Accommodating 1,250 passengers, Riviera is the right size with the right amenities to provide an upscale cruise into ports that are difficult for larger cruise ships to reach. The ship includes a wide range of cabins, which all feel luxurious thanks to premium fabrics and materials such as Italian marble.
A recent renovation to Riviera updated some of the public areas and suite categories as part of the OceaniaNEXT program during an early 2019 dry-dock in Marseille. Its cabins are beautifully designed yet feel comfortable and sensible at the same time. The top-tier suites can only be described as opulent, with marble detailing and lush fabrics practically everywhere; the Owners Suites are Ralph Lauren branded.
It's impossible to talk about Riviera without mentioning food. That's because dining and cuisine are deeply entwined with the ship and its programming. Cuisine is an art form onboard, with attention given to even the smallest details, from idea to execution. Menus are vast and balanced; even people who don't think of themselves as foodies will be happy with the selection.
Oceania smartly leverages partnerships and branding with the likes of Jacques Pepin and Wine Spectator to ensure tours and enrichment include cuisine as well. This is evident at Riviera's Culinary Center, at meals at La Reserve (a wine-pairing dinner) and in ports as passengers try out the line's unique Culinary Destination Tours. Everyone associated with the ship understands the importance food plays in the overall experience and treats dining with reverence.
The ship visits new ports almost every day, so the schedule onboard is designed to accommodate early mornings. Consequently, the pace is a bit slow at night, and entertainment varies between live bands in the Horizons lounge to musical revues in the Riviera Lounge.
Working around busy port schedules also means passengers might have to sacrifice entertainment or enrichment options for the sake of dining; only one show is offered at night, and dining times often conflict with those, so passengers have to make decisions that might leave them feeling like they missed out.
Service, for the most part, is excellent. Crew members are professional and polite, and they know their product and customers thoroughly. Special requests and personal preferences are a hallmark of the staff in restaurants. The notable exception is poolside, where there don't seem to be enough cocktail servers to keep up with passenger demand.
Daytime: Casual, with shorts and Polo shirts on most excursions and bathing suits and cover-ups common on the pool deck. Shorts, tees, jeans, capris, and casual dresses are appropriate in all public spaces.
Evening: At night, the dress code is similar to what you'd find at a country club or resort on land. Men wear dress pants or khakis and button-down or collared shirts, while women might wear dresses or blouses with skirts, capris or smart trousers. Riviera doesn't have a formal night, so glitzy dresses or jackets and ties aren't required, though some passengers do dress for dinner, especially in the specialty venues.
Not permitted: Passengers aren't permitted to wear tank tops or swimsuits in restaurants, regardless of the time of day. Jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes are discouraged in public areas after 6 p.m.
Included with your cruise fare:
Not included with your cruise fare:
Riviera offers multiple shore excursions in every port it visits, and most passengers seem to book their tours through Oceania. Tours can be booked online ahead of the sailing, though many are still available for booking at the Destinations Desk onboard.
Excursions for a number of activity levels are available, and they're clearly identified in the literature as requiring "minimal" walking or necessitating easy, moderate or extensive walking. Most tours visit the real highlights of the cities they call on, and they're run like clockwork, with a combination of guided touring along with alone time to explore. Lengths vary from about three hours to full-day, eight-hour tours. Longer tours usually include meals or snacks. Tours that are available for people with mobility issues are also marked as such in the brochures and online.
Prices for excursions are fairly high by cruise standards, with the least-expensive options, like walking or hop-on-hop-off tours, starting at around $70. Passengers looking to book multiple excursions with Riviera are better off purchasing the Unlimited Passport Collection, which allows for unlimited a la carte excursions for the cruise. (During our seven-night cruise, which visited six ports, the UPC package cost $659 per person.) Certain excursions, designated as Oceania Choice or Oceania Exclusive, require a supplemental charge. Oceania Choice tours offer experiences that get passengers more deeply involved in the region's culture, geography or history, such as a Mount Etna 4x4 expedition or a national park island cruise in Croatia. Oceania Exclusive excursions cap participation at 16 people so passengers get more personal attention.
Riviera also offers several Culinary Discovery Tours on each cruise. These excursions take passengers on a culinary journey in a particular region, exposing them to traditional area-specific foods and products as well as the people who make them. A trip to Sicily, for example, might include a tour to the fresh fish market, followed by a visit to a patisserie to watch a cannoli demonstration. The capper would be a journey to a restaurant to learn from the chef about local cuisine as you dine and wine. The Culinary Discovery Tours are a big hit with passengers, as they combine history and education with exceptional food. Groups are kept small -- usually fewer than 20 people.
If you want to skip formal excursions, Riviera brings a local guide onboard who will answer any questions about destinations and how to get there. For example, if you want to do some hiking, followed by beach time, the guide could tell you where to grab a public bus, where you'll end up and even how long the trip should take. This option appeals to the more independent-minded traveller who wants less structure. Riviera also provides a complimentary shuttle from the ship to the city center in most ports.
Destination services also can accommodate private tours; flat fees are given depending on what size vehicle (sedan or van, for example) is needed. Free bottled water is always available at the ship's entrance.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
The ship's main theatre space is the Riviera Lounge, located at the front of Deck 5. Evening performances here are a mix of production shows and guest entertainers. Riviera has a cast of singers and dancers who put on several shows over the course of the cruise. They only have one showing at night, starting roughly between 9 and 10 p.m. For the most part, they follow a pretty traditional cruise line format, heavy on classic hits and nods to old Hollywood or Broadway.
