Marina's shore excursions cover most of the major bases, though rarely surprise. Ours were well run, but the listed tour durations never included time spent tendering or waiting for everyone to show up at the bus. Complaints from Cruise Critic members that tours in general are overpriced are justified. On our Caribbean cruise, most tours cost $89 and up; a 1.5-hour walking tour of Key West cost $109, while a half-day tour with a 40-minute kayak and 1.5 hours at the beach cost $149.
The one standout is Oceania's Culinary Discovery Tour program, which offers food- and wine-themed excursions, often including market tours, regional cooking classes and meals in signature restaurants. The tours are personally designed by Oceania's Executive Chef Kathryn Kelly, so instead of sites found on other culinary tours, you'll visit with Kelly's friends and food purveyors or restaurants she finds particularly interesting or regionally important. The four- to eight-hour Culinary Discovery Tours are held anywhere from once on a weeklong cruise to three or four times on a 12-night cruise, and can take no more than 22 people. Most book up months in advance, so reserve your spot as soon as online reservations open up.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
Oceania passengers have plenty of choices of daytime activities, especially on sea days. You'll find everything from needlepoint, golf putting, bridge games and ballroom dance classes to spa and boutique presentations, scarf tying demos, cutthroat trivia, extra-fee martini tastings and poker tournaments. Competitive activities (think Ping-Pong tournaments and team trivia) award Big O Points (we're not making this up) to the winners, which can be redeemed the last evening of the cruise for Oceania logo swag like T-shirts and visors.
The Marina Lounge on Deck 5 is the ship's theater, where Oceania has a true elevated stage outfitted for sets and lighting effects, as opposed to a more lounge-y space for shows on the smaller, R-class ships. Its in-house troupe perform pretty average song-and-dance shows, supplemented by guest singers, musicians, comedians and magicians. The entertainment is squarely aimed at the line's core older passenger; think song revues from the '50s and '60s and a guest entertainer doing Sinatra songs. Each show is performed once per night, usually at 9:30 p.m., so the theater fills up; it's hard to find a seat in the dark if you come in late.
Live music performances take place around the ship, with a pianist at Martinis Bar, a string quarter at the Grand Bar and the Ardor Band playing to the dancing crowd at the sprawling Horizons lounge, often with themed sets like Motown or country. The occasional cabaret show starring one or two of the ship's singers is held in Horizons at an odd hour, either pre-dinner or after the main show.
A small casino flanks either side of the Casino Bar, with slots on one end and a mix of slots and table games (poker, blackjack, craps and roulette) on the other.
Straddling the line between entertainment and enrichment is the Culinary Center, in which passengers learn kitchen secrets from a changing roster of master chefs. At tightly packed rows of personal cooking stations, you can chop, saute, fry and fumble around under expert guidance -- and the crowds looking in via floor-to-ceiling windows make it even more fun. Book early for the classes, which on our cruise ranged from a fish master class to learning recipes from Red Ginger. All were thorough, hands-on and ultimately quite useful once we returned home. Classes cost $69 apiece, and it's important to note that while the cruise line says that it can accommodate 24 passengers per class, it strives to only book 22 or fewer. There are 12 cooking stations, so be prepared to share space and cooking tasks with a fellow passenger.
Note: Wine is liberally poured (or other drinks that are matched to the recipes) and you're expected to eat what you cook, so you may want to avoid booking alternative restaurants for the same day.
La Reserve by Wine Spectator also offers wine tastings on every cruise, for an additional fee.
Across the hall from the Culinary Center is the Artist Loft, in which artists are invited to cruise in exchange for leading workshops. Mediums include photography, watercolors, collage and printmaking. Classes run for two hours, though you don't need to stay the whole time, and are fee-free.
In addition, guest lecturers come aboard to give presentations on the history and culture of the cruise region. If you miss them, they're re-broadcast on the in-cabin TV. The lecturer on our cruise was dynamic and entertaining, and knew her stuff.
Marina Bars and Lounges
Marina is not a party ship, but the Grand Bar and Martinis are quite bustling before dinner. Many cruisers choose one of several beverage packages (some score one free with an O-Life Perks package) for a more inclusive approach to drinking onboard. Options include the House Select package for wine, beer and Champagne at lunch and dinner and the Prestige Select for wine, Champagne, beer and cocktails at all dining venues and bars during open hours. You can also choose a wine bottle package.
If you haven't purchased a beverage package, look for pre-dinner and late-night happy hours with two-for-one drinks and don't miss the Captain's Welcome Party, when drinks at select bars are complimentary for two-plus hours.
Marina Lounge (Deck 5): The one-level ship's theater is used for evening performances, enrichment lectures, future cruise or port shopping presentations and shore excursion assembling. Bar service is available only during the evening show.
Martinis (Deck 6): Just off the atrium, Martinis is the place for pre- or post-dinner cocktails with piano music or cutthroat late-afternoon trivia sessions. Bar service runs from 3 p.m. until late.
Grand Bar (Deck 6): The Grand Bar is not a bar. Instead it's a long promenade connecting the Grand Restaurant with Martinis, lined with easy chairs and couches that you can easily fall into and never wish to get up from -- especially if a kind waitress is bringing you wine and cocktails direct from the Casino Bar. It's most visited before dinner, but is also a great nook for a chat or reading a book during the day. Open 5 p.m. until close.
