WOW less 5* Oceania Riviera Caribbean Cruise
Karen | December 17, 2021 | Oceania Cruises | Riviera
This is rather a long review but I have tried to cover all aspects and include positive and negative, so it may be seen as long winded or comprehensive. This review is based on our personal experience on a 10 day Caribbean cruise.
STATEROOM Concierge Deck 10 – Mainly dark wood but the cabin lighting is good. Bathroom is lovely with shower and bath and nice towels and Bylvgari toiletries. Comfortable bed and nice pillows and linens. The wardrobes are quite small and not enough height for some garments like a jump suite but on the plus side really good amount of hangers. The balcony furniture is comfortable rattan with thick cushions and a low level drinks table, wouldn’t be suitable for breakfast on the balcony. There isn’t any binoculars in the cabin or an umbrella, so don’t forget your own if you require these. Also we found it odd that there was a note pad but no pen. We have been used to receiving all of these in cabin on other lines but probably took too much for granted thinking this was a 5* ship. Cabin attendants Edmond and Samuel were a good team and provided a efficient service.
FOOD – (Buffet)First day buffet lunch of seafood soup/casserole was not good, it was chewy and tepid temperature, hoped it would be a one off but unfortunately not. Buffet breakfast is good because the food is made to order and therefore a decent temperature. The selection and presentation of the breakfast buffet is good but no wow factor like a a special presentation purpose display of bread or something as seen on other cruise brands and the food is just not hot enough. As the days went on the food was so repetitive and boring, at least we weren’t on a world cruise. One day it was a seafood buffet but the only seafood I could see was salmon En-croute, fried calamari and some cold mussels on the salad area. My expectation of a seafood buffet is Oysters, Large prawns, Lobster and a variety of fish dishes as experienced on other cruise brands of equal and lesser grade.
FOOD (Grand Dining Room) – The food was warmer than the buffet. The china and presentation of the table was very elegant. The service varied table by table and by the time and how busy they were. Breakfast is good in the Dining Room, Reasonable selection and good service. I would like to have seen Waffles with whipped cream as an option but they do not do it.
TOSCANA Speciality Dining – We arrived for our reservation but had to wait in a queue in the corridor. Bread selection was lovely but the oil and vinegar service was a bit laboured and really something of nothing and the recommended oil really wasn’t very nice, my Waitrose own brand is better. We had the suckling Pork, the food was nice but the overall experience, environment included wasn’t anything amazing.
POLO GRILL Speciality Dining – Good food and service and pleasant venue. In our opinion, of the Speciality dining we did, this was the best. Would like to have dined there again but no availability.
JACQUES Speciality Dining – it was OK, nothing special. The pork was good but the Lobster Thermidor was dreadful, the sauce was nice but the Lobster bits were so chewy, it was an effort to eat it and I noticed several ladies on the next table left theirs. I have had far better on Singapore A/Ls business class.
CASINO- Small but adequate with a variety of machines each having numerous game choices, and at least Oceania still have their casino unlike Azamara. On the first night almost every seat in the Casino was taken, so still very popular.
DRINKS/BAR- We upgraded to the anytime drinks as soon as we boarded but we noticed that the evening Martinis were charged on our bill, this was an error so keep a eye on that. Oceania do a happy hour which is two drinks for the price of one which is quite naff gimmick on a so called 5* ship. The drinks in the promotion seem to be limited to certain ones and are a smaller size to the regular ones. When Happy Hour is on it is chaos, every seat in every bar is taken and the staff are extremely busy. The only way to get a drink of your choice with your drinks package is to go to the bar if you can get near it and order one and take it to an empty corridor to stand and drink it. This may not sound very pleasant, that’s because it isn’t, probably best to avoid the bars during this time if you have a drinks package. One evening, outside of happy hour we took a seat in the Grand Bar, there wasn’t any staff so yet again my husband went to the bar to order. A waiter brought the drinks to us but it was 20 minutes before another waiter came through. If you don’t want a drinks package and are happy with a limited selection of drinks you will probably like it, but even then you will struggle to get a seat. At the buffet my husband asked the bar person for a Mocktail at lunch time but she didn’t know what one was. We explained it was a non alcoholic cocktail and we were told we could have Coco Cola or Sprite, basically canned drinks, not very 5*. BOGOF was the Unhappy hour for us with a drinks package. We nick named it ‘BOGOF drinks package guests. We were advised that BOGOF is something the American like and as the majority of the guest were American it would have suited them, but it wasn’t for us. It would be interesting to see if they have BOFOF on European cruises when there would be more mixed nationalities, perhaps we will try one in the future so see if it is any better.
