Oceania Cruises: A Gateway to Exotic Destinations With Its Re-inspired Riviera


The ever-resilient cruise industry in Asia is heating up.  It has weathered the COVID pandemic well. 2023 saw not only the return of Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises’ new ships debut to the region, but also a brand new entrant to this crowded yet still-exuberant market.

For the first time, Oceania Cruises’ recently-rejuvenated 1,250-guest ship Riviera set sail in Asia to  meet what the company described as “unprecedented guest demand”. A sister brand to Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania is known for its focus on luxury, style, cultural immersion and culinary excellence. When the Riviera called at Singapore recently on its second Asian season, we were invited on board for a tour that gave us a glimpse of the rich experience, warmth and hospitality that life on board offers.

Riviera kicked off its inaugural Asian season sailing through unique voyages that passed through Arabia, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, covering 25 voyages ranging from 10 to 82 days.. In end 2024 to 2025, three brand new itineraries will take travellers to truly off-the-beaten-path Asian and African destinations that even the more intrepid of travellers among us may not have checked off their bucket lists.

For example, what Oceania calls its ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ 59-day Grand Voyage departs from Barcelona and then heads to the Canary Islands, western Africa’s cost including ports like Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Namibia, Cape Town, before heading up east to Madacasgar, Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania). It then sails across to the Seychelles, Maldives, Thailand and Malaysia before arriving in Singapore. Meanwhile, West African Rhythms is a 27-day voyage departing on 14 November 2024 from Barcelona, and arriving in Cape Town on 11 December, 2024. The Colonial Crowns itinerary will also take guests to more niche ports across the globe during its 32-day voyage, stopping at places like Antsiranana in  Madagascar and Hambantota in Sri Lanka.

The Riviera on its stopover in Singapore. Photo © Fen Chia.

We boarded the Riviera at the Singapore Cruise Centre and saw largely middle-aged and well-heeled guests disembarking for the day, giving an indication of the market segment it usually attracts. This first impression is further confirmed upon entering the Riviera, after which we sweep through the stately Grand Bar for aperitifs, Martinis pub with its live piano music, casino and the reception area, which exude a vibe of chic and elegance. The atmosphere onboard is laid-back yet not too casual.

You may not get the bells and whistles like the new-fangled rides and boisterous games found on other cruises, but with the more senior crowd, you also would not get the long queues and the noise and activity that comes with a large number of  children. Many of the Riviera’s journeys are at least 10 days to months and are an ideal way to ‘get away from it all’ for some peace and quiet.

The Grand Bar. Note the artworks, which feature throughout Oceania’s cruise ships as its co-founder Frank del Rio is an avid art collector. Photo © Fen Chia.

Martinis serves numerous types of well, martinis, against the backdrop of live piano playing. Photo © Fen Chia.

The casino offers free game lessons and features card and table games such as blackjack and roulette and also slot machines. Photo © Fen Chia.

The main staircase that is the heart and soul of every cruise ship. Photo © Fen Chia.

The Riviera Lounge is the main performance space, featuring headline acts to comedians, magicians and lively jazz ensembles. There are also movies when there are no live acts. Photo © Fen Chia.


With Oceania Cruises known for its comfort and luxury targeting travel connoisseurs, none of the Riviera’s rooms are cramped by even the most exacting standards. The Riviera has a wide range of rooms and we were only able to visit a few this time as it was sailing close to full capacity.

The ‘standard’ Veranda Staterooms at 291 square feet are among the most generous in their category among cruises, while the Concierge level Veranda Stateroom has access to its own lounge. And then we have the Penthouse Suites that take up an expansive 440 square feet and have their own dedicated butler service. I was impressed that those we viewed were suitably spacious, with the size of bathroom for the Veranda exceeding my expectations for its size. There are also a few ‘Inside Staterooms’, which are the smallest at 174 square feet, but even those look comfortable for a longer term cruiser – although you would have to contend without a window. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also Oceania, Vista and Owner’s Suites which range from 1,000 to above 2,000 square feet for the ultimate luxury.

A Veranda Stateroom, which is the average, standard room. Photo © Oceania Cruises.

The Concierge-level Veranda rooms have the added benefit of a private lounge with the services of a dedicated Concierge, and other benefits like unlimited access to the spa. Photo © Fen Chia.

A Penthouse suite. Photo © Oceania Cruises.


The Riviera has several restaurants. There is the Grand Dining Room with a broad choice of international and continental dishes, pan-asian cuisine at Red Ginger, Italian dishes at Toscana, a sumptuous buffet at the Terrace Cafe, handmade pizzas at the alfresco pizzeria Waves Grill, the Polo Grill steakhouse and Jacques french cuisine.

The specialty restaurants, namely Red Ginger, Toscana, Polo Grill and Jacques are only open for dinner and require reservations. They left the strongest impression on me for their classic decor and the refined dining they present. This is where Oceania Cruises sets itself apart from the competition. The culinary experience is a core focus and I was impressed by the deep dive menu items for the specialty restaurants. Not that you are expected to, but if you are the sort to go all the way for a full-on gourmet experience replete with bowtie for the gentleman and evening dress for the lady, you would not look out of place at all here. Note though, that ordering food on board is complementary across the restaurants but there’s a supplementary charge of US$30 for unlimited champagne, wine and beer per day, which is pretty reasonable.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto, from the Toscana. Photo © Fen Chia.

