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Cruise Ship Review

Marina - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

A relative upstart among the cruise lines, having only been in existence since 2003, Oceania Cruises officially entered the big time in January 2011 with the launch of Marina, its first new-build. Sleek, spacious and oh-so-chic, Marina marks a giant step forward for the fledgling upper-premium line. (Riviera, Marina's nearly-identical sibling, launched in May 2012.)

Upper premium? Hmmm. After spending a few days aboard the 66,084-ton, 1,258-passenger vessel, you may begin to wonder if Marina has actually pushed Oceania across the line into luxury. Credit goes to the uber-fine dining (including super-chef Jacques Pepin's first namesake restaurant), amenity-packed cabins and abundance of artwork at every corner. Indeed, much of the inspiration for the ship's design came from such high-end establishments as Miami's Mondrian Hotel, the Palm Court at NYC's Plaza Hotel and Bouchon restaurant in Napa. Marina is not a true luxury ship, of course; its cruises sell at a more moderate price point and are significantly less inclusive (passengers will have to bring out their wallets for a range of fares charged a la carte, from cocktails to enrichment programs).

Of course, there are plenty of places to think about the distinction while chilling aboard the ship, whether you're getting a massage in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, reading a good book next to the faux fireplace in the massive (yet surprisingly cozy) library or straddling one of the oversized padded lounges in the Sanctuary -- an aptly named touch o' the South Pacific near the pool that offers copious shade, swaying palms, ceiling fans and dedicated drink waiters.

Inasmuch as the ship offers double the capacity of Oceania's older vessels, it's no surprise Marina introduces a number of innovations to the line. One of the most touted is the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, offering highly entertaining -- and practical -- hands-on cooking lessons from Culinary Institute of America instructors. Marina's culinary center is the most elaborate in cruising.

New restaurants include La Reserve, a 24-seat wine-themed eatery from Wine Spectator magazine; Jacques, for French country cooking; and Red Ginger, an Asian fusion mecca whose decor alone (a sea of deep reds, black and dark wood) will leave you smitten. In addition, cabins are larger, with an earthier palette and greatly expanded bathrooms.

Right out of the shipyard, Oceania Marina got most things right, but there were glitches. Service, generally superb in any venue we came across, didn't live up to the cruise line's standards in the Terrace Grill, the ship's casual restaurant, on a number of occasions (particularly when dining on the otherwise lovely alfresco terrace off the back). The bars and lounges laid out along the Deck 5 corridor, which passengers tramp through on their way to the Grand Restaurant, weren't particularly appealing or intimate. (Much nicer was the Horizon, the ship's top-deck bar and lounge.) Evening entertainment, never an Oceania strong point, was mediocre. Also, given the ship's port-intensive itineraries (with very few sea days), we found that activities often conflicted with time in port or were held at dinnertime. As a result, sometimes you had to make tough choices about what to do.

Despite these minor complaints, you can expect a ship that's fun to explore, focused on food and wine, easy to navigate and easy on the wallet when compared to luxury lines (hence that "upper-premium" designation).

Gratuity

Tips are automatically charged to your onboard account at the rate of $16 per person, per day. Passengers in suites with butler service (Penthouse, Vista and Owner's suites) are charged an additional $7 per person, per day. Room teams, favorite bartenders, the sommelier, the maitre d' and certain waitstaff members might be worthy of more, which can be offered at each passenger's discretion. It's expected that those bringing room service will be tipped (anywhere from $1 to $5, depending on what's ordered) as items are delivered.

Gratuity

Tips are automatically charged to your onboard account at the rate of $12.50 per person, per day. Passengers in suites with butler service (Penthouse, Vista and Owner's suites) are charged an additional $4 per person, per day. Room teams, favorite bartenders, the sommelier, the maitre d' and certain waitstaff members might be worthy of more, which can be offered at each passenger's discretion. It's expected that those bringing room service will be tipped (anywhere from $1 to $5, depending on what's ordered) as items are delivered.

