We had a wonderful cruise onboard Oceania’s MS Riviera. Since I love reading all the comments and reviews on this website, I decided to write down my thoughts on this cruise for others to read. I have also compared Oceania’s small ships (R-Class) to their newest and notably larger ship Riviera that is almost identical to the Marina (both the new O-Class). We have previously sailed on the ‘small’ ships Nautica and Insignia and had been anxious to try one of the new ships. Riviera exceeded our expectations on most points, but we also had a few disappointments. This is a lengthy review so beware…
The M.S. Riviera is a beautiful ship, especially the interior design and amazing artwork that you find throughout the ship.
When cruising the itinerary is a decisive factor for us, but the gastronomy is equally important (maybe even more…). After our culinary experiences onboard Nautica and Insignia we had very high expectations. We had been a little worried that the quality and preparation on Riviera (double the amount of guests) wouldn’t be as good as on the smaller ships, but I can honestly tell you that the food on Riviera was extraordinary. It may well be the best we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. The variety of restaurants is superb with Toscana (Italian), Red Ginger (Asian), Polo (steaks and seafood), Jacques (French), Waves (burgers), Terrace Café (buffet) and Grand Dining room. Red Ginger and Jacques aren’t available on the smaller ships and are not to be missed when sailing on Riviera or Marina.
Since we love food so much this review will focus primarily on that.
Grand Dining Room
On the ‘small’ ships we weren’t very fond of the main dining room, but on Riviera it’s a beautiful and spacious restaurant, that serves innovative dishes with exclusive ingredients like caviar, main lobster, fresh scallops and prime rib. The food was excellent and the menu changes daily. Most of the dishes are also served buffet-style in the casual Terrace Café for those who prefer a more laidback atmosphere or like al fresco dining.
In the Grand Dining Room we enjoyed delicious caviar, bouillabaisse, risotto with main lobster, slow roasted prime-rib and many more fabulous dishes. It was always difficult to choose from the menu, since there were so many attractive options. Service was good but sometimes felt a little rushed. One point of criticism however… Although the crystal chandelier is absolutely stunning the light (probably LED) is so bright, that whenever sitting near or under it, you feel like being in the doctors or dentists office. Maybe they could dim the lights a little, so that after dark the room feels more friendly, warm and intimate.
It was our favorite restaurant on the small ships and on the Riviera it is also a very good restaurant. The décor is light and fresh with stunning views. The menu is almost identical to the small ships and they have specials every night. We enjoyed our dinners and loved the fresh pasta with scallops, fried calamari, melanzana, veal chop, dover sole and many more. The service was also very good with knowledgeable waiters and nice touches like the olive oil menu and fresh Parmesan cheese. We really loved Giovanni who also makes the best espressos and cappuccinos in the coffee bar Baristas.
This Asian themed restaurant is only found on Riviera and Marina and it is wonderful. The room is a little dark and the windows are blocked by curtains (so unfortunately no view), but it’s very nicely decorated and the lovely Italian Maitre’d was one of the best crewmembers on the ship. We had mouthwatering lobster pad thai, miso glazed sea bass, caramelized chicken, seared tuna and many more delicious dishes. Please don’t forget to try the watermelon and duck salad, its fabulous. This restaurant also has a nice touches like being able to select your choice of chopsticks out of a wooden presentation box
This restaurant serves delicious steaks and seafood. The décor is very similar to the same restaurant on the small ships, but the room feels even more upscale. The food is very good, but you can get lobster and steaks in almost al the other dining venues on the ship. I wouldn’t mind if Oceania would change the menu a little and put some other specials on it. The dining chairs can be challenging when wearing smooth clothes, as you tend to slide from the polished leather. Service was good and the views are again marvelous. We had lobster bisque, waldorf salad, tender prime-rib and grilled jumbo shrimps. Everything cooked to perfection.
This restaurant has menu’s inspired by the famous French chef Jacques Pepin, who is a culinary advisor for Oceania. We loved the décor and the food in this restaurant. It really feels like sitting in a French bistro. Service was good and knowledgably. The pumpkin soup, artichoke with foie gras, Dover sole and Canard a l’orange were all fabulous. The Crêpe Suzette was made fresh and also very tasty and rich. I wish we had eaten there a second time, because there were a lot of dishes on the menu I would have liked to try. Oceania did a great job with this restaurant.
