, very few ships can
accomplish. The head stewards and maitre d's WORK on this ship, too, and keep
everything running like a clock. No waits for tables for two anymore, only a few longer than desired meals and genuine smiles and hospitality abound. Best crews afloat. The food is to die for, better than Queens Grill in fact, Jacques (the French speciality restaurant) is tres splendide, Polo and Toscana pretty much on par with REGATTA. Red Ginger wasn't nearly as impressive; the Asian extra cost restaurants on EURODAM and NIEUW AMSTERDAM are better. Oceania have introduced a new $50 per day all you can drink add-on which is good value and the choices are very good indeed.
A few flaws
We don't like at all the ever increasing "class" system on Oceania wherein what you get and how you are treated seems increasingly based on your cabin grade. Even embarkation times are staggered based on cabin grade although ours (later at 3.00 pm) proved far quicker and less crowded than the earlier ones but you miss embarkation lunch. You don't even get full breakfast room service in your cabin if booked in anything under a Concierge level cabin.... come on Oceania, you're a deluxe line and even Holland America Line can provide this to all. The level of attention from the Cruise Director etc. seemed also pure pandering to those in better cabins and you don't have a chance at the speciality restaurants other than your allotted once a cruise experience unless paying top dollar. It's not nice paying a lot for a cruise and still being made to feel Second Class at times. And trust me, a lot of the folks in the top cabins think they're really something thanks to Oceania's endless pandering and fawning.
Single biggest negative was the incessant, annoying and en-ragingly intrusive
loud "music" blaring forth around the pool 24/7. Astonishing that a line whose
motto is "Your World Your Way" cannot fathom that in this age of iPods, one can
listen to one's own music without enduring that of others (or better still
listening to nothing but the sound of the sea we paid for!) and has banned all
of the petty annoyances of cruising like yards of gold, art auctions, logo tee shirt heaps, pool games, on board photographers etc, can still foist this sonic refuse on all. It was horrendous. And gives one real pause as to going back. This simply has got to go!
Oh and you gotta love the separate shower stalls in the otherwise superb and
gorgeous cabin bathrooms (what a change from the airliner sized ones on the R
Ships!): I think I was among eight passengers skinny enough to fit into it but
at 6'2", the shower head was almost grazing my scalp. You need to soap up before getting in. Yikes. Who the heck designed this?!
Overall, renewed my faith in Oceania and the ability of lines to get most things right. Shame about the half dozen design "why the heck did they do that" flaws but once they ditch the 1966 elevator music or worse the 1980 Miami Vice disco jazz poolside, we'll be back. This is a great product people!