Travel Weekly's Johanna Jainchill spent three days on Oceania's new ship, the Marina, on a preview cruise for executives' friends and family, travel agents and journalists. Her first dispatch follows.
Dispatch, Marina 1: Frank del Rio has often said that the Oceania Cruises’ new ship, and its first ever newbuild, represents not a revolution, but an evolution of the brand.
As soon as you step onto the Marina, that is apparent.
Oceania has long known that its hardware, the coveted 684-passenger R-class ships, is a huge part of its appeal. When the company designed the Marina, Oceania wasn't going for a huge departure from those vessels.
The 1,258-passenger Marina is significantly larger than the R-class ships. Del Rio said it was the "smallest ship we could build that made economic sense." But travel agents onboard consistently raved about the vessel’s intimate areas and small-ship feel.
"The public rooms are some of the nicest I’ve seen on any ship," said Doug Crosby of Holiday Cruises & Tours in Henderson, Nev. "I particularly like that there are isolated little alcoves where a group of people can sit down and have a conversation."
The ship’s size allows it to have amenities Oceania could never have imagined for its other ships, including four specialty restaurants, a Bon Appetite Culinary Center with hands-on cooking classes and an Artists Loft where artists in residence will offer classes to passengers.
The Marina keeps Oceania’s elegant, signature staircase in the atrium. On the Marina, it was designed by Lalique.
The Polo and Toscana specialty restaurants still occupy the aft of Deck 14, with wraparound ocean views. But on the Marina, there are two new specialty restaurants: Red Ginger, an Asian eatery and Jacques, the first restaurant named for Oceania’s master chef, Jacques Pepin.
One major departure on this ship is the library. The R-ships are known for their libraries with stained-glass ceilings. Oceania had to do something interesting with the Marina's library, and it did. The library is almost like a maze, with several small sitting areas. It was another locale travel agents noted for its intimacy.
Del Rio promised that the Oceania experience wouldn’t change on the Marina.
"Marina’s just another ship in the Oceania Cruises brand," he said. "It offers everything the existing ships offer, just a little larger. Larger staterooms, larger suites, larger bathrooms, more restaurants. The itineraries are the same, the destination focus is the same, the value and the pricing are the same."
Del Rio added that the Marina and the Riviera have improved guest-to-staff and guest-to-space ratios. The Riviera, the Marina's sister ship, is scheduled to make its debut next year.
"If you like [the original Oceania ships], you are going to love Marina and Riviera,” Del Rio said. "You just can’t help it."