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 pages are 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
Ship - Continued
Canyon Ranch Spa Club (Link to Spa Services Menu)– This is a very lovely area of the ship that is dedicated to pampering the passengers and providing various salon type services. It has a definite upscale feel to it.
The steam, sauna and relaxation area was also quite nice.
There is also a shop in the spa.
Spa Terrace – Just outside the spa is a terrace that is provided for the Concierge Class and suite guests. Others can pay $25 per day per person to use the area. The price per day decreases if you purchase a multi-day package. The hydrotherapy pool looked quite inviting and comfortable.
Fitness Center – The fitness center located next to the spa is available to all. It is well appointed with lots of well-maintained equipment.
Laundry Rooms - There are laundry rooms decks 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. They are stacked washers and dryers that cost $2 per load; but you must use the Oceania tokens that are avaible in the laundry room through a machine that takes $1 bills. Alternatively, they can be purchased at the reception desk for cash or added to your onboard account. A detergent dispenser is mounted on the wall. A refrigerator with cold water, a very comfortable couch and a TV are provided if you need them while waiting for a load to finish.
Below is the official laundry hour hours notification in the laundry room.
Elevators and Signage - The elevator doors have a design in them that appeared to be raised on the surface. I saw so many people touching them to see what they felt like. The surface was actually smooth. They must have used some type of brush technique to make the design appear to be raised and/or indented, depending on how you viewed the doors.
We were impressed with the signage in the elevators. They were monitors that were embedded into the mirrors on the elevator wall, so that it appeared that they were part of the mirror itself. When the elevator stopped at a floor, it would show what venues and/or cabins that were located on the floor. It was a very good way of letting people know what was on the floor they had stopped at. The below photo with me taking a photo of the monitor in hte mirror that show how the sign looks.
Near the end of our cruise, maintenance changed the signage on each floor near the elevators. They were much clearer than the previous signs. I think it made it easier forpeople to determine which floor they needed to go to before the boarded the elevator.
Public Restrooms - I normally wouldn't put in a photo of the public restrooms on a ship, but the ones on Riviera were so nicely done, I felt that I needed to. They are quite nicely appointed.
Artwork & Decorations –The Riviera’s art work, for the most part, was very modern. Carol and I love artwork; but we do prefer the more traditional types. Modern art can go in many directions and some pieces I did like a lot. But for the most part there was too much that didn’t appeal to me. It wasn’t offensive where it took away from the ship; but I would have preferred more realistic looking art.
Because many people like to see what type of art is on a ship, I have included many photos of it. Do to my compulsion to see everything on a ship, I walk up and down the stairwells to see the various art pieces there.
Tthe below photos are from the stairwells. So if you have been on the Riviera and don’t recognize it, it could be because you haven’t taken the full tour of the stairwells.
We loved our cabin on the Riviera. We had upgraded to cabin 8071, a B1 mid-ship Veranda cabin. At 242 sq. ft. inside plus a 40 sq. ft. balcony, it would qualify as a mini-suite on some ships. The cabins feature a queen-size Prestige Tranquility Bed, with 1,000-thread-count linens. Oceania does have the most comfortable cruise ship beds that we have ever slept on.
The room is spread out adequately where we could even drive Carol’s scooter past the bed to store it near the veranda door. There were lots of drawers and a nice size closet. Since there isn’t a door stop on the closet sliders, we did need to watch how we slid the closet doors open so as to not to crush our fingers on the other door.
The safe did present a small problem in that it did not have a handle. After putting in the code to unlock the door, it would not pop open. Carol solved the problem by putting a long string over the door with both ends hanging out of the safe when the door was shut and locked. Then, when the code to unlock was entered, she could use the string to pull the door open.
The desk was very functional with two US plugs and a single European plug.
The couch was quite comfortable, however the coffee table was larger than it needed to be and took up a lot of floor space. Had we not had the scooter in the room, it might have been OK.
