I did so much research in preparation for this cruise so wanted to add detail to help others who are considering Oceana Marina. Overall, I think the trick is to work around the weaknesses of this cruise to get the best experience but for the very high price tag you should not have to do that.
-- Excellent itinerary with no sea days, longer days in port, a mix of exotic and sure winner stops. This was our primary consideration when choosing a cruise and Oceana delivered on this. We loved every stop and were delighted to discover new favorites like Malta. It is worth a premium to us to arrive at a new and worthwhile destination every day and to not have to rush back to the ship.
--Our penthouse room was very nice. The bathroom was large and well appointed, very like the bathroom of a nice hotel plus a large walk in closet that made the room very comfortable. The bed was literally the most comfortable bed I have every slept in away from home. The room was not huge nor was the balcony as large as most upgraded room balconies but roomy enough for great comfort, I really would not have wanted or needed more space. There was a mini fridge which was stocked daily but no one ever asked what we wanted stocked as was advertised.
--Butler service and housekeeping was generally very good except that a bottle of opened wine from the last guest was left in our mini fridge which gives you a creepy feeling about how well the room was cleaned. However other than that the room was very clean, the housekeeping staff very friendly and accommodating as was the Butler service. We did ask our Butler to get us an extra reservation two nights in specialty restaurants and he was able to get us an individual table one night and a shared table on another night.
--No photo taking, art shows, constant announcements, pressure to constantly buy drinks you see on the mid tier ships.
--Food! Would you believe it? We selected this cruise in large part and were willing to pay the premium price (almost double Azamara Club) because it was reputed to have the best food at sea. I would consider my husband and I foodies, however we are fine with simple freshly prepared food too. Bottom line is you would get better food by taking a Celebrity Cruise at half the price and paying the fee to eat in speciality restaurants every night which on Celebrity or Royal Caribbean are generally better than Oceana specialty restaurants (maybe paying the upgrade keeps the service and food at a higher level). The main dining room on Marina is pretty awful and on our ten day cruise we were only allowed to eat in specialty restaurants half the nights despite our expensive room.
As an example, I ordered a strip steak in the main dining room which as about 3/4 of an inch thick and tough; literally a normal restaurant strip steak cut lengthwise in half. A lobster dish was tough, tasteless and overcooked. On one night, no one at our table liked their food and most of it was simply left uneaten. There is nothing special at all about the food in the main restaurant, no nice touches. The service is however far better than in most specialty restaurants. The Terrace cafe is always an option for self serve food but I was so surprised at how not special breakfast was. Omelettes were just like on a mid level cruise, tiny minced veggies and very thin omelettes-- again for the price and food reputation I would have expected large fluffy omelettes with nice big chunks of veggies and an impressive selection of fillings. The canadian bacon and ham were only available on one station so you had to stand in line twice just to get omelette and meat, but the quality of the canadian bacon and ham was very poor and they were sitting in hot water so not at all crispy and freshly grilled. Even on mid tier ships I'm used to fresh carved ham for breakfast. Never any turkey or chicken sausage. Again, nothing at all special about breakfast unlike a river cruise where there is always a fun special made before your eyes or fillings that change daily.
You can also eat dinner on the Terrace of the terrace cafe which is nice in terms of being able to sit outside and the food is pretty good, you can stand in line and order lobster, fish, shrimp freshly grilled. However, who wants to stand in three or four lines to get their dinner? One line for salad, sit and eat, then get a couple of appetizers sit and eat, then wait fifteen minutes in line for your grilled food. Also, the service on the Terrace was the worst of all restaurants. They flatly refused to leave a pot of coffee on the table at Breakfast when I asked, but also did not come around enough to refill my cup. Several times my husband or I had to get up and ask someone to bring more coffee and there was no self serve. If you came to breakfast toward the end of the time, they would not reset the nice tables on the rail with the best views but tried to force you to eat at the tables that were already set which were closer to the wall and not as nice view wise. This was just lazy and focused on their own convenience rather than the wishes of the customer. Whoever manages the Terrace Cafe should be replaced.