Casino Bar (Deck 6): With purple lights, silver chairs and bling-worthy accents, this bar seems out of place on a ship dominated by earth tones and upscale hotel-type furnishings. Don't be so bedazzled by the setup that you miss the Picassos on the wall (and the Miros in the small hallway leading in from the Grand Bar). We've yet to see someone sit at this bar, given that it's flanked by the Grand Bar and Martinis, both of which seem more popular. Open 5 p.m. to close.
Waves Bar (Deck 12): The requisite poolside bar serves frozen cocktails, cool beers and other refreshing drinks to sun worshippers from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Bar waiters service all the sun decks from this bar.
Baristas (Deck 14): Located just off the library and overlooking the pool deck, Baristas caters to passengers in need of a caffeine fix with no-fee cappuccinos and lattes and extra-fee booze-laced coffee drinks. There's a small number of stools for sipping a hot drink while spying on sunbathers, but most people take their coffee to the leather easy chairs in the adjacent reading nooks or elsewhere on the ship. Open 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Horizons (Deck 15): Horizons encompasses the entire forward section of Deck 15, with floor-to-ceiling windows, plush chairs and couches around small tables, a bandstand and dance floor, and a bar with stool seating. In one corner, mostly walled off from the rest of the lounge is a smoking area for cigarettes only. By day, seminars and dance classes take place here; it's also a quiet place to read or gaze out to sea. Horizons is hopping from 4 to 5 p.m. during teatime. At night, it's the party place for dancing and drinking, and draws a small but lively crowd -- pretty good for an upscale ship with an older demographic. Bar hours are 11 a.m. to late.
Concierge Lounge (Deck 9): This lovely interior lounge on Deck 9 is for the exclusive use of Concierge Veranda cabin residents. Passengers can enjoy comfortable seating areas, snacks and cold and hot drinks, daily newspapers, TV, a pair of computer terminals with printer connections and access to a concierge who can assist with everything from dinner and shore tour reservations to internet trouble and lost key cards.
Executive Lounge (Deck 11): The Executive Lounge is reserved for suite passengers, from Penthouse on up to Owner's. It's set up like the Concierge Lounge, with a large flat-screen television, printouts of daily newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, internet stations, snacks and drinks, and a concierge.
Marina Outside Recreation
Befitting its adult-centric focus, Marina's sun deck on Deck 12 is centered on a tranquil saltwater pool that's ringed by comfortable, cushion-topped loungers and straddled by a pair of covered fresh-water hot tubs. Decorative rocks and plants add an upscale touch. Two-person curved wicker daybeds invite you to cuddle in the sun -- or hog them to yourself. The Waves Bar keeps the libations flowing for deck-hounds, while the Grill keeps sun worshippers in milkshakes and smoothies.
More padded loungers line Deck 14, overlooking the pool, with some on decks 15 and 16 as well. On Deck 14 aft, you'll find some outdoor chairs and tables just outside Baristas coffee bar; forward, by the spa, two covered areas allow passengers to enjoy the fresh air while staying undercover and catching breezes from overhead ceiling fans. The Sanctuary on the port side has loungers and couches, while the Patio on the starboard side has tables and chairs. While sunning areas on all decks get packed on sunny days, we didn't see evidence of people reserving the best loungers early and then not showing up 'til late.
Other outdoor diversions include a jogging track on Deck 15 that loops around croquet and shuffleboard play areas. Ten laps equal a mile. Deck 16 forward offers mini-golf, golf cages and a paddle tennis court. A Ping-Pong table is tucked away next to the Waves Bar on Deck 12.
Most passengers' first view of the ship's interior will be of the Lalique Grand Staircase, a work of art in itself: a set of dramatically illuminated curving steps adorned with crystal medallions and pillars, hand-crafted by the French firm. It's not the only artistically interesting area of the ship, with millions of dollars of artwork on display wherever you look. Look for Picassos and Miros leading from the Grand bar to the Casino Bar.
At the base of the staircase, the Deck 5 lobby area contains the reception, shore excursions and restaurant reservation desks, as well as shops selling resortwear, purses, sunglasses, jewelry, perfume and makeup, snacks and toiletries.
Bibliophiles will love the expansive library on Deck 14 and its cozy series of nooks with easy chairs perfect for reading, checking email or snoozing. Around the corner, the Oceania@Sea internet cafe provides a plethora of computer stations if you haven't brought your own. There's Wi-Fi throughout the ship so you're not limited to the cafe. Internet access costs 99 cents per minute. Packages are also available, which lower the per-minute rate; choose from 200 minutes for $160 or unlimited access for $28 per day. (A one-time activation fee of $3.95 is added to per-minute purchases or the 200-minute plan.)
The five self-serve launderettes onboard (spread over five decks) are some of the nicest you'll find at sea. Each has three washers, three dryers and ironing boards, plus a comfy couch and television for entertainment while you wait and a mini-fridge with water bottles. Laundry is not free, and you'll need dollar bills to buy tokens to feed into the machine. Launderettes are open 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cigarette smoking is permitted in the walled-off area on the port side of the Horizons lounge. Cigarette and cigar smoking is also allowed at the tables on Deck 12 midship on the opposite side of the pool deck from the Waves Bar. Cigars are not sold onboard.