The theatre also hosts guest entertainers, such as pianists, comedians and magicians, who are generally excellent. It also shows movies on evenings when there isn't a live performer. Movies are usually newer. We loved the freshly made boxes of popcorn and sodas, which made it feel like a real movie experience (minus the sticky floors). During the day, the theatre is the spot for bingo.
The ship's casino is located on Deck 6. It's split into two rooms; one holds table games and a few slot machines, while the other has only slot machines. The casino bar is sandwiched between the two. The casino is open when the ship isn't in port, and it's completely nonsmoking. It's worth a visit for some of the provocative artwork on display plus the two Picasso pieces nearby.
Riviera hosts a number of social events during the day, like coffee and needlepoint or scarf-tying demos, and scotch or cognac tasting at night. Unhosted games, such as bridge or mah-jongg, are set up at designated times as well, and a lounge behind Bar Istas on deck 14 is always stocked with canned soft drinks and ice for passengers to enjoy while they play.
Team trivia takes place every day, usually in Martinis lounge. Karaoke is held late at night, usually in conjunction with a happy hour, in Horizons.
Oceania Rivera offers a couple of unique enrichment opportunities, and passengers take advantage. Riviera's Culinary Center, located on Deck 12, gives passengers the opportunity to sharpen their cooking skills and learn new recipes and techniques. The venue is equipped with 12 state-of-the-art cooking stations, featuring induction stovetops and all the equipment anyone might need to chop, saute and drizzle their way through international recipes. (Classes are capped at 24, so passengers double up at the workstations.) A chef instructor leads all the classes, first demonstrating the skills, then watching and giving pointers as passengers try them out.
Sessions might focus on the various preparations of fish, pasta making from scratch or Asian cooking, for example. Arrive to the Culinary Center hungry -- a big part of each lesson is tasting and eating. At the end, you'll take home the recipes you practised and probably at least one skill that made you think, "Wow! What a great tip. I had no idea." Most classes last two hours and cost $69, and they fill up pretty quickly. Many passengers take all classes offered, and courses are available roughly every other day.
Also unique to Oceania is the Artists Loft. Located on Deck 12, across from the Culinary Center, the Artists Loft is a space where passengers can get together and create art, working with Riviera's artist in residence. Sessions are progressive, so you can work on your art piece throughout your cruise. At the end of your cruise, you'll have a piece to take home with you. A final session gets passengers together to show off their projects and talk about the process. Artists work on contract and are onboard anywhere from one to three months, and they don't all work in the same mediums. Classes are included in the price of your cruise fare, and there's no extra cost for supplies or equipment. While many of the artists are not teachers or professors by trade, they provide hands-on instruction. Lessons are limited to 15 people, and while registration is encouraged, drop-ins usually are welcome.
Other enrichment comes in the form of lectures, and most focus on the destinations the ship visits, so a trip to the Mediterranean might include a guest lecture on Sicily or Pompeii. Sessions on things like metabolism or treating back pain are held in the spa/fitness area, though these are mostly designed to sell products or treatments. Shopping and shore excursion lectures are broadcast daily on the ship's TV station.
In general, Riviera's handful of bars and lounges are busiest right before dinner, when cruisers gather for a quick drink ahead of their meals. Typically, two-for-one happy hours take place between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Because cruises on Riviera are so packed with ports, passengers get up early in the morning, and, consequently, hit the hay early. Most lounges are pretty deserted before midnight any time the ship has an early-morning call the next day.
Martinis (Deck 6): As the name implies, this venue is the ship's martini bar, located just off the main atrium. It's decorated in the style of a gentlemen's club, with dark browns, burnt oranges and creams. The centrepiece of the bar is a large baby grand piano, which is a showstopper itself because of its unusual blond and dark brown striping and carved legs. A variety of martinis are served here, including the ship's signature Big O Martini, made with vodka, Cointreau and a variety of juices. Martinis always has a solid crowd, especially around trivia time, which usually takes place in late afternoon.
Grand Bar (Deck 6): Adjacent to Martinis is the Grand Bar, which is just off the entrance to the Grand Dining Room. This isn't really a bar at all but rather a long, narrow seating area filled with plush chairs, couches and ottomans, along with a few small tables. Bar waiters serve this area from Martinis. This is the place for a quiet chat with cocktails.
Casino Bar (Deck 6): Riviera's casino bar is sleek and modern, with grey and silver dominating the colour scheme. It's fairly small and includes a handful of faux snakeskin chairs and small glass tables. A stunning crystal light-feature hangs above the bar, and the base of the bar lights up with simple white light that changes to bright neon hues. It's fairly quiet, with passengers dipping in and out throughout the early evening and into the night.
Concierge Lounge (Deck 9): Open only to passengers staying in Concierge cabins, the Concierge Lounge is a quiet spot for complimentary soft drinks, coffee and snacks, such as cookies and bagels, during the day and into the evening. The room includes two couches as well as a number of comfy chairs for lounging and socializing and a large TV. Access requires a keycard, and the lounge features a dedicated concierge during select hours of the day who can help with things like dinner reservations and excursion booking.
