By Colleen McDaniel
Cruise Critic Editor-In-Chief
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Riviera Entertainment & Activities

Shore Excursions

Riviera offers multiple shore excursions in every port it visits, and most passengers seem to book their tours through Oceania. Tours can be booked online ahead of the sailing, though many are still available for booking at the Destinations Desk onboard.

Excursions for a number of activity levels are available, and they're clearly identified in the literature as requiring "minimal" walking or necessitating easy, moderate or extensive walking. Most tours visit the real highlights of the cities they call on, and they're run like clockwork, with a combination of guided touring along with alone time to explore. Lengths vary from about three hours to full-day, eight-hour tours. Longer tours usually include meals or snacks. Tours that are available for people with mobility issues are also marked as such in the brochures and online. Riviera offers several interesting and unusual excursion choices, such as visiting a cheese factory in Croatia or viewing the Lipizzaner horses in Slovenia.

Prices for excursions are fairly high by cruise standards, with the least-expensive options, like walking or hop-on-hop-off tours, starting at around $70. Passengers looking to book multiple excursions with Riviera are better off purchasing the Unlimited Passport Collection, which allows for unlimited a la carte excursions for the cruise. (During our seven-night cruise, which visited six ports, the UPC package cost $659 per person.) Certain excursions, designated as Oceania Choice or Oceania Exclusive, require a supplemental charge. Oceania Choice tours offer experiences that get passengers more deeply involved in the region's culture, geography or history, such as a Mount Etna 4x4 expedition or a national park island cruise in Croatia. Oceania Exclusive excursions cap participation at 16 people so passengers get more personal attention.

Riviera also offers several Culinary Discovery Tours on each cruise. These excursions take passengers on a culinary journey in a particular region, exposing them to traditional area-specific foods and products as well as the people who make them. A trip to Sicily, for example, might include a tour to the fresh fish market, followed by a visit to a patisserie to watch a cannoli demonstration. The capper would be a journey to a restaurant to learn from the chef about local cuisine as you dine and wine. The Culinary Discovery Tours are a big hit with passengers, as they combine history and education with exceptional food. Groups are kept small -- usually fewer than 20 people.

If you want to skip formal excursions, Riviera brings a local guide onboard who will answer any questions about destinations and how to get there. For example, if you want to do some hiking, followed by beach time, the guide could tell you where to grab a public bus, where you'll end up and even how long the trip should take. This option appeals to the more independent-minded traveler who wants less structure. Riviera also provides a complimentary shuttle from the ship to the city center in each port.

Destination services also can accommodate private tours; flat fees are given depending on what size vehicle (sedan or van, for example) is needed.

Daytime and Evening Entertainment

The ship's main theater space is the Riviera Lounge, located at the front of Deck 5. Evening performances here are a mix of production shows and guest entertainers. Riviera has a cast of singers and dancers who put on several shows over the course of the cruise. They only have one showing at night, starting roughly between 9 and 10 p.m. Shows are so-so; some are good, while others will leave you scratching your head because they are so uneven. For the most part, they follow a pretty traditional cruise line format, heavy on classic hits and nods to old Hollywood or Broadway. Our biggest beef: The shows included only bits and pieces of famous songs, leaving us wanting more, while lesser-known tunes got the full-version treatment. It makes it difficult to connect with the performance, and a number of puzzled passengers left before the end of several shows.

The theater also hosts guest entertainers, such as pianists and opera singers, who are generally excellent. It also shows movies on evenings when there isn't a live performer. Movies are usually newer. We loved the freshly made boxes of popcorn and sodas, which made it feel like a real movie experience (minus the sticky floors). During the day, the theater is the spot for bingo.

The ship's casino is located on Deck 6. It's split into two rooms; one holds table games and a few slot machines, while the other has only slot machines. The casino bar is sandwiched between the two. The casino is open when the ship isn't in port, and it's completely nonsmoking.