--Specialty Restaurants were a particular disappointment. We ate at Red Ginger twice and mediocre would be a kindness. The famed sea bass was overly sweet and mushy both times I ordered it, the menu was very limited and pretty much like any mid level asian restaurant with curries, etc. A shrimp appetizer was definitely not made with fresh shrimp and was small, plus you could only taste the very sweet sauce. This must have gone downhill recently from what I have read. Literally there were few protein choices on the menu and everything was over cooked and overly sauced. Service at Polo was the worst, they were so overcrowded. This was a problem consistently, the specialty restaurants were severely overbooked so service was scattered and food quality suffered. At polo I ordered french onion soup which came at room temperature. I asked if I could have a hotter bowl. What I got back was no much hotter but the bread was completely soggy and the cheese not nice and melted and in fact was not the appropriate cheese for this type of soup. Definitely a soup that had been sitting around for a while and was not freshly prepared. No apology at all for bringing tepid soup. My side of mushrooms was equally as shockingly bad. It seemed unlikely they were fresh, they were severely overcooked tiny pieces of white button mushrooms that I would guess had certainly not been cooked that night. I would compare this to a specialty restaurant on Celebrity or Royal Caribbean where if you order a side of mushrooms you receive a just roasted pan of mixed wild mushrooms with fresh herbs.
Tuscana was more mixed in terms of quality. The first time we tried it, it was fine. We got a nice bread basket, a crab cake starter and a decent veal chop plus charming service. The second time however, it was so crowded that when our table was not immediately ready to order the waiter left in bad humor and did not show up again for 45 minutes until we sent someone to find him. My veal chop was so tough I literally could not cut it with the steak knife provided. The one gem of the restaurants in terms of both service and food was Jaques and I hope they take that restaurant manager and put him or her in charge of all food service on the ship. This was exactly what we expected from the amazing fresh bread basket, to the thoughtful well paced service to absolutely wonderful, freshly prepared, top quality food in terms of cut of meats and technique which did not cover up with sauces as they did in the other restaurants. Unfortunately we did not try this until the last night or I would have begged to eat there every night.
--Tea service? This is just weird. They serve high tea with string quartet every day at 4:00. The string quartet is the only decent music you will ever hear on the ship. The waiters are in tuxedos and come around with big silver carts. The sandwiches are good as are the sweets-- in fact the only time at any meal you will get quality dessert. The scones are not quite real cream scones but not bad. However, the entire effect is ruined and made comic by the fact that they give you one low end grocery store quality tea bag and you have to put the bag in your pot of hot water. It is the same tea they serve at breakfast with very few varieties to choose from. Of course loose leaf is what you expect at a high tea especially with all the formal appearance and at a minimum maybe a high end mesh tea bag or a hand tied tea bag, etc. This entire setup for a Twinnings green tea bag? It just feels silly.
Wine-- shockingly low end selections at crazy high prices plus automatic 18% tip. We started out by paying over $100 a night for a $20 bottle of wine but ended up following the advice of many on this forum to buy decent bottles on shore and simply pay the $25 corkage fee. This worked out much better especially when visiting Italian wineries-- using this method we averaged about $50 a night for wine and had much higher quality. Be careful if looking at the package deal of$42 a bottle including tip if you buy 7 bottles-- some of those bottles included are literally $7 bottles of wine. Note that we buy a lot of wine on cruise ships and have never had trouble with the markup but this was just so off the charts in terms of quality vs. price.
Entertainment-- the absolute worst imaginable. Really bad production numbers with young people who can generally stay in tune but don't actually have voices you would want to listen to. For two nights there was a pitchy soprano and for two nights an old school, not funny comedian who might be at home in the Catskills thirty years ago. A big topic of conversation on the ship was laughing at how bad the entertainment was and talking about walking out on it. Seriously, whomever is in charge has no ear for music or understanding of entertainment in general.
Excursions-- by now I'm sure you know to avoid the ship provided excursions at all costs. They are grossly overpriced and terribly crowded but also tend to be short and see very little. It was very easy to use tripadvisor to choose my own vendors and then get on cruise critic roll call to find others traveling on my own ship to fill 6-8 seats. Or many providers also simply send a van to ships so you just have to add your name to their shared tours. So small, high quality tours with greater variety for half the price of being on an overcrowded bus where you will be following a guide with a megaphone holding a number. I can't tell you how many times we were departing a small town we had to ourselves just to see 5 or 6 busses and hundreds of Oceana people pour out. They never seemed happy.
