Marina, you’ve gotta see her!

Oceania Cruises' Marina Cruise Ship

Three reasons why I love Oceania Cruises by Jos Dewing

Yesterday I attended an event at the City Cruise Terminal in Southampton. Organised by Oceania Cruises as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations, we were to be treated to a presentation by the Company’s executives and co-founders, a guided ship tour of Marina and a gala lunch on-board.

The day started off with a cancelled train to Southampton and zero communication to this fact by the train operating company, so for me, it was all down to the maritime sector to win back my faith in transportation of any kind. I would not be disappointed.

The Cruise Line has a long history with Oceania Cruises and not only are we one of the leading and award-winning agents for the line, but we like to think of ourselves as part of their history too. We launched Oceania Cruises in the UK back in 2003. We organised the press event, we produced and designed the brochure and we even sold to other travel agents. In short, we were Oceania and we still like to think that we are, although the Oceania Cruises we see today is a very different proposition indeed. I was fortunate enough to have experienced cruising on both Regatta and attended the christening of her sister ship Insignia in March 2004 in Monte Carlo, so to say I was excited about meeting the new big sister was an understatement to say the least, but would those original values and approach remain intact 10 years later?

A grand impression - Oceania Cruises' Marina

Having embarked on Marina, we were escorted to the impressive and spacious theatre where a presentation was made by Frank Del Rio, the founder of Oceania Cruises (who is now chairman & CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, the parent corporation of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises), Bob Binder, Vice Chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings and co-founder and Bernie Carter, the UK Managing Director. The presentation focused on history and the extraordinary Oceania story, how an investment of $14 million in 2003 has become such a globally recognized and successful cruise brand, with a new valuation closer to $850 million and with two new $600 million ships that can carry 1250 passengers each. However, more engaging than the financials was the theme of family running throughout the story. This is very much a family led business, with the word ‘family’ as much a representation of the Oceania team itself as the actual families behind the success.

Oceania Cruises as an operation and brand really does feel self-sufficient like a solid family. The founders are still incredibly hands on and you really feel this when talking to them and exploring their beautiful ship. With any cruise ship visit or discussion on a specific cruise company there is simply so much on offer and to cover so I’ll keep this focused on the real elements that for me, are Oceania’s signature and differentiation in the marketplace today. These are the true brand hallmarks and the reasons why this company has proved so incredibly popular and is experiencing such exciting growth, especially in the UK. These points are based around my knowledge of the company and the ship Marina itself.

Reason 1: The general approach

Perhaps overriding everything else here is the unique approach and the way true family values extend into product values with Oceania Cruises. With so many successful companies that experience growth, the senior executive often becomes detached from the product or service itself, just look at the UK banking sector. This is simply not the case with Oceania and it shows.

The founders have had a huge influence and involvement in the development of Marina for example, in fact they take the term ‘hands-on’ to a completely new level. Both Mr Del Rio and Mr Binder were clearly directly involved in every step of the Marina build process, from the initial designs and furnishings to the procurement of the incredible art collection. This collection is so extraordinary and varied that a book will shortly be published and available on Amazon purely focused on the collection. Mr Binder has promised me a copy which I eagerly anticipate.

Onboard artwork - Oceania Cruises' Marina

But it’s not just the executive that are part of the family here. I under stand that the carpets were designed by Oceania’s in-house marketing team and the Executive Culinary Director’s very own and striking self-portrait hangs proudly outside his signature restaurant, ‘Jacques’. Show me another cruise line that operates like this?

At lunch I was fortunate enough to sit next to Bob Binder on the Captains table in the Grand Dining room. He pointed a painting out to me and after explaining its origins and subject matter, he asked if I thought it should be moved slightly to the right so that it could be viewed from our seating position. I agreed that it would be worthwhile and I have no doubt that it’s already been done. The personal touch, it really is very apparent here.

Reason 2: The food

Oceania Cruises proudly and boldly claim to have the finest cuisine at sea and the meal we were treated to at lunch would certainly back this fact up. The food once again is driven from the very top. When the founders first conceived Oceania Cruises back in 2003, they knew they must have a differentiation from other premium lines to ensure immediate success. The concept was simple, to deliver the very best food at sea whilst still protecting the ‘fare’ value for its passengers. Legendary Master Chef Jacques Pepin was recruited to both establish and inspire the food and once again, the family values were firmly set in the foundations. “Food” says Jacques Pepin is to be “shared with family or friends”, this is what makes a meal “great”. This and the gastronomic wizardry of course.

The passion flows through the signature restaurants which were again heavily influenced by the founders, Mr Binder creating Red Ginger, a daring contemporary Asian restaurant with a dramatic waterfall feature and exquisite cuisine.

Amazing cuisine - Oceania Cruise's Marina

For our lunch we experienced various dishes from around the ship. These included a divine ‘Lobster Risotto in a Lobster Broth Reduction’, the extraordinarily delicious ‘Den Miso Glazed Seabass wrapped in Cooked Hoba Leaf’ (A classic from Red Ginger with a lovely touch of informality with the miniature wooden peg holding the leaf together) and a sublime ‘Slow Cooked Short Rib Pertigourdine with Semolina Gnocchi, Vegetable Casserole and Crispy Parmesan’. These are three of six wonderful courses and make it very easy for me to state that from my dining experience alone, the Oceania foodie claim seems to hold true.

The entire foodie experience is also tied together with excellent service from the staff and that Oceania attention to detail again. The bread basket was a marvel in its own right with authentic and delicious French Baguette and over 10 varieties of dipping oils. The accompanying wine naturally a perfect partner for the food also.

