August 22, 2014

Q&A with Oceania Cruises’ Bridge Director Barbara Seagram

We recently had the chance to catch up with Barbara Seagram, one of Oceania Cruises’ much-loved Bridge Directors, and learn more about her and bridge aboard the ships.  An Oceania Cruises Bridge Director for the past six years, Barbara is an award-winning player and author of a number of celebrated bridge books, including the award-winning 25 Bridge Conventions You Should Know. She enjoys traveling the world and teaching bridge with her husband, Alex Kornel, appreciating the opportunity to spend time with people from so many diverse countries.

Below, Barbara shares some insight into the game, and what she loves most about bridge on Oceania Cruises.

How did you first get involved in bridge?

My first mother-in-law sent me for lessons in 1975 with my current husband, her son. He did not like the smoke – in those days – while I took to the game with a vengeance. I loved every minute of it. Eventually I re-married (a bridge player of course) and we live happily ever after!

What do you appreciate about bridge aboard Oceania?

I love the passengers that travel on Oceania Cruises. They are very down to earth, and they appreciate the bridge programs provided and soak up all of it – it’s really very popular. On two of our recent sailings, we had 130 intermediate students on every sea day (19 days in total) and 45-50 beginners as well, who attended early in the morning. In the afternoons, we had 30 tables each day playing bridge, duplicate and party bridge. Imagine: 15% of passengers on the ship were playing bridge! It’s wonderful.

Can you share a Barbara Seagram tip with us?

When you make a lead in bridge, you want to try to paint a picture of what else you hold in that suit. You have to give a message to your partner. If you have K642, you lead the 2. We call this leading the Bottom of Something, i.e. your partner now knows you have an honor card. If you have “nothing” cards, i.e., 952, you lead the 9. We call this leading Top of Nothing. To help you remember this important tip, think of that wonderful city in Massachusetts – BOSTON – and that is what it stands for: The Bottom of Something and the Top of Nothing. And that of course is how the city got its name!

What advice do you have for newcomers to bridge?

If you take French lessons and never use the language, you'll never learn to speak French. Playing makes it all sink in. Bridge is a game of mistakes and every time you make one, you remember not to make the same one next time. Bridge is like golf for the brain and it has been shown to stave off Alzheimer’s. It can be humbling, but it is exhilarating and so much fun. Play at least twice a week and your skills will improve rapidly. Oceania Cruises offers both beginner's bridge lessons as well as intermediate, always providing top-level bridge instructors and directors.

Barbara takes pleasure in being able to continually share her expertise and enthusiasm for the game, and invites you to get involved during one of our upcoming Bridge Sailings, featuring an American Contract Bridge League accredited master instructor.



Barbara Seagram with her husband, Alex Kornel, also a bridge instructor


 An afternoon of bridge aboard Marina during her Grand Voyage, Mythical Travels, from Lima to London

August 19, 2014


Film journeys and evocative movie settings have long fueled travelers’ imaginations, often sparking the start of the next great journey. Last time, we shared a selection of inspiring and transportive travel books in anticipation of our upcoming Around the World in 180 Days voyage this January. To continue fueling your travel dreams, here’s a set of films that take you around the world with classic adventures, enchanting storylines and stunning visual imagery.

GreatRace(2)The Great Race (1965): A time-honored slapstick comedythat pits a scheming melodramatic villain against a classic white-suited hero in a 22,000 mile auto race from New York to Paris.

Where you’ll go: New York, Alaska, throughout Asia, Paris

 Around the World in 80 Days (1956): In this Academy Award-winning adaptation of the classic novel, Phileas Fogg sets out to prove that circumnavigating the globe in a mind-boggling 80 days is actually possible.

Where you’ll go: Paris, Spain, Bombay, Calcutta, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco

That Man From Rio (1964): A rapid-fire adventurewith never-ending twists and turns, this film follows a French soldier on temporary leave on a mad dash throughout Brazil in pursuit of his kidnapped girlfriend and lost treasure.

Where you’ll go: from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, and deep into the Amazon

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013): A fascinating chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life, beginning in the rural village of his childhood, tracing his steps through to his 27-year imprisonment and eventual presidency.

Where you’ll go: throughout South Africa, including Robben Island

Crouching Tiger Hidden DragonCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): A n internationally-acclaimed martial arts film that unfolds amidst the breathtaking backdrop of China during the 19th century as two great female warriors pursue a legendary stolen sword and struggle with societal obligations.

