New Years Day spent at sea aboard the Oceania Riviera

ABOARD OCEANIA RIVIERA, DAY ELEVEN — The first day of 2017 is sunny and bright, and we are on our way back home to Miami.

This is the first of two days at sea as we cover the 1,000-plus nautical miles ahead. The staff has prepared personalized disembarkation printouts for each guest that provide all the specifics for making our departure. And it seems like we just arrived on board.

Dining-wise, the main event today is Sunday Brunch in the Grand Dining Room, which has been transformed to accommodate the various food stations for the buffet. We’re not sure we’ve seen a more elaborate presentation.

There were ice carvings, chocolate fountains, “2017” baked in bread and etched in fruit. It was all too beautiful to eat. But we forced ourselves.

Despite the grandeur of the presentation, we did experience a few lapses in the service. Rather than go to the buffet, we ordered from the menu, which was an option. That seemed to throw the kitchen for a loop. My eggs, pancakes and bacon arrived as three separate orders about 15 minutes apart. Pam’s Eggs Benedict came with one of the eggs hard-boiled.

The bread at the buffet marks the start of the new year

It was a rare misstep. Maybe the staff was still recovering from the New Year’s Eve blowout.

While we are on the subject of food, if you want to learn cooking skills, the Culinary Center on Deck 12 is your ticket. You can sign up for a class there and get hands-on instruction. On this cruise they offered courses on fish, pasta, tapas and pizza, to name a few. Classes run two hours and cost $69 a person. Sign up early; they tend to fill up quickly.

For the next two days, everyone is pretty much a free agent to find their own personal chill zone. Many people are taking advantage of the sun and sea day by relaxing around the pool. Others can try their luck at Texas Hold’em or the Baggo Bean Bag Toss. There is a lecture on “Tanzanite Myths and Truths,” but don’t tell Pam. The Sunday Movie Matinee in Riviera Lounge is “Bridget Jones’ Baby.”

We opt to grab a cappucino at Baristas and go to the Boardroom for a spirited game of “Sorry.” Each of us won a game before declaring game three a tie. On the pool deck, we run into Richard and Leslie, a couple from Houston we met at the La Reserve dinner. They took the 4 X 4 adventure tour on St. Lucia and loved it. One of the good things about travel is meeting new people, don’t you think?

Back in the stateroom, I decide to see how teams are faring on the last NFL weekend of the regular season, only to discover ESPN has been replaced by Oceania infomercials. Reception tells me they lost the satellite signal, so probably no sports for the rest of the cruise. At least there are four channels of first-run movies.

Students learn about making pizza in the Culinary Center

Trust me — watching TV is not at the top of my cruise vacation “to do” list. But it is a little annoying Riviera has so few channels, and no option for guests to check their bill on-screen. Another item for the suggestion box.

Tonight we lose the hour we gained at the start of the cruise. Personalized guest surveys are distributed with the daily “Currents” newsletter, one more reminder the cruise is nearing its end.

We have a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne chilling in our mini-fridge (you are allowed to bring three bottles of wine or champagne onboard – no hard liquor). We’ll open it tomorrow night and toast to new friends and the conclusion of our voyage.

Thanks for coming along this far. Check back in a few days for the wrap-up and final thoughts.

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