Riviera hosts a number of social events during the day, like coffee and needlepoint or scarf-tying demos, and scotch or cognac tasting at night. Unhosted games, such as bridge or mah-jongg, are set up at designated times as well. Team trivia takes place every day, usually in Martinis lounge. Karaoke is held late at night, usually in conjunction with a happy hour, in Horizons.

Enrichment

Oceania Rivera offers a couple of unique enrichment opportunities, and passengers take advantage. Riviera's Culinary Center, located on Deck 12, gives passengers the opportunity to sharpen their cooking skills and learn new recipes and techniques. The venue is equipped with 12 state-of-the-art cooking stations, featuring induction stovetops and all the equipment anyone might need to chop, saute and drizzle their way through international recipes. (Classes are capped at 24, so passengers double up at the workstations.) A chef instructor leads all the classes, first demonstrating the skills, then watching and giving pointers as passengers try them out.

Sessions might focus on the various preparations of fish, pasta making from scratch or Asian cooking, for example. Arrive to the Culinary Center hungry -- a big part of each lesson is tasting and eating. At the end, you'll take home the recipes you practiced and probably at least one skill that made you think, "Wow! What a great tip. I had no idea." Most classes last two hours and cost $65, and they fill up pretty quickly. Many passengers take all classes offered, and courses are available roughly every other day.

Also unique to Oceania is the Artists Loft. Located on Deck 12, across from the Culinary Center, the Artists Loft is a space where passengers can get together and create art, working with Riviera's artist in residence. Sessions are progressive, so you can work on your art piece throughout your cruise. At the end of your cruise, you'll have a piece to take home with you. A final session gets passengers together to show off their projects and talk about the process. Artists work on contract and are onboard anywhere from one to three months, and they don't all work in the same mediums. Classes are included in the price of your cruise fare, and there's no extra cost for supplies or equipment. While many of the artists are not teachers or professors by trade, they provide hands-on instruction. Lessons are limited to 15 people, and while registration is encouraged, drop-ins usually are welcome.

Other enrichment comes in the form of lectures, and most focus on the destinations the ship visits, so a trip to the Mediterranean might include a guest lecture on Sicily or Pompeii. Sessions on things like metabolism or treating back pain are held in the spa/fitness area, though these are mostly designed to sell products or treatments. Shopping and shore excursion lectures are broadcast daily on the ship's TV station.

Riviera Bars and Lounges

In general, Riviera's handful of bars and lounges are busiest right before dinner, when cruisers gather for a quick drink ahead of their meals. Because cruises on Riviera are so packed with ports, passengers get up early in the morning, and, consequently, hit the hay early. Most lounges are pretty deserted before midnight any time the ship has an early-morning call the next day.

Martinis (Deck 6): As the name implies, this venue is the ship's martini bar, located just off the main atrium. It's decorated in the style of a gentlemen's club, with dark browns, burnt oranges and creams. The centerpiece of the bar is a large baby grand piano, which is a showstopper itself because of its unusual blond and dark brown striping and carved legs.  A variety of martinis are served here, including the ship's signature Big O Martini, made with vodka, Cointreau and a variety of juices. Martinis always has a solid crowd, especially around trivia time, which usually takes place in late afternoon.

Grand Bar (Deck 6): Adjacent to Martinis is the Grand Bar, which is just off the entrance to the Grand Dining Room. This isn't really a bar at all but rather a long, narrow seating area filled with plush chairs, couches and ottomans, along with a few small tables. Bar waiters serve this area from Martinis. This is the place for a quiet chat with cocktails.

Casino Bar (Deck 6): Riviera's casino bar is sleek and modern, with gray and silver dominating the color scheme. It's fairly small and includes a handful of faux snakeskin chairs and small glass tables. A stunning crystal light-feature hangs above the bar, and the base of the bar lights up with simple white light that changes to bright neon hues. It's fairly quiet, with passengers dipping in and out throughout the day and into the night.

Concierge Lounge (Deck 9): Open only to passengers staying in Concierge cabins, the Concierge Lounge is a quiet spot for complimentary soft drinks, coffee and snacks, such as cookies and bagels, during the day and into the evening. The room includes two couches as well as a number of comfy chairs for lounging and socializing and a large TV. Access requires a keycard, and the lounge features a dedicated concierge who can help with things like dinner reservations and excursion booking. 

