If it’s good food and an itinerary taking in some of Europe’s most picturesque cities that your clients want, look no further than the Oceania Marina.
Some people may not consider 16oz of prime steak to be a challenge, but for me it’s a daunting prospect. However, I comfort myself in the knowledge that I’m leaving the true battle – the 32oz King’s Cut – to a more formidable warrior.
My foe is the Queen’s Cut, half the size, boneless and cooked medium rare. When it arrives, with fries on the side, it looks big enough to sink the ship. But it is simply too delicious to leave, and it takes me a mere 20 minutes to clean the plate.
The location for this lavish feast is the Polo Grill restaurant – on Oceania Cruises’ MS Marina – which embodies the elements of a classic steakhouse, with dark wood furnishings and high burgundy leather chairs. Its steaks are dry-aged for 28 days, while guests can also indulge in grilled swordfish or whole Maine lobster gratinee.
A day earlier, I boarded the Marina in Helsinki, for a trip taking in St Petersburg, Tallinn and Stockholm. While dining, I take in the view of old Soviet-era apartment buildings blending with the modern Lakhta Centre, a business district, and the Saint Petersburg Stadium.
The ship, built in 2011 and refurbished just five years later, has a guest-to-staff ratio of 1.567 to 1, and a guest capacity of 1,250, at double occupancy. As you board the ship, you are greeted by the Lalique Grand Staircase, which is extremely ornate and visually striking. The traditional design is replicated throughout the ship, which has 16 decks, of which 11 are open to guests.
There are 625 cabins on board; mine is a veranda suite, measuring 282-square-foot.
There is a spacious sitting area that doubles as my breakfast table/working area for my voyage, while the veranda is equally roomy with table and chairs. Meanwhile, the marble and granite bathroom houses two showers, one over the bath and one separate room – quirky comes to mind, or is this how’s it’s done in luxury? There is also a mini-bar, with complimentary soft drinks and water, and robes and slippers for those days relaxing by the pool or in the spa.
At the ultra-luxury end of the scale are the three Owner’s Suites. These are furnished in Ralph Lauren Home, and each spans the entire beam of the ship. Those lucky enough to stay here are treated to a living room, king-size bed, two walk-in closets, indoor and outdoor whirlpool spas and entry foyer with a music room. There are also eight Vista Suites overlooking the bow of the ship. These include whirlpool spas as well as private fitness rooms and walk-in wardrobes.
A feast of options
The Polo Grill, where I’m located on the second night, is just one of the restaurants I eat in on my voyage. There are nine in total, highlighting the focus Oceania has put into making its culinary experience one of the finest at sea.
The Grand Dining Room – no reservation necessary – more than lives up to its name – my table for one could comfortably fit two additional guests. This is the ship’s main dining room, with a traditional style of decoration, evidenced by the chandelier that hangs marvellously from the ceiling. The menu features an array of cuisine, including, among others, crispy tart of porcini and mushrooms, baby shrimp and avocado cocktail, and lobster and spring vegetable crepe with langoustine bisque.
I also dine in Red Ginger, which features an Asian-inspired menu. The three courses hit the spot, but the stars of the show are the orchid vanilla tea and trio of sorbet for dessert – coconut, mango, and pineapple.
On the pool deck, I dedicate a whole hour to relaxing in the Jacuzzi, before breaking for a burger in the Waves Grill, which offers a more informal style of eating than the other restaurants on the Marina. Soon enough, I’m back in the Jacuzzi where I’d happily stay all day.
Exploring the ship, I notice a mini golf course; there are programmes for golf putting held in the afternoon with Marina’s entertainment team. There’s also a similar event for ping pong, which gets me wondering – how long might it take to master either of these very skilful sports? More time than I have on board, is the answer. Meanwhile, the sports deck, on deck 15 has areas for shuffleboard and croquet, as well as a jogging track.
Down on deck 12 there’s a Culinary Centre offering hands-on classes, while those who enjoy their arts and crafts can treat themselves to sessions in the Artist Loft enrichment centre. I also investigate La Reserve by Wine Spectator, which provides wine seminars, pairing fine wines with each course. This has three different menus to choose from; Odyssey, at £88pp; the Connoisseur, from £153pp, and La Cuisine Bourgeoise, from £88pp.
There’s a library, on deck 14, as well as the Oceania@Sea internet centre. But it’s quiet, as most people are making the most of the good weather out on the pool deck.
This deck also houses Baristas, a cosy spot for all caffeine lovers, and the Canyon Ranch Spa Club and fitness centre, which holds numerous classes throughout the day.
Entertainment for all
One deck up is Horizons, which is where the partygoers call home; on Sunday there’s a Rock the Boat Dance party with Marina entertainment team and orchestra, as well as late night happy hour, followed by Jukester Jukebox, where guests pick the hits. The classically designed casino on deck 6 is also a favoured spot for nocturnal creatures.
Marina’s entertainment staff are also busy during the day, with a selection of events to suit all tastes, while the spa holds healthy lifestyle seminars. Afternoon tea is also served, featuring the Quadrivium string quartet. Some of the non-hosted events include a Mahjong and card players meet up, and bridge.
Shows and enrichment lectures are held in the Marina Lounge, on deck 5. The lounge, the largest gathering place on the ship, hosts an afternoon at the movies and the main show in the evenings. There is a diverse range, including a ‘Celebrating the songs of Peggy Lee’ on the Friday, and a show from Irish comedian, Billy Boyle.
The atrium, on deck 5, showcases a Night of the Tsars Russian Bazaar on the penultimate night. This has a range of Russian souvenirs on display, as well as advice from Russian folk art experts.
And, those who prefer a more relaxing form of evening entertainment can slip into the Grand Bar or Martinis bar to hear Luigi Fontana on the piano.
In truth, there’s always something happening on the Marina, but a moment of tranquility is also never far away. In a sense, it’s a perfect mixture of activity, good food and relaxation.