Dress Code

Think casual-but-elegant throughout the ship, both day and night. Tank tops and swimwear are discouraged at all times from any of the restaurants, while shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sneakers and sandals are not allowed in most eateries at dinner. Men can't go wrong with blazers and slacks after sunset, while women will feel comfortable in dresses or skirts with blouses.

Fellow Passengers

Travelers tend to fall into the older age ranges (50 and up), are well traveled and hail mostly from the U.S. and Canada, with Brits and Australians making up the balance.

Family

Sorry, wrong ship. Most activities are geared to grownups on Marina, and there's no daycare center, teen club or arcade to keep the younger ones occupied.

Fitness and Recreation

Befitting its adult-centric focus, Marina's sun deck is centered on a tranquil saltwater pool that's ringed by comfortable, cushion-topped loungers and straddled by a pair of covered fresh-water whirlpools. The Waves Bar keeps the libations flowing for sun-worshippers and other deck-hounds. Other outdoor diversions are similarly sedate and/or are geared to more mature travelers. These include a fitness track, putting greens, golf cages, Ping-Pong, croquet and shuffleboard.

Just off the sun deck, above the pool, sits a fully equipped fitness center with a panoramic sea view and plenty of machines on which to sweat off the fare from Jacques. Some classes are complimentary (walk-a-mile, stretch and relax, and complete core). Others (like Pilates, boot camp, yoga and Yamuna Foot Fitness) levy a fee. If you're planning to attend a lot of classes, consider buying the Cruise Fitness Class Pass, which allows access to all of them for a one-time fee of $99.

The fitness center is attached to the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. It's got a serene and peaceful vibe (with beautiful art and a waterfall), and you can order healthy drinks and snacks, which can be served anywhere in the facility including the forward-facing whirlpool deck. A plethora of treatments, from skin-care to massage to acupuncture, are available. An adjacent beauty salon handles hair styling and cuts, manicures, and pedicures.

Passengers who purchase a spa treatment or buy a $25 day pass can access the ship's thermal suite with a sauna, steam room and scented showers. Surprisingly, there's no thalassotherapy pool on Marina. (Designers on the newer Riviera actually changed the deck plan to accommodate a thalassotherapy pool but it will not appear here.) But take note: A fantastic and otherwise hidden sun deck with a huge whirlpool is available to all passengers, just beyond the spa at the bow of the ship.

Entertainment

Straddling the line between entertainment and infotainment is the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, in which passengers learn kitchen secrets from a changing roster of master chefs. At tightly packed rows of personal cooking stations, you can chop, sauté, fry and fumble around under expert guidance -- and the crowds looking in from the pool make it even more fun. Book early for the classes, which on our cruise ranged from the simple “cooking chicken two ways” to “indulging in Italy." All were thorough, hands-on, and ultimately quite useful once we returned home. Classes cost $69 apiece, and it's important to note that while the cruise line says that it can accommodate 24 passengers per class, there are just 12 cooking stations (so you will probably wind up sharing not just space but also cooking tasks with a fellow passenger).

Note: Wine is liberally poured (or other drinks that are matched to the recipes) and you're expected to eat what you cook so you may want to avoid booking alternative restaurants for the same day.

Programs offered at La Reserve by Wine Spectator include wine tastings tied to the region. On our Adriatic cruise we had an outstanding class on Croatian wines and when we began to debate food pairings, the sommelier ran over to the Terrace Café and brought back food from the buffet. There's also a Riedel wine glass tasting session, and if you haven't figured out what the difference is between drinking vino in a cheap glass versus a crystal one, it'll be a revelation.

Across the hall from the Bon Appetit Culinary Center is the Artist Loft, in which artists are invited to cruise in exchange for leading workshops. Mediums include photography, watercolors, needlepoint, and arts and crafts, among others, and there's a materials charge to participate.