Executive Lounge (Deck 11): Like the Concierge Lounge, the Executive Lounge is an exclusive spot to relax, read a newspaper or watch TV. Passengers staying in Penthouse Suites and higher have access via keycard to Riviera's Executive Lounge, which includes snacks, coffee and soft drinks. The room features a wood floor, couch, plenty of chairs and a large television. The Executive Lounge has its own concierge.
Waves Bar (Deck 12): The ship's pool bar is located on the port (left) side of the ship near the pool. It's a small bar, with limited seating, but it's quite popular -- finding seats can be a challenge -- in the late afternoon as passengers return to the ship from their shore excursions.
Horizons (Deck 15): The biggest bar onboard is also the most visited one. Located at the top of the ship, the bar is encased in floor-to-ceiling windows. There's plenty of intimate seating, with plush chairs and small cocktail tables. You'll also find a large inlaid wood dance floor and marble bar. During the day, it is a quiet place to relax with little interruption until it hosts afternoon tea later. At night, it becomes a spot for karaoke and dancing, where live musicians or recorded tunes play. While it heats up after the main theatre show at night, it gets quiet pretty quickly, as passengers head to bed to accommodate early shore excursions.
Horizons also features a smoking area. It's cut off from the main section of the bar by a short hallway. While it's vented, smoke does occasionally drift out into nonsmoking areas.
The ship's main pool -- and two hot tubs -- are on Deck 12, and they're surrounded by terry cloth-covered padded lounge chairs and wicker sun beds that feature pads. Because itineraries tend to be so port-intensive, the pool is a ghost town during most of the day. Things get going surprisingly early, though, with a handful of passengers swimming or hitting the hot tubs not long after the sun rises, at least during great weather. It fills up again around 3 or 4 p.m., with the sun beds and lounge chairs in the shade getting the highest demand.
The pool also gets pretty packed, as passengers soak tired legs and talk about their days in port. While bar service is available here, it's fairly spotty. Passengers have to work to flag down servers, who make their rounds picking up empties but don't always proactively ask if you'd like another -- or even a first.
Padded lounge chairs are available on Deck 14 as well, right above the pool deck (there is no Deck 13). For the most part, these are in full sun, except as evening creeps in and the sun begins to go down. More loungers are located on Deck 15, too.
The Spa Terrace is located just behind the spa. Available only to those passengers staying in Concierge Level cabins and above, the terrace has a large, heated thalassotherapy pool as well as wicker lounge chairs, many with personal clamshell shades. The area is accessed by keycard, and you can't buy your way in.
Those seeking more active pursuits can play table tennis on Deck 14, or visit Deck 16 to practice putting or driving on the greens, and play paddle tennis. Deck 15 has courts for croquet and bocce as well as shuffleboard. Riviera staff coordinate a few sporty tournaments during the week.
Most of the services onboard Riviera are located on Deck 5. This is where you'll find reception, destination services and dinner reservations. Several boutiques, offering essentials that you might have forgotten, duty-free purchases and souvenirs along with some high-end jewellery, bags and clothing, are located nearby. An Oceania Club Ambassador mans a desk on Deck 6, helping past passengers with any need that might arise.
The ship has five self-service launderettes, located on decks 7 through 11. Each has three washers and three dryers as well as an iron and ironing board for any pressing needs. You can get tokens for washing at the reception desk or use the dollar changer inside. Each load costs $2 to wash and $2 to dry.
The ship's enormous library, located on Deck 14, is extensive and open 24 hours a day. It's filled with dark wood and glass shelves as well as comfortable leather chairs with big ottomans. The library offers more than 2,000 titles for passengers to borrow for their sailings. We loved the incredible selection, with destination guides, fiction and nonfiction. We were surprised more passengers don't linger in the library because it's adjacent to the ship's coffee bar, Bar Istas. The space is never busy or crowded and features several reading nooks for privacy. A game room, dubbed The Board Room, is also located on Deck 14. This space is somewhat busy in the evenings, mostly with passengers ganging up on various jigsaw puzzles.
A half dozen computers sit to the side of Bar Istas with someone on hand to assist with Internet needs during the day. Streaming sites aren't supported on Riviera.
A medical centre is located on Deck 4.
Riviera's Canyon Ranch SpaClub is located on Deck 14. The reception area is decorated in shades of brown and white, with lots of natural stone tiles and mosaic pieces. It includes a large area where passengers can help themselves to fruit- or vegetable-infused water, or order tea.
Sauna and steam rooms are available for all passengers to use, regardless of whether they have treatments scheduled. (Men and women have separate spaces.) Two small rooms offer ceramic heated lounge chairs, also available for anyone to use. The spa has 10 treatment rooms, including one for couples. This room includes two massage tables and a deep hot tub, as well as two showers. The spa complex is sedate, and chances are, you'll have no problem finding space on the loungers or in the steam room or sauna.
Treatments run the gamut from basic Swedish massage to detox wraps and facials. There's also an acupuncturist onboard. With any treatment, expect to pay roughly what you might shell out on land at a top-end spa or resort. A 50-minute massage starts at $140, while facials begin at $135 for 50 minutes. An 18-percent gratuity is added to every bill. Passengers who book three treatments or more receive discounts, and a daily spa special is available, which usually offers a pretty decent deal.
