As our president, Kunal Kamlani, announced on Friday, we have officially taken delivery of Riviera, and we're now putting on the final touches in preparation for her christening in Barcelona next week.
For the past few weeks, we've been sharing some of Riviera's unique design elements here on the blog, and I'm sure those of you booked on an upcoming voyage are eager to get onboard and experience the ship. Of course, Marina and Riviera were first and foremost designed for foodies, but our secondary goal has been to create floating museums that inspire and engage our guests with their sense of style and their striking, contemporary artwork.
Our chairman, Frank Del Rio, holds a special place in his heart for all the Cuban artists featured onboard, which is understandable due to his Cuban heritage. My fascination with Asian art is not so easily explained, but it has likely evolved from my travels on that continent and my experiences with the beauty of not only the paintings and sculptures of Asia, but also the gardens, the temples and especially the people and their cultures.
As you might imagine, I was especially pleased to be able to help with the installation of the artwork in Red Ginger. Below we are hanging a Vietnamese painting that reads "Celebrate."
The next painting says "Serenity" in Thai. I especially like it because it reflects the harmony of Red Ginger's bold, yet tranquil, design.
As with all of our restaurants onboard, every detail is a statement on the distinctive style of each venue. So in Red Ginger we had to make sure that the table settings were works of art in themselves.
Frank, Kunal and I can't wait until Riviera welcomes her first guests onboard, and I hope you'll enjoy exploring every corner of the ship. In fact, we only have a few corners left to prepare. We'll continue to share photos here on the blog as we complete the finishing touches.
I hear Chef Franck Garanger is preparing a tasting for us in Waves Grill, so for now I'd better attend to the business at hand. Like I always say, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
Oceania Cruises took delivery of the magnificent new Riviera today in Genoa. The flag of the Fincantieri Shipyard was lowered and the Oceania Cruises flag was raised as the ship was officially handed over to Oceania Cruises' founder, Frank Del Rio.
Lowering the Fincantieri flag
Preparing to hoist the Oceania Cruises flag
It's official! This marks another major milestone in the history of Oceania Cruises, and we will now be counting the days to when Riviera will be unveiled to the world. Two weeks from today, Riviera will be christened in beautiful Barcelona, and on May 16 she sails from Venice to Athens on her Maiden Voyage.
Watch the blog for more photos and stories on Riviera as she makes her exciting debut.
The excitement is growing by the hour here at Oceania Cruises because we are about to take delivery of the beautiful new Riviera. On the surface the exchange will be mostly formalities – the signing of final paperwork, a champagne toast, congratulatory handshakes – but this ceremony represents a milestone achieved thanks to the loyalty of our valued guests, the strong partnership with our travel agents and the dedication of every member of the Oceania Cruises family. It will certainly be a day of celebration for all of us.
Once we have taken delivery from the shipyard, Riviera will remain in Genoa for a few days while the officers and crew make final preparations. Then less than two weeks from today, Riviera will embark on her Christening Cruise, and the countdown to her Maiden Voyage will officially begin. My family and I will be onboard for the Christening Cruise as we sail for Barcelona, where Godmother Cat Cora will name the ship during a gala ceremony. We will then continue on to Venice, where Riviera’s first guests will embark on the momentous Maiden Voyage. I’m sure those of you booked on this remarkable voyage are as excited as I am to set foot onboard Riviera for the first time.
Our anticipation has been building with each photo we receive from the shipyard. While Riviera is the sister ship to Marina, she has some unique design features that distinguish her. You may have seen our announcement on Facebook that Riviera will showcase some of Latin America’s most accomplished and admired contemporary artists. Included are renowned artists from Cuba’s Vanguard Movement, such as Wilfredo Lam and Cundo Bermúdez.
One of the most spectacular pieces onboard Riviera is the custom-crafted Italian chandelier that hangs above the Grand Staircase. The 1,300-pound chandelier features 380 glowing crystal spheres that will reflect off the beautiful Lalique crystal staircase. Riviera’s reception area is certain to make a stunning first impression on guests as they board the ship. Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Franco Semeraro shared this photo with me a few weeks ago when they were finishing the installation. We can’t wait to see what it looks like when illuminated above the Grand Staircase.
I’ll be posting here on the blog during the Christening Cruise as we count down to the Maiden Voyage, so I hope you will share in my excitement as we unveil the latest magnificent addition to the Oceania Cruises fleet.
