Let me get it off my chest first: I absolutely hated, detested and loathed the 24/7 recorded "music" blaring forth on the lido deck and, now, on RIVIERA, even from under the plastic rocks on the putting green. What can Oceania be thinking? "My World My Way" and they force you to listen to this drivel? A line that has banished, for all good reason, Yards of Gold, Art Auctions, endless PA annoucements, children (well for all intents and purposes) yet seems intent on emulating Carnival with this stuff. TURN IT OFF NOW!
Ah that felt good and now to the positive stuff:
It's all good: six cruises on REGATTA, one on MARINA and our first on RIVIERA and it's as close to perfect as one can hope.
CUISINE: better than QM2 Queens Grill. Superb. And for good reason, it's the main selling point and where most (maybe a wee bit too much) attention is focused. As if it can be improved on, there are 76 new menu items and each one is primo. And it's superb in all venues, too. I detest "lido" dining on most lines and for good reason, on Oceania it's irresistable and done with flair and ease. If one had to carp, the service in the Grand Dining Room can be slow... we gave up on breakfast and lunch there beause of the time and the fact it was so beautifully rendered in the Terrace Cafe and Waves. All-inclusive drinks package isn't cheap at $56 pp per day but the stuff is top-notch and the regular prices high. My wife's gluten free diet, after a rough start, was graciously and effectively accommodated, Ernesto, the asst Maitre d' was diligent and delightful.
SERVICE: hands down, the best crew on the High Seas... on RIVIERA and throughout the fleet. We feel like coming home with so many welcoming and familiar faces from our past cruises. Just a super, super group of folks.. we enjoy chatting with them more than most of the passengers. It really galls me when you hear more than a few passengers, mostly newcomers to Oceania, treat them as faceless nobodies with nary a please or thank you. They are the heart and soul of the Oceania Experience.
SHIP: big improvement on MARINA in decor (much lighter and less flashy) and very welcome higher ceilings in the Polo and Toscana restaurants and library (the best afloat). Martini's, the prime watering hole, is much better laid out as well. Proof a "big" ship (compared to our beloved little REGATTA) need not feel like one. Can be a bit congested around the pool on sea days. And they really blew it by not accommodating a proper walk-around promenade deck. Love the putting green, croquet and shuffleboard facilities. Great seaboat in all weathers, stiff and quiet. Having only two lifts aft where all the dining is located isn't very bright.
CABIN: got upgraded at the last minute from a B4 to A4 Concierge Cabin for a modest amount. Worth it? Maybe. The access to the Spa Terrace was nice but that's often closed because of wind on sea days. And surprisingly, there is zero service up there. But we were close to the Concierge Lounge which was pleasant enough with free goodies but who wants to spend time in a windowless space like this? Apparently lots of folks as it was remarkably busy. Gorgeous bathrooms (I've had smaller entire cabins on FRANCE and RAFFAELLO!) but that separate shower stall is too confining especially after two weeks of Oceania cooking. Sinfully comfortable bed.
OTHER STUFF: immaculately clean throughout thanks to unheralded and unnoticed (and largely unappreciated) folks like Nora from Burma, one of the public room cleaners whom we had the pleasure of getting to know.
So thanks Oceania and RIVIERA crew for another great time and yes we booked the same cruise for next year..... just PLEASE TURN OFF THE CANNED MUSIC ON DECK!