Oceania Marina arrives in Miami

Oceania Cruises newest ship, the Oceania Marina, arrives at the Port of Miami on Feb. 4, 2011. The Marina is the cruise line's fourth ship, and the first built from scratch for the company. A sister ship, the Oceania Riviera, is still under construction, set to debut in 2012. (OCEANIA CRUISES)

This report is based on a three-night preview cruise for media, travel agents, business associates and VIPs. With about 1,150 guests, the ship was nearly full, but not crowded. Service was friendly; there were some slip-ups, but they were minor and probably could be attributed to the newness of the ship.

Marina has two specialty restaurants, Jacques and Red Ginger, not on Oceania's smaller ships; two specialty restaurants from its older ships, Toscana and the Polo Grill; the Grand Dining Room, the Terrace Cafe (pool deck buffet) and Waves (pool deck grill).

Reservations in all restaurants are staggered, just like in shore-side restaurants — there is no all-at-once seating. Over the course of a cruise, guests are guaranteed a dinner in each of the four specialty restaurants; they may also be able to reserve tables on other nights, although guests in the suites have first crack at extra nights in the specialty restaurants.

Jacques features classic French dishes such as Dover sole, veal stew, Coquilles St. Jacques, roast chicken, steak frite, two preparations of duck foie gras and escargot in a garlicky cream sauce under puff pastry. On the evening I dined at Jacques, guests lingered, mopping up puddles of sauce and bits of foie gras with their bread.

The big surprise is Red Ginger, which serves a variety of creatively composed Asian dishes such as tiny medallions of lobster served on raw tuna and thin crisp slices of lotus root; spicy caramelized tiger prawns; an Asian-spiced lamb tenderloin with kohlrabi puree; and an unexpectedly subtle and delicious chocolate-lemongrass creme brulee..

"When we started designing Marina, we wanted an Asian restaurant to round out the repertoire," del Rio said. "We figured Red Ginger would be an afterthought" that guests would book only after they had reserved a table at Jacques, then the steakhouse and Italian restaurant. "But if the first sailing, the transatlantic cruise, was any indication, (Red Ginger) is no. 1."

Polo Grill is an English-style steakhouse with various cuts of 28-day aged beef, veal, lamb, free-range pork, lobster, scampi and mahi mahi; classic appetizers and sides like crabcake, oysters Rockefeller, creamed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. Toscano serves pastas, risottos and such main courses as lobster fra diavolo, grilled veal chop with a terrific porcini sauce, pan-seared sea bass and veal marsala. The Grand Dining Room — the main dining room — offers Continental cuisine plus lighter, healthier dishes from Canyon Ranch, including at least nine entrees at dinner.

Also new:

—Baristas, a no-fee coffee bar serving specialty coffee drinks.

—Privee, a private dining room with a spectacular red and white table that seats up to 10 guests. There is no extra charge for the customized eight- or nine-course menu, but there is a $1,000 fee for the room; wine is extra.

—La Reserve by Wine Spectator, a 24-seat dining room which again carries no fee for the seven-course meal, but does charge $89.50 for the wines served with each course.

Marina has 625 staterooms, all but 34 of which have balconies. The basic verandah stateroom, of which there are 444, is roomy at 248 square feet plus a 36-square-foot balcony. Two-hundred of the verandah staterooms include access to a Concierge Lounge. The cabin has a queen bed, sofa, desk and coffee table, flat-screen TV with DVD player, minibar, safe, lounge chairs on the balcony, and a decent amount of drawer and closet space. The marble-and-granite bathroom has a bump-your-elbows shower stall with a rain-shower fixture that will bang anyone 6 feet tall in the head. A separate, full-size tub has a hand-held shower but no curtains or doors to keep water from spraying all over. Amenities are from Bvlgari.

Other staterooms:

—Three Owner's suites at the rear of the ship span its width and total more than 2,000 square feet each. These suites have a music room, living room and dining area and a small fitness room. Decor is by Ralph Lauren Home.

—Eight Vista suites overlook the bow and measure 1,200-1,500 square feet, including a large living room. Twelve Oceania suites measure 1,000 square feet. Both the Vista and Oceania suites were designed by Dakota Jackson, known for his high-end furniture.

—The Owner's, Oceania and Vista suites all have 24-hour butler service, walk-in closets, king beds, big-screen TVs, and jacuzzis in the master baths and on the verandahs.

—The ship also has 124 penthouse suites with 420 square feet and 24-hour butler service.

—On the smaller side, Marina has 20 oceanview staterooms that are the same as the verandah staterooms minus the balconies, and 14 inside cabins at 174 square feet.

All Oceania ships have a Canyon Ranch Spa, but unlike the spas on the smaller ships — and on most ships of any line — all guests have free access to the spa lounge, sauna, steam room and hot tubs. They do not have to buy a day pass or a treatment to use the facilities. This is a bonus because the deck of the spa lounge is one of the best quiet spots on the ship.

A sampling of treatments: basic massage, $141 for 50 minutes; Euphoric Coffee Scrub, $143 for 50 minutes; bikini wax, $45; 80-minute couples deep-tissue massage, $485. There is also a hair and nail salon.