The 1,250-guest Riviera cruise ship of Oceania Cruises is an almost identical sister ship to the Marina, but (according to the company) has 727 differences. However, the majority of these changes are minor, and I doubt cruise travelers who sail on both ships will even notice most of them. Oceania considers this ship to be in the "upper-premium" category, but I think it's closer to "luxury" than it is to "deluxe". The biggest differential between Oceania and her sister luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas is that Oceania is not all-inclusive.
This comprehensive tour of the Riviera includes links to articles on the dining and accommodations, and photo galleries from around the ship.
The Riviera of Oceania Cruises has 4 different types of cabins and 4 different types of suites in 17 different price categories. The type and location of the accommodations determines the price. Over 90 percent of the cabins and all of the suites have teak balconies.
The layout of the cabins and suites on the Riviera and Marina are identical. Based on passenger comments, an American-style electrical outlet was added next to the bed and the desk drawers are deeper on the Riviera. Oceania also replaced some of the drawers found on the Marina with shelves.
Riviera Cabin and Suites Photo Gallery - 32 pictures
Although only a mid-sized ship with 1,250 passengers, the Riviera has nine distinct dining venues. They range in size from the Grand Dining Room, which seats over 600, to Privee, a private dining room that seats 10. The cuisines are varied, with specialty restaurants (at no extra cost) featuring French, Italian, Asian, and steakhouse cuisine.
All of the dining venues are excellent, and the food quality and presentation on the "upper premium" class Riviera is as good as I've seen on "luxury" cruise ships. Most dishes are prepared a la minute, and quality wines are featured.
Riviera Dining Options Photo Gallery - 24 pictures of the venues and cuisine
Canyon Ranch Spa and Fitness Center
Even people who have never cruised can associate the term "Canyon Ranch" with luxurious spas. Oceania Cruises has partnered with Canyon Ranch to run its onboard spas and provide wellness lectures, and participate in healthy cooking demonstrations. Of course, the spa staff also provide all the same high-quality skin treatments, massages, and other services you would expect at any Canyon Ranch location.
Those who have sailed on the Marina will notice a difference in the spa. The Marina has two hot tubs at the outdoor spa terrace, whereas the Riviera has a thallasotherapy pool. Both ships have indoor and outdoor relaxation areas.
The Riviera fitness center has all the latest exercise equipment that you would find at home, plus it has a feature you wouldn't find at home--a great view of the sea! Complimentary stretching and circuit training classes are held each day. Pilates, spinning, and yoga classes are available for a small fee.
Bon Appetit Culinary Center
Do you like to cook? Or, would you like to learn more about cooking? If so, then you will love the new Bon Appetit Culinary Center on the Riviera. Oceania Cruises has partnered with Bon Appetit magazine to present this 24-station, interactive culinary center.
Classes range from beginner techniques to an in-depth curriculum that consists of a series of classes. Since the Riviera is visiting some of the world's best food cities, class participants sometimes go ashore with the chef to find the perfect ingredients for their dishes. Participants can learn to properly chop and dice, or even how to bone a chicken.
Here are some examples of the classes in the Riviera culinary center:
- Flavors of the Sea - Proper techniques for sauteeing, poaching, and pan-frying seafood
- Trendsetting World Cuisines - Classes focused on the hottest cuisines and cooking techniques
- Elegant Egg - Techniques and recipes for delicious and healthy egg recipes
- Joy of Grilling - Tips and techniques for successful grilling
- Cook Like a Professional - Improve your kitchen and pantry knowledge
- Mexican Fiesta - New ingredients and techniques for cooking Mexican food
- Healthy Cooking - Flavor and techniques from Canyon Ranch executive chef
I learned to make Oceania scones from scratch and a delicious zuccini and mint frittata in a egg/brunch class. It was messy, but fun. And, we got to eat what we cooked!
The Bon Appetit Culinary Center is not the only place onboard that guests can learn, expand their horizons, or just have fun. Each Riviera sailing will have an onboard artist in residence and/or photography instructor. The Artist Loft seen at the left is used for these classes. On our Mediterranean christening cruise, the resident artists led classes in mixed media, drawing bold designs, t-shirt painting, how to make wine bottle aprons, how to transfer photos to fabric, and jewelry-making.
Almost anyone can become a good photographer with a digital camera, and the Riviera has classes in several levels from beginner to advanced. You can learn how to get those photos from your camera to the computer, edit them, and then share them with friends. In addition, classes are sometimes offered in composition.
Not everyone is into organized learning activities. Like her sister ships, the Riviera has an excellent library, which is right next to the computer center and Barrista's coffee bar.
The Riviera sails world-wide itineraries, and Oceania has expert guest lecturers who will speak on the politics, culture, history, and geography of the ports of call. There might even be a vintner onboard to help you learn more about how to appreciate wines.
The interiors of the Riviera are elegant and exquisite, much like Marina, her sister ship. The artwork is interesting and expensive, and many of the pieces were selected by Frank Del Rio, the Chairman and CEO of Oceania Cruises. Although most of the artwork is original, the ship also includes 16 signed/numbered Picasso lithographs. Seven of these lithographs are in the Casino Bar, one is at the entrance to the ladies' restroom next to the Grand Dining Room, and the other eight are in the Vista Suites. I'll be the first to admit that I wouldn't want most of the pieces in my home, but some like the one of a lady who has been on too many cruises will certainly generate conversation. (Note: that's my interpretation, not the artist's.)
Although most of the interior of the Riviera looks just like the Marina, guests will notice that the decor and furniture is different in the Grand Bar that stretches from Martini's to the Grand Dining Room.
Exteriors and Outdoor Deck Areas
The Riviera is painted all-white on the outside, with the Oceania Cruises' logo on her stack. The mid-sized ship has one outdoor swimming pool and several hot tubs. There are plenty of comfortable lounges, and the ship also has some of those wonderful Balinese outdoor beds.
Those who enjoy outdoor sports will be happy to see the sports court and miniature golf course.
Itineraries and Conclusion
The Riviera spends the spring, summer, and fall in the Mediterranean, sailing 7 to 15-day itineraries to ports of call all around the Sea. Since the itineraries are usually different, cruise travelers can book back-to-back cruises without repeating many ports of call. Our Mediterranean christening cruise had a modified itinerary--Monte Carlo to Marseille to Valencia to Barcelona to Venice. All the shore excursions were well run and efficient--particularly surprising for a first cruise!
In the late fall, the Riviera moves to Miami to sail the Caribbean for the winter season. Since the ship alternates western and eastern Caribbean itineraries, these cruises can also be easily combined into back-to-back cruise vacations.
Oceania Cruises' Riviera is a gorgeous ship, both indoors and out, and the quality and creativity of the cuisine, along with the excellent service and exciting itineraries, make the ship popular with cruise lovers. In addition, adding more onboard activities like the culinary center and artist in residence attracts those who previously have chosen only large ships for their cruise vacation.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.