Between the couch and bed was a night stand which contained several drawers. Sitting on top of that night stand were information books with menus and other ship information. Above the night stand was another US plug and light switches. The nightstand on the other side of the bed also had a US plug and light switches above it. There were plenty of plugs in the room, which we appreciated.
The bathroom was quite large with a full size tub in it. All of the marble and granite made for a very elegant look. We were fascinated with the blue highlights in granite floor.
The only negative was that the stall shower was quite small; but it was adequate for us. I did like that there were two shower heads, with one being the rain shower type. For someone that was too large for the stall shower, they could always use the shower in the bathtub.
The veranda was quite adequate with two padded chairs and a table. I did like that instead of a glass wall, it had narrow horizontal bars along the outside. It was easy to see through, unlike the glass ones on some ships that can get quite dirty.
The veranda was partially covered and had good views both fore and aft. The lifeboats did partially obstruct the downward view; but it was not a problem at all.
We had two awesome cabin attendants, Aliz from Hungary and Lunar from India. They couldn’t help us enough and were very prompt in making up our room when we left it. I don’t know how they were able to maintain such happy and positive attitudes when they seemed to be working so hard all day long.
Dining (Link to Menus)
I have included copies of the menus for the main dining room along with photos of some of the food items at the Menus link just above and at the top of each page of the review.
Oceania is known for their highly rated food quality. For some people it is the main reason they cruise with Oceania. We found that the food was always very good. Some items might be prepared differently from what we are used to, but the quality of the food, preparation and presentation was always first class.
Grand Dining Room - With a ten day cruise, we were allowed to pre-book one reservation for each of the four specialty restaurants. Because we don’t mind sharing tables with other passengers, in fact we prefer it, we were able to dine at the specialty restaurants four additional times. But that meant that we were only able to eat in the Grand Dining Room for two dinners. Each time we ate there we thoroughly enjoyed it. We also enjoyed the open seating, since we were able to meet very pleasant and well-traveled tablemates. We found the service to be quite good; and they did not try to rush the meal. With the only evening show not starting until 9:45 PM, there was no rush and meals in all the dining rooms took around two hours.
We did eat breakfast in the Grand Dining Room a few times. I particularly enjoyed being able to order the small lamb chops for breakfast. I found it to be a nice change from bacon or sausage. They also made a wonderful omelet that had goat cheese in it. We only ate lunch in the dining room a couple times. They had most of the same items that were being served in the buffet; but it was just easier and faster to go to the buffet. The dining room is designed for a more relaxed pace, so we only went when we didn’t have activities we wanted to attend close to lunch time.
Specialty Restaurants – Each specialty restaurant has its own area of expertise. All of them had steaks for those that didn’t want any of the Asian, French or Italian foods that were offered. For the most part, I found the food to be very good in all four specialty restaurants. It was nice to be able to eat in venues with different décor and ambiance each night. For example, in Red Ginger, they offered a chopstick selection.
They also had an interesting way to provide a wet towel after a pre-dinner appetizer. Water was added to a small white cylinder; which expanded to be a wet cloth for wiping your hands.
Since we ate in the Polo Grill three times, we got to know Maître d Wilson quite well. One night Carol asked where he wanted us to put her scooter. He told her “You may drive it to the table, and don’t worry about it, I will take it for you”. We suspected that he really just wanted to drive her scooter. So after Carol drove to the table, Wilson took it back to the front. He was having fun. I was able to get a photo of him getting ready to drive away.
We also enjoyed Maître d Bruno in Toscana. We had dined with him a couple times while on the Regatta eight months earlier. During that voyage, we had dined in his restaurant during some very stormy weather. Bruno not only remembered the storm, he remembered the table sliding toward Carol, and the pictures having to be removed from the walls.
Both Wilson and Bruno and the other restaurant managers worked long hours in the other restaurants during breakfast and lunch. They both had great personalities and made their customers feel special, while providing a high level of professionalism and service.
