April 24, 2015

Guest Lecturer Spotlight: The Travel Secrets of Eve & Ronald Jones

Guest lecturers Eve Jones and her husband, hotelier Ronald F. Jones OBE (Order of the British Empire) have spent the past 16 years travelling the world as lecturers.

1As a wine tutor and an award-winning writer specializing in hotels, restaurants and travel, she has written features for The Times, the New Orleans and Los Angeles Times, and served as the wine tutor at Marlborough College Summer School for ten years (where Kate Middleton and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie were pupils). Meanwhile, Ronald is one of Britain’s best-known hoteliers. He got his start in the hotel industry when World War 2 was in full swing, and secured a job as an accounts clerk at the then ultra-luxury Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. He ascended through the ranks, citing stimulus rather than ambition as the “hunger,” so beginning a 55-year love affair with hotels.

2Eve and Ronald’s backgrounds lend themselves well to joint ventures, and they’ve enjoyed working together so much that they have co-authored several books: Grand Hotelier:Inside the Best Hotels, Grand Hotelier: The World on a Plate, Gastromania! for lovers of food, wine – and trivia, and The Log of the Seafaring Bears for very young readers. With their fascinating backgrounds, the Joneses’ lecture topics range from royal banquets and jazz to wine and the rich social histories of the areas in which ship is traveling. Below, they share their travel secrets – how they enjoy their favorite destinations, their top picks for restaurants and more!

Destination Secrets of Hotel & Wine Connoisseurs
Cruising has enabled Eve and Ronald to experience a taste of life on every continent. The couple recommends the Norwegian Fjords for pristine beauty and St. Petersburg for its over-the-top architecture, and superb art, music and ballet scene. And after so many years of traveling where do they choose to visit again and again?  Venice is one that tops the list.

“Gliding along the Grand Canal and sticky-beaking into the salons of the palazzi, strolling in St. Mark’s Square in the early morning…it’s a travel experience you never forget,” Eve said.

Sometimes they stay at the Cipriani in Venice, but Eve noted that renting an apartment can be even more enjoyable because of the way it connects you to local life. “Shopping for fresh food in the market, trips to the laundromat with the locals, fresh seafood in the local trattoria – our idea of heaven,” she said.

3Eve recalled one year that they managed to stay in Venice for six weeks during the Christmas holiday season. “It was cold, crisp…the whole city perfectly gift-wrapped for Christmas and very few tourists. Bliss,” she said.

Eve and Ronald also appreciate the beauty of Sydney Harbour – and city’s fabulous food and wine, not to mention the affordable price of the opera tickets.

“It’s such a vibrant, laid-back city with a rich cultural life, filled with art galleries, museums, history, and above all, we’re able to go to the opera several times a week for the price of tickets for one performance at Covent Garden!” Eve remarked.

The World’s Most Memorable Restaurants
According to Eve and Ronald, dining at some of the most memorable restaurants sometimes doesn’t even involve a menu. Such is the case in Kusadasi, Turkey.

“There’s a little family restaurant on the quayside, a couple of tables practically on the water,” Eve recalled. “No menu, no choice – if you’re in the know. Just leave it to the owner and he’ll bring crisp salad, freshly baked bread, and then the morning’s catch, grilled with hot, crisp golden fries and bottle of chilled local white wine. Perfection.”

Meanwhile, their local London favorites include Brasserie Colbert in Sloane Square for breakfast, lunch at Pierre Koffmann at the Berkeley and dinner at Le Gavroche or Mosimann’s Club.  In Scotland, the Joneses love Tom Kitchin’s, near where our ships dock in Leith. 

“He’s a great chef, and the food is superb, all sourced within a few miles of Edinburgh,” Eve noted.  

In their treasured Venice, Eve and Ronald never tire of lunch at Da Fiori.

“It’s unfussy, relaxed…the seafood so fresh it’s still wriggling, the spumante crisp and dry, completed by the theatre of Venice’s business movers and shakers who appreciate the importance of a darn good lunch,” Eve said. “And then we stop for Negronis later at Harry’s Bar, of course!” 

