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Old April 2nd, 2016, 01:34 AM
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Arrow First time Oceania Impressions - Back from RIVIERA

First time Oceania Impressions - Back from RIVIERA
7-day Caribbean Cruise. March 13, 2016


I've always wanted to experience Oceania ever since its inception. The line seems to have a fanatical fan base so I figure they must be doing something right. Lately I've been reading more and more discontent among the ranks so I hoped I hadn't missed the "Oceania boat" so to speak. Although new to Oceania, I'm an experienced cruiser having sailed over 100 cruises the past 35 years or so. Although I'm at the top tier of many cruise line past passenger clubs, I'm not loyal to any particular line. I like to try new ships on different lines, and I can be equally happy in an inside cabin on Royal Caribbean as a suite on Silversea. I don't often repeat ships, but there are exceptions such as QM2 which is a favorite. Ships are a passion and have been since I was a child, so just being on one is always invigorating to me. I'm at the point where the itinerary is secondary, and most of the cruises I book are for the ship itself. Oceania was a win win for me. A new cruise line and a relatively new ship as well. I went in with high expectations especially regarding the food, which Oceania has trademarked as "the finest cuisine at sea". That is a pretty bold claim if I do say so myself.

I usually include a complete photo documentary of the ship with my reviews, but that wasn't in the cards this trip. I've been quite pleased with the photo quality of my iPhone 6 Plus so I relied on it for all my photos. The camera decided to die the day of embarkation and would no longer focus. My husband has the same phone so I started using his, and amazingly it also failed during the cruise. Turns out both phones were part of a batch of iPhones where the camera was defective and they both decided to fail at almost the same time. Apple has since replaced the camera. So photos are limited. I had just started to photo document the ship from the top down when the camera died. Attached is a link to the photos I do have.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/erolle...57666663181165

Like every cruise and ship, there are positives and negatives. I have yet to find the 100% perfect experience and I don't think it exists. Oceania in general was quite good and I was pleased with the experience, but in terms of value there might be better options for me. I also want to make special mention of noro-virus. It's been plaguing RIVIERA to the point where the ship was even taken out of service for a couple days of heavy cleaning. My experience was that the ship was spotless and thankfully no Code Red situation on my sailing. I do think the crew was extra tired because of all additional cleaning and procedures they have been tasked with, and this was on top of an already very tough job. Even so I found them for the most part friendly and efficient. One thing you didn't see were the Officers, which are highly visible on lines such as Azamara and Disney. I think that is one reason the crews on those lines really stand out. It starts from the top down.


Please keep in mind these are my impressions based on my experience. You may or agree or disagree and that is fine. We all have our own expectations and perceptions and there is no right or wrong, just opinions.

What was outstanding:
- Cuisine. Yes it lived up to the reputation. Every meal was excellent and some of the dishes were the best I've had on land or sea. Truly memorable. Even in the main dining room the cuisine along with the variety of choices was phenomenal. Red Ginger, Jacques, and Toscana were all exceptional.

- Suite. We were in a penthouse, cabin 11028. It was one of the nicest cabins I've had on any ship. Well appointed and very well kept. The walk-in closet was wonderful as was the marble bathroom. I loved the Tranquility Bed! Our Butler was also excellent and efficient. I rarely order room service for breakfast because it often arrives cold, but the pancakes on Oceania were probably the best I've ever had and came hot! You actually only get one but it's really big! What a nice treat especially having it all laid out by the butler. It was always delivered at the specified time on the dot. The Bulgari bath amenities were wonderful and I especially appreciated the bath salts. My husband loved the extensive movie selection (two a day can be signed out) and he took full advantage of catching up on some great films.

- Culinary Center. This is something unique I've not experience on any other ship. It's fitting on Oceania since the cruise line is dedicated to foodies. We signed up for an Italian cooking class and really enjoyed it. It was a great learning experience not to mention quite entertaining. It was a wonderful way to spend a couple hours.

- Executive Lounge. We really liked this space because it was directly across from our cabin. It almost felt like an extension of our suite! It was a little too convenient to sneak in for a coffee or cookie at any hour. The news was usually playing on the large screen TV which prompted conversations and getting to know our fellow passengers.

- Space. RIVIERA is very spacious and crowds were never a problem. Finding a deck chair, seat at the buffet, your favorite bar stool, etc. was effortless. Often times I wondered were everyone was as it was hard to believe there were 1200 passengers onboard. It seemed more like 500-600 tops.

- Art. Probably the best art collection I've seen on any ship. It was literally everywhere and well thought out. It complemented all the public rooms and was well presented. This also goes for the beautiful atrium and its custom made Lalique crystal. Just stunning.

- Main Dining Room. Another beautiful space that deserves special mention. It holds its own to the speciality restaurants with a spacious high ceiling, beautiful crystal centerpiece chandelier, and very comfortable seating. Tables are well spaced so there is no crowding.

- Overall organization. Everything just went very smoothly and was effortless. Embarkation, disembarkation, activities on the ship, shore excursions, etc. Communication materials were well done and detailed. Organization is not often appreciated when it goes smoothly, but that is a true sign of intense effort behind the scenes.


Areas of Opportunity:
- Drink prices. At over $11 per standard cocktail (including gratuity), these are the most expensive drinks I've had at sea. They are almost $4 more than drinks on just about any other cruise line. I felt a bit price gouged when it came to drinks and no I did not have a drink package.