RIVIERA LOUNGE deck 5 – The entertainment lounge is on one level but a decent size and without any steps and appears to be fully accessible for the disabled. Some seats however will have obstructed views from the pillars. Entertainment is very much Broadway style, OK if you like that. There were two guest entertainers a pianist and a comedian. The Oceania pianist Tony Grisillo was really good but better to go outside of happy hour if you want to listen to him.
HORIZONS LOUNGE – This is the lounge on deck 15 at the front with nice views. It has music events and afternoon tea is also served here. It is a vast room crammed with tables all the same, each with four chairs all the same, functional rather than a designer created pleasing to the eye venue. There were some nice chairs around the outside but not enough to give the room any ambience or make it look nice. We saw the ships show band that supports the production shows in there, we also saw a group called Sync Session they were really good, but at 9pm there was only 12 of us there and they really deserved a larger audience. I guess everyone had either gone to bed or they were waiting for the BOGOF hour. On one side of Horizons is an inside smoking area which does not have a door so when you enter the lounge from that side you are greeted by the smell of smoke, Not very pleasant for a non smoker.
SPA TERRACE- Rattan beds with fixed position backs which may not be comfortable for all, it is always nice to be able to adjust to personal preference. Also you can’t really lie on your front to get sun to your back . It was all beds no sofas or swing seats as on other lines spa terrace. There did not appear to be any drinks service or a telephone and we were told we could get drinks and food from Terrace Cafe and bring it to the Spa Terrace but we had to fetch it ourselves so that was rather inconvenient and although we wouldn’t take food to a spa terrace it is good to have a drink. Nonetheless less it was a tranquil place compared to main pool area.
CONCIERGE LOUNGE – We would not consider this a lounge, it is located where an inside cabin would be so it is windowless and quite small. It was very useful for getting an early morning coffee to take back to stateroom. It has computers and printers and the two gentleman working in there late afternoon of 12/12 were extremely helpful assisting with printing test results and locator forms.
BARISTA COFFEE LOUNGE – It is quite a small area and seems squeezed in and a strange location, if you wanted a liquor coffee nightcap you would need to go deck 14 and the chance’s are that you would be on deck 5 or 6 where all the evening things are and it may be closed dependant on the time you retire. The coffees are not very hot, if you get one in the buffet they are hot. The savouries and sweet offerings are nothing much to look at and the savoury mini soufflés on the first day were so dry I couldn’t eat them but they did improve. On other cruises companies, for example Azamara and CelebrityX the mini cakes and savouries served in the coffee lounge are beautifully presented and make you want to eat them and taste really good. The frozen coffee however if really excellent for coffee lovers.