At night in the chichi Marina Lounge, Oceania is trying its hand at large-scale productions for the first time, with mixed success. "River Rhapsody” is a song-and-dance tribute to the world's tributaries, and the trippy "Groovin'" is a high-spirited salute to the 1960's. There's also a changing roster of pianists, jazz trios, comedians and the like, though if you're expecting a constant onslaught of entertainment akin to that offered by the industry's mega-ships, you'll be disappointed.

A small casino caters to the gambling set with its perfunctory mix of slot machines and table games.

There's a calm, cool -- maybe even sleepy -- vibe throughout the ship when the sun goes down. The one exception is Horizons, a sprawling lounge on Deck 15 with an in-house band and dance floor. Bars include the swanky Martinis, just off the atrium, and the long, narrow Grand Bar in the corridor leading to the Grand Dining Room. For something a little snazzier, check out the casino's bar, a purple-hued dazzler that's surprisingly garish compared to the rest of Marina.

Oceania's shore excursions cover most of the major bases though rarely surprise. One exception: The Culinary Discovery Program, which launched in 2012, offers food- and wine-themed excursions, paired with regional cooking classes. Complaints from Cruise Critic members that tours in general are overpriced are justified.

Cabins

Marina features three Owner's Suites, eight Vista Suites, 12 Oceania Suites (a new category), 124 Penthouse Suites, 20 deluxe oceanview staterooms, 466 verandah staterooms and 14 inside cabins. Wheelchair-accessible accommodations are available in each category.

Representing the vast majority of the lodging, the 282-square-foot verandah staterooms are awash in a sea of warm brown and grays and feature comfortable couches, flat-screen TV's, inviting teak decks and beds topped in 1,000-thread-count sheets. Add in marble-and-granite-bedecked bathrooms with separate showers and tubs, and you've got a real haven. Note: One complaint about Marina's bathrooms, that the showerhead is too low for tall passengers, will be fixed during the ship's next scheduled dry dock.

Inside cabins, at 174 square feet, are only slightly larger than the tiny inside cabins on Oceania's older ships. Oceanview staterooms, at 242 square feet, are outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows -- so while there are no verandahs, there's still a copious amount of light. Verandah staterooms on the Concierge Level include a welcome bottle of Champagne, complimentary clothes-pressing at embarkation, priority dinner reservations and use of a lovely interior lounge with computers, snacks and a designated concierge.

Decks 10 and 11 are home to the Penthouse Suites, offering a welcome 420 square feet of space, 24-hour butler service and the same earthy palette. The separate living area -- complete with a sofa, two super-comfy chairs and a lighted vanity table -- opens up to a spacious verandah, decorated with wide wicker chairs. (One complaint: these balconies are large enough for a real dining table but only offer a cocktail table.) A walk-in closet ensures you won't have to look at piles of dirty clothes while onboard.

Suite guests are entitled to use the Executive Lounge on Deck 11. It's set up like the Concierge Lounge, with a large flat-screen television, printouts of daily newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, Internet stations and a concierge.

The higher-end options are predictably opulent, with the Oceania Suites offering 1,000 square feet of space atop Marina, private hot tubs and outdoor flat-screen televisions on over-sized verandas, media rooms, butler service, and living/dining room combos. The Vista Suites, which come with a private workout room, are about 25 percent larger than these and overlook the bow, so you're in for some astounding views. Both are decorated by noted interior designer Dakota Jackson, known for a design philosophy that he describes as "the furniture has to be beautiful, it has to be provocative, it has to be meaningful." He nails it!

The Owner's Suites, which each measure 2,000 square feet (there are three onboard), are among the most elaborate and spacious at sea. Using furnishings from Ralph Lauren Home, each of the Owner's Suites spans the beam of the ship, and features a large living and dining room, bedroom with king-sized bed, his and hers walk-in closets, a music room complete with a grand piano, and even a media room with professional entertainment system. There's a whirlpool tub in the bathroom and on the veranda (the latter has a flat-screen television outdoors).

