We have taken several cruises previously on Holland America but we wanted something a little more upscale to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary so we decided to try Oceania. We are so glad we did. We loved Oceania and will be booking our future cruises with them. Embarkation and disembarkation were well organized and were a breeze. For embarkation, within about 20 minutes after arrival at the terminal, around noon, we were on the ship. The 4 main things we were looking for on the Oceania cruise were i) excellent food, ii) excellent service, iii) a nice stateroom & ship facilities and iv) not constantly feeling "nickeled and dimed". Oceania delivered on all 4... i) Food - The food in the Main Dining Room (MDR) at dinner varied from very good to excellent. Presentation and service were fine. For dinner, we generally arrived at 6:30pm, when the MDR opened, and we never had difficulty getting a nice table for 2, which is our preference. We also had several luxurious breakfasts and two lunches in the MDR. We were very impressed by the selection and the quality of the food. We ate breakfast at the Terrace Café often. Having breakfast outdoors as the ship slowly docks in a new port is wonderful. There is a wide selection at the Terrace Café for breakfast and I was really impressed with the quality of the fresh fruit - would start each breakfast with a plate of fresh fruit that I selected. Moreover their pastries (almond croissants!) and bread are terrific. Kudos to the people responsible for the bakery on board. Unlike Holland, at the buffet you are served by Oceania staff, which is nice. They will even carry your plate to your table for you. We had several lunches at the Waves Grill, especially when we got back early to mid afternoon from an excursion. Waves Grill was delightful - very nice salads, lovely french fries and excellent selection of burgers and sandwiches, all cooked to order. My favorites were the surf and turf (a must!), the Angus burger and the Reuben. We both liked the smoothies and the milkshakes. The best dining experiences, however, were in the specialty restaurants. It was so nice having access one time during the cruise to each of the 4 specialty restaurants. We actually cheated - managed to go a 2nd time to Red Ginger by checking on the 1st day of the cruise at 6pm when the restaurant opened to see whether they had any extra space - they did. Red Ginger was our favorite specialty restaurant. The subtlety and combination of flavors in the dishes we ordered were terrific. My wife and I absolutely loved the crispy duck and watermelon salad as well as the miso-glazed seabass (served in a banana leaf). A "10" !!! Polo Grill and Toscana were fine too. We were a little disappointed with the signature French restaurant, Jacques, however. The menu was very traditional, the service was rushed and the food ordinary. Have definitely eaten at much better French restaurants. And we don't appreciate it when we are served the 1st course almost immediately after ordering, even before the wine steward has had a chance to come take our order. ii) Service - consistently very good to excellent. Were pleasantly surprised by nice little touches. For example, when a server in the Terrace Café greeted us & asked us how we were doing, I mentioned that my wife seemed to be coming down with a cold. The server, Melissa from Serbia, immediately offered to bring my wife some tea with lemon and honey for her throat, which was much appreciated. Our cabin stewards were excellent and in a few cases when we had a small request, they made sure we got what we asked for. Even for the muster drill we were directed to the dining room where we could sit down during the demonstrations, rather than standing in a large group for an interminable period of time on a ship deck. Ratio of staff to guests (800/1250) is higher than on Holland and it showed. iii) Stateroom/Ship Facilities - we really liked our Concierge verandah stateroom. It was clean, functional, had plenty of storage space & everything worked well. My wife particularly liked the bathroom, with separate bath tub & shower. In other reviews we saw complaints about the shower, which is very small, but I am quite tall and didn't have a problem with it. Liked very much being able to take a bath as well, so having the separate bathtub was a plus for us. The verandah was a bit small and only had 2 basic chairs & a small table but was OK. The ship is smaller than what we were accustomed to but had excellent facilities. I used the gym often. We also used the deck at the front of the ship in the spa area that Concierge rooms can access, with its own whirlpool and chairs, during the At Sea days - very nice & quiet & one of our favorite spots. The library is a nice place to relax & has a very good choice of books. Baristas coffee bar, right next to the library, was great. Would often go there for a morning cappuccino. So nice that this is included.....The main Riviera theater is comfortable and well laid out. We went to Horizons on the 15th floor for High Tea 3X during the cruise - listening to a string quartet while eating your scones, cream and jam (&/or small sandwiches and other pastries), with panoramic views in all directions, is simply wonderful! iv) Not being "nickeled and dimed" - no charge for specialty restaurants, bottles of water provided each time you leave the ship, free specialty coffees and all non-alcoholic drinks, including a stocked mini bar with water, sodas and juice in your stateroom. Bottles water and Gatorade available (for free) in the gym. Snacks and coffee available throughout the day in the Concierge Lounge. With O-Life, cost of excursions covered in the price of the cruise. Free Internet - slow & temperamental so don't get your expectations up but fine for sending emails & checking Sports scores. Even managed to Facetime back home once. Concierge class - we liked the concierge format and when we book next time we will stick with it. We appreciated the access to the Concierge lounge and used it almost daily. The bottle of champagne (real champagne btw) at the beginning of the cruise was a nice touch. We also really enjoyed the Concierge access to the spa whirlpool and deck at the bow of the ship. Being in Concierge class also meant a shorter embarkation, which was helpful. Entertainment - We only attended one show while we were on board but we enjoyed it very much - much better than similar "production" type shows we had seen on Holland America. Otherwise after dinner we were quite happy returning to our room & relaxing there. Excursions/Ports - We took 3 excursions with Oceania during this cruise - best by far was the Beach Break in Barbados. Beach was spectacular & facilities excellent. Island tour of Antigua was OK too but the beach stop at the end of the tour was disappointing - beach was small & very ordinary, nothing spectacular. Excursion to Virgin Gorda by catamaran, then bus in Tortola was a disappointment - small site was completely overrun with tourists and access to caves and baths was difficult, even though we are in decent shape & very mobile. Devil's Bay beach, with imposing boulders, is pretty but it is a small beach and there were too many people there. In St Lucia we just got off the ship briefly to look at the shops around the port but there was nothing in that area to get excited about. Tender at St Barts was a little long & not a great experience but once we got on the island we enjoyed our time there. Explored Gustavia on our own and then made our way to Shell Beach, a pleasant 10-15 minute walk from the tender port. Great place to beachcomb for shells & kept myself busy with a little snorkeling as well. Afterwards enjoyed a drink at Le Gustav with pretty views of the harbor & marina. Overall we thought this was an excellent cruise and liked it so much, we tried to book for the very next one, so we wouldn't have to leave the ship. Unfortunately the following cruise was overbooked and the Oceania Club Ambassador we dealt with was not helpful at all but that is another story. We were extremely happy with our 1st experience with Oceania and only regret not having tried them earlier.

