Oceania Riviera Polo Club

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 8 – At Sea

The past two days on the Oceania Riviera, in the Canary Islands, have both involved a LOT of attentive activity – either a lot of walking or a lot of steady-hand videotaping for my sister. Today was an at sea day, cruising back toward Spain, and I was grateful. Even though it was all at sea, though, it still had a busy schedule. Plus, today was Monday, meaning I had my teen writing class from 11pm to 2am (ship time).

Today was two art sessions – one at 9am and one at 5pm – both on working on the human face. I am generally a ‘rank beginner’ with faces so I looked forward to learning techniques to practice. I grabbed some fruit for breakfast, and by 9am bright and early I was in the studio with Noel Suarez. We had, again the usual gang, about 8 of us, all ready to keep building our skills.

Noel really is good. The two hours fly by and often we stay for longer. The way he can start with a simple shape and make it become 3D is stunning. Once we were done, it was time to meet my mom and sister for lunch. I had a tuna melt. Again, I’m just not keen on their plating technique in most cases. It’s missing something.

I caught up on doing edits for my teen writers, and then it was already 4pm tea time. Now, oddly, the musical quartet had become a trio. We were told that one of the violin players had gotten sick and left the ship.

I left the tea experience right at 4pm for my 5pm art class to work on the face. I really wanted to get as much of this as I could – but unfortunately at 6pm was the celebration party for returning Oceania cruisers. So I had to cut out early to go up to that party.

The room was ABSOLUTELY PACKED. Not only that, but we were told they had to break this party up into TWO SHIFTS because there were so many repeat travelers on board. Even though the boat in general was only about 40% full. Apparently, even though there were relatively few people on board, nearly all of them were people who had traveled on Oceania before. The thought was that most people were still afraid of cruising. Only repeat cruisers, who were chomping at the bit to get on board, were willing to cruise. So it made sense that nearly all of the people on board were repeat Oceania cruisers.

What this meant was that the room was jammed full and, because everyone was eating and drinking, nobody was wearing a mask (well nearly nobody – the staff were). The captain and main crew weren’t there – just the ‘public crew’ types of people. They gave a few call-outs for the people on board who had cruised the most and that was about it. The house band played some music.

Then it was time for dinner. Tonight we were dining at the Polo Grill.

Again, I’m just not sure who is designing their plating options in these restaurants.

And then – a spark of beauty! I’ve found someone who is paying attention to their task in life! This is what I would expect at a nice restaurant. Beautifully done. This is visually appealing in a number of aspects.

When it got to be teen-time, I brought along my power converter, my fully charged laptop, and I went up near Baristas. It was completely empty and quiet by this time. I prayed to the WiFi gods. They heard me! The 3-hour glass went as smooth as silk, the teens had an awesome time, and life was good. By the time that was over, I was quite ready for sleep.

Ask with any questions!

Here are all the menus from the entire trip, if you’re curious what type of food was offered both on ship and in Rome –

Here is a selection of the artwork found on the Oceania Riviera –

The next day after this was:

Oceania Riviera Gran Canaria Las Palmas

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 7 – Gran Canaria – Canary Islands

Today was one of our favorite tours, that we’d been looking forward to the entire trip. This involved going halfway around the island to Palmitos Park. Palmitos Park has a wealth of native flowers, animals, and landscapes, plus other attractions as well. The down side was of course the drive, but we would be able to last that!

This trip was for me, Jenn, and my mom.

Off we drove. The first main part was along the coast, which was quite pretty. Then we delved into the heartland of Gran Canaria. This was less lush / more rocky and bare. The map shows how the island tends to be that way.

Up, up, up we went, in twisting narrow little roads, until we got to the location.

The park is quite large, and there are lots of things to see. We would have to pick and choose what we had time for.

The trails can be quite steep, and we wanted to get up to the raptor show (at the top center of the map) in time to see it. We didn’t race – but we also didn’t dawdle much. We went into the various walk-in aviaries, which were really cool. I took a lot of video in there. There were waterfalls and lush gardens along the path. We saw a huge six foot long komodo dragon! And then were were at the top. It overlooked a vast valley.

The show was absolutely amazing. The hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, etc. all flew right over our heads, only inches above us, then soared high into the sky. They raced down the entire length of the valley until they were clear out of sight. I recorded the entire show. One of the birds didn’t come back. I’m sure it must have returned later after its lizardy snack.