As destination specialists, Oceania Cruises knows how important it is to design our itineraries so that guests have plenty of time to fully experience each port of call. Moreover, we offer our guests the chance to explore even beyond the port and venture inland for a more in-depth look at the lands we visit.
As Nautica sails the enchanting coasts of Southeast Asia, a number of our adventurous guests took exploring up a notch on an overland excursion. Guests disembarked in Ho Chi Minh City and traveled to the interior of the Indochinese Peninsula to spend two days exploring Siem Reap, Cambodia, before reboarding Nautica in Bangkok.
Siem Reap has rapidly become Cambodia's fastest growing city due to the tourism trade. As the French began efforts to restore the nearby ancient city of Angkor over the past century, the village of Siem Reap developed into a bustling gateway to the historic site, and European influences blended with the local Khmer and Hindu culture.
The first tourists began to arrive over a hundred years ago, and a steady stream of Europeans followed after Henri Mahout shared stories of his expedition to the "Lost City of Angkor” in the late 19th century. Located just outside Siem Reap, the ancient temples of Angkor were never actually “lost,” but Mahout’s journals popularized the site with explorers from the West.
Over a thousand temples can be found in the region, the most famous of which is the monumental Angkor Wat. Once the seat of the Khmer Empire, the area has a rich and colorful history, including a prolonged conflict between the Khmer and Siamese peoples that culminated in the 16th century. The Khmer victory led to the name Siem Reap, roughly translating to the "Flat Defeat of Siam,” the country known today as Thailand.
It has been suggested recently that Angkor was the first major urban center prior to industrialization, and some archaeologists argue the entire area of the city encompassed between 400 and 700 square miles. The region had been abandoned with the fall of the Khmer empire and overtaken by jungle vegetation, but an extensive restoration process was undertaken in the 20th century.
Nautica guests explored the remains of the ancient city and the magnificent temple of Angkor Wat at length, also mingling with locals who wore traditional costumes to further illustrate the history and culture of the region.
Amazing details were chiseled into the towering walls of stone throughout the temple complex.
The vast expanse of the ancient city took Nautica guests over rugged terrain and remnants of the invading forests to discover one treasure after another.
The intricate carvings and exquisite architecture that have been preserved and restored are absolutely astounding. It is no wonder that more than one day was required to take in the majesty of Angkor.
The amazing images captured by Nautica's guests speak for themselves.
Whether by foot, animal or vehicle, millions of people visit Siem Reap and the historic city of Angkor every year.
After enjoying several days exploring the magnificent site, Nautica’s guests certainly understood why so many travelers are drawn to Angkor Wat. They would not soon forget this overland excursion with Oceania Cruises.
Posted by Pancake, Oceania Cruises' Blogger-at-Large
Just one month from today we will christen the newest addition to Oceania Cruises’ fleet, the magnificent Riviera. Those of you who will be joining us onboard during her inaugural season must surely be excited about Riviera’s imminent debut. You may be booked on her maiden voyage from Venice to Athens. Or perhaps you’ll be joining President Kunal S. Kamlani onboard the Reunion Cruise in June. Guests on this memorable journey will enjoy special cocktail parties, exclusive shore excursions, and a "town hall" during which they can ask questions of the president.
One of the most exciting sailings of Riviera's inaugural season will certainly be the Bon Appétit Wine & Food Festival that embarks in Athens on October 14. Celebrity chef Stephen Lewandowski of New York's famed Tribeca Grill will host this cruise, offering demonstrations, hands-on cooking classes, market tours, wine tastings and special dinners. The festival will also be featured on Marina's October 22 sailing, hosted by James Beard award winner Chef Ken Oringer.
This commitment to an exceptional culinary experience extending even beyond the onboard restaurants is nothing new for Oceania Cruises. Our partnership with Bon Appétit magazine began with the opening of the first hands-on cooking school at sea, the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Marina. If you follow the blog, you've seen posts about the culinary center classes and market tours from Chef Kelly, Oceania Cruises' Culinary Enrichment Director. As Chef Kelly busily prepares to open the new Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Riviera, Chef Annie B. Copps is teaching classes onboard Marina.
