Iberian Immersion Cruise on the Oceania Riviera
11/4/21 to 11/20/21

 

 

Click on the above link buttons that will take you directly to a particular page or area of the review; or you can just click through to the next page at the bottom of each page.

Page 1 – Pre-cruise in Nice, France; Embarkation, Ship (Part 1)
Page 2 – Ship (Part 2); Ports of Call:  Marseille, France; Toulon, France
   
Page 3 - Ports of Call: 
Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Cartagena, Spain; Melilla, Spain; Alicante, Spain
Page 4 -
Ports of Call: Ibiza, Spain;  Catania, Sicily; Naples, Italy
Page 5 - Rome, Italy: 
Day 1 & Day 2 (Part 1)
Page 6 -
Rome, Italy:  Day 2 (Part 2) & Day 3

   


Due to itinerary changes, the above is not totally acurate

 

Preface

With this being our first post-Covid cruise, we were most concerned about many aspects of it.  There were so many different forms to fill out for each country we would visit as well as necessary paperwork for Oceania and the airlines.  Added to this is the potential for the cruise or ports being cancelled.  There were some ports cancelled and replaced by others; but it turned out to be a great cruise in so many ways.  This would be my first cruise with my girlfriend, Cathy, so that was also an unknown.  She would prove to be an awesome cruise partner and one that I look forward to sharing many vacations with in the future.

Pre-Cruise in Nice, France – Day 1

The cruise was originally to begin in Monte Carlo, so we planned on spending a couple nights in Nice, France before the cruise.  When the embarkation port was changed to Marseilles, France, a couple hours away from Nice, we had to figure out how to get there, since we wanted to stay in Nice.  Oceania set up a free transfer from the Nice Airport for anyone who was flying into or staying in Nice or Monte Carlo.  It was most appreciated.  This allowed us to keep our hotel reservation at the Hotel de France (www.hoteldefrancenice.com/en/). 

My only concern with our flights was that our original flight was supposed to fly direct from JFK to Nice.  A few months earlier, that flight was cancelled, and we would have another connection, this time through Paris.  My last experience at De Gaulle airport was one where we had to run to make our flights due to numerous trams and long security lines.  This time, we had more time to make our connection, but when we got into the terminal, there were no signs to where our next flight was taking off from and no one to ask.  We eventually came to a place where a very nice agent told us exactly where to go and how to get there.  He enjoyed joking with us while explaining the directions.  He did help destress me.

Our overnight flight had arrived in the morning, so we knew that we would probably not be able to check into the hotel, especially since our Uber arrived there around noon.  Once again, we loved using Uber in Europe.  It was so convenient, fast and inexpensive.   The ride was only about 15 Euros plus tip, where a transfer with the hotel would be 35 Euros.  Because we had arrived so early, we would not be able to check in until 3:00 PM. The hotel stored our luggage, and we were free to explore this lovely seaside city.  We walked along the ocean promenade, enjoying the sights. 

   

       

We eventually arrived at the flower market.  There were lots of flower shops, but more restaurants.

   

We enjoyed seeing the many statues lining the promenade area.  It was such an enjoyable place to just take your time strolling along, which is not something that I am used to.  Cathy has helped me to take my time to enjoy my surroundings.

   

   

We had a nice lunch along the promenade and were able to check in close to 3:00 PM.  We were told that they had upgraded our room.  Thank goodness they did, since the bedroom was very small and there wouldn’t have been any room for our luggage. 

   

The upgraded room, had an additional room with a bunk bed, which worked out great for storing and working out of our suitcases. 

   

The room had been renovated to be more modern, especially the bathroom.  We were pleased with the hotel; but might not have been with the basic room.  The location of the hotel was perfect though.  I would happily stay here again.

   

We used Yelp to find a restaurant to go to.  For some reasons, GPS maps seem to change directions while walking, so I was quite confused about which way to go at times.  When walking one way with the arrow showing us going in the right direction, it suddenly turns the other way telling us to go back the way we came from.  It probably has to do with the weak signal but was quite frustrating.  We were so pleasantly surprised while in Nice how so many people offered to help us when we were standing around looking at the phone trying to figure where to go.  It had been a long day and we headed back to the hotel right after dinner to crash.  We had a big day coming up.

 

Pre-Cruise in Nice, France – Day 2
I normally like to wake up early and walk around the area when it is empty before people start moving around.  I was able to see the empty promenade.

   

   

For the day, I had booked one of my all-time favorite tour guides, Sylvie di Cristo, (http://frenchrivieraguides.com).  I had used her services in 2003 and had been trying to have another tour with her since.  So, I was so happy that we would finally get to see her again. 

