cruises

Oceania Cruises Riviera Cruise Review

Oceania’s Riviera is the newest upscale cruise ship in the market. It’s a splurge—does it deliver the goods?

December 23, 2013
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Canyon Ranch Spa Club

The Tucson, Arizona-based wellness resort company Canyon Ranch has been operating on cruise ships since 2004, when the brand was brought onboard Queen Mary 2. Since then they have become a competitor to Steiner Leisure, the dominant name in cruise ship spas, currently found on most of the major cruise lines. Occupying the forward portion of Deck 14, Riviera’s Canyon Ranch Spa Club is a sleek and impressive facility, with a steam room, a Finnish sauna, men’s and women’s changing rooms, full salon and boutique selling Canyon Ranch (and other) products.

Costs for massage and skin care treatments ranged between 20 and 50 percent higher than typical Steiner Leisure prices on other cruise lines. But the list of treatments was expanded from the typical cruise selection, incorporating more Asian modalities than we usually see. Massage prices ranged from $165 for the 50-minute Canyon Ranch treatment to $278 for 80-minute deep tissue or sports massages; couples massages started at $330; facials started at $159 for the 50-minute deep cleaning or gentlemen’s facials. An 18-percent gratuity was added to all treatments, services and training in the spa, salon and gym. Other treatments included reflexology, Shiatsu, Reiki, Ayurveda, acupuncture, wraps and scrubs, waxing, hair styling and coloring, manicures and pedicures. A few shorter treatments were offered daily at a discounted rate.

Forward of the spa itself was the quiet Spa Terrace, a private area of the ship that contained shaded loungers, heated ceramic tile loungers, and a thalassotherapy pool, with a butler stationed for drink service. Capacity was limited, and access to the Spa Terrace involved an add-on fee: $25 per person for 1 day, $60 for 3 days, $175 for 10 days.

The Fitness Center had more than 50 pieces of cardio and weight-training equipment featuring the latest from Technogym, including a pair of Kenesis stations. We found plenty of treadmills and bikes, and the gym was never over-crowded when we visited. Complimentary morning stretch, abs training, and legs, bums and tums sessions were available. Spinning, Yoga, and Pilates were offered for $11 per session; one-on-one training was available, starting at $77 for 25 minutes.

Pools

Located mid-ship on Deck 12, Riviera has just one pool, but it is one of the more attractive swimming facilities we’ve enjoyed at sea, and generously sized for a midsized ship. Although the pool was usually adequate for the number of passengers, the two small whirlpool tubs were insufficient, and the loungers surrounding the pool were often at a premium (we usually grabbed one easily one deck above).

Bar (and food) service is available from the Waves Bar and Waves Grill, on opposite ends of the pool. For the most part there was no music at the pool, though on sea days a live band played (with great moderation) during the lunch hour.

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Decks

Although there’s no real promenade deck on Riviera, there was a decent amount of outdoor sunning space, with loungers available beyond the pool deck. Deck 14 had a good number of loungers overlooking the pool area, along with a pair of covered relaxation areas leading to the spa; the port side area was known as the Sanctuary, and we had a lovely nap here on a couple occasions when the sun was too bright.

The outdoor section of Deck 15 extended for only about one-third of the aft section of the ship. Accessed by stairs from Deck 14, this is where the jogging track was located, but it was fairly short—we’d estimate a lap was less than 600 feet in length. The ship’s Shuffleboard and Croquet/Bocce courts were also found here. Deck 16, accessed by stairs from Deck 15, was a small forward section only, but with plenty of empty loungers for sunning. This is also where the mini-golf green was found, along with a practice golf cage and tennis court.

Other Activities

One of the unique features of Riviera (and its sibling Marina) is the Bon Appétit-sponsored Culinary Center on Deck 12, with cooking stations for lessons conducted by guest chefs. Two classes on each sea day and (usually) one on port days were offered in the studio for hands-on cooking lessons covering subjects and recipes for topics such as pasta, fish, desserts and regional cuisines. There were 12 cooking stations shared by two students, and the charge for the two-hour classes was $69. We signed up for one based on food from the ship’s restaurant Red Ginger, preparing three of the venue’s most popular dishes (and receiving recipes for several others). The class was enjoyable and fast-paced, and we look forward to crafting the lobster pad Thai at home someday. We were impressed by the careful attention to health and sanitation requirements.

