July 6, 2015

NEW OLife Advantage: Experience the Benefits of Sailing with Oceania Cruises

Olife2We are excited to introduce OLife Advantage, our brand new collection of amenities that enhances your vacation experience and brings you generous savings when you book early. For guests in Veranda Staterooms and above, OLife Advantage includes FREE Shore Excursions, FREE Unlimited Internet, and FREE Pre-Paid Gratuities, all designed to make your vacation experience even more carefree.

OlifelogoThis special offer, featured on all spring, summer and fall 2016 voyages in Europe, Alaska and Canada & New England, is valid now through September 30, 2015 when you book a Veranda Stateroom or above. Take advantage of a range of exciting free excursions which allow you to experience incredible destinations more fully, along with unlimited Internet so you can stay connected with friends and family back home. The number of free excursions is based on the length of your voyage:

Voyages up to 9 days: 3 FREE Excursions
Voyages 10-12 days: 4 FREE Excursions
Voyages 14+ days: 5 FREE Excursions

Expertly-crafted shore excursions focused on history, culture, nature and cuisine invite you to discover the destination more deeply – whether it’s in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, Alaska or beyond! Just a few highlights are below.

Olife6The Hermitage, A Wealth of Art & History (available from St. Petersburg, Russia)

No visit to St. Petersburg would be complete with a tour of the world-famous Hermitage Museum – the “Crown Jewel” of the museum list in St. Petersburg. Founded in 1764 as a private museum of Catherine the Great – to which only she and her closest courtiers had access – it is now Russia’s largest art museum, housing an astounding collection of art. Explore the splendor of the collection, spread among four buildings: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, and the New Hermitage.

Olife3Hills of Lucca & Wine Tasting (available from Florence/Pisa/Tuscany, Italy)

Take in the rolling hills and beautiful valleys of the Tuscan countryside as you drive toward the wonderful medieval town of Lucca for a fascinating glimpse into the region's winemaking traditions. Explore this charming old world city on your own, perhaps strolling along the amazingly well-preserved Renaissance-era city walls. Afterwards, visit a local wine cellar to learn about traditional process and bottling methods and enjoy an exquisite tasting of red and white wines, accompanied by local salami, olives and bread.

Olife4Ephesus & Terrace Houses (available from Ephesus, Turkey)

Ephesus is esteemed as one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world, and during your walking tour, you will see the remains of its glorious Roman architecture. Behold excavated treasures such as the Odeon Theater, public baths, the two-tiered Celsus Library, and the nearly 24,000-seat Grand Theater, where St. Paul once preached. You will also have the opportunity to visit the Terrace Houses, which were inhabited by Ephesus' wealthiest residents and are richly decorated with mosaics and frescoes.

Olife5Mendenhall Glacier Explorer (available from Juneau, Alaska)

Discover Juneau’s scenic natural beauty, along with the astounding Mendenhall Glacier. Admire Juneau’s picturesque waterfront and then take in gorgeous vistas of the glacier, one of 38 flowing from the massive 1,500-square mile Juneau Icefield. Note the mystical blue hue of the glacier, caused by a unique crystalline structure that absorbs and reflects light. You can also venture out on the trails for a firsthand glimpse of this relatively new ecosystem once covered by ice.

Start planning your 2016 voyage today!

Please note: The above list is only a sample of shore excursions typically offered. Every effort is made to finalize shore excursions 180 days in advance of the sailing. For the OLife Advantage offer, free shore excursions vary by voyage and exclude Oceania Choice and Oceania Exclusive excursions. 

July 2, 2015

Celebrating Independence Days Around the World

Celebrating Independence Days Around the WorldParades, kite-flying, torch-running – freedom festivities take shape in many ways. As millions of Americans prepare to celebrate Independence Day, honoring the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776, we’re taking a look at other countries’ days of freedom and how they celebrate.

Happy Birthday Canada | July 1

Canada’s Independence Day is frequently referred to as "Canada's birthday" or “Canada Day.” This event marks the union of the British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec) on July 1, 1867. Canadians celebrate their Independence very similar to that of the U.S. with parades, fireworks, summer picnics and a whole host of other fun activities.


Celebrating Independence Days Around the WorldGrito do Ipiranga | September 7

Brazil won its freedom after Portuguese prince Dom Pedro I declared it independent from his father's rule on September 7, 1822, in one of the most peaceful Latin American revolutions. The Brazilians did not have to go to war for their independence; the King himself declared in the Grito do Ipiranga, "By my blood, by my honor, and by God: I will make Brazil free" with the motto "Independence or Death!"

On this day, thousands of Brazilians gather throughout the streets to celebrate with banners, balloons and streamers. They proudly fly their flag, sing songs and enjoy the day with their friends and families.

