During a recent walkthrough of Oceania Marina as it underwent final construction in Genoa, Italy,
Cruise Week spoke with Frank Del Rio, President & CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, to get the lowdown on this upper-premium brand.
With Marina, Oceania is nearly doubling the capacity of previous ships. But Del Rio says passengers will be pleased with the changes. ‘We’re elevating the Oceania experience by improving everything that we can – entertainment, the number of restaurant offerings, and so forth. There is an 80% increase in passenger capacity on Marina but a 120% increase in the size of the ship, so the size makes for a more
comfortable ship. The guest-to-space ratio is much higher on Marina than on our existing vessels.’
Del Rio says the ship will also boast a higher crew-to-passenger ration than on its existing ships, with 800 crew to 1,258 guests.
Marina is the first ship to feature suites appointed with furniture and fabrics from Ralph Lauren’s Home Collection. Del Rio says the line wanted a ‘signature stateroom,’ and selected Ralph Lauren as the American designer whose work best represented what the Oceania brand stands for – ‘casual, timeless elegance.’
While other cruise lines are putting the focus on sourcing passengers from Europe, Oceania seems content with a North American focus. Del Rio says that at this point, it’s just easier that way. ‘It’s not that we’re an American cruise line, it’s that there is so much demand for our product on our own shores. And it’s so efficient to source from [North America] that up to now we have not needed to do a whole lot of sourcing offshore. However, about 15% of Oceania’s business comes from outside the U.S. and Canada, with Australia and New Zealand being our number one non-North American market.’
While one reporter compared Oceania to Crystal as operating ships that are closest to Marina in terms of size and quality, Del Rio says Oceania wasn’t looking specifically to Crystal for inspiration or competition.
‘We are what we are. I believe the majority of our new customers that will come to Marina will not come from Crystal. They’ll come from Holland America, they’ll come from Celebrity, they’ll come from Princess. If you take the upper suites onboard Princess, Celebrity, Holland America and Cunard — just the upper suites — do you know what percentage of those customers I need to fill Marina? 1.2%. So why bother targeting Crystal?’
Del Rio is enthused about the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, a hands-on cooking school that is a centrepiece of Marina’s enrichment program. ‘You’ll go ashore to a market, bring back fresh vegetables and meats and fish, and the chefs actually teach you how to cook,’ says Del Rio.
‘There’ll be 24 individual work stations with your own cook tops, your own ovens, your own pots and pans and knives to slice and dice, and you’ll actually learn to cook. You can take one course, or you can take a series of courses throughout the voyage, so that by the end of your voyage, you are a seasoned chef, or, at least, you’ve learned how to boil water.’
Across the hall from the Culinary Center is the Artist’s Loft. Del Rio says the idea is to always have a resident artist onboard. ‘On one cruise there could be a resident oil painter who will teach you to paint with oil. On the next cruise there could be someone who teaches you how to do sculpture…’
Del Rio says the culinary centre and artist program ties in with the desires of its target customers and the longer duration of its cruises, with 10 days the starting point. ‘We think the idea of the Culinary Center and the Artist’s loft resonates with our customers. They’re way past accumulating things. They’re into experiencing things. They want to learn.’
Marina’s inaugural season is already sold out, and Del Rio sees more growth to come for Oceania. ‘We are primarily a destination-oriented, food-lover’s cruise line, and if you can stay within those parameters and execute flawlessly, the market is huge.”