Mayan Mystique Cruise on the Oceania Riviera
12/13/14 to 12/23/14
Due to the length of the review, it is in four parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pagesare at the top and bottom of each page.
Page 1 - Embarkation and Ship
Page 2 - Ship Continued, Dining, Entertainment and Activities; Ports of Call: Key West, FL; Cozumel, Mexico
Page 3 - Ports of Call: Roatan, Honduras; Santo Thomas, Guatemala
Page 4 - Ports of Call: Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman
After our first Oceania cruise, which was on one of their smaller ships the Regatta, we wanted to try one of Oceania’s newer and larger ships. When we found a good deal on a Caribbean cruise on the Oceania Riviera, we decided we should book it. The pricing on most cruise lines in early December is normally some of the lowest per day prices available during the year. Plus this cruise had several ports we hadn’t been to before. When we find a Caribbean cruise with new ports for us, it is a real plus.
Meanwhile, Carol had purchased a very portable lightweight scooter a few months before the cruise, since she is not able to walk for as long a distance as she would like. This has been an issue since she had part of a lung removed in 2012. With our taking a cruise to China and Japan in 2015, we thought the scooter would allow her to be able to get out and see more of the ports we would be visiting. The scooter is called the TravelScoot. It only weighs 35 pounds and easily folds up to be put into a car trunk. It is quite a nifty device.
It was most fortunate that we had purchased the TravelScoot, since Carol hurt her knee on a different cruise a couple of months before this cruise. Since we are able to drive to the port of Miami from our home, it would be a good test to see how the TravelScoot would work on a cruise.
We parked at an offsite parking service near the airport. The transfer bus driver was hesitant about loading the TravelScoot; but once he realized how light it was, there was no problem. We arrived at Terminal J at 11:10 AM. It is on the other side of the port from the larger ship terminals. Since the building was handicap accessible, Carol was able to zip around the terminal with no problems. She was having too much fun being ahead of me for a change. With a top speed of four miles per hour, she can move pretty quickly.
As has been the case for our other recent cruises, security was more thorough than in the past. We don’t mind the extra time it takes and appreciate that they are protecting us. The check-in process went quickly and we were told we could board immediately. With the walkway to the ship being level, Carol was able to easily get on board. With the fast boarding process, it was only 11:40 AM. Thirty minutes from van to ship is fast! We were told that our cabins wouldn’t be ready until 2:30 PM. That allowed us time to have a leisurely lunch in the buffet. It also gave me lots of time to take photos of the ship before it got more crowded.
Before the cruise, we had heard how beautiful the Riviera was. Our expectations were exceeded. It is a very classy and well-appointed ship. It feels so comfortable and is very easy to get around since it is a relatively small ship compared to the ones we normally cruise. It is just over 66,000 tons,and is laid out similar to the smaller Oceania ships that weigh only 30,000 tons. The added space of the Riviera made it the perfect size for us, and we just loved the ship. We were also treated to a surprise. On the second night of the cruise, the ship was decorated for Christmas. It did make the cruise that much more special. I will include some photos with the decorations in the below public room recap.
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 the large circular crystal chandelier in the center. Unfortunately photos cannot show the beauty created by all the sparkling within the fixture. It just has to be seen to be appreciated.
The tables are spaced adequately where we didn’t feel crowded. 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. In the hall right across from the entrance to Jacques is a painting of Jacques Pépin, for whom the restaurant is named. Jacques serves as Oceania’s Executive Culinary Director.
We were thrilled to be able to eat there a second time, since we thoroughly enjoyed our first experience there.
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.
I wish that we had been able to get an additional reservation at Red Ginger, since I enjoyed it so much. Their Miso Sea Bass dinner was just so good. Carol isn’t that crazy about fish, so she didn’t mind only going once. There were however plenty of non-fish choices on the menu.
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.
We were thrilled to be able to enjoy three meals there, since they do have some very good food. But then again all of the restaurants on the Riviera are excellent.
Toscana – This is the Italian specialty restaurant. Unlike the other restaurants, its decor did not immediately alert the diner as to the type of food served there. However, one glance at the menu let you know that you were in for some excellent Italian fare. It was also located on deck 14 on the opposite side from where Polo Grill is located.
We were able to visit Toscana twice. We really loved their lasagna. The first time we had it as an appetizer and the second time as the main course.
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 was normally easy to find seats at any meal time. Unlike most of the main stream cruise lines, the Riviera buffet had white table cloths, making it feel like a fine restaurant.