Tenders: I deliberately picked an itinerary where we were mostly docked, but the one tender we had was awful in terms of process and organization. No one could tell you how long it would take. You had to go to the main theater and no one helped you figure out what was going on. You could ask and were then told where to take a seat and you would be called in order. You could not leave or get a ticket and come back at a specific time. So on a beautiful morning we spent well over an hour sitting like cattle with a bunch of annoyed passengers. Anyone on a company sponsored tour went first, then the rest of us (never mind that we had paid a premium price for our room). On the way back no one was monitoring the many rude passengers who flagrantly cut in line so they would not have to wait for another tender. How simple it would be to come up with a better process where you would be called five minutes before your tender. Even just better communication would have helped. If the ship arrives at X, then allow X time to get ashore.
Bottom Line: we had a great time due to the itinerary, the friends we had networked with prior to departure on cruise critic and a very nice ship/ room. However, we paid over $1,200 a day for two and in no way received enough value for that money. The ships excursions, wine, food and entertainment were substandard even compared to mid range ships costing half as much. We could have booked luxury rooms with amazing food plus paid for land transportation between destinations for this money. We were obligated to plan all our own tours and buy our own wine due to poor quality options on Oceana. I would not do Oceana again unless I bought it last minute at half price.
To Oceana and Competition: Guess what? There is a huge market for luxury cruises for the 45-70 age group who want excellent, unusual itineraries that you are missing out on. We can't tolerate the old school entertainment or the veneer of good food or tea service without the actual quality and we are not going on huge bus tours to be walked around like sheep. Also, we do the research and compare prices and quality so the days of crazy mark ups are over. Come up with a new model that works for the new generation of cruisers because I don't think there is one out there right now.
The penthouse was a comfortable size, though not huge or particularly luxurious and the balcony was a bit bigger than the standard balcony rooms. Note that when they give you square footage online they are including balcony size. The built in make up mirror they tout must have been designed by a man because it is completely unusable since it does not angle up and you would need to get on your knees on the floor to use it. Fix this! Bathroom size and walk in closet make things comfortable,though not a fan of waterfall showers, had to use the hand held like a regular shower. Liked stocked mini fridge though mine had an opened bottle of wine in it from the last passenger and no one ever asked me how I wanted it stocked as they claim online they do. Our room was on the 11th floor right under the overhang which we liked because it mostly kept the balcony shady though if you like direct sun you might not like this, and we did not have any trouble with hearing deck chairs scraping overhead as others have said. Cleaned very well other than the opened wine left in the room and always plenty of bottled water. One thing that surprised us on our first Mediterranean cruise was that in half the ports the place you docked was down right ugly with oil tanks and machinery, etc. so not as much enjoyment as usual sitting on the balcony and there did not seem to be a good side to the ship in terms of views, we got the ugliness about equally. Most comfortable bed of any cruise or hotel.
we enjoyed a wine tour with provence wine tours though it did not compare at all to our wine tours in Italy and we wished they had given us more options or information about lunch and what to do in Cassis, we had so little time there we didn't really get to see it. Very easy to book this tour on your own and they have a van that goes right to the ship.
loved that the ship docked walking distance to princess grace gardens and the palace. after a tour we organized ourselves to the french rivera we had time to walk to the palace just before closing and basically had the place to ourselves.
much busier than the last time we went, be careful trying to take ferrys or train. the ferry was out that day which happens a lot and the trains were insane. we had booked a tour with Italy shore drivers ourselves which drove us, got us to see much more than ship tours and made us a lunch reservation at the most amazing place.
Think about visiting Pisa and Lucca, they are fairly close to the port and you won't have to be in a van all day. There was much more to Pisa than I thought and riding bikes atop the walls of Lucca was priceless, be sure to stop at the Villa/gardens on the bike path and try the chickpea pizza. Tour with Italy shore drivers was amazing with a wine lunch that my husband describes as one of the best days of his life.
Amazing tour with My Maltese guide which we booked ourselves-- ask for Ingrid who is really intelligent and fun and is with you all day. Such a beautiful and fascinating place with ancient and Medieval ruins (Medina), a beautiful sea port. We saw so much in one day and loved the stop at the local dive for fresh cheese or pea filled pastries.
another excellent tour with Sorrento drivers which we booked ourselves. we saw Herculaneum which we liked better than pompeii because it was less crowded and better preserved plus an ancient villa for Nero's mistress and a wine lunch, though Cantina el Vesuvio is not the best place for a wine lunch.