This venue serves ‘limited’ breakfast and hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch. The food is good with juicy burgers, salads and ice cream. The restaurant and tables are covered completely by the deck above and this makes it feel a little dark and it can get warm. Serves can be quite chaotic at times, with people standing in line, ordering food and waiters bringing the food to the tables but sometimes unable to locate guests. You can also get milkshakes and gelato at Waves. This venue is the best (and only) spot for people who return later from shore excursions.
The Terrace Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual atmosphere. The location high on the stern of the ship gives you a magnificent view. To bad this area is somewhat poorly designed. The outdoor space is ridiculously small for such a big vessel. Tables and chairs are big, bulky and placed very close together. Navigating and finding a free table can be quite a challenge. The food is delicious with a big variety. We liked the grilling station that serves lamb chops, jumbo shrimp, salmon and steaks. There is a dedicated pasta stations that serves pasta of the day that is sometimes freshly made. The lunch and dinner menu changes daily. Service can be hit and miss. Sometimes very good and sometimes messy with tables not cleared and cleaned. If you like dining al fresco this restaurant is the spot for you. We enjoyed a couple of nights sitting outside and getting great services from our waiter Raja.
What surprised us is that all the restaurants close early. Except the main dining room (9:30) all other dining venues close at 9:00. When getting back late from a shore excursion you sometimes really have to hurry to get something to eat. The Terrace Café staff is very motivated to close down and prepare for breakfast. They started cleaning tables well before 9:00 and that doesn’t give you a very upscale feel.
If you’re not that in to food but like an active nightlife, Oceania might not be for you. They have a show in the Riviera Lounge every evening, but that’s about it. The shows are in my opinion somewhat mediocre, due to the lack of having really good singers and dancers. I prefer one really talented/professional vocalist, musician or comedian performing, instead of group that really tries hard but just lacks the quality (or training). After the show in the lounge ends, there is music and a ‘disco’ up in the Horizons lounge. We tried a couple of times but the place is deserted after 10:00 in the evening.
Cocktails and drinks
The prices for wine and cocktails are fairly high especially when you calculate the additional 18% gratuity that you pay for each and every drink. I don’t mind paying for good quality and most of the wines and spirits are fine. The cocktails however are a different story. They use fruit concentrate (cheap concentrate) for everything and even the promised ‘fresh’ limejuice comes out of a bottle. Cocktails like strawberry daiquiri, piña colada or margarita al taste chemical.
We had a wonderful Penthouse Suite located on deck 10. The stateroom was beautifully decorated with a large marble and granite bathroom with soaking tub and separate shower, huge walk-in closet, furnished balcony and Oceania’s Tranquility beds. There is a small couch and a writing desk. We loved our room and spend a lot of time out on the balcony. Unfortunately our room wasn’t properly cleaned on embarkation day. We found a lot of dust and a dirty handkerchief in the closet. The space under the desk hadn’t seen a vacuum cleaner in quite some time. Our stateroom attendant quickly resolved the issues, but it wasn’t a nice first impression. Guests who reside in suites (Penthouse, Oceania, Vista and Owner) get a butler. We don’t use the butler a lot, but it’s a nice feature when he (or she) is good at his job. Although our butler was friendly and helpful (he got as extra reservations in Toscana and Red Ginger) he was also somewhat intrusive. He would nock on the door and just let himself in, even when my wife was changing clothes or came out of the bathroom (naked). It didn’t matter if we told him not to enter the room he just came barging in and then apologizing telling us that he really needed to polish the wine cooler or bring our evening canapés. This happened more than once and got bothersome. Whenever we would see him in the hallway he would always try and start a conversation. It didn’t matter if we were already having a conversation with each other or with other guests; he would just start talking and kept asking questions about our day, dinner or what we were planning tomorrow. I understand he means well, but it made us feel uncomfortable. Our bathroom had a faulty (and cracked) shower dial. It took 2 days to get a new knob installed (the cracked part stayed). We had to request new shampoo and bath gel bottles multiple times because our stateroom attendant forgot to replace the used ones.
The pool is wonderful with good services, but the deck space felt cramped. There were to many sun beds placed to close together. People ‘reserved’ their beds for hours without being there. The pool deck got to crowded at times.
During the evening the pool looks beautiful with great lighting and sometimes the show movies on the big screen with fresh popcorn. We had some bad winds during our voyage but otherwise it would have been a nice place to hang out after dark.
