Oceania Riviera Barcelona-to-Lisbon Sep 2012: Riviera Cruise Review by babysteps

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Oceania Riviera Barcelona-to-Lisbon Sep 2012

Sail Date: September 2012
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Barcelona
And a great time was had by all!

Just returned from our cruise on Oceania Riviera - itinerary was Barcelona-Majorca-Valencia-Motril (Granada)-at sea-Funchal (Madeira)-Santa Cruz de la Palma-Arrecife (Lanzarote)-Agadir Morocco-Casablanca-Cadiz (Seville)-Lisbon with an overnight in Lisbon on board.

We had a lovely time. Was our first time on such a large ship - previously had been on a 110-ish passenger expedition ship in Alaska and 250-ish passenger ship in the Baltic.

Best for: folks who want to explore ports & be pampered on board

Spouse is particular & he gave Oceania the seal of approval!

Itinerary/ports: great.
We didn't use any Oceania tours; port info people on board were generally very good and shuttles quite helpful (shuttles are provided by the ports but coordinated with Oceania). Schedules were clear & adhered to (if using port shuttles, beware of driver lunch breaks!). We had a wonderful time and even without much pre-trip port More research it was easy to find activities that interested us. Hint: we didn't bring computers & used our smart phones for email through wifi in the various ports; the port/tourism representatives were generally very helpful in directing us to wifi spots. Not sure if it was because it was a Sunday, but the port/tourism person in Arrecife (Lanzarote) was not up to the other ports.

Cabin: wonderful.
We were in a B-4 (lowest "Veranda" category) and it was appointed nicely. We had an extra-deep balcony and our steward brought us a second pair of chairs when we asked - 4 chairs meant we could entertain guests easily. The shower is compact, but there is also a shower in the tub (shower head in tub is adjustable/mounted on vertical bar/detachable with hose). Plenty of storage, total of 20 clip/pants/skirt hangers and 20 shirt/blouse/jacket hangers (er, "regular hangers"). Plenty of hooks in bathroom & entryway, compact but useful desk, coffee table just big enough for 2 people to dine. 3 sets of curtains (sheer, blackout, decorative) can move independently, and the curtain ties can hold any combination of the curtains that you wish. Electrical asides: the light switch with a little light in it (entry, each side of the bed) toggles through the general lighting. The 110 outlets at the desk are designed so that a large plug (ie phone charger) may turn on the light around the mirror. Our steward was great!!

Food & Wine: very good.
We are foodies, so our standards are (perhaps oddly) high. Food in GDR (grand dining room), casual spots (Terraces & Waves), specialty restaurants and room service all very well done for a large volume operation.

Quality generally quite consistent from one spot to the next (that is, GDR food isn't really 'below' specialty restaurants). In each case where we requested a given done-ness, the meat came done just right (this is quite a trick on a ship). Hint: fish is done to an 'American' doneness (opaque/flaky), if you like 'French' (a bit glossy), request it when ordering.

One of the executive chefs explained that much more of the ship is dedicated to food/food service & storage than on other lines. We didn't eat at La Reserve but heard rave reviews from fellow foodies - hint: the same chef told us that the connoisseur menu at La Reserve is the most technically advanced on the ship. They handled my gluten-free restriction very well.

Service can be a bit varied, some staff are more experienced than others. Wine list is a bit inconsistent on prices (some good deals, most quite reasonable, a few oddly high vs. retail). Wine service generally good, the 'follow you' bottle service a nice touch (if you don't finish a bottle it will find you at your next dinner or you can request it anytime/anywhere - well, except 3-5:30pm the cellar is closed one sommelier told us). Ability to bring on & drink your own alcohol in your room for no fee & just $25 corkage for your own wine in restaurants a GREAT feature.

Room service very accommodating, we were always requesting specific glasses (4 brandy snifters, 6 red wine, etc) in our room and they appeared cheerfully & promptly. Note: for dinner, specialty restaurant & La Reserve menus are set & unchanging. GDR has nightly specials in addition to base menu, these specials are also available at Terraces. Even got nuts with my yogurt one morning thanks to a write-in request!

On-Board amenities/activities: excellent.
We spent a lot of time at the pool & one day in the spa. Pool deck has plenty of chaises & lounge beds, these can get quite popular after 3 most afternoons and starting about noon on our sea day. The pool temp is perfect (not too hot or cold), it is salt-water (so easy on the skin) and it is big enough for mini-laps (better in the morning unless you like swimming in traffic). If you want to eat poolside, you can walk over to Waves (breakfast or lunch) and walk food back to your chaise. They may ask gently 'where are you sitting' if you are in your robe, as that doesn't quite make even the casual dress code for sitting in Waves - but if you answer 'by the pool' there is no problem!

Spa we enjoyed very much. Our cabin category did not include spa terrace access but we did get massages one day (which include terrace access). Note that *everyone* gets unlimited locker/exercise/steam/sauna access. Your in-room spa menu has no prices, ask at the spa desk and you will get prices *and* the schedule for all the free & fee exercise classes for your entire cruise. Spa staff excellent. Steam & sauna quite nice. Our massage day was a port day, we went early (9ish) and didn't see another guest until *after* our noon massages. We moved a double-chaise across the deck to get the shade...was quite the private retreat. 3 chilled water choices (plain, cucumber, melon, strawberry & pineapple, etc) and a samovar for tea are always on offer.

Activities, we didn't do too much beyond eat/drink/swim, but the few things we did attend were very well done. There were certainly plenty of things to choose from every day. It's a nice touch that the lectures are re-broadcast on one of the tv channels. An in-the-know travel agent on board mentioned that on TA cruises the level of activities really ramps up.

On board email seemed to be not working 100%, so we didn't try to use it. The ship had just had a satellite system upgrade the prior week (according to someone on a B2B) and there may have been some lingering issues. Many folks were grumbling about internet, the in-the-know travel agent said it was fine and actually better than most ships, but that the more people were logged in the slower it got & you were better off using it first thing in the morning. Less

Published 09/17/12

Cabin review: B-47007

Deep balcony a plus - ask your steward for chaises to relax on OR for extra regular chairs if you would prefer to entertain.

Port and Shore Excursions

Santa Cruz de la Palma - for sightseeing here you may want to take a tour, the island is dramatic & the town at port is more a 'regular folks' spot than a tourist attraction. We took a Food & Wine Trails tour of Bodega Caballo, the cinder cone at the southern tip of the island, and lunch at a winery/restaurant just a few bus-lengths north of the cinder cone parking lot. We got to meet Sr. Caballo, a 5th-generation winemaker who still uses some equipment from 4 generations ago (but has an overall very modern winery). Also toured the vineyards. A great tour.

Volcanic island that will remind you of central Oregon or Craters of the Moon in Idaho. Hot, dry, dramatic. We were there on a Sunday, many stores closed but talked to several folks who very much enjoyed the Sunday only market in Teguise. We spent most of our time going to an English language protestant church service at Barcalao resort in Costa Teguise - equal mix of British expats and Nigerian full-time residents.

Beautiful city. Great for strolling.
Read 626 Lisbon Reviews

Lovely walkable town. We focused on in-town Madeira companies for tastings & purchase of vintage Madeira. Does get hot in the afternoon! Port shuttle has a lunch break built in to schedule.

We were docked in Cadiz. Had a lovely day strolling the town (no port shuttle because your ship is about 2 blocks from the start of the main shopping district). Fascinating city - oldest in Europe, 100+ towers of merchants used as ship lookouts in Cadiz's 15th-17thc heyday. Lovely city for strolling, heard many positive comments about the HOHO bus.

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