India Flies As Free As the Wind | August 15

India won their independence on August 15, 1947, after more than 200 years of British colonial rule. To celebrate their freedom, saffron, white and emerald-green kites evoking the young country's tri-colored flag are flown all over, and parades and pageants are also popular.

Celebrating Independence Days Around the WorldArriba Mexico | September 16

On September 16, Mexico will celebrate 203 years of independence, since the legendary priest Miguel Hidalgo sounded "El Grito de la Independencia" – a cry for freedom that set in motion the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Mexico’s celebrations start the night of the 15th and carry on into the next day. Some of the traditions include the national military parade, which marches through various memorials, the ringing of the National Palace bell in Mexico City, fireworks, civic festivals and family gatherings.

Guatemala, Honduras & Beyond: Freedom for All | September 15

Inspired by the results of Spain's defeat in the Mexican War for Independence, Guatemala declared all of Central America free on September 15, 1821. Beginning in Guatemala City and ending in Costa Rica’s former colonial capital Cartago, the “running of the torch” relay is still a much-loved Independence Day tradition and attracts large crowds every year.

Happy 4th of July from all of us at Oceania Cruises!

June 30, 2015

It’s All in the Details: La Reserve by Wine Spectator

2Ohio natives Marge and Robert R., frequent Oceania Cruises guests and wine enthusiasts, cruised aboard Riviera through the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and indulged in a seven-course meal paired with fine wines during an unforgettable evening at La Reserve by Wine Spectator.

Someone once told me the best wine is the one we drink among great company.  My husband Robert and I, self-proclaimed wine connoisseurs, chose a roundtrip Miami voyage aboard Riviera last winter, to relax, enjoy the sunshine and experience the perfect pairings and delectable cuisine aboard La Reserve by Wine Spectator. We read the premium wines were selected in consultation with wine experts from Wine Spectator, so as soon as we booked our cruise, we reserved our seats at the restaurant.  

1I remember looking at the beautifully designed china on the table, and preparing for a remarkable evening at the intimate setting on Deck 12. Robert settled in across from me as couples from different parts of the world joined us. Our chef for the evening soon introduced himself, and provided an overview of the enticing courses and wine pairings that awaited us.

The wine and fine dining at La Reserve by Wine Spectator was much more than an upscale meal; it was an unforgettable experience.  Among the three different menus to choose from: Discovery menu, Odyssey menu and the Connoisseur menu, we chose the Connoisseur menu and savored every single bite of the seven-course dinner.

3I loved the butter poached Brittany blue lobster with vegetable nage and beetroot cress which was paired with a crisp and lively California white – Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. I loved the way the bright citrus flavors and acidity balanced the richness of the lobster.  Robert enjoyed the seared Kobe beef sous vide with Valrhona sauce, Franck’s mashed potatoes and edamame beans paired with an elegant Italian red – Marchesi Fumanelli Octavius Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva – which perfectly complemented the delicate flavor of the beef. The care and attention to detail by each staff member in the restaurant enhanced the evening, making us all feel as if the night had been planned just for us.

When the spectacular evening came to an end, Robert and I could not stop raving about the cuisine, and more importantly, the wine. As we strolled out onto the open deck, the stars shining brightly above, we began dreaming about our next Oceania Cruises voyage. We are looking forward to another evening at La Reserve, this time aboard Marina as we sail through Baltic in July!  

June 26, 2015

Guest Post: Top Tips to Capture Stunning Sunsets

David Smith
Sunset Over Rethymno, Crete (David Smith)

David Smith, a world travel & fine art photographer from Vancouver, is joining Insignia on several segments of the 180-Day World Odyssey, which departs July 8. His photography has been published in the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Geo Saison Magazine and USA Today. Below, David shares the key to taking gorgeous sunset photographs.

On a recent visit to the Greek Islands (happiness is a scooter, sandals and a bathing suit!) we watched an amazing sunset being created from our balcony in Rethymno on the northwestern coast of Crete. This sunset was visible all over Crete and the locals still talk about it weeks later. Casual travel photographers rarely capture sunset sunsets properly since the camera light meter gets confused by the combination of bright, bright sun and dark clouds. One needs to underexpose sunset photographs to create a dramatic sky, better exposed sun and bright highlights and increased color saturation. In the film camera days, good photographs would set exposure to the sky behind the sunset and then set cameras settings in manual to -2 stops. With digital cameras its easy, just set your exposure value (UV) to – 2.0 but you have to be off automatic mode on most digital cameras to be able to change your EV settings.

