Appreciating its too often the nature of web "reviews" of everything from socks to socket wrenches to nit-pick and harp on the negatives, it's pretty hard with M/S Riviera to find serious fault. And with this being our second cruise in the ship plus one in "Marina" and five in "Regatta", we keep coming back for all good reasons: superb, friendly service from what have become in many cases good friends and familiar faces, the best cuisine afloat, immaculate housekeeping and maintenance and an on board atmosphere that largely is based on pleasing adult individuals rather than group herd mentality.
Oceania service, almost on every level and almost from every individuality, from maitre d's, dining room stewards, cabin staff, deck staff, public room cleaners (the unsung heroes who keep these ships astonishingly immaculate throughout), remains the standard of the cruise world. It's attentive without being overbearing, friendly without being careless and personalized to an amazing degree. This, to us, is even a bigger selling point than the much lauded (and for all good reason) food.
Some points relative to this most recent cruise
Canyon Ranch Spa Deck: it's now keycard accessed ONLY (remembering it's available to Concierge and Suite passengers only). We noted it was a free for all last year so a big improvement. Oceania isn't responsible though for some of the boorish louts we endured there this time, including a group who monopolized the pool, drinking (in defiance of the non alcohol policy up there) and regaled all and sundry with shouted "me, me, me" tales of "his and her Boxsters" etc. Proof again that money doesn't buy manners and a type, alas, that Oceania seems to attract in small but noticable numbers.
Grand Dining Room: superb menu and setting but my goodness, it is SLOW. Really slow. Glacially slow at times. I fault the over ambitious menu (like 10 main courses each night) and the 3 1/2 hour dinner "window"... it's too much to work in so large a room despite the best efforts of the overworked stewards and maitre d's. A huge improvement is the all new luncheon menu.. really, really superb and especially the very cleverly presented International tasting platter (for an entree or a shared starter), a different cuisine presented each day. Really makes a nice change from the Terrace Cafe and Waves Grill for lunch. It's a shame that the Grand Dining Room is considered by some to be some third class choice given the fixation on the specialty restaurants but they gotta do something about the sheer time a meal there takes. Not in the relishing the superb cuisine but waiting for it... at breakfast, lunch and dinner too.
Specialty dining venues: we still prefer Toscana and Red Ginger not just for the always superb cuisine but the service and welcoming ambiance. Polo and especially Jacques just strike us as being a bit too "snooty" for their own good but at least the later has superb vittles. Polo is alas just great lumps of very good meat that just doesn't work for us.
Cocktail venues: remarkable that a vessel of 60,000grt and with 1200 passengers has, in reality, a single popular place for a pre-dinner drink: Martinis and that doesn't even have live music during what should be the prime cocktail hours of 7pm-8pm. The resident pianist seems to have an enviable union contract and was usually "on break" when the place was bursting at the seams. Horizon, the beautifully top-sited lounge, was usually so deserted (except for the famous and flawless afternoon tea) you'd think they were selling bubonic plague up there. Bar service was much improved throughout the ship from last year.
Wine list: superb, especially by the glass selection. Pricey though and the All Inclusive Beverage card remains the best innovation with this line in years.
Recorded "music" around the pool/lido: why Oceania "Your World Your Way" persists forcing everyone to listen to this horrible, intrusive and just awful Carnival Cruise dreck is beyond me. It's horrendous and gets worse as the day wears on. Worse, someone went to some real trouble to program this sonic spittle and they simply will not let it go.
Finally, it was with great sadness that for the first time in years, we left without booking our next Oceania Cruise. We've enjoyed taking the same nice long Caribbean itinerary for years but they've dropped all of the 14-day and most of the 12-day cruises in favour of 7/10-day ones.. way too short a time to savour the delights of what still must be the best cruise line on the planet. We look forward to returning when their scheduling folks come to their senses.