July 14, 2014

AROUND THE WORLD IN 12 BOOKS

For every traveler, an around-the-world journey embodies the ultimate travel experience. The longevity and vastness of an around-the-world trip open the door to more meaningful explorations, unparalleled cultural discoveries, pursuing your passions — in essence, life-changing experiences — just not feasible on shorter trips. With Oceania Cruises' inaugural Around the World in 180 Days voyage, you can experience just that: Your World. Your Way.®

Around the WOrld in 80 DaysWhile everyone takes the plunge for different reasons, the same bubbling anticipation takes place the weeks and months before your trip. What better way to feed your travel anticipation than to dive into books that transport you to places all around the globe you’ll soon see?

Here are a few of our favorites:

Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne: This timeless travel adventure follows Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout around the world by rail and by steamer after Fogg accepts a ₤20,000 bet that he can tour the world in 80 days.

Where you’ll go: London, Bombay, Hong Kong and Yokohama, among others

Full Circle: One Man’s Journey by Air, Train, Boat and Occasionally Very Sore Feet Around the 50,000 Miles of the Pacific Rim, Michael Palin: Serving as the written counterpart to the 10-part PBS series, this day-by-day recount of Palin’s fascinating journey visits 17 countries around the world’s largest ocean.

Round About the EarthWhere you’ll go: Russia; throughout Vietnam, Japan and China; Australia; New Zealand; and Tierra del Fuego, just to name a few

Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit, Joyce E. Chaplin: History buffs will especially love this immersion into the history of around-the-world travel, a tradition nearly 500 years old.

Where you’ll go: Historical global circuits of every kind, even the first via bicycle, balloon and submarine

Time Among the Maya, Ronald Wright: Wright explores the ancient roots of Mayan culture, encompassing history, anthropology, politics and religion to provide a thorough study on the enduring civilization.

Where you’ll go: Guatemala, Belize and Mexico

Brazilian AdventureBrazilian Adventure, Peter Fleming: Fleming goes on a loosely planned 1932 expedition into once-unexplored areas of Brazil on a quest for missing English explorer Colonel P.H. Fawcett.  

Where you’ll go: 3,000 miles of wilderness and rivers in central Brazil

The Tree Where Man Was Born, Peter Matthiessen: During trips over the course of a dozen years, Matthiessen captures vivid scenes and firsthand accounts that create a timeless portraiture of East Africa.

Where you’ll go: Maasailand,Tanzania, the Kenyan Highlands and Mt. Kilimanjaro, among others

Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela: Written in large part during Mandela’s imprisonment, this powerful autobiography traces Mandela’s path to becoming president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, offering deep insight into the political and social forces that contributed to the oppression of black people in South Africa.

Where you’ll go: South Africa

An Area of Darkness, V.S. Naipaul: A classic modern travelogue, this stunningly perceptive account of Naipaul’s first travels to India tells of how he grapples with profound ancestral questions and disillusionment. 

The Quiet AmericanWhere you’ll go: Bombay, Kashmir, Himalayan caves and Madras, among others

The Quiet American, Graham Greene: A celebrated anti-war novel written in 1955, the lyrical narrative masterfully weaves together a romantic encounter with a political parable in a charged portrayal of the conflict between the Communists and French colonial powers in Vietnam.

Where you’ll go: Saigon

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang: In this story of three generations in 20th century China, Chang blends history and memoir to portray Chinese social history during the decades preceding the Communist revolution.

Where you’ll go: Yibin and throughout the province of Sichuan, and later London 

The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding, Robert Hughes: In a sweeping historical account of Australia, Hughes sites diaries, letters and other original sources to meticulously explore the historical, political and sociological reasons that led to England’s infamous convict transportation system.

Where you’ll go: Norfolk Island, Moreton Bay and Tasmania; Sydney, Port Macquarie and throughout New South Wales

In the South Seas, Robert Louis Stevenson: Published in 1896, this South Pacific classic fuses the culture, traditions and history of Polynesia and Micronesia with Stevenson’s personal impressions.

Where you’ll go: Tahiti, Samoan Islands and Kiribati, to name a few

Stay tuned for part two, when we’ll take you around the world in movies. Happy reading!

