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?
There is no facility or program for children on Riviera. “We don’t really cater to families,” explained an Oceania sales representative.
Shopping on Riviera was concentrated into a trio of side-by-side boutiques located on Deck 5, next to the lobby. The selection wasn’t broad, but the stores were spacious and uncrowded. We saw little that we haven’t seen on most other cruise ships.
One shop carried men’s and women’s clothing from brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Joseph Ribkoff, and Las Olas. There was Oceania logo merchandize—T-shirts, golf shirts, visors, mugs, backpacks, and teddy bears—a few books, snacks and a small selection of sundries such as razors, deodorant, etc. One space was reserved for handbags, including Furla, Chopard, and Alviero Martini, while next door was fragrances and beauty products. The jewelry store featured David Yurman and H. Stern, along with watches from Rado, Yarmond Weill, Dior, DKNY and Fossil.
With a crew of 800 aboard Riviera, there were 1.6 guests for each crewmember, an above-average amount of staff for the cruise industry. For comparison, on the newest Cunard and Celebrity ships there are 2.1 to 2.4 passengers (respectively) for each crewmember; on Seabourn and Silversea ships it’s 1.3 to 1.5 passengers per crewmember.
We found overall service to be quietly discrete—that is, not showy. The senior officers of the ship did not (that we observed) mingle with most passengers. Things got taken care of, but we found that in the specialty restaurants service could was a little uneven, sometimes rushed.
Overall, we didn’t find the crew much more polished than those on less expensive mainstream cruise lines, so Oceania’s $15-per-day day (per person) automatic gratuity seemed out of line. To justify the highest gratuity rate in the industry, we’d expect service on par with what we experience at a typical Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resort. It wasn’t.
A daily newsletter, Currents, was distributed to our cabin each evening, covering the activities schedule and hours of operation for the following day. All announcements by the cruise director were handled in English, and they were kept to a minimum, which was refreshing.
Letters and postcards with appropriate postage can be dropped off at the Reception Desk for mailing. Postage may be purchased for a “nominal fee;” mail is collected one hour prior to sailing from each port of call. We had one brief phone call home from our room, which was charged at a rate of $4.95 per minute.
The guest directory says passports will be collected by ship staff upon embarkation, “in order to facilitate the ship’s clearance in each port.” For our cruise, passports were checked but not collected during embarkation.
Right behind the ship’s espresso bar on Deck 14, and opposite the Library, Oceania@Sea was Riviera’s internet station. There were 33 PCs available for use, but we could also log onto the ship’s WiFi signal with our own devices.
The per-minutes rate was a steep 99 cents a minute (the highest we’ve seen at sea), plus $3.95 activation fee, but a more-reasonable 200-minute package was available for $160 (.80/min). The best deal was an unlimited internet access package, priced $27.99 per person, per day.
Oceania maintains a fairly relaxed dress code, and no formal nights were designated on our cruise. The recommended attire throughout the cruise was “resort or country club-casual.” For evening dining, “elegant casual resort wear is suggested.” Jeans, shorts, T-shirts, athletic footwear and sandals were not permitted in the Grand Dining room or specialty restaurants. At the Terrace Café dressy shorts and casual shirts were allowed in the evening. Tank tops and swimsuits were not permitted in any restaurants at any time of day.
Self-service laundry facilities are located on decks 7 through 11. Self-service laundry tokens were available through the reception desk. Tokens were $2 per wash and $2 per dry. Detergent, irons and ironing boards were available for use here.
General Health & Safety
For the safety drill held just prior to sailing away, we were required to bring our life jackets from the cabin, and room keys were checked against a list. Those not in the muster station during the drill were called for over the P.A. system.
Riviera was generally very clean through, as we would have expected (being a new ship).
A clinic is located on Deck 4. Hours were 8 to 9:30 a.m. and 6 to 7:30 p.m. (medical/nurse assistance was available 24 hours).
There were only two designated smoking areas on Oceania Riviera, one inside and one out. These were in the port-side corner of Horizons Bar on Deck 15, in a glassed room set apart from the rest of the bar; and on the forward starboard side of Deck 12, the pool deck. Smoking was not allowed in any other outdoor areas, inside the casino, or in cabins and on their balconies. The policies appeared to be well enforced, as we never saw anyone abusing them.
Tips and Service Charges
Oceania Cruises has what is probably the highest gratuity surcharge in the industry. For those in standard cabins a “suggested gratuity” of $15 per guest, per day is automatically added to shipboard accounts “for your steward or stewardess and all restaurant staff.” Guests in Owner’s, Vista, Oceania or Penthouse suites are charged an additional $7 per guest, per day for butler service. Gratuities are pooled. An 18-percent gratuity was automatically added to all beverage purchases, spa and salon services, and for dinner in La Reserve.
Cash advances were available, applied to your credit card, up to $500 per day, incurring a 5 percent service fee. Foreign currency exchange was limitedly available—euros while sailing in Europe—also incurring a 5 percent service fee.
Editor’s Note: USA Today reported that Oceania will increase its auto-gratuities to $16 per day, per guest for standard cabins and $23 for suites, effective with the 2015-16 winter season.
A $25 corkage fee is applied for wine bottles brought aboard for consumption in the restaurants or bars. However, Oceania also “reserves the right to confiscate and retain all alcohol bought ashore for consumption onboard the vessel.” This policy seemed to give the cruise line a lot of latitude to make alcohol decisions on a case-by-case basis. Alcoholic beverages are served to guests age 21 and up only.
Oceania Club is the frequent-cruiser program of Oceania Cruises. Credits are issued for each voyage—1 credit for itineraries up to 24 days, 2 credits for cruises of 25 to 34 days, etc.
With 2 to 4 credits—Blue level—members are invited to a cocktail reception, receive members-only offers and receive a 10-percent discount on Oceania logo merchandize. Bronze level is achieved with 5 to 9 credits and members additionally receive a $200 shipboard credit and a 20-percent discount on internet packages. At 10 credits members attain Silver status, which boosts the shipboard credit to $400, adds in pre-paid gratuities and avails a 10-percent discount on shore excursions and beverage packages. Additional levels and benefits are attained at 15 points (Gold), 20 points (Platinum) and 40 points (Diamond). A free cruise, with certain restrictions, is offered when reaching the Platinum and Diamond levels.
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