(3:06 p.m. EST) -- As lines like Cunard, with its Grill class, and MSC, with its Yacht Club, aim to create upscale small-ship neighborhoods on mainstream vessels, Oceania's putting a new twist on the trend.
Today, the cruise line -- which will launch the 66,000-ton, 1,258 passenger Marina, its first-ever new-build, next January -- unveiled renderings for its premier suites, geared to travelers who want big-ship options in the privacy of their own yacht-like living quarters.
Truly sumptuous and featuring design elements and furnishings from Ralph Lauren Home, the three Owner's Suites on Marina aren't just bigger (more than twice the size, in fact) than their counterparts on Oceania's Regatta, Insignia and Nautica. They're also unique in the industry. The 2,500-square-foot suites are the first modern-day cruise staterooms to go from beam to beam, stretching across the ship's aft and offering views as well from port and starboard.
The Owner's Suites' style, says Bob Binder, Oceania's president, is symbolic of the evolution that Marina represents for the line. He notes that in this case it's not about giving a ship a sophisticated boutique hotel look and feel -- as is the trend in luxury new-builds today. Instead, he hopes that passengers onboard the new ship feel like they're in an elegant, private home.
Is Oceania Becoming a Luxury Line?
At the event, held at Ralph Lauren Home's trade showroom in Manhattan on Friday, amidst cow skin-covered chairs in one display area and a stuffed elk's head decorating a Colorado ski mansion scheme in another, it's understandable to wonder if Oceania's seriously going upscale. The line's successful formula has so far been a combination of sophisticated elements (dining, service, decor) that blend with big ship-style a la carte pricing, which keeps fares reasonably lower than those of more inclusive luxe lines. It's a style of cruising we dub "luxury lite."
So: Is this over-the-top elegant suite indicative of a change in direction for Oceania? Not at all, insists Frank del Rio, chairman of Prestige Holdings, Oceania's owner, and co-founder of the line.
"Marina is the latest incarnation of what the Oceania brand stands for, such as service, food and decor," he says. "We'd like to think everything revolves around good taste."
Certainly the owners' suites, which will sell for about 20 percent more than the owners' suites on existing Oceania ships, epitomize good taste. In fact, on debut, they'll easily qualify for the most gorgeous and lavish at sea.
Like Seabourn's new Odyssey, one advantage Marina has over its elder sisters is that it's a prototype that can be built to accommodate features that may be popular today but perhaps weren't so in demand a decade ago when the Oceania triplets were first introduced. Whereas Oceania purchased its current fleet from the defunct Renaissance Cruises and had to work with the existing design, it now has the freedom to create Marina to suit its goals and guests.
Marina's other advantage is that as luxury cruising (and, in this case, "luxury lite") has evolved, today's passengers are more comfortable with bigger ships, relatively speaking, than they used to be. As such, both Marina and Seabourn Odyssey are able to incorporate more options and features than their sisters.
While design of Oceania Marina's standard cabins has not yet been revealed, we were told today that other suites, such as the Vista, which will also have the private exercise room, and the Oceania, which will be equipped with its own media room, will incorporate other ultra-contemporary features. For example, these suites and the Owner's Suites will all have private outdoor whirlpools.
But Marina's design will also incorporate the most successful features of Oceania's trio of existing triplets. Binder says the new ship represents an evolution but not a revolution. "On Marina, we still have the grand staircase," he says. Signature dining venues Polo and Toscana will be aptly represented onboard alongside the four other alternative restaurants (the ship has a total of 10 eateries). The martini bar will be back. And of course Oceania's five-star crew, as rated by Cruise Critic editors and members alike, will be on hand.
Ultimately, Prestige's del Rio tells Cruise Critic, "Marina embodies the Oceania brand. But it's truly our masterpiece, designed from the ground up."
We'll keep you posted on further design reveals as Marina continues through the shipbuilding process.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor In Chief
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Oceania Reveals Plans for Palatial Suites on New Ship
December 11, 2009