July 9, 2014

ALASKA AND REGATTA: THE PERFECT COMBINATION

By Jason Lasecki, Senior Director of Public Relations

The hottest thing on cable television these days seems to be America’s 49th state. With shows ranging from Alaska State Troopers and Deadliest Catch to Buying Alaska and Wild Alaska, there is a never-ending fascination with America’s last frontier, and with good reason. Alaska offers some of the most picturesque and pristine natural settings in the world, and there’s no better way to experience the wonderment of Alaska than on board the newly refurbished Regatta.

Having recently sailed on the 10-night Majesty of Alaska voyage, it’s clear to me that the beauty and splendor of Alaska coupled with the elegance and style of Regatta create a magical and memorable combination.

Regatta

The ship itself was immaculate, and the additions made during the refurbishment, such as Baristas coffee bar and the cook-to-order grill at Terrace Café, were a huge hit with guests sailing on Regatta. Many guests congregated at the redesigned Horizons bar to soak in some musical entertainment and incredible Alaskan vistas, while others enjoyed sipping a cocktail at the restyled Martinis.   

Baristas(New)

Horizons(New)

Oceania Cruises is well known for having the finest cuisine at sea, and when it’s paired with one of Alaska’s stunning late evening sunsets, you’re assured an amazing dining experience. While enjoying an exquisite dinner one particular evening at Toscana, we were treated to a painted sky sunset as the ship sailed a scenic fjord, passing by glimmering waterfalls and soaring bald eagles.

Sunset

The intimate nature of Oceania Cruises’ mid-size ships allows the staff to provide attentive personalized service to each guest, and the ideally sized ships offer an additional advantage when cruising Alaska because the captain can provide closer and more breathtaking views of one of Alaska’s premier attractions—the glaciers! During our visit to Hubbard Glacier, we were so close we could hear popping sounds as sheets of ice calved into the ocean.

Hubbard Glacier

Hubbard Glacier 2

One of the highlights of any Alaska cruise is the wildlife. Whales, bears, eagles, otters and seals are abundant, and Oceania Cruises offers a wide array of shore excursions that provide you the best opportunities to see these majestic animals. Definitely a sight to remember was a pod of orcas that paid our boat a visit during a whale-watching tour in Juneau. Wildlife is everywhere and it’s common to spot whales, eagles, seals and sea lions from the comfort of Regatta.

Orca Pod 2

Orca Pod

Speaking of wildlife, we came across this guy while on a nature hike in Hoonah. Readers, any clue on what species of bird this is?

Bird

July 4, 2014

GLOBAL ECHOES OF FREEDOM

On this day in 1776, a document was signed in Philadelphia that set a group of British colonies on a path that would lead to the United States of America. Fourth of July parades, fireworks and picnics celebrate the independence that America won and continues to cherish. As Blogger-at-Large, sailing with Oceania Cruises inspires me to both appreciate freedom at home and marvel at the sparks of freedom around the globe. An Oceania Cruises voyage offers the opportunity to visit sites where history was made, walk in the footsteps of those who changed its course, and gain new perspective on the world as we know it today.

For example, join Oceania Cruises for a cruise to Canada and New England and you will most likely have a call in Boston. Years before the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia, the rumblings of freedom began in Boston Harbor on a cold winter day in December 1773, when a protest against colonial taxation without representation saw a band of patriots toss crates of British tea into the dark waters. From such a small act of defiance, a great nation would eventually grow.

Boston Harbor

Several Oceania Cruises voyages offer shore excursions to Berlin, where monuments pay tribute to struggles for freedom in more recent history. The Brandenburg Gate was constructed centuries before but now stands as a symbol of the modern reunification of Germany, as does the preserved section of the Berlin Wall where more than 100 international artists created an open-air gallery as an inspiring tribute to freedom.

Brandenburg Gate

All eyes have been on Brazil during the World Cup, and on an Oceania Cruises voyage, you can explore host cities from Recife to Rio to São Paulo while also learning the history of this nation that gained independence from Portugal in 1822. Visit the Monument to the Independence of Brazil on the banks of the Ipiranga Brook in São Paulo, where Dom Pedro I proclaimed the country’s independence.

World travels give us greater perspective on the rewards of freedom as well as the immense struggles by which it is earned. As I watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, I celebrate the freedom dreamed of not only by America’s founders, but also by the citizens of nations around the world. 