Terrace Café – This restaurant is a big step above the normal cruise ship buffet. The food is basically the same as is served in the Grand Dining Room; but with a larger selection. The food served for all meals in the buffet was always top notch. The biggest problem with the buffet was that we couldn’t eat everything that looked good. There were just too many appealing choices. We never ate at the buffet at night; but some people preferred it to the main dining room. That could have been because freshly grilled steaks, chops and lobster were available every night in the buffet.
The service in the buffet was also exceptional. There were plenty of servers in each section to quickly serve your food. You weren’t allowed to serve your own food, which was a good health practice. As soon as you finished filling a plate, an attendant would take your plate away from you and take it to your table if you wanted them to.
Our Cruise Director was Leslie Jon. His bio says that he was Oceania’s first Cruise Director. He is a former performer and did seem to like being center stage. One night he did a Fiddler on the Roof song that took way too much time. He did a pretty good job; but my main complaint about him was that he talked too loudly. When his announcements would be broadcast throughout the ship, even staff members would put their hands over their ears at times to protect their ears from damage.
The overall entertainment on the ship was very good. Surprisingly good in fact, since my expectations were set pretty low after cruising on the Regatta. The smaller ship only had a production cast of four people who did all the singing and dancing. They sang fine; but it just wasn’t what is expected from a production show. With the Riviera having four singers and six dancers, they were able to perform a much more entertaining show; plus the singers were outstanding.
Performers –The first night in addition to staff introductions, the ship bands and instrumentalists performed. The band that played by the pool during the day and Horizons Lounge in the evening, the Siglo Band from the Philippines, played a few songs. They were very good with a music selection I really enjoyed all throughout the cruise.
The Pianist who played in the Martini Bar, Pavel, and the Ginger String Quartet, who played in the Grand Bar nightly also performed.
The guest performers were:
Puck – He was a Magician who we had seen on the TV show America’s Got Talent. He was a semi-finalist in 2012 on season 7. He has a good personality and puts on a good show; but since this was the sixth cruise we had taken in 2014, we had seen lots of magicians performing similar tricks. Some of his tricks weren’t that tricky; but a few were just outstanding.
He did some real good tricks with guests that he brought up from the stage. I did like him, but I guess that I have been magicianed out.
Ken Block - Ken is a comic impressionist. He did a pretty good job of sounding like the celebrities he was impersonating if you didn’t watch him. He just didn’t look anything like most of them when he tried to make faces. His jokes also weren’t too funny. It was real disappointing. He just wasn’t that good. He did another evening show later in the cruise that wasn’t well attended. Others also told me that they didn’t want to have to sit through another of his shows.
Liana Forest – Liana is a Russian born pianist who put on a very good show. She also gave a well-attended afternoon show. She played many varieties of music which the audience appreciated.
Production Shows – The performers in all of the production shows were from the Jean Ann Ryan Company. I am not familiar with that company; but look forward to seeing their groups on other cruises if they are all as good as this one was.
“Up in Flames” – This was a very good show featuring the songs of Billie Joel and Elton John. The four singers, two men and two women, each did a great job in this and the other two shows.
“Flower Power” – With the show being just songs from the 60’s, how could they miss? It was a most enjoyable show. For some reason, it was announced that no photography of any kind was allowed during this and some other shows. I had questioned a member of the staff about why photos without flash couldn’t be taken. He couldn’t answer me; but said they weren’t allowed. This was the only cruise that I wasn’t able to take photos of a show. I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t take any photos of this colorful show to remember it by.
“Now and Forever” – This is the only show at sea with Andrew Lloyd Webber's name and seal of approval on it, and can only be seen on the Riviera. The singers performed so well on this show. We were familiar with most of the music, but there were songs from some shows we weren’t familiar with that we liked quite a bit. I hope that this show is still playing when we are on the Riviera again in 2016. I did bring my camera along to find out if they were going to make the same announcement about not being able to take any photos. I had commented about this on the mid-cruise questionnaire. I was pleased that the announcement just stated that no audio or video recording was allowed nor flash photography.
