We sailed Oceania Marina for 10 days from Copenhagen to Stockholm, doing the Baltic. Our ports included Warnemunde, Klaipeda, Riga, Helsinki, 3 days in St. Petersburg, Tallinn and one sea day. We have sailed the smaller Oceania ships ... Read More
We sailed Oceania Marina for 10 days from Copenhagen to Stockholm, doing the Baltic. Our ports included Warnemunde, Klaipeda, Riga, Helsinki, 3 days in St. Petersburg, Tallinn and one sea day. We have sailed the smaller Oceania ships before, but this was the first time on Marina.
We booked a Concierge level balcony and a cruise-only package as we like to do our own excursion planning. Embarkation was extremely easy and we received a cordial welcome. We went up to the Concierge Lounge, but no one was there. We ate lunch in the Terrace Café and walked around exploring the ship until our cabin was ready.
Marina is a really beautiful ship, with great, comfortable public spaces, a wonderful library, large observation lounge, and never felt crowded, although the ship was full. The only design change we would add is an additional bank of elevators as the ship is long. When we got into our cabin about 1:30, we were pleased to see it was spacious, very clean, had a good sized bathroom with separate tub and shower and an adequate balcony. There was plenty of storage, the bed and pillows were good and our stewards did a great job keeping everything clean and replenished. We had a bottle of champagne waiting and were surprised but pleased to find that we had free internet throughout the cruise and three separate cards with shipboard credit. That amount easily covered all the alcoholic beverages we drank, with room to spare. The Concierge Lounge was just down the hallway. Although we would go to the Lounge for coffee just after waking, we did not find it worthwhile. The Concierge never looked up or offered to help when we entered, and never said hello. The snack offerings there were below what is found on other cruiselines.
Food for the most part was very good, particularly in the main dining room. After a first evening with spotty service, we found a table with Jose as our waiter and asked for his area each time we were in the dining room. He was excellent, friendly and helpful and, because the food on the ship is very heavily salted, he assisted us in getting our dishes with less sodium. Jose was a real professional and we appreciated his care.
As for the specialty restaurants, Jacques was excellent – heavy, but a real treat. Service was attentive and pleasant. The foie gras and lobster Thermidor were spot on. In Polo, I was served one of the best prime ribs I have ever had. The other steak, a Porterhouse, has no filet meat side at all with it so it turned out to be a strip steak. The entrees and sides were very good, the appetizers and salads less attractive. Service was excellent but when we ordered a bottle of wine, the sommelier kept trying to upsell us and we ended up with a wine not to our taste. Our fault for listening to him. Red Ginger was a different experience. We were the second table seated and sat for 30 minutes before anyone approached us. We had to ask twice to order a bottle of wine. We gave our orders and then sat again waiting while all the tables around us filled and were served food. The sea bass was very good but we did not want to spend so much time in the restaurant. We had to flag down a waiter to ask to order dessert. While the atmosphere was lovely and we liked the menu, it was not worth 3 hours to sit at a table waiting for food. We did not eat at Toscana because the last time we did, we had to send the food back because it was so oversalted. We preferred the main restaurant and our orders always came up properly cooked.
The ship wine list definitely needs improvement. We had a difficult time finding a decent red wine to enjoy, no matter the price. We had a lot of shipboard credit but had trouble finding anything to our taste. The ship has very basic, inexpensive wines that were marked up significantly. Happy hour drinks were watered down and the waiters learned to just make one double with less filler liquid to make the drink palatable. And adding 18% automatic service charge to all alcoholic beverages adds to the injury. Waiters in the bars, however, were very friendly and helpful.
The shops were high priced with little merchandise of interest. The shop workers never said hello or offered to help. When they set out displays in the lobby, the goods were overpriced and some very cheaply made. The matryoshka dolls were twice the price found in St. Petersburg itself and of lesser quality. The Faberge egg pendants that were $29 onboard were easily found ashore (even at the port store) for $10 and included a necklace. Buy ashore. A good market is the one next to the Church on Spilled Blood.
