Finally, as requested frequently over the past two weeks, we have some photos of the Marina and apologies for the delay in getting them up online. This itinerary has been so port intensive with fascinating places that we've focussed on the destinations and many of the excursions and decided to leave the best to last, so to speak. With any new build - this ship was launched in February 2011 - there's always a degree of excitement but in this case, the hype surrounding the Marina's debut was well justified.
(Check out our image gallery on Oceania Marina)
With room for 1,280 guests, Marina looks a standard new cruise ship from the outside but step aboard and you realise this is a super-chic hotel on the water that wouldn't be out of place on the streets of New York or South Beach in Miami. From the moment you walk into the main atrium where a stunning Grand Staircase dominates with plants dotted around to add a touch of intimacy, it's obvious this is more boutique hotel than cruise ship.
There's artwork, both contemporary and traditional, at every turn and there's a real flow to the design of the public areas and because she's brand new, Marina has a wow factor that's going to change the landscape in the upper-premium category of cruise ship. She's nearly twice the size of Oceania's other vessels including Regatta, Insignia and Nautica, and there's a real sense of space on board even on sea days at near full capacity.
We were in a Concierge class verandah stateroom which was a tasteful combination of grey and chocolate brown furnishings with dark wood accents. The queen size bed was to die for and the linens and pillows of the highest quality with a generous balcony which is easily big enough to set up for a romantic dinner at sea. There's a couch and flat screen TV with a reasonable choice of television entertainment (it's not on-demand) and a work desk with Wi-Fi which means you can check email from the comfort of your suite. A lap top was also supplied. The granite and marble bathrooms are nice with separate shower and bath tub, but the shower is small and is perhaps the only downside of the accommodations. There's also a walk-in closet. The Concierge class is well worth booking as you get a welcome bottle of champagne, complimentary clothes pressing on arrival and access to the Concierge Lounge on Deck 9 which is a little oasis with newspapers, magazines, coffee machine, snacks and soft drinks. There's also a Concierge, naturally, who was great at helping with restaurant reservations and advice on ports of call.
As for dining and food, well this is where Marina comes into her own. And to be perfectly honest, this is among the best cruise ship cuisine at sea with 10 different venues to choose from, most of them with no extra surcharge. The Grand Dining Room is the main venue and has a fantastic maritime feel thanks to the massive windows and the fact that most of the restaurant has a high ceiling stretching two levels up, a rarity on a cruise ship which creates a grand atmosphere. Food is continental but also offers tempters from the other specialty restaurants and healthy options from the Canyon Ranch spa menu. The casual Terrace Cafe and outdoor Waves Grill are the casual options but the Big Four, so to speak, are Jacques (French classic), Red Ginger (Asian Fuision), Toscana (classic Italian) and Polo Grill (New York Steakhouse). All restaurants are overseen by Jacques Pepin and the restaurant named after himself is one of the most indulgent food experiences at sea. All the classics are on the menu from escargots to foie gras and this is an evening that needs to be lingered over. We went here twice and each time it was an amazing experience, as was Red Ginger which serves amazing cuisine from China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam and if you like it spicy, just say so and the chefs will knock it up a notch! We could only get into Toscana and Polo Grill once as demand was high, so I'd recommend booking these in advance if possible.
The two restaurants you pay for, we didn't try and to be honest the other restaurants were outstanding on their own. La Reserve offers seven-course dinners paired with wines for $75 per person (we heard other guests raving about it) and Privee which is a seven course degustation affair tailored to personal tastes.
There's also new ground broken with the Bon Appetit Culinary arts centre which features 24 cooking stations with executive chef Kathryn Kelly revealing some of her secrets. We stuck our heads in one day for a quick peek and nearly all the spots were taken.
There's a cozy library, a fully equipped fitness centre (didn't even get a chance to look at this), Canyon Ranch Spa and up top is Marina's sun deck which is one of the ship's great features. The salt water pool is complimented by two jacuzzis and there's plenty of deck space with comfortable loungers and some really decadent double beds at one end. And if you're not happy with just soaking up the sun, on the top deck there are putting greens, golf cages and shuffleboard.
The only downside of this cruise was that we didn't get a chance to spend more time on board. Each day there was a fantastic and new port of call to explore and with only two sea days on this cruise we feel like we really didn't get to experience Marina properly, but then I bet most people who've had the good fortune to experience her say the same thing.