Executive Lounge (Deck 11): Like the Concierge Lounge, the Executive Lounge is an exclusive spot to relax, read a newspaper or watch TV. Passengers staying in Penthouse Suites and higher have access via keycard to Riviera's Executive Lounge, which includes snacks, coffee and soft drinks. The room features a wood floor, couch, plenty of chairs and a large television. The Executive Lounge has its own concierge.

Waves Bar (Deck 12): The ship's pool bar is located on the port (left) side of the ship near the pool. It's a small bar, with limited seating, but it's quite popular -- finding seats can be a challenge -- in the late afternoon as passengers return to the ship from their shore excursions.

Horizons (Deck 15): The biggest bar onboard is also the most visited one. Located at the top of the ship, the bar is encased in floor-to-ceiling windows. There's plenty of intimate seating, with plush chairs and small cocktail tables. You'll also find a large inlaid wood dance floor and marble bar. During the day, it hosts afternoon tea. At night, it becomes a spot for karaoke and dancing, where live musicians or recorded tunes play. While it heats up after the main theater show at night, it gets quiet pretty quickly, as passengers head to bed to accommodate early shore excursions.

Horizons also features a smoking area. It's cut off from the main section of the bar by a short hallway. While it's vented, smoke does drift out into nonsmoking areas.

Riviera Outside Recreation

The ship's main pool -- and two hot tubs -- are on Deck 12, and they're surrounded by terry cloth-covered padded lounge chairs and wicker sun beds that feature pads. Because itineraries tend to be so port-intensive, the pool is a ghost town during most of the day. Things get going surprisingly early, though, with a handful of passengers swimming or hitting the hot tubs not long after the sun rises, at least during great weather. It fills up again around 3 or 4 p.m., with the sun beds and lounge chairs in the shade getting the highest demand. The pool also gets pretty packed, as passengers soak tired legs and talk about their days in port. While bar service is available here, it's fairly spotty. Passengers have to work to flag down servers, who make their rounds picking up empties but don't proactively ask if you'd like another -- or even a first.

Padded lounge chairs are available on Deck 14 as well, right above the pool deck (there is no Deck 13). For the most part, these are in full sun, except as evening creeps in and the sun begins to go down. More loungers are located on Deck 15, too.

The Spa Terrace is located just behind the spa. Available only to those passengers staying in Concierge Level cabins and above, the terrace has a large, heated thalassotherapy pool as well as wicker lounge chairs, many with personal clamshell shades. The area is accessed by keycard, and you can't buy your way in.

Those seeking more active pursuits can play table tennis on Deck 14, or visit Deck 16 to practice putting or driving on the greens, and play paddle tennis. Deck 15 has courts for croquet and bocce as well as shuffleboard. Riviera staff coordinate a few sporty tournaments during the week.

Riviera Services

Most of the services onboard Riviera are located on Deck 5. This is where you'll find reception, destination services and dinner reservations. Several boutiques, offering essentials that you might have forgotten, duty-free purchases and souvenirs along with some high-end jewelry, bags and clothing, are located nearby. An Oceania Club Ambassador mans a desk on Deck 6, helping past passengers with any need that might arise.

The ship has five self-service launderettes, located on decks 7 through 11. Each has three washers and three dryers as well as an iron and ironing board for any pressing needs. You can get tokens for washing at the reception desk or use the dollar changer inside. Each load costs $2 to wash and $2 to dry.

The ship's enormous library, located on Deck 14, is extensive and open 24 hours a day. It's filled with dark wood and glass shelves as well as comfortable leather chairs with big ottomans. The library offers more than 2,000 titles for passengers to borrow for their sailings. We loved the incredible selection, with destination guides, fiction and nonfiction. We were surprised more passengers don't linger in the library because it's adjacent to the ship's coffee bar, Baristas. The space is never busy or crowded. A game room, dubbed The Board Room, is also located on Deck 14. This space is somewhat busy in the evenings, mostly with passengers ganging up on various jigsaw puzzles.