The major issue we had, and the main complaint we heard from many passengers, concerned the Terrace Café. Because the cruise was port intensive, the main restaurant was not open at convenient hours for us to have breakfast. Therefore we went to the Terrace each morning. We found, as did other passengers, that it was chaotic, poorly managed, and had some of the worst service we have ever experienced. We had to ask three or four times just for a table set-up, knives and forks, napkins, milk for coffee, and requested juice never showed up during the whole cruise. We ended up going to the coffee machine ourselves each morning because we could not get a cup of coffee served to us. We got our own juice. The café is buffet which is served by the staff. Therefore, one small piece of whatever one wants is put on a plate. You had to ask for more. Most mornings there were only old looking strawberries for berries. Fruit was not ripe. Plates were removed while we still were eating. This kept happening over and over, as if they wanted us out of the restaurant. Staff was sullen and did not say good morning. They were robotic. A waiter slammed into me with a hot cup of coffee, burning my hand and never stopped to say “sorry” or see if I was ok. The second to last morning, there was a large bowl full of raspberries. I walked up to be served some berries which I was craving. A man from Australia stepped in front of me and said,” I want raspberries.” The server took a bowl and filled it and he said, “no, I want them all.” She took the entire serving bowl and gave him all the raspberries. There were none for any other passenger and when we asked for the waiter to find some he said, “he took what we had.” This is truly unacceptable! Orders from Waves showed up wrong, although they made good milkshakes. We spoke to two different head waiters about the poor service, they listened, but nothing changed. We hated going in there. We heard this from many fellow passengers.
And, because Oceania adds tips to the bill at the end of the cruise - $17 per person per day in Concierge Balcony, $24 per person per day in Penthouse, for example, one expects better service than this. We were told later by a number of passengers that they had tips removed from their bills due to this poor service. They instead individually tipped those who did give good service.
We did not take ship excursions, but booked our own private tours. In St. Petersburg we used White Nights travel and they were superb in crafting a personalized tour for the two of us at half the price of the ship tours. The ports were great and we enjoyed each one despite the rain that came early in the cruise. In Helsinki, don’t miss the outdoor market near the marina, which has crafts and local specialties. In Riga, the main square has beautiful buildings, buskers, and the architecture of the city is magnificent. It was raining a lot in Klapaida but we enjoyed walking into the city and visiting at the local market and along the riverfront. Tallinn is gorgeous, with great restaurants, shops and is a very walkable city. In Warnemunde, we walked to the train station and took the train to Rostock for 5 Euros. It is a former east German city with lots of shops and picturesque waterfront and restaurants Oceania provided shuttles in Helsinki and Tallinn but passengers had to walk in all other ports. This proved to be difficult for many as the cities were more than 1.5 miles from the ship and the streets were cobblestone and uneven. Oceania should provide a shuttle in each port in these situations.
Internet worked better than we expected and we were able to keep in contact with our ipad and wifi during the cruise. The television in the room had MSNBC, FOX, SKY, BBC and movies. On occasion, a movie was shown in the theater in the afternoon. We did not go to evening shows, but did enjoy the Edith Piaf tribute show one late afternoon and the ship orchestra and string quartet.
Nolan is an excellent cruise director and made the few shipboard activities fun. We had a very affable team of trivia players and managed a number of wins. We also had a great Name That Tune Team in the evening and also pulled off some wins. The items available to purchase with O points from winning the games were above average. The amount of other shipboard activities revolved around sales schemes for jewelry, amber, Faberge knockoffs, etc. There was one speaker on Russia but her talk was so basic it could have come from Wikipedia. More lectures and less selling would be a benefit.
Fellow passengers were very friendly, tended to be older and there were about 20 well behaved children. Many times we walked into Martini’s and were asked by other cruisers to sit down and have a drink. We did, and met many lovely fellow guests. Officers were non-visible, unlike Seabourn.
Disembarkation was a breeze. When we arrived in Stockholm, we self-carried our luggage off the ship at 7:45 am with no wait or line, got into a taxi and went to our hotel.
Overall, the ship is lovely but we prefer Seabourn and Crystal. Service and customer orientation take a back seat to process on Oceania, based on our experience. While pleasant, it does not have the WOW factor of staff using your name or automatically arriving at your table with your favorite drink or a special treat, as on the two cruiselines mentioned above. Too much emphasis is on selling to make it a luxury experience. If the itinerary were right, we would consider sailing Oceania again. But it does not jump to the top of our list. Read Less