Riviera 2018 Caribbean Cruise – January 23 – February 6, 2018
Why this cruise?
It had been over 12 years and 19 ocean cruises since we had last visited the Caribbean, so we felt that there had been enough time between trips, and ... Read More
Riviera 2018 Caribbean Cruise – January 23 – February 6, 2018
Why this cruise?
It had been over 12 years and 19 ocean cruises since we had last visited the Caribbean, so we felt that there had been enough time between trips, and there were a few ports on this itinerary which we had not visited on our first 6 Caribbean cruises. Also, we like Oceania, and had enjoyed our prior two cruises on Marina, the sister ship to Riviera.
We do not like large ships. We have sailed 4 times on Oceania’s smaller ships, and once on Azamara Quest, a former Renaissance vessel like Oceania’s small ships. We have also sailed on Crystal’s Serenity and Symphony; both 1000 passenger ships, as well as the 950 passenger Viking Sky. So we felt well satisfied with Riviera’s 1250 passenger capacity. The ship’s gross tonnage is over 66,000, so there is plenty of space on board.
Oceania puts all of its food service venues aft, with two of its 4 specialty restaurants, Toscana’s and the Polo Grill, on Deck 14; the buffet and the outdoors (sort of) Waves Grill on Deck 12, Jacques and Red Ginger on 6 and the main dining room on 5. The activities are forward starting with Horizon Room on Deck 15, the Spa and Spa Terrace, as well as the fitness center on 14, and the show lounge on 5.
There are some large staterooms forward on 12, with Decks 11 through 7 holding the rest of the staterooms.
The center of Deck 14 has the library and internet center as well as a sun deck. Deck 12 has the main pool as well as the Culinary Center for cooking classes, and the Artists Loft for art classes. Deck 6 has 2 bars, a lounge area and the casino. Deck 5 has the reception and tour booking desk, as well as the small boutiques. There is an open aft area on Deck 15, with a fitness track and two areas for shuffleboard and croquet. There are two elevator/stair banks, the one aft with 2 elevators and the forward one with 4.
Suite passengers have an “Executive Lounge” on Deck 11, and concierge level passengers a “Concierge Lounge” on Deck 9. Both feature their own computers, a huge TV screen, lots of daily newspapers and a food service bar, as well as an attendant to help with matters.
The corridors are lined with paintings, mostly abstract, and this is the concept in the public areas also. There are some very nice works as well as some striking glassware. As noted, Riviera has a great deal of room for its passengers, with plenty of places to simply sit and relax. I was even able to find a poolside lounge chair on the times I used the pool.
When all is said and done, it is a very well laid out, attractively designed and spotlessly clean ship, with everything a cruiser will want.
Food and food service.
Oceania prides itself on its food, and with good reason. If Crystal Cruises scores 98 out of 100, then Marina and Riviera come in at a 96. We confess that we only tried Red Ginger among the specialty restaurants, mainly because my wife is a vegetarian, and also because we could not book Jacques any earlier than 8:30. We did use the buffet for one dinner, as well as all breakfasts and lunches. We heard of a few glitches in the main dining room service, and a complaint about noise from someone sitting along the wall in Red Ginger. But everything else was excellent. My wife especially loved the fruit smoothie she had for breakfast every day from the Waves Juice Bar. The specialty restaurants require reservations, but are without any additional charge. All dining seating is open, and we were able to sit either by ourselves when we wanted to, or with one other couple when we requested this. The service was uniformly excellent; the china and other tableware first class and the overall experience a delight.
We usually opt for Concierge Verandah class, and did so here. These are the same size as the standard Verandah cabins, but offer a few other features, such as unlimited internet use. 3 free laundry usages, some advantage in booking specialty restaurants and increased on board shipboard credits. The cabin is roomy enough, with a small sofa, a decent coffee table, a nice desk and both a full size tub/shower as well as a full (albeit small) separate shower. The verandah had two comfortable wicker chairs and a small table. The closet was more than adequate for our needs, and there was plenty of drawer space. The cabin featured dark wood where appropriate, and a nice cream finish on the walls, with one picture over the sofa. The lighting was good, with goose neck reading lights on each side of the bed, in addition to regular lamps. The TV was large and offered a fairly good range of newscasts as well as the usual shipboard channels and four movie/TV show channels. It did not have a shipboard account channel however, which most cruise lines offer these days.