A small salon is part of the spa complex. Here, passengers can get treatments such as manicures or pedicures, hair styling or cutting, waxing or beard trimming.
The fitness centre includes treadmills, bikes and stair climbers as well as a rowing machine. A number of TechnoGym weight machines are available, as are two Kinesis total-body machines, which offer multiple weight workout options. Gym passengers also can use the ship's dumbbells, which go up to 45 pounds. There's a small aerobics room, where passengers can stretch on their own or take fitness classes like spinning or Pilates. Group fitness classes are complimentary. Personal training with the fitness director also is available, for a fee. (You'll get a 15-percent discount if you book five sessions.) Weight-loss programs, including body composition and hydration tests, are offered for a cost as well.
The gym is busy between 6 and 8 a.m. and starting around 4 p.m. although on sea days, it sees a steady stream of people. During peak periods, it is nearly impossible to hop on a treadmill. If you wait until a little later in the evening or go earlier in the morning, you'll have your pick of equipment.
Complimentary bottles of water and Gatorade or Vitamin Water are available in a cooler. A jogging track is located at the back of the ship on Deck 15. Ten laps around equals a mile. Walkers tend to use Deck 12, which circles over the pool deck, for their morning constitutional, meaning joggers mostly have the track on Deck 15 to themselves.
Renowned master chef Jacques Pepin serves as the cruise line's executive culinary director, and all restaurants onboard Riviera are touched by his influence. Food is simply superb when it comes to both quality and variety.
Riviera has four speciality restaurants that are all included in the price of your cruise fare, and each is unique for its menu and venue. (A fifth speciality restaurant offers meals paired with wine, for a fee.) Menu selections are so large, they're almost overwhelming. (We routinely asked for -- and took -- recommendations from the servers.) All four of the ship's speciality restaurants are open from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on seven-night cruises, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on longer voyages, and reservations are required. It's worth noting that reservations fill quickly, well before the cruise even begins. If you want a table for two between 7 and 8:30, reserve online well ahead of your sailing. If you wait too long, only shared tables at less-popular times (such as 6 and 9:30 p.m.) are available. If you wait until you get onboard, you might be out of luck for certain venues. Keep in mind that sea days or ports where the ship departs before dinner are sure to have reservations booked well in advance.
But even if you did nothing but eat in the ship's main dining venue, the Grand Dining Room, or the buffet-style Terrace Cafe, you could be one happy diner. Those looking for healthier options might want to stick with these restaurants, as menus in the Grand Dining Room more clearly designate healthier choices, and the Terrace Cafe offers grilled seafood and a salad bar. At lunch, one station is dedicated to daily power bowls including Mediterranean and Asian options on a rotating basis. Sushi is often available at lunch and dinner, too. Quality at either venue doesn't skip a beat.
Other dining requests, including kosher, vegetarian and gluten-free, can be accommodated. (Kosher meals are available, but the ship's kitchens are not kosher.) Riviera offers a full vegan menu, too, in addition to a newly launched plant-based menu that is already a big hit with those focused on healthier living. Passengers with special dietary needs or restrictions should note them at least 90 days ahead of their sailings and confirm with the maitre d' once onboard. Those who have special needs will be provided menus each morning so they can make their dinner selections. Chefs will do their best to prepare the selections so they fit the restriction. (If they can't, they'll ask the passenger to make another selection.) Gluten-free items are available in all restaurants, by request. Even at speciality restaurants, diners can work with waiters on coming up with meals appropriate to their diets.
One thing is for sure: You won't go hungry on Riviera. Thanks to a 24-hour room service menu, poolside grill and formal afternoon tea, you can grab a high-quality bite around the clock.
Grand Dining Room (Deck 6): A beautiful venue located at the back of the ship, Riviera's main dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It features floor-to-ceiling windows and a colossal crystal chandelier, so there is plenty of light no matter the time of day. Cream and green fabric covers the walls, and the whole room feels light and comfortable. All meals are open seating, so passengers can stop by any time the restaurant is open and get seated. Tables are available for two, four and more. Service is attentive and professional. We were impressed when a waiter took our custom order, then read it back to us exactly right. Our dish came precisely as requested. Likewise, when we asked our waitress for suggestions, as we were waffling between two items, she made a firm recommendation that was spot on. Quality, no matter the time of day, is high, with most dishes coming out perfectly prepared. Once you see the kitchen, you understand just how their precision factors into the overall experience.
The breakfast menu is virtually the same each day. Passengers can order smoothies, cereal, yoghurt, fruit, cold cuts, fish, eggs made to order, omelettes, steak, lamb, pancakes and waffles. Waiters circulate with baskets of fresh pastries and sugary doughnuts. Menus have a smoothie of the day and daily egg special, which change each morning.
For lunch, passengers looking to escape the crowds that gravitate toward the Terrace Cafe will find a respite in the Grand Dining Room, which offers a large menu that changes every day. Passengers can choose from appetizers, soups and main courses as well as salad entrees, sandwiches and desserts. Healthy choices are identified, and each day a "Taste of the World" menu is offered, which can be served as a main course or a sampler for two people. One day, it might focus on Morocco, with dishes like chicken pastilla, tabbouleh and beef kefta. Another day, it might serve a Greek menu, with eggplant salad, lamb bourekaki, Greek salad and pita bread. A number of items are available every day: assorted crudite, hamburgers, sirloin steak or chicken breast, for example.
