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.

June 20, 2015

Happy Birthday to Chef Jacques Pépin!

Oceania Cruises partnered with Food & Wine magazine to celebrate and honor legendary Chef, and our Executive Culinary Director, Jacques Pépin on his 80th birthday during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The gala event, comprised of 500 of the country’s leading culinary influencers and enthusiasts, took place on the spectacular Aspen Sundeck at the pinnacle of Aspen Mountain.

Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague, Culinary Executive Chef Jacques Pepin, Claudine Pepin and Dana Cowin, Editor of Food & Wine Magazine
Oceania Cruises President Jason Montague, Culinary Executive Chef Jacques Pépin, Claudine Pépin and Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of Food & Wine Magazine

Oceania Cruises' President and Chief Operating Officer Jason Montague delivered a heartfelt address touching upon Jacques’ many contributions to Oceania Cruises, which was followed by a celebratory Champagne toast. The event hit a crescendo when a custom croquembouche cake, festooned with sparklers, was wheeled out for revelers’ enjoyment and Jason presented Jacques with a commemorative Champagne sabering sword.

Happy Birthday to Chef Jacques Pépin!
Happy Birthday to Chef Jacques Pépin!

This July onboard Riviera promises to be a family affair as Jacques’ daughter Claudine, co-Host of Jacques’ award-winning “Cooking with Claudine“ television series, and his granddaughter Shorey will join Pépin and his wife Gloria on the 10-day Iberian Inspiration departing Lisbon for Rome on July 7, 2015.

Oceania Club Members Ronald & Donna Thompson with Senior Vice President James Rodriguez
Oceania Club Members Ronald & Donna Thompson with Oceania Cruises Senior Vice President James Rodriguez

Jacques’ birthday festivities will continue in Marina and Riviera Culinary Centers throughout the year with the addition of “La Technique: A Celebration of Jacques Pépin’s 80th Birthday.” The class will showcase his life and legacy and teach his world-renowned cooking techniques. 

June 18, 2015

Summer in Paradise Aboard Sirena

Summer in Paradise Aboard SirenaImagine the moonlight sparkling on the sea, the twinkling lights of historic cities lining the coast and the glorious sight of vineyards stretching inland as far as you can see.  With Sirena’s alluring summer itineraries, you don’t have to imagine paradise because we’ll take you there. Capturing the best and most interesting gems throughout the Mediterranean, each voyage offers a spectacular collage of cultural treasures

Idyllic Ionian – Venice to Rome

On this idyllic voyage that embarks along the distinctive canals of Venice, crosses the Ionian Sea and arrives at the immortal Seven Hills of Rome, you will experience the many joys of life in Italy and beyond. Stand on the stage of an ancient amphitheater with a sweeping view in Taormina, savor a plate of gnocchi at a bougainvillea-framed sidewalk café on Capri, and stretch out on Shipwreck Beach on gloriously Greek Zakynthos.

3Divine Tides – Rome to Istanbul

As you will discover on this voyage through the hallowed sites of antiquity, the Mediterranean transcends time, its tides having seen the rise and fall of Greek, Roman and Ottoman empires.  While in Rome, visit the world-famous Vatican Museums, where an exceptional collection of artwork from every era is on display. On the island of Crete, discover Knossos Palace, the center of the ancient capital of the great King Minos and explore the village of Rabat in Malta, where St. Paul is said to have lived in 60 AD.

4Cradle of History – Athens to Istanbul

Visit historic places that defined who we are today on this sweeping journey through the cultural, spiritual and philosophical touchstones of the Mediterranean. Explore the seemingly immortal pyramids of Egypt and unearth the legends of the pharaohs. During an overnight stay in Jerusalem, learn the importance of this remarkable and turbulent city to the foundations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and let the voices of Greek philosophers ring across the centuries at the Acropolis of Athens.

Mediterranean Collage – Valletta to Barcelona

As you embark in Malta, the sweeping views of the sea will offer a panorama of the region into which you will delve. Contrast the sleek yachts and chic boutiques of Monte Carlo with the charms of a sidewalk café serving bouillabaisse in Marseille. Be uplifted by Palermo’s famed Piazza Pretoria and its fountain adorned with dozens of white marble figures and sip a glass of limoncello in seaside Sorrento.

5Wineries & Waterways – Lisbon to Paris

With an overnight stay in Bordeaux, visit the Médoc vineyards and the cellars of one of the region's esteemed chateaux. During another overnight visit, you’ll discover that Paris lives up to its City of Light moniker when the Eiffel Tower is reflected in the rippling waters of the Seine. From Oporto, visit the fascinating city of Guimarães, the first capital of Portugal and the birthplace of the nation's first king.

View a complete list of Sirena’s itineraries