We had booked the tour with another couple, Patty and Chuck.  A few months ago, the other couple asked if we could accommodate an additional couple.  Sylvie said that her van would handle six very comfortably and everyone would have a window.  The night before our tour, Sylvie notified me that the van she normally rents for her tours had a broken rear-view mirror and it couldn’t be used.  She called several other rental agencies, but the only vehicle that she could get was one that only handled 4 passengers.  We hated to leave out the other couple; but it did work for them, since the main place they wanted to go to, we didn’t go to.  Sylvie drove us to a couple of scenic viewing spots.  Just gorgeous views of the French Riviera.  Sylvie took photos of us and our tour companions.

   

We continued the tour stopping to see different views of Villefranche, which is where my first cruise to the area docked. 

   

We then went to a very exclusive area for the rich and famous, Cap Ferrat.   It is a lovely area, like so many on the French Riviera.

We then took another road along the coast on our way to Monaco.

   

Our next stop was to the exterior of the Oceanographic Institute.  Jacques Cousteau was the director from 1957 to 1968. The view along the water’s edge was so dramatic with the waves crashing along the steep rock walls.

   

We walked through the grounds to the front of the building and a beautiful path to our next stop.

   

The Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate is where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly got married in 1956.  They are also buried there.

   

   

We then walked over to the palace where the changing of the guards was to happen close to noon.  There were lots of people waiting to see it, so I took the time to walk over to a spot above the marina to see the beautiful city.

   

There was a flurry of activity when the event began, with soldiers marching to the drums and people moving around to get the best view for photos. 

   

It was a pretty short ceremony, and we were off to see a different view of Monaco.  I do believe that any view is a great one.

   

Not far away was a Monument to Monaco’s Prince Albert I.  Kind of a strange looking one.

We walked through the streets down toward the marina.  The streets were lined with very expensive homes/condos and gorgeous buildings.

   

Sylvie told us that she had a special place for us to have lunch.  She had pointed it out to us way up on a mountain over Monaco when we were at one of the previous viewing areas.  When we arrived, we were most impressed.  The restaurant at Hotel Les Deux Frères in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin was in a drop-dead gorgeous setting with incredible views both up down.  The food was also amazing!  What a wonderful treat.

   

   

   

After lunch Sylvie took us into the town itself.  What a gem of narrow streets with brightly colored buildings.  And we were pretty much by ourselves there.

   

On the way to our next destination, Sylvie showed us the Trophée d'Alpes.  At one time this was a massive structure that stood 150 high and had a huge statue of the emperor Augustus on top.  Now only a small section remains but is quite impressive on its own.  We could see it from far away as we approached it.  There was a quaint small village close by.


   

The tour was supposed to end at 5:00 PM and it was already after 3:00 PM.  We had originally planned on going to the hilltop town of Eze, but after Sylvie told us that it was a very steep climb up from the closest parking lot, we decided to pass on it.  She recommended that perhaps we would enjoy seeing the seaside town of Antibes, so that is where we headed.  When I had been on my first tour with Sylvie 18 years earlier, we stopped outside of a beautiful Russian Orthodox church in Nice, but we weren’t able to go inside.  I asked if it was out of the way to go there, and she said it actually was on the way to Antibes.  I was so glad we went there, since it is quite a spectacular building.  The interior is also quite nice, but photos weren’t allowed.

   

   

It was 4:00 PM when we left the church to head to Antibes.  It is normally about a 20-minute drive there, but the traffic was terrible, and it took closer to 40 minutes, so it wouldn’t leave us much time to explore.  It is a really nice town, but we pretty much headed to a gelato shop rather than looking at the beautiful views along the water or taking many photos.  It would be a very nice place to visit in the daytime with time to enjoy it.

   

We got back to the hotel around 6:00 PM.  It had been a very full and most enjoyable tour.  Sylvie is an awesome tour guide and such a pleasure to be with.  We will hopefully be able to tour with her again someday.

That night we had a reservation at a Michelin starred restaurant, Bistro de Gourmand.  On the way there we enjoyed the evening sights of Nice.  The restaurant was just excellent.  A great way to end our visit to the lovely city of Nice. 

   

 

Embarkation


After breakfast we took an Uber to the airport to meet the bus that would take us to the ship in Marseilles.  This time only 14 Euros plus tip.  After walking into the airport, we spotted an Oceania sign and one of the agents checked off our names and walked us to the bus.  We left the airport at 10:00 AM for a 2-hour ride that ended up taking 2 hours and 45 minutes.  When we arrived at the terminal, they checked out our paperwork and directed us to where we received a Covid test.  We sat down until our names were called, about 15 minutes later, and headed to the ship.  It was very easy and well organized.