I normally don’t like buffets that have the food lines rather than individual islands, but on the Riviera it just worked well. 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.
At the back of the ship there was a nice outdoor seating section adjoining the main buffet area .
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 $165 per person for the Connoisseur menu, I sure hope it is an outstanding meal. The only couple that we met who went there said that they were too full to eat all of the courses. 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. I just happened to find it by accident while taking photos of the ship. 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 am sure that it is probably 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. It was rare for there not to be a line.
Lounges (Link to Menus)-
Martinis – This is a very comfortable and intimate feeling lounge. It was our favorite lounge and we would go there each night during the happy hour. The two for one drinks were quite desirable, since we hadn’t purchased a drink package. Since we don’t drink much, happy hour worked out great for us. Martinis is also a good deal for non-happy hours. Unlike on many ships, Oceania’s martinis are a larger volume. The waiter leaves the shaker containing almost another full glass. So it is a very good buy.
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 provides a view of the grand piano, since Martinis is a piano bar.
Each evening starting at 6:00 PM, pianist Pavel would play for the patrons. We had seen him eight months earlier on the Oceania Regatta. 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. It was also a great racetrack for Carol to show off her scooter’s speed on the smooth floors.
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.
The bar itself is illuminated with either white or pink lighting. Since I didn’t spend any time there, I didn’t notice how frequently the color changed. It did seem to be pink most of the time I passed by it; but I have seen photos of it when it was a purple color. I guess I should have hung out there more to see if there were any other colors. Now I have something to do when I return in 2016.
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. Of the 1,084 guests on board, 780 had cruised with Oceania at least once; so a large room was needed.
There is a nice size dance floor and area for musicians to play; which was used nightly.
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 specialty coffees, it was quite popular. In addition to the high top seats, there was a seating area with baked snacks adjoining it. The seating area is part of the library; but was normalluy occupied by coffee drinkers looking for a comfortable place to sit and enjoy their coffee.
We didn’t go to Baristas during the first part of the cruise, since we could get specialty coffees in the various dining areas. Then I discovered the frozen Frappuccino machine. Oh my goodness! It was probably a good thing I hadn’t found out about it earlier or I would have gained even more weight than I did during the cruise. The delicious coffee flavored frozen drink was just so good. Carol said that it is an excellent substitute for coffee ice cream, which she loves. It was served in small glass cups as well as in a small go-cup. Had they had large go-cups, I could have OD’d on the stuff.
Riviera Lounge – The entry to the theater has some theater art in the hallway. As you walk further into the theater, there are mask displays on both sides of the hallway.
My main complaint about Oceania’s smaller ships is that the theater seating made it difficult to see the performers on the floor level stage. Some people do prefer the intimacy of that ship class theater; but we were pleased to see that the Riviera had stadium seating. It allowed for much better viewing of the shows.
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.
Carol discovered another problem in that there is no designated handicapped area for people on scooters. Since she is able to walk, she could park her scooter and sit in the last row of the regular seating area. However, there were two people that she saw that came in every night, who were unable to leave their larger mobile devices. They came in the entrance ramp and parked behind the last row of the main seating area. However, as stated before, there is an additional seating section in the very back. Those people complained that they could not see over the handicapped people. They complained to the waiter, and he asked them to move the scooters. The two disabled people ended up having to park against the far wall, which has a very restricted view of the stage due to columns and angle. Because of the arrangement of the theater, I don’t know how Oceania would solve this problem, but they should definitely address it.
I did make a recommendation on the mid-cruise opinion survey regarding the theater. 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. Oceania needs to find a way to loosen it so that it pulls out easily.
Pool Area – I really liked the pool area on the Riviera. It feels like one that you would find in a fancy hotel. The pool itself is very pretty with the large shallow area surrounding it. The two hot tubs were also quite popular.
There was plenty of seating and it was very comfortable with the plush towels on the lounge chairs and beds. I was surprised that plenty of good seating was available most of the time, even on sea days. I am sure that only being 86% of full capacity made a difference; but I believe that it would probably have been adequate even if the ship had been full.
At night the colored lighting made for a nice photo.
Sanctuary – In the front part of the pool area on the port side is a very nice shaded area called the Sanctuary. It contains quite a few padded lounge chairs and beds.
Patio - In the front part of the pool area on the starboard side, just across from the Sanctuary, is another shaded area called the Patio. It contains several padded couches and chairs.
Sun Deck – The sun deck on deck 14 above the pool was popular for those that didn’t want any shading while sunning themselves. There were lots of padded lounge chairs available at all times up there.
