Close friends cruise with Oceania on this ship every year, sometimes twice a year, so our maiden voyage on the Riviera came with high expectations.
Overall we weren't disappointed. We occupied a PHI penthouse suite on deck 11. The accommodation was both spacious and elegant with walk-in wardrobe, flat screen TV, a spacious verandah and one of the most comfortable beds we've slept in. One criticism was the bathroom - single, rather than double sinks and a somewhat cramped shower cubicle. Good quality linens and a plentiful supply of towels, changed twice a day.
Our butler, Titus, and stewardess Natasha, couldn't have been more gracious and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble and service was impeccable, as it was pretty much throughout the ship.
Overall, the ship has all the amenities one might expect, although the main pool area became pretty crowded on sailing days. By contrast, when we stayed on board while others went off sightseeing, there was more than enough room to spread our wings.
The live shows were spectacular. A 12-strong troupe who work their talented socks off and the cruise show finale was breathtaking.
Food in the buffet-style Terrace cafe was good at breakfast, though somewhat unremarkable and verging on boring at lunch and dinner. The poolside Wave grill was good for hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers and the ice cream bar, too, was great for shakes, malts and ice creams, which changed each day.
The Grand dining room is something of an enigma. We had a really poor meal on our first night on board - tepid food, miserly portions and pretty indifferent service. So much so that we gave it a wide berth until the final night of the cruise, when we found a big improvement.
The speciality restaurants are on the whole very much better, save for Toscan, where we ate twice and where I would not return. Awful food and slapstick service, with plates being dropped all over the place.
By contrast, Red Ginger was fabulous and we would have liked to eat there again. Polo Grill try hard but surprisingly for an American cruise line. they can't quite replicate a high end American steak house.
Jacques, the ship's French restaurant is good, but I wouldn't give it the rave reviews that others do. My lobster thermidor was unlike any version of the dish I'd previously enjoyed and I was disappointed that my crepes suzettes were served plated, rather than flambeed at the table. Indeed, the food throughout the Riviera lacks the sense of theatre so often found on other cruise lines.
What with the afternoon canapes served in our stateroom, we never quite made it to afternoon tea.
And as for excursions, because we'd visited so many of the ports of call before and because we were there for a rest, we stayed on board other than in Barcelona, where we took a half-day coach tour and Portofino, where we tendered and spent a gorgeous half day strolling around the port.
Would we go back? No question. For all its shortcomings the Riviera is a beautiful ship, the service is fabulous and it represents great value. Our cabin came with a useful $400 per person on-board credit, which can be applied to gratuities, drinks packages and shore excursions. Wi-fi internet came free with the package.
The other noticeable thing about this cruise was the large number of children on board, especially as the ship does not particularly cater to this age group. Also a very cosmopolitan crowd, with large numbers of Americans, South Africans, Chinese and Japanese and even the odd Aussie. Which all made for a great atmosphere.
Well appointed and spacious, though bathroom could be bigger, especially the shower cubicle. Great bed, good quality linens, towels and robes.
A welcome bottle of champagne, wide choice of afternoon canapes and great butler and maid service.
Easy to reach from airport
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