The Covid rules required us to wear our masks in the ship’s public areas, except when eating or drinking.  No problem.  The only rule that caused issues was that there could no more than four people in an elevator at one time.  This did cause issues after the shows let out and people were trying to get back to their cabins.  A few people got very mad and yelled if a fifth person tried to get onto one of the larger elevators, which did seem a bit much.  They had no problem being on a packed tour bus or in the theater but being in the elevator was major problem.  But I do understand following the rules, just not going ballistic over minor infractions.  This even happened the first day after everyone on the ship had just been tested.  With the ship only having 770 passengers rather than the 1,250 full capacity, it did help some with the issue.  However, the next cruise after ours was a transatlantic that was going to have 1,150 passengers.

 

Ship

The Riviera is my favorite ship of any I have cruised on.   Which is why I was so glad to have this third cruise on her.  At just over 66,000 tons, and a double capacity of 1,250 passengers, it is an ideal size for me.   It is also a most elegant and comfortable ship, with wonderful food and service.

The various public rooms are shown below by category.

Dining Rooms (Link to Menus) -


Grand Dining Room – This is the main dining room for the ship.  There are no set seating times, so the passengers can eat whenever they want.  It is a truly elegant room with a large circular crystal chandelier in the center.  Unfortunately, photos cannot show the beauty created by all the sparkling within the fixture.  It just must be seen to be appreciated.

   

   

The tables were spaced adequately where we didn’t feel crowded.  Some tables were not useable to provide more social distancing.  The chairs were also quite comfortable.

   

 

Jacques – This is one of the four specialty dining restaurants on the ship that require reservations to eat there, although there is no extra charge.  The Parisian bistro design just feels right for this restaurant.  It is a French restaurant; but the design makes it feel less formal and more comfortable to me.  The large flower arrangement at the entrance really sets the tone

   

   

   

Unlike most of the restaurants on the ship, Jacques is a bit difficult to locate.  It is down a long hall on deck 5 between the Boutiques and the forward elevator.  It is the only public room that is located on that hall.  The restaurant is named after well-known chef Jacques Pépin, who served as Oceania’s Executive Culinary Director for many years.

 

Red Ginger – One doesn’t have to look at the menu to know that Red Ginger is an Asian restaurant.  From the Asian art on the walls and place settings on the tables, to the red upholstered chairs, it provides a definite Asian ambience.  It is one of the specialty restaurants requiring reservations.  It is also located on Deck 5 but is easily accessed next to the boutique area.

   

   

 

Polo Grill – Polo Grill is the steak house specialty restaurant.  It is properly appointed with leather chairs and dark woods, as expected for a steak house.  The restaurant is a comfortable environment for a fine meal.  It is located in the same area of the ship on the top deck as on the smaller Oceania ships; but the room is much larger on the Riviera.

   

   

 

Toscana – This is the Italian specialty restaurant.  Unlike the other restaurants, it didn’t have the ambiance of the type of food they were serving.  But it was still a nicely decorated restaurant.  It was also located on deck 14 on the opposite side from where Polo Grill is located.

   

   

   

 

Terrace Café – Located on the back of deck 12, this buffet is the main dining venue for breakfast and lunch.  It is also very popular for dinner, since they have most of the same food items as the main dining room.  It is in the shape of a “U” with the middle being the area where the food is located.  The long parts of the U are the seating areas.

   

   

   

I normally don’t like buffets that have the food lines rather than individual islands, but on the Riviera it just worked well, especially with the lower capacity.  The main hot food line was on one side, and it could be accessed from either end, since the food items were duplicated for whichever way you came in.  In the middle were the salads, desserts and other cold foods, plus the ice cream bar.  It was in effect a large island.

On the other side was a grill that had various food items including steaks, lobster, burgers, and a very nice pasta station.  They even made their own pasta right in front of you.

There was a nice outdoor seating section adjoining the main buffet area at the back of the ship.

   

Additionally, there was a seating area on the other end of the buffet behind the pool area.

   

 

La Reserve – This is an additional charge restaurant that provides up to 24 people a 7-course gourmet dinner with wine pairings.  At a cost of $95 per person for the Explorer and Discovery menus; and $295 per person for the Dom Perignon Experience menu, I sure hope it is an outstanding meal.  The restaurant is just outside the Terrace Café.