On a ship whose crew is so service-oriented, it could be argued that butler service is not all that necessary. But in our two stays in Penthouse-category cabins, the outstanding above-and-beyond efforts definitely made a difference. In one case, our butler loaned us his own computer power cord when we realized we'd forgotten ours.

One real plus to booking a Penthouse, Oceania, Vista or Owner's Suite: At dinnertime, you can order room service off any of the ship's restaurant menus, including those from Red Ginger, Toscana, Polo Grill and Jacques.

Public Rooms

Most passengers' first view of the ship's interior will be of the Lalique Grand Staircase, a work of art in itself: a set of dramatically illuminated curving steps adorned with crystal medallions and pillars, hand-crafted by the French firm.

The art-as-adornment aspect of the ship continues throughout the vessel, with millions of dollars of artwork on display wherever you look. Navigation throughout is relatively simple, though some of the restaurants are tucked away and may lead to some hand wringing if your inner GPS isn't working. Just head to the Grand Staircase if you panic; most everything (including the few boutiques on hand) is nearby.

While you won't find bowling alleys, photo galleries and an auction house, bibliophiles will love the expansive library and its unusually cozy series of nooks and crannies. You can duck into the adjacent Baristas for a cup of coffee, and the Oceania@Sea Internet cafe provides a plethora of computer stations, if not privacy. There's WiFi throughout the ship so you're not limited to the café. Internet access costs 95 cents per minute. If that's too pricey, packages are also available, which lower the per-minute rate, starting at 100 minutes for $80 and going up to 1,200 minutes for $540.

The five self-serve launderettes onboard (spread over five decks) are some of the nicest you'll find at sea. Each has three washers, three dryers and an ironing board, plus a comfy couch and television for entertainment while you wait. Laundry is not free, and you'll need quarters to feed into the machine.

Dining

As is the case with Oceania's other ships, all of the dining options onboard Riviera are overseen by Jacques Pepin, the line's executive culinary director. One fun twist: Pepin, who made his name with the book "La Technique" (on the fundamentals of French cuisine) and a series of acclaimed PBS TV shows, created his own idea of the perfect restaurant onboard. His namesake dining venue, Jacques, is an energetic, decadent must-see (and eat) restaurant -- and it lacks any of the fussiness you may expect. You can choose from bistro fare like escargot, foie gras, steak frites, cassoulet and Pepin's signature rotisserie meats with a European flair (herb crusted “black foot” roast chicken, garlic marinated veal rack, cider brined pork loin, and prime rib aux poivre). The legendary cheese trolley is a stand-out here and if you have any room for desert, Jacques' apple tart is superb (though every sweet we tried was amazing).

Red Ginger is an Asian fusion restaurant that's another newcomer for Oceania. The ambience is exotic -- with a racy red and black color scheme. The menu is terrific, a something-for-everyone array of selections. To start, there's sushi and tuna tataki, spring rolls and calamari. There are courses for soup (Tom Kha Gai was a favorite -- chicken, coconut milk and lemongrass -- as well as miso), salad (spicy duck and watermelon and Thai beef) before moving on to mains. The lobster pad Thai is a definite hit as are the spiced lamb tenderloin and the miso-glazed seabass.

At the Italian-influenced Toscana, the voluptuous menu is divided into seven categories (not including dessert). They include hot and cold antipasti, soup, pasta, risotto, salad and "secondi" (the Italian word for entree). Particular specialties include lobster risotto, pan-seared sea bass with lemon and capers, and a decadent lasagna. The wine list focuses, naturally, on Italian bottles. One fun feature of Toscana is its olive oil menu (almost as detailed as the wine menu). Ask your waiter to help pair your bread of choice with the right olive oil.

Polo Grill is the ship's steakhouse with classic fare that includes Oysters Rockefeller, whole Maine lobster, lobster bisque, Cobb Salad, and, of course, a wide variety of steaks and chops. Try the King's Cut 32-ounce prime rib (if you dare), New York strip, rib eye, filet mignon and porterhouse. For variety there are other meats -- among them is a grilled rack of lamb, veal chop and pork t-bone. On one visit we created a menu around appetizers (including the foie gras, Maryland crab cakes and escargot), and it was fantastic and filling.