Chef Copps is not only a chef but also a food editor, travel writer and radio host. You may have seen her on NBC’s Today Show, where she is a frequent guest. During my recent cruise, I enjoyed a class with Chef Copps, and what a treat it was. We learned a lot, laughed a lot, and we loved the recipes we made!
Everyone wants to know the secrets to Oceania Cruises’ fantastic cuisine, and the Bon Appétit Culinary Center now teaches recipes from the onboard restaurants. I was so excited to learn that Chef Copps would be sharing techniques from Red Ginger, one of my favorite restaurants onboard – or ashore. First she taught us how to make the banh trang spring rolls. As a teaser, I’ll share a video of her demonstration with you. Note that I captured this with a handheld camera, so let’s just say you definitely get the feel of being onboard the ship. The seas were a bit rough that day!
Once she had prepared the filling, Chef Copps showed us how to wrap the rolls in the delicate rice paper.
After the demonstration, we all returned to our work stations to put our skills to the test. Chef Copps and the sous chefs circulated around the room offering guidance, assistance and praise for our efforts.
We were all very successful in executing the recipe and quite proud of ourselves. Of course, the greatest reward was getting to devour the dishes after we created them.
Chef Copps also taught us to make the phenomenal (and surprisingly simple!) lobster pad Thai that is served in Red Ginger. But if you want to learn that recipe, you’ll have to book a class in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center onboard Marina or Riviera. Or perhaps you'll join us for one of the Bon Appétit Wine & Food Festivals. Either way, you're in for culinary delights that can only be found onboard the ships of Oceania Cruises.
If you follow us on Facebook, you saw the photos we posted yesterday of Barcelona, our Destination of the Week. Our new ship Riviera sails on her christening cruise just one month from today, and the christening ceremony will take place in beautiful Barcelona. Marina also arrived in Barcelona this week after her Atlantic crossing, leaving the lovely islands of the Caribbean and preparing to explore the historic shores of Europe.
As Blogger-at-Large, I was able to enjoy Marina’s final Caribbean sailing of the season, and everyone onboard came home with fond memories and fantastic photos. As Marina bids farewell to the Caribbean seas, I wanted to share one of my favorite adventures from that cruise.
We saw so many beautiful islands on that sailing that I couldn’t possibly choose my favorite. And while I savored every minute on the pristine beaches next to impossibly blue waters, one particular excursion on this cruise offered something a little different – zip lining in the rainforest of St. Lucia.
Our shore excursion took us to the Treetop Adventure Park where we were welcomed by friendly guides who helped us don the proper gear for our zip lining experience. Everyone was fitted with a harness, gloves and a helmet. We had to wear hairnets under our helmets, and while the look was not especially becoming, I appreciated the focus on sanitation and safety.
Next we were given a demonstration on how to zip line. I had never done this before, so I had no idea what to expect. Grace and coordination are not my greatest assets, so I was hoping that neither would be required. Based on the demonstration, the process seemed pretty simple and straightforward. Sit in the harness, cross your legs, grip the harness with your left hand and loosely cup the wire behind you with your right hand. We were encouraged to reach as far back as possible with our right hand to prevent spinning. Spinning sounded kind of fun to me, but I was told this should not be attempted by amateurs. I decided it would be best to follow instructions, especially considering my aforementioned lack of coordination.
Having received a thorough orientation, off we went to the first platform. Zip lining obviously involves being high above the ground, and unfortunately the only way to get there is by climbing a combination of hills and stairs. But considering my most rigorous activity of late was devouring the delicious food onboard and lounging on the beaches ashore, my body thanked me for finally burning a few calories.
Our guide throughout the excursion was Damascus Dostalie of Cox and Company. We affectionately referred to him as John-John, the nickname by which he introduced himself. The affection was genuine because he was one of the most friendly and helpful guides I’ve ever met. This obviously was not his first zip line tour, as he not only accompanied us throughout the course, but also volunteered to take photos of us with our cameras. Several of us took him up on the offer, so he zipped ahead of us with three or four cameras strapped to his body, and then got photos of each of us (with the appropriate camera no less) as we came down after him.
While a few in the group had been zip lining before, most of us were novices. We were very excited about this new experience, but at the same time just a tad apprehensive about careening through the rainforest hanging from a cable. We were happy to see there were actually two cables for added safety, and the guides stationed on each platform were very regimented in their procedure for hooking us up. We were clearly in good hands.
We all watched as the first brave soul took off from the platform.