Bliss - A Great Winter Getaway

Riviera Cruise Review by sensrock

12 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We have taken several cruises previously on Holland America but we wanted something a little more upscale to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary so we decided to try Oceania. We are so glad we did. We loved Oceania and will be booking our future cruises with them. Embarkation and disembarkation were well organized and were a breeze. For embarkation, within about 20 minutes after arrival at the terminal, around noon, we were on the ship.

The 4 main things we were looking for on the Oceania cruise were i) excellent food, ii) excellent service, iii) a nice stateroom & ship facilities and iv) not constantly feeling "nickeled and dimed". Oceania delivered on all 4...

i) Food - The food in the Main Dining Room (MDR) at dinner varied from very good to excellent. Presentation and service were fine. For dinner, we generally arrived at 6:30pm, when the MDR opened, and we never had difficulty getting a nice table for 2, which is our preference. We also had several luxurious breakfasts and two lunches in the MDR. We were very impressed by the selection and the quality of the food.

We ate breakfast at the Terrace Café often. Having breakfast outdoors as the ship slowly docks in a new port is wonderful. There is a wide selection at the Terrace Café for breakfast and I was really impressed with the quality of the fresh fruit - would start each breakfast with a plate of fresh fruit that I selected. Moreover their pastries (almond croissants!) and bread are terrific. Kudos to the people responsible for the bakery on board. Unlike Holland, at the buffet you are served by Oceania staff, which is nice. They will even carry your plate to your table for you.

We had several lunches at the Waves Grill, especially when we got back early to mid afternoon from an excursion. Waves Grill was delightful - very nice salads, lovely french fries and excellent selection of burgers and sandwiches, all cooked to order. My favorites were the surf and turf (a must!), the Angus burger and the Reuben. We both liked the smoothies and the milkshakes.

The best dining experiences, however, were in the specialty restaurants. It was so nice having access one time during the cruise to each of the 4 specialty restaurants. We actually cheated - managed to go a 2nd time to Red Ginger by checking on the 1st day of the cruise at 6pm when the restaurant opened to see whether they had any extra space - they did. Red Ginger was our favorite specialty restaurant. The subtlety and combination of flavors in the dishes we ordered were terrific. My wife and I absolutely loved the crispy duck and watermelon salad as well as the miso-glazed seabass (served in a banana leaf). A "10" !!! Polo Grill and Toscana were fine too. We were a little disappointed with the signature French restaurant, Jacques, however. The menu was very traditional, the service was rushed and the food ordinary. Have definitely eaten at much better French restaurants. And we don't appreciate it when we are served the 1st course almost immediately after ordering, even before the wine steward has had a chance to come take our order.

ii) Service - consistently very good to excellent. Were pleasantly surprised by nice little touches. For example, when a server in the Terrace Café greeted us & asked us how we were doing, I mentioned that my wife seemed to be coming down with a cold. The server, Melissa from Serbia, immediately offered to bring my wife some tea with lemon and honey for her throat, which was much appreciated. Our cabin stewards were excellent and in a few cases when we had a small request, they made sure we got what we asked for. Even for the muster drill we were directed to the dining room where we could sit down during the demonstrations, rather than standing in a large group for an interminable period of time on a ship deck. Ratio of staff to guests (800/1250) is higher than on Holland and it showed.

iii) Stateroom/Ship Facilities - we really liked our Concierge verandah stateroom. It was clean, functional, had plenty of storage space & everything worked well. My wife particularly liked the bathroom, with separate bath tub & shower. In other reviews we saw complaints about the shower, which is very small, but I am quite tall and didn't have a problem with it. Liked very much being able to take a bath as well, so having the separate bathtub was a plus for us. The verandah was a bit small and only had 2 basic chairs & a small table but was OK.

