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May 4, 2012

RIVIERA SETS SAIL FROM GENOA!

If you follow the blog, you’ve seen Chef Kelly sharing posts about her classes in the Bon Appétit Culinary Center and her outings to local markets ashore. She posted yesterday about her recent adventures in Sicily as she was finalizing the plans for the Culinary Discovery Tours that will be launched with Riviera. Her beautiful photos of all the fresh fish and produce made me think – I can’t leave Italy without a visit to the local markets!

You’ve probably noticed that almost everyone at Oceania Cruises is obsessed with great food, and I’m no exception. Like any family, food is a large part of what brings the Oceania Cruises family together. I am at best an amateur chef, and my skills in the kitchen certainly don’t compare to the likes of chefs Pépin, Garanger or Kelly, but I can still appreciate the beauty of a local market. So before we left Genoa today, I stole an hour to venture ashore, and look what I found…

Fresh fish right off the boat…

Genoa Fish Market
Gorgeous basil that makes the best pesto in the world... 

Genoa Vegetable Market
Handmade cheese in every variety imaginable…

Genoa Cheese Market
As you would expect, I found Chef Garanger shopping these same markets in preparation for our sail-away dinner in Toscana tonight! That was a telltale sign I was in the right place.

There is a reason that the cuisine served in Toscana rivals that of any Italian restaurant in the world. Many of the recipes have been handed down from the Italian mothers and grandmothers of our own culinary team. And the reason we spend more money on cuisine than any cruise line out there is that exquisite, authentic cuisine can only be created with the finest, freshest ingredients.

At this point I had to rush back to the ship because I could hardly wait for dinner. But no matter how spectacular the cuisine would be, I didn’t want it to eclipse the occasion we would be celebrating. Tonight would be the first ever sail-away celebration onboard Riviera. Tonight she would sail from Genoa and venture out into the open sea en route to her first ever port of call.

I have to say everyone onboard feels a bit like proud parents at this point. Parents out there know that when your kids are babies, it seems like every day they reach some new milestone that makes you beam with pride. Riviera seems to be doing the same. Over the past week we’ve taken official delivery, celebrated her last night in Genoa and sailed for her first port of call. And she has no plans to slow down because her Christening Cruise and Maiden Voyage are right around the corner.

Victor in ToscanaTonight as we said goodbye to Italy, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this historic moment than with a delicious meal in Toscana with members of the Oceania Cruises family – Victor Gonzalez and Fiona Applebaum.

Considering the flawless performance of the staff, it’s hard to believe that Riviera has not been at sea for years. Their service and presentation were impeccable.

The only challenge to an evening in Toscana is the decision making process. It started right from the beginning when we had to make a selection from the numerous olive oils and balsamic vinegars offered along with a selection of fine breads and crostini. In honor of Riviera’s godmother, I chose Chef Cat Cora’s olive oil. It seemed appropriate considering Chef Cora would be officially naming Riviera just a few days from now. And it was of course fantastic.

Toscana Olive Oils
But the decisions only got tougher from there…

For my pasta course, I finally settled on the special pasta of the day, which was linguini with sausage in a pomodoro sauce with freshly grated parmesan. The spices in the sausage perfectly complemented the rich flavor of the tomatoes, but the real star of the show was the fresh pasta.

Toscana Pasta
For my entrée, I chose the grilled veal chop with a porcini mushroom sauce and roasted potatoes. It melted in my mouth. Absolutely delicious.

Toscana Veal Chop
While I was absolutely ready for Toscana’s tiramisu, Victor reminded me I needed to pace myself. We have 12 days to go before we reach Venice and Riviera sets sail on her first Mediterranean voyage, which means there is a lot of desert in front of us. One hour later, I knew I shouldn't have listened to him...I missed that tiramisu!!!

Comments

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We are enjoying your posts on the new Riviera. It is great all the training your people are getting. Our big decision will be a repeat on Marina or the new Riviera!
Peter and Rhonda Cacioppo, Moraga, CA

So many faces from Riviera's maiden voyage. I fondly remember Giovanni in Baristas and with the olive oil display in Toscana. He is a stand-out among crew for us! Best wishes to you all for your Maiden Voyage.

They are sister ships so you really can't go wrong. My best advice is to choose by the itinerary, not the ship. I promise you will enjoy the same high Oceania standards!

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