Then we walked through the cactus garden and saw a Giant Gran Canaria Lizard in the wild. There were all sorts of other birds in more traditional cages. However, by now we were already running late for the bus. We had to race back through the butterfly enclosure to get to the bus in time. We barely made it!

We hunkered down for the long drive back. I took some video along the way. I was delighted to see a lot of windmills. Gran Canaria does its best to generate its own power and to desalinate its own water.

Finally we were back at the Oceania Riviera. I had a lovely fruit salad for lunch. Soon enough it was time for the 4pm tea time, then 5pm art workshop. For dinner we decided to eat at the regular Grand Dining Room restaurant. It was nearly empty.

Here’s some of the dishes. I still feel they can work a bit on their presentation.

Rather than list all 17 videos this time, I’ll link to the full play list for this Oceania Riviera trip. Scroll down to where the bird videos begin – that starts the block of videos I took today.

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Next was Day 8 –

Lanzarote Canary Islands Oceania Riviera

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 6 – Lanzarote – Canary Islands

I was very excited when I woke up on Saturday, April 9, 2022. This was one of the key days of the cruise that I was really looking forward to. This is when we got to visit Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Lanzarote is famous because it has had SO many volcano eruptions over the years. During one period, volcanos erupted for a full six years straight, covering vast portions of the island in lava and ash.

I realize this is really awful for the locals. At the time, they even considered abandoning the island completely. But they hung on, and the island is simply an amazing place to visit.

My sister and I were booked on the “Panoramic Lanzarote” Oceania tour, which was a bus tour from 9am to 12:30pm. We had room service delivered in the morning to ensure we woke up, had our breakfast, and then got ourselves all ready to go down to the gathering room. Did I mention I was excited?

We got down to the gathering room and found our seats to wait for our bus to be announced. As we waited, my sister seemed less and less happy. Finally she told me she just didn’t feel that great. The next day was going to be our big zoo trip, on Las Palmas, and she really wanted to be able to do that. It involved a LOT of walking. Also, today’s trip said it had 90 minutes of walking. She didn’t want to attempt those back to back. I was very sad, because she also adores volcanoes, but health always comes first. So I waved goodbye as she headed back to our room.

That means I took a TON (and I mean a TON) of video for this trip, so that she could see what she had missed. I’ll have the links to the YouTube videos at the end.

To begin with, we drove out to the Timanfaya National Park which encompasses quite a lot of the main volcanic / ash-covered locations. We learned how the volcanoes here erupted for six years straight, and how the locals nearly gave up on the entire island as a result.

Along the way, we passed a caravan of camels. Lanzarote is very hot and dry. Quite desert-like. As a result, animals which require water do poorly. Instead, they bring in camels which are able to tolerate the low-water environment.

Here’s just a tiny stretch of the lava fields.

Nowadays, there’s a restaurant located at the center of this park. At the restaurant, they do a number of demonstrations to show you just how hot the volcanos right beneath the surface are burbling. First, they dug up right from surface-level a handful of gravel. The gravel was too hot for us to hold.

Next, there was an air vent that was so hot, when they just put dry brush near it, the brush caught on fire.

Next, there was an air vent with air so hot, when they poured water down it, the water came bursting back up as steam –

There is an air vent right by the restaurant. It is so hot that they can cook chickens over it.

https://youtube.com/shorts/xDYMqFjUfvU

Most tourists can drive to the restaurant itself. However, to go deeper into the volcano area, you need to be on a special tourbus. The roads are too tricky for regular drivers to navigate. So this next hour-long video is from one of those tour busses, showing all the amazing volcanic landscape.

After this we drove to a black lava beach, with a green lake / lagoon created by an eruption. The green is caused by algae.

This is the walk in to that green lagoon.

This is the walk back out:

Now we took a 20-minute drive across beautiful volcanic landscapes to get to the La Geria Winery:

Here’s video of the winery itself. The vineyards are just amazing:

And then there was about a half hour drive back to the Oceania Riviera at the cruise ship dock:

I tracked down my sister. She’d tried to order room service and it’d taken over an hour to get to her. By the time it did, her steak was cold. So that was a bit sad. She wanted to sleep some more. I’ll note that the tour was nearly 100% sitting on a bus – she easily could have come along. I don’t have any idea why the write-up claimed there was 90 minutes of walking. There was not at all.