Dinner menus also change daily. Appetizer options might include curried chicken and Dungeness crab spring rolls or goat cheese and apple tarts. Soup and salad choices might be a creamy andouille sausage bisque or Caesar salad. Each menu offers a wide selection of entrees, which include vegetarian options as well as meatier meals. (Vegetarian choices are marked on the menu with a "V", and include things like a vegetable and barley purse with ratatouille coulis.) Jacques Pepin's signature dishes are available every night; choose from steak frites, herb-crusted chicken or poached salmon, a simple but flavorful dish served with rice and a tomato hollandaise sauce. Healthy choices also are identified. A Menu Degustation is available, highlighting item combinations from the regular dishes. This menu labels an appetizer, soup, main course and dessert and suggests wines to pair along the way. (Wines come with an additional cost.) Desserts include sorbet, ice cream, cookies and petits fours as well as items like Key lime pie, cakes and mousses. A cheese plate is served every day.
Jacques (Deck 5): The ship's French restaurant is Chef Pepin's namesake. The venue feels like a French bistro with hardwood floors and starched white table cloths; even the ceilings help with the illusion, providing the sensation that you're sitting beneath the Eifel Tower.
The menu is vast, with a selection of hot and cold appetizers, soups and main courses. And it's all very French (read: rich). Give the foie gras a shot; you'll have several options between appetizers and main courses. We tried a delicious sauteed foie gras topped with a tangy lemon confit and paired with a piece of grilled pineapple as an appetizer. The combination of sweet, rich and sharp was superb. Other appetizers that were big hits include traditional escargots served with a Burgundy garlic butter; sublime, melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese souffle with heirloom tomato sauce; and poached scallop gnocchi with lobster in a white wine sauce (so good you'll wish it were an entree, according to our tablemate). Main courses include a sea bass filet baked in puff pastry crust, carved tableside (for two to share), roasted lamb loin and prime rib. Chocolate lovers should try the decadent rich-but-not-too-sweet chocolate mousse for dessert. Those who prefer cheese can select from a number of rich (and some stinky) cheeses from a rolling trolley. Cheese is served with crackers, digestives or bread (all bread onboard is made from scratch).
Red Ginger (Deck 5): Red Ginger is an Asian-fusion restaurant, complete with Asian-inspired artwork and green plants that add bits of colour to an otherwise fairly dark venue. The menu includes, among others, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and Thai selections, and waiters bring around a box of chopsticks so you can choose your dining weapon: slippery synthetics, clingy bamboo or sticks inlaid with mother of pearl, for example. Spicy items are indicated with a chilli icon, and spice levels can be adjusted up or down by request.
Appetizer highlights include the chef's sushi selection (which changes daily), Vietnamese summer rolls and chicken satay. If you're feeling adventurous, try the spicy duck and watermelon salad, and kick up the spice a little. The crispy duck provides a surprising balance to the sweet watermelon and salty fish sauce. For main courses, choose from items like miso-glazed sea bass, lobster pad Thai and red curry chicken. Add sides like udon noodles or stir-fried rice. The restaurant also offers a large tea menu; your server will help you pick, then bring heavy, squat teapots filled with scented brews. Dessert options include soft ice cream topped with chilli and salt, matcha green tea ice cream, chocolate and lemongrass creme brulee and steamed ginger cake.
Terrace Cafe (Deck 12): The Terrace Cafe is the ship's buffet restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. Located at the back of the ship, just off the pool, it's busy anytime it's open, which usually starts at 7 a.m. The buffet closes between meals, so passengers looking for snacks will have to go elsewhere (Waves Grill or room service, for example). Indoor seating comes with a view, with all tables near enough to floor-to-ceiling windows. There's also a pleasant outdoor seating space at the very back of the restaurant, where passengers can enjoy the outdoors either in full sun or shaded by umbrellas. Regardless of where you sit, waiters bring around drinks and clear plates quickly.
At the buffet, passengers rarely lay hands-on serving utensils; servers take requests and fill plates with whatever you like. The upside is you don't have to worry about grabbing tongs that might have been touched by other, less-hygiene-oriented passengers. The downside is the buffet can get fairly crowded as you wait for your turn, even for otherwise quick items like cookies and rolls. And you can't control portions (particularly problematic if you like lighter servings of dressings or sauces).
Breakfast includes hot items such as scrambled eggs, bacon and ham as well as daily specials like waffles (both sweet and savoury) or French toast. An egg station serves up eggs made to order, with omelettes, fried and poached eggs available. Those looking to cut cholesterol or fat can get egg whites. Cold items include smoked salmon (and all the fixings for a bagel and lox breakfast), muesli, cereal, cold cuts and cheese, as well as a large selection of pastries and muffins. Servers will bring juice of your choice -- including orange, tomato, apple and grapefruit -- to your table.
