Posted on Wednesday, May 23, 2012 by Peter Knego
Join Peter Knego for part one of his latest trek aboard Oceania Cruises brand new, 1,250 passenger, 66,172 gross ton MV RIVIERA, second of its highly-rated “O” Class ships, for her gala christening in the port of Barcelona.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Few places in the world can steal the heart and soul like Barcelona. As hard as it was to resist the charms of the Catalan city-by-the sea, Oceania Cruises’ brand new, 785 by 106 foot MV RIVIERA beckoned in the perfect afternoon light.
I was joining the ship on the eve of her christening for the second half of a ten night inaugural cruise that began in Monte Carlo and would end in Venice.
From forward, the terraced curves of the superstructure and gentle flare of the bow, are, along with her funnel, RIVIERA’s most pleasing external architectural elements. This mid-sized, elegant lady has eleven guest decks and cruises at a regular service speed of 20 knots. Her 1,250 guests are tended by a crew of 800.
In the shadows of RIVIERA’s starboard side, colorful scaffolding and banners were being laid out for the morrow’s gala christening.
I boarded just off the upper (Deck 6) level of the soaring, double helix staircase in the reception area. It features wrought iron detailing with etched Lalique glass medallion insets and is presided over by a chandelier festooned with 380 crystal spheres.
The detailing is superb on both RIVIERA and her sister ship MARINA. These are among the most beautifully appointed ships at sea, lending themselves to up-close scrutiny so their finer points can be savored.
At the reception desk, an etched glass screen of undersea life is reminiscent of panels one might have seen on the great liners of yesteryear. Its complement is located behind the destination services (shore excursions) desk directly across the lobby.
Room key in hand, I was off to Concierge Veranda Stateroom 9040 on port Deck 9, my 282-square-foot home for the next five nights.
All accommodation features Oceania Cruises’ exclusive Tranquility Bed (I would have to argue, the most comfortable at sea), flat-screen TV, wireless internet access, refrigerated mini bar, security safe, writing desk and stationary, plush cotton robes and slippers, direct-dial satellite phone, nightly turn-down service and bathroom with handheld hairdryer.
The palatial bathrooms have full tubs, veined marble surfacing and showers with both massage head and rainforest taps.
Oceania provides Bvlgari toiletries, including moisturizer, bath gel, shampoo and conditioner.
They even supply two types of bath salts. An incentive for a leisurely soak in the tub.
I got to the 286 seat Terrace Cafe casual eatery just as it was closing for the night. Even in this buffet style venue, the service is doting and impeccable. After transiting from the U.S. West Coast, a Caesar salad, a slice of pizza margherita and some penne arrabiatta were all I needed.
Jet-weary legs nonetheless propelled me on a walk around the outer decks on a balmy Barcelona night.
Although this latest adventure had just begun, it was already off to a dreamy start.
Friday, May 11, 2012
When I arose, it seemed as though not a creature was stirring — not until I approached Baristas on aft Deck 14, where the clanking and hissing of espresso machines was like industrial music to the ears.
Armed with a frothy Illy double cappuccino, I was able to clatter around and document uninhabited vistas of the extraordinary RIVIERA. It’s all been corralled for a future Decked! but some of the fine details are herewith.
The long shadows of the morning cast a poetic pattern over the sun loungers on forward Spa Deck. One noteworthy difference between RIVIERA and her sister MARINA is the Thalassotherapy pool versus the smaller Jacuzzis on MARINA.
Atop a bed of thinly sliced tomatoes, smoked salmon drenched in capers, lemon juice and a few onion slivers would soon break the fast in the Terrace Cafe.
We disembarked to find Barcelona beaming in the morning sun. From the perimeter of the yellow carpet, flutes of champagne were extended as we sought out some shady seating to view the christening.
Suspended mid-flight, a magnum of Veuve Clicquot was aimed at RIVIERA’s maiden flanks.
As the sun gradually squeezed out the shade, a full program of events ensued. Soprano Alina Furman and Tenor Giorgio Olmo sang “Barcelona” and the Rafael Amargo Company gave a splendid flamenco performance. National anthems “La Marcia Reale” and “The Star Spangled Banner” were sung.
There were moving speeches from the mayor of Barcelona, Oceania President Kunal S. Kamlani and Prestige Holdings (Oceania’s parent company) CEO, Frank Del Rio. The ship’s officers were introduced and Captain Luca Manzi spoke. The ship was blessed by Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez-Martos before godmother Cat Cora was introduced. The humanitarian chef, whose new television show, “Around The World in 80 Plates”, is a staple on the Bravo Network, was led by Captain Manzi to a giant lever…
…releasing the magnum, which shattered perfectly, gushing not only its contents but cannons of confetti into the Barcelona sky. I will never look at the Spanish flag again without thinking of all the red and yellow confetti that rained down on us that festive day.
For a brief moment, the godmother and her family huddled together before being escorted back on board the RIVIERA.
Several hundred by-now-well-tanned attendees then proceeded back aboard RIVIERA, which set sail for Venice.
As our beautiful ship sliced through the glass-like waters of the Gulf of Lyon, I decided it was time to pay it forward with a romp on the ellipticals before what promised to be a highly indulgent dinner.
I loved being the odd American at a fab table of Brits in Toscana, the RIVIERA’s 137 seat Italian eatery on the port side of aft Deck 12. Another difference between RIVIERA and MARINA is the extra ceiling height in this and its complementary space, the Pollo Grill on the starboard side.
The breads — no cruise line does bread quite like Oceania! In Toscana, the variety and quality is daunting: fresh crostini, Parmesan-encrusted rolls (my faves), baked Parmesan flat breads, flaky, crispy rolls (plain or with poppy seeds), roasted cloves of garlic and foccacia. Low carb dieters need not apply…
And if that is not enough, there are a dozen different olive oils to to drench it in.
Like an Icelandic sea volcano, a mound of freshly granted Reggiano Parmesan thrust itself out of my bowl of minestrone.
There was a beautiful spinach and feta salad, as well. The Caesar was equally tempting.
For my main course, it was the Pollo Alfredo and rosemary-infused potatoes..
Couldn’t decide on just one dessert, so gracious temptress Mary Stuart-Miller suggested I try the cinque dolci, featuring five bite-sized samples.
The last thing I recall that night was the hovering, spaceship-like glow of Horizons.
End of Relishing The Riviera, Part One Sea Trek. Much more to come…
Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Gary Gerbino, Mary Stuart-Miller