In any case, I went up to the buffet and had a delicious salad. I sat on the back deck. The weather was perfect with barely a cloud in the sky.

At 4 I went down to the tea / string quartet, but the string quartet wasn’t playing today – they had a piano person instead. I didn’t have an art workshop today, so I explored the ship some more.

For dinner we had a second reservation at Red Ginger, the Asian restaurant. This time I got a photo of the chopstick selections they offer.

I knew to ask for a few extra of the delicious tea, so I could have it during the afternoon tea time sessions.

They always serve edamame to start with, which I love. Then I had the calamari. Normally I go out for Asian food with a group of friends of mine, and Stephanie always eats the tentacles while I eat the rings. So I had to take a photo for her and email her asking her if she’d eat the tentacles for me. She found that amusing :).

The chicken sate was one of those dishes that they aimed for ‘pretty’ rather than ‘functional’. I’d have liked smaller pieces and much more cucumber / pineapple / peanut sauce that didn’t immediately fall off the kebabs.

The lobster pad thai was nice.

We had our big zoo trek tomorrow, so we all went to bed!

Ask with any questions!

The next day was Day 7 –

Oceania Riviera Waves Grill Restaurant

Oceania Riviera – Waves Grill Restaurant

I wanted to explain a bit more what I personally want in a lunch. That way people who read my reviews understand where I’m coming from. If you have an opposite point of view that is great! You can eat opposite of me :).

Here’s what I ate at Waves on the first day, after a long – long – long travel night and day. Even now, looking at that photo, I’m just not keen on it.

I like fresh veggies for lunch. Cucumbers. Romaine lettuce. Spinach. Eggplant. Fresh red tomatoes (not bland pale ones). A caprese salad. Yum yum yum. Something fresh and crisp. Something bright and clean. Vibrant with spices. Mushrooms! Usually I don’t want any meat at lunch. For me meat tends to be heavy and often greasy. I want to be full of energy after lunch. I want to be fired up to go out and do things.

I personally don’t want buns. To me that is ‘filler stuff’ that is going to take up room in my stomach, add on calories, for no real reason. The thick fries fall right into that category, too, plus they are greasy. So those two things right there are a turn-off for me. I was quite interested in the ahi tuna steak – I adore ahi tuna – but it was just not cooked right. 

So that left me with focused on eating some of the ahi tuna plus the coleslaw, which is covered in mayonnaise and not really ‘fresh and flavorful’ as far as a veggie dish goes. It heads more into the ‘bland and squishy’.

I know many people love to eat this way and that is fine! We are all different and unique. That makes our world wonderful. But that’s why looking at those Waves options just did not send warm fuzzy feelings through me. I actively wanted to avoid having to eat there. I look at this and think, after I eat this I’m going to want to take a nap. 

Here was one of the lunches I loved, from the back-of-the-boat buffet. Yum yum yum. This is what I crave for lunch. This and a tall glass of water.

Just to contrast a bit, here is the caprese salad I had on day 1 at the Toscana specialty restaurant. I eat a LOT of caprese salads and make them for myself at home quite often. So I’ve had a variety of styles. I found the tomatoes on this to be bland and pale. There wasn’t much basil. Also, the tower construction meant it was a pain to have to ‘disassemble’ to eat it. There wasn’t enough added ‘prettiness’ in the tower to make up for the hassle trying to dismantle it to eat it. And as much as I can often adore ‘smears’ of decorative liquid on the plate, in this case it just wasn’t appealing. It could easily seem like I’m being picky. In my defense, the Oceania Riviera wasn’t touted as a floating chain restaurant. It was touted as the best restaurant anywhere on the high seas.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 5 – Santa Cruz de Tenerife – Canary Islands

Day 5 of our Oceania Riviera Cruise, on Friday, April 8, 2022, had us landing at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands are off the western coast of Africa, up by Morocco, but are owned by Spain. This island itself is named Tenerife.

Tenerife is a spiky-mountain green lush location. It’s known for a large volcano at its center, named Mount Teide, which is the highest point in Spain. It’s also the location of the Teide Observatory.

