This was indeed a great cruise and Oceania Riviera delivered on most of the "hype" you read. My mistake was to read too much of the reviews and cruise critic stuff so I think I was just too excited and the cruise line and ship couldn't possibly live up to those expectations. So the moral of the story, don't spend too much time devouring the cruise critic message boards! Sorry, Cruise Critic! We booked an outside guarantee for three and were delighted to board the ship with a balcony room (THANK YOU). The ship was new and beautiful, although like a previous reviewers, I thought the artwork a bit too avant guarde, not really that enjoyable to look at, but it didn't affect my cruise. And the Grand Bar was almost empty, while the adjacent Martini bar was overcrowded, maybe they should look into combining them.
The dinner food and choices of restaurants was excellent. Except for Toscana, the three of us had absolutely marvelous dinners. Red Ginger and Polo truly stood out for us, especially the entire Red Ginger experience, from ambiance of the space, to the food selections, food quality, and service. Breakfast at the Terrace cafe was standard cruise fare and actually so was the dining room. We started eating lunch in the Grand Dining Room too late, they were great. Terrace Cafe sort of standard lunch buffet, except for the grill. We loved the burgers at Waves, disappointed by the famous surf and turf sandwich (they really didn't go together) and the shakes (no taste). The breakfasts and lunches at the buffet weren't unsatisfactory, just not a great as I had anticipated.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Jeanne Anne Ryan dancers and the clarinet virtuoso. He was fantastic. Two of us took the brunch cooking class and it was great, as was the instructor Chef Annie Copps.
Our biggest disappointment was missing out on Amalfi/Positano and Taormina, Sicily. It was too rough for Amalfi and Naples was substituted. At least we got to do and see something that day. We were anchored at Taormina on a gorgeous day, sunny, no white caps, etc. The ship decided the swells were too big and cancelled the stop. I think Oceania should have contingency plans for this kind of issue. Other times on other lines excursion boats from shore were used to tender people instead of the ship's lifeboat tenders. That might have alleviated the concerns. With a cruise that had as many potential tender stops as this one, it could be possible that you can't go to half of the places you booked the cruise for! Very disappointing, as we booked this as a once in a lifetime 25th anniversary cruise and it is unlikely we will do it again.
The ports were all wonderful, Venice, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Corfu, Cinque Terre especially.
While the food, service, and cabin were all really really excellent, for the money we spent we could go on two really nice cruises on HAL or Celebrity with a better cabin than we usually book (guess the balcony spoiled us!) and pay for a few specialty meals for the price of one Oceania cruise. If the itinerary was unique, we would cruise them again. Please don't hesitate to sail with Oceania if the money is not an issue.