The variety at lunch is fairly small, but what is served is delicious. Lunch always includes a Caesar salad station and another small salad or design-your-own bowl bar, with a salad or healthy bowl of the day, like poke or Mediterranean power bowl. Passengers can also opt for the build-your-own variety. Cold cuts, cheese and a solid selection of cold salads (potato salad, coleslaw, etc.) are also always available for lunch, and options change daily. A carving station offers meats like roast chicken or lamb. Side dishes might include steamed vegetables or rice. There's also a pasta station, where passengers can order a daily special or build their own creations. Freshly prepared pizzas are a hallmark of lunch. Menus often are pegged to the port the ship visits each day. So a day visiting Corfu might include a variety of Greek specialities, such as spanakopita (spinach pie), dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and moussaka (an eggplant, lamb and potato casserole). The dessert bar is extensive, with a sizable variety of ice cream available.
Dinner is an event, with grilled seafood and meats aplenty. Sushi and sashimi are served every night, along with tons of fresh, chilled shellfish, like crab claws, salmon tartare and mussels. Other appetizers might include hummus with pita bread, tomato and mozzarella salad, or Asian eggplant rolls. A salad bar is always available, and a daily chef's salad selection is highlighted. The carving station might feature lobster, steaks or slow-braised beef short ribs. There's also a wok station, where passengers can create their own dishes or try the feature of the day, like pork chow mein. A pasta station is available every night, and again, passengers can choose the chef's selection or build their own. Sides might include mashed or baked potatoes as well as steamed vegetables or steamed rice. The dessert bar has cakes, ice cream, and fresh fruit, and options change every night. You might see red wine poached pears, cheesecake or apple tartlets as well as ice cream and sorbet. Fresh fruit and cheese also are available.
Waves Grill (Deck 12): Located outdoors near the pool, Waves Grill is a casual eatery that serves up breakfast and lunch. It also has a juice bar that serves raw juices, acai bowls, and smoothies for breakfast as well as milkshakes at lunchtime.
Breakfast at Waves Grill starts earlier and is served later than at Terrace Cafe, so it's a nice option for passengers who don't mind a little less variety. It also is less crowded, with shorter lines, and offers a more relaxed experience. It includes an egg station as well as scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, sausage and hash browns. Muesli and a small selection of pastries are available, as well as cold items like yogurt and cottage cheese. Seating is outdoors, and waiters take your order and bring plates to your table. Waves closes for about a half-hour after breakfast while lunch is being set up.
At lunch, Waves offers an excellent array of burgers, including what might be the best we've had at sea: The Texan, a Black Angus burger topped with cheddar, grilled red onions, bacon and barbecue sauce. A vegetarian burger, as well as tuna and salmon burgers, also are available. Reuben and Cuban sandwiches are served, as is a lobster and filet mignon surf and turf sandwich (paired with truffle fries). Waves Grill also has a small salad bar, with few fixings, and cold salads. Waves is open until late afternoon; Terrace Cafe closes for lunch at 2 p.m. making this a popular spot for those returning from shore excursions.
Polo Grill (Deck 14): The Polo Grill is the ship's steakhouse. It's decorated to feel like a clubhouse, with brown leather chairs -- complete with nailhead-stud detailing. And, wow: It delivers excellent slabs of beef. But it has such an extensive menu that even those who aren't keen on red meat will be happy. Starters include oysters Rockefeller, colossal shrimp cocktail, escargot and foie gras. Then there's the soup: New England clam chowder, lobster bisque, baked onion with Gruyere cheese and a beautiful navy bean soup, served with fresh lime. Sure, you can go the salad entree route, with a deconstructed Cobb salad topped with your favourite protein, but it almost seems a shame to skip the steaks, chops and seafood main course options.
The die-hard red meat fans will swoon over the 32-ounce king's cut prime rib, served with au jus and horseradish. Those seeking a little lighter fare can try the 7-ounce filet mignon. Seafood leans heavily on shellfish, with a whole Maine lobster serving as the star of the show. If you can't decide, the surf and turf offers the best of both worlds, with a lobster tail and filet. If you're going all-out, try the pancetta-wrapped veal, served with lobster tail. While the mains are major, the starters, salads and soups are perfectly portioned, so you can try other items without filling up. Just make sure you save room for dessert, where the chocolate fudge brownie -- served hot and gooey -- is the highlight. Can't decide on dessert? Get the Polo Quintet, which features smaller versions of five sweets. Health-conscious eaters can finish off with a fruit plate.
Toscana (Deck 14): Riviera's Italian restaurant, Toscana features fresh pasta, made in-house. But it's not all about the pasta. Your night starts with a gorgeous bread basket, served with a whole roasted garlic bulb, if you choose to indulge. Skip the butter and go for the olive oil, which is served by an expert who might best be described as an olive oil sommelier. The olive oil menu includes 10 varieties as well as three balsamic vinegar options. If you don't know where to start, let the expert choose for you, from mild, fruity flavours to bold, grassy ones (who knew?).
Cold appetizers include octopus or beef carpaccio, mozzarella and tomato Caprese or asparagus salad. Hot options include sauteed shrimp scampi, fried baby calamari or veal-stuffed eggplant rolls. Minestrone or potato and pancetta soup are offered, as are several salads. A large variety of pastas are available, and they can be served as an appetizer, side dish or entree. Try the gnocchi with pesto sauce or the linguine cioppino, with a large serving of shellfish. If you're not in the pasta mood, indulge in the osso buco or the pan-seared sea bass. For dessert, Italian options such as cannoli or tiramisu are offered, along with apple crumb pie or chocolate lasagna. If you can't decide, order the Toscana Quintet, which offers sampling portions of five desserts.
