ABOARD THE OCEANIA MARINA — As much as we ‘d like to sleep through the first hours of our Oceania Marina Baltic Cruise, the lifeboat drill interrupting our nap has us fully awake. We might as well unpack before grabbing something to eat before sacking out again. Finding places to store clothing takes longer than normal since many of the drawers and shelves are not in the traditional places, near the closet.
It’s a novel stateroom design, with drawers scattered throughout the stateroom. The computer desk, located near the veranda door and opposite the closet, is an unexpected storehouse for clothing with several side shelves and deep drawers. The hunt-and-seek for storage may reflect the imaginative design needed to squeeze both a bathtub and shower stall in our 282-square-foot stateroom.
The Terrace Café is our choice for dinner. Serving ourselves should be faster than any other dining option including room service. The Terrace Café is surprisingly empty, perhaps because most passengers have gone to sleep, are seated in the main dining room or sampling one of the Marina’s five specialty restaurants.
With so few people present, we easily find a window table for two. It has a good view of the Marina’s passage through the Stockholm archipelago, a cluster of islands and rocks bordering the channel to the Baltic Sea. The larger landfalls, popular summer vacation spots, contain good-sized homes.
At the buffet, Linda is elated to find fresh sushi and sashimi in the salad bar section. I’m more interested in the cafe grill preparing cooked-to-order steaks and lobster tails. I have a Caesar salad made while waiting for the meat to cook. Since the Terrace Café serves many of the items on the main dining room, it becomes a favorite dining spot. As we will discover, the café is more relaxing than the main dining room with its harried waiters and sometimes long waits between courses. Besides, in the cafe it’s easy to combine several entrees or quickly replace a disappointing one with another and not disrupt the pace of anyone else’s meal.
Back in our cabin, a card placed on a bed pillow contains the unwelcome news that we’ll lose an hour of sleep because the Marina will move into a new time zone tonight. How much sleep we’re likely to get is debatable. Jet lag is bound to play havoc with us. What a foolish mistake to take that nap before the boat drill. Better to have stayed awake until after the drill, ordered room service and then called it a day without much unpacking. Sleep, wonderful sleep, so taken for granted.
Not unexpectedly, I awake the next morning at 6 a.m., four hours before we arrive in Helsinki. I decide to check out the concierge lounge before breakfast. The lounge, accessible 24 hours with my room card, won’t be staffed until around 8 a.m. About the size of two inside cabins. The lounge is well arranged, with a desk near the entrance door with a computer for anyone on the concierge deck. On this trip, it’s not likely to be in much demand considering the free internet bonus in our cabins.
Beside the computer is a small stack of Helsinki maps. These same maps will be available downstairs later when we disembark but at almost all other Baltic ports, the concierge lounge contains better, more detailed city maps than any brought aboard by local tourist boards. The Marina’s daily newsletter doesn’t include port maps so it essential to find one somewhere before leaving the ship.
The rest of the lounge is laid out to resemble a mini-book library combined with a reading room. Full size copies of today’s editions of one major newspaper from the U.S., Canadian and British are displayed on a table in front of a sofa just beneath a large flat screen TV. Behind the TV is a long counter stocked with chilled juice dispensers, coffee and tea as well as pastries and cookies. Although various web sites claim the concierge lounge serves daytime sandwiches and evening canapés, it has only cookies and pastries during our trip. Unlike concierge lounges in many high end hotels, wine and beer are not served in the evening, either. Except to read a newspaper or to consult the concierge staff about what to see while in port the facility doesn’t offer any reason for passengers to visit. For concierge class, the lounge isn’t much of a perk.
I glance at my watch. Time for Linda to get up and for us to head to breakfast before arriving in Helsinki.
Read more about Tim and Linda’s travels at his blog site, Travels with Tim O’Keefe