We had booked tours on Canary Islands 2 (Arrecife) and 3 (Las Palmas), so we wanted this first one to involve a relaxing stroll around the port town itself to explore on our own. We decided to eat lunch first so we wouldn’t have any issues with missing lunchtime.

As we disembarked and talked to the local contact, she advised us that most of the locations would be closed for the afternoon siesta from about 2pm to 5pm.

Indeed, as we strolled about town, most places were closed up. This downtown area featured a number of global names. McDonalds was there, and we were amused by a store selling “New England” clothing. The items within weren’t things we’d seen around Massachusetts for several decades.

Apparently in New England we all wear Izod alligator shirts. And Dockers shoes.

We at last headed back to the ship.

At 4pm we had our daily relaxing tea session with the string quartet. Here’s one of their songs.

Here’s the type of items served at tea. As I’ve mentioned before for me they are fine to nibble on to pass the time, but it’s not what I would call “food” that I would want to eat for a full lunch. We are all different in how we approach food.

Today there was no art class for me.

Since, we had some time before dinner, Jenn and I did a set of laundry. Laundry is wholly free to do yourself, and the machines were always open any time we checked. The detergent is free, too. So we spent some time quietly watching the machines whirrrr.

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/yEFoPamXNqU

Then it was time for dinner. We were feeling casual and not up for a specialty restaurant, so we ate in the regular restaurant. It was very quiet.

The food was ‘good’ for all that entails. I look at this and say “yes that’s nice” but I’m not sure I really say “that is quite special”. When I look at this, with the lace doily and the thin greens and the hanging shrimp, I sort of get that sense of a faded country club. It definitely could just be me of course.

Similarly, one night we ordered the petit fours. I was expecting beautiful little squares of cakes and such, exquisitely decorated. Instead we got six or so little cookies and pastry objects that were all dry, mostly boring looking, and fairly tasteless. So I had to ‘downgrade’ my expectations of the ship food and just become OK with them.

I’d expect to see this at a chain restaurant, but not at a high-end steakhouse.

To summarize again, it’s not that the food in general was in any way ‘bad’. It just wasn’t “special”.

Tomorrow was the big volcano tour, and I love volcanoes, so we went to sleep early!

Ask with any questions!

The next day was Day 6 –

Oceania Riviera Canary Islands

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 4 – Heading to the Canary Islands

Day 4 on our Oceania Riviera cruise was on Thursday, April 7th, 2022. This was an “at sea” day – really an “at ocean” day – as we cruised out toward the Canary Islands. On Thursdays I teach an Outschool teen writing class which on ship time was going to be from 8-9pm. That was my only external time constraint. On board I had a still life two-part session at 9am and then 5pm. So I couldn’t sleep in :).

I’m not really a breakfast person, so I just grabbed a few pieces of fruit and some OJ before heading down to my art class. By now it was the ‘usual cast of suspects’ – about 8 of us – coming to these. I was sad to find that someone had stolen my calla lily drawing from the previous sessions! How the art classes work is that each of us gets an open cubby on the wall to store our graphite, erasers, paper, etc. in between sessions. That way if we want to work on our art during quiet time we can come in to the art room (which is always open) and work on things. The ship doesn’t want us taking charcoal / graphite / etc. back to our rooms for sort of obvious mess reasons.

My cubby stuff was completely gone. Someone had taken my picture and supplies. I’d signed my picture, too, so it’s not like someone could reasonably have thought it was theirs. It was just gone. So I had to get fresh supplies from the instructor. Luckily, at least, the calla lily sessions were done and we were moving on to starting a fruit still life. I was sad, though. I’d worked hard on my calla lily and a friend of mine loves calla lilies, so I was going to give my drawing to her. I guess now I will need to create a new one for her.

In any case, the morning still life session was really wonderful, and I learned a lot. I stayed after class working on it. Then I asked Noel which painting on the ship he recommended I study. He suggested the one right near the art room which was of tree leaves. He said it had wonderful shading and contrast. That was “El Descanso” by Luis Armando Zesatti.

I decided to explore more of the ship’s art while waiting for lunch to open. Some of the art I found a bit iffy, like buxom naked ‘women’ without heads being hunted for consumption (“Feast of Love” by Ramon Vasquez):

I didn’t take a photo of the ‘man in lust with a horse’ painting :).

