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I only just boarded Oceania Cruises' beautiful Riviera midday yesterday, and already I'm very impressed. In the upscale cruise travel category, I had previously only sailed on Azamara Club Cruises and Viking Ocean Cruises and toured Oceania's Regatta in my homeport of San Diego. Interestingly enough, my parents and myself are experiencing Oceania in full for our first time this week, I on the Riviera in the Mediterranean and my folks on the Regatta in Alaska.
For starters, the ship is in immaculate condition. If ever you want to put a cruise ship to a maintenance test, just look at the lifeboat davits. If they are cleanly painted, you know you're on a well taken care of ship. More often than not, these are the first to show signs of rust on most other ships, but not on the Riviera. Its whitewashed hull is uniformly finished.
[READMORE] READ MORE: Virtuoso Names Oceania Cruises 'Best Premium Cruise Line' Again in 2016[/READMORE]
Our concierge category stateroom follows suit with impeccable attention to detail. The cabin is spotless, and extras like Bulgari toiletries and bath salts are nice luxurious touches. The marble bathroom itself is well appointed with both a sizable bath/shower combo and a standalone shower enclosure, although the latter is too small to really count. Beds are extremely plush, and our steward attends to the room with great care, even lining up all my camera equipment neatly on the desk.
Elsewhere, public rooms also shine with high ceilings and inviting interior design. The Grand Dining Room in particular is one of the most beautiful main restaurants I've ever seen at sea, and the remaining four specialty restaurants are equally well themed to their respective cuisines. Even the contiguous library, internet cafe and coffeeshop are standout venues, and the Horizons observation lounge pleases my desire to have a full wraparound view of scenic destinations, not to mention the lovely afternoon tea time I'm currently enjoying here.
[READMORE] READ MORE: Around The World Once Again With Oceania Cruises[/READMORE]
For food, I've only also enjoyed the Terrace Cafe buffet thus far, but it alone has far exceeded my expectations with the likes of lobster tail grilled to order at dinner and a tasty Mexican spread for lunch today. Pizza is also very good, and the expert plating of tasty desserts is on par with most sit-down restaurants. Oh, and did I mention there is an excellent ice cream bar that additionally serves complimentary milkshakes, including my favorite banana flavor? Yes please!
I have yet to experience any entertainment onboard as last night was jet lag recovery time, but I have high hopes. Meanwhile, as an evolution of the former Renaissance Cruises ships, of which Oceania operates four, the larger Riviera feels familiar but refined. Traditional vine accents still line the stairs, but the aesthetic is more modern overall with darker tones offset perfectly with lighter colors for a good visual balance. It's the beginnings of luxury presented casually, and I like it.
Jason Leppert - Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel - is a San Diego-based cruising expert with more than 100 sailings...
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