June 27, 2014

FIVE ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS THAT TELL TALES OF BUCHAREST

Athenaeum Bucharest
Romanian Athenaeum

The colorful history of Bucharest, Romania’s capital and largest city, can be read in the architectural lines of its most famous buildings. Prior to World War II, the city's elegant architecture and sophisticated culture earned it the nickname “Paris of the East.” Today the cityscape is far more eclectic with remains of medieval churches, French palaces, Soviet Era buildings and 21st century construction. Join Riviera’s Black Sea Legends cruise, featuring an overnight in Constanta, and you can travel to nearby Bucharest to see these five architectural landmarks that capture a bit of this city’s storied past:

Radu Vodă Monastery: Founded by the reigning prince in 1568, this church has a fascinating history of occupation by the Turks, destruction by fire, reconstruction in the 17th century and extensive rebuilding in the 19th century.  The monastery is notable not only for its architectural beauty but also because it stands on the site of the oldest known settlement in Romania, dating back well over 10,000 years.

St. Nicholas Bucharest
St. Nicholas Russian Church

Romanian Athenaeum: A symbol of national pride, this elegant concert hall has been an important cultural landmark since it was built in 1888. Financed almost entirely by money raised from the general public, the "Give a penny for the Athenaeum" campaign saved the project after the original patrons ran out of funds. The gorgeous dome of the lobby ceiling sparkles with gold leaf, and the inside of the concert hall is decorated with a monumental fresco depicting some of the most important events in Romanian history.

CEC Palace: Once the site of a 16th century monastery and church, the CEC Palace was built in 1900 as the headquarters for the savings bank CEC. One of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest, it is now open to the public as a museum. A particularly striking feature, the enormous glass and metal dome allows natural light to flood the ornate main hall.

St. Nicholas Russian Church: A rare site in Romania, classic Russian onion-shaped domes define the silhouette of this church, originally a gift to Bucharest’s Russian community from the Russian emperor Nicholas II. Authority over the church transferred repeatedly between Russia and Romania before it finally became a Romanian Orthodox Church serving students and professors at the University of Bucharest. The gilded iconostasis is said to be a copy of the altar in the Cathedral of the Archangel in Moscow's Kremlin.

Palace of Parliament Bucharest
Palace of the Parliament

Palace of the Parliament of Romania: Bucharest's immense Palace of the Parliament was meant to be the pièce de résistance of Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu's ambitious urban development plan. Construction began in 1984 after demolishing most of Bucharest's historic districts, including 28 churches and synagogues and more than 30,000 residences. The world's second largest building by surface area, it stands 12 stories tall and has over 1,000 rooms, 480 chandeliers and over two million square feet of woven carpets.

June 23, 2014

THE BOUNTY OF PROVENCE INSPIRES RATATOUILLE RECIPES

Is there a more glorious season than summer in the south of France? The markets of Marseille, Nice, Antibes and other coastal towns are bursting with color from the abundance of fresh vegetables. In the Bon Appétit Culinary Center on board Riviera, we’re celebrating the bounty of Provence by making one of the region’s signature dishes, ratatouille, and we’ve shared our recipe here. Feel free to substitute whatever veggies are fresh and in season at your hometown market, or come join us on a Riviera sailing where you can shop the local markets and learn to prepare this classic dish in the very region where it was invented!

Peppers

Garlic

Zucchini Tomatoes
 

Classic Ratatouille

{ serves 6 }

½ cup olive oil


1 medium eggplant, trimmed (not peeled) and diced

3 medium zucchini, trimmed (not peeled) and diced

3 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced

2 large onions, diced                                                                                                                 

5 to 6 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

¼ cup white wine

4 to 5 fresh or canned tomatoes, diced

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig marjoram

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence    

6 to 10 Niçoise olives (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the eggplant for about 8 minutes, until cooked. Remove the eggplant from the pan and set aside. Carefully wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

     Heat 2 more tablespoons of the oil in the same pan and sauté the zucchini until soft but not brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

     Heat 2 more tablespoons of the oil in the same pan and sauté the bell pepper until soft but not brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe out the pan.

     Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan and sauté the onion for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and then immediately add the wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated and the mixture is nearly dry, or “sec.” Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked. 

     Add 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste to enrich the sauce. Add the remaining tablespoon if desired, but be careful not to add too much tomato paste as it can overpower the vegetables. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper to the tomato mixture and incorporate well. Top the mixture with thyme, marjoram, and herbes de Provence.

     Cover and warm on low heat. Do not cook the mixture; merely heat until the vegetables are warm. Garnish with olives if desired.