Riviera was my 132nd cruise. 1st cruise was in 1971 on QE2 when she was practically new and took 130 subsequently including in recent years the luxury lines like Seabourn, Crystal, Silversea, and Regent. My favorite ship of all time was Home Lines SS Oceanic which when she sailed with a reduced passenger list in the winter was the epitome of luxury at sea for a very affordable price.
My disappointment some years back with a standard balcony stateroom on Azamara Quest made me avoid the same R class ships on Oceania. But now came Marina and Riviera, hence my desire to finally sail with them.
I would say at the outset that Riviera is a positively stunning ship. Yes, they botched the opportunity for a traditional promenade and the blue rubber decking on Deck 14 is a turnoff. But all in all an absolutely gorgeous ship. And the food ? 95% of what they claim, one could want for little more. The quality, variety, presentation, the very best.
Just one issue, a major issue, the service! Amongst the 132 cruises now completed, surely one of the top three for the very worst for service along with MSC Orchestra and Norwegian Sun. Given there is a great crew to passenger ratio on Riviera, unlike the other two vessels mentioned, then likely the worst ?
I will not laundry list every service breakdown/letdown from the entire 10 days but mention just a few.
First, embarking the ship. Very disappointed that with a ship of this quality and the price it commands no one is there, no stewards are lined up to show you to your stateroom. Find your own way like on any other mass market mega class vessel. First impressions are important!
Head up to the Terrace Cafe for a quick bite before lifeboat drill. Never asked by anyone what my companion and I would like to drink. I suppose I could have shouted out for a waiter but I wanted to see what actually would happen. Bottom line, never asked.
First night, cabin not cleaned up for the evening until 10pm. This situation was to repeat itself two more times during the cruise and given that we generally returned from dinner at 930pm (not into cruise ship shows) was a real inconvenience while we sat there awkwardly waiting for things to be done.
First full day at sea and again repeated, this case 3 other times, cabin not cleaned up for the day until 1-1:30pm, despite leaving the little card on the attachment for such outside the cabin door requesting clean up as we left to exercise and breakfast each morning.
Enjoy a glass of OJ like most everyone in the morning. Half the time offered, half the time required to ask for, only once offered to refill.
Walked into the Terrace Cafe one evening for dinner at 8pm. Not its busiest time surely, indicate to Maitre'd overseeing things our desire for a table for two and what does he do ? Takes us to an empty, unset table of six while numerous set and empty tables of two are amply abundant.
Report a non-working toilet. Told it will be immediately attended to but 45 minutes later no one there. Call again, purser's office expresses surprise. Bottom line, ball was dropped.
Last night of cruise in Polo Grill shown to a table for two with a 730pm reservation. Shown to a table for two which is in total darkness due lack of any lighting above nor from adjacent areas. Complain to the maitre'd in Pollo who is quite unsympathetic and hands me a flashlight Finally after a 5 minute argument, he shows us to an empty table of 4 in another area of the restaurant where we are able to read our menus.
Finally, the morning of debarkation, set my cell phone for an early wake-up. Much to my surprise the little alarm clock on the bedside table goes off at 615am despite my never having set it once during the cruise. Obviously, the cabin stewardess wanted us out of their early and took it upon herself to set the clock. We all know cruise lines treat you like excess luggage the final day of the cruise, but set your alarm when not asked to do so ? Brought back memories on my cruise on Royal Caribbean's Nordic Prince in the mid-70s when the steward took a key and tapped on everybody's door in his area at 6am to make sure they were up and out of their cabins early.
Bottom line, if you are expecting a luxury experience with service to match that found on lines like Seabourn or Crystal, you are likely to be disappointed.
If you are trading up from a line like Celebrity or Holland America,keep your expectaions in check.