4The couple is also fond of simply asking local business people where they like to eat, especially in Asia and the Middle East. “We don’t ask for the smartest or most expensive, just a family restaurant or a spot for a working-week lunch or dinner,” Eve explained. “That’s where we go and we have seldom been let down.”

The onboard restaurants are also a part of what Eve and Ronald enjoy so much about Oceania Cruises.

“If Michelin stars were awarded to ships, Oceania Cruises surely deserves them,” Eve said. “To have the choice of six restaurants, each serving fabulous food.”

Eve and Ronald invite you to trade travel secrets and favorites this fall -- join them aboard Marina’s Vineyards & Vistas voyage, departing September 2, 2015!

April 22, 2015

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at Sea

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at Sea Imagine you found yourself on a cruise in the middle of the great blue Atlantic with several leisurely days at sea stretching out before you. How would you spend your days? Would you brush up on your bridge and trivia skills? Would you curl up with that book you’ve been wanting to read? Or would you don a chef hat and apron, and learn how to cook like a pro?

During Riviera’s recent transatlantic crossing to Europe, about a dozen of our guests opted for a true culinary immersion – taking part in our first-ever Culinary Boot Camp at Sea program.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaOur Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Enrichment, Kathryn Kelly, crafted this new intensive program based on her experience teaching boot camps at the Culinary Institute of America, which were always one of her favorite courses. The goals of the new Culinary Boot Camp at Sea center on in-depth and personalized instruction in fundamental culinary areas such as knife skills, protein cookery, vegetable cookery, baking basics and mise en place (kitchen organization and food preparation).  

“I also wanted guests to have some fun, so we created a market basket exercise at the end of the boot camp where guests make a dish judged by the Executive Chef and General Manager,” Chef Kelly added.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaDuring the course of four cooking class sessions spread throughout two days, Chef Noelle Barille & Chef Kellie Evans provided hands-on classes on essentials within the  fundamental areas of cooking. They also drilled down on the techniques for a number of cooking methods such as sautéing, grilling, roasting, shallow poaching and deep poaching.

One of the participating guests, Barbara Fox, appreciated how effectively the boot camp tied techniques and methods together for her. “It is like an exam – the light bulb kept going off. It brought everything together from the other classes,” she said.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaThe culinary immersion culminated with a Pro Chef practical exam on the second day, evaluated by Senior Executive Chef Alexis Quaretti and General Manager Damien Lacroix. The afternoon of the second day was dedicated to the preparation, execution and evaluation which focused on two dishes. One dish was required to include a protein that the guests had selected out of a hat – to make things even more exciting!

Chef Quaretti shared that they sampled a variety of dishes prepared by the guests such as fresh spring rolls, chicken with grilled vegetables, poached salmon with rice, grilled prawns and many others.

“Damien and I judged the different flavors of the dishes, the presentation and the originality,” Chef Quaretti said. “Some guests receive the highest score – three stars for a master chef – we were quite impressed with some of the recipes!”

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaDamien remarked on what a wonderful experience it was to see what guests were able to do with their market basket of ingredients after two days of intensive cooking classes – which isn’t to say he was easy judge.

“My first comment to the guests was: ‘Do not think that because you are my guests, I will be any more tolerant or any less critical of your work,’…with a big smile on my face, of course!” he said, laughing.

The Culinary Center Introduces Exciting Culinary Boot Camp at SeaThough the program was rigorous – a true cooking immersion program – the days certainly were filled with laughter and fun. One guest, Hank Semmelhack, remarked that he knew they would continue enjoying all that they had learned beyond the cruise. “My wife and I love it!!  We will take the lessons and skills home to have more fun and amaze our family and friends,” he said.

This fall, Riviera’s Atlantic Horizons, along with Marina’s Passage of the Explorers and Southern Seas voyages will all be featuring our new and exciting Culinary Boot Camp at Sea program. Chef Kelly and The Culinary Center faculty invite you to join them during one of these upcoming transoceanic voyages for an unforgettable culinary experience!

April 17, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?

Guest lecturer Sandy Cares’ animated and entertaining talks about people and events reveal colorful and unexpected aspects of the destination’s history, culture and traditions.