Finally it was lunchtime and I went to the patio at the back of the ship. It was pretty much empty. I sat down with my laptop and tarot deck to do some more card readings for people. I had a nice veggy selection of cucumber salad and spring rolls. The server even carried it out to the table for me when he saw my hands were a bit shaky. That was quite nice. The food was delicious and just what I like for lunch.

I did a lot more ship exploring and art-viewing during the afternoon. There is a wealth of quite intriguing art on the ship in all areas. There were all sorts of details on the artwork to draw you in. This is “Eden Before the Apple” by Ramon Vasquez, with then just one detail from it. How long must this painting have taken to create?

The artist Humberto Benitez had quite a few faces-hidden paintings around the ship.

Occasionally one would see a staff member on cabin levels wearing protective gear. I was glad they were taking precautions to clean things. Nearly all people wore masks while walking the halls, but all masks came off any time people were sitting either watching the tea-time music or in a restaurant or in a ‘cocktail area’. So there were lots and lots of people congregating maskless and talking.

Finally it was 4pm and time for classical music. They were lovely as always. Right when they ended it was 5pm and time for my next art session. We worked more on our still life. And right after that it was time for our dinner reservation at Jacques. This specialty restaurant was about half full. This was nice in terms of quiet experience, but again, was just a bit odd compared with normal cruising. So again a clear sign that the ship was fairly empty.

The food here was nice. It was not the mouth-nebulae level of Daniel Bruce at the Boston Harbor Hotel, but of the level of a nice regular-city steakhouse. I think my expectations were starting to settle in to what this post-pandemic Oceania cruise would have for food.

I had to go right from dinner up to Baristas to prepare for my teen writing zoom class. Again the wifi signal is really poor so I had to be really cautious about how I did things on my laptop during class, so I didn’t compromise the wifi signal in any way. Luckily the signal held on during the class – the wifi on the boat would randomly come and go without warning.

By the time class was over I was ready for sleep. I wanted to be sure to be fresh and ready for the Canary Island in the morning!

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The next day was Day 5 –

Oceania Riviera Alhambra

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 3 – Malaga

The third day of our 2022 Oceania Riviera cruise had us docking at Malaga. We loved this not because of Malaga itself but because that was only an hour and a half from Alhambra – a gorgeous historic Moorish palace. So we reserved an Oceania bus ride to and from Alhambra, and then separately bought a timed tour entry into Alhambra itself. Oceania didn’t offer the Alhambra entry.

The bus tour left at 8:15am with a return time of 3:45pm. Even with the hour-and-a-half travel time, that would seem to give us plenty of time at Alhambra. My mom set us up with an entry time of 10am to give us the most time in the palace itself.

There were only 8 of us on the bus – three groups. Off we went. The tour guide gave us all sorts of information about Malaga, Andalucia, and more as we drove along. Mom asked several times to get information on Alhambra, so we’d be ready when we arrived, but he waved her off, saying we’d talk about that later. Part-way up we stopped at a rest stop which seemed to sell quite a lot of knives. Again, Mom asked the guide about Alhambra and he waved her off.

We finally arrived in the town near Alhambra and he got us off the bus. He started walking us at a slow pace toward the town center. Finally we stopped him and asked, why are you taking us on this slow walk? We need to get a taxi to get up to Alhambra so we can get our tour there! And he said: Wait, you’re going to SEE Alhambra? All of us in the group said YES that is the whole reason we just rode an hour-and-a-half. He was completely befuddled. He thought we just wanted to roam around the town at the base of Alhambra. Despite all the times we tried to talk with him about it. So he hurried to find us taxis and get us in them.

Our taxi driver asked if we had tickets, and we said yes. So he drove us right to the main entry area. When we showed our tickets there, we were told these weren’t actual tickets, they were vouchers. We had to go to our tour agency to have them ‘converted’ into tickets.

This is where we could have given up. It was about 11am now, so long past our 10am tour. But let me digress a moment.

Every week I draw inspirational tarot cards for my friends. This week, for myself, I’d drawn the Hanged Man. A card of patience and perseverance when things get challenging. I’d then asked my sister if she wanted a card. She did, and I drew her … the Hanged Man. She said this was ridiculous so I handed her the full deck. She shuffled, shuffled, shuffled, and drew … the Hanged Man. Clearly the Universe was trying to tell us something. So when we hit this hurdle, we knew we just had to persevere.