After the show, Captain Gunnar Romtveit, who is Norwegian, had a special holiday salute to the crew. As happened on our first Oceania cruise most of the crew came out onto the stage or lined up in the aisles for the captain to thank them for their work and to allow the passengers to clap and thank them. Because it was four days before Christmas, the crew also sang some Christmas songs. It was so well done and quite touching.
Cruise Critic Meet and Greet (www.cruisecritic.com) – Each cruise we enjoy meeting the people that we have been communicating with on our cruise critic roll call for many months before the cruise. We set up private tours together and just get to know each other prior to the cruise, so it makes it so much fun to finally meet them. On the cruise lines we normally cruise with, there is an official Meet and Greet party that is put on by the cruise line. Normally the Cruise Director and sometimes even the Captain will attend to welcome our group to the ship. Unfortunately Oceania doesn’t participate in the program. So Carol set it up herself. There were 80 people that were communicating on the roll call at one time or another. When Carol asked how many people would attend if it was set up at 10:00 AM on the first sea day in the Grand Bar, 37 people said they would come. Carol made up name tags for those that said they were coming. Ten of them didn’t arrive, but 12 more did. So, we ended up with an excellent showing of 39 people. It was great to meet so many people. Everyone appreciated Carol’s coordinating the event.
I was surprised that so many of the people were able to attend since not knowing the activities schedules ahead of time make it difficult to pick a good time. Many of us, including me, needed to leave for different activities during the get together; but some did stay longer. Sure enough the Captain happened to walk through the Grand Bar. He talked to everyone and posed for a photograph. It isn’t surprising that he came by, since he was constantly walking around the ship making sure that everything was exactly like it was supposed to be. If he saw an issue, even a minor one, he would be on his phone to get it corrected.
Enrichment Speaker – We had a great enrichment speaker named Sandy Cares. She gave several lectures during the cruise and each of them was such a pleasure to attend. She was able to teach us about so many subjects and made it most enjoyable. She is a real character and keeps you constantly interested and entertained. I was disappointed that I couldn’t attend all of her lectures, since I was on excursions during some of them.
Gingerbread Village - On the next to last night of the cruise, a gingerbread village was set up as part of the Christmas decorations. It was very nicely done.
Ports of Call
Key West, FL
We had just planned to walk around Key West, since we had visited there before. The weather was mild and Key West is just a fun place to visit. On previous cruise visits, we left Key West early in the afternoon; which made us rush. This time we were in port until 6:00 PM, so there was plenty of time to do whatever we wanted. To disembark the ship, most people walked down the ramp on deck 5. With Carol having a scooter, we left the ship from deck 4; which was a ramp that was level to the dock and for the crew. It was very convenient. She was able to do that at each port where we docked rather than tendered. You can see the two ramps in the below photo.
With the dock being fairly long, Carol was thoroughly enjoying being able to ride rather than walk along it.
Right next to the dock, all of the shops are related to the Westin Hotel that dominates the block. It is more enjoyable to leave that area to see the real Key West, rather than the new buildings. The older Key West architecture is much more interesting.
The only thing we had to do for the day was to go to the Crazy Shirt store to get a couple of Key West tee shirts for my buddy Jim. He loves those shirts. He was in luck, since they were on sale for $10 off.
It was nice to be able to walk around without worrying that Carol might be running out of steam or hurt her knee. I was able to take her to see the exterior of the Truman Little White House. President Truman used this home as a winter White House. It has also been used by other presidents for meetings and weekend retreats. I had previously visited the interior of house; Carol wasn’t interested in going that day, so we just went around the area.
The house across the street from the Little White House was actually much prettier.
While going back to the ship, we passed by some roosters that were looking for food. He was a good looking one.