There were also some partially shaded areas with padded couches and chairs.
Fitness Track - There was a small walking/jogging track that went around the smoke stack on deck 15. It was really short for a jogging track; but it was an area that didn’t have a lot of traffic to get in the way of those that used it.
Also on deck 15 was a croquet court and a shuffleboard area.
The illuminated Oceania emblem looked quite striking at night.
Casino - When I first walked into the casino, I thought that it was rather small for this size ship.
Then I realized that there was another section on the other side of the Casino Bar with more slot machines.
Culinary Center – A very popular activity on the Riviera was the cooking classes in the Culinary Center. During the cruise there were seven different classes. The cost for each class was $69. Reservations needed to be booked as soon as possible, since the classes filled up quickly. The room is set up very nicely so that each person has their own cooking area.
Each student wears a chef’s hat while in class. They did look like they were having fun. Those we talked to were very pleased with the classes.
Artist Loft – This is the area where various free classes are held to teach you how to paint. They also taught other arts and crafts that the artists specialized in.
Golf Putting Green – At the top of the ship on deck 16, which could not be accessed by elevator, was a very nice putting green. A small driving cage adjoined it.
Paddle Tennis – Next to putting green was a paddle tennis court. One day I saw some people playing the game. It looked like a lot of fun; plus it takes up a lot less room than a full sized tennis court.
Boutiques – The shops on the Riviera are all located in one area on deck 5. They had a nice selection of items and the shops had an attractive upscale appearance. I wish that there had been more Oceania logo items available for sale.
Atrium – As in the smaller Oceania ships, the grand staircase is the focal point. It is such a lovely area to see as you enter the ship for the first time.
The Lalique signature Cactus Table was certainly a focal point in the center of the staircase.
The atrium area and staircase were tastefully decorated for the Christmas season.
On both sides of the atrium are lovely sitting areas. On one side there was a large painting of Riviera's godmother, celebrity chef Cat Cora.
Reception – On one side of the atrium was the reception desk. I was most impressed with the friendly attitude and efficient handling of any questions or issues. Before and after Christmas decorations were added.
Destination Services – Since we had only booked independent excursions, I never worked with the destinations people. Before and after Christmas decorations were added.
Upper Hall – From deck 6, the view of the staircase and looking down to deck 5 was also quite nice.
Promenade – There is no promenade deck on the Riviera. But that brings up the question of how would one get to the lifeboats if needed. There actually is a very narrow deck just outside deck 6 that provides access to the lifeboats.
Board Room – I thought it was clever to call the card room the Board Room; although when I saw the name on the deck plan, I thought it was a meeting room rather than for gaming.
Oceania@Sea – The Riviera has a very nice sized internet area with lots of terminals. It was very easy to set up our iPhones and iPads within the comfort of our cabin, without any assistance from their help desk. Many people came to the internet center to obtain the instructions provided on their information sheet during the first couple days. The page should have been included in the cabin welcome packages. It would have cut down on a lot of visitors there and any confusion.
Our cruise included free internet for one guest. I was apprehensive when signing up for the Wi-Fi in our cabin, since it appeared that I would have to buy a package. But when I clicked to see what packages were available, the unlimited package was shown at a zero cost. A nice way to handle it. Since only one person in the cabin can use the internet at a time, each guest in a cabin would need to use the same sign on. It was a bit of a pain to have to type in both my first and last name along with a sign on name and password each time we hooked into the Wi-Fi. The sign on name and password should have been enough. With the internet being terribly slow, probably due to the large number of passengers with free internet, I felt sorry for those that had purchased packages based on minutes of usage. The unlimited package cost $27.99 per day. The ala carte pricing was $.99 per minute or $.80 per minute if you purchase a $200 package of 200 minutes.
Library – Between the internet café and Baristas is a curved hallway. Along that hallway is the library broken down into separate cozy rooms. With the large bookshelves, fireplaces, paintings and comfortable chairs, each room had the feel of a library in a stately manor.
Concierge – The concierge desk is located in the atrium. We had no need for his services on this cruise. There is a similar desk next to the concierge that is used during the day for making dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants.
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.
Oceania Club Ambassador – This area was primarily used as the future cruise booking center. Two knowledgeable and very helpful staff members were available during most of the day. It was quite popular and had people waiting to get information and/or book every time I went by. I couldn’t resist and booked a 2016 Riviera cruise, also taking advantage of the on-board promotions.
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