   

 

Privee – This restaurant is hidden at the back of the ship between the Polo Grill and Toscana.  It is reserved for groups that want to have a private dinner for up to ten people.  Food can be selected from both the Polo Grill and Toscana menus.  The cost to use the room is $250 for the group.  Since there is no cost for the Riviera specialty restaurants, there is no added food cost, just a charge for the private venue and the service.  I thought that the Privee concept was a great idea, since it allows people to have privacy for a special event.  The room itself was quite lovely and looked like a perfect place for a private meal.  I personally don’t know that I would spend that much money for the privacy; but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is booked every night.

   

 

Waves Grill – Everybody loves Waves Grill.  It is the fast-food area.  In addition to very good hamburgers, hotdogs, and Ruben sandwiches; they even have a surf and turf sandwich with steak and lobster.  Unlike most ship grill areas, you give an attendant your order, sit down and a waiter will bring your order to you when it has been prepared.  Oceania really does make it too easy to overeat.

   

   

But the most popular area of the grill is the ice cream section.  They even make milk shakes, sundaes, and smoothies. 

 

Lounges (Link to Menus) -

Martinis – This is a very comfortable and intimate feeling lounge.  The two for one drinks were quite desirable, since we hadn’t purchased a drink package.  The lounge occupies a large area on deck 6 mid-ship.  It is broken into two sections.  Below is the port side where the bar itself is located.

   

On the starboard side there are more comfortable chairs and couches.

Between the two sides was a very attractive area with probably the most traditional artwork on the ship.  There is also a passage between the two sides that provide a view of the grand piano since Martinis is a piano bar.

   

Each evening starting at 6:00 PM, pianist Tony Grisillo would play for the patrons.  He plays a good mixture of songs and is very talented.

 

Grand Bar – Between Martinis and the Grand Dining Room on the starboard side of the ship is the lovely Grand Bar.  I am not sure why it is called a bar, since there is no bar in the Grand Bar.  In fact, it probably should have been called the Grand Hallway, since that is what it is mainly used for.  There is comfortable seating, and the large expanse of marble flooring makes the area quite beautiful. 

   

 

Casino Bar – Just across from the Grand Bar on the port side is the Casino Bar.  It is located between the two sections of the casino.  There is also a pathway between it and the Grand Bar.  I assume the Casino Bar is used to provide drinks for those in the Grand Bar.  

   

 

Horizons - At the top of the ship on deck 15, is the largest lounge on the ship.  There is a large seating area with great views looking out toward the front and sides of the ship.  The room was used for many activities during the cruise including the captain’s reception for returning Oceania guests. 

   

   

   

There is a nice size dance floor and area for musicians to play, which was used nightly.

   

There is a small food prep/buffet area at the back of the Horizon.  It was used during the afternoon tea activity.

At the back of the lounge on the port side is a sitting area for smokers.  It is the only inside area on the ship for smokers.

   

 

Waves Bar – This bar is appropriately named Waves, since it is next to the swimming pool area on deck 12.

   

 

Baristas – This coffee bar is in a great location on deck 14 looking out over the swimming pool area.  Since there is no extra charge for the various non-alcoholic specialty coffees, it was quite popular.  In addition to the high-top seats, there was a seating area with snacks adjoining it.

   

   

The frappuccino machines made the most delicious treat.  I only had one for the whole cruise, which was a major sacrifice for me.

 

Other

Riviera Lounge – This is the main theater on the ship for shows and other large events.   

   

   

I was particularly pleased with seat spacing which provided a lot of leg room.  In fact, I didn’t even need to stand up if someone wanted to walk in front of me to another seat in our aisle. 

Most of the seats had a very good view of the stage; but those people sitting in the very back of the theater did have somewhat of a problem.  Although there was stadium seating, it was a very gradual incline.  Then it leveled off at the entrance ramp, with another separate section in the very back.  The farther back you sat, the harder it was to see over the other people.

There is a small little table between the seats that can be used to place drinks on.  Most people didn’t even realize it was there.  But even if they had, they might not have used it because it was extremely difficult to pull up.  I did see the waiters would pulling it out at times.  But if you walked in with a drink, you might not realize it was even there.

 

Concierge Lounge – Passengers staying in Concierge Class cabins have access to the Concierge Lounge on deck 9 where most of the Concierge Class cabins are located.  In addition to a large screen TV, they also have their own coffee machine along with snacks.

   

   

 

Executive Lounge - Passengers staying in suites have access to the Executive Lounge on deck 11 where most of the suites are located.  Similar to the Concierge Lounge it has a large screen TV, as well as their own coffee machine and snacks.  While it is the same size as the Concierge Lounge it is more richly appointed.  Although we were in a suite, we only used the lounge one morning to get some coffee.  It was handy and we would have used it more if there had been more than just one sea day on the cruise.

   

   

   

 

 

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