We saw more older buildings and pretty houses along the old streets. The Conch Train passed by us several times during the walk. We had taken a ride on the Conch Train when we first visited Key West in 1998. It was a very nice tour of the city and well worth the price. Back then it only cost about $15, while it was now $30.
Close to where the Riviera was docked is the Customs House Museum. It is a beautiful red brick building that was constructed between 1889 and 1891. It was rather surprising to see that the large 20 foot tall statue of a young dancing couple had been replaced by an older couple. I guess the statue had aged just as in real life. In researching what happened to the statue while writing this review. I found that both statues were made by J. Seward Johnson and come from Renoir paintings. The one we had seen in 2009 was called “Whispering Close” from Renoir’s painting “Dance in the City”. It was replaced in 2010 with the current statue “Time for Fun” from Renoir’s painting “Dance in the Country”. Below are photos of both of them.
“Whispering Close” - 2009 “Dance in the City” - 2014
In the rear of the building was a more unusual statue. Those statues had been there the last time we visited five years ago; but they hadn’t aged at all.
After our little tour of the city, we went back to the ship for a while. I wanted to do some more exploring, so after lunch I ventured out again to head to the Mallory Square area. It was much more interesting than the walk to the Little White House. There are a lot more tourist attractions and shopping areas on the way to Mallory Square. The Shipwreck Treasure Museum looked rather interesting; but I was able to resist the urge to visit it.
Along the way there was a sponge shop. It wasn’t the kind of store you see in most cities. The sponge statue in front of it definitely caught my attention.
Since I needed to keep hydrated, I thought it would be a good idea to stop at the Hog’s Breath Saloon for a drink before going back to the ship. The bar has both indoor and outdoor seating areas. Since the weather was so nice, I just stayed at the outside one. I ordered one of their specialty cocktails called the Hog Snort. Even though the name isn’t real appealing, the drink itself was really good. I even considered getting a second one; but I behaved.
On the way back, I walked down Duval Street. There were lots of things to see and do there. We really need to visit Key West when we can spend the night, so that we can see what it is like at night.
The back side of the Shipwreck Treasure Museum was more impressive than the front of it. I can’t imagine what they do on the top of the tower. Perhaps it is a question that would be answered when we visit at night.
Turning off Duval, there was a kite shop. It was another type of shop you don’t see in most cities.
I wanted to get back to the ship to attend a talk by the enrichment lecturer, so I was done touring for the day.
As we were leaving the dock, we got a taste of the Key West nightlife from our balcony. The dock area was packed with people. All sorts of things were going on there. There were acrobats and even a guy with a fiery hoop. At one point, he had a cat jump through it. An interesting place indeed.
We had never seen Key West at night before.
Cruising into Cozumel is like visiting an old friend, since we have been there so many times. We were docking at the International Pier, which is a couple of miles south of town. All the buildings seemed so familiar. We could see some ships that were docked at the Punta Langosta Pier, which is very close to Cozumel’s main square. A benefit of being at the International Pier is that there was no reason to go into town, since there were so many shops and bars close to the ship.
We were docked right beside the Celebrity Silhouette, which we had cruised on in 2012. The Silhouette is almost twice the size of the Riviera.
Carol and I got off the ship to check out the shops. At this point in our lives, souvenirs need to be very special for us to buy them. Most shops in the Caribbean carry merchandise we have seen most ports. We did find some small jewelry items; but for the most part we just enjoyed leisurely looking around the market area. After lunch I got off the ship to have a beer at Señor Frogs. The location was perfect to be able to look at the Riviera in the gorgeous aqua water.
While I was enjoying the view of the Riviera, the Señor Frogs staff all got up in front of the bar and sang some Christmas songs. They did a good job and it was most enjoyable. Quite unusual for bar entertainment!
After I got back on the ship, we had a nice view of the area and of Señor Frogs. We just can't get enough of the beautiful blue water around Cozumel. Even as many times as we have been to Cozumel, the water does make it special.
While waiting for sail away, we could see another ship on the horizon. We would be joining it shortly.
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