Also on Deck 14, you'll find Oceania@Sea, Riviera's computer center. The ship has more than 30 computers available for use here, though many passengers clearly choose to skip the center and surf on their own devices. Wi-Fi is free to passengers in Concierge Level cabins and above. Those who don't get free Wi-Fi (or use up all their free minutes) can purchase minutes a la carte at a rate of 99 cents a minute (plus a $3.95 activation fee) or in package form. Riviera's 200-minute package costs $160 plus a $3.95 activation fee. Its unlimited package costs $27.99 per day. Streaming sites aren't supported on Riviera.

A medical center is located on Deck 4.

Riviera Spa & Fitness

Riviera's Canyon Ranch SpaClub is located on Deck 14. The reception area is decorated in shades of brown and white, with lots of natural stone tiles and mosaic pieces. It includes a large area where passengers can help themselves to fruit- or vegetable-infused water, or order tea.

Sauna and steam rooms are available for all passengers to use, regardless of whether they have treatments scheduled. (Men and women have separate spaces.) Two small rooms offer ceramic heated lounge chairs, also available for anyone to use. The spa has 10 treatment rooms, including one for couples. This room includes two massage tables and a deep hot tub, as well as two showers.  The spa complex is sedate, and chances are, you'll have no problem finding space on the loungers or in the steam room or sauna.

Treatments run the gamut from basic Swedish massage to detox wraps and facials. There's also an acupuncturist onboard. With any treatment, expect to pay roughly what you might shell out on land at a top-end spa or resort. A 50-minute massage starts at $140, while facials begin at $135 for 50 minutes. An 18-percent gratuity is added to every bill. Passengers who book three treatments or more receive discounts, and a daily spa special is available, which usually offers a pretty decent deal.

A small salon is part of the spa complex. Here, passengers can get treatments such as manicures or pedicures, hair styling or cutting, waxing or beard trimming.

The fitness center is small, though, for the most part, appropriately equipped for the ship and demographic. It includes treadmills, bikes and stair climbers as well as a rowing machine. A number of TechnoGym weight machines are available, as are two Kinesis total-body machines, which offer multiple weight workout options. Gym passengers also can use the ship's dumbbells, which go up to 45 pounds. There's a small aerobics room, where passengers can stretch on their own or take fitness classes like spinning or Pilates. Group fitness classes come with a fee of $11 per session. Personal training with the fitness director also is available, for a fee. (You'll get a 15-percent discount if you book five sessions.) Weight-loss programs, including body composition and hydration tests, are offered for a cost as well.

The gym is busy between 6 and 8 a.m. and starting around 4 p.m. During peak periods, it is nearly impossible to hop on a treadmill. If you wait until a little later in the evening or go earlier in the morning, you'll have your pick of equipment.

Complimentary bottles of water and Gatorade or Powerade are available in a cooler. A jogging track is located at the back of the ship on Deck 15. Ten laps around equals a mile. Walkers tend to use Deck 12, which circles over the pool deck, for their morning constitutional, meaning joggers mostly have the track on Deck 15 to themselves.

Riviera For Kids

Children must be at least 12 months to cruise on Riviera (and expecting mothers further along than 6 months aren't permitted to sail). In truth, while children are welcome to sail, the experience is decidedly adult. Riviera doesn't offer kids clubs or programming, and it's rare that more than a handful of children are on any given cruise. Those who do sail are generally well-behaved and comfortable spending time with adults rather than other kids. More families sail during the summer, holidays and on shorter itineraries, when grandparents, parents and their younger children are more common.

Cabins across several categories offer third-berth accommodations that would work for families, including the top-level suites. A number of connecting cabins are available as well.

Oceania Riviera Ship Stats

  • Crew: 800
  • Launched: 2012
  • Decks: 11
  • Passengers: 1,250
  • Registry: Marshall Islands
  • CDC Score: 97

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