February 5, 2011
A nattily dressed crowd -- ok, there was that guy up on his verandah in his bathrobe -- watched the christening of the 66,000-ton, 1,250-passenger Marina, the first new-build in the upper-premium line's history. After the proceedings, chairman and CEO Frank Del Rio put the price tag for the vessel (and its sister, Riviera, due in 15 months) at $600 million.
In an era in which many vessels are judged by their size, Del Rio said during the ceremony, "no other ship afloat matches [Marina's] vital statistics." He was referring to the ship's lavish amenities, which include 1,000 thread count sheets, designer furnishings throughout, hand-picked artwork at every corner and the Bon Appetit Culinary Center -- the first cooking school at sea. In addition, Marina is home to Jacques, Jacques Pepin's sole namesake restaurant afloat. The master chef, who was named an honorary commodore by Del Rio, was on hand to accept the honor. A relatively laugh-free (though not at all somber) affair, the christening roared to life when Rabbi Loring Frank, who blessed the ship, said that his final prayer was for one day to return and actually go on a Marina cruise. Without missing a beat, Del Rio stepped up to the mic and said, "Call your travel agent." (He may have been serious: Agents account for 95 percent of Oceania's bookings, a figure from Del Rio that got a loud round of applause from the 500 agents sailing this weekend.)
Hart, who ends her 29-year reign on "Entertainment Tonight" this year, brought things to a close on a smashing note, when she pulled a giant lever and launched a 15-liter bottle of Champagne -- which passengers had signed while embarking -- into the hull of the ship.
Cue the fireworks, confetti, a bleating version of the Black-Eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling" -- and a fresh surge of Champagne-clad waiters into the crowd.
At the post-christening press conference, Del Rio was asked if he still considers Marina an "upper premium" ship in light of all the posh trappings. The exec stood his ground, explaining "that's what it is . . . and that's where we want to stay."
After this short preview cruise, Marina departs on the first of two 18-day Panama Canal voyages on February 8. The ship will homeport in Miami sailing the Caribbean before it moves to Europe for its inaugural Mediterranean season.
Check out our live coverage from the ship here.
--by John Deiner, Managing Editor