Gray, overcast skies transformed into bright, sunny blue last Friday, just in time for the christening and float-out of Oceania’s new 65,000-ton Marina at Fincantieri’s Sestri Ponente yard in Genoa, Italy. Oceania executives were clearly buoyant in celebrating this important step in the launch process for the high-end premium line’s first new build.
Stressing this is “a history-making day,” Frank Del Rio, chairman and CEO, Prestige Cruise Holdings, the parent company of Oceania Cruises, told a crowd of invited guests that “today is one of those days that makes living so special.” Attendees included maritime officials, frequent cruisers, cruise line executives, the news media and key trade partners including Brad Anderson of America’s Vacation Center; Terri Burke of Cruise Planners; and Greg Nacco of Cruise Specialists.
He stressed that the 1,258-guest Marina is not a cookie cutter vessel. He also said it’s the perfect ship to complement the line’s trio of existing smaller vessels, the 684-guest Regatta, Insignia and Nautica. About twice as large as those vessels, Marina will feature a similar onboard product to please Oceania’s frequent guests, but it will deliver that product with more space and some new features as well – such as the addition of La Reserve, an intimate indoor-outdoor wine tasting venue for a maximum of 24 guests.
Marina’s pier-side shipyard christening ceremony included remarks by Fincantieri officials, Del Rio and a priest who provided the blessing. Silvia Ferrando, the shipyard manager’s wife, served as “matina” or shipyard godmother. A bottle of bubbly was dropped and shattered against the ship’s hull to complete the christening.
The float out process is now under way and will take several days as the drydock slowly fills with water. At this stage the 16-deck ship is essentially bare steel. Interior outfitting – the addition of accommodations and public space walls, appointments, furniture, soft goods and design features -- will occur in the coming months.
After the brief christening and float-out ceremony, Oceania’s President Bob Binder delighted the crowd by announcing that Oceania’s next ship will be named Riviera; this sister ship to Marina will also be built by Fincantieri. So guests then headed across the yard to witness the first piece of steel being cut for Riviera. Many VIPs signed the steel before it was cut.
Oceania has an option with Fincantieri for a third ship; that option expires later this year. While Del Rio didn’t commit to a decision for ordering a third ship, he did tell the christening crowd that “There’s only one thing better than one new ship and that’s two new ships” before wryly remarking: “They say great things come in threes.”
During our Friday visit to the shipyard, Del Rio, Binder and other executives also gave Travel Agent and other invited guests and media a hard-hat tour inside Marina. Given its bare-bones steel appearance, large renderings were displayed around the ship to help reporters visualize the spaces. Here are a few tidbits from our tour.
For example, the Grand Dining Room will seat 566 guests and have a more elegant, contemporary look than the other ships’ dining rooms. The new venue is the tallest (20 to 30 feet) single story dining room at sea; windows too will be seven-feet in height. Special insulation and floor materials are designed to minimize noise in the dining room.
The outdoor pool deck will have curtains at the windows, somewhat unusual for a pool deck, but that’s designed to carry the residential feel outdoors. The Culinary Center, unlike those on many other ships, actually is a hands-on facility with 24 individual cooking stations. Guests participating in classes will cook at their own cooking station equipped with a cooktop, oven, pots, pans and utensils. Bon Appetit magazine is creating the curriculum.
Del Rio says the Marina Lounge will be the spot for full-scale, fresh production shows. He also said Oceania has hired a company to produce those shows, but declined to identify it, noting an announcement will be made in the coming weeks.
During our time in Genoa, we were able to get a sneak peek at two Marina stateroom mock-ups – one for a Veranda cabin and one for a Penthouse Suite. Tasteful colors of blue, brown and cream tones are prominent and the carpeting is light in coloring rather than bold. Del Rio says he prefers to create a residential feel to his line’s cabins and thus the carpeting is pleasing on the eyes.
“Soothing but fashionable…and tasteful” is Del Rio’s description of the stateroom décor. Del Rio said he wants guests to feel they’re staying in their own luxury private estate rather than in a boutique hotel. Thus, Oceania listened carefully to past guests in creating enhancements for its accommodations.
For example, the line added more space between the bed and closet in the Veranda cabin. That cabin is also 282 square feet, one third larger than balcony cabins on the line’s other ships. Veranda cabin staterooms boast floor to ceiling windows and the following features: a Tranquility Bed with 700-thread count linens; refrigerated mini-bar with free and unlimited soft drinks and bottled water; a full size bathtub; 24-hour room service; use of cotton robes and slippers; French-milled toiletries; LCD flat screen television; Grohe handheld shower head; security safe; hair dryer; direct dial satellite phone and cellular service; and 110/220 volt outlets.
Guests in concierge level veranda staterooms also have a laptop computer with WiFi access (Internet usage fees apply). Concierge level veranda staterooms have many other amenities and privileges.
Reporters also toured a Penthouse Suite mock-up; Marina has 124 of these suites. This 420-square-foot suite has a boutique hotel feel. We liked the trendy “squarish” chairs and small table at the foot of the bed, as well as a separate window in the living area (offering additional natural light and views beyond the balcony doors).
The suite has a separate living/dining area including a rich-looking desk area; an armoire/make-up area with wall-mounted flat screen television and mirror; a marble/granite bathroom with separate shower and tub; and a large walk-in closet.
We’ll detail more of our perspective on what’s new with Marina’s interior in an upcoming article in Travel Agent magazine. Meanwhile, staterooms and suites are selling like hotcakes; Marina is already 90 percent sold for its 2011 inaugural season. Approximately 90 percent of guests on Oceania’s ships hail from Canada and the United States.
In terms of branding, Oceania strives to provide a country-club casual feel, yet with many elegant touches, excellent service and fine cuisine. In talking to reporters, Del Rio said all great brands can be described in one word. His view for what Oceania represents? It’s simple, he says: “Taste.”
All photos by Susan J. Young.