We tracked down the phone number of the tour group and gave them a call. They gave us their address and said to take a taxi over. So over we went. At first they said we had missed our 10am tour, but then they found spot on the upcoming 12 noon tour and stuffed us into it. Hurrah!

The tour guide was great, and the grounds were absolutely beautiful. In the palace, the tradition at the time was not to have any figurative images, but just beautiful calligraphy of words. There was latticework, stonework, fountains, gardens, and more.

We carefully watched the clock and as it got close to our bus departure time we had to leave the tour. We grabbed a taxi back to the town center, got on the bus, and soon we were heading on back to the ship. There were cool sculptures along the dock area.

We had the 4pm tea time with the classical music group, then at 5pm was my second calla lily art class. We worked more on shading and techniques. Then soon it was dinner time. We had reservations for Red Ginger, the ship’s Asian restaurant.

I adore all Asian food. I love, love, love it and eat it quite a lot. So I admit I had sort of high expectations for Red Ginger, with Oceania touting itself as having the best food on the high seas and with Red Ginger being a specialty restaurant.

Yes, it was nifty that they had a ‘choose your chopsticks’ selection and a hand towel that ‘expanded’ like a snake when they poured warm water on it.

But the food itself just wasn’t “special”. It was OK. The sushi tasted bland. The tuna tataki (a favorite of mine) was dry. My sister specifically chose a dish for its ingredients – and then the actual dish had other ingredients that she didn’t like in it. When she asked the waiter about it, he said in essence “they’re all vegetables”.

On the up side, they have DELICIOUS herbal teas here so I asked for a few to take with me so I could have them at the afternoon tea times.

Tonight the ship passed the Rock of Gibraltar. We very nearly missed seeing it. The captain had said we’d pass it at 9:30 so at 9:15 we got our gear and went out to set up – and we were already passing the rock. So we grabbed some quick photos.

All in all, I’m glad we persevered and were able to see some of Alhambra. I do wish the tour guide had listened to us beforehand so we didn’t waste the extra precious time we had. I’m glad we went to Red Ginger but I definitely didn’t want any more sushi from them after that meal. And it was fun seeing the Rock of Gibraltar.

Ask with any questions!

The next day was Day 4 –

Oceania Riviera Cruise 2022

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 2 – Weather Cancelled Alicante

Here’s the summary of Day 2 of our Oceania Riviera Cruise. This was April 5, 2022. We were supposed to dock at Alicante, Spain for the day. Unfortunately, rough weather made it impossible to safely navigate in to the port area. So instead we had a sea day. As you might imagine, the sea day was a bit rolly. I don’t mind a choppy ride – I’ve been on a cruise ship during a hurricane in Hawaii where we were snapping lines left and right, and we lost power so the ship was wildly tossing. So anything mild like this I am fine with.

This gives me a chance to talk about the Oceania Riviera in general.

As I mentioned we were only maybe 40% full due to COVID and last-minute regulation changes and so on. So when we went up to the dining area for lunch, it was really very quiet. It’s a very odd sensation for people who are used to cruising and used to a bustling venue.

Yes. This is the actual lunch crowd.

It’s fair to say of course that with the non-smooth weather maybe people were curled up in their beds having crackers. I don’t personally think it was THAT bad, but again, we all have different levels of comfort. I will note that the vast majority of people who came on the boat are repeat Oceania cruisers – i.e. there were hardly any first-timers. I imagine this is in part because of the pandemic, that newbies are holding off right now while regular cruisers are chomping at the bit to get back out there again. So most of these repeat people are undoubtedly more comfortable with ‘cruise weather issues’ – at least probably more than a newbie would be. Still, there were very empty venues.

I took photos of every single dish at every single meal but I won’t deluge you with those. Food is a very individual thing. Some people might find this food “super special” while others find it “fairly ordinary”. I belong to the Chaine des Rotisseurs which is a food/wine group, so I’m comfortable with high-end dining. I’m also fine eating at Olive Gardens and such. I found the food overall on the Riviera good but not “mind-blowingly good” which their brochures seem to make it seem like. Sometimes the presentation was trying too hard to be pretty which then made it really hard to eat. Sometimes things like lobster bisque had no lobster at all in them. I’m from Massachusetts so I sort of expect lobster bisque to have actual lobster in it. The sushi didn’t seem high quality. I imagine they freeze it and store it a while. Again, things which you sort of just have to accept on a cruise ship, but when I think of this as being a “high end Boston restaurant” it doesn’t really hold up to that. We’ll say “nice enough most of the time”.

