Ideal for those who are looking for a relaxing cruise with no children, great choices of high grade dining and a smart casual dress code.

 A Special Cruise for a Special Event

For my wife’s special birthday celebration this year it was a good excuse to go on a cruise with Oceania Cruises, who are perhaps one of the less well known ultra-luxury cruise lines.

I have been fortunate enough to cruise quite a bit over the years with many of the mainstream and ultra-luxury cruise operators, and some of the more unusual ones like Star Clipper and Hebridean but not this was the first with Oceania cruises. We were not disappointed.

Easy boarding

After experiencing the chaos at Fiumocino Airport and a night at a mediocre hotel at Civitavecchia, it was a pleasure to board our ship, the Riviera, one of two newer ships Oceania Cruises have introduced recently.  Check-in was painless and we were boarding within minutes. We arrived around 1230 and many guests had already boarded.  On the first day on a cruise ship things are normally slightly chaotic but not with this line – we went immediately to the Terrace Café for a welcome lunch. Suites and staterooms are not immediately available but depending on your grade of accommodation you don’t have to wait long – no later than mid-afternoon.

Spacious throughout the ship

We were in grade B1 (8085) Veranda Stateroom – nearly 300 sq. ft. including balcony – sort of mid-range and mid ship. Suite was beautifully appointed as was the bathroom with separate shower from bath. Personally I would have preferred a larger shower and no bath. This ship is all about space – there are only 1200 guests on board on a ship that could easily carry 2000 guests.

6 Star Grand Dining every evening

I had heard that the dining was very good and we were not disappointed. The main restaurant or should I say the Grand Dining Room for dinner was wonderful – all open dining and no pre-booking – never any queues. Plenty of tables for 2 if preferred.  It was certainly grand  all on one level split into cleverly designed sections, with plenty of light coming in windows on 3 sides, a combination of  modern and art déco in light colours but creating an ‘old liner’ feel. It was like going to a 6 star restaurant every evening – we tried many dishes we would never try at home knowing for sure the standard could not be bettered. Menus are all designed by the famous Chef Jacques Pepin – he only agreed to be associated with Oceania if the very best quality food and ingredients were used. There are always plenty of plain options as well and the main dining menu is changed every day.

Extra-large Galleys – plenty of choice for dining – posh teas

The galley space on Riviera and her sister ship Marina are huge with much higher ratio of staff as well.  The other 4 speciality restaurants require pre-booking which you can do online prior to the sailing – those booked in higher grade accommodation are allowed earlier access so it is worth checking this. We dined at Red Ginger (Asian) and the Jacques (French restaurant) – both top class. Menus and ingredients can be amended to suit your tastes in Red Ginger and any other restaurant. All speciality restaurants have no added supplements.

The ‘high quality’ afternoon tea must be the best of any cruise line – you have individual white china teapots with any type of tea (the water used is boiling hot) and sumptuous snacks, pastries and cakes – served in the luxurious Horizons Lounge & Bar (like a massive observation lounge) which has dramatic floor to ceiling large windows – accompanied by the string quartet who played at different times and locations throughout the ship.

Civilised Buffet

The buffet breakfast and lunch in the Terrace Café were very high quality with many ‘light’ options. Proper Table Linen and waiter service for drinks – tea again in individual china pots. There was plenty of staff around to serve the food to your plate so there was no direct contact from guest with the food on display. The Terrace Café offers more casual dining in an evening as a 5th option.

 Calm & peaceful

There is a theatre but entertainment is low key and there are plenty of bars and lounges to realx which never look crowded. Also a beautifully appointed library with coffee bar adjoining. There were no children and if tendering at a port there was no queuing. Dress code is smart casual all the time – there was general calmness about the ship!

 Great ports of call

After visiting Livorno, Portofino, Monte Carlo, St Tropez, Marseilles and Palma, it was with great reluctance we disembarked at Barcelona for our Ryanair flight home which brought us back to planet Earth. Look out for other blogs on ports of call.

All details quoted are thought to be correct at time of posting but are always subject to confirmation at time of booking

Photo:  Riviera at Saint-Tropez (Oceania) 151

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