My husband and I are experienced cruisers -- previously having sailed aboard Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival. We decided to try a more luxury experience and selected the Oceania Riviera. Since I pored over the Cruise Critic reviews prior to booking, I feel it's my turn now to try to assist other travelers. We were quite disappointed with our cruise experience and will try to point out the pros and cons below.
1.) Embarkation and Disembarkation were a breeze. We chose to fly to Miami on our own the day prior in order to avoid any last-minute stresses due to Winter weather. When it was time to board the Riviera, lines were minimal and everything proceeded extremely smoothly. When the cruise was over, we were scheduled for a morning flight and were encouraged to leave with virtually no wait.
2.) The ship itself is new and lovely. We found all physical aspects of the Riviera to be clean and beautiful. It's difficult to imagine anyone NOT liking the aesthetics (elegant, but not overly flashy). We were in a Veranda cabin and appreciated the attention to detail in the design (e.g. room for a bathtub, good-sized balcony, etc.). The super-comfortable chairs poolside are particularly delightful.
1.) We found it virtually impossible to get reservations for a table-for-two at the Specialty Restaurants. Despite going to the Oceania website on the earliest possible date for our Veranda cabin category, we found that all the specialty restaurants were completely booked with the exception of very early times (6:00 p.m. or earlier) or very late times (8:30 p.m. or later). I called the cruiseline and was assured that if I went to Guest Relations immediately after boarding, it would be "absolutely no problem" to book times that we desired. This is precisely what we did around 1:00 p.m. on our Sailing Date and the Oceania staff looked at us like we were nuts. They told us that, just as we had found online, there were no reservations available for tables for two and they don't know why anyone would have told us anything different; while they offered to call us if anything opened up, we never got a single call over the course of our 10 day trip. We decided to contact the Specialty Restaurants many mornings of our cruise in order to check for last-minute availability and it was made clear to us that the ship does not cater to couples who wish to dine "alone" (i.e. who see their vacation as a romantic getaway versus as an opportunity to meet people). This took us entirely by surprise, as this was a special anniversary trip for us. If you are a couple who look at cruising as an opportunity to spend time with new people, I think Oceania Riviera may be the best option at sea. However, if you look forward (as we did) to romantic dinners with your spouse, this is NOT the cruise for you!
2.) While we prefer an age mix on our cruises, it was difficult to find anyone on the Riviera who was less than 75 years old. My husband and I are not young (in our fifties and sixties), but this is the first time that we've noticed such a striking age disparity and even felt out-of-place on a cruise.
3.) The Riviera seems to be a larger ship than Oceania is accustomed to managing and this really shows. One example is that, while the lounge chairs poolside are great, there are not nearly enough to accommodate the number of passengers. There were 4 days when, all prepared to spend a day on deck, we had to return to our room immediately after breakfast because there weren't 2 side-by-side lounge chairs available anywhere. This was a major point of contention for many many passengers on our cruise. In fact, we were told that the cruiseline had received more than 100 complaints about the lack of deck seating during our sailing! Another example of what I see as growing pains is the lack of fitness equipment. I had to wait 40 minutes on three separate days in order to have access to an exercise bike -- something that irked me because the last thing I want to do on vacation is lose time. Again, I've never experienced anything like this on another cruiseline.
4.) There is very little in the way of nighttime entertainment or interesting shopping onboard. We expected this, so this was not a problem for us. However, if you like to have something to do after dinner in the evenings, this is not the ship for you! Having always enjoyed perusing the many port related shopping opportunities onboard cruiseships (e.g. special jewelry events, etc.), we were surprised to find none of those on the Riviera. Instead, the handful of tiny shops are merely generic extremely high-end expensive (laughably overpriced) boutiques. Over the course of our cruise, we never saw a single person in any of the shopping venues (also unusual), so I think this is a common perspective.
To summarize, I think the Oceania Riviera is a good choice for a certain type of traveler: elderly seniors; eager to eat with new friends (vs table for two) subject to ship availability; not interested in lounging much on deck; not looking for shopping or evening entertainment; don't care about no-wait access to fitness equipment; etc. However, if you are a romantic couple who is looking for a getaway where you can eat when and where you want, enjoy tables-for-two, like lounging on deck together, and may like some evening amusement, this is not the best choice for you!