For a maximum of 1250 passengers the crew numbers 800. This is a ratio of 1.56 passenger per crew member; one of the highest ratios at sea. And the results are a level of service that is as good as one can get. The excellent service at all the food venues was noted earlier, but this effort extended to the room service, with our cabins being made up every day by the time we returned from breakfast, and all other aspects of service being very well attended. We had a slight glitch with the laundry once, being charged for it because I used the wrong laundry slip. The charge was quickly erased when I brought it to the reception area’s attention. People can make mistakes, but Oceania’s willingness to correct any error was exemplary.
We believe that only Crystal Cruises offers first class entertainment, but Oceania’s two larger ships do fairly well. The Enrichment Lecturer, Sandy Cares, was especially good, offering at least one talk every day which was both entertaining and informative; concerning the Caribbean, both as to its history and ports of call. The show production team was quite talented and their shows had some good, though overly loud, musical numbers. We do not bother with magicians much, nor comedians, but did enjoy a lady songstress and the classical music quartet, both in their regular tea time presentations, and one evening show. What we did not like was the fact that all the evening shows started at 9:30. That really is pretty late for us.
We started off with two sea days. We were disappointed by the fact that the weather did not allow us to land at our first scheduled stop, Santa Marta in Columbia, even though the sea seemed pretty smooth. We saw this as our only opportunity to see this country, and were sad at not being able to do this.
The next stop was Aruba, where we had been twice before, and we did our favorite tour – taking the local bus to the east end of the island and returning. We also opted for the in-town free trolley, but this was a waste of time.
Next was small Bonaire, which we had never seen. We rented a golf cart and toured one end of the island. It has only a small population, but seems quite nice, with a higher percentage of Dutch residents than Aruba, but both islands, and probably Curacao also, show their clean Dutch management.
After a sea day we arrived in Grenada where we went on a private tour with four other passengers in a trip arranged by one of them. This was a 7 hour exploration of a lot of this island, conducted by Grenada Explorers, for $110.00 per couple, with an excellent guide and an experienced driver. It rained during part of the mountainside portion, but fortunately was dry when we got out to see things. This was an excellent tour. We had a pretty good lunch that was a trifle pricey.
The next day in St. Vincent we had another private tour, this time with 8 fellow passengers plus three people staying on the island. This also was a fairly long tour, with lunch included for $174.00 per couple. It was called Sailor’s Wilderness Tour and was quite good.
On the following day in Martinique we did a ship’s tour of the Balata Botanical Gardens at a cost of $198.00 per couple for a three hour decent tour of a nice garden.
We then landed in St. Kitts where we did a private tour again, this one lasting about 5 hours with a very amusing driver/guide in an 8 passenger van. It is called Inside Paradise Tours, and was well worth the $110.00 per couple price.
The final stop was in St. Barts, a French possession. It had suffered some damage in Hurricane Irma (the only port on our trip that was hit by this storm), but it all seemd to be fully repaired. We took a ship’s tour on the Yellow Submarine for $198.00 per couple again. This is a partly submersed small boat with about 20 passengers, which allows you to look at a lot of fish and some turtles. It made me want to snorkel; but was nice.
St. Barts was our last stop before returning home with two more sea days.
Embarkation and Debarkation
Getting from Phoenix to Miami to take a cruise is a headache. One either has to leave the day prior to sail date, staying at an overpriced Miami hotel, or do what we did this time. We had Oceania book our flights – non-stop. But this involved taking the redeye at 1:45 in the morning of our sailing day, arriving at 7:45 and spending a thrilling 3 hours sitting in the Miami airport. We took a taxi to the cruise pier for a flat $30.00 rate. Once there, at about 10:45, we joined a sizeable group waiting to check in on board. The check-in started at 11:00, and was very well run so we were on board by 11:30. As usual, everyone had to wait for the cabins to be made up, but we had lunch and were in our stateroom, with luggage delivered, by 1:30.
Debarkation was slow as usual, but this was not Oceania’s fault. It simply involves U.S Customs, even though we no longer had to fill out a declarations form. Of course we were among the last off since our return flight did not leave until 1:45. This time we caught an airport shuttle van for $20.00 and it worked out fine.
This was a very good cruise. Nothing is ever perfect, but our biggest disappointment was in missing Santa Marta, Columbia. This was a weather problem, and not Oceania’s fault. In virtually all other aspects Riviera was just fine, and is to be highly recommended. Read Less