Passengers:1,250 World's Best 2016 Awards Rank: #6 Large Ocean Ship Best for: Couples looking next-level culinary experiences, both on and off the ship
Sails: The British Isles, Central America, Hawaii, the Mediterranean, Mexico, New England and Canada, Northern Europe, South America, the South Pacific
At a Glance: A Travel + Leisure World’s Best 2016 winner, placing sixth in the Large Ocean Ship category. Launched in 2011, this food-focused vessel was the first built specifically for Oceania, and it shows: Expect a long lineup of cooking classes in the Culinary Center, multiple obsession-worthy restaurants, and a stellar tasting room.
For a ship of this size, the staterooms, most swathed in earth tones and greys, are among the roomiest at sea. Cabins range from 174 square feet for an Inside Stateroom to 282-square-feet for a Veranda Stateroom to more than 2,000-square-feet for the Owner’s Suites. The latter are furnished in Ralph Lauren Home Collection and come with a music room and two whirlpools—one inside and one on the teak veranda. Suite passengers get lots of perks, including 24/7 butler service and room service from any of the ship’s restaurants, including specialty dining rooms like Red Ginger and Jacques.
Executive culinary director Jacques Pépin has always had a huge influence on Oceania’s cuisine, but Marina was the first ship to introduce Jacques, a bistro-like restaurant helmed by and named for the legendary chef. The menu is filled with Pépin’s takes on traditional French fare, such as duck foie gras terrine with quince jelly and bouillabaisse. Like most of the other specialty restaurants onboard, you don’t have to pay extra to eat here, though you will need to make a reservation. Passengers can also sample some of Pépin’s dishes at the Grand Dining Room, which offers several of his signature creations (herb-crusted rotisserie chicken, poached salmon) each night. Other specialty restaurants include Toscana, which has an entire menu dedicated to just Italian balsamics and olive oils, and Polo Grill, which features classic steakhouse fare like oysters Rockefeller and prime rib. Perhaps the most popular restaurant of the bunch is the Asian-inspired Red Ginger; the miso-glazed sea bass is utterly addictive. For a fee, you can experience a wine-paired dinner at La Reserve by Wine Spectator. During the day, it functions as a tasting room, but at night, passengers arrive for wine-paired dishes like caviar d’Aquitaine with cream of sea urchin and slow-braised short rib. Even the buffet restaurant, Terrace Grill, is excellent, with an outdoor seating area and dishes that go far beyond the typical carving stations and pastas: Think forest sushi, steak, lobster tails, and Dover sole meunière. Don’t miss afternoon tea in the Horizons observation lounge, where white-jacket-clad roll carts piled with scones, pastries, and finger sandwiches through the Horizons observation lounge. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s worth coming for the view, a pot of Earl Grey, and the chance to listen to the string quartet play.
Lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, the light-strewn Culinary Center is a stunning place to take classes in regional cuisines (Italian, Greek, French, Spanish) or basic technique (seafood, pastries). You’ll also find outstanding classes in the Artist’s Loft, where an artist-in-residence teaches everything from oils to watercolors to collages.
Even if you’re not into organized excursions, it’s worth splurging on the Culinary Discovery Tours. In Marseille, for example, you might tour a market in Aix-en-Provence with the chef from the ship’s Culinary Center, then head into the countryside to Hotel Auberge de Feniere for a cooking demonstration and a life-changing outdoor Provençal feast created by Michelin-starred chef Reine Sammut.
When passengers aren’t exploring a new port, they’re hanging out on the stunning teak pool deck, where sun beds and terry-cloth-covered lounge chairs flank a blue-tiled heated pool and two whirlpools. If you’d like, you can even grab a Cuban sandwich or salmon burger from Waves Grill for lunch. Bibliophiles will spend cloudy days in the ship’s elegant English-style library with its cozy alcoves, faux fireplaces, and cushy leather armchairs. (There are more than 2,000 magazines and books on the shelves.) Perhaps the most dramatic space is the Lalique Grand Staircase, which has balustrades of scrolled iron and crystal medallions. It’s fronted by a crystal “cactus table” topped with a Lalique vase. After dinner, channel James Bond in Martinis, a clubby bar with a piano and more than 20 types of martinis, including—what else?—the 007).