Last week I had the privilege of visiting the cruise ship, Oceania Marina, while it was docked in Boston Harbor for a one day port call. My invitation came from Road Scholar (formerly Elderhostel), a Boston-based tour company specializing in learning vacations. Road Scholar sets themselves apart in the travel arena by offering in-depth learning experiences, all meals, touring and tipping included pricing, and inspirational travel opportunities worldwide. As part of their Adventure Afloat program, they have contracted with Oceania Cruises to bring the Road Scholar experience aboard a selection of Oceania’s upscale cruises.
Lavish, elegant and tasteful were the first words that popped into my mind when boarding the ship. My impression was that I was entering a five-star hotel atmosphere – dignified and understated. Most ships have elaborate lobby staircases, and the Marina is no exception. The impressive display of marble and glass definitely earns it a WOW.
As we made our way to the Grand Dining Room for our luncheon, we passed through several very inviting lounges. No glitz, wild colors and pumping music here, rather comfortable, inviting seating areas where you can easily picture yourself sipping a cocktail and chatting with friends. The artwork was museum quality and very engaging. The feeling was of being at a Ritz, Four Seasons or other luxe property.
The Oceania Marina was built in 2011 and welcomes approx 1,200 guests to cruise in relaxed elegance. While the interior is often lavish in design, cruise guests are encouraged to go “Country Club Casual” to all of the restaurants and events. The Oceania cruise line has one of the best guest to staff ratios in the industry, with the Marina having 1.56 crew members for every guest. There were smiles and welcomes wherever we roamed on-board. Hallmarks of cruising with Oceania include longer stays in port including some overnight stays, exceptional cuisine using locally sourced ingredients, a high percentage of staterooms with balconies or floor to ceiling windows, and pricing that offers the best value in the upscale small ship cruise market.
Staterooms and Restaurants
Lunch was, of course, wonderful featuring caviar, Maine lobster risotto, and Wellington of Veal Tenderloin. Oceania has a particular emphasis on cuisine and has partnered with Master Chef Jacques Pepin as their Culinary Director. They offer several specialty restaurants including Toscana, La Reserve, and Red Ginger, and there is no additional fee for dining in any of the ships specialty venues. After lunch we were off for a tour of the staterooms which were downright roomy by cruise ship standards. We peeked in a room with a balcony and one with floor to ceiling windows. Very nice.
Touring the Marina revealed that Oceania seems to have a way of making expected places exceptional. The library for instance, is a whole series of cozy nooks and crannies that make up an “English Library” complete with comfy chairs and raised paneled walls. You can sit and read in cozy privacy or join a larger alcove and meet others. The pool deck includes puffy day beds and evening movies under the stars.
Oceania’s uniqueness is at the fore with a state-of-the-art culinary program featuring the industries only hands-on cooking school at sea. They also have an Artist’s Loft with an artist-in-residence who helps guests create their own masterpiece. The spa is affiliated with famed Canyon Ranch, and golfers will enjoy the top deck 18 hole putting green.
All-in-all, I was very impressed. I’m not a huge fan of mass-market cruise lines, so I found Oceania to be a welcome difference with a more sophisticated but relaxed cruise experience offering.
The next time you’re looking to cruise, take a look at Road Scholar Adventures Afloat program. In addition to the basic cruise, their packages include roundtrip airfare, shore excursions and admission fees, expert guest lecturers, most meals, all taxes and gratuities and travel insurance. In other words, it’s truly an all-inclusive, worry-free experience on over 20 partner cruise lines. In 2016, Road Scholar will be doing three cruises with Oceania including Culture and Cuisine from Lisbon to Rome, Canary Island Discovery and Celebrated Cities of Scandinavia.