On Oceania Cruises’ new Marina an unusual scene plays out. Bob Binder, the company’s president, and Frank del Rio, the founder of Oceania Cruises, are performing a job normally reserved for the ship’s carpenters. Dressed in custom-tailored suits, del Rio and Binder heft heavy pieces of framed art, arranging and rearranging, moving one frame of art from a wall in the hallway into a space they’ve chosen in the main restaurant.
Carpenters stand by ready to help, but clearly the cruise executives are in charge. After all, Binder and del Rio chose every piece of art on Marina, and that in itself is telling. Seldom, if ever, will you find executives with such a strong and, literally hands-on, approach. When I remind del Rio that I had seen him a few years earlier measuring spaces on Regatta for art pieces, he replied, “Yeah, we do that all the time,” and then jokes as he is helping Binder place a piece of art on the wall: “They just don’t trust us with a hammer.”
Marina debuted with a big splash in February 2011. The naming ceremony represented a victory for Frank del Rio. In less than a decade, del Rio and his team have built a highly successful cruise line in the upper-premium segment, positioned between premium cruise lines like Holland America, Celebrity and Princess and luxury lines like Silversea, Seabourn and Regent.
As the first ship ever built for the Oceania brand, Marina could be defined as a game-changer. The new ship, however, is something much more than that. Oceania’s Marina is a league-changer, furthering blurring the lines between upper-premium and luxury.
Like her older fleetmates, Oceania Cruises 1,250-passenger, 66,084-ton Marina offers a calm, adult cruise experience, with none of the flashy theme-park attractions you increasingly find on the big mainstream ships, and no concessions made to kids at all (literally: she offers no children’s center or children’s programming whatsoever).
From stem to stern, Marina’s vibe is upscale, mature, and unhurried. Activities and announcements are few, and guests are mostly left alone to do what they like. She is what Oceania has always been: a midpoint — experientially and price-wise, Marina’s also very roomy, with one of the most generous passenger-space ratios in the business — higher than on any mainstream or premium ship.
Inside, Marina goes for a classic look: part club, part cruise ship, part upscale home. Even the ship’s most consciously showy space, the two-story atrium, is done with a kind of jewel-box sensibility: Its centerpiece double-stairway was created by French crystal and glassware designer company Lalique, which embellished it with a crystal chandelier, pillars, medallions and a central flower vase.
Public rooms tend to be understated and comfortable, and the ship is designed with a number of little nooks perfect for hiding out and reading. The lovely library, tucked away on a top deck behind the Barista’s coffee bar, is designed like a classic home library, with wooden bookcases, a faux fireplace, leather club chairs, and elaborate ship models.
Martini’s, a piano lounge and cocktail bar carried over from the earlier Oceania ships, is laid out with widely spaced cocktail tables, chair and sofas perfect for quiet conversation.
Marina’s staterooms all have a real sense of space too, and are designed with traditional wood wall panels and desks, comfortable sitting areas, spacious and elegant marble bathrooms, and (in all but a handful of cabins) balconies.
Each room is centered around a super-comfortable “Prestige Tranquility Bed,” whose pillow-top mattress is wrapped in 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and topped with a plush down comforter. The only downsides to the standard staterooms are that closet space could be a little more generous (though there’s plenty of extra storage under the bed), and that the ceiling height in the shower is too low for really tall people, of whom I’m one. I joked that I was clean from the nose down, although with a slight tilt of the head, I could get all 6’5″ of me under the showered. Read Oceania Marina: A Look At Category A Veranda Stateroom #9107
The ship’s Owners Suites take a detour from the “classic” look, and instead go for a “yacht meets 1930s safari movie” feel. Spreading out across the whole 105-foot beam of Decks 8, 9, and 10, they’re designed with furniture, fabrics, and bedding from the Ralph Lauren Home collection, and include showy touches like Art Deco furniture, zebra-print upholstery, 1930s and 40s glamour photos, a full bar, baby-grand piano, and chrome Kleig lights on wooden tripods. In all, the suites include a dramatic entry foyer and sitting room, a separate bedroom, a large living room, a private fitness room, an enormous balcony with Jacuzzi tub, and a marble-and-granite bathroom with another Jacuzzi. Read Oceania Marina Owner’s Suite Decked Out In Ralph Lauren: Interview With The Designer
Less showy and less spacious but more sleekly stylish are the ship’s Oceania and Vista Suites, designed by American furniture icon Dakota Jackson, who also designed the exterior of the custom Steinway baby-grand in Martini’s.
In addition to the standard stateroom amenities, suite guests enjoy the added luxury of Champagne upon arrival, 1,000-thread-count linens, 42” plasma TV, Hermès and Clarins bath amenities, butler service, and en-suite delivery from any of the ship’s restaurants.
Other stateroom amenities include a flat-panel TV, lap-top computer with wireless access, refrigerated mini bar, security safe, writing desk, plush terry robes, bed slippers, and marble and granite bathroom.
Rich woods, marble and granite, fine wool carpets and lustrous leathers adorn public rooms. Facilities include 10 dining venues – six of which are open-seating gourmet restaurants, an array of bars and lounges, a full-service Canyon Ranch SpaClub and fitness center, swimming pool and hot tubs.
Marina shines when it comes to her restaurants, of which four are reservations-only, plus a buffet restaurant and a number of casual snack spots.
Specialty restaurants require reservations but come with no additional charge — a nice perk that differentiates Marina from the mainstream and premium lines, all of which tack on an extra fee for their best dining options.
The most high-profile of the specialty restaurants is Jacques, the first restaurant ever created, on land or sea, by celebrity chef Jacques Pepin. Designed with the feel of a French country bistro, the restaurant focuses on traditional French country cuisine. Decor offers a light, airy atmosphere with traditional oak floors, antiqued furniture, and paintings by the chef himself.
Other specialty restaurants include the Mediterranean Toscana and the Polo Grill steakhouse (both carry-overs from the line’s earlier ships) and Red Ginger, an excellent pan-Asian spot with a hip urban design. Read Red Ginger: Yum A ‘Licious | Cruise Reviews, Ship Reviews by The …
There’s also the main Grand Dining Room, designed with a classic Hollywood grandeur and operating on an open-seating basis — just drop in whenever you get hungry during its open hours.
For folks who like to cook their own meals, Marina offers the only hands-on teaching kitchen in the cruise business, created in collaboration with Bon Appétit magazine and outfitted with 12 cooking stations (each with burners, a cutting board, and sink). Classes accommodate 24 guests (two at each station), cost $49 per person, and cover topics like modern Greek cuisine, Southwestern cuisine, American classics, homemade pasta and more.
Other activities and entertainments on board are low-key, tending toward casual art classes at the Artist Loft, enrichment lectures by visiting experts, the occasional Ping-Pong tournament, and just lounging around the restful pool deck.
Guests can also get treatments at the beautiful Canyon Ranch SpaClub, a 10,000-square-foot facility that offers a variety of Asian therapies, various massages and facials, a Thermal Suite with specialized saunas and steam rooms, a thalassotherapy pool, a private sundeck, a salon, and a small gym where guests can take group or private fitness classes, or exercise on their own.
At night, there’s dancing at Horizons nightclub, a pianist at Martinis, gambling in the casino, and a string quartet in the atrium, plus magicians, comedians, and other guest entertainers at the main Marina Lounge — all low-key and classy, the way Oceania’s passengers like it.
Oceania will introduce a sister ship early next year. Riviera will have only a few tweaks. Says del Rio: “It’s hard to improve on perfection.”
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