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Some things are really worth waiting for. During the years when Oceania Cruises’ founder, now chairman and CEO of Prestige Cruise Holdings, Frank Del Rio, was waiting to build ships designed specifically for the brand’s focus, he polished the plan for the almost identical 1,250-passenger twins, Marina and Riviera. Riviera, the younger by a year, has a few newly tweaked elements, including a somewhat larger spa with a thalassotherapy pool instead of a hot tub and a higher ceiling on Deck 14, where two specialty restaurants, the Library and the Internet Center are located.
Oceania has steadfastly refused to be characterized as a luxury line, preferring to have guests insist on the luxury label. Accommodations on the original ships were too small to fit the luxury category, but suites up to 2,000 square feet on Riviera and Marina have clearly solved that issue. Like Marina, Riviera’s three Owner’s Suites have verandas the size of outdoor rooms, with full-size dining tables, whirlpools with flat-screen televisions and cushioned chaise lounges. Among the other accommodations are 420-square-foot penthouse suites and concierge staterooms with a private lounge; the smallest staterooms onboard measure 174 square feet.
Suite designs by Dakota Jackson and furnishings from Ralph Lauren Home underline the elegance onboard, also evident in Riviera’s Lalique staircase and crystal chandelier. Oceania spent an estimated $10 million on the extraordinary art collections for the two larger ships, miles away from generic art.
Reservations are required for most of the 10 dining venues, and the staff tries to ensure that guests have a chance to try their choices at least once. Jacques Pepin’s signature restaurant and Red Ginger, originally an afterthought for the company, are prime favorites with waiting lists almost every night; though one passenger swore the Polo Grill was the best onboard restaurant. The Grand Dining Room is grand in every sense of the word and offers outstanding dining, beautifully presented.
To do it yourself, the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, with 24 individual cooking stations, provides classes on a very sophisticated level. Across the corridor is the sunny Artist’s Loft, offering complimentary instruction in watercolors, illuminated manuscripts and more.
Another popular area is the Library, a British country house environment with paneling and huge, comfortable leather chairs in a series of nooks lined with books. Guests quickly learn to stake out a chair early in the day, where they relax for hours, especially at sea, reading and enjoying drinks and snacks from the adjoining coffee bar.
This year, Riviera sails the Caribbean from Miami until April, when she crosses to Europe, returning to the Caribbean in November.