- Gratuities. At $23 per person per day, I think it's the most I've ever paid for shipboard gratuities. Did I feel I received better service for those higher gratuities compared to other lines? No. So $322 for 7 days. I never used to think much about the gratuities because overall it was a minimal expense, but on Oceania it's something I would definitely have to budget for. I do realize they were a bit higher being in the penthouse. It's one reason I mentioned that perhaps Oceania is not the best value for me. By the time you add on the drinks, gratuities, and internet it's actually more expensive than some cruises on an all-inclusive line such as Silversea or Seabourn. This will really have to be something I will consider carefully before booking another Oceania cruise.

- Blue Deck. I absolutely despise the cheap blue decking around the upper deck of the pool. It looks and feels incredibly cheap, and takes away from an otherwise beautifully designed pool deck. It felt like Oceania ran out of money and hoped no one would notice. I would be happy with a few less pieces of art onboard to see that upper deck finished in teak or even a higher quality synthetic surface. It just wasn't fitting to an otherwise beautifully finished ship.

- No promenade deck. I missed a true promenade deck, and unfortunately the upper decks by the pool don't wrap around either and are rather segmented. For this reason I feel there was limited connection to the sea from the lounges as well. Besides the Horizon Lounge, there were no other good viewpoints to sit and watch the ocean. Both the Grand Bar and Martini's have their views blocked by lifeboats. This is unfortunate. I would rather the speciality restaurants be in these locations since at night there is no view from the windows anyway. Seems like a waste.

- Entertainment. I'll be honest we didn't book this cruise for the entertainment so I wasn't expecting much. I would give it a C at best. I do enjoy production shows but I'm used to the rather extravagant Broadway style shows on Disney, Royal Caribbean, and NCL. Oceania made a valiant effort for a small ship but overall it fell short. Perhaps the budget would be better used for higher calibre solo singers and speciality acts since production shows really don't work well in the small show lounge.

- Waves Grill. Great menu and I enjoyed the cuisine as it's freshly prepared, but it could be better organized. Having to find a seat and get a table number, then get up to place your order at the counter, then sit back down just doesn't work well. On a ship of this calibre, how about just offering waiter service? They have to run the food anyway so might as well take the food orders too. It would make for a much better experience especially since Oceania is all about the dining experience.

- Evening ambiance. It's hard to pinpoint but something was just missing for me. I realize Oceania is low key, but I've sailed on lines like Azamara and Silversea which are similar and yet there is a much more festive atmosphere in the evening. Even the deck party was a flop. I sort of felt bad for the cruise director Dottie trying to get it going, but I guess she is used to it.

- Crew. Although polite and efficient, I don't think they were as motivated as on lines such as Disney and Azamara. I'm giving this one a pass though because they have been worked so hard dealing with all the noro-virus issues the ship has encountered. I did my best to make their jobs as easy as possible and not ask too much of them. They were all really pleasant and there were some stand-outs, but I think they may not have been at 100% which is understandable.


In closing I really enjoyed my first Oceania experience. I'm a foodie and really enjoy a great dining experience, so I was in heaven enjoying all the fabulous cuisine. That is absolutely the main reason I would cruise on Oceania again. As I mentioned I would have to carefully consider the overall value as some all-inclusive lines might actually be the better bargain when I'm next in the market for an upscale cruise.

Enjoy the pictures and if you have any questions please let me know.
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Old April 2nd, 2016, 01:08 PM
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I read your review with great interest. We sailed on the Oceania Nautica for 17-nights in Asia a few years ago and our experience was quite different than yours. If you're interested in my review, you can read it under the Review section in this forum or under the blog area of our website.

As you mentioned, when a cruise line makes the claim that they offer 'the finest cuisine at sea', we were very excited about trying Oceania for the first time, because as with many people, whenever we cruise, we become foodies. So we had high expectations about the food, but at least on our cruise, those expectations were too high, because the food did not live up to the hype, in our opinion. Of course, it's possible that the Nautica was not as good as their other ships or it could have been the geographic location. This is why we'd like to try one of the newer ships, so we can experience Oceania a second time, since the first time was somewhat of a disappointment. But like I always say, what one person loves, another will hate. This is especially true when discussing food.

What we did find very interesting is that like you said, they do have a very fanatical fan base. We talked to many people who only cruise with Oceania and won't cruise on any other cruise line. However, one thing we found very interesting is that everyone we talked to on our cruise who had sailed with both Oceania and Azamara, much preferred Azamara. And I mean everyone. Not only did they find the prices better, but they all said how much better the food was. Because of this, we're really wanting to try Azamara so we can find out for ourselves.

Thanks for the review. It rekindled our desire to try one of the newer Oceania ships. As I tell people, you can sail on the same ship twice and get two completely different experiences. So, I'm one who believes you really can't try something once and establish a definitive conclusion about it.

Pete
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Old July 27th, 2018, 05:57 PM
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We found the food as well to be excellent. Not sure how the food measures up on the smaller O ships, but the Riviera had it just right. Only the Queens Grill on the QM2 did we find the food better(and only slightly)I agree the entertainment is pretty boring. They did have some nice singers & a great Ventriloquist. But the shows were obviously more Cabaret style. The exception was the string Quartet, which was excellent, most especially during afternoon tea. Surprised you really didn't mention the tea service. Overall it was excellent. I guess the true entertainment was the food. Being in the food industry owning a large food service bus. they certainly excelled. We saw no evidence of Noro on board, but that was back in Jan. We enjoyed the ship enough to book 14 days this coming Jan.
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