My husband and I sailed on Oceania's 1,200 passenger ship, The Riviera, from Barcelona to Rome for 10 days in late May 2015. It was our first cruise ever and it was utterly grand in every way. In retrospect we started right at the top! Prior to the cruise I read the Oceania forum here on CruiseCritic.com and learned a LOT of valuable information about what to expect. However nothing prepared us for the sheer fabulosity of Oceania's Riviera!
We stayed in Barcelona for several days prior to the cruise. After embarking on May 22, 2015, we visited Spain's Costa Brava (Palamos), Marseille where we toured Provence, the French riviera (St. Tropez, Cannes, & Antibes), Monaco (Monte Carlo), and then Italy where we toured Portofino, Cinque Terre, Florence & Tuscany. Finally we disembarked in Rome. I'll review ports elsewhere; this review focuses on the ship.
Overall Impressions: I highly recommend Oceania's Riviera for its luxurious and elegant ambiance; the fresh, top-notch and expertly prepared food & extensive wine selection; the many cozy corners (indoors and outdoors) throughout the ship; the pristine cleanliness of literally every space we saw; the Canyon Ranch Spa; the Culinary Center; and most of all, the service. The crew and staff were very friendly, welcoming, responsive, hard-working, competent and professional. They were outstanding in every way. Despite working long hours, they always greeted us with a smile. If you want to see excellence in action, observe the staff.
The Demographic: adult (no kids), people mostly in their 50s, 60s, & 70s, and mostly Americans, then Brits and Aussies, with fewer Asians. A few passengers had limited mobility, using canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. The staff were extremely accommodating, helping in every way possible. We were supposed to tender in only four ports but it ended up being six. This was not good for people with mobility challenges. There were of course many fit people on board, too. Most passengers were very nicely dressed, courteous, and friendly. We met many wonderful people on board and shared private tours with them. There was lots of laughing & comraderie - fun!
Accommodations: Our suite was in the Concierge Level. The beds and linens are so crazy comfy that Oceania gives details on where to purchase because they get so many requests for this info. Bathrooms are marble and suites are beautifully furnished. Ours had luxurious fabrics in cream, bronze, and pale blue with a little chocolate for contrast. There were many lovely amenities such as Bulgari toiletries, bath salts for the soaking tub, cashmere lap robes for sitting out on the veranda, plush terrycloth robes, and much, much more. Our suite was made up twice a day. There were chocolates on our pillows every night. Our cabin stewardess, Mariana, kept our fridge stocked with water and diet ginger ale and resupplied our ice bucket several times a day. My husband enjoyed the freshly baked cookies from the Concierge Lounge a few times. OK, I did, too, ha ha...
Food: To die for! Four specialty restaurants (at no add'l cost) and a Grand Dining Room plus the buffet (Terraces), afternoon tea (Horizons) and the pool grill (Waves). Special small dining venues with wine pairings. Creative menus, fresh food expertly prepared. A very extensive wine list. The single best thing I had (and it was a tough call!) was a crispy duck and watermelon salad at Red Ginger, the Asian fusion restaurant. The pool grill (Waves) had a surf & turf sandwich (filet mignon & sliced grilled lobster), Kobe beef burgers, fruit smoothies, salads, etc. The buffet (Terraces) had indoor & outdoor seating. There were tons of fresh fruit daily, beautifully cut up and displayed. A vast array of fresh baked goods daily. The croissants were works of art! Healthy stuff daily - grilled lobster & shrimp, fish, meat, vegetarian options, lots of different veg, and great salads. Specialty items like sushi, home made pasta, Thai food, and so forth. Countless desserts, many of which were reasonable (not gigantic) portions. Staff serve the passengers at the buffet, thus limiting the number of people who touch the serving utensils. We appreciated this measure! Afternoon tea is served daily at 4:00. 24-hour room service is available. Wonderful lattes, cappuchinos, and coffee at Baristas. So much more!
Entertainment: A good pianist in the Martinis bar & lounge (with comfy couches and armchairs and the usual impeccable service), a string quartet (pretty good in my view), a lovely jazz trio, a violinist, a vocalist, and more. Two ballroom dancers performed and that was fun! There were 10 or 12 singers & dancers who performed but I didn't think they (or the material) were impressive. You had to appreciate their "heart," though....
The Spa: The treatments were excellent. I had the best facial of my life (Oxygen, 80 mins). My skin is still glowing! I got my first great haircut since moving out of DC three years ago. I got makeup advice and a massage. Expensive but totally worth it to me. The spa has a fitness center & many classes; quiet and very comfy areas for relaxing - indoors & outdoors, a "thalassotherapy" (sp?) pool which is basically a huge and fancy hot tub, a sauna and steam room, a private sun deck - so much more!
Value: Overall the value was excellent. Drinks were expensive but on the other hand, we were glad they weren't included in the cruise cost; we prefer not to have to help cover others' drinking habits. We ordered what we wanted and enjoyed it. We liked being able to order bottles of wine and have them stored and then served to us at any dining venue. Oceania's shore excursions are very expensive and many of them are via bus. If you don't want to fuss with arranging or signing up for private tours and are not concerned about the cost, Oceania makes it easy for you. We participated in four private tours (for two to eight people) and all of them were superb. They were about 1/3rd of the cost of the ship's excursions. The private drivers and guides focus on the interests of the small groups and are very knowledgeable and flexible. We found them via reviews on TripAdvisor and CruiseCritic. The roll call for our cruise had lots of posts re: private tours. We weren't that interested in the on board casino so we don't know about the costs there.
Other Stuff: We enjoyed the art and sculptures throughout the ship. It wasn't all to our taste but it was all interesting. We loved the on board library. Whoever chose the books did a terrific job. We were frequent flyers at Baristas, the on board coffee cafe. Massimo staffed it and we really enjoyed chatting with him. Our hands-on cooking class was fabulous! The chef gave great instructions, ingredients were pre-measured and set up at each workstation - it was wonderful. I learned some basics and some "wow!" moves. We ate what we prepared and it was all delish! Boarding and leaving the ship were always smooth processes. We liked that bottles of water were available every time we left the ship.
I never made it to the Artists' Loft for lessons, to my disappointment. Also never made it to the Team Trivia games but we heard players laughing hysterically. We could have had bridge lessons & played bridge but we never made it to that, either. Ditto for most of the available fitness activities. We weren't interested in the Guest Speaker (a sports person). It sounds like we were the cruise slackers but we walked a lot in the ports! You could do a lot, or very little, on board. The Riviera accommodates about 1,200 passengers but I can honestly say that it never, ever felt crowded. The ship stabilizers worked well; there was very little motion. The waters were calm, too. I was worried about motion sickness but I took Bonine (an OTC preventative) and I never had one moment of discomfort. The Cruise Director, Leslie Jon, greeted us warmly and chatted with us a little; he was great.
Overall, it was the vacation of a lifetime for us. We really don't have much desire to try another cruise line. We can't imagine being as satisfied with another line as we were with Oceania. I feel like other cruise lines would pale in comparison! Thanks to everyone on The Riviera for an absolutely wonderful experience that exceeded our (high) expectations.
We enjoyed our cabin; it was very quiet. It didn't feel cramped to us. I loved the luxurious linens and fabrics as well as the beautiful marble in the bathroom. The chairs & cushions on the veranda were comfy. This cabin was centrally located (mid-ships). The waters were calm; we felt very little motion when the ship was moving. When we had room service, we had enough room (sitting on the couch and dining on the coffee table). See "Accommodations" in the review, above, for more details about our cabin.