Posted on Saturday, June 2, 2012 by Peter Knego
Join Peter Knego for part three 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, as the ship arrives in Venice to begin her maiden cruise season.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2012 unless otherwise noted.
Monday, May 13, 2012
Normally, the encroaching sight of Venice would bring joy to the heart. For me, it was tinged by the notion that my brief fling with the RIVIERA was drawing to a close. I watched, wearily, from my balcony as the pilot clambered aboard.
Up on deck, despite the hour, it was a Bellini affair. I stuck with the usual espresso and marveled at the beauty that unfolded before us. As RIVIERA slowly motored past majestic bell towers, ornate cathedrals and rococo palazzi, a marvelous apparition with a hot pink watering can diverted all eyes on deck.
It wouldn’t be Venice without the 1931-built superyacht MARALA berthed somewhere along the Giudecca. Perhaps only CHRISTINA O and SAVARONA can rival her stately beauty. Meanwhile, a much larger, glistening “wedge” yacht that I somehow forgot to include here was drawing the lion’s share of attention.
And then came the perfectly-lit Piazza San Marco and Doge’s Palace, which were already bustling with pigeons and tourists. The towering campanille shares the same basic blueprint with so many around the world but there is only one true San Marco.
As RIVIERA maneuvered into the passenger terminal, it was time for a quick bite. I hadn’t tried the pool-adjacent, 112-seat Waves grill, so joined some friends there. Even this self-service dining venue is only partially so. At the head of the fast-moving queue, an order is placed and quickly brought to the table by a team of waiters who also manage beverage orders.
It was a perfect day for an excursion, so I was happy to have reserved a space on the 1:00 PM tour to Murano and Burano. Founded by the Romans in the 6th Century, Murano is an archipelago at the outer end of the Venetian lagoon that is home to a large number of glass factories.
At Ferro-Lazarini, we were shown how glass is heated, colored and twisted, blown, prodded and cut into various decorative forms by skilled artisans who make the process look all-too-easy. In fact, it takes years of training to achieve these skills and true glass blowing is considered a dying art with fewer and fewer artisans to fill the slots vacated by the aging masters.
Perhaps less known but even more picturesque, the nearby island of Burano was our next stop. Burano is famous for its beautifully maintained and vibrantly colored stucco facades and a rather startling “leaning tower”, the San Martino Cathedral, which dates from the 16th Century.
From the cathedral’s entrance on the north side, the bell tower looked just like any other…
There was not much time to do more than wander a few of Burano’s tranquil canals.
Soon, we were back on our tour boat (aptly named RAFFAELLO) and heading back, once again, down the Canale Giudecca to the cruise terminal.
One of the America’s Cup entrants passed us off the island of San Giorgio.
Before docking, we maneuvered alongside the beautiful RIVIERA as she soaked up the Venetian sunlight.
Needing some fresh clothes for the rest of my journey, I made a quick dash to the laundrette, just a few yards down the passageway. It even has a comfy sofa to lounge on.
The RIVIERA culinary experience would not be complete without dinner at Jacques, the 112 seat French dining venue on starboard Deck 5 that features cuisine by award-winning chef Jacques Pepin. The rustic decor is very “Sunday in the Country” enhanced by a huge bouquet of wild flowers at the entry.
Oh, once again, the bread! In Jacques, it has a crispy, edible logo attached. Simply spectacular and this time, I didn’t even want olive oil…
I don’t eat them but I was told that the escargots were spectacular. In Jacques, they are nicely seasoned but not overwhelmed with butter and garlic.
As usual, I went with the chicken entrée and it was, predictably, superb.
On my way back to pack, a fellow journalist came bouncing out of the elevator, having just departed Horizons. “It’s dangerous up there,”, he cautioned, laughing all the way back to his cabin. I felt a pang of envy and wanted to see what was going on, but instead, prepped for the next leg of my journey.
RIVIERA provides about as close to perfect a cruise experience that I can think of. There are a few little things that I could pick at (no promenade or proper observation deck, gym too small, limited showroom) but the good things are so good that these quips just don’t matter. With their variety and quality of food, artwork, decor, comfort and entertainment as well as their wonderful shipboard staff and interesting itineraries, Oceania sets a very high bar…
End Of Relishing The RIVIERA Trek
Very special thanks: Martin Cox, Gary Gerbino, Mary Stuart-Miller