The Marina was christened last month in Miami. // © 2011 Oceania Cruise
Oceania Cruises' new 1,250-passenger Marina has the look and feel of a designer ship crossed with a designer home, right down to the cashmere pashminas waiting in staterooms. Onboard, guests enjoy treatments in the ship's Canyon Ranch SpaClub; take classes in the Bon Apetit Culinary Center; and enjoy designer accommodations styled by Dakota Jackson, not to mention three 2,500-square-foot Owners Suites with all soft goods and lighting from the Ralph Lauren Home collection.
Oceania built much of its reputation on fine cuisine, and the Marina's 10 dining venues are excellent and diverse. All but two have open seating with no surcharge, and there are special treats such as the caviar brunch served on days at sea. The line has added new alternative restaurants to its signature Polo (steakhouse) and Toscano (Italian) choices. The first is Jacques, showcasing the art of master chef Jacques Pepin, dean of special programs at the French Culinary Institute and an Emmy Award-winner (won with Julia Child). The room has the air of a Lyonnaise bistro featuring Pepin's art choices and even his own artistic creations. The presentation here is inventive, with a creamy pumpkin soup a líanglaise, for instance, served from a pumpkin shell, bright green on the outside and orange inside. Custom china, antique flatware and Lalique glassware set a fine table to accompany the fresh and individual dishes.
The sleeper hit among the restaurants is Red Ginger, which was added just to round out the offerings among the alternative-dining venues and proved to be first choice on Marina's trans-Atlantic cruise to her christening in Miami. The cuisine is highly individual and the menu presents tantalizing choices among Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes. The meal begins with a presentation of six different types of chopsticks, and the individual glass teapots are as delightful as the tea selection.
The two most exclusive dining experiences provide good reasons for their surcharges: La Reserve by Wine Spectator offers seven-course pairing dinners with premium wines, selected in consultation with Wine Spectator editors; executives said the $75 surcharge goes toward the cost of the wines. And Privee is a private room where a custom chef's dinner for up to 10 people carries a $1,000 room charge.
Snacks, lattes and soft drinks are also available in the lounge for Concierge Level Verandah rooms, along with a set of computers, comfortable couches and magazines.
But the real haven for readers is the library, where guest after guest staked a claim to one of the big leather chairs. What is really special, though, is that the library is divided by its extensive shelves into small nooks, one of which has a fireplace, faux but, nevertheless, cozy.
The spa and wellness operations are designed and operated by Canyon Ranch, with 16 treatment rooms, a very well-outfitted fitness center and a thermal suite. There are courts for paddle tennis and bocce ball, a golf-putting course and caged driving range.
Private space is particularly elegant and inviting. Designer Dakota Jackson, whose clientele includes Yoko Ono and Diane von Furstenberg, said he was drawn into the ship's interior design through his relationship with Oceania founder and chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings Frank Del Rio.
"I came in somewhat late in the process," said Jackson, "but Frank told me to change what I needed to in order to do it right."
For his Oceania and Vista suites, Jackson created more than 40 pieces of furniture and lighting elements. The Oceania Suites have dramatic contrasts, set off with browns and blacks, exceptionally beautiful woods and textured fabrics in the main salon, bedroom and media room. Jackson's Vista Suites are lighter and airier, with stainless steel, lighter woods and pale green and ivory in the main salon, bedroom and exercise room.
One of the biggest attractions on the ship is Martinis, where Oceania commissioned Jackson to design a piano specially executed by Steinway in stainless steel and ebony (Jackson is himself a pianist).
And guests who enjoy the arts can turn to the Artist's Loft for multilevel classes or to the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, which drew raves from many of the 500 agents present, who called the $49 fee "more than reasonable" for lively classes that pleased experienced chefs and novices. Two guests share each of the 24 cooking stations, and the instructor, Kathryn Kelly from the Culinary Institute of America, can arrange special-interest classes for groups.
With all her luxuries and appointments, Marina was described by executives as the first ship built for the upper-premium market, and agents agreed that the target guest is one who books suites in the premium category. After her visits to the West Coast and the Caribbean, she sails to Europe to begin her inaugural Mediterranean season.