The Riviera is still less than one year old, and this is our second time on this beauty. We chose the ship for the length of the cruise, the luxuries of food and wine and amenities of a six star floating hotel and the warm climate. Having been to many islands in the Caribbean a number of times before on land and sea vacations, they, with the exception of pricey and St Tropez-like St. Bart's, are all the same to us and have frankly very little appeal. Most of the ports we did not get off the ship and found the ship more open and relaxing until the excursion people returned around lunch.
Most of the ports we visited were on the smaller size, with very few if any other ships in port or tendering (once) when we were there, and this is important. If one likes to be with thousands of fellow travelers "cruising" up and down the duty free jewelry and liquor store laden streets of the Caribbean ports, disgorged from their mega ships crisscrossing the Caribbean these days, looking for bargain watches and jewels, this would not have been the cruise for you.
So put the ports we visited aside. This floating hotel is just gorgeous, and a cruise on it a very relaxing and enjoyable vacation.
Its famous artwork throughout the ship, all hand selected by the Oceania CEO Frank Del Rio, is still unique and stunning, although now competing with and marred considerably by the displayed commercial art and auction that have now made their way onto this ship. We can only hope this was a one off and will not appear again on Oceania because in our view it brings the classiness of Oceania down to the level of the ordinary lower tier cruise lines that have sold their souls to the devil years ago to gain another revenue stream by offering this "art".
The food in the MDR is wonderful and very tasty, with wide selection, great service and excellent presentation. Oceania came through again as offering the best food and dining at sea. The menus are interesting, varied and constantly changed. The food in the four specialty restaurants is also excellent, with Jacques' frogs legs, escargots and foie gras appetizers still our favorites. Oceania gives you some real French waiters in their French restaurant and some real Italians in their Italian restaurant Toscana, unlike some competitors, so there is a feel of genuine authenticity in those, as well as in the Asian fusion Red Ginger. Polo is a very good American style steakhouse.
Breakfasts we only take in the MDR since we do not need to be reminded there are 1250 passengers onboard, crowding, overloading their plates and elbowing their way through the double buffet lines in the buffet Terrace restaurant. At breakfast and lunch the MDR gives one a much more intimate feeling, and the service is superb. At lunch the outdoor grill Wave is just fine for some of the best grilled, fresh to order, hamburgers and their cousins at sea if one does not want to change from wet bathing suits. With waiter service to your tables.
We take advantage of the optional wine and liquor package Oceania offers, which for a very reasonable daily fee, if one likes plenty to drink all day while on holiday at all bars and restaurants, of good quality champagnes (Perrier Jouet) and wines and all alcoholic drinks of all brands, and this is a big plus for us since Oceania instituted this policy last year. This optional feature really raises Oceania up a notch in this feature equal to its competition like Seabourn, Regent, Silversea and Crystal who offer free drinks in their set all inclusive prices
The concierge cabin we had was very nice of just under 300 Sq Ft, with nice verandas, while the sliding door closet is a little tight on a long cruise but manageable. A walk in closet like Seabourn offers would be nicer in this level cabin, but the square footage of the cabin does not allow that. But, excellent Seabourn is at a different price point for their basic larger cabin. For a walk in closet on Riviera you have to go up one grade to a PH. There is this concierge lounge included, but I was in it only once and my wife never. So we cannot comment on what the concierge does for one with extra reservations, etc. They do have printed copies of major newspapers there however if one wants to read the papers daily and refreshments.
The cabin bathrooms are well designed, with separate shower and tub. To us, the separate tub on all these cruise ships is a giant waste of space since hardly anyone we know ever uses it. Much better if cruise ships took that space and instead put in double sinks.
The sliding cabin glass door to the veranda are double plated, insulated and keep the sun and heat out quite well.
The entertainment on a 14 day cruise included 3 different, high quality production numbers featuring an excellent troupe of eight dancers, and some singers too. Best speciality dance team we have ever seen. Much better than what most other less than mega ships provide nowadays. I have to say my wife and I wish Oceania changed the shows a little more often, since we saw these same shows with different performers six months ago on the Riviera in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, they were very enjoyable, with high quality performers, even a second time. Excellent pianist in very convivial Martini's lounge..
The excursions? What can one say since after all it is the Caribbean. Accordingly we took none, having been there and done that sort of thing before on previous island cruises and lad vacations. Yet there were many who did.
The captain, the general manager and their staff are very competent. The dining room management does an excellent job, with Drago, Darko, Mathieu, Ernesto and Lukman - some of the best we have ever seen at sea. The head chef Alexis knows what he is doing, and the Oceania Executive Pastry Chef Olivier Simone was onboard supervising the fine desserts coming out each day and devising some new ones. Both are French and know their stuff. Pieter the head sommelier is very nice and knowledgeable, as is the 19 person staff he supervises, particularly Geraldine.
Fellow passengers among the 1250 were mostly Americans, with a lot of Brits, and Canadians down from the cold up north. Some from elsewhere abroad. We were never given the breakdown. The usual mix of mostly older passengers on board in their 70's and 80's, but this time I would have to comment we noticed more wheel chairs and walkers than we have before, but that could be us someday. There were thank God some younger people on board and thankfully no children running around.
The seas were extremely well behaved, and with 5 sea days, this was highly appreciated. The ship rides very nicely in the waters, with very little and hardly noticeable occasional rolling and no pitching, at least on this cruise. And no cabin creaking noises. Every day on the cruise was sunny, except part of one sea day.
A brief, but important note about Oceania's NO SMOKING POLICY. They are to be applauded in that they view smoking as a serious safety and health risk and do not permit smoking in the cabins, on the verandas or anywhere else on the ship, including bars and casino, except in a few designated locations mostly outdoors and away from other passengers so the smoke is not a nuisance or a problem for others. Second hand smoke presents a serious health threat to non smokers, as well as smoking and lighting matches being a safety risk at sea, as the vast majority of cruise lines today acknowledge. My wife and I and fellow passengers with whom we talked about this very serious problem only wish that Oceania competitors Crystal and Seabourn would come around to this point of view. They are the last two holdouts. Seabourn, from what we have heard seems to be taking smoking in cabins under review, but Crystal seems adamant in not changing and thereby exposing their passengers who do not smoke to the nastiness of second hand smoke as well as the risks of fire at sea, and cancer, by allowing smoking in parts of enclosed bars and in cabins. Very nasty and dangerous habit others have to endure because the smoke travels. Bravo Oceania for having the courage and good sense to put the health and safety of your passengers first above all other considerations.
All in all, Oceania still gets very high marks from us. This is our fourth Oceania cruise, with a fifth scheduled. Lots of others thought so too, with the advance booking office on board constantly busy.