Cruise line: Oceania Cruises,
We have both been very impressed with the overall handling of our booking by the Luxury Cruise Company and in particular with your assistance and management of our telephone enquiries at the outset and also in the lead up to the cruise itself, and are very happy to provide you with the following outline review of the cruise as we experienced it:
Oceania Marina This is a beautiful medium size ship with an elegant, luxurious and comfortable interior designed with a definite accent on quiet sophistication. Being of medium size, we started to find our way around the ship very quickly and easily.
Accommodation We had a concierge level veranda cabin, mid-ships on Deck 9. Although very well furnished, it has to be said that hanging and useful drawer space was very tight for a 12 night cruise. The marble clad bathroom was lovely and provided us with the choice of a good size deep bath as well as an independent shower with fixed overhead rain shower head with additional hand-held shower. Again, storage in the bathroom was limited. The cabin stewards were exceptionally good and the room was always immaculate to come back to after breakfast. An evening turn down service was also provided. Bed linen and bath towels were constantly being changed to ensure that the room looked as it did when we first arrived. Our room had a well stocked mini-bar and a laptop was also provided for our personal use (this was in addition to the ship having a good Internet Lounge). It is worth noting that Internet usage costs were high.
Dining We dined in the Grand Dining Room as well as at speciality restaurants Red Ginger (Asian Fusion), Toscana (Italian), Chez Jacques (French) and Polo Grill (Steak House). Overall, the quality of the food was first rate in all the main evening dining venues but Red Ginger and Toscana stood out for us as being absolutely excellent. We were lucky enough to be able to access our favourite speciality restaurants more than once during the cruise but would recommend booking ahead, either online or as soon as you get on the ship, as you may otherwise encounter lengthy waiting lists. The Terrace Restaurant and Waves Grill, the two less formal self-service eating areas, were also good with the former having a very comfortably furnished interior section surrounding the food serving areas as well as a section outside with umbrellas for when the sun gets a bit too much, and the latter providing a further eating area just off pool-side. For people who really want to experience the ultimate gourmet dining experience on board, there is La Reserve, a restaurant that seats approximately 25 people only and charges a cover charge of US$75.00 per person. None of the other speciality restaurants levy a cover charge.
Service Service throughout the ship whether at the Reception or Destinations Desks, Room Service or dining service in the restaurants was consistently good although there occasionally appeared to be some disparity in the levels of experience of the staff, particularly in the Grand Dining Room, although this did not adversely affect our enjoyment of the venue.
Itinerary Amsterdam / Zeebrugge for Bruges / Honfleur / St Peter Port Guernsey / Saint Malo / Concerneau for Pont Aven / La Rochelle / Le Verdon for Bordeaux / Saint Jean de Luz for Biarritz / Santander
We were drawn to this cruise because of the itinerary and it was therefore very disappointing to have to miss out on two ports of call (Concarneau and Saint Jean de Luz)due to weather conditions affecting the tendering process across to the actual ports, on two of the four occasions when we were anchored rather than docked. Also, we were originally due to dock in Honfleur but were re-directed to Le Havre due to tidal changes, which required being shuttled by bus across to Honfleur. For those people choosing not to take Marina's expensive excursions, shuttle buses were provided free of charge. However, we found that when we arrived in Le Verdon for instance, the shuttle bus took us to an obscure seaside town called Sourcal sur Mer, which was a complete waste of our time and frankly a place no one had heard of and which certainly was not mentioned on the intinerary. Had we known this, we would have opted to make our own way to the town of Bordeaux but this was not made clear and frankly, there were a lot of unhappy people as a result. It is impossible to account for the weather at any time of the year but if docked, you can at least get off the ship with an umbrella if necessary. High points for us were visiting the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (easily accessed by tram from the Amsterdam Cruise Terminal); visiting Honfleur which is a truly charming harbour village/town; Saint Malo which had beautiful sandy beaches around the other side of the main fortifications and ramparts - worth taking a swimming costume or having a paddle; La Rochelle, an interesting, cosmopolitan harbour resort with plenty of pavement cafe's/restaurants for people and swanky yacht watching; Santander proved to be a very pleasant surprise, offering an interesting city centre with plenty of individual boutiques as well as department stores, interspersed with cafe's and large squares with plenty of seating from which to absorb the atmosphere. A short ferry ride from the harbour would take you to the most amazing long sandy beaches with dunes, quiet and hardly populated.