The ship is smaller than what we were accustomed to but had excellent facilities. I used the gym often. We also used the deck at the front of the ship in the spa area that Concierge rooms can access, with its own whirlpool and chairs, during the At Sea days - very nice & quiet & one of our favorite spots. The library is a nice place to relax & has a very good choice of books. Baristas coffee bar, right next to the library, was great. Would often go there for a morning cappuccino. So nice that this is included.....The main Riviera theater is comfortable and well laid out. We went to Horizons on the 15th floor for High Tea 3X during the cruise - listening to a string quartet while eating your scones, cream and jam (&/or small sandwiches and other pastries), with panoramic views in all directions, is simply wonderful!

iv) Not being "nickeled and dimed" - no charge for specialty restaurants, bottles of water provided each time you leave the ship, free specialty coffees and all non-alcoholic drinks, including a stocked mini bar with water, sodas and juice in your stateroom. Bottles water and Gatorade available (for free) in the gym. Snacks and coffee available throughout the day in the Concierge Lounge. With O-Life, cost of excursions covered in the price of the cruise. Free Internet - slow & temperamental so don't get your expectations up but fine for sending emails & checking Sports scores. Even managed to Facetime back home once.

Concierge class - we liked the concierge format and when we book next time we will stick with it. We appreciated the access to the Concierge lounge and used it almost daily. The bottle of champagne (real champagne btw) at the beginning of the cruise was a nice touch. We also really enjoyed the Concierge access to the spa whirlpool and deck at the bow of the ship. Being in Concierge class also meant a shorter embarkation, which was helpful.

Entertainment - We only attended one show while we were on board but we enjoyed it very much - much better than similar "production" type shows we had seen on Holland America. Otherwise after dinner we were quite happy returning to our room & relaxing there.

Excursions/Ports - We took 3 excursions with Oceania during this cruise - best by far was the Beach Break in Barbados. Beach was spectacular & facilities excellent. Island tour of Antigua was OK too but the beach stop at the end of the tour was disappointing - beach was small & very ordinary, nothing spectacular. Excursion to Virgin Gorda by catamaran, then bus in Tortola was a disappointment - small site was completely overrun with tourists and access to caves and baths was difficult, even though we are in decent shape & very mobile. Devil's Bay beach, with imposing boulders, is pretty but it is a small beach and there were too many people there. In St Lucia we just got off the ship briefly to look at the shops around the port but there was nothing in that area to get excited about. Tender at St Barts was a little long & not a great experience but once we got on the island we enjoyed our time there. Explored Gustavia on our own and then made our way to Shell Beach, a pleasant 10-15 minute walk from the tender port. Great place to beachcomb for shells & kept myself busy with a little snorkeling as well. Afterwards enjoyed a drink at Le Gustav with pretty views of the harbor & marina.

Overall we thought this was an excellent cruise and liked it so much, we tried to book for the very next one, so we wouldn't have to leave the ship. Unfortunately the following cruise was overbooked and the Oceania Club Ambassador we dealt with was not helpful at all but that is another story.

We were extremely happy with our 1st experience with Oceania and only regret not having tried them earlier.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Island Tour
    Island tour was better than I expected. Our guide was great and stops we made at Block House Fort and Fort Shirley gave us postcard like views of the island - lovely. Stop at Nelson's dockyard was not a highlight for us. Final stop, the beach break, at nearby Pigeon Bay Beach, was disappointing. Beach was small & ordinary - nothing like the spectacular beaches you expect to find in Antigua.
    View All 162 Island Tour Reviews
  • Beach
    We loved Carlisle Bay Beach - spectacular. Facilities at Harbor Lights, where we were taken, were fine. Spent a delightful 3 hours here - in paradise.
    View All 139 Beach Reviews
  • St. Barts
    We took the tender into the port, Gustavia, and then walked around & explored the town on our own. Afterwards we walked to Shell Beach, a pleasant 10-15 minute walk. As the name implies, Shell Beach is a great place if you like beachcombing for shells. Also did some snorkeling while there to keep myself busy. On the way back into town stopped at Le Gustav for a drink, while looking out over the marina and harbour. A lovely day....
    View All 169 St. Barts Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's St. Barts Cruise Port Review
  • St. Lucia
    We only got off the ship briefly to take a peek at the shops in the harbor area. Nothing much of interest to us.
    View All 1,387 St. Lucia Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's St. Lucia Cruise Port Review
  • Virgin Gorda
    Catamaran trip was long. Site was overrun with tourists - much too crowded. Devil's Bay Beach, with turquoise water and imposing boulders, is quite picturesque but there were too many people the morning we were there. Access to caves and baths was quite difficult, even though we are in reasonable shape & quite mobile. Was very surprised they let some people with mobility issues on this excursion. A few people on the excursion got scrapes and bruises, 1 person hurt herself pretty badly & required help back up the trail & another person was taken away by ambulance.
    View All 216 Virgin Gorda Reviews