The Kobe burger is also out of this world, and is prepared as follows: "6 oz. Wagyu beef burger with truffle demi-glace and skinny fries with parmesan foam." If, by dessert, you're looking for something "light," try the house-made marshmallows, served in sauces like caramel and chocolate.

All four of Oceania's alternative restaurants are fee-free and are open from 6:30 to 9 p.m. On our Mediterranean voyage, Red Ginger was easily the most in-demand restaurant onboard so make reservations early. In fact, we found it tough to get last-minute reservations at any of the quartet of boutique eateries so plan ahead.

Another specialty option is La Reserve's tasting menu. This seven-course meal, held in the La Reserve by Wine Spectator wine bar, comes in two varieties: Discovery and Exploration. This restaurant levies a fee -- it's $95 plus an 18 percent gratuity -- for seven courses, each paired with a different wine. The offerings are definitely dynamic and unusual; for example, the "Discovery Menu" begins with an amuse bouche of a lobster and mascarpone pancake, accompanied by Champagne Pommery Brut rose, an appetizer of sautéed duck foie gras with a glass of Cervaro Castello della Sala Chardonnay, to the pasta course, a pumpkin ravioli with Novelty Hill Viognier. While the meal was divine, what we really loved about our La Reserve experience is that the restaurant seats only 24 passengers. On Marina, this dinner was one of the few times when we weren't able to choose our tablemates, and it actually proved to be a great opportunity to meet new people and bond with them during the long, multicourse meal.

Perhaps unfairly, the enthusiastic buzz over Oceania's boutique venues obscures its main venue, but we loved every breakfast, lunch and dinner that we had at the Grand Restaurant. With a nice range of table sizes, from two-tops to 10-tops, lining the wall of windows around three sides of the restaurant and with a gorgeous white on white (with touches of earth tones) ambience, it's warm and welcoming. And often it's nearly empty! The Grand's opening hours are 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. for breakfast, 12:30 to 2 p.m. for lunch, and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.

There's always a daily special or two at each meal. Plus, if you're trying to balance your caloric intake, know that the cruise line partners with the famed American spa, Canyon Ranch, and at each meal, there's a Canyon Ranch “balanced section” that makes some prudent suggestions for healthier dining. Plus, at all meals, passengers can request healthy-oriented dishes, from plain and low fat to low sodium and poached.

Consistent with Oceania's passion for food, its breakfast menu will not send you away hungry. We can't think of anything we could want that its menu didn't offer from fresh fruit, stewed fruits and cereals (hot and cold) to eggs, lamb chops and breakfast steak. Also on offer: steamed haddock and broiled kippers, smoked salmon and prosciutto, pancakes (banana to pecan nut), waffles, and French toast.

At lunch, an ever-changing main menu includes starters, soups, a sandwich of the day, and salads, both hearty and light. Hot entrees generally include pasta, fish and meat offerings. There's also a vegetarian menu offering an appetizer, soup and salad, and an “always available” list of choices that range from crudites to chicken consomme to burgers and even hot dogs.

At dinner, a handful of Jacques Pepin's specialties, such as steak frites, roast chicken and poached salmon, are also available. Otherwise the menus, which change daily, offer the same categories as lunch -- with more choices in each and a particularly tempting dessert menu.

Not all the meals onboard Riviera are elaborate ones, but even casual venues, like the Waves Grill, ramp up the concept of pool food. There's a small salad bar, but the real draw at the Waves Grill are the burgers -- six varieties include some interesting choices, like the "romano" (provolone, roasted peppers and pesto), the "packy" (braised short beef with blue cheese) and the "New Yorker" (cheddar cheese and chili). Also available are grilled panini sandwiches and Reubens. If you're looking for the infamous “surf and turf” sandwich -- consisting of lobster medallions, filet mignon and parmesan-dusted truffle fries -- it no longer appears on the Waves Grill menu. The opening hours, from 11:30 to 4 p.m., are particularly convenient to those wanting a late lunch.

