Caroline Hurry revisits her cruise aboard the Oceania Riviera from Monte Carlo to Venice with her mom
Nice is nice, but Monte Carlo seems nicer, I reflect, gazing out at the harbour across the way from the Grimaldi palace, visible from any of the 15 decks of the Oceania Riviera.
A white towering marvel by day and jeweled hulk by night, the ship at close quarters seems overwhelming, a floating skyscraper. The moment you step up the gangway, the image changes. There is a whole new world in here – silent elevators, uniformed crew, muted colours, and soft murmurings.
The Riviera is vast, sumptuous, opulent and extravagant. I swan around her decks feeling like Princess Caroline. I love our stateroom with its veranda, fluffy robes, slippers and Bvlgari toiletries, a far cry from the tiny portholed affair of my mother’s first sea voyage back in the 1950s. It would be fair to say we’re well pleased.
We crack open the champers and toast the magnificent Riviera. Our concierge Thomas, on hand to assist “with any manner of special services” gives the impression he’d procure for you, at a nod, one of Cleopatra’s bangles or the Queen of Sheba’s belly ring, should your heart so desire.
That night mom and I feasted on Whole Maine Lobster and dry-aged filet mignon in the Polo Grill. Washed down with copious amounts of delicious Merlot, the dinner was as show-stopping as a closet of singing British Airways flight stewards.
Any Oceania ship is about class, elegance, and cuisine. Food, glorious food! Gourmet restaurants – think lobster every night if you like – are all included in the price.
We lunched at Jacques, a Parisian bistro named after Master Chef Jacques Pepin, who has cooked for three state presidents. Think unctuous, svelte, sophisticated food; each dish a firm French conviction. Fine wines washed down lobster, and succulent, tender beef. And the following evening we ate the most sublime sushi ever, at Red Ginger.
I was lucky enough to meet Oceania owner and CEO Frank J Del Rio, who had us in stitches as he described repelling pirates with some sort of low frequency device. A good thing too because the artwork on the Oceania Riviera is worth millions of dollars, including 16 Picasso’s – one in the Ladies on the sixth deck. Why hang an original Picasso in the loo rather than the Loevre, I asked. Because I can, he replied.
Quite so. His suite is the biggest on the ship, which he owns, so he can do as he pleases.
From my bed I’d watch a Bloody Mary sunrise fortifying the day, then set off for breakfast at Terrace Café, followed by a cookery class, where I learnt to make scones and a frittata. I believe I can fry!
Mom spent her morning boning up on the intricacies of acupuncture.
Most afternoons I’d gaze out at the ocean before a spot of high tea at Horizons where a classical string quartet provided an aural backdrop to the prodigious pastry talents of the chefs. Apparently there’s a well-equipped fitness centre on board, but don’t ask me. I never wanted to leave this enchantress of the sea!