Bar Istas (Deck 14): The ship's coffee shop was recently redesigned with brass and marble accents and serves speciality coffees like lattes, espressos and cappuccinos. A variety of spirits and liqueurs can be added to the coffee, for a fee. The new Victoria Arduino espresso machine is dubbed the "Rolls Royce of Coffee," and the ever-popular Illy Crema semi-frozen coffee has lots of takers. Grab a cookie, sweets, sandwiches, and pastries from trays there, set up around lunchtime and lasting into the early evening. Olives and cheese make an appearance once the sun starts to set. Behind the coffee bar is a new lounge area with plenty of seating with excellent sea views and more place to enjoy those caffeinated concoctions.
Horizons (Deck 15): Horizons Lounge hosts a "coffee corner" with pastries and coffee each morning. Afternoon tea is served at 4 p.m. every day. Waiters and waitresses don white gloves while serving finger sandwiches, tea, biscuits, scones and clotted cream. A server pushing a trolley will deliver desserts to your seat. This is the hot-ticket event onboard, and tables, complete with white-linen tablecloths, fill up pretty quickly. Best of all, it is free.
La Reserve (Deck 12); $95 or $295: For wine lovers, La Reserve is the place to dine. The restaurant offers three menus: La Cuisine Bourgeoise and Odyssey (both $95), and Dom Perignon ($295); all menus have an 18 percent gratuity added. Only one menu is served at a time, so you'll have to reserve the night you want or be willing to dine when the menu you want is being served. The Dom Perignon menu serves limited edition Champagne vintages that pair with six decadent courses prepared from an exhibition kitchen. The other two menus pair each of the seven courses with notable wines that highlight the experience's partnership with Wine Spectator. Your meal actually begins with a welcome Champagne and amuse-bouche, so show up a little early to enjoy.
The sommelier walks you through your meal, explaining how you should try the wine and why each one was chosen for each course. This is not a fast meal; the sommelier speaks before you dig in to every course, and diners are free to ask questions along the way.
While wine is indeed the centrepiece here -- pours are heavy and come without you even having to ask -- the food is excellent, as well. A wide range of items are offered. Meals are heavy on seafood, but allergies and preferences can be accommodated. La Reserve caps capacity at 24 diners each night, and midway through our sailing, as word-of-mouth about the experience got out, the restaurant was booked solid. Wine seminars take place here as well.
Privee (Deck 14); $250 per night: Located at the back of the ship, Privee is tucked between Toscana and the Polo Grill. Anyone can reserve Privee for a meal, though 10 is the maximum number of passengers the space can accommodate. While the room itself is small, the decor is huge. An enormous white, oval table is the real conversation piece. The shiny, synthetic table is one piece, and it is so large, it wouldn't fit through the door; it was installed when the ship was being constructed -- builders put the table in place through openings where the floor-to-ceiling windows were eventually installed. The rest of the room is stark white, with vivid details in bright red.
Diners at Privee can choose items from the Toscana and Polo Grill menus, mixing and matching as they please. Privee serves dinner only.
Room Service: Room service on Riviera is available 24 hours a day. Most passengers choose breakfast from a Continental menu, though passengers in Concierge Suites and above have a hot breakfast menu, which includes the addition of things like eggs, bacon and sausage. Breakfast is served from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. each day. Other options, available all day and night, include California rolls, gravlax, Caesar or Cobb salads, burgers, sandwiches, chicken breast, salmon and pizza. Desserts also are served, including creme brulee and cheesecake.
Beautifully appointed cabins on Oceania are fairly spacious, even at the lowest end. The gorgeous decor features dove greys, browns and blues, along with Italian marble in the bathrooms. They also are practically designed and include plenty of storage in wardrobes that feature space for hanging as well as chests of drawers.
All Riviera cabins include two twin beds that can be combined to create a king-sized bed. The ship's "Tranquility Bed" is a thoughtful addition: Each bed includes 1,000-thread-count linens, a plush down comforter, a brilliantly comfortable mattress and a 2-inch-thick gel-filled pillow top with aromatized chamomile fibre. We slept like babies onboard. Each cabin also has a desk with chair, two nightstands, small coffee table, a refrigerator stocked with nonalcoholic drinks (which are replenished daily and can be customized to your tastes), small safe and TV with DVD player. The ship features an extensive DVD lending library. In-cabin Wi-Fi is available, and there are U.S. outlets for charging (including uber-convenient bedside outlets). Passengers also get bathrobes, hair dryers and umbrellas for use during the sailing. Slippers are provided as well.
Bathrooms feature shelf and drawer space, and showers have rainfall as well as handheld showerheads. In lower categories, shower space is pretty tight because the shower is angled. The rainfall showerhead also hangs low, making it difficult for passengers 6 feet and taller to shower or even stand comfortably in the capsule. Riviera provides passengers with Bulgari amenities in bottles: shampoo/shower gel combination, conditioner, body soap, facial soap, perfume and aftershave lotion.
Oceania has a small number of connecting cabins as well as accessible cabins across several stateroom categories. A large number of cabins also have sofa beds that can be used for third berths.
Inside Staterooms: Riviera has 18 inside cabins, each 174 square feet. They feel somewhat cosy but still comfortable enough, and they're able to accommodate a desk, small breakfast table and two sizable chairs. These are located on decks 8 to 10.