Excursions We chose to make our own way around ports of call so cannot comment on the quality and content of the tours on offer or indeed whether they represented good value for money.
Entertainment The main entertainment centred around "production shows" put on by the ship's singers and dances in the Marina Lounge (Theatre). However, these were in our view, surprisingly lacklustre for a five star cruise. There was also a resident band who moved between Martinis Bar and Horizons, who were unfortunately also fairly mediocre. Luckily there was a decent pianist on board, who again moved to different venues to accompany people relaxing in the various bars and a female string quartet who played for people having afternoon tea, etc. In addition, there were a few 'headline' acts who were actually worth watching, e.g. comedy magician (who really was good), a gypsy violinist who was excellent as long as he kept to gypsy music and classical pieces but not successful when venturing into the world of broadway musicals. There is no nightclub or disco on board, which was a shame really for those of us who do not usually turn in before midnight.
Pool and Sun Decks Nice, relatively small swimming pool with two jaccuzzis. Plenty of loungers, all dressed in clean towelling fitted covers for each person on every sun-bathing occasion. Also, there are a number of Balinese double loungers with mattresses - a nice idea for couples. However, we were surprised to find on this ship that passengers still reserved loungers by leaving books, etc., while they disappeared off doing other things for hours on end. Also, it was annoying to note that most of the Balinese double loungers were being used by individuals, not couples, a fact that was not rectified by staff but then again, they did not address the reserving of loungers either.
Spa Facilities We used the spa facilities on a couple of occasions and found that there was a good range of treatments available as well as the use of steam rooms, sauna, etc. Most treatments were pricey and of course the staff do their level best to sell you as many 'take home' products as they can, as is the case on most cruise ships with these facilities.
Children As no facilities are provided for children on this ship, we were surprised to find quite a few on board. Not surprisingly, most became extremely bored over time, and could be found running around in corridors and on open decks in the evenings. Parents appeard to keep children with them for the first day or two and then leave them to their own devices. Some were of course no trouble at all but it really is not a ship designed for children and we believe that Oceania should be brave enough to market Marina as a child-free ship in future. If we were to travel on Marina again, it would definitely be during school term time, although this does not always guarantee an absence of children, as we know.
Fellow Passengers The majority of passengers were avid American cruisers aged 65+, but there were also quite a few Scandinavians, Dutch, French and British as well as a smattering of other nationalities. There were some people on board under the age of 40 (mainly the parents of the children on board no doubt).
Dress Code Even though the dress code is termed 'resort casual', there were of course plenty of women who still insisted on decking themselves out with their latest designer frocks and jewellery in the evenings, but on the whole, most people stuck to 'smart casual' without a problem, which is so much better than having to pack for 'black tie' evenings too.
Drinks All alcoholic drinks are priced on the high side and attract an automatic additional 18% service charge. All soft drinks are free of charge throughout the ship. The wine selections offered in the restaurants are generally very good.
General Comments One comment that we heard many times over from people who had previously cruised with Oceania was that, even though they liked Marina, they much preferred Regatta and Nautica, which are both smaller ships. However, these two ships do not operate out of the UK and quite frankly, the larger, more highly stabilised ships are probably better equipped to deal with the Bay of Biscay and rougher seas in general and therefore become a matter of personal preference when sailing from Dover and Southampton, in our experience.
Would we sail with Oceania again? Yes we would. We greatly appreciated the overall quality of the Oceania cruise experience but were thrown a bit of a curve ball with the weather and the itinerary changes we encountered. Also, it is fair to say that Marina still needs to iron out a few wrinkles here and there. Being given a $1,000 on board credit, our additional on board expenses (spa treatments, alcoholic drinks and even the gratuities which would otherwise have been levied at $13.50 per person per day), were covered. Had we not received the credit (which was given as part of the booking deal to attract UK passengers), we would have had to question the value for money aspect of this particular cruise.
We hope that this feedback is useful.
Robinia and Terry
Overall rating: 5