We are a couple in our sixties and have previously cruised with the cargo-passenger Aranui, Azamara, HAL, NCL, Princess, and Oceania's MS Regatta. We choose the itinerary first and the ship second.
The brand-new MS Riviera is a gorgeous ship with stylish decor, splendid art, a friendly crew and outstanding restaurants. Her country club casual atmosphere suited us well because it made for manageable luggage and a relaxing cruise.
Our stateroom (8020) was nicely appointed with good storage, sufficient electrical outlets, excellent reading lights at the very comfortable bed, and a truly beautiful bathroom with a separate shower with glass door and two shower heads, and a bathtub with another shower. Our two attendants IWayan and Dwi quickly adapted to our schedule and made up the room right after we left for breakfast and dinner. We always came back to a spotless room. There is only one thing I would change: The safe is too high up in the cupboard for my 5'2''.
Not only the stateroom attendants but also the staff in the various venues was wonderful. All the waiters were very attentive. I was particularly impressed that the supervisors pitched in whenever necessary. They directed staff, but also bussed tables and helped out in any which way needed.
The taste of food is subjective; however, the MS Riviera's cuisine got rave reviews not only from us but from every passenger with whom we ever shared a table. There was daily lobster and seafood of all kinds, escargot, caviar, turkey, ham, goose, duck, and a long list of deliciously prepared French, Asian fusion (my favorite), Italian and American dishes plus an extensive and sumptuous breakfast buffet - don't forget the berries and the genuine baguette. We could discuss whether Jacques' boeuf bourguignon or Red Ginger's crisp duck on water melon salad was more delicious. I could not decide whether I liked the Terrace Cafe or the Grand Dining room better. With such great selections, I avoided the burgers and fries in The Waves which is an enormously popular casual restaurant near the pool.
We found the entertainment to be surprisingly enjoyable although we did not attend many of the shows which started too late for us at 9:30 pm. The four young singers of the Jean Ann Ryan group hit the right notes, Lawrence has a powerful voice with amazing range, and the Ukrainian dance couple gave exceptional performances as well. Cruise Director Nolan Dean is a great entertainer with a sometimes wicked sense of humor. However, he dropped the ball on the initial arrangements for Bridge - as in card game. My husband decided instead to avail himself of the fine selection of books in the small library. I liked social hostess Natalie's embroidery group and especially the free classes offered by Zana and Anita, two delightful and talented Australian artists from Sydney. By the way, the cooking classes across the hallway from the studio were always fully booked and I heard only good things about them.
As I said above, our main reason for cruising are the itineraries. I booked the Mayan Mystique cruise specifically for the option to go to Tikal and other Mayan ruins through the ship's excursion desk. Tikal was absolutely fantastic and the Guatemalan company used by Oceania did a great job. This excursion was well worth its high price. In Belize, we went to the Lamanai ruins, another Mayan highlight in a jungle inhabited by howler monkeys. I will never forget their outraged howling from high up in the trees because humans invaded their territory. However, and now comes the downside, in the future, I expect Oceania to strongly impress on the local operator to put their busses in safe driving order before they head out. We were shocked that the driver basically drove blind with broken windshield wipers through two tropical downpours. Luckily, all our other excursion busses were fine with very informative guides -- including the guides in Belize.
I am sorry to add more criticism to excursion desk management. We had delays in some port arrivals and I really did not mind those. After all, weather and local authorities do not always cooperate. However, is it too much to ask from an excursion desk staff member to show up in the Riviera Lounge at the time printed on our tour tickets? A timely update was called for, but not always provided.
One more thing: bow thrusters. Every time they were used, and that is not only to maneuver to and from a pier but also to maintain the ship's position at anchor when tendering, the main dining room shook and vibrated like crazy. My husband was surprised that the ship was commissioned that way as these vibrations are not only very uncomfortable, they definitely will have a negative effect on the longevity of the ship.
On the Mayan Mystique cruise in the Western Caribbean, passengers were our age or older. On the following Island Holiday cruise in the Eastern Caribbean, the average age was younger. All children and teenagers aboard were so well-behaved that we barely noticed them. Most of the adult passengers were friendly, well-travelled and on their best behavior. A few were extremely picky, for example the lady who complained to the executive chef that her favorite brand of Greek yoghurt was not stocked despite the 15 e-mails she had sent. The ship had provided a different brand. Two other passengers were standing by, waiting to congratulate the chef on the high quality of the ship's cuisine.
Overall, this cruise experience was very enjoyable. The MS Riviera has outstanding food, excellent service and a very friendly ambiance. I will definitely continue to recommend Oceania ships to my friends and neighbors.