Reason 3: So much more than cruise ship

And I absolutely mean this. Walking around Marina and talking to passengers and staff you realise what a great and varied place this is to be. Frankly, you could spend a week on-board just looking at the artwork, which hangs throughout the ship. But it doesn’t end there, there is a full art events schedule. Auctions, artists in residence, workshops in the ‘Artists loft’ and more. If you are interested in art of any kind, this ship is a destination in its own right.

This is extended to foodies too. Marina has its very own and very well equipped and designed ‘Culinary School’. In a UK society fixated and obsessed with food, this is a very clever move. But it’s not simply a case of watching a chef prepare a meal and taking notes, this is a full and personal experience. The Oceania chefs will actually take passengers off whilst in port to visit local farmers’ markets and shops to purchase ingredients and then return to the ship to cook them. One passenger explained how she had been taken in France to a market where they bought some shark, brought it back to the school and cooked it. She said it was delicious and I have no doubt whatsoever that it was. It is stories like these that people share with others and that bring new passengers on-board.

And then for us Brits that enjoy a touch of the homely and traditional, the library is indeed a home from home. It really does feel like a country cottage nestled in the Downs in Sussex. Open fires, magazines racks and more than 2000 books and periodicals. This is very much English inspired and I can really see myself snuggled up with a good book there, maybe I will be sometime soon.

Attention to detail - Oceania Cruise's Marina

Add the coffee bars, 18 hole Golf putting green, CanyonRanch Spa, multiple bars and lounges and the Monte Carlo style Casino and this ship really is a destination in its own right. It’s a fantastic and exciting hotel that just happens to come with you as you explore the world, as the Company says, your way!And to complete the perfect day, The Cruise Line was presented with an award for ‘Outstanding Performance in 2012’. I’m very proud that we are so closely affiliated with this wonderful brand and product.
The Cruise Line awards - Oceania Cruises' Marina
Jos Dewing visited Marina in Southampton on 11th June 2013.Words and photos © Jos Dewing 2013.
Be Sociable, Share!

    About Jos Dewing

    Jos Dewing is Managing Director of The Cruise Line, the UK's original and leading luxury cruise specialist agent and tour operator.

    , ,

    9 Responses to Marina, you’ve gotta see her!

    1. Len Ballem 15/06/2013 at 02:07 #

      Having had the pleasure of a 10 day cruise on the Marina I can thoroughly endorse the impression left by Jos Dewing.

      My wife have done 3 cruises with Oceania and their attention to detail and service is near faultless.

      Regards,
      Len and Vivien Ballem
      Melbourne, Australia

      • JosDewing 15/06/2013 at 06:38 #

        Dear Mr Ballem, Thank you very much for your endorsement and for engaging with our blog. It is always nice to talk to another Oceania fan. No doubt you will be planning more Oceania cruises for the future. Rgds Jos

    2. Michael Pallatt 15/06/2013 at 05:30 #

      My wife and I are booked on the Marina in January 2014, realy looking forward to see her and to see if what you say is all true, (i am sure it is).

      • JosDewing 15/06/2013 at 06:36 #

        Dear Mr Pallatt, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a wonderful ship. Have a great cruise. Jos

    3. Colin 31/07/2013 at 18:37 #

      We cruised on Marina last year and are booked on 2 cruises on Riviera in 2014. We have also cruised several times on the other 3 Oceania ships, so, yes, we do like Oceania.

      Service and food quality are consistently excellent throughout their fleet.

      Whilst we enjoyed the food in Red Ginger (I had the Sea Bass which was delicious), we actually preferred Jacques. All the other restuarants are excellent. too.

      There is a general feeling of space throughout the ship even when everyone is aboard and the lalique staircase is beautiful.

      I am not an art lover and prefer someone to cook for me when I am on holiday, but there is always plenty of other activities to occupy my time.

      Most Oceania cruises are port intenstive which suits us. Some shore excursions, however, can be expensive and poor value.

      We had a Penthouse on Marina, which is bigger than the Penthouses on the older ships and had a better bathroom. It was, however, rather dark due to the deck above overlappping our balcony and there were other features which we didn’t like.

      Airport transfers can be very expensive, so we organise our own.

      We are happy to use Oceania and the Cruise Line for our future cruise needs

      • Jos Dewing 01/08/2013 at 14:35 #

        How nice to read your post Colin. I agree entirely with your comments about the Sea Bass, a meal which highlights Oceania Cruises’ attention to detail, as they only source the very strongest fish from a certain pert of the world so the meat is that much firmer, perfect for eating with chop sticks of course! I do hope you continue to enjoy this excellent cruise line and have two wonderful cruises in 2014.

    4. Natalie thomason 06/04/2014 at 17:13 #

      Sounds amazing would love to win this and take my daughter Becky x

    5. Daniel 28/04/2014 at 11:28 #

      Enjoyed reading this. Makes me want to book now. So informative and witty, great piece and great competition!

    6. Bernice Jowett 28/04/2014 at 15:41 #

      hubby an me coming up to our 46th anniversary in 2014 would love to
      show him my appreciation of his hard work helped family out in recession
      so little time to take holidays but phew needing a break it would be wonderful on this marvellous cruise ship it look so sophisticated cool and totally luxurious
      a real break from the humdrum usual love the sounds feelings sea
      be pals and invite me

    Leave a Reply to Colin Click here to cancel reply.