We loved the spa deck and thalasso pool on the forward deck near the spa. It has comfortable double sun beds, a commanding view and it’s so peaceful compared to the crowded pool area. This space is available to guests staying in suites but other guests can obtain a day pass. It’s a serene heaven and the perfect way to enjoy sailing.
Gym / Spa
The gym is excellent with all the machines you could wish for. The sauna and Turkish bath are also fabulous. The CanyonRanch SpaClub is amazing although a little to expensive.
We had a bit of bad luck on this cruise with strong winds at night. The ship is new, state of the art and has stabilizers, but still you could feel it pitching and rolling a lot. The seas weren’t that rough and I’m used to sailing on ships big and small, but the motion you felt on the Riviera surprised me.
Great city with so many sights to see and enjoy that you don’t get tired of it even after spending days walking through the city. We went to Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque and up to the Galata Tower. We dined at the rooftop terrace of the Richmond Hotel. It has a magnificent view but the prices are very high and the food is mediocre at best. The best food can be found in small restaurants. We loved getting a drink on a terrace and watching the buzzeling city life.
Street vendors are very active in trying to sell their goods. We didn’t like walking around on the market near the port, because some people get very nasty when you friendly tell them that your not interested in their watches, bags or other products. Ephesus however is beautiful and well worth the trip. The excavations are stunning.
We like this island a lot and it’s nice that you can walk from the port to the old city. It’s very nice to wander around, enjoy a coffee and get some souvenirs. We would recommend taking a cab and let the driver show you around the island. Taxi’s are located just steps from where the ship docks.
The harbor and the town are nice spots on the Island, but if you take a cab you can find beautiful beaches and town. We also enjoyed the shops around the port and had a nice drink.
The ships anchors and guests may use the tenders to get ashore. There is a cable cart that takes you up to the old town, you can also hop on a donkey or just walk. I wouldn’t recommend walking all the way up to the town. It’s a long and steep climb. We took the donkey going up (next time we will use the cable car) and walked back down. The town itself is very nice with sweeping views. It can get busy when there are more cruise ships in the area.
This Island is one of our favorites. The ship anchors near the old town of Taormina that is positioned high above the sea giving you great views, nice restaurants and cosy little shops. We also took the ships tour to Mt Etna. We were disappointed with the tour. The bus ride was fine but when we finally arrived at the parking lot we only had about 30 minutes to walk around and enjoy the magnificent views. There was no time to take the cable car up to the mountain, walk to the different viewing spots et cetera. This ship tour was expensive and it actually only consisted of a bus ride to a parking spot.
The ship was docked at the port of Olbia a busy industrial harbor. The shops and restaurants in the city center were all closed and you really needed a cab to take you to one of the nice towns like Porto Cervo.
We stayed an extra night in Rome before flying home and love this city. We went to the Vatican, walked to the Spanish steps, Coloseum and many other beautiful sites throughout the city.
When on vacation the last thing you want to think about is the end of your well-earned holiday. The crew on Riviera makes sure you are reminded that there is and end to your lovely cruise. It started already two days in to the 12-night cruise. We were asked to fill out the debarkation forms for the number of suitcases, departure time and transport. A little early but fair enough. Then 4.5 days prior to disembarkation day we were already given our debarkation tickets, ‘thank you for sailing with us’ letters and final comment cards. It felt very strange to have this so early and with so many days ahead of us. When we came back to our suite on our last full cruise day our suitcases were already placed on the bed. I know every cruise line want passengers to get their luggage outside of the cabin on the last evening and have everybody leave the ship as early as possible the next morning, but this was a little to much for our taste. We have cruised before. We know the drill.
We have now experienced the big O-Class ships and the smaller R-Class ships. I would sail the bigger O-class ships again when the itinerary is good, but I prefer the level of service spaciousness and intimacy of the smaller ships Nautica, Insignia and Regatta. For us the cruise on Riviera felt more like being on a big cruise ship with waiting times, lines, cramped spots and a lack of personal attention. At the end of the day we prefer the feeling of being on a yacht better that sailing on a cruise ship.
What we liked
+ Variety of specialty restaurants
+ Beautiful staterooms
+ Public spaces
+ Spa deck
What we didn’t like
+ Big ship feeling
+ Small pool (to many beds placed to close together)
+ Small outside deck (terrace café + pool)
+ Stateroom cleanliness / cleaning
+ Stateroom maintenance (broken shower dial/scratches on the door)
+ Somewhat intrusive butler
+ Restaurants that close at 9:00