Istanbul Sunset – A Call to Prayer
Istanbul Sunset – A Call to Prayer (David Smith)

When the captain moved Marina from the pier in Istanbul, he could not have picked better timing. As she swung about to slip by the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace, an intense and vivid red sunset was punctuated by a Muslim call to prayer echoing among the minarets. On deck, some tears were shed, cameras clicked furiously and it was all over in a few minutes as dusk faded into night and the ship moved southwards down the Bosphorus. Being the start of a memorable voyage to Turkey and Greece, is this memorable event a sign of more to come?

I cringed as I saw most cameras capturing this lifetime moment with just a few shots in automatic mode. Light meters, even in today’s sophisticated digital cameras, can’t handle the complexity of both the intense bright spots around the sun lit clouds and the dark moods of the burnt ember colored sky. In automatic mode, the inability of a camera’s sensor to capture both bright and darks at the same time results in a rather flat looking image with blown out bright areas and not so colorful clouds. To capture better sunsets with your camera, you must underexpose the shot to reduce blown-out brights and increase the saturation of the brilliant colors.

EV control button
EV control button

The magic elixir that makes this happen without having to know anything about shutter speeds and f-stops is the Exposure Value (EV) button. Often a plus/minus symbol with a diagonal line or a menu setting control in almost all digital cameras have this control, sometimes enabled only when you are NOT in automatic or scene modes.

To underexpose your shot set the EV control to a negative number. The default setting is EV=0.0 so take a shot at the auto or default setting, then move the EV setting to -1.0 take a shot, then move it to -2.0 take a shot, etc. Better cameras have EV setting ranges of up to + or – 5.0 so go lower than EV=-2.0 if you can. An EV of -2.0 is the same as underexposing by 2 stops in the old film camera world. You can see the results instantly on your camera’s LCD. By bracketing you can select the best shot to show later. This sequence of photos of the same scene shows the dramatic difference of the sunsets by underexposing the shot in 1 EV increments. In my honest opinion, the most dramatic image is the -2 EV shot.

Underexposing sunset shots increases color saturation and adds drama
Underexposing sunset shots increases color saturation and adds drama

David looks forward to meeting many of you aboard Insignia very soon. For more photo tips, visit David’s blog. Also explore more of his beautiful photography on his gallery and his Fine Art America website.  

June 24, 2015

New Slovenia Culinary Discovery Tour: An Emerging Food & Wine Destination

1What distinguishes a gourmet explorer from a tourist? A true sense of culinary adventure. Nowhere is that more true than in Slovenia. This summer Oceania Cruises’ popular Culinary Discover Tours will include several calls to Koper where guests are treated to a truly epic “deep dive” into the emerging food and wine landscape.

2We start our tour at the Fonda Fish Farm, where this second generation dynasty leads the industry in sustainable aquaculture. In preparation for the tour, I re-read Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg, an insightful book about salmon, cod, tuna and sea bass. I recommend it to anyone with a serious interest in the status of our seas and the fish who call them home. 

Dr. Fonda greets us, whose father, a deep-sea diver, founded the business after noticing that the larger species of fish from his youth were disappearing. This family of biologists presents a compelling case for responsible fish husbandry – challenging you to rethink your preconceived notions of farmed fish. 

3Dr. Fonda takes us on an incredible journey from the purchasing of 200,000 baby sea bass to the 2-year care of the fish and eventually to their responsible harvesting.

4After a tour by boat through the fish farm, we enjoy a sample of the Branzino –  from ceviche to smoked varieties, along with local salt and olive oils. They are welcoming and informative hosts, truly leaving you with a new appreciation for the art and science of aquaculture.

5After a morning on the water, we venture into the Slavnic mountains to the BRIC winery. Privately owned, this property is a commitment to viticulture in its most pristine and authentic form. We arrive at the winery, and are escorted to a scenic lookout above the buildings for a glass of wine so aromatic and unique that it takes your breath away. The wine smells of honeysuckle, and spring has just arrived so we stand with a 360-degree vista of the countryside. Barely-emerging vines with purple wisteria in full bloom are all around us. What a magical way to start our tour of the winery and a sumptuous lunch.

8As we finish our last sip of wine, we are called back down from the lookout by the enthusiastic bark of three dogs, who will (with their owner) take us on a short truffle hunt!  Off under the oak trees we go and find some gorgeous black truffles. We learn that truffle hunters carry a special shovel to dig out the truffles without injuring the roots of the tree, and lucky Maggie winds up finding all of the truffles today. 

7After praising the dogs and marveling at the truffles, we head inside the winery for a tour of the facility.  After witnessing the operation and hearing the philosophy of the wine maker, we head to a glass-walled dining room for a truffle-themed lunch. We enjoy several red and white wines as we sit atop the gorgeous mountain amongst the vineyards, and it’s hard to imagine a more inviting setting to acquaint ourselves with the traditions and hospitality of our new Slovenian friends.