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Ship Review: Oceania Riviera
Oceania Cruises has done it once again. The new Riviera made her European debut in great style sailing from Monte Carlo on May 6th and ending in Venice on May 15th. This spectacular vessel is nearly a twin sister to the also new Marina which entered service in March of 2011. Oceania has become my favorite cruise line as it offers a supremely high-quality cruise vacation and a country club relaxed dress code!
Riviera is considered an Upper-Premium class ship by its owners and carries only 1,250 passengers at 65,000 tons, making her one of those special mid-sized ships that are so coveted by avid and experienced cruisers. This is a foodies’ cruise with the most extensive menus at sea. The price is mostly all-inclusive and includes the alternative restaurants bottled water, soft drinks, coffee drinks and so much more. All of this is done in such style and panache that honestly it reminded me more of a Crystal or Regent type of cruise! Yes, the quality is that high. There is more dedicated galley space on these medium sized ships than a liner of 125,000 tons. This alone is amazing and shows Oceania’s dedication to the dining venues. You can choose from the Grand Dining Room with extensive, changing daily menus , Red Ginger (Asian), Jacques (French), Toscana (Italian), Polo Grill (Steak House), the Terrace Café, and more. One cost exception onboard is the La Reserve venue with a multi course gourmet meal paired with lovely wines, selected and managed by Wine Spectator magazine. For the more health conscious – Canyon Ranch Spa club offerings are spectacular and a great and tasty choice.
Cabins are gorgeous and average 282 square feet. The bathrooms are improved over Marina with a repositioning of the shower, adjustable shower head, and usable bathtub shower area. The ship boasts more than 300 fundamental improvements over her sister ship, but Marina is still not to be missed. My penthouse measured some 422 square feet and was exceptionally designed. My Indian butler, Rozario, was trained in England and had perfect manners and was quite helpful for a number of requests I had during my 9-days onboard. The butler training onboard these ships is some of the best I have encountered. Décor in the suites rivals that of the highest end luxury ships in the cruise industry.
The Penthouses are some of the largest in the industry and Oceania’s top suites are unheralded in the cruise business at 1500-2500 square feet in size.
The ship offers a marvelous Bon Appetite Culinary Center where I made seafood paella (it is great fun), has an Artists’ Loft where those with art in their hearts can create, and an amazing Canyon Ranch Spa Club at Sea.
We were fortunate to visit Marseille and a trip to Avignon on the TGV which took only 34 minutes from the port. We also enjoyed a two day christening event in Barcelona with Celebrity Chef, Cat Cora, of the Food Network and Iron Chef fame, and then off to amazing Venice. Spring in Venice is the best time to experience this wonderful city. A post cruise two-day stay at world famous Cipriani Hotel was the frosting to a remarkable multi-layer cake vacation.
My hat is tipped once again to Oceania Cruises, Frank Del Rio and his team for making one of the greatest success stories in the cruise industry. Oceania Cruises will be my favorite for a long time to come. If you have sailed on those other premium lines, are tired of being nickel-and-dimed, fighting long lines, crowds, and facing inconsistent cruise experiences (yes this does happen), try Oceania. You too will discover one of the best quality and best kept secrets in travel!
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