Do I recommend Oceania Riviera cruise?
This CC forum is full of Oceania fans who rave about Oceania gourmet foods, their elegant ships (especially Riviera and Marina.)
We are no different. After being on Oceania Cruise three times, we have come to love Oceania’s gourmet foods; clean, elegant ships, and most of all its customer-focused happy crew and officers.
For this particular cruise, I like to point out what stood out for us was the crew and the things they do.
First, our background:
There were 3 of us on this cruise: my husband, my sister and I. This is my husband and my third Oceania cruise, and first for my sister.
My husband and I have cruised about 17 times before. The cruise lines are listed below chronologically:
We have cruised on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Azamara, Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal Cruise, Oceania.
After sampling different lines, different sizes, we realize we prefer smaller ships.
We are in our 50, 60’s. We are active, and love to walk and hike. Interesting itineraries, food, and service are what we look for.
Our red eye flight from Victoria, Canada arrived in Miami according to schedule, around 11:30 am. We went straight to the ship, and was on the ship in no time. The taxi ride was about 15 minutes; traffic was light. It costs us $25 fixed rate. I know that is higher than last year, when our taxi charge by meter.
The embarkation was a breeze. I believe that time frame was perfect, no crowd, no wait.
Our cabin was not ready. We went for a light lunch. We met many familiar faces; the staff greeted us like family. (We were on Riviera in August.)
We wanted to put in a few hours of shopping. Dolphin Mall seemed the closest. However, by the time we finished lunch, we did not have the time we thought we had. In addition, the rush hour traffic may delay our return to the ship, and the thought of missing this beautiful ship chills our spines.
We left our belongings in the cabin (the steward was kind enough for us to do that because the cabin was not completed yet.)
We took a cab to the Bayside Mall. Even though the mall was only over the bridge, less than 10 minutes, the taxi had to go around and wait for traffic lights and costs $10.
The mall did not have much. It resembles those "markets", usually located just outside the cruiseship terminals, selling mass-produced “made in China” trinkets. Unless you absolutely need something like sun protection, I would suggest you skip this mall.
We walked back to the ship. It took us 24 minutes to get over the bridge, and 30 minutes to the terminal. Fortunately, we did not buy much; our backpacks were light.
I recommend that if you like to walk, walk to the mall from the terminal, and take a taxi back. The road back is more direct, and would have cost less, and less to carry, if you have made purchases.
We chose suite 8000, category B1, right at the forward. We share a wall with Vista Suite, and another wall with B1 balcony cabin 8001. We chose it because the deck seemed larger than other balconies.
Pros: the deck is larger. With 3 deck chairs, 2 tables, we had room to maneuver. We also like the view. The view was expansive. We like sailing into and away from ports. And one morning, the sunrise was right in front of us, putting an amazing show, front and center. With this cabin, it is like being in the front row center seat! The sight of the sun rising from the big blue ocean is something we never get tired of. Magnificent! That alone was worth it.
Cons: we do feel more movement in cabin 8000. We also hear more banging noise when the seas was rough. I am a sound sleeper, and I get woken up a few times.
Also, as soon as it gets dark, we have to ensure no light emits from our cabin. It has something to do with navigation at night. Just something to keep in mind.
If the itinerary is such the sea is calm, and the weather is pleasant, such as parts of Mediterranean, I would definitely select a forward cabin. If you are prone to motion sickness, and a light sleeper, forward cabin is not a good selection.
We rarely have any problem disembarking in Miami. There were 4 other ships at port, and yet our disembarkation process was smooth. We went through custom, got our luggage, without any incident. We shared a van with other Oceania guests, heading to the airport. Only when we arrived at the airport did we find out our flight has been delayed, due to the weather in Northeast region of North America. My sister who has a later flight was planning to visit the Dolphin Mall, chose not to go because she thought time was too tight. Her flight was scheduled for 3pm. However, 2 hours before her flight, she learned that her flight was also delayed. It ended up delayed for 3.5 hours. She could have visited Dolphin Mall or other Miami sights. Spending all that extra time at the airport was not fun. But that is beyond Oceania cruise control. Maybe planning to stay an extra day in Miami in December is a better plan. Next time!
Besides food, we like Oceania’s service. Allow me to share with you our memorable experience and illustrate their great customer service.