I will note that I was annoyed at their meal scheduling. Every day from around 2pm to 4pm there was a gap of only the limited-menu grill food. This made it really nasty for people who arrived after a long flight, or came back after a long tour, and all the main lunch places were closed – but the tea time hadn’t started yet. Sure you could order room service – and wait an hour for it to arrive. After that grill shut down at 4, you were now stuck until dinner, if you didn’t want to eat tiny tea sandwiches. They should have had SOMETHING more substantial reliably open all day long, period. Especially given the people coming in from tours etc. who were starving. There were several times we got back at a tour at 1:50 and were racing top speed to get to the buffet before they shut down. That is just silly.

My sister and I were in cabin 7021. It was perfectly suitable for us. There was plenty of space for our clothing and gear. It had both a shower and also a separate bathtub with showerhead in it. The balcony was lovely. NEITHER of us used their supplied soap / shampoo / etc. because we are sensitive to fragrances. We both brought our own supplies.

They have both US and European plugs in the room, so you can bring either type of device. My sister tried to bring a massive multi-plug power supply unit and it was confiscated. Also, they need you to unplug EVERY item when the room is empty, to avoid fire hazards.

We did not watch any of the entertainment, except the tea-time classical music group, which we went to every day at 4. That was quite lovely. Again not mind-blowingly great, but nice and relaxing. Tea, small sandwiches, and small desserts were served. I’ll note the only 2 herbal teas they had were chamomile and mint. I ended up asking for some of the delicious teas at the Red Ginger Asian restaurant when we were there, so I could then have them during the tea time.

The art on the ship is quite expensive art, in general. It’s like a floating museum. That being said, the person who selected the art (I think it’s the Oceania owner) has very eclectic tastes. A number of the pieces I find questionable to be out right next to a venue main entrance:

Plus there were paintings of men chasing down women, lots of bare-breasted women, and one seeming to show a man having carnal knowledge of a horse. Very very odd. And I love art in general. There were just a lot of pieces that made you look at them and go “Ummmm ….”

One of the highlights of the cruise for me was that it featured Noel Suarez as the art instructor. He’s a quite talented cubist painter originally from Cuba. His sessions were not Bob-Ross-Style “Come and paint a flower”. Instead, people signed up for the entire series of 11 sessions which went through various learning workshops building knowledge on shading, composition, the human form, and so on. They built on each other. It wasn’t clear from the material that the series was arranged like that, so there were a few people who tried to show up for session #9 for example to “draw a face” and were playing catch-up. So I do think they need to explain that better. Still, it was an amazing amount of information, about 22 hours or more in total, from a world-class artist who was supportive and encouraging. If you have any interest in art I highly recommend this.

Today was the first class. It was 2 hours. It was on “drawing the calla lily” but really it was all about composition, how to use graphite, how to shade, techniques, and much more. I did end up with a calla lily, and I learned quite a lot about technique along the way.

The Wifi was ATROCIOUS. Let me explain how it worked (or didn’t work). By default, every cabin comes with one single-device non-streaming account. The account actively blocks any streaming like YouTube, Zoom, etc. My sister and I both have busy jobs so I needed to get a second account. I also needed to upgrade it to streaming so I could run my teen writing classes on Outschool (Zoom). This did NOT make it any faster. It just meant Zoom wasn’t blocked. My sister went all over the ship trying to find where the best wifi signal was. It seemed to be in Baristas, the coffee shop near the internet cafe. So that’s where I set up for my teen classes. Even so, one class ended early because the wifi suddenly shut down without warning. There were other times that the wifi just completely vanished. It was REALLY REALLY slow. They absolutely should be doing better on their wifi access.

For our sailing, masks were required unless you were in your cabins or were actively eating / drinking. That meant many people hung out at the hallway tables by the casino with a drink in front of them just chatting away with random strangers for hours. No mask. If you think this was unwise, you might be prescient to what I’ll report in a few days.

All in all, I was quite happy that Day 2 was a ‘quiet day’. Given how wildly busy Day 1 was for me, I was glad to sleep in and take it easy. We had lunch, we explored a bit, we had tea with the classical musicians, I went up to my art lesson, we had dinner, and by then I was exhausted and ready to sleep.