Waves does serve breakfast, between 6:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Easily the busiest restaurant, especially at breakfast and lunch, is the Terrace Grill. It's one of the most well-stocked, varied and beautifully arranged buffet venues we've ever seen on a cruise ship, and is set up in stations so there's not too much congestion. At breakfast, there were offerings of cooked-to-order eggs and fruits, yogurts and cereal, and mounds of fresh-baked pastries. Breakfast is served 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

At lunch, offered noon to 2 p.m. (sometimes it stays open later if a tour is returning just after closing hours), there were areas for hot food, a carving station, a bountiful salad buffet with, fresh fish (such as mussels and shrimp), sushi and desserts. The housemade ice cream, flavors changing each day, was a bit too tempting.

Dinner, reflecting the menu being served at The Grand on Deck 5, is offered between 6:30 to 9 p.m.

If all these options don't please, know that in-cabin service is available around-the-clock. And not to be missed, afternoon tea is served graciously at the Horizons Lounge between 4 to 5 p.m., complete with white linen-clothed tables and classical music.A relative upstart among the cruise lines, having only been in existence since 2003, Oceania Cruises officially entered the big time in January 2011 with the launch of Marina, its first new-build. Sleek, spacious and oh-so-chic, Marina marks a giant step forward for the fledgling upper-premium line.

Upper premium? Hmmm. After spending a few days aboard the 66,084-ton, 1,258-passenger vessel, you may begin to wonder if Marina has actually pushed Oceania across the line into luxury. Credit goes to the uber-fine dining (including super-chef Jacques Pepin's first namesake restaurant), amenity-packed cabins, abundance of artwork at every corner and an overall vibe that's more South Beach than Cancun. Indeed, much of the inspiration for the ship's design came from such high-end establishments as Miami's Mondrian Hotel, the Palm Court at NYC's Plaza Hotel and Bouchon restaurant in Napa.

Of course, there are plenty of places to think about the distinction while chilling aboard the ship, whether you're getting a massage in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, reading a good book next to the faux fireplace in the massive (yet surprisingly cozy) library or straddling one of the oversized padded lounges in the Sanctuary -- an aptly named touch o' the South Pacific near the pool that offers copious shade, swaying palms, ceiling fans and dedicated drink waiters.

Inasmuch as the ship offers double the capacity of Oceania's other vessels (Regatta, Insignia and Nautica), it's no surprise Marina introduces a number of innovations to the line, while expanding the concepts to the industry at large. One of the most touted is the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, offering highly entertaining -- and practical -- hands-on cooking lessons from Culinary Institute of America instructors. Marina's culinary center is the most elaborate in cruising.

New restaurants include La Reserve, a 24-seat wine-themed eatery from Wine Spectator magazine; Jacques, for French country cooking; and Red Ginger, an Asian fusion mecca whose decor alone (a sea of deep reds, black and dark wood) will leave you smitten. In addition, cabins are larger, with an earthier palette and greatly expanded bathrooms.

All in all, expect a ship that's fun to explore, easy to navigate and comparatively easy on the wallet (hence that "upper-premium" designation).

Dining

Exquisite dining is the name of the game on Marina, and most of its nine restaurants are included in the fare .

As is the case with Oceania's other ships, the dining options onboard Marina are overseen by Jacques Pepin, the line's executive culinary director. One fun twist: Pepin, who made his name with the book "La Technique" (on the fundamentals of French cuisine) and a series of acclaimed PBS TV shows, created his own idea of the perfect restaurant onboard. His namesake dining venue, Jacques, is an energetic, decadent must-see (and eat) -- and it lacks any of the fussiness you may expect. Prepare for a long sit as you choose from bistro fare like escargot, foie gras and Pepin's signature rotisserie meats (chicken, prime rib, etc.). My advice: Try the pumpkin soup, which your waiter will ladle out of a real pumpkin for you.

