A "signature" Dinner Roll from "Jacques"
onboard Marina from Oceania Cruises
Marina Exceeds Expectations
We now have several diverse styles of cruising, from "mainstream" to "luxury," - each of them offering a different shipboard experience. While the mainstream lines tend to repeat shorter itineraries week after week, the luxury lines offer a series of longer and constantly changing worldwide itineraries that tend to follow the sun. The idea is to offer a great shipboard experience and special ports of call.
In the middle is another genre of cruise lines generally considered neither mainstream nor pure luxury, but often called "deluxe." They offer comfort and convenience on vessels that specialize in longer stays in a larger selection and variety of ports around the world. This is also called "destination cruising." But there has been an unusual development in "destination cruising" the last few years - an effort to build ever more accommodating vessels with plusher staterooms and better food.
Now, with the introduction of Oceania's Marina, and her soon to follow sister, Riviera, the world of "deluxe" cruising has a game changer.
The line between upscale destination-based cruise lines and luxury lines has become more blurred in the last few years anyway as the upscale lines improve their culinary and port offerings. But with the introduction of Oceania Cruise's new flag ship, Marina, earlier this week, one can say the distinction has been virtually erased. In fact, the word "luxury" was dropped justifiably many times during our three day inaugural cruise.
Marina is the new standard bearer in deluxe cruising. The ship is not only beautiful; it is sophisticated, convenient and offers excellence in both cuisine and accommodations. Marina redefines destination cruising - elegant yet capacious, sophisticated yet comfortable, state of the art and timeless at the same time.
Oceania has always specialized in excellent cuisine - offering a wide variety of venues and never a cover charge. But Marina is the sea-going equivalent to a Four Seasons Hotel. The cuisine is world-class and the accommodations are outstandingly comfortable. In fact, Marina has more in common with Crystal Cruises than it does with its older ships, known as R-class vessels built in the 1990s.
Marina has beautiful décor, with suede covered walls throughout ("nice hand," my wife would say) and furniture that could qualify for the Museum of Modern Art design collection. Speaking of art, many cruise ships boast of an art collection, but this is the most distinct shipboard collection I have seen since the days of Christina Chandris - and I prefer Oceania CEO Frank Del Rio's taste.
Marina's intrinsic beauty also comes in the use of space - wide hallways and tall ceilings with high back chairs. Most of the wood is dark mahogany, teeming with crystal accent pieces including chandeliers and even chairs designed by Swarovski and vases and fittings made of Lalique crystal.
The attention to detail is evident and the staterooms alone are enough to fill a book, especially the suites entirely designed and appointed by Ralph Lauren. Sailing in one of three 2000-square foot owner's suites, which extend the complete width of the ship at the aft end of three decks, would feel like living in a showroom at the Ralph Lauren Home Collection store on Madison Avenue.
But the most defining element of Marina is cuisine. The line has long enjoyed a culinary affiliation with master chef Jacques Pepin but on Marina Jacque has imbued his personality.
Like all great chefs, Pepin was born in the Lyon region of France and raised in a restaurateur family. In the 1980s he shared a PBS cooking show and co-wrote with Julia Child. The first eponymous restaurant for the master chef, "Jacques," is onboard Marina and must not be missed. The room is bright and cheerful with a surprisingly diverse menu; eight appetizer options from fois gras to escargot and frogs legs, four meat entrees, four fish entrees and eight side dish options.
With such a selection one could dine there every night and not repeat a meal, but Jacques has no cover charge and seating is limited so suite quests are given priority. Three other special dining spots fill the bill; "Toscana" (Italian) and the "Polo Grill" are Oceania Cruises staples. Another new addition is the Asian influenced "Red Ginger." As a testament to culinary prowess, other cruise lines that boast of fine cuisine have tried Asian and failed, but Red Ginger is a new Oceania favorite. My sautéed sea bass with spicy peanut sauce was the most succulent fish I ever tasted.
I predict Marina will be one of the most widely acclaimed new ships introduced in the last three years, and I have seen all but one. It is the most truly elegant, sans gimmick, cruise ship in years, even surpassing most new luxury ships. Stay tuned to CruiseMates for more information on Oceania Marina.
Discuss the new Oceania Marina here: Oceania Marina Inaugural Cruise.
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