 Where you’ll go: throughout China including Hongcunzhen, Chengde Summer Palace in Hebei province, the Gobi Desert, Anhui Bamboo Forest in Mukeng and Cangyan Mountain

Jiro-dreams-of-sushi-movie-2012Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011): This American documentary, featuring the 85-year-old sushi master, Jiro Ono, invites you into his unassuming yet world-renowned sushi bar, Sukiyabashi Jiro, offering an engaging meditation on his life’s work and sushi culture in Japan.

Where you’ll go: Tokyo

 Australia (2008): A romantic period drama, this epic features an aristocratic Englishwoman who inherits an Australian ranch and reluctantly partners with a local to drive cattle across hundreds of miles of the outback during the brink of World War II.

Where you’ll go: Sydney, Darwin, Kununurra, Bowen

Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003): Transportive on multiple levels, these epic fantasy adventure films extensively capture the dramatic beauty of New Zealand as they follow Hobbit Frodo Baggins on his quest to destroy the One Ring.

Where you’ll go: Middle Earth, a.k.a. Matamata, Waikato; Wellington; Takaka Hill, Nelson; Mount Sunday, Canterbury; Milford Sound, Fjordland National Park

South Pacific (1958): Based on Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, this Oscar-winning musical features a budding romance between a young American nurse and secretive French planter on a South Pacific island during World War II. 

Where you’ll go: islands in the South Pacific

Endless SummerEndless Summer (1966): Sparked by the concept of following summer around the world, this classic surf adventure follows two young California surfers in search of the perfect wave, exploring undiscovered surf locales throughout the globe.

Where you’ll go: coasts around the world including in Hawaii, Africa, Australia and Tahiti

What films have sparked your travels? Share them with us!

August 15, 2014


Have you ever dreamt of tracing the age-old routes of the world’s greatest explorers? Or do you revel in discovering tucked-away gems still below the radar? Our Americas voyages offer you the chance to embrace the essence of discovery and the diversity of these incredible regions, sailing throughout Alaska, Canada & New England, the Caribbean & Panama Canal and South America. Below is just a sampling of new ports featured on these voyages, as well as a few of our hand-crafted itineraries sailing in these regions

Trois-rivieres-quebecTrois-Rivières, Quebec:
the second oldest city in Quebec, situated on the river along Rue des Ursulines, features historic architecture and vibrant cafes and French bistros along the lively Boulevard des Forges. The Musée Québécois de Culture Populaire offers a unique glimpse into the cultural life of the Québécois. Explore Trois-Rivières on Insignia’s Crowning Journey voyage.



Jamestown, Saint Helena: tucked away deep in the South Atlantic Ocean, this island became an important stopover during the Age of Discovery in the 16th century. One of the most isolated islands in the world, a visit to Diana’s Peak National Park provides a rare glimpse into its unique biodiversity–it’s home to a number of flora and fauna species found exclusively on the island. Explore Jamestown on Marina’s Southern Seas voyage.

Pointe-a-pitre-guadeloupePointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe:
sometimes referred to as “Butterfly Island” because of its shape, this beautiful island offers spectacular waterfalls in the jungles of Basse-Terre, scenic hikes to the top of La Grande Soufrière volcano and memorable kayaking among its protected mangroves. Explore Pointe-à-Pitre on Riviera’s Sunny Getaways voyage.


Trujillo, Honduras: nestled on an expansive curving bay with lushly forested mountains rising in the backdrop, this colonial outpost makes for a diverse tropical paradise. Explore the Santa Barbara Fort and Town Square for a taste of culture and history, or go on an off-road rainforest adventure or horseback riding in Campo del Mar Nature Park. Explore Trujillo on Riviera’s Colorful Caribbean voyage.

Saint-pierre-miguelonSaint-Pierre, Saint-Pierre & Miquelon: 
just off the coast of Newfoundland, these charming islands offer a little bit of France in the New World, with a mild climate, picturesque scenery, patisseries and numerous museums, such as L’Arche museum, which provides a portal into the islands’ unique history. Explore Saint-Pierre on Marina’s River Routes & Channel Crossings voyage.



Featured Americas Itineraries

Our 2014-2015 Americas brochure, hitting mailboxes August 18, features these destinations and voyages, plus an exciting range of cruises that sail throughout Alaska, Canada & New England, the Caribbean & Panama Canal and South America. For more information on the 2014-2015 Americas voyages, visit or call 855-OCEANIA (855-623-2642). We look forward to welcoming you aboard one of these unforgettable voyages! 

August 12, 2014


In yesterday’s blog I told of my wonderful outing with Jacques Pépin to the Ballymaloe estate in County Cork, Ireland, the site of one of our newest Culinary Discovery Tours. Our host was Darina Allen, founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, and I thought you might enjoy this recipe from her latest book (which I highly recommend!), celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the school. It’s an infused vodka, and Darina notes that she uses orange rind, wild garlic, rhubarb, peaches and apricots as seasonal substitutions for the blackberries shown below.