It's fee-free, as are the Polo Grill (a NYC-style steakhouse with cuts as thick as your head); Toscana, serving up Tuscan favorites with wine to match; the Grand Dining Room, a 650-seat behemoth with expansive oceanview windows, continental dining and special Canyon Ranch menu selections at all meals; and the casual Terrace Cafe buffet and poolside Waves grill. In addition, the new-to-Oceania Red Ginger is an insta-classic, delivering sublime Asian fusion fare like a spicy duck-and-watermelon salad and lobster Pad Thai (kudos to the designer chopstick collection).

There is also, of course, 24/7 room service.

More intimate dining comes at a cost: La Reserve, the aforementioned wine bar, offers seven-course dinners paired with the appropriate vintages for $75 per person. If you don't want to eat there, however, a knowledgeable staff can explain the vagaries of vino during the day. Meanwhile, the opulent Privee (think oversized chairs, Baroque trappings and a huge oval table) serves a seven-course degustation menu that's tailored to your taste. Dinner for eight is $1,000.

Public Rooms

Most passengers' first view of Marina's interior will be of the Lalique Grand Staircase, a work of art in itself: a set of dramatically illuminated curving steps adorned with crystal medallions and pillars, hand-crafted by the French firm.

The art-as-adornment aspect of the ship continues throughout the vessel, with millions of dollars of artwork on display wherever you look. Navigation throughout is relatively simple, though some of the restaurants are tucked away and may lead to some hand-wringing if your inner GPS isn't working. Just head to the Grand Staircase if you panic; most everything (including the few boutiques on hand) is nearby.

While you won't find bowling alleys, photo galleries and an auction house, bibliophiles will love the expansive library and its unusually cozy series of nooks and crannies. You can duck into the adjacent Baristas for a cup of joe or a specialty coffee, and the Oceania@Sea Internet cafe provides a plethora of computer stations, if not privacy.

Cabins

Marina features three Owner's Suites, eight Vista Suites, 12 Oceania Suites (a new category), 124 Penthouse Suites, 20 deluxe oceanview staterooms, 466 verandah staterooms and 14 inside cabins. Wheelchair-accessible accommodations are available in each category.

Representing the vast majority of the lodging, the 282-square-foot verandah staterooms feature a warm brown-and-gray color scheme that's accented by dark wood. Comfy couches, flat-screen TV's, inviting teak decks and beds topped in 1,000-thread-count sheets make leaving the cabins a difficult endeavor. Add in marble-and-granite-enriched bathrooms with separate showers and tubs, and you've got a real haven. Note: I found that the shower (and its nifty sunflower showerhead) was a bit too low for my 6'1" frame. Fortunately, Oceania is planning to make some necessary tweaks during Marina's next turn in dry dock, and it will alleviate the problem completely on sister ship Riviera, now being constructed.

Verandah staterooms on the Concierge Level include a welcome bottle of Champagne, complimentary clothes-pressing at embarkation, priority dinner reservations and use of a lovely lounge with computers, snacks and a designated concierge. The oceanview staterooms are free of some of the posher accoutrements and have a little less space, but they're outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows -- so while there are no verandahs, there's still a copious amount of light.

Deck 11 is home to the Penthouse Suites, offering a welcome 420 square feet of space, 24-hour butler service and the same earthy palette. The separate living area -- complete with a sofa, two super-comfy chairs and a lighted vanity table -- opens up to a beaut of a verandah. A walk-in closet ensures you won't have to look at piles of dirty clothes while onboard.

