What's different about Oceania's Marina is that it's the first purpose-built ship for the line, which launched with three nearly identical ships that had been previously constructed for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises. Not only that, Marina is significantly larger than its trio of step-siblings. While each of the original trio measure 30,277 tons and carry 684 passengers, Marina boasts statistics double that size. This new ship will measure 65,000 tons and accommodate 1,260 passengers.
On a visit this weekend to check out the construction process of Marina, Cruise Critic was on hand for the ship's steel cutting, the first major milestone in the building of any new ship. In a ceremonial nod, Frank del Rio, chairman of Oceania Cruises, pressed a large button, and the machine to his right leapt into action. A large metal arm started moving backward over a pool filled with water. Due to a technique called "plasma cutting," the steel is cut under water to prevent warping. The honored first cut belonged to piece 6194, a bottom plate to go on the underside of the ship.
While the steel was being cut, the American and Italian national anthems were played as we all flouted safety rules by respectively doffing our hard hats. At this point, Marina was officially under construction.
While Marina is the Oceania's first "new" ship, debuting in fall 2010, a sister is planned as well, scheduled for a July 30, 2011 launch (and there's an option for a third ship).
So ... What's New?
Marina will offer open-seating dining and all the restaurants currently found on the other Oceania ships -- the Grand Dining Room, Waves, Toscana, Tapas on the Terrace and Polo Grill -- as well as two new ones. Del Rio hinted that themes for these restaurants could very well be French and Pan-Asian, but he wasn't quite ready to reveal the details. (He said he'd love to see a seafood restaurant but, ironically, noted that fresh fish is hard to come by on a cruise ship!)
On the stateroom side, more info was offered. The ship will feature three Owner's Suites, eight Vista Suites, 12 Oceania Suites (a new category), 20 Window Suites, 122 Penthouse Suites, 466 standard balcony cabins and 14 inside cabins. Wheelchair-accessible cabins will be available in every cabin category. Owner's and Vista Suites will feature outdoor whirlpools -- an announcement that pleased several of the past guests who were present at the steel cutting.
Mockups of two of the most popular Oceania staterooms -- the standard verandah cabin and the Penthouse Suite -- were part of our shipyard tour. Both will be larger than their current counterparts, with verandah cabins at 312 square ft. (compared to 216 square ft.) and Penthouse Suites at 429 square ft. (versus 322 square ft. on the current ships). Bathrooms in all of the cabins will be larger than the tiny ones found on the R-class vessels (Del Rio referred to his ships as "bathroom challenged" and indeed, bathrooms are one of the few negatives we can find on Oceania). On Marina, bathrooms feature large marble sinks and separate showers and tubs, even in standard categories. By the way, overall cabin color schemes will move away from the current nautical blues and whites to an earthier palate -- browns, creams, blacks and greens.
The verandah cabins also have been upgraded and feature enlarged bathrooms, though not quite as big as in the penthouses. At least here in the mockups, the closets are oddly placed by the bed, and our fellow visitors expressed concerns about not having enough space to move around.
What surprised us was how much these mockups are a first draft rather than the finished product. Del Rio held an impromptu town hall meeting with the past guest VIP's in the verandah cabin, where Oceania's dedicated past passengers weighed in on everything from the shape and placement of over-bed reading lights, closet configuration, carpet color, sofa shape and sitting area configuration (mostly concerning the issue of creating a comfortable sitting area that easily doubles as a dining room for room service).
At this point, more specific details are not yet available, but of course we'll keep you posted.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor