On Saturday I will be making the trip to Dover for a lunch and tour around the Oceania Marina cruise ship. Regarded by many as one the top cruise lines in the world, this is a golden opportunity to have a look at what they have to offer. Douglas Ward the author of the 2014 Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships list the Marina in the top 5 Mid-size Ships, an accolade she has held since her maiden voyage in 2011. The tour costs £25 per person and includes a 6 course lunch so as you would expect I am eagerly looking forward to this and will hopefully have lots of photos to show you when I return. Prior to heading off to Dover I will just post brief descriptions the the cruise line and the ship, both of which are extracted from the Oceania website. These will hopefully give you an idea of what they claim to be about.
Formed in 2002 by luxury cruise industry veterans Frank Del Rio, Joe Watters and Bob Binder, Oceania Cruises is the world’s largest upper premium cruise line. Cuisine, Comfort, Service and outstanding value are the pillars that define Oceania Cruises’ five-star product and have positioned the line as the cruise company of choice for travellers seeking a truly refined and casually elegant travel experience.
Our intimate and luxurious ships allow you to explore the world in unequalled style and comfort. Sophisticated, stylish and distinctly mid-size, you’ll find the onboard atmosphere is extremely convivial, and with an unrivalled level of personalized service as a result of us having two staff members for every three guests.
As the leader in destination cruising, Oceania Cruises sails to more than 330 ports around the globe. Itineraries are unique in that they call on the perfect mix of must-see marquee and boutique, off-the-beaten-path ports. Multiple overnight calls afford an in-depth, enriching destination experience and allow travellers to immerse themselves in the cuisine, culture and history of the ports we visit.
The Oceania Marina
Marina has been purposefully designed to carry guests to the world’s most alluring ports in elegance and style. The ship is full of rich woods, marble and granite, fine wool carpets and lustrous leathers which 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.
So lets go and see for ourselves……….
Our journey started the previous day because of the distance involved in getting to Dover from home, we spent the night in the Premier Inn which was just a 5 minute drive to the cruise port. After we checked out just after 9:15 we made our way to the car and could see the the ship in the distance moored up next to HAL’s Ryndam
Upon arriving at the terminal we gathered with some fellow members of the Cruising Mates Forum along with Moira & Kerry from Cruise Select who had actually organised the trip. After surrendering our passports for a day sea pass we were then ushered upstairs where there were complimentary teas, coffees and bottled water available. After a short wait we then proceeded through security and made our way onto the ship.
We entered into the main area of the atrium and the initial impressions was a positive one. Nice and spacious and very airy with lots of brightly coloured artwork on display. It was then on to the Horizon lounge where we were given a brief introduction to the Cruise Line and ship before being split into groups to begin the tour.
Our first stop was the ships compact gym which for the size of the ship wasn’t too big, one can only assume that it not the sort of thing Oceania cruisers tend to do but it is there should you require it. There were Kenesis machines in the adjoining room which are said to be very popular but I can only say they are not something I am familiar with. It all sounds too much like hard work to me.
The spar area was nice and bright with again lots of highly coloured art on display. The following areas shown to us included an area specially designated for passengers to be able to utilise their creative sides. The first being a craft area which considering the rest of the ship did seem very dark. I thought artists liked a lot of light? Right next door was the Bon Appetite Culinary Centre which is where you can learn to cook some of the dishes that on offer in the ships dining rooms.
Our first accommodation of the day was our next stop and we were shown into one of the Oceania Suites of which there are 12 on the ship and 10 of which are in a midship location. Each one of these boasts more 1000 square feet of floor space and has separate living room, dining room, fully equipped media room, large walk in closet, outdoor whirlpool and even a second bathroom for guests. The interiors are all by a New York designer called Dakota Jackson.
A Vista Suite was the next on show and these were again designed by Dakota Jackson. There are 10 of them in total and all at the bow of the ship. Slightly larger than the previous example at 1200 to 1500 square foot depending on the deck location. These actually come with there own private fitness room.
A short break from the accommodation saw us out on the pool deck and heading towards the Waves Grill where our guide Alex proudly advised us that this is where you will get the best burgers and BBQ at sea. The surrounding dining area did look very appealing and I could quite easily have sat down and tried one out for myself.
We quickly moved on through the Terrace Cafe which was a little disappointing as I would liked to have seen the rear terrace which backs onto this. We were seemingly to be more interested in one of the more important eateries which was where ended up next.
It goes by the name La Reserve and is for wine connoisseurs and devout epicureans. The room itself is a dark panelled affair with 3 tables all having sitting for 8.
From there we continued on to the Board Room and the then Oceania@Sea which is the ships internet zone. Again another dark area with lots of timber panels and very traditional looking which led onto the Baristas which is a coffee and pastries servery next to the library. The library itself was probably one the best looking I have ever seen at sea. Very cosy with some really appealing areas where you go and sit to read a book.
Back to food which was beginning to be a bit of theme with this tour and next to be covered was the Toscana Restaurant which is an Italian themed one and according to our guide will provide you traditional Italian dishes by chefs trained in Tuscany, Italy. All offerings here are eaten on ridiculously priced Versace plates which are apparently valued at some some stupid price which floated over my head.
