COUNTDOWN TO RIVIERA: RIVIERA IS CHRISTENED IN BARCELONA
It’s official! Oceania Cruises’ newest ship has been christened Riviera by Godmother Cat Cora. Chef Cora arrived onboard two days ago and was welcomed by Vice Chairman Bob Binder, President Kunal Kamlani, and Chairman Frank Del Rio with a reception in La Reserve. Frank presented Cat with the gift of a stunning diamond necklace and earrings.
The morning of the christening soon arrived, and we began the day with a gala brunch in the Grand Dining Room. As Riviera would be named in the great city of Barcelona, the menu included paella, jamon iberico, seafood of every variety, and tapas that were as beautiful as they were delicious.
As we enjoyed our fantastic brunch onboard, the final details were being attended to ashore in preparation for the momentous ceremony that would soon take place.
In keeping with the Spanish theme, the port was decked in the vibrant reds and yellows of Catalonia. Flamenco dancers and Spanish guitarists created a jubilant atmosphere of celebration.
Cruise Director Leslie Jon would be Master of Ceremony for the event.
Godmother Cat Cora was seated at the front of the stage with President Kunal Kamlani and Vice Chairman Bob Binder at her side.
The celebration began with a brilliant performance of Barcelona by Soprano Alina Furman and Tenor Giorgio Olmo, followed by a flamenco dance by Rafael Amargo & Company. The charismatic leader of the troupe even convinced Cat Cora to join him for a dance. It was soon apparent that she is not only a talented chef, but an excellent dancer as well.
President Kunal S. Kamlani opened the remarks, pointing out that beautiful Barcelona – a center of arts and culture – was the perfect setting for the christening of Riviera, as she herself is a work of art. But he was also quick to point out, “Despite our excitement at Riviera’s debut, there is an even larger story here. This is much more than a celebration of a ship. This is a celebration of people. For Riviera has only come into existence thanks to all of you here today and to every guest that sails with Oceania Cruises.”
Kunal then introduced the founder of Oceania Cruises, Frank Del Rio.
After sharing how proud he was of the accomplishment of the Oceania Cruises family in creating Riviera, he introduced the honorary commodore of the ship, Andrea Area. Area was the first general manager of Oceania Cruises’ first vessel, Regatta. He made an immeasurable contribution to the early successes of Oceania Cruises, and then tragedy struck. Area suffered a debilitating stroke from which it was doubtful he would recover. But after seven years of rehabilitation, Area was now able to walk to the stage to accept the honor from Frank, after an emotional embrace that touched everyone present.
It was a fitting time for Captain Luca Manzi to take the podium and introduce the officers and crew that are the heart and soul of Riviera. The senior officers came to the stage while the hundreds of other crew members emerged onto Riviera’s verandas to a an exuberant round of applause.
Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez-Martos took the stage for the blessing of the ship, then Frank returned to introduce Riviera’s godmother, Chef Cat Cora. “When Bob, Kunal and I were debating who would be the godmother of Riviera,” he said, “we wanted someone whose life achievements, whose passions and whose values were aligned with those of the Oceania Cruises brand. Being the cruise line for foodies, we quickly zeroed in on this remarkable woman, who since making television history in 2005 as the first and still only female Iron Chef on Food Network’s Iron Chef America, has become one of the largest names in the culinary world. As an accomplished author, restaurateur, contributing editor, avid philanthropist and proud mother of four, her talent extends deeply within and far beyond the kitchen.”
Chef Cora was beaming as she approached the stage. “I want to say as the mother of four boys – finally I have a girl! And isn’t she a beauty!”
She went on to say how honored she was to be joining the Oceania Cruises family. “I couldn’t be more thrilled. With the Oceania family I feel like I share so many of their values: loyalty, friendship, and excellence as well as the best of travel, food and wine. I want to thank Frank, Bob and Kunal as well as…all of the hundreds of crew members that are the soul of this ship and that will be making me proud as it sails around the world.”
And now it was time for the grand finale. As Chef Cora reached for the jewel-studded lever that would release the custom-made Nebuchadnezzar of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin champagne, she declared, “I name this ship Riviera. May God bless her and all who sail with her.”
I took nearly 700 photos of this momentous occasion, and the one that best captures the true spirit and overwhelming joy of the day may be this picture of President Kunal Kamlani embracing his children.
I have many more wonderful moments from the christening to share, so continue to follow the blog for more stories as Riviera sails for Venice where the first guests will embark on her Maiden Voyage.