More hands-on creativity was invited at the Artist Loft, located opposite the Culinary Center. The ship brings aboard artists-in-residence to provide tutoring in their particular areas of expertise, in a class setting equipped with the tools and supplies for guests to create their own artworks. The artist on our particular cruise was undeniably talented and pleasant to interact with, but his classes leaned toward collage, with varying results. There was no charge for the classes, and they were packed on the days we peeked in.

On Deck 15 there was an artificial green set up for Croquet and Bocci, along with a Shuffleboard court. Several competitions were organized (especially on sea days). On Deck 16 we found a tennis court, nine-hole mini-golf, and a practice golf cage. Next to the pool was an area for table tennis. Other activities included Team Trivia (held in the Riviera Lounge or Martinis once or twice daily), Duplicate Bridge, art auctions, and Bingo.

Shows & Entertainment

Located on Deck 5 forward, the Riviera Lounge was the ship’s showroom. While just one deck high the sightlines were generally acceptable in the center of the room, but we found on the sides, latecomers often blocked the aisles and view. But we didn’t feel like we were missing much. No matter whether the music showcased Andrew Lloyd Webber or the Rolling Stones, after a few days, a sense of sameness started to emerge.

Jean Ann Ryan Productions takes credit for the stage shows. The first, “Up in Flames,” was a tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John, with three lead singers and six dancers; the backing band—at least it was live—featured eight musicians. The sound mix was thin, with the highs and lows clipped to avoid offending tender ears. The singers were good, but the dancers had very little room to work with, forcing the most basic staging an choreography. It was a very conservative, play-it-safe entertainment. Another night, “Now and Forever” was organized around the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and while the sound mix was still free of bass or treble, the costumes and staging were a little more assertive. We were not enticed to see the two remaining shows, “Rock On” and “Flower Power.”

Other shows that took place in the lounge included a ventriloquist/singer with Muppet-like props and a musty routine, a comedian, and one of the ship’s singers performing a solo concert. Movies were also played here.

Other entertainment included the ship’s band playing by poolside at lunch on sea days, a pianist during the evening at Martini’s, and a string quartet that played in the Grand Bar, all of which we were enjoyed. There was also a band playing light dance music in Horizons most evenings (before 9 p.m.).

Casino

Riviera’s casino was at midship on Deck 6 and, though modestly sized, it was usually adequate for the number of passengers using it. There were a few dozen slot machines plus tables for Poker, Blackjack, Craps and a Roulette wheel. We noticed a surge of business on a couple nights as shows let out from the nearby Riviera Lounge—the Roulette table would go from empty to standing room only. As the chips dwindled, the players left, and within 20 minutes the table was virtually empty again.

Smoking was not allowed in or near the casino.

Other Venues

Riviera’s graceful lobby was located on Deck 5. This is where the Reception Desk was found, along with Destination Services (shore excursions) and the Concierge. There were fine paintings, a couple carved pieces and an elegant curved staircase designed by Lalique, topped by a sparkling chandelier. There was rarely a line at the Reception Desk.

The Library was located on Deck 14, conveniently next to Baristas coffee bar. There was a fairly good range of books offered here, and we could “check out” two at a time (no one was on hand to monitor what went in and out). The leather chairs and ersatz fireplace were excellent spots to while away the day when the weather wasn’t cooperating.

In addition to the books, Oceania offered a worldwide newspaper service that provided full-format printed newspapers delivered direct to cabins on the morning of publication. The price was $6.50 per day, per newspaper (Sundays excepted). The periodicals included New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, the Times UK and a number of others, including major European papers.

Also located on Deck 14 next to Oceania@Sea was the Board Room was where we found most of the ship’s games, along with a few card tables for informal play. There was a sign-up sheet for Chess, Mahjong and other games.

On our cruise there was a duo teaching Bridge and overseeing Duplicate Bridge games on sea days; the lessons and games were held inside the Polo Grill. We sat in on a couple of lessons and found the teaching style a bit confused—beginners were quickly in over their heads. We also sat in on a round of Duplicate Bridge one day, joined by about 35 other very competitive guests.

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Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Cabins
  3. Dining
  4. Drinks
  5. Recreation & Entertainment
  6. Kids, Services & Other Details
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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