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Targeting the well-traveled consumer, Oceania Cruises has crafted a cruise program that gives travel advisors opportunities to design cruises specifically attuned to their clients’ needs and desires.  Positioning itself between the premium and luxury cruise lines allows them “to offer travelers a more personalized and luxurious experience without the steep price tag that typically is associated,” says James A. Rodriguez, the line’s executive v.p., sales and marketing. “Our model allows guests to easily create their own unique experiences,” he adds.

Our August Mediterranean cruise aboard Oceania’s refurbished Riviera confirmed Rodriguez’s assertion of guests having the opportunity to create their own experience. The 7-day journey from Barcelona, Spain to Florence, Italy was filled with countless selections of dining choices, onboard programs and destination excursions.

Dining Delights
The dining experience is worthy of first mention. Even though the Riviera was at its capacity of approximately 1,200 passengers during our sailing, there was never a crowd or line because of the multiple open seating dining venues, including the specialty restaurants for which there is no additional charge and only a reservation is required.

Creative menus abound in the specialty restaurants, including French country cuisine at Jacques; Italian-themed choices at Toscana; steaks and chops at the Polo Grill; and unique Asian flavors at the Red Ginger. Other dining choices—the elegant Grand Dining Room and its Bistro, the casual Terrace Cafe, and the alfresco Waves Grill—also offer outstanding menus. Would you believe there’s authentic sashimi and sushi, prepared by sushi chefs, at the casual buffet.

Adding to the dining experience is the exceptional service. Without expectations of individual rewards because of the gratuity-inclusive program, servers consistently make an effort to accommodate guests. As an example, a breakfast server inquired about the departure time of our planned shore excursion to make sure there was sufficient time to enjoy a leisurely meal. The outstanding staff, service level and attitude extends beyond the dining rooms. From officers and directors to crew members cleaning the decks, there’s an effort to make the guests feel “at home at sea.” Perhaps that was one of the reasons that a significant amount of those aboard were repeat customers.

exceptional experience oceania
Cooking class on Oceania. (Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises.

Myriad Activities
Onboard activities are plentiful. Of course, veteran cruisers are aware of the popular sunning and swimming in the pool area, a well-stocked library, trivia game/Mensa contests, table tennis, golf putting, shuffleboard and the venerable tea time. But, add to that art classes with an artist in residence and, in keeping with their culinary theme, cooking classes. Oceania also features the well-known Canyon Ranch Spa that, in addition to its services and facilities,  offers fitness classes. In the evening, guests can enjoy shows in the Riviera Lounge, a visit to the casino and/or a late-night “Happy Hour” with entertainment.

For those wishing to explore on land, there’s plenty to choose from. During our sailing, there were approximately 70 available shore excursions at the five stops along the way—Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Marseilles and Saint Tropez, France, and Portofino/Santa Margherita, Italy. Tours are varied in time and interest factor, but, of course, there’s a special emphasis on those that feature the region’s culinary aspect. Riviera’s Destination Services team is very efficient in gathering the various tour groups, disembarking without crowds and long lines, and placing them on selected transportation.

It’s All in the Details
Whether the day is active or relaxing, Riviera’s guests adjourn later in the day to enjoy the additions and upgrades to the ship made this year as part of the company’s OceaniaNEXT program—designed as “a great opportunity to not just enhance the guest experience aboard Riviera, but to elevate it through the addition of surprising new elements,” according to Bob Binder, Oceania’s president and CEO.

The prominent additions are an all-new coffee bar and a relaxing new lounge with breathtaking views on the ship’s top Deck 14, and upgrading the style of the Concierge and Veranda staterooms, Penthouse Suites and especially the Owner’s Suites, which are fully furnished with Ralph Lauren Home. The company reports that Riviera’s sister ship Marina will receive similar treatment in May 2020.

Riviera has 629 staterooms—94 percent of them with balconies. There are several concierge levels with a host of amenities and privileges including unlimited Internet and a 24-hour concierge lounge with newspapers, snacks, soft drinks and coffee. Riviera’s configuration makes it easy for guests to quickly and comfortably navigate the ship.

A final and important observation: The usual, uncomfortable mandatory lifeboat drill. Not only did the Riviera crew make it easy and comfortable, but were highly detailed in their explanations of the safety features—particularly with special regard for children. Lifeboat stations were indoor and seated.

Book It
The Riviera will start its winter schedule in Miami on Nov. 15, 2019 with cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico returning to the Mediterranean the end of March 2020.

Contact Information
Oceania Cruises:

What’s In it For Travel Advisors 

Oceania works very closely with travel advisors on the line’s Onboard Booking Advantage program, which offers clients significant perks such as stateroom discounts, shipboard credits and reduced deposits when booking another trip during their cruise.

If a client participates in the Onboard Booking Advantage program, not only
does Oceania notify the travel advisor of their client’s action, but safeguards the
agent’s commissions.

Also, Oceania gives travel advisors access to all of the program information, “which allows travel advisors to talk with consumers about their options to book another Oceania cruise up to 30 days before they board the ship,” says executive v.p. James A. Rodriguez. This “eases the consumer into the idea and helps them feel more comfortable with the idea of booking while on board rather than feeling like they are making a rash decision and then waiting until they’re back home to book,” he continues.

“This approach is working well for Oceania, our travel advisors and ultimately our guests, giving them the opportunity for great savings,” he concludes.