The next day was Day 3 –

Oceania Riviera Barcelona Cruise 2022

Oceania Riviera Cruise Day 1 – Barcelona

My wonderful mother offered to take me and my sister on an Oceania Riviera cruise, to all spend some relaxing time together. We were gone from April 4 to April 19, 2022. It was delightful! Over the coming days I’ll post a day by day virtual vacation for you, to travel along with us. Let me know if you have any questions!

Day 1 was the flight from Logan in Boston, through Newark, and out to Barcelona. This was an adventure.

With the pandemic, first we had to get pre-flight COVID tests which, thankfully, all came back quickly and negative. As an added twist, Oceania announced just the day before the flight that they now required boosters. Luckily we all had boosters, but anyone who had not gotten them would be unable to sail, as they required the boosters to have been given at least 14 days prior.

On Sunday evening Bob drove me to Boston to get on the plane. The flight was delayed due to bad weather. I got to Newark late, but fortunately still in plenty of time for the connecting flight. I met my sister Jenn there! That was delightful. Soon enough we were boarding the plane.

But maybe not. After we were all boarded, they told us that there was a problem with the engine. They kicked us all back off again. By now we were hungry so we got some snacks. Then the airlines decided maybe they should feed us and gave us a $40 each voucher to buy food. By then, though, most of the restaurants were closed. So we had to scrounge to find things to eat. Now we were worried they’d cancel the flight, and our boat left the harbor the next afternoon. If we cancelled, we’d have to chase after the boat …

At last they got us onto the plane. We headed out! I had cycled my schedule and slept most of the way.

We landed in Barcelona, Spain and were met by Oceania crew at the exit. They wanted to gather ALL the people together onto one bus, so that meant now sitting and waiting … and waiting … for other flights to come in. We did meet a delightful British couple Nick and Mary who we talked with. Finally, all the people had come in and we were all led along to a bus. The bus took us through Barcelona and over to the dockyards.

Here is the ship! The Oceania Riviera!

It turns out that the ship was only at 40% capacity, maybe due to the last-minute booster requirement and also due to the ship going to high-risk locations like Spain and Italy.

We got into the terminal and were given another COVID test. We sat until that was approved. Then we were let onto the ship. We went right up to the top deck to get some food. FOOOOD!!!! Then down to our room. It turns out my sister’s power outlet was confiscated for being too large. On the up side, we didn’t have to do the standard ‘stand on deck with life preserver’ exercise. We just had to watch a video and go to our gathering location to check in. That was it.

We went down to the main dining room for dinner, but they were so empty that they offered us a free chance at a specialty restaurant. So we went to Toscana, their Italian restaurant. It was lovely. I had a caprese salad and porcini mushroom risotto.

The boat headed out into the seas!

You’d think I would sleep by now, but I have an Outschool teen writing workshop I run Monday evenings. In Barcelona time, that was 11pm to 2am. So I brought my laptop up to the quiet coffee area and I had fun talking with the teens. Finally at 2am I was able to go to sleep!!

Ask with any questions :).

Someone asked about the double COVID testing. Yes all three of us got tested in our home areas on Friday, then flew out Sunday and arrived on Monday a few hours before the boat left Barcelona. So we had to get those home tests to start with. Mine was free, supplied by my normal health care provider.

In addition, when we arrived at the dock area Oceania tested us there. It wasn’t charged as far as I can tell. So the sequence at the dock area was we went through security / xray machines, then we went to a testing area. Each person was swabbed and then sat in a waiting area with chairs. It took maybe 15 minutes. Once we were approved, we then went to the ‘registration’ area where we got our key cards. Then we got on the ship.

The next day was day 2:

Ukrainian colors hair scrunchie

Ukrainian Colors Hair Scrunchie

Yup my Ukrainian colors hair scrunchie has arrived from Etsy! The scrunchie itself is two-tone. I double-wrap it, meaning each layer can get its own tone.

I’m also amused that at all the events I attended over the past two weeks, not a single person noticed that I’d cut my hair from being mid-thigh length to barely mid-back length 🙂.

Please keep Ukraine in your thoughts!

Here’s the etsy store for this scrunchie – https://www.etsy.com/shop/cottonmaskbyjewel