I recently had the pleasure of experiencing a “foodie’s cruise” firsthand with Oceania Cruise lines.  It all started in Miami where my wife and I boarded Oceania Riviera.

20150126_152318Oceania Riviera is Oceania’s second of two purpose-built ships and both are among the most stunning ships in their class. The 1,250-passenger, 66,000 ton Riviera offers a calm, classic, upscale, adult cruise experience, with none of the flashy theme-park attractions increasingly found on large mainstream ships.

It is important to know that no concessions are made for children at all – literally. There is no children’s center or kid’s programming whatsoever.  In other words, this really is a cruise just for adults.

Great First Impressions

Terrace CafeWe found check-in to be a breeze and within minutes, we were on board enjoying a lovely buffet lunch in the Terrace cafe. I immediately noticed the vast variety of freshly prepared dishes available for all taste buds. Even though it was a buffet setting, there were servers at each station ready to prepare your plate (which helps prevent the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses). I am a visual person, so I enjoy going around to all the stations first to see what’s available before I decide what to eat. Still, it always ends with a dish of homemade gelato. Yum!

During lunch, an announcement was made that our stateroom was ready should we wish to go. With full stomachs we decided to head to our accommodations on deck nine.

Delightful Staterooms

our stateroomOur balcony stateroom was elegant and more than generous in space at 282 square feet. This was especially noticeable in the bathroom, which included a full size tub, shower stall, ample storage space, a large sink and an assortment of plush towels.

This cabin would easily compare to a large junior suite on most “mass market” cruise ships. The room was centered around an extremely comfortable “Prestige Tranquility Bed,” whose pillow-top mattress is wrapped in 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and topped with a plush down comforter. There were no problems sleeping on this ship!

Inviting Swimming Pool

Riviera poolsideThe Oceania Riviera featured a large pool with plenty of deck chairs lined with towels and in the background soft and easy rock music was playing. It was never difficult to find a spot or to be reminded that you cannot hold a chair for longer than 30 minutes.

Almost every day was sunny and hot and we truly enjoyed relaxing by the pool. For those in concierge class, there was an exclusive section inside the Canyon Ranch Spa with a thalassotherapy pool – a favourite spot for many.

Excellent Cuisine

seabassDinnertime is a focal point since this cruise line features four specialty restaurants. Guests are entitled to dine in each at least once per cruise and it is included at no additional charge.  Be aware that it best to make reservations well in advance as they fill up fast.

I must say that I enjoyed all of them but perhaps our favourite was “Red Ginger.” It’s an excellent pan-Asian spot with a hip urban design (be sure to ask for the Sea bass). You can also drop in to the Grand dining room or the Terrace café any time.

Top Notch Cooking Classes

Cooking class on RivieraOceania Riviera and her sister ship “Marina” offers the only hands-on teaching kitchen in the cruise industry. It was created in collaboration with Bon Appétit magazine and outfitted with 12 cooking stations; each with burners, a cutting board, and sink. Classes accommodate 24 guests (two at each station) and they cover topics like Greek cuisine, Southwestern cooking, American classics and more. There is a fee and classes booked up quickly.

Olga making homemade pastaMy wife (who loves to cook) participated in two cooking classes and really enjoyed learning how to make homemade pasta. I certainly enjoy eating it!

Staff Make The Difference

Our adopted Barista, CatalinaOne area that my wife and I grew fond of visiting was the Barista Espresso Bar next to the library. Every morning we were greeted with a warm Italian smile from “Valentina.” She was sweet and cheerful and always knew exactly how we liked our coffee. We miss her and the conversations we had each day.

Well Worth Repeating

I must say that our ten days on the Oceania Riviera flew by far too fast. Since the ship is small we would often run into the same guests each day.  We so enjoyed meeting many wonderful people on board and hearing the stories they would share. In my humble opinion, this is a big reason to choose a small ship. The People you meet can make your vacation special, and ours was definitely enriched. In summary, if you are a retired professional, love good food and service in an upscale environment, Oceania Riviera delivers. It’s a tastefully upscale but not overstated cruise experience.

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