On its website, Oceania says it is a cruise line ‘built by foodies, run by foodies, for foodies’ – it is the only cruise line to boast two Master Chefs of France. On Riviera, the French restaurant Jacques is a nod to esteemed chef Jacques Pépin, who served as Oceania’s culinary director for two decades, and is decorated with some antiques, furnishings and art from the chef’s personal collection. Here, one can find French cuisine classics like rotisserie roasts.

Jacques. Photo © Fen Chia.

For less formal dining and walk-ins throughout most of the day, there is the Waves Grill for American favourites like milkshakes, sundaes, smoothies and pizzas. The Terrace Cafe is open at any time of the day and has an extensive buffet for both lunch and dinner, with the latter taking on a more sophisticated flair with dishes prepared to order and sashimi dishes in open-air dining. The Grand Dining Room meanwhile, offers a wide variety of multicultural dishes a la carte from the cuisines of the other restaurants on board. Menus change daily, so guests would be spoilt for choice even if they do not dine at the specialty restaurants.

Dining at the Terrace with a view. Photo © Fen Chia.

The Grand Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Photo © Oceania Cruises.

And of course, there is always teatime. At four o’clock, tea is available on board in the form of four-tiered pastry carts and tea, with music from a classical string quartet playing in the background. Meanwhile, a coffee bar with master barista is open till early evening every day, while the Horizons bar that offers cocktails serves as an observation lounge throughout the day with its floor-to-ceiling windows, but transforms into an evening venue with dance floor by night.

Master barista and specialty coffee at the coffee bar. Photo © Fen Chia.

Horizons bar. Photo © Fen Chia.

Amenities and wellness

Amid the many options for dining are equally varied options to burn off the calories consumed for the fitness-conscious. Guests can take a refreshing dip in the large saltwater pool or one of two whirlpool spas. The large number of chaise longues and day beds are more than enough for the most part, avoiding situations where guests have to wait around to get one. Besides swimming, there is also a running track and sports deck where golfers can practise their swing and play 18 holes.

Pickleball, paddle tennis, bocce and croquet are also available. For the sun-weary, there is the obligatory gym and exercise equipment, in addition to a Kinesis exercise wall and fitness classes ranging from pilates and yoga to full-body strength training.

The Riviera’s pool – take a dip, sit in the whirlpool spas or enjoy a cocktail on the deck chairs. Photo © Fen Chia.

Golf at the sports deck. Photo © Oceania Cruises.

Kinesis wall at the Riviera’s gym. Photo © Fen Chia.

There is also a number of restorative therapies and treatments at the Riviera’s Aquamar Spa and Vitality Centre, including massage therapies, ocean-inspired wraps, body polishes, traditional Chinese medicine consultation and acupuncture. Take vitality a notch higher with aesthetic treatments like dermal fillers, wrinkle treatments and skin tightening treatments, or Biotec face therapies. If that sounds too intense for you, there are also meditation and stretching exercises, haircuts at the salon and barber. Otherwise, simply plan to  devote a meal (or more) to Aquamar’s plant-based dishes available at the Grand Dining room or go raw with juices and smoothies at the Waves Grill.

Massage, anyone? Photo © Fen Chia.

Getting a haircut on board is useful, particularly for long cruises. Photo © Fen Chia.

Amid the gourmet meals on board, you’ll also have the chance to eat ‘clean’, such as with Aquamar’s Buddha Bowl, available at The Grand Dining Room. Photo © Fen Chia.

For those inspired enough by the food on board to make some of their own, the Riviera features a Culinary Centre, the first hands-on cooking school at sea that teaches guests how to prepare a variety of dishes in a teaching kitchen, with the help of chef instructors. Besides cuisine, Riviera also urges you to embrace your inner artist at Artist Loft, where artists-in-residence offer inspiring workshops and arts classes, a reflection of Oceania Cruises’ co-founder Frank A. del Rio’s passion for the arts.

The Culinary Center for cooking classes. Photo © Oceania Cruises.

That is a real Picasso on board, by the way. Art is a big thing for Oceania Cruises, which features great collections on board its Riviera and Marina ships Photo © Fen Chia.

If all you’d like to do is to curl up with a book, the Riviera features an inspired English-style library with dark woods, high back chairs and cozy ‘fireplaces’, making for an elegant and welcoming ambience where you can choose from some 2,000 books and periodicals. It looks so inviting that I could imagine spending most of my onboard time there in languorous laziness, coffee in one hand and Kindle in the other.

The Riviera’s Library. Photo © Fen Chia.

What we could observe during our limited time on board without guests around is but a small part of the complete picture of what a cruise with the Riviera could offer, and does not even scratch the surface of the strength of its shore excursions and immersive land programmes.

Oceania Cruises is known as the world’s leading culinary and destination-focused cruise line, and while its ports of call extend to the extremely exotic and exciting, the comfort, gastronomic indulgences and charm of its onboard experiences mean that a guest’s time in between stopovers can be equally fulfilling and invigorating too.  To be brutally honest about it, this may not be the sort of cruise that would be suitable for families with young and active kids, but it is definitely an ideal choice for those who enjoy the finer things in life and are seeking a peaceful escapade from their busy lives. There are short cruises to nowheres and regional cruises for quick getaways. However, if one is seeking a long sojourn in far-flung destinations and not too used to the intricacies of booking through overseas agencies and flying abroad to board, the revival of Riviera in Asia has opened a whole new world right at your doorstep.

Find out more about Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and its 2024-25 itineraries here.


About Author

When not checking out new hotels or restaurants, Singapore-based writer Fen spends her time reading obsessively about and travelling to destinations with unpronounceable names. She also can't stop getting sentimental about vanishing trades and documenting them for posterity.

Leave A Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.