Sandy Cares with the infamous bronze Mark Twain statue in Hamilton, Bermuda
Sandy Cares with the infamous bronze Mark Twain statue in Hamilton, Bermuda

Whether you are heading out for an action-filled adventure or are just planning to “lime away” at the beach, she encourages you not to leave the ship without knowing the “story behind the story!” 

Drawing from stories by local authors as she weaves in anecdotes from travel and life, Sandy combines meticulous research with effervescent enthusiasm and humor for a fresh and fun twist to understanding and appreciating Bermuda and Caribbean destinations. Sandy has been lecturing aboard Oceania Cruises ships throughout the Caribbean and Central America since January 2014 and hopes to meet you soon.

Below, Sandy shares her fascinating experience of the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich in western Belize while recently lecturing aboard Riviera.

“How do you say Xunantunich?” our local guide asks, teasing us as we settle in for our ride across Belize to visit this exquisite Mayan ruin. 

“We just call it tuna sandwich,” she giggles. That works for us just fine.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Arriving at our first stop, the coach pulls off where our group will traverse the short distance across the Mopan River on an old hand-cranked ferry, a quick journey that adds lots of local color to our adventure.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Once on the other side, we ascend to the entrance of the Xunantunich ruins. The ancient Mayan world spanned the five modern nations of Southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize, and Mayan ruins abound throughout this realm. Belize’s Xunantunich, or “Stone Woman,” lies about 80 miles west of Belize City and flourished from about AD 600-750 when it was mysteriously abandoned. In its heyday, the population of Belize’s area may have reached 200,000 and Xunantunich served as an important ceremonial site for the region.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Xunantunich provides examples of some of the major Mayan accomplishments, particularly in architecture, astronomy and art. But before we arrive at the imposing El Castillo, our guide leads us past a small hill overgrown with grass and tells us about metaphorical daggers with which the notorious Thomas Gann explored this site in the mid-1800s. Thomas Gann was a physician by training but also a self-described archaeologist who used questionable methods to excavate archaeological sites. Specifically, dynamite!  We can only wonder what treasures may have been lost forever.

The first sight of the imposing El Castillo takes my breath away. The photos I have seen only serve to confirm that I am actually looking at the selfsame site, but photos do not compare to the visual display impacting me now. The stark white of the famous Xunantunich Frieze stands out like brightly flashing teeth.

The frieze, or long band of deeply sculpted limestone, spans the entire length of the monument with stunning glyphs and clearly executed images. One of these depicts the Mayan Tree of Life, central to the Mayan world vision and their creation beliefs.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?Another repeated pattern looks like stylized owl-eyes and I ask the guide if that symbol stands for the planet Venus, which he confirms. The Maya kept a “weather eye” on Venus, which portended war and death and other bad things in stark contrast to our own perception of Venus as the Goddess of Love, and bringer of valentines and cupid.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?I walk up a flight of stairs to scan other temples and palaces of this ancient city center with the jungle of Guatemala looming beyond. It isn’t hard to imagine what power an ancient Mayan ruler would have felt – and exuded – from this privileged vantage point. Behind me little cubbies with shelves carved into the rock once served as royal beds mere steps away from a sheer vertical drop – unforgiving for a sleepwalker!

I have no intention of climbing to the very top of this incredibly high monument whose height of 130 feet makes it Belize’s second-tallest Mayan structure.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?But an inquiry to the guide about what’s at the top stops me cold. “A corbel vault,” she answers casually.  “A corbel vault?!” I echo excitedly. I am ignited. I did not come all this way to miss out on an up-close-and-personal encounter with an actual Mayan corbel vault, so up I go!

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?The corbel vault, also known as the Mayan Arch, is a narrow, peaked arch that was used to bear a great deal of weight over constricted interior spaces like tunnels and was created using nine stone layers to represent the nine levels of the ancient Mayan underworld. While the Romans made widespread use of the corbel arch, and it found its way into the European churches of the Middle Ages, the Maya came by this architectural “invention” in isolation of any knowledge from older European civilizations. The Mayan version of the corbel vault was as ceremonial as it was structurally useful.