Everyone ahead of me survived, so by the time it was my turn, I was ready to go.
Despite my attempt to follow instructions, my body had a tendency to spin. Nevertheless, I landed safely at the end of the first line after a thrilling ride. I was having so much fun I forgot to take in all the stunning scenery surrounding me.
On the next line, I realized I was leaning back instead of reaching back with my right hand. I straightened up and my body straightened out. And again, I reminded myself to look around as I soared over the beautiful, verdant rainforest. The longest line was 1,600 feet so I had plenty of time to admire the gorgeous surroundings.
Soon I was confidently zipping from platform to platform, enjoying the exhilarating ride and the fabulous view. John-John told me I was ready for prime time, and on the next line he took video of me!
We were all feeling pretty proud of our zip lining skills at this point, so John-John took great pleasure in introducing the fastest, most challenging line of the course. I guess all the confidence must have drained from my face, because John-John smiled and turned on my video camera again. “Now in case you don’t survive,” he teased, “what will be your final words to your family?”
As you can see in the video below, “I went out happy!” And as a final favor, John-John took video for me as he ran the zip line. Amazing!
Of course, we all not only survived but had a fantastic time. (On the way out, I saw kids no older than eight preparing to zip line, and I felt a little silly for ever having been apprehensive.) It was the most fun I’ve had in years, as is obvious in the final photos I’ll share with you below.
If you ever find yourself on an Oceania Cruise that offers a zip lining excursion, don’t miss the chance!
It’s no secret that Oceania Cruises has created the first ships at sea designed especially for foodies. Fine cuisine has always been one of our hallmarks, but did you know that Marina and the new Rivieraare also havens for art lovers?
Oceania Cruises’ founder, Frank Del Rio, has a passion for fine art. He and Vice Chairman Bob Binder hand-selected the masterpieces currently featured onboard Marina, and Del Rio took a special interest in the works selected for Riviera as well. In fact, we are anticipating an exciting announcement later this week about the artists to be featured on Riviera, which debuts next month.
Marina and Riviera feature paintings, sculptures and prints to suit every taste, from the classic to the contemporary and from the referential to the abstract. Del Rio claims he wants the art to “spark conversation and contemplation” among the guests onboard. Based on my observations as Blogger-at-Large, he has certainly succeeded in this goal. One evening I was in Martinis lounge onboard Marina discussing a painting that myself and a guest found particularly fascinating. A few minutes later another guest approached the painting and commented, “The guy must have been on drugs when he painted that.” Some works are simply beautiful, and others are more provocative, but they all inspire conversation.
Many of us who enjoy contemporary artists have an equal passion for creating art ourselves. While our efforts may not be museum worthy, we can certainly appreciate the need to express our creativity. And when traveling on a voyage with Oceania Cruises, the beautiful ships and marvelous ports of call provide ample inspiration for anyone with an inner artist clamoring for recognition.
That is why Oceania Cruises created the Artist Loft enrichment center, currently featured onboard Marina and soon to be unveiled on the new Riviera as well. In the Artist Loft, talented artists-in-residence teach classes on everything from photography to needlepoint to painting to creating your own t-shirts and postcards.
Award-winning watercolorist Annelein Beukenkamp was just onboard Marina sharing her skills with a packed house of aspiring artists. I was able to enjoy some of Annelein’s classes, such as ABC’s of Drawing and Paint a Tropical Sunset Scene. Marina was sailing her final Caribbean itinerary, so there was no shortage of vibrant tropical sunsets to inspire our paintings.
For the ABC’s of Drawing class, Annelein gathered everyone around to observe as she created a still life drawing of a wine bottle, an apple and a teacup. As she progressed, Annelein pointed out the choices an artist is constantly making regarding position, perspective, light and shading. Guests then created their own masterpieces with Annelein’s guidance. Annelein also offered open studio hours when guests could experiment in any medium they wished – pigments, graphite, pastels, pencils – or they could continue work on a project begun earlier in the voyage.
It’s hard to say what the guests enjoyed more – expressing themselves in the Artist Loft or gazing at the masterworks throughout Marina that make her feel like a floating museum. Whether you’re an aficionado or an amateur, a cruise onboard Marina or Riviera is a treat for any art lover. Be sure to check our Facebook page later this week for the exciting announcement about the collection to be featured onboard Riviera.