Next on show was a private dining room called Privee where you can host a party for up to 10 guests. Centre stage is a large elliptical table made from Onyx which was brought onboad the ship during its construction because it was the only way to get it in. If you need to ask the price to dine here you most likely cannot afford to. Our guide informed us there was an absolutely amazing view to be seen but for us the blinds were down so we will just have to take his word for it. Perhaps Dover didn’t fit the bill on that day…..
Yet another dining location was the next stop and one called Polo Grill which is the ship main steakhouse. Again a really lovely looking dining room and great emphasis was given to the sourcing of the ingredients. For example USDA Prime beef steaks, aged for 28 days to make the succulent and tender which we were again told were the best at sea. I think we heard that phrase a few times on this tour.
Accommodation time again and this time we were shown a Penthouse suite which has 420 square feet of floor area and comes with a dining table at the foot of the bed? A nice looking cabin and a grade which is getting a bit closer to the one we like to sail at. Again this cabin comes as per the previous ones which a large bath/shower. It has a walk in wardrobe and private balcony.
Well if we thought we were heading towards something more akin to our own style of cruising we were totally wrong. The next area to be shown was one of the 3 aft facing Owners Suites. 2000 square feet of complete opulence! With interiors from the Ralph Lauren Collection and spanning the entire width of the ship. A large living room, two walk in wardrobes, a second bathroom for guests and a music room with piano. Where an earth does the term Owners Suite come from?
Finally we were shown a Veranda Stateroom which is more in line with what we would be looking at if we we were to cruise Oceania. A very plush looking cabin with their signature Prestige tranquillity Beds which are actually in all of the cabins and suites. I would loved to have had lie on one to see if they were as good as they ere being pitched.
Zigzagging our way across the ship our next area to view was another restaurant called Jacques, this one is completely dedicated to the Chef Jacques Pepin, again filled with wood furnishings and art from his personal collection and modelled on a Parisian bistro. Each dish has been selected and created by the man himself. It is yet another light and airy room which has an area curtained off one end which resembled a crematorium to me. Our guide made another big pitch at how wonderful the dining experience was here and by now I was beginning to wonder how he was managing to keep the momentum up.
So what next I hear ask? Yes you’ve guessed it another restaurant and this time one with an Asian theme. Called Red Ginger, this one was again given full throttle by our guide as something quite extraordinary. I have to confess that the menu in here did appeal to me however despite our guide giving us some long winded story about how the chairs came to be in the room I found the décor was quite ordinary. What I have since picked up on is there is only 1 window. You can be dining on a ship and at sea but you could be absolutely anywhere.
The theatre came next and this I would imagine has been downsized so they could incorporate all of the extra places to eat. It is on one deck and when you are sat at the back it felt like you were looking through a letter box. Certainly not as grand as other areas of the ship and probably very functional for the passengers who cruise Oceania.
Two more stops before we headed for the Grand Dining room for lunch and the first was Martinis Bar which is very elegant and spacious and would be a lovely place to sit and enjoy a drink or two which is in contrast to the Casino Bar which is a something quite, quite different.
Basically its Purple! Its illuminated and doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the ship. I am sure it has its fans but this to me was just another expensive gimmick to impress those who are taken in by how much things cost especially when it involves a lot of money.
Lunch in the Grand Dining Room was billed as a 7 course meal and consisted of
Fingerling Potato with Sturgeon Caviar
Asparagus Risotto with Provolone cheese and Black Truffle
Maine Lobster Cassolette with Bisque Sabayon
Wellington of Veal Tenderloin with Porcini Mushroom Stuffing
Pink Pralines and Roasted Pistachio Cream
and Petite Fours and Macaroons and coffee to finish.
A very enjoyable lunch which was very tasty indeed.
So to sum up my thoughts, the ship is very tastefully decorated and is spectacular in lots of the public areas. Much detail has been given to certain places and an awful lot of money has been spent in the process. Did they need to spend that much money to achieve the same look or are they appealing to a certain market in the hope that they will be impressed with the so called high status of the ship?
I liked the ship very much but became very tired of the continual bragging about how many thousand dollars had been spent to bring it up to Oceania’s desired specification. I am not one to be impressed by that sort of thing and think that I would find it difficult to mix with the sort of clients they are hooking.
We were given a goodie bag on the way out which contained the Winter Collection brochure and I had a look through to see if anything appealed. There are some really fantastic itinerary’s in there and one that caught my eye was called South Pacific Wonders, a 27 night cruise which over nights at Easter Island. The cheapest brochure price for a Veranda Stateroom for these 27 nights is listed as £8439. There are no added incentives for booking such as pre paid gratuities or complimentary drinks packages but it does include flights. At £312 per night I think I won’t be looking to book it and for that sort of money you could get 3 separate cruises for 2 on one of the high end mass market cruise lines. In fact you could for another £3000 do a world cruise with Costa.
Very nice to see and to experience but I am going to need to be very wealthy if I ever set foot on an Oceania ship again and that’s not on the cards!