Guest Lecturer Post: How Do You Say Xunantunich?After clicking my camera at every possible angle for that “perfect shot” of the corbel vault, I begin the inevitable descent and concede it will be trickier going down these steep steps than it was coming up. I approach the venture the safest way I know how in the absence of handrails: cheek-by-cheek and very slowly. The guide reassures me they do not permit visitors to ascend the monument on rainy days.

Crossing the Mopan River one last time on that quaint hand-cranked ferry, we stop to select a souvenir or two from the colorful vendor stalls conveniently situated on the riverbank. We board the coach for the ride back to the awaiting Riviera after spending a memorable January day at…how do you say? "Shoo-nan-too-nitch," yes, Xunantunich.

But first we will stop for some well-deserved lunch. Tuna sandwich, anyone?! 

April 15, 2015

The Culinary Center Welcomes Chef Kellie Evans

The Culinary Center recently welcomed one of our newest chef instructors, Kellie EvansThe Culinary Center recently welcomed one of our newest chef instructors, Kellie Evans, aboard Riviera. With a fascinatingly diverse culinary background, Chef Evans brings a wealth of knowledge to The Culinary Center and is very excited to join us. Most recently she created over 2,500 recipes for print, website and cookbooks as a food editor for Saveur magazine. Chef Evans is also the featured instructor in a series of technique videos for Saveur, which she produced. As Executive Chef for a catering enterprise in New York, Chef Evans headed a team that serviced the productions of “Boardwalk Empire,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Sesame Street,” “Blue Bloods” and “30 Rock.” She has also been a food stylist and is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York. 

Chef Kellie Evans & Chef Noelle Barille roll sushi and prepare for classes in Riviera’s Culinary Center.
Chef Kellie Evans & Chef Noelle Barille roll sushi and prepare for classes in Riviera’s Culinary Center.

As Riviera arrives in Europe, Chef Evans, along with Chef Noelle Barille, have been busy teaching a number of new and fresh culinary classes, including Rock the Wok, in which you master high-heating cooking techniques along with some sushi-rolling tricks.

Below is one of Chef Evans’ favorite sushi recipes from The Culinary Center.

SPICY TUNA ROLL

(MAKES 2 ROLLS)

4 ounces sushi-grade tuna

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

2 teaspoons green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 sheet nori

Tezu (handwater): ¼ cup water and 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1¼ cups sushi rice

2 tablespoons sesame seeds         

Spicy mayo: ¼ cup mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon sriracha

Bamboo sushi mat covered in plastic wrap

Dice the tuna into ¼ inch cubes. In a glass bowl, add the sriracha sauce, 1 teaspoon of green onion and the sesame oil. Then add the tuna, and mix.

SushiLay a sheet of nori shiny side down on the prepared bamboo sushi mat. Wet your fingers with the Tezu and pat down ¾ cup of the sushi rice on nori. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds. Turn the nori and rice over with the rice side down and align the edge of the nori with the bottom edge of the bamboo mat. Place half of the tuna mixture on the bottom edge of the nori.

Grab the bottom edge of the mat, and begin to roll the sushi while ensuring that the filling stays inside with your fingers. Gently lift the mat off the sushi as you continue to roll the sushi into a tight cylinder. Keep a gentle pressure on the mat so the sushi forms a nice, tight roll.

With the plastic wrap still on, cut the sushi into 6 pieces – beginning in the middle. Serve on a sushi plate and dollop with spicy mayonnaise and a green onion ring or two. 

Chef Evans looks forward to meeting you in The Culinary Center soon!

April 13, 2015

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of Clouds

Dr. Ken BeattieWith a horticultural career spanning four decades, Dr. Ken Beattie has become one of Canada’s most notable and approachable resources in the plant world. He has developed award-winning television programs including the documentary series, “The Earth’s Garden,” and also served as host of the live, Canadian television series, “Get Growing.” Even in his retirement, Ken continues to apply his vast and diverse experiences within initiatives of food security, education, urban habitat development and practical environmental projects as Canada’s Manager of Horticulture Education with the exceptionally distinguished Canadian Wildlife Federation.