COVID-19 protocols – Masks were mandatory for staff and optional for guests. There wasn’t any reduced loads on elevators they did have a sign outside the elevators saying stand in the marked places but it seemed the floor markings had gone. There was a member of staff standing at the main dining room entrance asking guests to sanitise their hands. When we entered any venue and sanitised our hands, staff members said “thank you for sanitising”. It really is unbelievable that it is necessary to request people to sanitise their hands, even when asked some still didn’t bother. We continued to wear our FFP2 masks when walking about, to protect ourselves and in respect of the staff who were also wearing masks to protect themselves and others. I would say 10% or even less of guests wore masks. Hand sanitisers were black, assembled against a dark wood back ground in many places so could be easily overlooked, I think in the current climate they need to be more prominent so there is no excuse for not doing it. The Captain and Senior Officers welcome in Horizons was horrendous, there was so many people, so close together, we didn’t stay, maybe over cautious but having had COVID I prefer to be that way. This is our third cruise during the pandemic so we are well adversed to how other lines are operating. I understand from Oceania that they had all the precautions in place on previous cruises but it changed when then entered the Caribbean. We received PCR tests on board and that was well organised, it started at 6am until 12 noon I think and we received email and a paper record of the result. There wasn’t any final announcement of if there was or wasn’t any COVID on board, on other cruise lines they announced the number of tests and the number of positive cases.
CLEANLINESS – the ship was clean, as they generally are but we weren’t aware of any additional COVID sanitising but perhaps it happened at night. When using the stairs we noticed the walls looked as though they needed decorating, it looked as though cleaning attempts had made them streaky. Given the amount of COVID out of service time one would have thought time would have been spent making all the areas tiptop condition.
SELF SERVICE LAUNDRY – There is one located on each passenger deck which is very good. It consists of three washers, three dryers and two ironing boards. Would be useful if on a long cruise, we prefer self service laundry.
EXCURSIONS – Meeting in the Riviera Lounge, issuing of bus no. and short waiting time was well coordinated. It was also nice not to wear a sticker. Excursion content wasn’t great but it was good to have a drive out, see the scenery, towns and villages, they did seem expensive for what they were. At Great Stirrup Cay it was nice to sit in the shade and swim in the sea. Drinks service by Oceania staff was good but the lunch buffet food and organisation was hopeless. If you really want to have lunch get to the eating venue at 12 opening time (serving 12 to 2pm) otherwise expect to wait in line for an hour, possibly more. It really isn’t worth waiting for, salads, various slices of melon, basic burgers and hotdogs.
TENDOR SERVICE – Quite quick turnaround and staff were very helpful in ensuring guests safety. The life boats themselves were very tired, numerous areas of the body of the boats had filler, back rests were hanging off. We have been on older life boats in better condition appearance wise.
DISEMBARKING AND RETURNING – Bottled water is provided on exit but it is not served from an ice bin so just room temperature. There wasn’t any maps provided by Oceania and there wasn’t any Tourist Info at the ports , Perhaps they think everyone wants to walk around with head in phone or maybe it is a COVID restriction. On return to the ship there wasn’t any iced towels or iced drinks, I think there was cold drinks at the first port. Exit and entry to the ship was by facial recognition which is the first time we have seen this.
MID CRUISE COMMENT CARD – We did a list of what was good and what wasn’t, buffet tepid food being our biggest gripe. I can confirm that the comments were read and things did improve especially whenever our ship card was used and I think there may have been a comment against our name to say make sure the food is hot, because staff asked us if it was hot enough. Credit where it is due they improved it where they could but buffet items continued to be tepid. If there is something wrong mention it so they can right it if possible.
SERVICE – If you would normally travel with for example, Azamara, CelebrityX I suggest you will find the service slower on Oceania. Often during the cruise we gave up on waiters coming to us and went to the bar and ordered ourselves. They have a real problem on Oceania, if it is ‘Happy’ Hour the staff can’t cope, there was one particular lady who was good but there needed to be more staff. If you go to Horizon for the music at 21:00 you will probably be part an audience of about 12 but if you go to a 22:30 session when it is BOGOF the numbers swell to 50 plus and then there are three staff to serve. Service in the Dining room and Speciality dining was no problem. In one bar on one evening we had empty glasses and three waiters walked past us in total 12 times.
We enjoyed looking at the sea spotting Dolphins and Flying Fish with a drink on the balcony, and watching the sun rise and set and nothing can spoil that.
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