The higher-end options are predictably opulent, with the Oceania Suites offering 1,000 square feet of space atop Marina and private hot tubs on oversized verandas (gotta love those outdoor flat-screen TV's), media rooms, butler service and living/dining room combos. The Vista Suites are about 25 percent larger and overlook the bow, so you're in for some astounding views. You can tickle the ivories on the baby grand pianos in the Owner's Suites and lose yourself in 2,000 square feet of space, beautifully adorned with Ralph Lauren Home furnishings.

Entertainment

Straddling the line between entertainment and infotainment is the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, in which passengers learn kitchen secrets from a changing roster of master chefs. At tightly packed rows of personal cooking stations, you can chop, saute, fry and fumble around under expert guidance -- and the crowds looking in from the pool make it even more fun. Book early for the classes, because the price is right (from $49), and they're wildly popular.

The nearby Artists Loft also offers hands-on workshops in everything from photography and painting to quilting and needlepoint. Fees vary.

At night in the chichi Marina Lounge, Oceania is trying its hand at large-scale productions for the first time, with mixed success. I saw "River Rhapsody," a song-and-dance tribute to the world's tributaries, and the trippy "Groovin'," a high-spirited salute to the 1960's. There's also a changing roster of pianists, jazz trios, comedians and the like, though if you're expecting a constant onslaught of entertainment akin to that offered by the industry's mega-ships, you'll be disappointed.

A small casino caters to the gambling set with its perfunctory mix of slot machines and table games.

There's a calm, cool -- maybe even sleepy -- vibe throughout the ship when the sun goes down. The one exception is Horizons, a sprawling lounge on Deck 15 with an in-house band and dance floor. (During the day, it proffers afternoon tea.) Bars include the swanky Martinis, just off the atrium, and the long, narrow Grand Bar in the corridor leading to the Grand Dining Room. For something a little snazzier, check out the casino's bar, a purple-hued dazzler that's surprisingly garish compared to the rest of Marina.

Fitness and Recreation

Befitting its adult-centric focus, Marina's sun deck is centered on a tranquil saltwater pool that's ringed by comfortable, cushion-topped loungers and straddled by a pair of covered fresh-water whirlpools. The Waves Bar keeps the libations flowing for sun-worshippers and other deck-hounds. Other outdoor diversions are similarly sedate and/or are geared to more mature travelers. These include a fitness track, putting greens, golf cages, Ping-Pong, croquet and, naturally, shuffleboard.

Just off the sun deck, above the pool, sits a fully equipped fitness center with a panoramic sea view and plenty of machines on which to sweat off the fare from Jacques. It's attached to the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, which offers a full menu of services (from skin-care treatments and body waxing to massages and acupuncture). Surprisingly, while there's a thermal suite with a sauna, steam room and scented showers, there's no thalassotherapy pool, evidently a regrettable by-product of the spa's location. As such, there are no day passes available to the area. But take note: A fantastic and otherwise hidden sun deck with a huge whirlpool is available to all passengers, just beyond the spa at the bow of the ship.

Family

Sorry, wrong ship. Most activities are geared to grownups on Marina, and there's no daycare center, teen club or arcade to keep the younger ones occupied.

Fellow Passengers

Travelers tend to fall into the older age ranges (50 and up), are well-traveled and hail mostly from the U.S. and Canada, with Brits and Australians making up the balance.

Dress Code

Think casual-but-elegant throughout the ship, both day and night. Tank tops and swimwear are discouraged at all times from any of the restaurants, while shorts, jeans, T-shirts, sneakers and sandals are not allowed in most eateries at dinner. Men can't go wrong with blazers and slacks after sunset, while women will feel comfortable in dresses or skirts with blouses.

Gratuity

Tips are automatically charged to your onboard account at the rate of $12.50 per person, per day. Passengers in suites with butler service (Penthouse, Vista and Owner's suites) are charged an additional $4 per person, per day. Room teams, favorite bartenders, the sommelier, the maitre d' and certain waitstaff members might be worthy of more, which can be offered at each passenger's discretion. It's expected that those bringing room service will be tipped (anywhere from $1 to $5, depending on what's ordered) as items are delivered.

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