Our trip this year was 2 weeks in Italy, one of which was spent on the Riviera. It was our first cruise cruise with O and we sailed in a group of 6 couples, all well traveled and all experienced cruisers.
We were looking for an upscale, adult cruise experience with high quality rooms, food and dining and Oceania delivered.
We very much enjoyed the O experience. We are not avid ocean cruisers as cruising has for the most part devolved into an experience we do not enjoy. O, however, provided the type of onboard experience and overall quality that we appreciate. Rooms, service, food quality and options, passenger demographic, ship layout and decor, staterooms and attention to detail were all top notch. We appreciated the lack of children, lack of photographers, lack of poolside antics and noise, lack of lines - we enjoyed O as much for what it was not as much as for what it was.
The Riviera is an elegant and sophisticated ship with the feeling of a luxury, boutique hotel throughout. Luxe fabrics, beautiful art work, intelligent design aesthetic and excellent attention to detail were admired and enjoyed.
Dining was generally a very good experience. We very much enjoyed Red Ginger and Jacques, did not care at all for Toscana (food was overcooked, oversalted and served lukewarm when we dined there and more dishes were returned than eaten), and Polo Grill was good but nothing special. We had room service breakfast each morning, a nice treat, and enjoyed al fresco lunches in the Terrace Grill, when not in port.
We were never able to secure additional reservations in any of the specialty venues, which was disappointing. We did enjoy the food and service in the Grand Dining Room.
Our Penthouse was lovely and very well appointed and we loved our oversized balcony. Binoy provided excellent service and Angelica and her assistant, Onera, kept our stateroom in tip top condition. Bedding was excellent and we enjoyed the large bathroom and walk in closet.
We really enjoyed a twice daily visit to Barista's and the bars and lounges served a good variety of spirits and wines. We did not opt for the drink package and did not regret our decision.
Our itinerary was The Ionian passage and most of the ports we visited were very touristy, as can be expected with ports popular with cruise lines. This is the main reason we prefer independent land trips to cruises overall when visiting the Med. This cruise did not change our mind and we will in the future focus on independent land trips when visiting this part of the world.
We used private tour companies and had very good experiences with them overall. Getting away from the hordes and seeing the countryside was a huge benefit. It had been about 25 years since I had visited Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and Taormina and the first two were a huge disappointment as they have been completely changed by mass tourism, and not for the better.
We had little time in Taormina due to a last minute change. We were advised that we had to dock in Messina instead due to tendering conditions, which I personally doubt was the case as the water and water were perfect when were there. We were not at all pleased that our time in this port, the best of the lot, was so limited.
Zakynthos as a port was the worst on our route, with no charm IMO and little to offer. Conversations with other guests indicated they felt the same. Corfu was quite lovely and we enjoyed day exploring the island.
Venice was even worse than it was when we visited in 2008, with the people mover providing easy access to the thousands of passengers on the 4 ships in port at the time. We walked the city for hours and many of the streets felt more like a flea market than anything. We were very happy to leave after overnighting there and were very pleased with our hotel choice, in a quiet area near the Papadopoli Gardens which provided respite from the masses. We will not be returning to Venice as it has lots its luster to crass commercialism.
Our favorite part of the trip was our week before the cruise, which we spent in Milan (visiting Bellagio and Como) and Liguria. Liguria was stunning and we were delighted with our time in Rapallo and wish we could have stayed longer. My last stay in Rapallo was in 2006 and I was delighted to see that it has retained its charm.
Should we decide to do an ocean cruise again in the future, Oceania would definitely be an option to consider. But for the Med as well as the Caribbean, we prefer to visit the towns and cities not popular with cruise ships. We do plan a return to Italy in 2015 to spend more time in Liguria and Sicily.
The ports visited were not the highlight of this trip for us. But the Riviera itself was delightful and we would look forward to cruising with O again at some point in the future.