During Captain’s welcome party, we strike up a conversation with a crew member, Ante. This gentleman was enthusiastic, polite, and very personable. He is lighthearted, mirroring my husband’s. The second time we saw Ante, at the “Loyal Customer” event, he is like an old friends to us. We learned that Ante is a concierge in the executive lounge. Executive lounge is a private room exclusive to suites. Ante was very knowledgeable and culturally sensitive. Even though he jokes around, we felt he genuinely cares. The topic turns to specialty restaurants on Riviera, and how popular they are. He then offered to check for Red Ginger for us! He does not have to do this. We don’t have suites, we were not on his deck. We were not his responsibility. Also, it is toward the end of the cruise, he and the rest of the crew were busy preparing disembarkation and embarkation process for their guests.
We appreciated his offer, and did not expect much.
Yet, the next morning, he left a message about some openings. By the time I got back to him, the openings were gone. Instead of saying, “sorry, I tried”, he said, “I will continue to monitor the situation. You never know.”
And sure enough, late in the day, he found an opening for us. Even though it was for 2 only (there were 3 of us), we took it. Talk about going out of your way to make guests happy! He was definitely going beyond his duty for guests.
This is not the end of this story. There is more.
Due to our respect for Ante, and the Red Ginger staff, 2 of us showed up on time. We did not want to inconvenience anyone or add any strain to Red Ginger’s well-oiled system.
Katya, the maitre D, whom we have come to know from our previous 2 Oceania cruises, immediately noticed that my husband was absent. She managed to find an extra spot for him, without making it a big fuss. To us, it is big. We know it took effort to do that on their part too. We had our final cruise dinner in Red Ginger, together! We were so appreciative and impressed.
For the service, we highly recommend Oceania cruise line to those who have never tried.
Having said that, I do not recommend the Caribbean itinerary (right before Christmas) to those wanting to try Oceania for the first time.
We encountered disgruntled guests and heard complaints more so on this cruise than our previous 2 on Oceania. And the complaints or issues were mostly weather-related and or minor, IMHO.
As we know the weather is out of anyone’s control.
For example, my husband and I found it amusing when we overheard and witnessed guests requesting the deck chairs be set up on the upper deck, as the guests themselves were holding on to their hats, jackets, and to the hand rails, in the gusty wind. (The upper decks had to be closed to guests numerous times due to high winds.) In my opinion, it would be irresponsible for the crew to abide the passengers’ wishes.
Second example, the lines to make or change reservations in the very popular specialty restaurants are always long. At least this time, I knew to line up in the right queue. Make sure you are in the right queue, before lining up. You don’t want the frustration of waiting for an hour, and then realizing you had to go to another desk on another deck!
The 3 reservation desks are placed in different restaurants, separated by the color of the sea card. I assume it is easier for one desk deals with only one category. I have witnessed many angry guests and the strain the reservation officers went through for the first 4 days of the cruise.
We were fortunate. Even though we are in the B category; the staff still managed to change 3 of our 4 reservations to early dining time. For that we are grateful. Were we upset with late dining in Jacques? No. In fact, we got to know a lovely waitress who looked after us very well that night.
We cannot comprehend how anyone not enjoy this cruise! 30C weather in the sun (occasional rain), water with 50 shades of blue, and no housework for 10 days! Any day with no housework is a great day for me!
Quick note on other amenities on board:
Perhaps you have noticed, I did not mention the nightly entertainment, the spa facilities, and the enrichment lectures.
The only entertainment we watched was the fairwell performance from the entire (almost) officers and crew. We wanted to show support.
We usually walked after dinner instead.
My husband and I use the gym for stretching and yoga only. The room next to the gym (one used for yoga, pilate or spinning classes) was not opened until much later in the morning. We improvised and did our stretching and yoga out on the decks, when the wind was not too strong. Every yogi needs to experience the power and magic of sun salutation in the open sea, as the sun rises out of the dark blue ocean.
As for the enrichment lectures, we missed because we wanted to enjoy the sun as much as we can. However, we do watch it in the stateroom at night.
In closing, I bring back the question: do I recommend Oceania cruise. My answer was, “it depends.”
If you love good food, appreciate excellent service and do not take things too seriously, especially on holidays, I think you will enjoy Oceania Cruise.
And if you bring with you to Oceania Cruise your open mindedness, your positive outlook, and fun attitude, you will have an amazing time! In fact, I venture to say you will have a fantastic good time no matter where you go! Enjoy!