Ken has been lecturing aboard cruise ships for more than twenty years and recently was on board Regatta as she explored the Amazon and South America. Ken shares his fascinating insights and experiences below.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThe Amazon Basin, or Amazonas, is often referred to as “the lungs of the planet.” I prefer “the birthplace of the clouds.” Huge pillars of candy floss-like vapor rise continuously over the murky waters of the Amazon. Early morning light paints the outer edges of long, island- like shaped clouds as if they were just dipped in gold. As the constant, almost oppressive, sun heightens in the sky, shapes, densities and colors change yet again. Clearly this must be the birthplace of all clouds. This evening, as I enjoy the endless ballet of color and the relentless sun decides to set, another show takes main stage. Soft, evening light drools over the edges of huge banks of clouds, highlighting in sharp contrast the horizon, the sea, and of course, the main body of clouds.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThis orchestration of color and texture takes place daily as we sail the mighty Amazon River aboard Regatta. It is the end of the rainy or wettest season; therefore, the river can be navigated by this smaller ship. The Amazon Basin is as large as the continental U.S., boasting more than 4,000 miles of navigable waters and thousands of tributaries. The Tapajos River is the fourth largest in the world and is only one of such tributaries. Spending several days “at sea,” as it were, on these massive rivers, is delightful. The water color changes from clear to café au lait and abounds with interesting creatures.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThe shoreline, often just a faint line in the distance, is predominantly submerged trees with only the very tops of these massive specimens peeking out until the dry season. Flooded homes and a battalion of boats of many shapes and descriptions dot this curious landscape. Tramping through the thick rainforest delighting at the huge selection of plants and insects may seem a tad too adventuresome for some with all the scary things that lurk in these parts. However, remember that once aboard Regatta, you are pampered like royalty and will get to sleep in your stateroom, not a tent in the jungle — not exactly the intrepid explorer!

The entire voyage was 21 days, starting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and ending in Miami, Florida. Evidence of the upcoming World Cup was evident in construction and a general fervor of anticipation in Rio, Salvador, Fortaleza and the inland city of Manaus. Contrasts were everywhere, from architecture representing both old and new world, to subsistence agriculture, to full scale devastation of the rainforest to grow soya beans.

Guest Lecturer Post: The Birthplace of CloudsThe plants of the many regions on this expedition were the absolute highlight for me. Enormous trees festooned with entire ecosystems on their branches, insect homes and buttressed roots the size of a compact car. Curious sounds in the forest kept everyone alert and watchful, but as it turns out, the wildlife are very cunning and excellent at camouflage — with the exception of the ants. The largest biomass in this rainforest is ants, and it is not that hard to believe when you see them. One species is used by local indigenous peoples as insect repellant. The smallest ants ever basically “rain” out of a disturbed nest to be squashed and applied to the skin. Thankfully, these ants don’t bite like so many of their cousins.

6Brazil nut trees reign as the tallest trees, holding their lofty canopy well above 30 meters. These trees are protected by law, so are often seen standing in the middle of a newly created field which is sown to the pervasive soya bean. As regal and statuesque as they are, they appear to be sad to be the only species left after modern day agricultural devastation.

The rubber trees, which played a huge role in Brazil’s economic development, are still evident, easily recognizable from the wounds inflicted from endless tapping for their precious latex. Noble and sturdy, these “workhorses of the forest” play a crucial role in the ecosystem, particularly as a food source for certain fish. As the seed pods mature and fall into the river they make a sound that attracts a huge fish. This fish has teeth that resemble the molars of a sheep and massive jaw muscles. Once the buoyant seed pod is in the water, the fish snaps its jaws around the pod, cracking it open and creating an almost gunshot sound.

As we sail out of this enormous river towards the Caribbean, even more sunsets and luscious forests await — many rich in myth, folklore and swashbuckling.

Ken will be on board with us again this fall, and invites you to join him aboard Nautica’s Footsteps of Discovery voyage, departing October 4, 2015 and Marvels of Time voyage, departing October 25, 2015.