Deluxe Ocean View Staterooms: The ship's 20 outside cabins are located on Deck 7, midship. These cabins are a comfortable 242 square feet and feature full-sized couches, rather than two chairs, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows. Bathrooms in this category and above include deep soaking bathtubs (with bath salts, replenished as needed) and separate showers. The bathtub also has a handheld showerhead, and taller passengers can use this as a more spacious alternative to the shower cubicle.
Wardrobes for ocean-view cabins are located right next to the beds, and an unusual-but-not-fatal-quirk makes it virtually impossible to access the closet from the left side.
Balconies: At 242 square feet, Veranda Staterooms are laid out the same way ocean-view cabins are, except they feature 40-square-foot balconies made from teak wood. Balconies include two wicker chairs, which feature padded seats, and a small table large enough to accommodate drinks and an ice bucket.
Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms: These cabins and their balconies are identical to the Veranda Staterooms but come with a number of extra perks. Passengers staying at the concierge level and above are allowed priority embarkation and unlimited access to the Canyon Ranch SpaClub's Spa Terrace, a quiet pool and lounging area off the spa. They also have access to the Concierge Lounge. Passengers receive a welcome bottle of Champagne, complimentary Wi-Fi (limits apply), shoeshine and garment pressing, three bags of free laundry (up to 20 pieces), beach bags, cashmere lap blankets for use during the sailing, priority online specialty restaurant reservations and toiletries from Bulgari's Blue Tea or Green Tea lines. The fabulous toiletry amenity menu lays out the scents and gives passengers the option of trying several varieties.
Suites: Passengers staying in the top four suite classes have access to a butler in addition to a cabin steward. Butlers, who are available 24 hours a day, can help with things like unpacking and packing, course-by-course in-room dinners and dinner parties.
Penthouse Suites are 420 square feet. Two chairs sit at the foot of the bed, flanking a glass dining table, across from a makeup table with a pop-up lighted mirror. The living space includes a couch, desk, small table and two chairs; it can be separated from the bedroom by drawing curtains. Penthouse Suites also include walk-in closets and large balconies, with two wicker chairs, which can recline, and a small table.
Riviera's Oceania Suites and Vista Suites were designed by Dakota Jackson and are somewhat similar when it comes to artwork and furniture but otherwise have very different features. Passengers who stay in Oceania Suites and above have access to the Executive Lounge, fresh fruit replenished daily, priority embarkation with access to their suites by 11 a.m., Bulgari gift sets and on-demand movies and TV shows.
The Oceania Suites are 1,000 square feet and marvellously appointed. The one-bedroom, two-bathroom suites feature entryways that have stunning brown Italian-marble-tiled walls. The entryway opens to a large living room, which includes a dining table for four, couch and chairs plus a wet bar, stocked with six full-sized bottles of premium liquors and wines. The master bedroom has its own bathroom, which includes a jetted tub, oversized separate shower, and toilet and bidet. A second full bathroom is located off the entryway. The balcony includes a jetted hot tub with TV (a filter allows passengers to watch without squinting through sun glare), two wicker chairs, a small table and one lounge chair.
The ship's eight Vista Suites are all located at the front of the ship, so their balconies wrap around the corners. Balconies include several chairs and loungers, a dining table and a hot tub with TV. The one-bedroom, two-bathroom suites run between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet, depending on which deck they're on. Cabins are heavy on creams, greens and greys, with lots of leather and wood. They include large living rooms with couches, chairs and table. There's also a dining table for four and stocked wet bar. Off the master bedroom is a small fitness area, where passengers can work out using a stationary bike or hand cycle. (Passengers who want a third berth can ask to have the equipment removed and a rollaway bed brought into this space.) The master bathroom features walls covered in Italian marble, and the floors are a masterpiece, with black and white marble inlay. A large jetted tub and separate shower are included, as are dual sinks, a bidet and toilet. Cabins include walk-in closets. A second full bathroom is located off the entryway.
Riviera has three Owner's Suites, all recently updated with new furnishings and fabrics from the Ralph Lauren Home Collection. They're located at the back of the ship, on decks 8 to 10 and are 2,000 square feet and feature floor-to-ceiling windows in the main living space. The first thing you see when you walk in is limestone and black cabochon inset flooring, a self-playing baby grand piano and a large, stocked mahogany and quartzite wet bar, with three white leather bar stools. Passengers staying here can hire a pianist to play at private in-suite parties, too. Adjacent to the entertainment space is a softer living room, which includes a desk, dining table for six, wraparound sectional couch with saddle suede and television. Black-and-white photos featuring glamorous stars of old, like Marilyn Monroe, grace the walls throughout the suite. The dining room has a Barrett Knurled chandelier.
The master bedroom's new king-sized bed features luxurious knit throw blankets with two suede-coated side chairs nearby. Just off the bedroom is the master bathroom, which includes brown and cream inlaid marble flooring, dual sinks, a large jetted tub with a TV, a separate shower and a closed water closet. Suites also feature his and hers walk-in closets and a second full bathroom. Each Owner's Suite also features area wraparound balcony. Balconies include wooden loungers, chairs and tables that were custom-designed by Ralph Lauren Home for Oceania Cruises.