Ballymaloe matriarch Myrtle Allen, Jacques Pépin and Darina Allen


{makes one pint}


  • 1 ¼ pounds (600 grams) fresh, organic blackberries
  • 1 ½ pounds (600 grams) fine sugar
  • 1 pint vodka
  • 3 sweet geranium leaves


Put all the ingredients into a sterilized jar and set aside in a cool, dark place to mature for two months, shaking the contents every few days to dissolve the sugar.

After two to three months, strain, reserving the “booze-sodden” blackberries, which can be served with yogurt, panna cotta or a fruit salad. Return the strained vodka (or gin, if you prefer) to the bottle and store in a cool, dark place. Ideally the mix will be drunk within three to four months, but it can keep for up to a year.

August 11, 2014


We thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Signature Sailing with Jacques Pépin – his cooking demonstrations, book signings and informal visits to the Bon Appétit Culinary Center. He is always eager to meet our students and see what’s cooking in our onboard culinary studio.

We especially enjoyed our call on Cobh, Ireland, where I hosted Jacques for a day at Ballymaloe Cookery School, the location of one of our newest Culinary Discovery ToursTM. Founded in 1983 by Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell, the Ballymaloe Cookery School is a bucket list destination for food enthusiasts. Allen is one of the leaders of the famed Slow Food movement in Ireland, dedicated to preserving biodiversity and artisan food production. Located on 100 acres, the school utilizes the vegetables, fruits and herbs from their organic gardens and greenhouses. They also maintain their own pigs, ducks, chickens and a small herd of Jersey cattle from which they make the most delicious buttermilk (perfect for Irish breads), yogurt, butter and cheeses.

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ballymaloe Cookery School 2

Ballymaloe is a family affair, and Darina’s son-in-law manages a Slow Food consortium of farmers’ markets in County Cork. We began with a stroll through the lively morning market where Jacques and I checked out the local fishmonger and explored this week’s last harvest of berries and an impressive array of root vegetables. 

Market 3 Market 1

Market 2


Then we were off to Ballymaloe, where the teaching kitchens were bustling with students and their cooking assignments. The school offers everything from a 12-week certificate program to 3-hour demonstration classes.

We were greeted by Darina’s son, Toby, our host for a tour of the cookery school gardens. Our tour began at the culinary herb garden (complete with a lady scarecrow) and Lydia’s Garden, a miniature Versailles. Jacques stopped to smell the herbs and noticed some snails in the hedgerow – so we had an impromptu lecture on snails. (What doesn’t Jacques Pépin know about food?!)

Garden 1

Garden 3

Garden 2

The bountiful greenhouses were brimming with tomatoes, squash, fruits, herbs and lettuces – all lovingly maintained. Behind the greenhouse are the perennial gardens, herbaceous borders, and the Shell House. In the Shell House, the entire surface – walls and ceiling – is decorated with shells in patterns that resemble the intricate and delicate mosaics of Turkey and the Middle East. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful and difficult to capture in a photograph – so you’ll have to come on a cruise with us to see it!

Greenhouse 1

Greenhouse 2  Greenhouse 3

Back Garden 2

Back Garden 1

Shell House 1

Shell House 2

JP and ChickensTo conclude our walking tour, we took the farm path that passes the chicken house, where happy chickens strolled around the yard and munched on the kitchen scraps from the morning’s cooking class. We also stopped into the dairy and were able to observe the mis en place for an upcoming demonstration on the making of yogurt, buttermilk, butter and cheese. 

For lunch, we traveled to Ballymaloe House, an elegant restaurant and hotel owned and lovingly operated by the Allen family. There we met Myrtle Allen, the family matriarch who, with her husband, founded the culinary empire that is now Ballymaloe. We were also joined at lunch by Darina, who regaled us with stories of how her family developed this 100-acre farm into the celebrated establishment it is today.

DSC_6616Jacques had brought a few of his books to share with Darina, and she asked him to sign several of his books that she had in her personal library. It was so special to see these two teaching icons together in one place and enjoying each other’s company. I was often pinching myself because it was so amazing to be in the company of two of my idols and mentors, surrounded by the dreamlike setting of Ballymaloe.

The Signature Sailing with Jacques Pépin is always one of my favorites, and our visit to Ballymaloe will always be a cherished memory. Check the blog tomorrow for Darina's recipe for blackberry vodka and in the coming weeks for the announcement of next year’s Jacques Pépin cruise! If you've ever sailed with us on a Jacques Pépin cruise, what was your fondest memory?