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Aboard Oceania Cruises’ Marina in the North Sea, the onboard experience is even better than I remember from the inaugural: wonderful staterooms, plenty of enrichment, elegant public spaces and spectacular dining.
Among the most popular spaces on the ship at sea — and we have been at sea for a little extra time, outrunning a very early North Sea storm — is the cozy library, broken into small book-lined retreats with squashy huge leather chairs to curl up in, and even a fireplace (not wood-burning for obvious reasons, but very atmospheric). Passengers stake their claims early and read, doze and chat for hours.
One of the chat subjects is the beds. Well traveled guests wax poetic about both the beds and the bedding, soft, firm and really tempting after a day exploring Norway, Ireland or Cornwall. Guests also spoke highly about their staterooms’ bathrooms with separate showers and tubs.
We are all gaining weight from the extraordinary dining on board. The gym is full of penitents who went from the magnificent breakfasts (amazing breads made with French flour, butter and yeast) to lunches, making sure not to miss the elegant sandwiches and pastries at the 4 p.m. teatime, which was accompanied by some of the finest classical musicians I have ever heard at sea, the Discovery String Quartet.
It’s difficult to choose between the buffet and dining room at dinner, and most guests alternated, trying the handmade sushi and pastas, the very sophisticated soups, prime rib and Indian curries. This is a demanding audience with very specific ideas about how dishes should be prepared, and I have heard nothing but praise. Similarly, the hands-on, top quality cooking classes are given high reviews by guests, who are attending lectures on local culture, philosophy and politics from Mitchell Symons, a principal writer of Trivial Pursuit and award-winning author and journalist.
The staff is amazing – extremely knowledgeable and kind. Dishes vanish as soon as they are emptied, staterooms are made immaculate with a lot of personal care and everyone from the boutique staff to the destination staff was accommodating, dispensing formal service, humor and genuine consideration as they picked up on guest preferences. The caliber of people working on Marina is astonishing; the Cruise Director is Willie Aames, actor, director, producer and screenwriter, known for his role as Tommy Bradford in “Eight Is Enough” and Buddy Lembeck in “Charles in Charge.”
The ports of call range from the fjords of Flam to two full days in Dublin, and most of the passengers I spoke to have sailed with Oceania before and have already booked again, which is high praise for the line.